By Amy Alkon
A friend asked me to be a groomsman in his wedding. It's being held hours away, and the only hotel is pricey. With tux rental, attending will cost me over $500. I'll also have to miss work. (I'm a waiter.) Is it OK to decline a wedding invitation because it's too expensive to attend? — Not Richie Rich
Instead of just sending regrets, it's tempting to passive-aggressively express your resentment: "Unfortunately, I have a conflict — in that I have to make my car payment."
Some couples may only have friends who are big investment bankers who light their cigars '90s-style, with $20 bills. But in this economy, at least a handful of a couple's pals will probably RSVP with something like, "Dude, I really wanna be there, but I can't find another waiter to cover my shift." Also, people in their 20s and 30s, prime time for marrying, can be invited to several weddings in a single summer. Costs for hotels, flights, clothes and gifts can add up, and that's really not fair. (Being there on even your most special friend's special day shouldn't mean you have to take the bus for a year.)
It's up to the couple getting married to throw the sort of wedding their friends and relatives can afford to attend (or at least not get miffy that some invitees won't be flush enough to come). That said, being fiscally inclusive seems the warm, hospitable thing to do, like making sure your vegetarian friends have something to eat — instead of just harrumphing, "Let them eat steak!"
The truth is, it's possible to throw even a fancier wedding without bleeding the invitees. "Black tie optional" allows groomsmen and others to wear a suit instead of renting a tux. Regarding location, a ceremony at a nearby lake pavilion or in Granny's garden will be no less moving than one at the Maui Four Seasons, and people will cry just the same when the couple dance their first dance whether the band is Beyoncé or an MP3 mix.
Before you decline this invitation, consider your priorities. Even if your friends didn't think to make attending their wedding affordable, they might resent you for not going into debt to come. In my mind, these aren't real friends and they're confusing a wedding with a telethon, but you may have reasons for wanting to keep them in your life.
As for how to decline, you could just be honest. Times are tough all around. (When I do buy clothing, it is "previously enjoyed" and arrives crammed into a recycled envelope by the eBay seller.) Another option is making up a story for why you can't attend (Family obligation! Pre-existing work thing!) and then staying off Facebook so you don't get tagged in a lie. If you do go, you might consider starting a new wedding tradition: Other people throw rice; you sweep it up afterward (so you can have something on your plate for the next month besides the little pattern around the rim).
This great guy I've started dating is doting and sweet but, careerwise, lacks ambition and seems comfortable floating by with minimal effort. Unlike him, I am extremely ambitious. Is it OK to date men who are still "figuring things out"? — Driven
A guy who appears to model his career trajectory on driftwood is unlikely to suddenly become ambitious. Sure, there are people who have a catastrophic accident and realize life is short and they'd better get cracking, but it isn't like you can wait for him to get into (and then miraculously recover from) a motorcycle crash to become the man you'd respect and admire.
To avoid getting drawn into a relationship that's ultimately wrong for you, come up with what I call "Man Minimums" — a list of essential traits a guy has to have to stay in the running to be your boyfriend. One of yours might be "shows potential and the drive to achieve it." A guy like this will experience setbacks along the way but then turn his wrong moves into arrows toward the right ones.
So, yes, as a person who seems to value ambition, it's OK for you to date men who are still figuring things out — as long as what they're figuring out isn't that you can reach for the stars. With one hand. And then roll over and go back to sleep.
Got a problem? Write Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave., #280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or email AdviceAmy@aol.com (www.advicegoddess.com). Her latest book is Good Manners For Nice People Who Sometimes Say F*ck.