I put myself in debt for my friend's wedding

I do blame myself for not being more vocal, I should have spoken up at the time and not just quietly gone ahead spending money I didn’t have, and I’ve still not openly had this conversation with her.

Phillippa Koushk-Jalali

Tell me about your friendship

We met in our first week at uni and became friends instantly, and ended up living together for the next two years. She’s my best friend - the person you tell everything to and message with the smallest detail of your day. I remember that we used to have a lot of girly nights in at uni where we’d all sit and chat about weddings or browse wedding dresses etc, very stereotypical girly behaviour because it was fun 😂🙈 so from that I knew her wedding expectations were high and she had that Disney princess dream day in mind!

What were her hen do plans?

I was one of the first people she told when she got engaged and I was thrilled when she asked me to be maid of honour. I was really excited to get involved as at that point she was the first of my friends to get married. It quickly became clear that the dream was to have a hen do abroad, plus a UK celebration for everyone else. The other bridesmaid (a relative of hers) quickly dipped out of going abroad due to finances and even though I knew I couldn’t really afford it, I felt huge pressure to deliver this amazing experience for her so I just went with it! The other girls on the hen all earned more than me so it ended up being pretty bougie. There were also other costs that cropped up - for the second UK-based hen I was the only one not living in the same city as everyone else which meant significant extra travel costs for me. I also had to buy my own dress and shoes so it was quickly adding up.

How did it affect your finances?

At the time, I did not have a good handle on my finances. I'd left uni deep in my overdraft and never really dragged myself out of it, so I was already constantly in debt and the end of my 0% interest term was coming up. Factoring in two hen dos and all the associated travel, dress and shoes, travel to the wedding itself, accommodation and other bits like a wedding gift, it came to about £1500 in total. I of course didn’t have any of that to spare and so it was virtually all put straight onto a credit card.

How did you feel about the situation?

I didn’t feel in control of my finances and this was the final straw for me so long term it probably did have a positive impact- I ended up getting a 0% money transfer card to pay off the credit card and my overdraft, and methodically paid that off. These days I’m in a much better place financially (with savings, which I wouldn’t have believed a few years ago!). The whole thing made me feel really bitter though, and while I did have a great time on the hen do/at the wedding, I really resented the whole experience. Then a year or so after, she told me she regretted spending as much as they had on a wedding (around £20k) which was the most infuriating feeling.

On that note - I have been to loads of weddings in the last few years and the cheapest/low-key events have been the most fun to attend and I am definitely team village hall these days!

Did it affect your friendship?

It definitely impacted our friendship for a while, and I absolutely hated that one of my closest relationships felt like it had been reduced to a financial transaction. I didn’t want to travel to see her because I begrudged spending more money, which is such a horrible feeling. I honestly think it was saved by the pandemic, the break in travel was welcomed and because I kept working throughout it actually meant I was much better off after covid, so by the time things were getting back to normal my frustrations had mellowed out a lot!

Do you wish you'd done things differently?

I do blame myself for not being more vocal, I should have spoken up at the time and not just quietly gone ahead spending money I didn’t have, and I’ve still not openly had this conversation with her. If I was ever in a similar situation again, I wouldn’t hesitate to be brutally honest. I love weddings and I love celebrating my friends, but putting myself in debt for someone else’s life event just seems like such a crazy choice in hindsight!

How do you feel about weddings?

I absolutely love weddings! They’re so much fun and it’s amazing to celebrate the people you love. BUT that shouldn’t come at a cost where it then puts you as the guest into debt or at a financial disadvantage. It’s completely fine for the bride & groom to plan whatever they want, but if it’s expensive then they ultimately have to realise that not everyone will be able to be a part of it. I put myself into £1500 of credit card debt for my best friends wedding and then she turned around a year later and said she regretted spending so much on it herself too… I would never do that again and I have since turned down invites to a wedding I would love to be at because the cost in money & annual leave was too great to me - and those friends were completely fine with it, it hasn’t affected our friendship at all, and that’s the way it should be!

Any requests for future brides?

I think my plea would be to people getting married to not go full Bridezilla, and to remember that if you value your friends then you should absolutely only want them to do as much for you as they are comfortable with and can afford.

In terms of organising hen dos then I think asking people the maximum they’re willing/able to spend upfront and then planning accordingly makes sense! And if brides really do have high expectations then they should expect to chip in financially and not place all the burden on friends.