How to say no when asked to be brides­maid

Austin American-Statesman - - BUSINESS - Raleigh News & Ob­server The Washington Post

A friend asked me to be a brides­maid in her wed­ding, but I’m afraid I won’t be able to af­ford it. How do I say no and keep our friend­ship in­tact?

You don’t need to go into debt to cel­e­brate a friend. This might sound blas­phe­mous when your so­cial me­dia feeds are drenched in des­ti­na­tion bach­e­lor par­ties and de­signer brides­maid dresses. But the truth is that many 20- and 30-some­things are just get­ting by, and brides­maids in par­tic­u­lar are asked to drop a lot of cash.

The av­er­age brides­maid spends $1,200 per wed­ding, in­clud­ing at­tire, travel to the event, ac­ces­sories and gifts, ac­cord­ing to a May 2017 study from wed­ding-plan­ning web­site Wed­dingWire. But that av­er­age climbs to over $1,800 when ac­count­ing for bach­e­lorette par­ties and bridal show­ers.

A true friend will un­der­stand if your fi­nances keep you from par­tic­i­pat­ing, and that de­clin­ing her re­quest isn’t re­flec­tive of the friend­ship. Here’s how to make sure noth­ing gets lost in trans­la­tion.

Be re­al­is­tic about bud­get

First, know what you truly can and can’t af­ford.

“These types of un­sched­uled ex­penses are re­ally what blow up peo­ple’s bud­gets, and also what get peo­ple into credit card debt,” says Krista Smith, an At­lanta-based cer­ti­fied fi­nan­cial plan­ner and founder of Plan­ning in Mo­tion. Con­sider: ■ Do you have more wed­dings com­ing up?

■ Might you be asked to be in other wed­ding par­ties?

■ Will any of them re­quire sig­nif­i­cant travel?

■ Are there fi­nan­cial goals you’re pri­or­i­tiz­ing, like pay­ing off credit card debt?

Try to build up at some emer­gency savings, even $500, be­fore agree­ing to any wed­ding-re­lated spend­ing, and be re­al­is­tic about when you could pay off items charged to a credit card. But if you see no way to get out of the debt you’d take on to be a brides­maid, do­ing ev­ery­thing your friend wants might not be fea­si­ble right now.

Un­der­stand ex­pec­ta­tions

It’s OK to ask what you’ll be ex­pected to pay for, says Anne Chertoff, wed­ding trends ex­pert at Wed­dingWire.

Con­sider say­ing, “Thank you so much for in­clud­ing me in your wed­ding. I’m on a re­ally tight bud­get, and I want to make sure I can par­tic­i­pate in the way that you de­serve. How are you hop­ing your brides­maids will be in­volved in the wed­ding?” Get a sense of whether you’ll have to buy a spe­cific dress, say, or co-host a bridal shower.

Tell the truth

You might know from the get-go that there’s no way you can make it work. Or maybe you come to that con­clu­sion af­ter learn­ing how elab­o­rate the wed­ding will be.

Ei­ther way, don’t put off the con­ver­sa­tion or come up with half-baked ex­cuses for why you can’t par­tic­i­pate. That could “leave an ocean of room” for the bride to mis­in­ter­pret and worry you don’t value her, says Mar­i­ana Bockarova, a re­searcher in psy­chol­ogy at the Univer­sity of Toronto.

Clearly ex­plain that you care deeply about your friend but that you can’t be in the wed­ding party, and end the news on a high note. Bockarova sug­gests say­ing some­thing like this: “Thank you so much for think­ing of me. I’m in a re­ally dif­fi­cult fi­nan­cial place right now. But you mean so much to me — I’m so happy we have this friend­ship — and I would love to at­tend as a guest. I can’t wait to share in your spe­cial day.”

Hate leav­ing be­hind your furry friend while you trudge through the hours at work? In­creas­ingly, busi­nesses are al­low­ing their em­ploy­ees to bring their pets to the of­fice.

From large com­pa­nies to lo­cally owned stores and vet­eri­nary prac­tices, work­ing along­side an­i­mals — es­pe­cially dogs — is be­com­ing more com­mon. Ex­perts say the prac­tice could im­prove work­ers’ moods and pro­duc­tiv­ity.

“I think for a lot of peo­ple pets ex­ert a ma­jor calm­ing in­flu­ence on them,” said Ash­ley Brown, prac­tice man­ager at An­i­mal Hos­pi­tal at Brier Creek in Raleigh, N.C. “For our pet par­ents, they’re not just an­i­mals, they are their ba­bies.”

