I can't afford to celebrate my friends' weddings like this!
January 28, 2014 8:27 AM   Subscribe

Practical: Any ideas for fun-but-cheap bachelorette weekend accommodations or activities around the central East Coast? Context: I'm the last single friend of our group of friends, and the most broke. I'm comfortable with talking about money, but my friends are WASPier types who'd prefer to never, ever discuss anything to do with finances, and tend to change the subject abruptly when it comes up. This is a problem when I'm expected to pitch in for something that I really can't afford, but that everyone else can. I'm thinking the best solution is to pitch an alternative that I can afford.

More context:

Following a busy 2012-2013 wedding season among our group of lifelong friends, my two Very Best Friends are getting married in 2014. One wedding in summer (Friend A), the other in fall (Friend B). We each live about 5 hours apart by car, and air travel is not an option.

I live with a very tight budget. I work full-time at a job that I love but for a very low salary, plus I've a ton of consumer & student loan debt that takes most of my paychecks. Further, my finances are somewhat drained after paying to attend 8 weddings over the last year. But now it's time to celebrate two friends I really care about and want to make sure they have a good time.

Friend B is very financially secure, and her parents actively support her. Parents also own two beach houses. Friend B and I are planning A's bachelorette party for spring, and so far the plan is modest but still outside of my financial comfort zone. B has outright ignored my question to her regarding use of her parents' beach house, and is now proceeding with a plan that I'm pretty sure will cost more than the $200 I can afford for the weekend.

Selfish ulterior motive for wanting to do it up right: I do feel a little bitter about this massive expenditure of time and resources over the last couple of years, and antsy that if/when I have my own wedding/bachelorette thing in the next few years, these friends will be too busy with babies, etc. I'd want my friends to go to the same amount of trouble for me as I did for them, and I'm afraid I'm missing the window for that to be possible (we're all turning 30 this year). But I really, really don't want to be bitter, or cling to expectations, about this at any step of the way.

So, in addition to wanting ideas for alternatives I can pitch, I'm asking:
- How can I shower my friends with love without spending a bunch of money?
- How can I communicate about money to friends who don't communicate about money?
- How can I ask for friends to dig into their own resources (e.g. parents' beach houses), or should I even try?
- How can I not be bitter about spending time/energy/PTO days/money on 10+ weddings without enjoying a spotlight of my own?
posted by magdalemon to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
B has outright ignored my question to her regarding use of her parents' beach house, and is now proceeding with a plan that I'm pretty sure will cost more than the $200 I can afford for the weekend.

You have to speak up. You cannot let your friend plan something you cannot afford--in essence, she is "spending your money" by doing that. You have to be upfront and unapologetic about what you can afford, if you just suggest something you think you can afford, B might assume there's more room in the budget for other expenses.

I don't know your relationship with B's family, but it doesn't seem like a good idea to suggest you throw a party at their house.
posted by inertia at 8:42 AM on January 28, 2014 [12 favorites]

I was single until I was 39. Trust me, you'll never get back what you put out.

Although you'd love to do the Bachelorette thing with your friends, if what they plan is too expensive, bail on that, and plan something fun and intimate at your place. How about a slumber party, with toe nail painting and face masks, and sappy movies. Cheap and cheerful. Just plan this night anyway, within a month or so of the wedding. It's a way to get together and relax with no expectations.

I would plan to meet for lunch, face-to-face, one-on-one and say, "I love you, but I am tapped out and I can't afford to pay attention these days. I can't afford your bachelorette weekend, and so I'm offering an alternative sleep-over night."

Be honest, don't be upset if the plans don't change. So they all fly to Vegas for the weekend. That's okay. It will suck, but you'll live.

If you're asked to chip in simply say, "OH! I've already planned my gift." And walk away.

Don't do anything you don't want to do. If you don't want to use PTO for a day-trip to NYC to pick out a wedding dress, don't.

I used to be afraid of being left-out of anything, so I'd go to EVERYTHING and not enjoy it. Now that I'm selective, I'm a much happier Bunny.

As for the whole, "when it's my turn..." yeah, prepare to be disappointed. It's not going to be enough, it just can't be.

