Friday, December 16, 2011

Do I give her advice or keep my mouth shut??

Dear ESB,

What do you do when one of your best friends (super creative, fashion-forward, beautiful, artist), recently engaged, just sent you a picture of her wedding dress and.... and you seriously thought it was a joke and waited a whole day for the "JK! Hahahaha" follow-up text message but it never came and turns out she's seriously going to wear that dress. With Toms shoes, to boot.

The dress was "a super great deal!!!" on a sale rack, and she is apparently obsessed with saving money on this wedding because her parents gave her a chunk of change for it, but instead of using the money on the wedding she wants to pocket it, so she is going major-low-budg on the wedding. As in, wants to not even serve the guests dinner.

So really my main worry is that she's going to cause some negative feelings when her guests travel across the country to celebrate her big day and then don't even get a hot meal! What are we supposed to do, run down the street to Chipotle before the dance?

Should I give her some advice here or shut my mouth?

-It's Her Party and She Can Starve Everyone if She Wants To.




Weirdly I am more upset about the fashion thing than the food thing. (I wish one of my friends had mentioned that the stupid $80 dress I bought off the sale rack was so. not. me. before I bought two pairs of shoes + a pair of earrings to go with it.)

Photo: Jeana Sohn for Wren


  1. Yep... after my wedding my best friend confessed that she didn't really like my wedding dress. I have since realized that I didn't really like it either. Definitely wish we had had that conversation BEFORE my wedding when there was time to change something.

  2. OMG tell her. In person, if possible, or AT LEAST on the phone. That way you can temper any awkwardness more easily. I'd start with the food thing and see how that goes. If she's open to hearing you out on that and doesn't seem upset/insulted, move onto the dress. Weddings do crazy things to people. You have to save her from herself.

    I'm also wondering if her parents realize how she isn't using their money?

  3. I think you should tell her, in a very helpful way, that you don't think the dress looks like her. AND THEN, help her find very budget friendly ways to look for another dress that suits her better or a way to sell the dress she already bought, but you have to back down if she truly likes the dress. As for the food thing, that's none of your concern. Etiquettely speaking, all a guest should expect is a piece of cake, a drink and a greeting with the happy couple. Instead of telling her to spend more money than she's comfortable with on her wedding, give her advice to spend the money well. Encourage her to pick a wedding time that's not during dinner and to word the invitations so guests no what to expect. There's no shame in a 2:00, brunch, or late evening wedding, or even just passed hor dourves. I mean, come on, times are still really hard for a lot of people. If your friend doesn't want to dump a lot of money on one day and would rather spend it on the actual marriage then that's what she needs to do. No matter what, the thing she needs most is for you to be there to support her and to celebrate with her on HER wedding, not to try and convince her to have the wedding that you would plan.

  4. do your job, bff, and TELL HER. seriously, when it came to my dress, my bff and my mom came to all my appointments with me because only their 2 opinions mattered. when they grimaced at dresses that i put on, i immediately took them off because 1) they know me better than the damn dress shop owner who would "suggest" dresses that weren't my taste and 2) just because it's on sale doesn't mean it's nice.

    as for the food, EFF THAT. that is just plain messed up. destination wedding and a meal ALWAYS go together. talk about selfish.

  5. A friend was in love with an $800 dress but thought that was too much money. Bought some cheapo $100 one. Spent $100 on alterations and never loved it. Both her now-husband and I were like "girl, that's not your dress" and convinced her to buy the other one.

    She loved it and looked fantastic (for serious, I could send you pics of her in both dresses). She sold the cheaper one to a girl on Craigslist and it is such a sweet story (girl cried when she tried it on - it was HER dress, not my friend's).

  6. My parents (who are amazing) gave us a set amount of money money when we got married, and said that we could use for the wedding, or just use it on life, or any combination of that. In fact, they hoped that we would have a small wedding, so that there would be some left over, and they would feel like they had given us a gift in addition to the wedding. We did in fact only have 20 people at our wedding, didn't go crazy with it, and only spent half the money, the rest went towards paying our debt. This may be a similar arrangement to your friend's. No matter what you shouldn't blame her for trying to keep costs down. Not everyone does a full dinner. I think a dessert and champagne wedding, can be very nice. About the dress though, you should probably talk to her about that. Sometime when you are trying to not spend too much money, you can get a little blinded.