One of the most well-known dog-friendly com­pa­nies is Ama­zon.com, which has more than 6,000 dogs join­ing their own­ers each day at its Seat­tle head­quar­ters. Lara Hirschfield, Ama­zon’s “Woof Pack” man­ager, said in a PJ Me­dia ar­ti­cle that the com­pany has been dog-friendly from the be­gin­ning. Some of the ca­nines are even pro­filed on Ama­zon’s web­site, with their names, ages, fa­vorite toys and fa­vorite ac­tiv­i­ties.

A 2016 re­port from For­tune named the most pet-friendly com­pa­nies in the U.S. On the list was Google, Sales­force, Ge­nen­tech, Mars, Build-a-Bear Work­shop and the Kimp­ton ho­tel chain. In ad­di­tion to al­low­ing the dogs at work, many of these com­pa­nies pro­vide pet in­sur­ance and be­reave­ment leave for the loss of a pet.

While this may be the lat­est trend in tech com­pa­nies, small busi­nesses have been al­low­ing pets in the work­place for years. Of­ten it’s be­cause the an­i­mal is a pet lover and be­cause they have fewer em­ploy­ees to man­age.

“It also de­pends on what their core val­ues are and what kind of im­age they want to por­tray,” Brown said. “Some com­pa­nies are known for tak­ing care of em­ploy­ees, I think it kind of de­pends on that.”

Doug Diesing, owner of Seaboard Wine & Tast­ing Bar in Raleigh, brings his 10-year-old Lab mix named Gruner to work sev­eral days a week.

“We’ve al­ways been dogfriendly,” Diesing said. “It’s a nice calm­ing ef­fect to have a dog lay­ing around when peo­ple are shop­ping. We let cus­tomers bring

A Barbie by the broc­coli? Hot Wheels by the hot sauce?

Some toy ex­perts say that stock­ing toys at su­per­mar­kets is a recipe to boost the in­dus­try as Toys R Us be­gins to close all 800 of its U.S. stores.

Toy­mak­ers could see a bump in sales by tar­get­ing grocery stores — and their cus­tomers prone to im­pulse pur­chases with fid­gety kids in tow. That’s the ar­gu­ment of in­dus­try ex­perts who say that as the iconic toy be­he­moth fades away, the coun­try’s more than 38,000 su­per­mar­kets may present a bright path for­ward.

“In a sum­mer dis­play, they might put swim toys by the sun­screen or next to beer cool­ers,” said Tim Hall, CEO of the an­a­lyt­ics startup Sim­porter and a for­mer Has­bro ex­ec­u­tive. “There’s op­por­tu­nity for both the toy com­pa­nies and for the su­per­mar­kets to fig­ure out new ways to do that. It’ll take a lit­tle bit of cre­ativ­ity.”

Hall said toys com­pa­nies of­ten strug­gle to en­gage cus­tomers in the “off sea­son” - for ex­am­ple, be­yond the weeks lead­ing up to Christ­mas. But par­ents needs to buy gro­ceries — and their kids want the lat­est new toy — all year round.

Toy sales in the United States — the world’s largest toy mar­ket their dogs in.”

He said that Gruner has his own “fan club” — some cus­tomers will shop in the store only when they know Gruner will be there. Peo­ple who en­ter the store usu­ally like that a dog is there to greet them, Diesing said.

Sim­i­larly, cus­tomers at Au­to­bahn Au­to­mo­tive know to look for Duke when they walk in. The 11-year-old black Lab, who be­longs to of­fice man­ager Matthew Drake, has been com­ing to the of­fice — grew by 1 per­cent in 2017, ac­cord­ing to The NPD Group, to­tal­ing $20.7 bil­lion in 2017. Hall said sales are likely to dip this year be­cause of the end of Toys R Us, but there’s rea­son to ex­pect a re­bound in 2019.

On­line out­lets like Ama­zon, as well as big-box stores like Wal­mart and Tar­get, aren’t go­ing any­where as ma­jor toy re­tail­ers. In fact, on­line toy sales ac­counted for about 22 per­cent of the mar­ket share in 2016, ac­cord­ing to The NPD Group. al­most ev­ery day since Drake got him in 2008.

