Mending a friendship and now I can't stand up at his wedding... advice?
January 22, 2014 4:37 PM   Subscribe

Over the past two years an old friend and I have been working to mend years of mutual resentment stemming from poor choices we both made in the past. I don't feel like the details of those choices are particularly relevant to the problem at hand, but we've both had to reach out and admit to wrongdoing. This isn't a one-way issue, we both did horrible things to each other.

Anyhow… last summer he asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding and I said yes. He mentioned that the wedding would be a travel affair, but he assured me that he and his fiancee would be doing everything possible to keep costs down for their guests. My financial state over the past few years has been tight, so this was a concern of mine.

Last fall the best man announced the bachelor party would be held in Chicago (where I used to live), so I spent around $350-400 to fly up for the weekend and attend the party.

Now, as the wedding approaches (in the first week of April), I'm beginning to realize the costs for this wedding will be significantly more than I thought.

All told, I'm looking at ~$800-900 to attend the wedding, and that doesn't include a gift. Add to that the cost of the bachelor party and I'm over the $1000 mark.

If he and I were on strong terms, I'd have no hesitation to be honest with him and just tell him I can't afford it. However, given our past and the fact that he has a tendency to take things personally, I feel like he'll see this as another reason to think I don't care about our friendship.

Any thoughts?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb to Human Relations (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Have the conversation without it being all-or-nothing. What can you spend? Talk to him and tell him your situation, and ask if there's anything you can bow out of or not pay for (e.g. the bachelor party, or... I don't know what else could be included other than travel & suit rental, but if there is, talk about it), or if he'd rather you stepped down entirely if you can't be all in.

He might take it personally, it might be another blowout, but if it is going to be that, it's going to be that, and it's not worth like... being able to eat and pay rent to have the conversation.
posted by brainmouse at 4:40 PM on January 22, 2014

I would just be honest with him. You've shown your dedication to the friendship by attending the Bachelor Party (and paying to do so). Let him know that you'd love to attend his wedding, but that the costs are creeping up to a level you're not sure you'll be able to afford (and still keep a roof over your head, food in your mouth, ect.) - I would probably emphasize that this is entirely financial---and not a lack of desire to attend.

Going a step further, I'd probably ask him if there were any ways to save on costs so that you can still attend. Maybe he has flyer mileage that could help with your plane ticket? Or perhaps he could get a block rate at the hotel they've chosen? Maybe he knows of others who are attending who'd be willing to room-share or otherwise split some costs? Is it possible he holds an AAA card and can get better rates for you through it? Surely, some of these are worth investigating. I would also specifically include him to help crunch the numbers together. I have a feeling the more involved he is, the less likely he'll be able to take it personally.
posted by stubbehtail at 4:51 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

You have no obligation to give a wedding gift for a wedding you had to travel to attend. Your gift is your presence. This is especially true if you're a member of the wedding party, and also true if you've pitched in to cover the cost of other wedding related events (I'm assuming the groom didn't pay for his own bachelor party but that you guys pitched in to cover him).
posted by Sara C. at 4:52 PM on January 22, 2014 [17 favorites]

For what it's worth, I had standing plans to attend the wedding of a close friend this past fall, which I had to travel cross-country to do. Suddenly, days before the weekend in question, I had some surprise financial issues that made it very difficult for me to do the trip as planned.

I just told everybody what the deal was, and then I economized as much as possible without being rude.

Thoughts on ways to economize:

- can you sleep on a local friend's couch rather than getting a hotel room?

- stick to a strict budget for personal costs on the trip. Self cater meals if possible, and ONLY do mandatory wedding related events. Don't get all wrapped up in "but we're all going to [blah] after the [blah].

- no new clothes or shoes or anything that's about keeping up appearances. I suppose you'll have to rent a tux or otherwise gin up a Groomsman Outfit*, but aside from that, it's better that you be there and wear a tie with a stain on it than not be there at all.

- cut travel costs down as much as possible. take public transit. don't check a bag. all those little things that make travel inconvenient but save a little money? do them.

- tell other people what's up. maybe you could borrow some money, or some friends would pitch in to make it possible for you to be there? hitch rides, share things, and generally don't be afraid to beg and borrow to make this happen.