  7. About the dress: Make sure you do it kindly. It broke my little bridal heart when my best friend told me (at the bridal shop, 2nd fitting, after I'd already paid for the dress) that she didn't like it, because it was TOO PLAIN. The word "plain" really sent me on a tailspin, and I had serious doubts about the dress afterwards. But... my sweet mother-in-law (to be) convinced me it was "my dress" not hers. Ultimately I wore the "plain" thing anyway. It cost $200 and wasn't OMG! AMAZEBALLS!, but it was fine. Maybe the dress is OK? Not YOUR taste, but possibly hers?

    About the food: If it's an evening wedding, I would expect a full meal or at least heavy hors d'oeuvres. But if it's an afternoon wedding, she could get away with light hors d'oeuvres and cake OR just cake and champagne.

  8. Nicole: is that you in the dress? You rocked it!!

    I also agree with the sentiment of that answer - at the end of the day it's her wedding. Do tell her your opinion - you're her bff, so be honest and loving, and she'll understand you've got her interests at heart even if she doesn't agree. But then, once she makes up her mind, support her regardless. If she sticks with the dress/food decisions she's made, you've got to support them. But she'll be grateful for your honesty and input.

  9. Nicole — That dress is plain?! Um, no it isn't. It's stunning and looks really good on you.

    Be really gentle about the dress. Maybe tell her it's not what you imagined her in. If she is deadset on it, then you'll have to support her. If she shows some signs of ambivalence, help direct her in a budget-friendly direction that is more aesthetically her.

    And as people have said above, it's ok not to serve dinner. As long as she provides some small refreshment like cake and beverages at a non-meal time, then that's fine. If she is planning on absolutely nothing at dinner, well then you'll need to say something.

  10. Yeah, and the opposite side of it - I never LOVED my dress, but knew it (since dresses I would have loved would have cost 4x what I was willing to spend). When one of my BFs told me she didn't love it, it just made me feel bad (she, too, thought it was plain).

  11. please also tell her how gross it is to cheapskate the wedding in order to pocket the money her parents are so generously giving her for the WEDDING.

  12. Please tell her! I had a couple of doubts about my wedding dress, but everyone kept telling me it was so wonderful, and then after the wedding I found out accidentally that a few people were concerned that it didn't fit me well (People who had seen the dress up to a year before). I wish they would have told me so I could have fixed it!

  13. Some of the best weddings I've been to didn't serve a full meal. Just make sure your friend gives advanced warning that it will be limited or no food so the types that only travel to "meal weddings" can fairly opt out.

  14. Okay, now I want to see a photo of this dress!

    I didn't love my dress either! I'm glad I wasn't the only one. I felt weird about it but I put off shopping til the last minute and didn't have a huge budget and had to make a decision and I hate shopping and blah blah blah. However, I did get lots of compliments on it (from strangers even!) and the dress my lady friends liked was one that I thought was really weird looking and gave me uniboob so I'm not sure I would have listened to anyone anyway. I would say something but be prepared to support her decision in the end and tell her she looks beautiful on her day.

    Nicole, that dress is amazing! Just because something isn't beaded within an inch of its life doesn't mean it's "plain."

  15. If people are traveling across the country I do not think cake and snacks is appropriate. I once traveled across the country and was served a meat and cheese tray and iced tea. I was happy to be part of the dya, and also thought the couples' choices were very inconsiderate. AT LEAST heavy appetizers--especially considering she has been gifted money for that purpose.

  16. She's going to have to suck it up and either make the wedding tres tres small, or spend some of the cash she's hoping to sock away for the rest of her life. In either case, I think you can be her Get A Grip Friend and tell her that what she thinks is going to be saving her money is actually going to be costing her in guest resentment.

  17. Take her out for drinks and TELL HER (nicely, two drinks in). A dress is not a super great deal if it isn't right for her.