Now, the obvious, have you SEEN Bridesmaids? Because...that's you!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 8:43 AM on January 28, 2014 [10 favorites]

I might try to bring up the beach house idea and other cheap ideas with Friend B one more time (over the phone or in person, not via e-mail or text), and specifically say that you're feeling financially pinched (this is one of your best friends, hopefully she will listen), but I think after that you have to let it go. If the shower becomes a bigger deal than you can afford, backing out is not the end of the world. I would hope both friends could understand how much you love and care about them even if you can't make their parties. Life is long and wedding season is short. The best friendships will survive.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:43 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

It may be time for you to suck it up a bit and take Friend B aside and say, "listen, about the Bachelorette Party. If this is the plan you're going ahead with - I'm going to have to skip it. I'll still help with planning things, don't worry, but I just can't actually, you know, be there at it."

And when - as I predict - she gasps and says "omigod but why," that's when you tell her that look, it's killing you too and you feel bad, but the reality is that this is your income, and this is how much you can afford, and this is how far behind you are, and you had to make a choice between the bachelorette party and the wedding itself, and so....

And then see if things change. Maybe they won't, and in that case you may indeed need to skip the shower and the bachelorette party like you said you would. But maybe they'll ask input about what you can afford, at which case you come up with ideas - or maybe she loans you the money, or something else.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:47 AM on January 28, 2014 [17 favorites]

I agree with simply coming right out and saying "I can't afford more than $X" - however, I'd temper that with some of what you've said here - you feel like you really want to celebrate their day, and if there are other ways that you can help out (planning, crafts, organization, being the go-to person for questions on the morning of, whatever) to please let you know.

Some of my friends had a "stage manager" the day of their wedding, so if there were questions or a crisis, there was someone to go to that was not them, and they could enjoy that part more. Not sure if that is appropriate in these cases, but maybe something along those lines?

We had two friends that came early and helped us set up and decorate, and I remember that more fondly than any gift I was given - of course, we were DIY for the most part!
posted by needlegrrl at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eh, to be perfectly honest, I'd just put out a No More Bachelorette Travel ultimatum. If pressed, say you could maybe do like a cheap-and-cheerful easy weekend, like [foo]. (Foo being the many good suggestions you'll get in this thread.)

Frame it around the idea that it's a huge hassle to do all this big "weekend" travel, that it's exhausting, cutting into your productiveness at work, hell, beg off due to being an Oldy McOldster who can't really deal with red-eye flights anymore.

There are probably plenty of amazing Bachelorette Party times to be had in your city where you already live. Or if you don't live in a city, the nearest big city. One of my favorite ones, we pregamed at someone's house (and took the opportunity to pelt the bride with ridiculous lingerie), then went to dinner and a burlesque show, followed by maybe a dive bar of some kind. That's all you really need. You don't have to take a big fancy trip to have a bachelorette party.

If you do live in a city and want to escape, I've seen a lot of people do either "glamping" type things or spending the weekend in a cute B&B-ish type area like the Hudson Valley, the Catskills, the Poconos, etc. This doesn't offer as many options for raucous bar crawl type stuff, but maybe you want to do something that is more interesting than all that?

Atlantic City could be a good option if you're based in the NY/NJ/Philadelphia/DC sort of zone. Montreal, if you're in New England.
posted by Sara C. at 8:48 AM on January 28, 2014

"I'm sorry, I just cannot afford to do that. We could do XYZ instead, otherwise my best wishes will be with you but I will be unable to attend. Sorry."

Giving the wealthy types a free pass on changing the subject when finances come up just means giving them a free pass on the privilege they exhibit. They need to realize that their good friend is not in the same economic bracket and therefore cannot participate in the same ways.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 8:54 AM on January 28, 2014 [9 favorites]

Response by poster: We all live in separate cities, so some travel will be necessary. Where I live happens to be somewhat of a tourist mecca in a scenic area, so I just sent an email suggesting they come to my town.

"I just truly, really really cannot afford to spend more than $100ish (not to mention gas) and still do a weekend for you and go to both of your weddings in addition to covering my other obligations. I hate to be a stick in the mud, but my resources are limited here."

...and I know how it will look for me to suggest that they come to my town.
But I did offer to help plan both A & B's bachelorette weekends, since (as I put it, all altruistic-like) I'm the one not getting married this year (and, theoretically, will have extra time to plan for them)

posted by magdalemon at 8:59 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Mod note: folks maybe some constructive help and not just "fuck your friends" answers?
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:10 AM on January 28, 2014

I lived this. It sucked. Hugely.

