How to Decide Between Weddings on the Same Day

Modern Etiquette

Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter. We know the four seasons. But, of late, there appears to be a fifth. People speak of “wedding season” in reverent, fevered tones — wary of what it means for the GCal, and their bank account. It’s no wonder. As The Cut reports, 2.5 million weddings are expected to take place this year, up 30% from last year.

As we continue to emerge from COVID-lockdown, the backlog of nuptials, along with new ones, quarantine engagements and long-term arrangements, have all seemingly coalesced in one hell of a summer. You check Instagram and every story is a near-identical array of crepe and chiffon, bowties and smart casual. A DJ plays Let’s Get This Party Started on endless loop.

It can be easy, looking at the litany of save the dates and invitations to feel more overwhelmed than excited. After all, attending all of these isn’t cheap – Zola reports that the average wedding attendee spends ~$600 to attend a wedding by car and more than twice that by plane. And sometimes, it simply isn’t possible.

A wedding in Los Angeles and Rhode Island on the same afternoon, you’d need a time turner to make both.

So what’s a person to do: how does one decide between two competing weddings?

Consider your proximity and relationship to the couple

The first and probable most salient factor is your relationship to the marrying couple. The unfortunate reality is that you may find yourself having to compare your relationships, considering which couple you feel closer to. In doing so, it can be helpful to know the size of each wedding: is one an intimate 50 person ceremony and the other a 500 person mega-event? Having that information can be a helpful heuristic, as it may shed light on how close the couple considers you – one of their closest friends, without whom the day would be incomplete, or just part of a riot on the dancefloor.

You should also consider the future. Wedding invitations are often reflective of a couples future aspirations, socially. An invitation from a couple you don’t consider yourself particularly close to may signal that they wish to be closer in this next stage of life – they see you in their future. And you may want to assess if you feel the same way.

It’s also prudent to consider less sexy considerations: what capacity do you know the couple? Are they important professional contacts? People with whom you share close mutual friends. While, hopefully, everyone’s cool with whatever choice you make, you may want to weigh any fallout or upside involved in your decision.

Compare logistics and cost

Equally salient are the logistical questions: where are these weddings taking place, how long is each, and what will it cost you to attend. Before making a decision, you may want to quickly crunch the numbers on what travel and accommodation might run you. That way if they’re basically neck and neck, you can always opt for the wedding that’s more feasible.

Scheduling-wise, you might also consider attending both, if at all possible. While this option is no doubt not for the faint of heart – a person is only meant to endure so many cocktail hours – attending one couple’s ceremony and another’s reception, for instance, will make each couple feel cared for and loved. If you’re in a real pinch, your college roommate vs. your boss, this may be your best option.

How to communicate that you can’t attend their wedding

While generally, the usual “sorry to miss it” RSVP will suffice, this situation can present a particular challenge – as with social media, the couple is likely to see that you chose to attend another wedding, instead of theirs. Again, everyone’s a grown-up here. They’ll get over it, and you have nothing to feel bad about.

That said, depending on your relationship with the couple, it may be worth sending them a personal note with your regrets, mentioning that you’d already committed to another wedding that day or weekend.

It’s doubly kind, though by no means necessary, to send a gift in your stead if feasible, or to ask if you might be able to “celebrate with them another time.” Letting whichever couple whose wedding you won’t be attending know you’re thinking about them, and that you still cherish their friendship, is a kind way to let them down easy.

Be honest to yourself

At the end of the day, beyond the pros and cons, you should be upfront with yourself. Which wedding do you want to go to? Is it feasible, or will attending feel more like a chore?

Being frank on all these matters, and behaving accordingly, is the only way to preserve your energy – and therein survive what can be a slog of a man-made season.

A wedding in Los Angeles and Rhode Island on the same afternoon, you’d need a time turner to make both. So what’s a person to do: how does one decide between two competing weddings?
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