“He likes peo­ple more than he likes other dogs,” Drake said. “I know for us, he’s just a part of the team pretty much. He’s al­most like an em­ployee.”

Ac­cord­ing to a 2016 re­port by Ban­field Pet Hos­pi­tal, a pet­friendly of­fice con­trib­utes to a sense of well-be­ing, re­duced stress, greater work-life bal­ance and re­duced guilt about leav­ing a pet at home. It can also lead Those fig­ures are ex­pected to be higher for 2017.

“The in­dus­try will re­bound,” Hall said, “it’s just a ques­tion of where the vol­ume will shift.”

Toy sales in un­con­ven­tional places are noth­ing new. Last hol­i­day sea­son, high-end depart­ment stores such as Bloom­ing­dale’s and Bergdorf Good­man sold toys by FAO Sch­warz. Bass Pro Shops, a more com­mon go-to for fish­ing tackle, opened mini Build-A-Bear shops.

Nor do peo­ple only look to to im­proved work re­la­tion­ships, in­creased pro­duc­tiv­ity and the abil­ity to work longer hours.

In ad­di­tion, 83 per­cent of em­ploy­ees sur­veyed said they had a greater sense of loy­alty to their em­ploy­ers when there were pet-friendly poli­cies in place and that 88 per­cent said hav­ing pets at work im­proves mo­rale.

But what about the po­ten­tial prob­lems with hav­ing dogs around? Some peo­ple are afraid of dogs and oth­ers might get dis­tracted by the an­i­mals.

Hav­ing a dog scare or bite a cus­tomer is cer­tainly a con­cern, but this is typ­i­cally easy to re­solve, said Diesing of Seaboard Wine.

“If a cus­tomer is a lit­tle skit­tish about a dog, we can bring it to the back room,” he said. “It’s a very rare oc­cur­rence. We have more of a prob­lem with un­ruly chil­dren than dogs.”

Most em­ploy­ers also make sure that their em­ploy­ees’ pets are house­bro­ken, well-be­haved and vac­ci­nated be­fore al­low­ing them in the of­fice.

As for the best breeds to bring to the of­fice? Brown said there is no ideal type.

“I’ve seen pit bulls that are the best dog in the en­tire world and Chi­huahuas that you wouldn’t want any­body touch­ing,” she said. “I think it de­pends on the dog.” su­per­mar­kets for straw­ber­ries, steak and sham­poo. Food in­dus­try an­a­lyst Phil Lem­pert said su­per­mar­kets have in­creas­ingly made room for dry clean­ers, cloth­ing sec­tions and small clin­ics and restau­rants.

But Lem­pert doesn’t see su­per­mar­kets des­ig­nat­ing ma­jor shelf space to toys. He thinks they would be more likely to set up in-store lock­ers from which shop­pers can pick up toys they or­dered on­line. That might es­pe­cially ap­peal to shop­pers who don’t like to wait for home grocery ser­vices or don’t want pack­ages or­dered on­line sit­ting on their doorsteps.

David Liv­ingston, a su­per­mar­ket re­search an­a­lyst, said he doubted grocery stores would “go over­board” with toy dis­plays. More­over, he thinks par­ents would quickly grow ir­ri­tated by toys and the dis­trac­tions they bring. Some par­ents don’t bring young kids grocery shop­ping to avoid the beg­ging and the has­sle, Liv­ingston said.

And for the par­ents who do bring their kids along, they’re more likely to be swayed by a free cookie from the bak­ery or a free piece of fruit at check­out, Liv­ingston said.

“Be­ing an­noyed by toys is go­ing to turn par­ents off,” Liv­ingston said. “Ex­perts from any in­dus­try will say a grocery store is the place to put their prod­uct.”

TOM MCCARTHY JR. / FOR AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

SpareFoot CEO Chuck Gor­don’s dog Napoleon roams the floor in Jan­uary at the mov­ing and stor­age com­pany’s new space in the WeWork Univer­sity Park build­ing.

KATHER­INE FREY / WASHINGTON POST

Although ex­perts are push­ing the idea of toy­mak­ers sell­ing prod­ucts in grocery stores, other ex­perts say par­ents would find the prac­tice dis­tract­ing dur­ing food shop­ping.

RALPH BAR­RERA / AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN

Rafael Lopez (left) and Ross Creek­more (right), with his dog Bea Bark­thur, talk last year in one of the many sit­ting ar­eas of uShip com­pany head­quar­ters.

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