Asking for a Friend//

My Friends Can’t Afford to Come to My Wedding. Should I Change My Plans?

A destination wedding can be stressful for guests, but a Gottman therapist says there are creative ways to celebrate with those who can’t make it.

Ulises L Guerrero/ Shutterstock
Ulises L Guerrero/ Shutterstock

Editor’s Note: Strong relationships are at the core of a happy life, but sometimes, dealing with the people in our lives is tricky. That’s why Thrive Global partnered with The Gottman Institute on this advice column, Asking for a Friend. Every week, Gottman’s relationship experts will answer your most pressing questions about navigating relationships — with romantic partners, family members, co-workers, friends, and more. Have a question? Send it to [email protected]!

Q: My partner and I recently got engaged, and it’s always been my dream to have a destination wedding. The planning process hasn’t been too stressful so far, but I was recently sharing the details with a group of my close friends, and they expressed concern about affording the trip (many of them have been struggled financially). The conversation made me realize that if this group can’t afford to come, others are probably in the same boat. Should I change my dream wedding to a more local spot to accommodate other people’s financial situations? 

A: It’s clear that you treasure your friendships. Your friends mean a lot to you, and of course you want them at your wedding. I think you can find a way to make this work. In my private practice, I have worked with many couples, and have heard many similar stories.

Some people have a destination wedding ceremony with a smaller group — just close family or people who can afford to get there. Then, the couple has a reception back at home for all the friends and family who could not come to the ceremony. 

This reception could be really simple, like at your house or a community hall that you can rent, or even a park with a picnic spot. Or it can be fancier at a nice hotel or winery… it all depends on your style. At this reception, you can even do a re-stating of your vows so friends can witness that. You can still have dancing, and a wedding cake, or any other traditions that feel fun and important to you and your fiancé.

It might be a good thing for you to initiate a conversation with your friends to let them know that you’re feeling bad about them possibly not being able to afford this dream destination wedding . Let them know that you are trying to accommodate and be flexible, and are open to the idea of having them attend another, more local celebration if they can’t make it to the destination wedding. Get their thoughts on that. They might be really open to it and thankful, so it’s best to have a conversation rather than assuming how they will respond. They may even want to help you plan that local celebration, and inviting them to do so might make them feel even more included!

I think it is important that you have the dream wedding, but perhaps you and your fiancé can get creative and find a way to make your friends who can’t go feel like there is a celebration they can attend. So long as that bonus event feels like an additional joy for you — and not a stressful burden — you can embrace it. 

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