Saying “No I Can’t” Because of Money

Fleur and Bill's weddingIt is so hard to say no! It is especially hard to say no to our friends, who we love, or who we like well enough but think for whatever reason that it is imperative that they love us. And it especially hard when the “no” is because of money. Or is it easier, money being an inarguable reality like the weather? “It’s raining / I’m broke.” No, it’s harder, because it is hard to acknowledge to our friends that we might be coming up short, that the thought of spending is making us hyperventilate, and that even though we love them maybe we don’t have or can’t afford to part with the $1,000+ their wedding will cost us.

WaPo advice columnist / demigod Carolyn Hax shows us the way:

Q. HOW TO DECLINE WEDDING INVITATIONS
I’m getting many wedding invitations these days and unfortunately I just can’t afford to go to all of them. Some friends understand, but how do you explain that to the brides who just don’t seem to get it and keep pushing you on it?

A. CAROLYN HAX
You don’t. You’re under no obligation to explain at all, though with a good friend you’ll want to say something, of course: “I would love to go but I can’t afford it.” Done. If pressed, you ask them please to respect you enough to accept that you’d go if you could. Beyond that, the couples’ behavior makes for a good sorting tool. Remember who was gracious and who was pushy, and then, as you continue to be called upon to invest more money and energy in your friends than you have to give, choose to give to the gracious ones.

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23 Comments / Post A Comment

katethegreat (#2,545)

As someone who planned a wedding, I was a bit relieved when people said no, actually, because it made the wedding more affordable for us. It made me much less anxious about saying no to other people’s wedding invitations (assuming we are not VERY close), whatever the reason.

@katethegreat We had a small wedding dinner (<40 guests), and sent out invitations. I was surprised at how many people didn’t mail back any response, or just sent a text or an email response. I was totally ok with people not being able to attend, but just let me know! I was most upset with a couple who told us they were attending (via text), and then changed their minds a week before the wedding. After we had paid for everything. I suspect it was a cost issue, but wouldn’t you figure that out before accepting an invitation? Of course emergencies happen, but that was clearly not the case here.

ThatJenn (#916)

@Catastrophe Waitress We emphasized in a bunch of ways that we’d love to know even about the maybes. (Our invitations were emails so I didn’t really care how they told me.) It… mostly worked. It was actually kind of nice to know if people weren’t totally committed so I knew who to follow up with as we got closer.

sony_b (#225)

@katethegreat Yup. I was so relieved when 20% said no.

ECW (#2,765)

I totally get that people should be able to just say no, but I actually really appreciated the people who gave a reason. We had a couple decline to attend our wedding after my husband had been one of his groomsmen (at a destination wedding, just to earn my husband more “friend karma”), and their refusal to say why, even after my husband politely inquired how they were doing, ended up being very hurtful to him. We helped a few other of his friends with accommodations (the wedding was in my home town so he had more travelers) so I like to think we weren’t being crazy demanding. So essentially, my take away is, declining for money is legitimate, but if you are a friend of the couple, maybe call and say “we can’t make it, we are sorry and here is a cursory explanation why” rather than just sending back a surprise declines RSVP. While all planners like smaller numbers, the unexpected and unexplained absence of someone believed to be a close friend can be upsetting.

aetataureate (#1,310)

@ECW You can apply Hax’s advice in reverse here: Maybe if the couple weren’t comfortable or willing to share a reason, you aren’t really close. Weddings are a great sorter in that way too. And in a situation like that, given the choice between feeling seriously injured by someone’s behavior or asking about it, I’d choose to ask outright, “Why can’t you make it?”

boogers mcgee (#4,474)

@ECW The friends who declined may have been embarrassed about their reason for needing to say no. I’m thinking that, given the fact that your husband was involved in their wedding and (I assume) no reasons came to mind as a possibility for not attending, it may have been very personal and something which the couple preferred not to share with anyone.

kbn22 (#1,414)

I find that weddings are relatively easy to decline, assuming the friends in question aren’t ask-you-to-be-in-the-wedding-party close. Most people understand that a plane ticket + 2 nights in a hotel can get really pricey. The asks I find difficult to decline based on money are more subtle: the fancy restaurant group birthday dinner for a good friend that you know will end up being ninety bucks a head, or the beach weekend that will be $300 each when it’s all said and done and you’ll have to share a sandy bed with someone all weekend anyway. I’m fortunate to be in a position where these expenses wouldn’t make or break me – I’d still be able to pay my mortgage and afford my kid’s daycare. But I’d just rather spend that money on other things, or have it left over at the end of the month. I wish someone would tell me how to decline *those* invites without coming across as a joyless penny-pincher.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@kbn22 Honestly, I feel like you can still just say no. “Thanks so much for the invite! But you know we’re just not much of a beach family. :(“

@kbn22 I think there were actually a few Billfold posts about the expensive birthday dinner a while ago. The suggested decline was, “I can’t make the dinner, but thanks for the invite. Can I take you out to coffee/ice cream/something else at [specific time]?” That way it doesn’t feel like a blow off to the friend, and you can spend real time with the birthday boy or girl. The specific time part seems key, that way the friend knows you really mean it and aren’t offering a flimsy “let’s catch up later!”