    She can actually get away with not feeding people (although I would feel weird about it) as long as it is made perfectly clear on the invitation so that people can plan accordingly.

  18. After I bought my dress my friend told me she didn't like it and it drove me crazy to the point that I bought another, more generic, wedding dress. I ended up wearing the original one because that is the one I liked and donated the brand new $1k dress (the original one was less expensive than the second one). So basically friend's honest comment cost me $1k and some sanity.

    Don't tell her unless she can return it or if she is unsure about it and is asking you to be super honest.

    And not serving hot food or a full meal is completely fine.


  19. I think we need more info re: the dinner issue. Is she in serious debt and trying to be smart? Will she be putting the money she'll save toward a home or some other life changing purchase? Your tone makes it sound like she is just being greedy and if that's the case I think you need to say something. I will say, however, that the food alone does not make a party so first find out what else she is planning. I went to a very budget friendly wedding recently. The food was pretty basic (it was dinner--barely) but there were so many other nice touches and well thought-out surprises that we hardly even noticed. It was a great party and that's what I remember most.

    As for the dress ... TREAD CAREFULLY. And GOOD GOD, if you decide to keep your mouth shut now do not tell her after the wedding that you didnt like it. I can't believe there are so many of you out there who had people tell you in hindsight they hated your dress.

  20. i get the sense that you are a leeetle jealous of the financial gift her family is giving her.

  21. I wouldn't say anything. Money is tight for a lot of people and I think not wanting to spend lots of money on the dress/wedding is fine. The one thing to do is make sure that her parents are fine with her using only a small part of the money for the wedding. If they're fine with it, you need to be fine with it.

    Also it kind of sounds like you are upset because she is not having the wedding that you thought she would have. One of my best friends was doing that and it was super frustrating. She kept saying certain ideas were so perfect for me and my guy, but I knew they weren't. Fortunately she got engaged herself and so has left off planning my wedding. But if she had ever criticized my dress when it's too late (cause now that I bought it, it's too late for me -- I do not want to lose money buying another dress) or told me I wasn't spending enough money on my wedding reception I would have been heartbroken. And I may not want to consider her such a close friend anymore.

    DON't DO IT.

  22. @Bicycle

    Ditto across the board.

    My best friend said my dress was a bit plain when she only saw the crappy cell pic. When she saw it in person, esp. after alterations, she loved it.

    And I did a destination wedding and only served hors d'oeuvres. I gave advance warning on our website and no one complained. We focused on the party, not the food. But we did have a baller open bar.

    You can tell her, but don't necessarily expect her to take it all to heart and change the way she's doing things. But please, for the love of god, talk her out of the damn shoes.

  23. LOL @ HalfPint. No one complained because NO ONE complains at weddings, but trust me, they were talking shit. Hors d'oeuvres and big open bar sounds like one hot, drunken, gross mess.

  24. just be honest with her. say you're concerned, and that she probably has reasons for things (like no food, crap dress) but that you just wanted to say something in case she hadn't considered x, y, z (people coming a long way, she could rock a better frock, etc)..

    that at least starts the conversation and shows you are looking out for her/ have her best interests at heart.

  25. You need to gauge how she feels. Find out if she loves the dress. If she feels like she's found her dream dress, then maybe don't interfere, or find out what she likes about it, maybe she'll change your mind.

    If she has doubts then tell her something tactful like "I like the dress, I just think something else would suit you more" and then maybe "would you like help finding something else at a reasonable price?"

    The dinner thing depends on where people are travelling from and what time of day it is. Ask her questions about what she is really trying to achieve and make her think through what her guests will be doing for food. She might change her mind, or she might persuade you she's made a good choice.

    Basically of course talk to her if she's your friend but it doesn't need to be a stressful intervention. Find out what she's thinking!

    I also don't think it's odd to save some of the money. Weddings aren't that important in the end! She needs to live after that day is over! You should be applauding her common sense here.

  26. If she likes the dress, so be it. Fake nice and play along. But you may want to make suggestions re: food. There are plenty of creative and low budget ways to feed your guests, like a pasta bar or taco cart or a lot of fast food!

