Farnoosh Torabi was fulfilling her bridesmaid duties, planning a memorable bachelorette party, when she received a very welcome note.”One of the other bridesmaids emailed me and said, ‘Look, we all love Kate and we want to have an awesome time, but let’s try to keep this reasonable,'” Torabi recalled.
God love her.
Torabi, whose day job is personal finance expert for Yahoo, launched into budget mode. “Every bridesmaid brought a bottle of wine from a different region of the world, and we did a wine tasting at my apartment.”
She talked a neighbourhood restaurant owner into creating a prix-fixe menu for her party of eight and rounded out the evening at a bar with an ’80s cover band.
“We had so much fun,” she said. “And all it took was one person from the group bringing me down to earth and saying, ‘Let’s not have this become a financial burden for everyone involved.'”
Bridesmaids spend an average of $1,695 per wedding, according to a 2010 WeddingChannel (weddingchannel.com) survey, once the dress, travel, gifts and parties are all accounted for. Even attending a wedding as a guest can take a bite out of your finances, with a National Endowment for Financial Education survey finding that 42 per cent of invitees anticipate spending $100-$500 per wedding, and 13 per cent plan to spend more than $1,000.
And what about those dreaded 3- or 4- or 5-weddings-in-a-season seasons?
“If you can afford it, that’s one thing,” said Torabi, author of “Psych Yourself Rich: Get The Mindset and Discipline You Need to Build Your Financial Life” (FT Press, 22.99). “But if money is tight, you really need to weigh the consequences of spending that kind of cash.”
There are ways, after all, to survive wedding season with your finances and friendships intact.
So with wedding season about to hit full bloom — it unofficially begins around Memorial Day — we offer these ideas:
Plan for it. “A lot of times you can see it coming,” said Anja Winikka, site editor for The Knot (theknot.com). “You’ve got a number of friends in committed relationships. These things definitely come in waves.” If you can set aside some money each week by making small changes (brown bagging your lunch, hopping the bus instead of a cab), you won’t feel such a hit when the big event(s) arrive.
Selectively gift. If you’re invited not only to the wedding but also the engagement party, shower(s) and bachelor/bachelorette party, you’re not required to bring an equal gift to every event. Torabi suggests giving yourself a spending limit at the outset and divvying it up accordingly. Maybe a bottle of wine for the engagement party, a small gift off the registry for one shower and the big kahuna for the wedding.
Group gift. Feel free to split that big kahuna among pals. “If you’re in the wedding party or you’ve got a group of friends from college who are all going to the wedding, get an email going with them and suggest that you each contribute $75 to go in on one big gift,” Torabi said. “Sometimes couples even have it set up where you can help fund their honeymoon.”
Keep it casual. If you’re hosting a pre-wedding event, you don’t have to dazzle with expensive details. “A barbecue at a park with lemonade and checkered tablecloths can be a really fun engagement party,” Winikka said. “It’s not about renting out a $1,000 venue with linens on the tables and catering it with lobster. It’s about making it personal. If their honeymoon is in Thailand, create really cute DIY stationery that matches the theme. If they got engaged in Paris, do a little Parisian theme.”
Split the bills. Sites like WePay (wepay.com) and SplitABill (splitabill.com) make it easy to divvy hosting costs among a group. No badgering for money six months down the road; no waiting for checks to arrive in the mail. Just log on, set up an account and wait for the money to start rolling in.
No pressure. The number of destination weddings has quadrupled in the past decade, according to Smart Money magazine, which is great news for folks looking to get out of attending an event or two. “If they made it a destination wedding, in a lot of ways they’ve made it easier for you to say no,” Torabi said. “If you’ve got the vacation time and can find a cheap flight, and it’s somewhere you really want to go, it’s a great opportunity. If not, you don’t have to go.”
Be brutally honest. With yourself and your pal who’s marrying. “If this is really going to hurt your financial situation, you need to say no,” Torabi said. Even if that means turning down being in the wedding party or missing the wedding altogether. “Just make sure you put it in the context of, ‘Listen, I’m going to grad school next year,’ or ‘I just lost my job’ or whatever your situation is. You don’t want to say, ‘I hope to buy a house someday, and this is going to hurt my chances.’ It should be a very real circumstance that’s happening now.”
Winikka said: “If the person is a good friend, they’re not going to drop you for not being able to afford everything. People still need friends after their wedding.”