Tripleoxer (#5,676)

@kbn22 I struggle with this too. It’s hard to justify a “no” when it sounds fun, I guess, and I don’t want to disappoint my friend, but my values and priorities for my finite resources are just different.

joyballz (#2,000)

@Tripleoxer I struggle with the things that I could potentially afford, but don’t want to/rather would spend the money elsewhere. Example: weekend trips. Yes, I can technically afford a couple hundred dollars right now, but I’d rather save it. Or on a smaller scale, dinners out.

eatmoredumplings (#3,808)

@kbn22 I find that kind of thing easier to decline than weddings, I guess because I feel so flattered to be invited to weddings that I usually genuinely want to make the effort and expense to go. But an expensive birthday dinner or a weekend trip? I find it very easy to say, “I’d love to, but I can’t afford a trip right now,” or “I wish I could, but I can’t make it that night – I’ll propose something soon, I’d love to hang out with you another night!” (Sometimes I think it’s easier to let people think you have plans than to say “I blew my whole food budget on groceries and now I have to cook at home”). In fact, I just did the second one today….

garli (#4,150)

I had a friend (who was a great friend in college but we hadn’t seen each other face to face since graduation) who was SUPER butt hurt when I told her I couldn’t afford to go to her wedding. I was coming off some injuries and 4 surgeries in 2 years and being on disability and a million other things.

Additionally I would have had to fly from Ca to Vt and then a 5 hour drive for a one day event. She didn’t talk to me for like a year after.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@garli Seriously? Fuck that person. That’s ridiculous!

The more I hear about other people, the more I realize that I am lucky with my friends. A coworker just went to a bachelorette party out of town, at a location picked because the bride got a free hotel room!

garli (#4,150)

@Lily Rowan Yeah I figured it was one of those side effects from being a scholarship person at a very expensive private school. People were always confused when I said I couldn’t afford something, like it was rude.

Lily Rowan (#70)

@garli Yeah, that’s interesting. I thought I would see that in college, but ended up with a very not-rich group of friends. And my richest friend in high school is the one who always said she couldn’t afford things!

hollanding (#6,076)

I had decline 2 out of 5 weddings in 2012 due to post-grad school finances, and 1 out of 3 weddings this year (out of the country). I think everyone understood for the most part, though I wish I had given more notice to soften the blow; instead I hung out in the “maybe, hopefully” category right until the RSVP deadline.

@hollanding If the bride/groom/wedding planner is doing their job correctly, the RSVP deadline should be when head counts are due to vendors like the caterers, so as long as you hit the deadline you did not do the bigger faux pas of saying you were going to come, costing the couple $150 a plate, and then flaking out at the last minute.

ronswansonluva (#6,465)

Recently I had to say no to a trip to Hawaii with a handful of friends from undergrad. They all went into finance when we graduated a few years and I did not, and the particular friend I had to say no to comes from a very wealthy family. It was not fun, you guys!!

I didn’t say “I’m very close to digging myself out of credit card debt (!!) so it’s not in the budget,” but framed it as “I’m moving to [expensive city] in a few months so I can’t do it.” Hopefully got the same point across without having to say it. Stress! They’re all nice girls (not snobs) and totally get it, I just don’t like having to call it out.

andnowlights (#2,902)

I was really (kind of outrageously) humbled by the number of people that came to our wedding from out of town and shelled out all that money to come see us get married. Most of them weren’t really even my friends so much as my parents, but it was truly amazing!

sony_b (#225)

I feel like this is such an age related thing – I’m 42 and, I suspect, a bit older than most folks here. I’m at a point in life where my default is “no” and I have to think through the yes answers. Would I love to go to your destination whatever? Sure! Am I actually going to shell out more than $250 (including gift) to see anybody other than my sister ever get married again? Hell no.

potatopotato (#5,255)

So if you can’t afford to travel to an out-of-state wedding, are you still supposed to send a gift? Is it still supposed to be the value of 2 heads, if you and the boyfriend they’ve never met were both invited? And they have really expensive taste?

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