The Cost of Being a Bridesmaid: Going Into Debt for Friends
A bad financial situation is one of the toughest things to admit to your friends. Many people fear that they'll lose face or even be cast out of the intimate circle. But keeping the secret is a big mistake.
Last year, I became a bridesmaid for the first time in my life. I’m usually a big mush — it doesn’t take much to get me emotional, and I can find the sentimentality in virtually anything. It was no different when it came to one of my closest friends getting married. I said yes, and that was the beginning of my bridesmaid journey.
That same summer, aside from the cost of being a bridesmaid, I also paid my part for a bachelorette-party trip and a vacation that I had in the works for a while. I couldn’t afford any of it. But I was too scared to tell my friends I was broke, and that landed me in debt.
What Happens When You Can’t Afford the Cost of Being a Bridesmaid?
I was faced with a question: Would I rather admit my situation or get myself into thousands of dollars of debt to look good to my friends? I chose the latter because I was embarrassed and afraid of missing out.
As it turns out, this is all too common. That same summer, I struck up a conversation with an acquaintance. She told me that she was still in debt from being a bridesmaid the previous year. Like me, she was afraid of missing out. She chose to let her friends believe that she was comfortable with paying for everything.
Why are so many people afraid of being honest about their finances?
For me and so many others, going into debt is less scary than having a conversation about it.
Looking back, I had a great summer. Yes, I have debt from it. But at the same time, I never would have had those experiences if I had played it safe and said, “No, I really can’t afford it.”
As terrific as those experiences were, there’s something toxic about saying yes to an expense that you know you can’t afford. In retrospect, the whole bridesmaid vacation situation had me so nervous that I couldn’t even think of an excuse to get out of it.
You’re Not Alone
In the past, I’ve heard other people say that they’re broke only after I admitted it first. For instance, I might bump into an acquaintance on the subway. We’d say the routine, awkward “hi” and ask each other about our lives.
On multiple occasions I’ve said, “Yeah, things aren’t going great for me in that department.” I almost always heard an exhale and an excited, “Me, too!” Misery apparently does love company.
It’s too bad that I could admit my financial downfall to a mere acquaintance, but couldn’t imagine telling my closest friends. Aside from the fear of missing out, a big part was that I didn’t want them to think I was a loser. In reality, I don’t imagine I would have been judged that harshly. I think they would have heard me out and gone on with their usual routine.
I realize now that it was me all along, refusing to accept my financial situation. To be honest, it’s not something anybody should be ashamed of or hide from.
No matter a person’s age, no one is immune to setbacks. Investments can fail, or you might lose your job. Chances are, if you start talking about how broke you are, you’ll find support from others who are in similar situations. Even better, you may be the beneficiary of advice and understanding from friends. It’s a conversation that I should have had with mine.