WASHINGTON — If you’re going to live your financial truth, sometimes you have to say “no” to folks.

One of the hardest times to stick to what you can afford is when you’re invited to a wedding, an occasion that is ripe for overspending and guilt tripping.

And just two words can strike financial fear in potential guests: destination wedding.

I know many of you have been there. A close friend or relative is getting married. It’s the big day of all big days in a couple’s life. Wouldn’t it be fun if we all went to some exotic location for our wedding? They argue you can make it a mini-vacation.

You express apprehension about the cost. But you get pressed by the couple or their emissaries. Then comes the guilt. How could you say no? It’s either said or implied: “You can’t put a price on your presence.”

This means you better come or else.


And despite the honor, being asked to be in the wedding can be an even bigger drain on your savings. Between the pre-wedding festivities (wedding shower, bachelorette/bachelor parties, rehearsal dinner), airfare, hotel and, of course, a gift, you are looking at shelling out big money.

Members of the wedding party can expect to spend an average of $728, according to a new survey released by Bankrate.com. Live in the Northeast? The average is $1,070.

Even if you’re not in the wedding party, the price for your presence can still cause sticker shock. On average, people spend $628, which includes attending some of the pre-parties. If you’re not in the inner circle of closeness, it still costs an average of $372.

As for gifts, guests spend an average of $153 if they are part of the wedding entourage. Friends and family spend an average of $116, and those who aren’t as close spend an average of $63. Of course, the cost is less for some, and quite a bit more for others.

If you intend on going to a wedding or are asked to participate in one, start planning as soon as you get the “save the date” card, says Bankrate.com analyst Robert Barba.

He recommends starting a wedding fund. But what you shouldn’t do is go into debt.


“If you feel you can’t afford the financial burden of attending, think twice before RSVPing,” Barba says.

Can I spend some time persuading you that it’s OK to decline a wedding invitation if you just can’t afford to go?

A lot of our financial mistakes happen when we don’t want to be seen as something – cheap, cold-hearted or the type of person who places money over family or friendship.

Recently, I got a text message from a friend. He’s gone through the financial program I direct at my church and wanted advice about a wedding invitation he’d received.

His brother is getting married in a destination wedding in Las Vegas, and he was invited to be a groomsman. As he was adding up the cost, he started to panic.

* $305 for airfare


* $420 for a hotel room he’s sharing with a cousin

* $50 to $60 a day for food

* $100 in shared costs for the bachelor party

* $240 for a tuxedo rental

* Shared cost for a rehearsal dinner

* Car rental or money for taxi rides


* Golf outing with the guys in the wedding party

* Gift

“I’m easily looking at $1,200 at a minimum,” the guy texted. “I’m struggling with considering not being in the wedding party and just attending as a guest. But I don’t want to disappoint my brother. What do you suggest I do?”

He ended his message with the stressed-face emoji.

In response, I asked if the divorced father of three had the money to spare. He doesn’t. He could stretch and come up with the cash to be a guest, but the extra expenses would set him back.

“It’s a heart struggle for me,” he said. “I want to be there for my only brother, who I now only have a long-distance relationship with since leaving college. But I want to lead by example of integrity.”


He’s talking about living his financial truth, which is that he doesn’t have the money to be all-in as a participant in the festivities. I told him to be honest and let his brother know he can’t afford to be a groomsman.

With a heavy heart, he did just that. And kudos to his brother, who let him bow out with no hard feelings. That wasn’t the case with some family members, who expressed their displeasure to my friend for his decision.

I say: Love them, but ignore their efforts to spend your money.

When it comes to decisions like this, you have to count the cost. If it’s too high, unapologetically live within your means.

Michelle Singletary is a columnist for The Washington Post. Readers may contact her at:

[email protected]ashpost.com.

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