You need to explain clearly WHY you cannot spend more than 200$ total. Explain it isn't a flexible thing, you don't have savings you can pull from or descretionary spending you can cut back on. Risk making them awkward and explain that going over 200$ TOTAL (including gas and food and everything) would make it so that you may not be able to pay your bills that month. Seriously, be painfully awkwardly clear why your limit is set at what it is. Overstate it a bit if you want to really drive the message home, but you shouldn't have to. Don't make excuses or apologies because you aren't doing anything wrong. Make it matter of fact. I agree with feckless fecal fear mongering that they don't get to shut down any money discussions just because it isn't an issue for THEM. It is an issue for YOU and they need to understand and respect that.

You need to just say "I have only 200$ that I can spend/put towards this. I wish I had more money I could spend but any more than that and I'd crossing in to "can't pay bills" territory so that really isn't a negotiable amount. I am hoping we can find something that I can afford to do. I really don't want to miss out on this special event for both of you!"

I really wish I had done that and held my ground when I was in your situation. Instead I just went hugely in to debt for her wedding which was a huge mistake, especially since I was forced to friendship divorce her after the wedding because she had been such a bridezilla and rude and unkind and hugely ungrateful to everyone (not just me). If these are your best friends and you really care about them and they really care about YOU then they should be able to hear your message clearly and respect it. When I tried to tell my ex-friend this she basically ignored me and kept piling on more and more money costing things. I really wish I had taken that for the warning sign that it was, that maybe she wasn't such a great friend after all. If your friends DO make a fuss over this or don't respect the fact that you don't have the financial freedom that they do then sadly I think you'll need to reevaluate how good of a relationship you have with them.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:11 AM on January 28, 2014 [6 favorites]

How can I not be bitter about spending time/energy/PTO days/money on 10+ weddings without enjoying a spotlight of my own?

It's damn hard; I've been there myself and I'm still kind of intermittently bitter about it.

I think you can't do much about how you feel about the weddings past, beyond not dwelling on it, but you can proactively prevent yourself from feeling bitter about these future weddings. Stop overextending yourself for these weddings. Stop putting your friends' bachelorette parties ahead of your emergency savings, your credit score, your financial future. Be honest with yourself about what you can afford to give them without feeling taken advantage of -- not just in money, but in time and energy as well. And then be honest with them about it. Set your boundaries and remember that you are entitled to do so to keep yourself sane and whole.

I feel like the wedding industrial complex fosters this weird thing where bridesmaids start feeling like their needs are subjugated to the brides' needs, even in cases where the bride isn't being a bridezilla at all. Try to be aware of it when you start feeling like A or B's needs are more important than yours. They aren't. You can be there for them but still respect that your needs are real and valid.

How well do you know the other bridesmaids in each wedding? Can you approach them on this? If any of them are in a similar situation, you may have more luck convincing A/B about the very real nature of financial limitations.

Because, dear god, spending $1K or whatever on an out-of-town bachelorette party should not be treated on a referendum on how good a friend you are. That's crazy. Totally crazy.

If all the other bridesmaids have $$$ to blow on this, I think you need to be upfront and tell them that while you'd love to celebrate with them if you can keep it in your budget, a major trip just isn't in the cards for you. And stick to that. It is a totally reasonable boundary to set and your real friends should respect that.
posted by pie ninja at 9:19 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think just be straightforward and say "hey friend A and B, I can't really afford all this right now". "I will be there for the actual wedding and I am happy to plan and or of course attend any 'low-key' (meaning cheap!) pre-wedding occasions" "I feel very badly about this and wish my financial circumstances were different".

I DO NOT however think you should expect them to host it at a particular place (beach house) or town (yours) because it's cheaper for you. They will chose what they want to do (especially if they are the "I've been waiting for this all my life" types) and you just have to decide if you want to attend or not. Period. You can offer cheaper alternatives but they will probably not replace the events they want to have, just maybe providing an alternative and extra event allowing you to attend something with them.

I hate to be brutal but they will know part of it (the majority I'm sure) is financial, and part of it is bitterness. And they will most likely (as you predict) have kids pretty soon so you may end up on different paths anyway. Life is tricky like this.

