Help me get out of this wedding
August 6, 2014 4:11 AM   Subscribe

So, back in February or so, we were invited to a friend's September wedding in Cape Cod (both us and the friend are in LA). It sounded great; my fiancée and I RSVPed. Now, due to a passel of unforeseen circumstances, we can't really do it. Can you help us get out of it without being giant assholes?

This is a friend of mine from high school that I've reconnected with out here in LA. She's pretty cool, and we like her husband. If we lived in a perfect world, it'd be something that I'd enjoy going to. But we're not super close.

But: It's over $2k, all told. We just had a car accident that will set us back a couple hundred until everything gets resolved. Work circumstances for both me and the fiancée have made getting the time off much, much harder (basically, other people at work quit and the fiancée's schedule got jerked around due to giant academic machinations). My fiancée just broke her toe.

The wedding still sounds like it'd be awesome, but in terms of time and money, we're just not where we thought we would be. I was moderate on whether we'd be able to pull it off in the first place, but since it's a place neither me nor the fiancée have been before and my fiancée was super excited, we committed.

How do we do a graceful exit here? We can afford to pay them for any dinner or stuff they may have bought with our attendance in mind. Do we beg forgiveness? Grovel? Take them out to a nice dinner here? I feel pretty bad — in part because we blew off a couple of other pre-wedding events they've had here because we knew we wouldn't be able to afford to do those and do the wedding.

(We also declined an invitation to a really close friend's wedding because it was going to be the weekend after this one and also on the East Coast, but even though they don't know each other and we could probably afford to do that one, it would feel kinda unethical to back out and go to a different wedding the next weekend instead.)

Any masters of Emily Post or unassailable politeness that can help us phrase our apology? The couple is lovely, and we really do feel bad about it. But we're also not going to go into debt for someone else's wedding, especially when we've got ours — which we plan to invite them to — coming up in March.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (17 answers total)
I would do this in person: "Oh [friend], we sooo hate to do this, but because of all the crappy stuff that's happened recently, it turns out that we just can't financially swing a trip to the Cape next month. We are so sorry to do this at the last minute, and even sorrier we won't be able to share your big day with you."

Don't offer to pay them back for the food, etc. they might have ordered (but maybe give an extra-generous wedding gift or check, especially if it will make you feel better).
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:20 AM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

I would call your friend. Explain that you have recently come into some financial hardship and you simply can't make it due to the expense of travelling. Tell her how disappointed you are that you won't be there on their day. Send an extra generous wedding gift. Reasonably, they should be able to subtract two guests from the venue/catering without any cost to themselves if the wedding is (about) a month away. I think this is more about managing your friendship for the best outcome rather than the cost. They invited you because they wanted you to be a part of their day, so try to think of the loss to them on those terms rather than anything to do with expenses related to your not attending. Tell them you will make it up to them by spending some time together when you are in a better situation.
posted by Under the Sea at 4:40 AM on August 6, 2014 [6 favorites]

The best thing you can do is call them and let them know ASAP, like today ASAP. They might be far enough out still that they can cancel your meals or put an unexpected extra person in your spot.
posted by fermezporte at 4:47 AM on August 6, 2014 [11 favorites]

Not a big deal.... Life happens. Call her and explain. Carry on.
posted by pearlybob at 4:49 AM on August 6, 2014 [9 favorites]

For what it's worth (L.A. may be different, I'm in central North Carolina), I didn't have to have my catering counts in until the end of last week (we're getting married Saturday). So just call/email/text/Facebook message/carrier pigeon/however you normally communicate and let them know as soon as you can; it should still be plenty of time in advance (and hey, at least you RSVPed at all).

(Side note: being in this position myself right now, I would find an insistence on an in-person notification overkill, even from someone I'm related to, unless you just happen to be seeing them in the next day or two. Frankly, if it's someone I don't normally talk to on the phone, then my normal reaction to an unexpected phone call is "who died?" YMMV, of course.)

[Also for what it's worth, and I say this not to thread derail but hopefully help you not feel bad... did I mention it's Saturday? Did I mention that one of my good friends is having trouble finding work coverage so he can be there, one of her good friends is having car trouble, and our officiant just had major life trouble of the not-at-all-his-fault variety and had to back out yesterday? You're letting them know at least a month in advance that you can't spend 2k to go to their wedding across the country, and you actually feel bad about it. No reasonable person is going to hold this against you. Let them know, take them out for a drink if you want, comment on the pictures when they go up on Facebook, and don't stress over this. I would find groveling/an extra big present/etc. really uncomfortable; life happens, especially when you're asking folks to travel to a wedding. You say that the four of you get along well, but aren't super close, so I would scale your reaction to the closeness of the relationship, keeping in mind that you know how your friend is likely to react.]
posted by joycehealy at 5:14 AM on August 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

