Friday, November 25, 2011

Going broke for my sister's damn wedding

Dear ESB,

I'm a married lady, but I still read your blog because you're awesome.

My little sister is getting married next year, and I could use some advice. My sister is doing a super fancy formal wedding in NYC. I was appointed a bridesmaid (no choice, not that I would have said no). My husband and I will be flying in, staying in a hotel, and of course paying for our food and such while we are in the city. Both of us work full time, but we don't make much, and just attending the wedding is going to cost us about a month's salary, which is fine, it's her wedding and we will be there. 

But here is where I start to get upset. My sister has decided that all her bridesmaids will be wearing matching full length formal gowns to the tune of about $250 or up. I have (tactfully) suggested many, many less expensive but still great options, and talked to her about the expense and the fact that I will never wear this dress again. Her response? Suck it up. 

I can save up the money for the dress, or borrow it if I have to, but really, should I have to do that? I didn't even spend that much on my own wedding gown... 

I don't care if she blows a year's salary on her own wedding, it's her choice, but do I have any say as a bridesmaid? Resigning as a bridesmaid would cause untold family dramatics and hysterics. Any ideas?


Brides be crazy.

She really ought to pay for the damn dress. (OR: YOUR HOTEL ROOM)

But if that's not happening, you do, in fact, have to suck it up.

Photo: Vivienne Westwood by Juergen Teller via Charles Hall


  1. Suck. It Up. She is your SISTER. In the world of bridesmaids dresses, $250 is pretty reasonable. Kudos to you for snagging a wedding dress for less, but that's even more rare.

    What about your folks? Maybe your mom would be willing to pay for the dress? Mine would.

  2. Ahh... I don't know. I reject even the idea of telling your friends/loved ones precisely what they must wear (just cause they are bridesmaids doesn't mean they've suddenly become unable to dress themselves and a bunch of adult women all dressed up in the same exact thing looks goofy to me). But I think it's a losing battle. Sigh. So I think you've just got to suck it. Thank god I've got no sisters.

  3. Shit, girl, a month's salary? Your sister is trippin'. Is her wedding really worth blowing off rent/food for a month? Obviously, yes, you want to be there, you want to be supportive. But if you can't afford it, then don't effing do it. Tell her that she's welcome to make all the expensive-ass choices she wants, but downloading those onto the wedding party is hella lame. Regardless of sisterness or not.

  4. Pretty much no one is going to agree with this, but seriously? I would bow out. Still come to the wedding, but say "I literally cannot afford this. But I support you 100%. You are my sister, and I love you."

    My mom raised me kind of in an odd way. In our family? The whole "Suck it up, it's family" thing is not how we do it. My mom, who sacrificed herself for her siblings+parents time and time again, never raised me to do that. She always encouraged me to set boundaries.

    You know what you can afford and are comfortable paying. Draw your line, let the drama ensue. People will freak in front of you and then go off and live their own damn lives. If you just went along with it, it would be YOU out $250 on top of a month's salary. Good luck!

  5. I agree with everyone except E (so far). The sister is being a selfish brat, and there's no reason for you to have to put up with that bs. Tell her that you literally can't afford what she has in mind, and unless she wants you out of the wedding, she'll have to make some adjustments. No reason for you to go bankrupt for her histrionics.

  6. Okay, had to post this, too: @E-your reasoning of "$250 is pretty reasonable" is ridiculous. The writer would not have written in if $250 were "pretty reasonable." Your logic falls into the category of "It could always be worse." Like "When I was a bridesmaid, I had to pay $10,000 for a custom Vera Wang dress, plus rent a walk-me-down-the-aisle camel on my OWN DIME! Did I mention that I also had to PAY to charter an aircraft to get to the private island where the wedding was held? See, $250 isn't so much, is it?" Oof.

  7. Vivienne Westwood!!! <3 <3 <3

    I'd wear what she's wearing.

  8. If it is your folks who will flip out if you drop out, then they better be willing to front the cash to avoid a blow-out (ha, so not funny). They'll have to suck it up, right? Because it's family.

  9. Your sister is being a jerk. I would gnaw my own arm off before asking my friends (no sisters) to buy some cruddy dress that they will-- we are all old enough to know this-- never wear again.

  10. My point was that $250 isn't *crazy* outlandish, especially because she could be paying close to that per night for a hotel room in NYC. It sounds like the issue isn't the cost of that one item, but the total expense. Cue the parents, who should totally help out if the sister won't.

  11. @E-fair enough! Though it sounds like she *is* paying that already for a hotel room in NYC. Agree with the parents thing for sure. Especially if they are going to make drama over it. Put up or shut up, right?

  12. Lady, I am SO sorry. Your sis is being a total brat. Unfortunately short of some miracle, ESB is correct and you do have to suck it up. Maybe we can all help by giving you recs on how to keep the costs down?

    The Larchmont Hotel was recommended by A Cup of Jo. She's also got some other cheap recs on her blog.

    VRBO and other vacation rentals are great for cheap travel. A huge bonus is that you can go to the market and make your own food. Also, don't rule out Jersey. Hotels can be MUCH cheaper and Hoboken is one stop away from Grand Central Station on the train. It is also Frank Sinatra's hometown. Please note, there is a bit of a premium to enter/exit NYC but depending on the price it could be totally worth it.

    For eating, Chowhound is a great resource. Search now, bookmark your favorite cheap and amazing eats and dig in.

    Lastly, if nothing else let your sister know that your presence is her gift. If that isn't enough you can tell her to eff off.