However, you need to be gracious, and hide your feelings in some ways. You just say "oh I'm sorry I can't make the Vegas extravaganza, but maybe we can go to Bob's Burgers when I am in town for the wedding!" or whatever. Try to hide the 'bitterness and it's not fairness- save it for your fellow single bridesmaids/wedding attenders'!

Many of us have been there, just don't lose your friends and piles of money in the process.
posted by bquarters at 9:22 AM on January 28, 2014 [3 favorites]

I kind of missed the part where you are on the Bachelorette planning committee...I would probably back out of this and just make your obligation the actual wedding itself. It might cause some dissention in the ranks, but you also sort of passively aggressively stating "I'm not the one getting married" and "the event needs to only cost x dollars" is probably going to cause problems/rifts anyway. No judgement, I would probably be the same in feelings and finances, and that is why I would get off those particular planning committees.
posted by bquarters at 9:30 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

Honestly, if you can't pony up the kind of money the other participants can, you shouldn't be on a "planning committee" (having a "planning committee for this wedding industry bullspit sounds rediculous, but that's besides the point). I'd step down from the planning committee, and await whatever final decision is made on the events. IF you can't afford them, decline and just say you can't afford it or if you can maybe do part of the event (like have dinner but leave before they go to the broadway show or whatever) do that. Life's too short and honestly you won't get the money or effort back in return.
posted by WeekendJen at 9:54 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

- How can I shower my friends with love without spending a bunch of money?

So I'm getting married soon and we're dealing with the whole trappings of the wedding business, and the only thing I want is to be able to see my friends. I think your email is fair. If friend B isn't willing to work with financial constraints (and I think $200 is a pretty good range!) then don't budge. If you can't go to the bachelorette party, can you visit the bride and do a spa day/cocktails/museum visit/SYTTD marathon/whatever separately? Send a really nice card and skype in to say hi? Send a gift basket of items for the party or the morning afterwards-- not expensive, but thoughtful, like wine/nail polish/brunch supplies/advil? You sound like an awesome and reasonable friend and I'm sorry your friends aren't listening very well.

Do not expect them to use their parents' money or beach houses, though. You have no idea what rules or internal family dynamics are involved with those. It's rude of them to essential volunteer your funds for these elaborate parties, but it's also rude to do the same for their family's money and properties.

I do feel a little bitter about this massive expenditure of time and resources over the last couple of years, and antsy that if/when I have my own wedding/bachelorette thing in the next few years, these friends will be too busy with babies, etc.

Yeah it's really tough, especially since weddings have blossomed into kind of insane yearlong parades. Don't do anything because you want to earn it back later. Plan events that sound fun because they're with your friends. Go to the parties you can. If you can't go to something, it will be okay! They're your friends! You have years and decades of various parties and celebrations ahead of you! Hopefully they (and the other friends you'll make along the way) will be there for you whenever you need celebrations and support in the future. Just don't keep a ledger.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:59 AM on January 28, 2014 [2 favorites]

The way to not be bitter about spending money you don't have on the wedding is by not spending it, in a cheerfully direct way.

The way you talk about money to people who don't talk about money is by talking about it, in a cheerfully direct way.

"Hey friend! The current plans are just not going to work for me. It's been a tough year budget-wise and I can only allocate $200 to the bachelorette. I'd love to still participate in the group activity, but it would need to be substantially more low-key than it's looking to be."

Then you just don't discuss it any more. Don't get dragged into details of what else you're spending money on, don't offer reasons. DO reiterate over and over that you're so thrilled for them and that you would love to celebrate with them, in a way you can afford. If they decide to go ahead without you, let the bride know that you're so bummed you can't be there for the official bachelorette party but you'd like to plan something fun separately to celebrate. Then do that thing. (inexpensive avant-garde theater tickets, a jazz festival, a day of sampling all the food trucks in town, whatever). The most important thing is not to be passive aggressive about it, just state your limitations and stick with them and keep it cheerful. The point is for your friend to have fun, and there are a lot of ways to make that happen without making you unhappy in the process.

I wouldn't ask your friends to draw on their extended networks, especially if you've already asked and been ignored.