Don't feel guilty - quickly call and explain but I also did not have to provide a final head count to my venue until one week prior.
posted by polkadot at 5:26 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's fine. They're not going to be out of pocket unless they have a super-whack caterer, and you will not be the only guests bowing out and requiring a last minute re-jigging of the seating chart (if there even is one.) Send an email and tell them that between the broken toe and the unexpected car accident expenses, you are very sorry but you're going to have to pull out. Then send a nice present. I'd be inclined to send a cheque. (Which, we assume, they will re-gift to you for your wedding, but anyway.)
posted by DarlingBri at 5:26 AM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

As someone who had had a wedding, it sucked when people couldn't come (because we were sad they wouldn't be there), but us having already spent money on the catering didn't factor in to it - we had already budgeted to spend that money, it's not like it cost us more for guests not to come or we had to pay a penalty for uneaten dinners (indeed, other guests with big appetites were happy to help out there!) . So don't worry about that.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 5:32 AM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

1. It's really not a big deal. Just mention the car accident and the broken toe, and they will understand.
2. Especially if you send them a really nice gift.
3. It would be pretty sketchy to go to a different East Coast wedding the following week.
posted by Rock Steady at 5:48 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Just had a wedding and the only real kind of bummer to the hosts (other than seeing you!) is if you 'cancel' within 1 or 2 weeks, as head counts are due usually within this time. You're fine.
posted by sandmanwv at 5:50 AM on August 6, 2014

It would be nice of you, but not necessary, to offer to cover the costs. The good news is, the couple will certainly respond to this offer with "don't be ridiculous." Then you get them a particularly nice present and you're done.

I don't think it would be unethical to go to the other wedding. Yes, they're both on the East Coast, but that one involves substantially less financial outlay. You can manage that, but you can't manage the Cape Cod wedding. I see no reason you should have to skip something you CAN do because you feel bad about skipping something you can't do. To be honest, I would have a bigger ethical problem with your skipping a really close friend's wedding for the sake of avoiding abstract fairness issues concerning the wedding of a less good friend.
posted by escabeche at 6:00 AM on August 6, 2014

Mr Fish and I just got married three weeks ago. This is absolutely not a big deal. Call your friend right away and explain that circumstances have changed. Send a card/gift if you can swing it financially.
posted by nerdfish at 6:16 AM on August 6, 2014

We had people decline invites up to and including on the day before our wedding (illness, couldn't get off work, etc). Annoying, sure, but not detrimental to the day. Call them and explain the situation, then send a nice card/gift/check.
posted by picklesthezombie at 6:37 AM on August 6, 2014

Not to worry, it's really not that big of a deal. Especially a destination wedding. The catering shouldn't be an issue, not this far out.

I like your idea a lot, "Friends, a series of unfortunate events prevent us from attending your wedding. We'd love to celebrate with you once you get back from your honeymoon." Then take them out to a nice dinner.

Here's what I've discovered about weddings. You actually meet with your friends for 2 minutes total. There is so much going on, with family and grooming appointments and photos and all sorts of wedding nonsense that as much as you cherish your friends, it's all a blur. If you're not a part of the wedding party, it's absolutely no big deal.

I flew from Florida to California for my best friend's wedding. My father performed the ceremony. I still didn't get a chance to truly connect with her. So much to do, so rushed, so weird. Big hassle.

I got invited to a friend's wedding in Florida. I flew in from Nashville, stayed with another friend, spent exactly 1 minute with the bride. Then had to spend the night in the Airport due to weather.

It's nice to have oodles of friends at your wedding, but once you're AT the wedding it's really hard to see who all is there, let alone spend any time with anyone.

My wedding was no exception. I didn't care that people didn't come in from out of town, dear, dear friends, because it would have been a wast of money for them. I shook hands, danced and had one drink at my wedding because it was THAT crazy.

Don't fret about this. Shit happens. Your friends will hardly notice your absence.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:37 AM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Honestly, if your friend makes a big deal about it, she's not worth having as a friend.
posted by redlines at 7:51 AM on August 6, 2014

Call her and tell her that recent life events (car crashes, broken bones, work issues) have made things impossible for you. Tell her that you both were so looking forward to going, but that it's no longer something that you can pull off. She likely still has time to adjust the final number with her caterer and also could use your "spots" to add +1s for other guests who may have SOs that they'd like to bring. It's fine to retract the acceptance.

Send a nice gift and card and make plans for a celebratory dinner once everything has settled down.
posted by quince at 10:08 AM on August 6, 2014

First off, know that that you are the last thing that she would be thinking about on her wedding day. She probably won't even notice that you aren't there. Simply send a note and a gift (if you haven't already) stating that something came up and you can't go after all. Wish her well and plan on taking the newlyweds out to dinner some time soon. As far as the other wedding, go if you want to go because it is highly unlikely that the first friend will be checking on where you are while she is on her honeymoon and then getting angry about it.
posted by myselfasme at 6:35 PM on August 6, 2014

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