When being a wedding guest sends you broke

PRICEY INVITE: Sure James Cook and Poppy Delevingne's wedding would have cost them a pretty penny, but think of the guests too!
PRICEY INVITE: Sure James Cook and Poppy Delevingne's wedding would have cost them a pretty penny, but think of the guests too!

What I love about my mum is that, underneath her ability to make lifelong friends by saying hello in her big-but-warm singsong breeziness and successfully pull off the beige-on-beige look, she is a straight shooter.

Among the ugly arguments from my teenaged years a handful have stuck out.

One in particular was saying no.

ON THE LIST: Mary Charteris attends Poppy Delevingne and James Cook's wedding.
ON THE LIST: Mary Charteris attends Poppy Delevingne and James Cook's wedding.

It would generally play out like this: I would agree with a friend that I would definitely come to the movies to see I Know What You Did Last Summer. Then, all pumped with my plans, I realised I perhaps needed to borrow an extra $10 off mum to make up the shortfall in my Maccas paypacket.

She always said no, and once mum said no, there was zero wiggle room. She would end the conversation by saying, 'If you can't afford it, I guess you can't go.'

In my 20s, I would agree to plans to head out with some girlfriends. But then, as it got closer to Friday night (who am I kidding, I was in my 20s, it was a Wednesday night) despite mostly being broke I would still go, paying for it (quite literally) in my next credit card bill.

It took awhile to learn a lesson that changed my life.

I said no. 

Saying 'I'm sorry, I just can't afford it' felt like warm honey. I was liberated from my self-imposed feeling of obligation. 

And while I remember my friend accusing me of 'being no fun' (a clear lie), I felt instantly at ease that I made the right decision.

Now, I'm an expert at saying no.

But there are ways of saying it that are less jolting that others. 

'I'm going to sit this one out' or 'Oh gee whiz, actually that's not going to suit me this time', are lines that don't give away, or invite, any reasons or questions to why. They're a no with a hug and a hint that next time I might very well be up for it.

Then I got home one day and there it was, nestled in with my red tinged bill from the bank ... a wedding invitation.

When The Mister came home, I said 'we have to talk'.

His relief that 'the talk' revolved around someone else's marriage and not ours was palpable.

If you've had a wedding or preparing for one, you know how expensive they can be.

And if you're asked to be a bridesmaid, the reality of what's financially expected of you can be heart-rippingly daunting.

But what about being a run-of-the-mill, plain ol' guest?

Yep, even you need to get ready to give that hole-in-the-wall a workout.

Let's break this down.

Usually you'll have four to eight weeks until the wedding day.

Chances are you've already been to the engagement party - but this is where it starts to get real.

Between getting the official invite and the big day, there may also be an expectation you'll attend a Kitchen Tea or a Hen's Night or both.

Now a Kitchen Tea is pretty old-school but thanks to hipsters and lovers of how nanna used to do it, the trend of getting the ladies together (particularly grandmas and aunties and cousins and of course friends) to give presents typical for the kitchen is galloping its way back.

I've only been to two Kitchen Teas and I usually buy something cheap but useful, like a big length of light cotton gauze (great for a massive food cover for picnics), or a couple of packs of super-cute tea towels or a cool Moka pot. To me, it's about the gesture, not giving a Thermomix.

Days after getting the official invite, you'll get the Hen's Night email from the Chief Bridesmaid which reminds me so much of that letter from the bank. Cough up and no one gets hurt.

Hen Nights aren't always 'nights' anymore, so be prepared to be invited to something that could be as basic as rocking up to Aunty Helen's place for a glass of Yalumba and a cocktail frankfurt or as extravagant as a credit-rating-killer holiday to somewhere warm or snowy.

Remember, the bride doesn't pay for a thing on her Hen's Night - so understand you'll be covering yourself and part of her too. This will also cover any kind of 'entertainment' for the night, which you'll usually have no say in.

Then you have to think of a wedding present.

After that, the next thing you may be worried about as a guest is what to wear. Half the fun of going to a wedding is getting dolled up yourself. It's an occasion.

But shopping for a wedding can be more trouble than it's worth. You're all like 'My only Saturday off work to get a new dress but I only have those faded cowboy boots, so I also need new shoes. My hair colour needs re-doing and won't pass for just the 'ombre' look anymore... then I can't take my backpack with me, I'll need a new bag... lip gloss...'

And so the cash continues to flow, even on the day of the wedding.

How are you getting there and how are you getting home? Is there a cash bar?

So what are we up to here? At least $500? $700? $1000?

You're not a bride or a bridesmaid and look at all the money you may have to lay out. Despite there being ways to make it cheaper, it's never really ends up being a reasonably priced exercise.

And you know what?

You've got to work out what is best for you and your financial situation at the time - not to mention your relationship to the couple getting hitched. 

While it might go against everything you may wish to do, there is always that box on that RSVP that says 'with regrets'.

You're allowed to tick it.

Pippa blogs at The Wry Bride.

- Daily Life