Finally, there is no way you're going to recoup all the money or time you've put into 10 different people's weddings at yours, which is why it's important to set limits on both those things that you're comfortable with. Seriously, keeping these mental accounts is likely to be a strain on your resources in the short run and lead to unhappiness with the process when it is eventually your turn.
posted by The Elusive Architeuthis at 10:29 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I also do want to echo what others have said that you aren't going to get back everything you have put in to other people's weddings. It feels incredibly unfair because it some ways it is. It feels like you should be earning "IOU A Fabulous Wedding" vouchers so when yours comes along they'll all return the favour... but they won't. They just won't. Well, fine, one or two might, but I wouldn't hold my breath. It may feel too late, but you really need to try to see all the time and effort and money you have put in to everyone's weddings as a GIFT. That was a gift you gave them. It wasn't a trade or an exchange. It was never promised that they would return the favour, and if they DID promise they were being silly. That money and time is gone. You gave that to them. I'd feel bitter too - hell, I do feel bitter over all the time and money I have put towards other people's wedding who by the time I got married weren't in my life anymore and therefore did nothing for my wedding. A couple of those friendships ended badly, so there is a LOT of bitterness for those ones. Some of the friends ARE still in my life but due to their being married and having a family and just not having the freedom (financial and otherwise) they weren't able to reciprocate all I did for them. But what you and I both need to do is just call that money and effort a gift and stop wishing for/expecting repayment. Frankly, the fact that I had (over)spent so much money (money that I didn't have) on their weddings contributed to the end of a couple of those friendships. I was a bit resentful and, fair or not, I probably sort of blamed them for how in debt and financially burdened I was.

So now you know the horrible injustice. Now you know that everything you are doing for other people's weddings are 9 times out of 10 a gift that will never be reciprocated. The money you spend on other people's weddings isn't a loan. It isn't an investment. It is was a gift that you gave them. I made this mistake too, thinking that I would get it back in kind somehow, but man... that so rarely happens.

So taking that knowledge, you need to be crystal clear with YOURSELF how much you are willing and able to spend (both in time and in money) on their wedding gift. Attending these things and spending this money on their event is part of your gift to them. It would be pretty crazy for you to let people tell you how much you need to spend on their gift, right?

Don't let them decide how much you should spend on their gift and don't let them decide what you need to give them. YOU get to decide how much you can afford to give them (again of your TIME and your MONEY SPENT), and you get to decide what you want to put that gift towards. You can't give them everything. You can't given them their bachelorette AND their bridal shower AND their day-before spa day (if they are the type to do that) AND get the expensive matching dress they want you to wear and and and... Figure out what means the most to THEM and to YOU, and spend your money on that. They can't have it all, and you can't give it all. Get the most bang for your buck though.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2014 [8 favorites]

One more thing - from my experience, and from what I have heard of other people's experiences, bachelorettes are rarely worth the huge build up and expense. Are they fun? Sure. But very often they are a bit of a let down. We expect these movie versions of bachelorettes where you have a crazy fun time making lots of memories and bonding... but in general it is just, you know,... a night out. A night out where, for whatever reason, usually at least one person ends up in tears. Even if you do the whole weekend thing I'd be surprised if it ended up being as special and memory making etc. as you hope. So consider that when you decide if you want to take part in this.

Also, I just got married a few months ago, and my best friend threw me a bachelorette, just me, her, and another good friend. Know what we did? We went to a local beach, had some snacks, went to an adult store to browse (and maybe buy something..), and then went out for Indian food. We were back home before midnight. Let me tell you, it was lovely. It didn't cost them anything more than the price of the food (picnic and indian food), and we all had a great time. I don't think a big lavish spendy thing would have meant any more to me than that day.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:03 AM on January 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

I didn't end up spending a lot of money on my one good friend who got married's wedding - I'm a bit younger than you, so I'm sure the big wedding boom is a few years down the road - but I spent enough that I ended up crying on the phone to my mother in a hotel lobby in Las Vegas. I put a some stuff on my credit card. It sucked. I didn't buy her a gift (and still feel guilty about that), I didn't have to pay much to travel, and I slept on the floor of a friend's hotel room, but just the bachelorette was enough to make my life super difficult financially and I wish I'd said no and celebrated with her in another way. You're not a stupid twenty-four year old, so speak up and kindly explain your boundaries.

I agree that you shouldn't push cheaper options. It's her party. Just gracefully opt out of whatever you can't afford if you have to.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 1:52 PM on January 28, 2014

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