Weddings have gotten expensive. And not just for the people throwing them. (The average cost of a nuptial celebration is now well over 25,000.) With an extended recovering-but-sluggish economic situation, just because your friends can afford to throw a wedding doesn't mean you can afford to get there. Taking into account all the expenses, from a gift, to transportation and lodgings (if you have to travel to the ceremony — and these days, most of us do), you can easily end up dropping $1,000. If you're in the wedding party, or a close enough friend to merit invites to the bachelorette/bachelor and engagement parties, as well as a shower, add a few hundred dollars to that total. (The Knot says the average bridesmaid expenditure tops $1,300 per wedding.) And speaking of travel, about 1/4 of weddings are now destination parties, which ratchets the price up even more — though if it's a place you've always wanted to visit anyway, it could double as a full-on vacation too. 

Since many couples are delaying marriage and getting hitched between 27 and their mid-30s, this means that guests can get hammered with multiple weddings in a given April-October year, just when they may be saving for their own first homes, marriages or paying off graduate school loans. So some potential guests are replying to wedding invited "with regrets" and skipping the whole shebang

Is this mean, or just smart? And is there a better way? 

Of course, since getting married is supposed to be one of the hallmarks of adulthood, if you find yourself invited to or asked to participate in a wedding that you just can't afford, be realistic (and mature) in your response. Tell the bride or groom that you just can't swing it, and if you mean it, let them know that you want to be there for them on their big day, but need to rein in the costs. They may step up and offer to pay for some stuff — for your dress, say, if they want you as a bridesmaid, or it may help them reassess if they really must have everyone in the wedding party wearing matching dresses that are $500 a pop. Or maybe you just don't become a part of the wedding party, and that's fine too. If you are open and honest about the situation, it is more likely to end up working for all involved. 

But what if you just can't afford to go at all? Politely decline via your RSVP, let your friend know you are thinking of them the day before with a nice phone message (got the extra mile and make it more formal than a text), and send a small gift that you can afford. It's not the end of the world to miss a wedding, and you and your friend will both move on, even if it's a bit uncomfortable at the time.

Of course we all want to be there to celebrate with our friends, but sometimes life intrudes on our best intentions. Aside from the economics of a wedding, there's also the time factor. I recently declined to attend a friend's wedding in London because as much as I love her, I knew I wouldn't actually have a chance to spend any time with her; to spend what would have been my entire yearly budget for travel on a long weekend in an expensive city — knowing full well that my friend would (understandably) be occupied with her also-visiting family and elderly relatives, led me to ultimately decide that I would visit her another time, when the pressure was off and the time was more open. Other friends of mine have declined weddings because of family health concerns, late-term pregnancies or bad timing for work. 

Whatever your reason, it's OK to decline a wedding invite. 

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Starre Vartan ( @ecochickie ) covers conscious consumption, health and science as she travels the world exploring new cultures and ideas.

A growing option for too-expensive weddings: Not going
It seems impossible to turn down a wedding invite, but for financial and other reasons, many of us are making that choice.