I had a horrifying realization this past week. I do not understand: how do people even attend weddings? I mean, I've been to weddings before, but I had only done it under the context of me being the child of my invited parents, and the weddings were always local or within 2 hours' driving distance. I have never had to buy a gift, or plan an outfit, much less arrange travel.
Now, I live far from the majority of my friends, having moved all the way to New York from the Northern Virginia area after going to school in Virginia. I have job I need to schedule around. As a young professional early in my career, living in New York, I am not exactly swimming in money. Why didn't I realize that these changes would complicate things?
I have known about my childhood friend's upcoming nuptials for a long time, but when I first heard tell of the date, my life was in flux. I was barely scraping by on an intern's wages. I had no idea what my situation would be in the Spring. I knew only one thing-- I was going to be there for her.
While we aren't anywhere near as close as we were in our middle school years, our friendship was important. I am comfortable with the fact I am not a big player in her life anymore-- but I was then. Those 4th and 5th grade girls are still in us, and I personally believe it is my duty to honor those girls. That's the age when you really start to have complicated emotions, and your relationships with yourself and your family, (and everyone, really,) change a lot. You are given so much blinding color to see in, in terms of your emotional and psychological development, and you don't yet have the tools to process it. Middle school is rough, as anyone who went through it can tell you. That was the time in our lives when we had each other. I think that my being at her wedding would, at least in my mind, be a way of having those troubled, emotional, joyous, complicated, overwhelmed, silly girls show up for her at this incredible turning point in her life, to celebrate, to bear witness, and to ultimately tell my friend and her partner "we are here for you and this marriage."
I'm really into symbols. I'm really into rituals. And I'm really into being there for my friends.
I had such beautiful intentions, and there was never a doubt in my mind that I was going to go to this wedding. But between finding full-time employment, depression, tonsilitis, the flu, and just generally trying to get my life together, I had kind of mentally already checked off the wedding as "Yes" and unwittingly categorized the matter as closed. I hadn't actually worked out the how.
The only thing I had worked out was that I was going to stay at my brother's place while I was in town so that I'd avoid lodging costs. I suppose some part of me was still in "living in Northern Virginia" mode and I guess I thought I could just hop in a car the day-of for two hours or so and show up. It honestly wasn't even something I thought-- it was something I felt. A hunch based on muscle memory still lingering from actions taken during a now-outdated situation.
I'd written in my calendar that it was about a month out and that I should probably ask for time off to get into town without worrying so much about timing. As I did so, I suddenly realized what a massive undertaking it all was.
There was no way I could have my money, my sanity, and my time. Period. Flights, which took less time and are in my mind less stressful than buses, cost a lot of money. Buses, which are very cost efficient, take forever-- around quadruple the time in my case-- and while I have yet to throw up on a bus-ride, I have come very close. There is nothing appealing to me about being stuck with a bunch of strangers in a stuff, confined space for 9 hours, and praying that none of them is going to make the journey bad for me. Trains are somewhere in between, costing 50x more than a bus, but only 2/3 the cost of a flight, and taking only 2-3 times longer than a flight. Added onto that was that I had originally planned on taking one mode of transport to get as close to the wedding venue as possible-- only to realize that was expensive and impractical. I'd likely have to get into DC, get brought home by my parents and then drive the next 2.5 hours to the town the wedding would be in.
Basically I don't know how to travel, especially when it's for a short period of time that doesn't fit easily into my schedule like spring and winter breaks did in school, and when it is not a distance I can easily drive. Fun fact: now that I live in New York, no distance is one I can easily drive, because my car is at home in DC. My parents use it to haul mulch for their garden so their cars don't get "mulch smell." Thanks, mom and dad.
My head was spinning. I haven't flown much in my life, and the few times I had, it was arranged for by someone else-- my parents, my office-- so I've never really had to figure out how to fly and what prices normally are. Wow, I thought, as I saw over a third of my rent appear on screen next to the trip. Then I thought about spending a total of 20 hours on buses over the course of one weekend with a bunch of strangers. This was complicated.
It shouldn't have surprised me. I'm almost embarrassed by how much it did. See, I love weddings. I have yet to attend one in the "Adult" chapter of my life-- this will be the first-- but I really, really love weddings. They combine three of my favorite things: personal rituals, celebration, and affection. As such, I read wedding blogs and study wedding traditions old and new-- I am not a stranger to the concept of weddings, is what I'm getting at. And yet I found myself overwhelmed by the amount of consideration I had not taken when thinking about how I would attend my friend's wedding.
I had not wrapped my head around the costs. I had not considered how I would bring a gift down with me, or what I would wear. I had not considered the time it would take to get there, and how that would impact my work schedule.
I am determined to be there for my friend. I am going to make this work. I will scrounge up the money, I will squeeze into a bus seat next to whatever random person I get stuck with. I will drive 2.5 hours. I will wake up at an insane hour in order to get to arrive in New York City in time for work on Monday. This is not a post about the things that will deter me from attending this friend's wedding. Far from it. I had one thing right from the get-go:
I am going to be there for my friend and her marriage.
This post is instead about the things that I wish I had thought about three months ago. Or even one month ago. This blog is a place where I tell you about things I have learned about adulting, mostly from experience. Sometimes I nail it, sometimes I don't (like now), so I'm giving you the update on things I have learned about how people attend weddings-- even with the added complication of not being local.
So here's a list of things I have learned from this bunglepiphany:
- Attending a wedding costs money-- potentially a significant amount. Once again, I'm going to throw in that if I'd been local, this would be a much smaller thing. I'd just worry about the gift and maybe the outfit. Personally, I had thought about the gift-- I had not thought about transporting the gift with me. If you're not local, you'll likely also have to worry about travel costs, lodging costs, and working out the timing depending on your job's vacation policies.
- Travel is cheaper at weird times. Some of that I already knew, and some of that I didn't, and some of that I knew but it took on a whole new meaning when it outgrew its hypothetical form. Hello 4am Monday bus.
- Travel between big cities can be cheaper and give you more options for times. Going all the way to the town the wedding is in was crazy expensive and hard to plan around-- Going to DC and then driving the rest of the way to that town is a lot cheaper, and ultimately worth my having to drive a few hours each way.
- Now that you know about these costs, plan for them earlier. Seriously, I'm probably going to have to scrape a bit for the next few months to put my savings back on track. (For those who don't already-- get yourself some savings! Love yourself!!)
- Credit cards and rewards points can be your friends when used wisely. Too late in the game for me on this, but learn from my mistakes, fam! Learn how to use a credit card responsibly. Get those rewards points, miles, whatever when you get the opportunity to do so wisely, and take advantage!