What happens when you can't afford to celebrate your closest friend's baby shower or birthday party?

Friends reunite to celebrate a big day in their lives
Friends reunite to celebrate a big day in their lives

I reached the big 3-0 in August last year and was blessed to have my family and friends share my day with me.

But I’ve also realised that 30th birthdays are the milestone that many young women won't miss celebrating, along with having a baby or getting married.

Marking these milestones is now a constant feature in my life. 

As I write this, I’ve missed a close friend’s wedding because I couldn’t afford to fly there and back for the weekend.

I have two baby showers to attend this month and one after that, and a close friend is celebrating her 30th possibly in another province this month too. 

I spoke to three women in their late 20s and early 30s who have experiences of trying to keep their friends happy but also stretching themselves too far financially to do so. 

READ MORE: Do our friends expect too much from us for their baby showers these days?

The big 3-0 

Meet Lusanda* whose friend wanted to go big for her 30th birthday. They have known each other since they were in primary school.

“She wanted to do something for her 30th birthday earlier this year. We lived in different cities then and she told me that she wanted her friends, to do individual photoshoots with full hair, make up and a colour-themed dress code.

"All at our own cost.

"At the time I was facing retrenchment at work, so I was seriously counting my pennies. The photoshoot idea sounded quite expensive to me as I estimated a whole thing to cost over R1000.”

Lusanda decided to tell her friend that the birthday plan was going to take strain on her financially and offered to get her a voucher instead or save up to go on a trip with her at a later date, if the friend wanted to.

“She took offence to my saying I felt what she wanted was costly, and went on a rant about how unsupportive I was being. Even when her birthday came she didn’t take my calls.”

“She was very angry and would continuously say I complained about money even before I fully understood her vision. But I still feel I had every right to be honest about my finances. She even unfriended me on Facebook and has yet to speak to me again.”

Their relationship was never the same after that.

READ MORE: When your friends earn more than you


Mishka’s* best friend is about to get married soon and as her maid of honour, she has tasked herself with organising all the pre-wedding celebrations which include: curating a bachelorette, a kitchen tea and extras that come with the role. 

Not only will Mishka organise the pre-wedding celebrations, she’ll also accompany the bride to things like her dress fittings etc and being her support structure. She thinks she’ll spend between R6000 and R8000 on the entire occasion, which includes a dress for herself on the big day.

First thing’s first – the bachelorette. “The trend is for a bride to go away with a few close friends and then invite all the other female guests, invited to the wedding, to the kitchen tea,” she says.

And who pays for all this? Usually the bride’s close friends, but often, kitchen teas can be paid for by the mother. Every family is different though.

Mishka says, “Sometimes you end up giving more, or the mom could decide to cater everything and you end up just having to get people there.”

When asked how much say the bride-to-be has in the planning of the festivities, Mishka says usually very little.

Now that we’ve covered a big birthday celebration and the pre-wedding celebrations. Have you ever wondered how much it costs to help put together a baby shower nowadays? 

READ MORE: My best friend earns more than I do (and it really bothers me)

Baby shower

Ayanda* has organised baby showers since she was 19 and is now 30.

For her, part of the financial pressure that comes with hosting one stems from her wanting to always pull off something tasteful and glamorous for her close friends.  

She is quick to admit however, that having THE event brings in elements of social pressure. 

“You want the event to be something to be talked about.”

Ayanda usually helps with between one to three baby showers a year and so far, the largest amount she has ever contributed to one was just over R10 000.

This included traveling expenses, decorations, food, snacks, drinks, accommodation, entertainment, her outfit and the mom-to-be’s outfit. 

According to Ayanda, these are the standard “must haves” which she prioritises while planning.

  • a theme that’s tailored to the character of the mom-to-be.

“That way everyone looks uniform and makes an effort and the guest of honour sticks out because it’s her special day.”

  • a confirmed date and venue

"These must be decided on at least a month in advance," she says. “And if the venue requires you to pay, then you need to give them a deposit to secure it and then send a ‘save the date’ so people can prepare accordingly.”

  • food and drinks

"Decorations are also important", Ayanda stresses. “It’s a celebration.”

  • a MC and a program to ensure that the event runs smoothly

READ MORE: Social media may trigger feelings of depression in young women and these celebs agree

As a new mom, Ayanda recently had a chance to be on the receiving end of such celebrations. She had the following tip to share for all future planners – invite the father-to-be too.

“I wish both my boyfriend and I could have shared the day. I feel that dads are left out a lot during the pregnancy. It would have been great for both of us to share our baby’s special day with all our friends.”

Having the father-to-be and a handful of his close friends there may also ease the financial burden if they agree to contributing to the event as well. 

*Not their real names.

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