Last summer, Alex Woodard was a groomsman for the first time.
So he knew what was coming when one close friend after another popped the question in the past year.
"I was well aware of what my summer was going to be like," the 23-year-old said.
When you are a 20-something man or woman who has built lasting relationships with close, personal friends -- friends you trust with your deepest secrets, first-born children and private text messages -- the summer can be a financial gauntlet.
That's because every cherry blossom-textured invitation also represents a set of 800-thread-count bed sheets. Each “save the date” refrigerator magnet might run you two plane tickets. Each little RSVP envelope is a Men’s Wearhouse visit or a turquoise dress.
Putting on a wedding can get costly really, really quick. So, too, can the costs of being a groomsman or bridesmaid.
Woodard is in it thick. He’s been in three weddings -- Omaha, Norfolk, Panama City, Fla. -- so far this summer and he's in a fourth at Mahoney State Park in a few weeks.
"It's definitely taken a toll," he said.
Candace Kalasky, who runs Lovestruck Event Styling + Planning in Lincoln, knows the drill. When couples consult with her about planning a wedding, the conversation often turns to the costs for participants, and how to minimize them.
On the Lovestruck blog that she frequently updates, Kalasky last summer posted a graphic she saw online about the cost of being a bridesmaid. With everything from air travel to party contributions to alterations factored in, the total added up to a whopping $1,695. (The graphic was based on info from weddingchannel.com, which used a Real Weddings online survey of 20,000 brides.)
Along with planning weddings for others, Kalasky is the maid of honor in two ceremonies this summer. Her husband has been to Vegas twice for bachelor parties this year. (Poor guy.)
So the number didn’t necessarily shock Kalasky, but she said it doesn't have to be that big. She's found ways to limit costs for bridesmaids, including her own.
For the sake of her bridesmaids’ checking accounts, Kalasky eschewed some traditional wedding procedures when she got married.
“This is not a popular thing at all, but I combined my bridal party and bachelorette party into one event,” she said.
And she actually listened to them regarding dress selection, in the hopes that they would want to wear their selections again.
“I know most people think this is impossible, but the dresses are pretty amazing,” she wrote on her blog.
She also created a no-gift policy for her combo party guests and bought shoes and jewelry as gifts for the bridesmaids.
“I’m all for being non-traditional,” she said.
As are many of her clients. She said most of the newlyweds with whom she has consulted have prioritized their guests over everything else, including having the "perfect day."
“Weddings are becoming less and less, 'You have to match this color perfectly,' she said, and she's all for that.
One thing she often suggests is the trinkets that come along with weddings shouldn't be impermanent. Bridesmaid dresses can be re-wearable. Matching suits -- the kind you actually buy -- can look just as classy as rented tuxes. And wedding party gifts need not be souvenirs of one magic day. (Think koozies.)
“Unless you can eat it or use it again, it’s dumb,” she said.
Though it may be a difficult conversation, Kalasky said prospective groomsmen and bridesmaids should also be willing to decline the offer if they know they can't afford the expenses. If you've been invited by a true friend, he or she will understand, she said.
Woodard said he has no regrets about his quadruple commitment. His big summer coincided with his first salaried job, so he's been able to make ends meet just fine.
"You think about (costs) as you're paying for the tux," he said.
But that's the only time, he said.
"You're excited for them," he said.
Plus, Woodard said, his now-married friends have covered some of the tuxedo costs. And the bachelor parties have been low-level affairs involving a few beers, stogies and go-karts.
"I think I have a lifetime membership to Joe's Karting now," he said.