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You asked: Do I have to travel to every wedding this year?

In this week’s By The Way Concierge, a look at why wedding invites are pouring in — and how to say no if you would rather not attend

(Illustration by Cynthia Kittler for The Washington Post)

Traveling has always come with complications, but the coronavirus pandemic has made it more challenging than ever. Our By The Way Concierge column will take your travel dilemmas to the experts to help you navigate the new normal. Want to see your question answered? Submit it here.

This week we tackle a question that keeps popping up on our radar. Now that travel and events are starting to resume, wedding invitations are pouring in again. Traveling for weddings and wedding-related events can suck up your vacation days and travel funds quickly. And with the pandemic, there’s another layer of planning to think about: Will it be socially distanced? Will everyone be vaccinated? What if I’m not ready to travel at all? How can we navigate this new phase with tact and politely decline this travel obligation if we want to spend our traveling elsewhere?

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If you’re feeling overwhelmed by an avalanche of invites for weddings, bachelor and bachelorette trips, you’re not alone. After a year of canceled milestone occasions, couples are eager to celebrate now that it’s safer to do so.

According to findings from research company the Wedding Report an estimated 41.5 percent of couples who planned on getting married in 2020 postponed their wedding until 2021.

Not only are there the postponements, there are plenty of people who recently got engaged looking to tie the knot. While just over a million weddings took place last year (compared to 2.13 million in 2019), the Wedding Report expects 2.77 million weddings in 2021.

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The travel industry is feeling the impact of that influx.

“Our phones are ringing off the hook with people planning their destination weddings, baby-moons and bachelor/bachelorette trips,” said Eric Hrubant, founder and chief executive officer of CIRE Travel.

So what happens if you find yourself overwhelmed by save-the-dates and trip group chats for Airbnbs in Nashville?

Arianna Galligher, associate director of the STAR Trauma Recovery Center at Ohio State University’s Wexner Medical Center, said people don’t need to feel pressure to say yes to every invitation this year.

“It’s important to recognize that it is actually okay to say ‘no thank you,’” she said. “Know that you have permission to decline.”

Galligher said people can have a slew of good reasons not to go to a wedding-related trip: It’s too expensive; you’re not comfortable being in large groups yet; you would rather use your PTO on a vacation vs. a weekend at the closest Hampton Inn you could find to the rehearsal dinner. But you don’t have to justify how you RSVP.

“It’s okay just to say ‘no thanks’ or ‘I’m going to have to take a rain check — it’s not going to work out for me this time,'" Galligher said. “You don’t owe anything more than that.”

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What Galligher said you do have to do is be direct with your answer. Don’t beat around the bush if you’re saying no to the invite; be direct, assertive and polite. Waffling on your response or dragging it out isn’t a way of avoiding hurting someone’s feelings. You’re really adding more stress for the betrothed, who want to get a head count.

Rani Cheema, chief executive and travel curator at Cheema’s Travel, dealt with this very situation this year. While she was able to travel to attend her best friend’s wedding in New York, she had to decline for her plus one, who is not fully vaccinated and also wants to be able to take a vacation abroad with Cheema later this year. Instead of being upset, her best friend and fiance fully understood.

“They actually said that they did not expect anyone to come to the wedding,” Cheema said. “I wasn’t pressured. They were still going to do it no matter what.”

She said some of her agency clients, as well as friends and family, are choosing vacations over events such as family reunions after having regrets over missed pre-pandemic travel opportunities.

“There was a lot of shoulda, woulda, coulda,” she said. “Now they’re like — there’s only one life to live; what if I died last year? I have to [travel] now.”

Have a travel dilemma for By The Way Concierge? Submit it here.

Read more:

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