  27. With all due respect, have you planned a wedding?

    It is totally OK not to serve dinner as long as it is worded appropriately in the invitation and the time of day should be adjusted for a non-dinner time. Times are tough, and as someone who is planning a wedding, it is really difficult to swallow what it costs for rubber chicken and bland pasta. Therefore, we refused to participate in that "tradition."

    Re: the money. As many of the commenters said, often parents (mine included) give a certain amount of $$$ as a "here you go, use it how you please." My mom wishes we weren't spending every penny so we could put some of it aside (I, too, wish we weren't--much rather stay home with my future new baby for a year, travel, etc). So what she chooses to do with the cash is really not your business, ya know?

    Re: the dress. Bffs often have different taste. I think as her bff you should be able to tell if she's really into the dress and thrilled about the fact that she didn't have to spend a small fortune on it. I LOVE my $500 plain dress and I'd be devastated if one of my gfs told me they didn't like it.

  28. where does it say this is a destination wedding? sometimes people travel across the country because THEY live far away.

    I would be very careful telling your friend you don't like her dress & you think she's a cheapskate.

    It isn't required that dinner is served at a wedding. And you don't need to love your friend's dress, you need to love your friend.

    If she's unhappy with her dress you can help her out. Otherwise I would recommend keeping your trap shut and telling her she looks beautiful.

  29. tentatively posting because the LAST time i mentioned how i did things esb later pointed out my comment via twitter, stating something along the lines of "of course people wouldn't tell you they didn't have fun at your wedding"

    regardless, i'll say i didn't SHOW my best friends my dress because they have entirely "different" (read: mid 50's real estate agent divorcee') taste than my own, and i didn't really want their opinion. buying your dress is a deeply personal thing- one that most girls are super sensitive about. it sounds like you know her well enough to know that it's not her style- but i'd approach it lightly. your opinion means alot.

  30. & @nicole- that dress is anything but plain! gorgeous.

  31. Whoa @Anon 11:48. Cool your jets. I told them to eat a big lunch. They knew what they were getting into. Don't assume people were talking shit. And I wasn't about to make them pay for their drinks. Now THAT would be a dick move.

  32. Wow, there is serious up-tightness about serving food flying around here.

    You're not serving a room full of toddlers, ya know. They CAN go and get food elsewhere (between ceremony and reception perhaps? Or after. Or before. Whatever. They are adults and presumably can read invitations).

    If I hadn't have had my wedding at the beach/country, where everyone stayed in a tiny town together, I doubt I would have had dinner at my reception. Just drinks and nibbles and dancing.

    Also, what is this paranoia that everyone is talking shit about every decision you make about your wedding? What kind of friends do you have, because I'm pretty sure all the guests at my wedding were just having a good time, loving us up, dancing and drinking the bar dry, not sitting around whinging about the food or whether the napkins matched the tablecloth.

    OP, maybe your friend actually LIKES the dress. Maybe your tastes are different. And that's actually okay.

    If you are really concerned, then yes, put your big girl pants on and have a chat, but otherwise, shut up and forever hold your peace.


  33. Yeah, I would definitely tread carefully here. If you can tell that your friend isn't truly loving the dress or hasn't made up her mind yet, then you could gently suggest helping her find one that she'll really love. But if she loves it, then I wouldn't say anything. When it came to my dress, the only opinions I cared about were my sister's and mom's, so if one of my friends had told me that they didn't like my dress, it would have upset me, but wouldn't have changed my mind. And Nicole, to echo others, that dress is great on you.

  34. If I traveled across country and did not get food I would be really, really annoyed. The bride could wear a paper bag as long as she fed me, and I'd think she looked lovely.

  35. Be careful here. Dress wise, talk to her. Ask her where she found it, what she likes about it and why she chose it before anything else - maybe there's something really meaningful or that suits her more than you know that you'll discover. Even if you don't, DO NOT under any conditions tell her flat out that you don't like it.

    Use something more along the lines of "I'm surprised by your choice, because it doesn't fit your usual sense of style" that way you're not saying "yo, your dress sucks".

