It 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.
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.
In between, K visited more stores here in New York and in California while visiting family there. She went back to Saks but found, to her dismay, that the Austin Scarlett dresses she had liked so much were gone. There was nowhere to go but forward.
“Amsale, Madison Avenue, 1:00 PM,” she texted me. “You in?”
Oh, I’m in.
Two of K’s friends — thin, made-up professionals next to whom I was Frumpy, the 8th dwarf — joined us in the salon, which was as quiet as a planetarium and evoked a similar level of subdued awe. A docent named Dia offered us water. “Or champagne,” she added. Who, if offered free bubbly, would opt for tap? Champagne all around, please. Under ordinary circumstances, the wine is probably reserved for celebration after a dress is selected. No matter. It set the tone. We were there to make an expensive purchase and we toasted what we hoped would be an alignment of the stars.
It became clear quickly that there was little point in asking, “And how much is this one?” Unlike in Kleinfeld, where for whatever reason every dress was out of the given price range, Dia only pulled gowns under $4K. That worry alleviated, we could focus on fit and look.
A huge satin number with the modern equivalent of an 1890s bustle didn’t make sense for a desert wedding but I loved it anyway because it was so delightfully ridiculous. Other very pretty gowns hid her bass, and we are all about the bass these days, or laid lace on top of mesh, which is pretty from far away but a bit bizarre up close. In truth, the dresses were lovely, though, which makes decisions hard. They were all fine! All figure-flattering! All in her price range! Is the bride really supposed to break down weeping because one ivory tulle confection speaks to her in a way the ten before didn’t?
“Dia, you’re the expert,” I said. “Do people cry in real life, or just on TV? Are they overwhelmed and exhausted? Are they ready to be done? What’s the crying about? Is it a necessary part of the process?”
I’ve gotten a lot of your “the year I saved $10K” stories—we are quite a financially savvy community, as it turns out.
Here are two stories to start off. They share the theme of, as Sara notes below, “building savings that are actually spendings.” Lauren and her husband saved up for a down payment on a house, and Sara and her fiancé are saving up for a wedding.
Lauren: My husband and I spent the last year putting away $2,000/month in order to save up for a down payment on a house. We were able to do this mostly by having awesome jobs—our combined take-home pay is ~75k, plus my husband gets some stock grants. We also wouldn’t have been able to do this without living together and combining finances. It took a little while to adjust to the saving schedule, but I think it helped that we started right after we got married so there wasn’t much time to lifestyle inflate and adjust to having two salaries and only one apartment.