Several friends recently asked me to be in their weddings. I’m in my mid-20s and I’m trying to be financially responsible, but I don’t want to turn any of them down or hurt their feelings. I’m starting to feel the stress of school loans, car insurance, rent, and life in general. How do I be there for my friends and not go broke?
—Broke Best Friend
Dear Best Friend,
I understand this can be a stressful part of life as you learn to balance your time, finances, and relationships. Adulting is hard. But you sound like a really good friend—you care about people’s feelings, you’re responsible, and you want to do the right thing. These qualities will take you far in life, and they’re likely why you’re in such high demand this wedding season. Yet, if you’re caring nature and sense of responsibility aren’t safeguarded with healthy limits, they can persuade you to make decisions out of guilt. And what I hear in your question is a subtle, guilt-induced belief that you cannot be both a good friend and a good steward. So let’s call this out for what it is: a big fat lie.
Here’s what I want you to remember: Being in a wedding is an honor, not an obligation. So kick that guilt to the curb. Go ahead. Give it a big, swift karate kick—bye-ya!
Now that the pressure is off, you can ground the problem in a place I like to call The Realm of Realistic Possibilities. It’s a wonderful dimension where—free of guilt, shame, or blame—you acknowledge what you realistically can and cannot do, and then discover various possible solutions.
So, what can you do?
I suggest you make a budget. List all wedding-related expenses and compare them to your monthly living expenses. My favorite financial expert, Dave Ramsey, would tell you to make sure you have the “four walls of your house” in place before you allocate money to anything else. That means shelter and utilities, food, clothing necessities, and transportation. Next, you should probably pay on any outstanding debts. Once those are covered, determine if the money left over is enough to save for your friends’ weddings.
Now before you get busy with those numbers, I want you to ask yourself a question: What do you believe about your money? Do you believe it’s yours or Gods? Psalm 24:1 tells us “The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it. The world and all its people belong to him” (NLT). I believe this includes money, and that how we handle our money hints at where we put our trust. Do you trust God with your current situation—whether that means being in your friends weddings to having to sit out a few?
If, after you crunch your numbers, you still come up short, it’s OK. I’ve been there, and I can tell you everything turned out just fine—friendships and finances intact. There are other ways you can be a part of your friends’ big days. Get creative and think of skills or services you can offer. Do you rock a uke? Have you been told you have a velvety poetry-reading voice? Can you turn a barn into a ballroom with a roll of tulle and some twinkle lights?
Next, talk to your friends. Make them a compliment sandwich, and bring it to the conversation like this:
Deliver a compliment: Tell your friend you’re so excited for their upcoming wedding and you are flattered they asked you to stand up with them.
Now, the tough news: Say something like, “So, I’ve been looking over my budget, and things are really tight this year. This is how much I can afford. I understand if that doesn’t work for your wedding vision, and I won’t be offended if you ask someone else to stand in my place.”
Now more good news: “I value our friendship so much, and would still love be a part of your wedding in any way I can that fits within my budget. I’m great at making floral arrangements!”
Your friends might be disappointed at first, but Proverbs has some wise things to say about this kind of hurt: “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses” (27:6). All that means is because you’ve invested in building solid, trusted relationships with your friends, you’ve paved a path that makes it highly likely your friends will be understanding. And they may still find a way to make you part of their original vision.
Best wishes, Best Friend!