Not to liken it to a financial crisis, but every time one of my friends decides to fall in love or have a baby, it costs me some money, and I am tired… and my bank account is downright exhausted. I love my friends and I love seeing them happy, but I hate to see myself poor.
There’s an episode of Sex and The City where Carrie attends a friend’s third baby shower, gift in hand, and the friend asks her to take her shoes off in the house, so she hesitantly obliges. When the party ends, she goes to put on her shoes and her worst fears are realized—they’re gone. She tells her friend, who then insists on writing her a check for the shoes right up until the minute she learns the cost of the designer shoes. It’s at that point that a truly offended Carrie starts calculating how much money she’d spent over the years on wedding and baby shower gifts for friends, a debt that would never become due should she never decide to get married or have kids. Neither Carrie nor that episode have ever quite resonated until now. As I find myself responding to more and more wedding invitations, the Carrie calculator is starting to make a little sense. I’m coming to realize that there’s only so many wedding invitations you can get before they start to look like bills.
Like Carrie, “wedding season” has never been a thing in my life. So much, in fact, that I’m not sure I realized it was this much of a thing at all. Outside of noticing the refrigerators of all my friends over 30 were often decorated exclusively in wedding announcements, weddings never even crossed my mind. Then, last fall, it happened. I got my first wedding invitation fridge magnet and that was the beginning of the end. They’ve been steadily coming ever since and I’ve been played. I’m 28. I was supposed to have at least two more years before friendship brought me this kind of financial ruin.
At first, I thought, well, I’ve gotten older, maybe this is just the age where everyone arounds you begins getting married and starting families because every time I open Instagram, another friend is engaged. But now that I’m seeing fast fashion websites having wedding guest dress sections they never had and everyone seems to either be planning a wedding, in a wedding, attending a wedding, or arranging their schedule around attending a wedding, I’m convinced we’re all going through it.
What happened to all that “everyone’s going to break up from being stuck together in quarantine” talk, huh? Where is it? Why are we all trapped in wedding season hell, then?
One of my friends is currently being forced to plan the entirety of his next year’s vacation time around six different weddings (two of which are destination weddings, so factor in the cost of travel), two bachelor parties, and perform all the obligations of the best man in one of them. Now throw in having to buy gifts for each wedding and mentally coping with spending all his paid time off.
Today, I got paid and for a moment I was rich. Then I paid all my bills and immediately reclaimed my throne as Queen of the Paupers. So, imagine how I feel now, staring at my credit card, making life or death decisions as I think about the out-of-state wedding I have to attend next weekend. I’m wondering whether preserving a friendship is worth however much it’s going to cost me to buy a dress to wear to the wedding, to pay for transportation to and from the wedding, to pay for a hotel to stay at for the wedding, the effort it’s going to take to convince one of my friends to house sit for me so my absolutely famished cat doesn’t wage war in my absence, and last but not least, to buy a gift for the wedding.
I understand that wedding gifts are expected, and I think they should be. Weddings are very expensive, and people spend a lot of time and money planning them for their loved ones to enjoy and celebrate with them, and should my time to bankrupt my friends in the name of my finding happiness ever come, I’ll expect gifts too. That said, I’m single and prefer to spend my money on the finer things, like Grubhub and every streaming service known to man, so I’m hating. Is your wedding gift not this person you’ve decided to spend eternal matrimony with or whatever? Lifetime companionship doesn’t qualify as a gift? My presence at these festivities doesn’t count as a present? Is it not slightly unreasonable to ask that I go out by my lonesome, rub my one little lonely wallet like a genie in a bottle to wish for coins just to buy a gift for two big adults that have now combined their incomes? You’ve got love, a partner, and two incomes… it feels a lot like you and yours should be buying me a gift.
Nevertheless, I wasn’t raised by wolves, so I am of course going to buy a gift. So, I asked my friend I’m going to the wedding with what we should buy our friend. This woman turned to me, looked me dead in my eyes, and suggested we give them money. Which is crazy to me— that she’d look at my basement apartment and translate that to yeah, she’s in the money giving stage of her life. I don’t even carry cash. I protested and she ignored me, because I guess what she’s communicating to me, like the continuous stream of wedding invitation fridge magnets have been trying to tell me, is that I’m in this stage of my life whether I like it or not.
Where does that leave me?
Next weekend, I’ll be spending my first free weekend at a wedding, significantly broker, but richer in friendship, I guess? I’ll do what needs to be done to celebrate my friends’ nuptials because at the end of the day, the experiences with the people who care enough to let you share in their day is what matters most. Or that’s what I’m choosing to believe so I’m not out here stomping around the city doing math like Carrie.