The Moneyist: ‘This will be an expensive trip’: I’ve been invited to a destination wedding in New Orleans. I live in L.A. Is it tacky to ask the bride if I can bring a plus-one?

Dear Quentin,

One of my closest friends from high school is getting married in New Orleans in December. We are 32 now and live in different states, but we keep in touch, and we will all be converging in New Orleans.

I live in Los Angeles and, therefore, I will be traveling cross-country for her December nuptials. I’m not in her bridal party — she is only having family — so I will be doing my own thing outside of all the wedding activities.

We don’t have many mutual friends anymore, and those we do have are married, so I won’t be able to share a hotel room with anyone. This will be an expensive trip for me with airfare, hotels, taxis, etc. 

As a social worker for my 9-5 job and a babysitter on evenings and weekends, I do have to think about money. Not to mention, I have been to New Orleans several times, and I’d rather spend my money on my destination of choice.

‘Her parents are hosting the wedding and money isn’t an issue for them, but I don’t want to make my friend feel uncomfortable.’

I would really like to bring my best guy friend as my plus-one. It’s not because I would ask him to share the costs with me. I would never! But I know I would have so much more fun if I had a date! 

The other reason I would love a plus-one is because I am going to see a wedding guest who has hurt me in the past more than anyone did in my whole life, and I don’t want to be alone for this unfortunate run-in.

My question is whether or not I can ask the bride, my friend, if I can bring a plus-one. In theory, I could have a partner. I sure wish I did!

I think a lot of weddings tend to be a per person cost. Her parents are hosting the wedding and money isn’t an issue for them, but I don’t want to be tacky or make my friend feel uncomfortable. Is asking for a plus-one, even though he isn’t my partner, a reasonable/appropriate request?

Single Wedding Guest

Dear Single,

Weddings should not be used as a test of your oldest friendships, or the commitment of your newest pals. Unfortunately, they sometimes are.

Hosting a destination wedding is expensive — $32,000, according to The Knot — but so is attending one and not every guest will have the means to attend. It will cost some people a larger slice of their income than others. Couples should think of that when they’re cutting their wedding cake, and wondering why their Great Aunt Ida or their best friend from high school, who works as a social worker or teacher or who lost their job during the pandemic, is not in attendance. But the secret to happiness — one of them, anyway — is not to take things personally.

You are essentially being asked to go on a vacation on your own. I know it’s the “happiest day” of their life, but people have their own lives to live, and they have varying budgets. People get caught up in the mayhem of wedding planning, but there is no mathematical equation that says a “close friend” means they should attend at any cost. Ask your friend if you can bring a plus-one. If she says no, you are free to tell her that you can’t make it. Only a fair-weather friend would cut someone out of their life for not traveling 2,000 miles to a destination wedding. 

Only a fair-weather friend would cut someone out of their life for not traveling 2,000 miles to a destination wedding. 

The average cost of attending a destination wedding is $2,700, according to a recent survey by the travel company Priceline, which also said that 79% of couples are planning one in the next 12 months. Frankly, I don’t buy that. I don’t see nearly eight in 10 people getting on a plane, and asking their guests to get on a plane to go to their wedding. Of course, a destination wedding could technically mean a hotel on a lake 60 miles away. The Knot says an estimated 20% of couples have destination weddings. In 2022, we must also take into account the risk of COVID-19.

So how many people RSVP “yes” to long-distance nuptials? Anywhere from between 60% to 75%, according to some estimates, while others put the percentage of guests who say they’ll attend at less than 50%. Couples know that some relatives won’t be able or willing to travel; having a destination wedding allows the bride and groom to invite Plan B guests knowing that their seats will be filled by Plan A guests. Personally, the reception would probably be a hell of a lot more fun if Great Aunt Ida was burning up the dance floor after too many G&Ts.

A plus-one for single friends is good etiquette. There will be cake. There will be dancing. There will be vows. There will be sunshine. There will be cancellations.

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