  13. I cast a vote for team Suck-It-Up.

  14. yeah you can suck it up, or you can tell her you're going to bow out if you can't afford it. that might help her see your point. either way, decide what you're breaking point financially is--and tell her that--then when push comes to shove you'll both realize what's most important.

  15. Well you agreed to be a bridesmaid... I think you have to suck it up. It's not worth bowing out at this point. We all know that being a bridesmaid costs a chunk of change - you can't really fault your sister for throwing a wedding in NYC and count that towards how much you spend as a bridesmaid as you would spend it to come to her wedding regardless.

    Essentially: you knew what you were getting into, a super fancy NYC wedding. Sell the dress after the wedding or cut back on expenses for the vacation. OR hopefully talk to your folks about helping you out.

  16. worked for me-- I found a great place for $100 a night in NYC.

  17. I don't think you should suck it up just yet. How about having another talk with both your sis and your parents? You need to communicate that you want to be a part of the wedding but it's impossible for you to come up with the cash. Actually use that word: "It's impossible for me to come up with that much money by your wedding date." Because, really, how can they argue with that?

  18. I agree with Molly and the advice to use

    you are in a tricky situation ... you can't exactly say NO when your little sister asks you to be a bridesmaid. good luck, soldier. :-/

  19. Be really nice to your $$$ dress and then resell it after the wedding! You'll make something back, at least.

  20. I'm a bride, I did everything I could to keep my BM dresses under $150. Don't listen to 'E'... $250 is not normal. Is there any chance 1) you can find the dress used? 2) You are the MOH and can wear a slightly different dress of your own choosing.

    I know how hard it would be to bow out, so maybe another conversation with your sister is in order.

  21. Unfortunately you have to suck it up. Being an out of town bridesmaid totally sucks -- I'm doing it for the first time and realizing it is super expensive (and I'm not trying to book a hotel in NYC). I think your best bet is to buy the dress and try to save money elsewhere on the trip -- and saving $100 on a trip to NYC should actually be pretty easy considering how much the trip will probably be. Can you share a hotel room with someone else going to the wedding? Otherwise totally try airbnb.

  22. No you don't have to suck it up neither should you bow out. You should politely but firmly explain to your sister that you cannot afford to spend that much on a dress, you are sorry but she needs to understand that it is costing you a fair amount to attend the wedding and it is just not in your budget to spend that much on a bridesmaid dress.Therefore if she expects you to pay for your own wedding dress, she needs to change her price range to fit with your budget or you can come to some arrangement where you both contribute to the cost. Where im from (uk) it is standard practice the bride buys the bridesmaid dresses (I am for my wedding next year) and if this is not possible and the bridesmaids need to take on the cost themselves, then the bride should be discussing with the bridesmaids what they would be prepared to pay/can afford etc etc. It is so unbelievably rude of her to make these demands. I would be outraged.

  23. I would have one final heart-to-heart with her. Lay all your cards on the table, and make it clear the financial sacrifice you're making because she's your sister and you love her. Ask her to consider choosing a different dress (or helping you out if that's an option). Then, if she doesn't make a change, you have to suck it up.

  24. Do NOT suck it up! I'm betting you're not the only BM and I'm betting you're also not the only one with financial/life obligations. Your sister's wedding is ONE day and not worth going broke/falling behind on rent/ruining credit ratings over.

    Have a conversation with your parents to give them a heads up on your situation and to help them back you up if you need it. Have a conversation with your sister, she might not realize/have forgotten what it's like for others. Have a conversation with some other bridesmaids. Talk with everyone, don't assume they know or understand where you're coming from.

    It's so much better to have it out now then to be killing yourself financially. If you're going to be financially hurting even 3-4 months after the wedding you're going to be cursing your sister every single time a bill comes in that you can't pay or every meal you can't afford to eat. NOT worth it.

  25. I'm conflicted because I always feel this way when I'm part of a wedding party. It's exxpensive and annoying, but you love that bitch, so you make it work.

    and maybe send an anonymous email to The Internet complaining about it so we can all assure you brides be crazy.

  26. No less an authority than Judith Martin (more commonly known as Miss Manners) says it's OK to exclaim how happy you'll be to attend as a guest and back out of your bridesmaid duties if you can't afford them. Like Kathryn said, spending a month's salary will affect you for longer than just the month.

    Here's the Miss Manners article if you're interested:

  27. Regarding a comment above that suggested backing out ... Sis is still going to have to fly to NYC with hubby and get a hotel room, even if she's just a guest. If she's going to be shelling out that kind of dough, better to keep the family harmony.

    Is your sister being a bit of a brat? Yes. $250 is a little high, though if she's going with "formal" BM dresses it's not completely off the mark. It's on the high end of average. It's annoying, but it's her wedding and you agreed to be in it. (Granted, given you're Big Sis, I realize there's not a lot of choice involved.)

    Here are some thoughts -
    - do you and hubs have friends/relatives who you can either stay with or can share a hotel room with to alleviate some costs? One of the other bridesmaids, perhaps? Or possibly your sister's place, assuming she and new hubby will have a bridal suite that night?
    - do your parents know how much of a strain this is on you? Are they willing to intervene, financially or otherwise?
    - Is driving as opposed to flying a feasible option? I ask because, sometimes, it is depending on how far away you are, how much parking will cost when you get there, etc. It's possibly worth investigating.

    And, if all else fails, I may get slapped for this one but ... this is what credit cards are for. I don't advocate going into crazy amounts of debt for, well, any reason. But, a few hundred dollars for your sister for her wedding? I think it's worth it.

    For the record, if this were for some ridiculously expensive destination bachelorette party, my answer would be MUCH different.