*Speaking of which, if the clothes are what is making a real dent in your budget, I would talk to your friend the groom about it and see if something can be worked out. Feel free to tell him times are tough and that buying a new suit is getting in the way of your participation.
posted by Sara C. at 5:05 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Thank you everyone for the advice so far. Lots of things to think about...

I think the biggest issue for me is cash fluidity. I don't have credit cards, so everything I do comes straight out of my checking account, which means I take a big hit all at once. None of this would be much of an issue if I could pay it off slowly over time.

I'm going to keep looking for ways to get costs down (thanks for all the suggestions). I just don't want to wait too long in the event that I do have to tell him I can't go. I figure, the sooner I tell him the less of a planning upset it will be.

Still, I really don't want to be forced to have that conversation. As brainmouse mentioned though, whatever it will be, it will be.
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 5:20 PM on January 22, 2014

Can you itemize out the different expenses and figure out a way to schedule them or manage them so that it's less of a big deal?

Like, are we talking about an $800 flight, which will be difficult to do all at once no matter how you slice it? Or are we talking $200 flight, $150 tux rental, $100 for miscellaneous travel costs, etc. all adding up to $900?

Because the classic way to do this if you're paying for everything in cash is just to stagger it. Buy your plane ticket now. Next month, go suit shopping. The following month, take care of some other expense. That way when you actually travel, you're really only paying a much smaller amount of money rather than everything at once.
posted by Sara C. at 5:26 PM on January 22, 2014 [4 favorites]

None of this would be much of an issue if I could pay it off slowly over time.

You can, starting now. Transfer whatever amount you're comfortable with each Monday morning from now until the end of March. $20/week will net you $200. Can you do $40/week? $50? Combined with saving on travel/lodging with some of the suggestions above, it could make the actual trip pretty stress free.

But if avoiding a conversation about your real, practical struggles is more important than avoiding the struggles themselves, this sounds like more obligation than friendship. Good luck.
posted by headnsouth at 5:34 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

You can't control how other people react, especially if they react in an immature or indifferent way.

Just say you can't make it. It's too much of a financial commitment. I don't see what the point is of having a friend who will make you face financial hardship for "friendship."

I think one thing people in their 20's need to learn (but often don't until their 30's) is that it is sometimes a good idea to part ways with people when the relationship is not working out.
posted by KokuRyu at 6:00 PM on January 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

@KokuRyu - I'm 35, he's 38 :-)

I get what you're saying though. I think that's been an issue for both of us; try and make it work, or just be done with it?
posted by ISeemToBeAVerb at 6:10 PM on January 22, 2014

I am very sorry but at this point, you've agreed to be in the wedding party and attended the bachelor party and if you bow out now for anything other than the most dire financial circumstances, you will end this rocky friendship.

If it's not the money but the lump sum that's an issue, then be honest with him. We loaned one of the people in our wedding party the airfare by putting her flight on a credit card and she paid it back over like four months. For another member of our wedding party, we just paid for her flight when it became obvious this was an insurmountable problem for her.

Talk to him and see if there's a way to make this work, don't just bail.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:18 PM on January 22, 2014 [6 favorites]

Let's break this down.

Step 1: Cut Costs & Make a Budget

1. Contact your friend and anyone you know in that city - see if you can find free or cheap rooming
2. Ask around to see if you could find someone who's driving there.
3. If you aren't obligated to rent a tux, head to a thrift store and look for suits.
4. Figure out the actual cost and budget it out month by month. You're waffling on whether or not you can afford it - what you really need to do is figure that out. At the end of the day, you can afford it or you can't. If you can, you should do it, because you said you would. If you can't, you can't.

Step 2: The Conversation
1. If you figure out that you can't make it work (and you need to figure this out soon - like this week) you need to call him
2. Start with an apology
3. Explain that you tried but just can't make the finances work. Don't itemize the costs, don't explain why it's too much, and above all don't make him feel guilty.
4. End by apologizing for not letting him know sooner.
5. Send a wedding gift yourself (not through a store website) with a handwritten card with a nice note. This isn't usually necessary - but the fact that you're going above and beyond what other people do will help show that you do care for him and are thinking about him.

As I glance back, the wording here is brusque. And I feel for you, really I do - I too have spent thousands of dollars being in other peoples' weddings. But I think you're letting your somewhat understandable irritation about the costs color your perception of this whole scenario - such that you now feel victimized and a little bitter with your friend. But in reality, you're the one who made the mistake here, by not figuring out the costs* earlier, and giving him more notice that he'd need to find a new best man. Anyway, try to remember - he asked you to be best man because he really cares about you. Try to convey, above all, that you care about him even if you have to bow out.