    As far as the budget? That's none of your business and you need to keep your mouth shut. There is no obligation that she feed everyone, as long as she is respectful of their need to eat (Ie, don't do your wedding at dinner time, or leave a big break between ceremony & reception and give guests suggestions of where to go in the area).

    Too many criticisms on that respect could be a friendship deal-breaker.

  36. If your bestie really is all the compliments in your first sentence, she'd probably rock a potato sack. You probably know her well enough to know whether to say this to her or not.

    As others have said, so long as she's clear in the invitations about the food situation, no big deal.

    If her parents gave her the money specifically to spend on the wedding and she's using it for something else, that's not right. If it was freely given for her to spend as she chooses... different story.

    I suspect this question says more about you and your preferences for your friend's wedding than it does about her and hers. If I were your friend I'd want to know your opinion, especially if you were sharing it with me kindly and not intent on having me agree with you. The worst thing would be for you to hold your peace now and bitch about it on/after the day.

  37. That's right, judge the shit out of that girl and make sure she spends all her money and more on the wedding. It's SO DAMN UPSETTING when people spend under a grand on their dress.

    If the parents give your friend the money specifically for the wedding then yeah pocketing it isn't OK, otherwise butt out.

  38. wow you people are uptight. if you fly across the country there better be a meal for you? are you buying those plane tix for a crappy catered dinner or to see your friends and/or family? what the hell is wrong with you?

  39. @anon 8:46, if I've flown across country it's because I love my friend/family member getting married and I want to wish them well and party with them. And I think it's considerate to feed your guests when they've spent considerable money to be there with you.

    Everyone is different, but for me food is such an important element of sharing and celebrating important moments. Also, if I'm hungry, I will not stay as long and I won't have as much fun.

    I should add: If I know ahead of time there won't be dinner, I'll be sure to eat before I arrive, and then I wont be the low-blood sugar lady in the corner. I'll still think it's a weird thing to skip, but I'm a grown up and I'll be fine.

  40. Also, what's with ppl leaving snarky comments "anonymously"? Shit balls, I say.

  41. Thanks so much, everyone, for your input and advice. I have taken it all to heart and I agree with what many of you are saying.

    I wrote this email to ESB not because I want my friend to plan her wedding the way *I would do it*, or wear what *I think she should wear*, but because I want her to have the wedding she deserves and to have a chance to express her creative and artistic self through this process.

    I'm worried she is going to regret going with the cheapest option on everything instead of taking her time and making meaningful decisions. I plan to express this to her, gently, as many of you suggested.

    As far as the dress goes: it is sooooo nooooot herrrrrr. I have known this girl since she was born, and this dress is not her. I think she knows it, but is blinded by the great deal she got and that fact that it's white and bride-y and most likely her mom cried when she put it on, so she bought it without really thinking. Luckily, she looks good in anything.

    The thing is, she is really lucky to have an echelon of friends and family who would do anything for her- including crafty DIY decoration making- if she wanted it. But she is sending the signal loud and clear to all of us that she doesn't want to "burden" anyone with that kind of thing, she would so much rather just elope anyway, and she's happiest if they can just get the thing over with as cheaply and easily as possible.

    This attitude of hers, which is so unlike her, is making it hard for all of us to be happy and excited for her, let alone want to travel a long way and spend a bunch of money on the wedding (including feeding ourselves the night of the reception...) I mean, *she* is not even excited about it! Does she think she's doing us a favor by having a wedding? Just go elope already!!

    But hey. A wedding doesn't need highly-personalized-crafty-details everywhere or a hot meal (thanks for educating me on the etiquette) to get the job done. At the end of the day, if she's happy about it, then I will be happy for her.

  42. @writer-inner Go buy the APW book for her stat. You need to help her get over the notion that helping put together a wedding is a burden and that she's doing you guys a favor by having a wedding.

  43. actually, maybe the conversation you might want to have with her is whether or not she can pull off an elopement since it's what she's voicing that she prefers? the most important thing--whether it's a cheap wedding or an elopement or what--is that she find a way to be happy with it (part of which might mean wearing a white dress (that isn't necessarily the epitome of her personal style) in order to fulfill her mom's dreams. or whatever).