While attending weddings — and being in them — can be fun, it can also be financially and emotionally draining. To make it through with as little stress as possible, follow our guide.
When You’re in the Bridal Party
1. Planning events
It can be tricky when a group of people who may not know each other well have to plan together. A fellow bridesmaid may suggest a swanky bridal shower at a five-star hotel. Or another may insist on bottle service at the bachelorette party. And these requests come in addition to ones your dear friend, the bride, may have.
Speak up, advises celebrity wedding planner Andrea Freeman. You might not be the only one who can’t swing the costs, but you might be the only one willing to say something. Then offer meaningful ways to celebrate that are more cost effective: Instead of a hotel shower, choose a location that's special to the bride. Rather than bottle service, offer the idea of making personalized, signature cocktails before you go out.
"Just be honest. People usually understand, especially if you’re keeping your friend’s happiness in mind above all other things," Freeman adds.
2. Paying for the dress
Check resale websites first, suggests consumer and money-saving expert Andrea Woroch, who attended 15 weddings, five bridal showers, and four bachelorette parties in the past two years.
You can save up to 70 percent by shopping sites like BridesmaidTrade.com, which offers gently used bridesmaid dresses and the option to sell your bridesmaid dress after the event. Or check out BravoBride.com, which sells everything from preowned wedding gowns to cocktail dresses to tuxedos. "Sell any bridesmaid dresses you already own as credit toward a new frock," Woroch says.
If this isn’t an option, ask for a break if you need to, suggests financial blogger Cherie W. Lowe. "It may depend on your relationship, but don’t be afraid to share your current financial stress with the bride — or groom," she suggests. "Ask if they can cut you some slack on things like shoes or accessories. If they really love you, they’ll have space to give you grace."
3. Dealing with drama
Of course, it's not just about financial stress. "Here’s a situation where an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," Freeman says. "Once you learn who the other bridesmaids are it’s a great idea to gather everyone for lunch (or a Google Hangout). This will give everyone a chance to chat and get to know each other a little more." If you put faces to names, you'll be less likely to send each other passive-aggressive emails during the planning.
If drama is unavoidable, or happens unexpectedly, breathe your way through it, advises Barb Schmidt, author of The Practice: Simple Tools for Managing Stress, Finding Inner Peace and Uncovering Happiness.
"If you are with the group and things are starting to feel a little overwhelming, suggest that everyone stop what they are doing and just breathe together for a few deep breaths," Schmidt says. A little too awkward? "Don’t be shy about excusing yourself from the group for a few moments to breathe and remind yourself of the love you feel for the bride," she adds.
4. Don't worry about “perfect”
"The maid of honor and bridesmaids are there to support the bride-to-be during wedding planning and pre-wedding celebrations, so there is often a lot of pressure to make everything 'perfect' for the bride," Schmidt says. "Striving for 'perfection' is the biggest emotional drain, because as we know, perfection is a tall order!”
Strive instead to do your best to support the bride and make sure plans are in order to the best of your ability — or control. After that, you’ll just have to learn to let some things go.
5. Decline gracefully
Be up-front and honest about what you can and can't do with your soon-to-be-wed friend: He or she will want to hear directly from you, not other bridal party members.
In some cases, you might not be able to swing being part of the bridal party at all. And that's okay. "Honesty, with love and kindness, is the most gracious way to decline any invitation," Schmidt says. Assure her you value having her in your life, but you must decline because [fill in the blank]. Keep it simple. There will likely be hurt feelings no matter how delicately you phrase your reason, so just make a sincere intention to send love, and be understanding of the situation.
When You’re a Guest
1. Cut down travel costs
Save money by doing some research before each event rather than relying on the information and accommodations the bride and groom suggest. "Don't assume the group code is the best rate," Woroch says. "You may score a cheaper rate for the same hotel or one within a few miles of the reception by checking comparison sites like Hotels.com, or using the HotelTonight app for a last-minute booking. Recruit friends and family to split a condo or home and rent from the owner directly via sites like VRBO."
Another way to save is by booking through warehouse or credit card travel sites. "Costco Travel will help you score car rentals, flights, and hotels for up to 40 percent less," she adds. "You can also book travel through your credit card's reward program for up to 20 percent off airfare and other accommodations."
2. Stretch your gift-giving budget
One way to buy gifts on a budget, Woroch says, is to buy off-registry. Yes, this sounds dangerous, but instead of buying from the retailer the couple registered with, buy an item they want at the best possible price you can find.
"Check warehouse clubs for deals of up to 30 percent off popular small appliances," she says. Also compare prices on sites like Overstock and Amazon — and don't forget to search for coupon codes before you check out.
3. Have fun without a plus-one
"The idea of going to a wedding solo can be frightening for many people," Freeman says. "Many questions might run through your mind: 'What if I don’t know anybody? What if I don’t have anything in common with the other guests? What if I have to sit next to someone I don’t like?'"
But if the couple decided not to employ the "everyone gets a plus one” rule, you won’t be the only single person at the wedding — so you can relax about being the sole date-free guest.
If you’re single and looking, a wedding could be the perfect place to meet someone, she adds. "Want to increase the odds of making a connection? Ask the couple to seat you next to another single they think you’ll hit it off with," she suggests. "Remember this is an event in the name of love, and your buds would probably be happy to play cupid."
4. Take care of yourself
In some cases, the emotional toll of wedding season is much bigger. "For single people waiting for their big days, and for folks who are divorced or have had relationships recently end, weddings can be especially draining," says psychologist Dr. Ramani Durvasula. "The endless smiling, the socially unskilled relatives, the forced revelry — it can result in resentment that your hard-earned dollars that could have been used to go to Bali are now being used to sit in a hotel ballroom."
In some cases, bowing out is the kindest thing you can do for yourself and for the couple celebrating their marriage. If there are weddings you really want to attend, Durvasula suggests building in some vacation time before or after the event(s), if you can, and treating yourself to something rejuvenating, whether that's a spa treatment or sightseeing.