*Costs associated with a wedding are usually predictable as soon as you know the location (but if they just chose a location last month you can disregard this line).
posted by leitmotif at 6:22 PM on January 22, 2014 [2 favorites]

I nominally agree with KokoRyu, but I really don't think two months before the wedding you're a groomsman in, after you've already been to the bachelor party, is the time to back out of a friendship.

Especially if the issue is that you didn't think about the cost back when you were asked, but now you realize it's going to cost a lot. Unless your circumstances have changed a lot for obvious reasons, you got yourself into this social obligation.
posted by Sara C. at 6:30 PM on January 22, 2014 [5 favorites]

I think that's been an issue for both of us; try and make it work, or just be done with it?

Is this friendship worth saving up (and going without for a few months) or repaying a loan (and going without for a few months)?

I'm 42. Something I had to come to terms with in my 30's was that some people had more money than I did, either because they had no kids or because they studied something a little more lucrative than Education in university.

And people earning more money typically don't "get it" when you say you can't pay. In our thirties we also start to hang out, for obvious reasons, with people of similar economic means.

posted by KokuRyu at 6:51 PM on January 22, 2014

I think you should tell him, as soon as possible, that you're concerned about your finances and that you are actively trying to figure out a way to swing the wedding, financially. Make it very clear you really want to come, and that you are making an effort to make it happen, but that you want to be a considerate friend and let him know in advance that it might not work. Ask him for a 'drop dead' date, for when he needs to know whether or not you're coming.

This does a few things: one, he knows that you want to be there and you value his friendship; two, gives him the opportunity to suggest ways to save costs; and three allows him to get used to the idea that you may not be there.

Then: genuinely try and figure out a way to swing it, and if you can't, let him know by his deadline. When the wedding comes, send him a gift, so that he knows (or is reminded) that you wanted to be there.
posted by Kololo at 8:51 PM on January 22, 2014 [3 favorites]

(I hasten to add that we are not made of money -- we actually threw our whole wedding for 5K. It's just that having these people with us was more important than some other things we would have spent the money on instead.)
posted by DarlingBri at 2:40 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had a bridesmaid back out of a wedding weeks beforehand, for reasons that were not cost related. It was a real pain to rework everything. Had the reasons been cost related, I would have cheerfully sprung for the ticket. We also paid for other people's flights who couldn't afford them. It's possible this might be an option.
posted by corb at 7:03 AM on January 23, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing that you should talk to him about this. I am a grad student, so not exactly well off, and was a bridesmaid in a wedding last fall that took place across the country from me. I slept at the bride and groom's house the night before the wedding, and they offered to help pay for my flight. I had to skip the bachelorette party because I couldn't afford to fly across the country twice for their wedding, so they were aware of the difference between my financial situation and theirs and were happy to pitch in and make sure I could be there without spending more than I could afford.

It sounds like your friend may not know that your budget is so tight; if you told him, he could probably find ways to make the trip less expensive for you (especially if lodging is a big cost for you, because he probably knows someone with a couch). Also- if lodging is a lot of the issue, and he can't find a couch for you, it's worth checking AirBnB for someplace cheaper than a hotel.

Otherwise- you say you don't have credit cards, but can you get a very small personal loan from your bank? This may not be an option for you for various reasons, but it might help with the lump sum/installment issue, if you can get one with a reasonable rate.
posted by dizziest at 8:10 AM on January 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I have to tell you that attending the wedding and, almost certainly, the bachelor party are included in the duties and expenses of being a groomsman.

This is a big honour and chickening out on any part of it could easily be seen as a friendship-breaker. It's as DarlingBri says, outside of the most dire financial circumstances, you are insulting the guy by doing this.

Even if the wedding is black tie, you will be adequately dressed in a dark grey suit with a tie, and some black dress shoes. Start hitting up eBay and thrift stores right now.

Nthing try to find someone who might be able to drive you, put you up, etc.

You have a year after the wedding to give the gift, and it does not need to be expensive. If you are able to make something, that could be both cheaper and a good explanation as to why you're not sending it ahead of the wedding.
posted by tel3path at 2:09 PM on January 23, 2014

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