Should You Come Home Early for a Wedding?

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Many of you don’t know this, so here goes: my Asia Jaunt was no accident. I planned my entire trip around one event: my friend Alexa’s wedding.

Last spring was when I began freaking out and knew I wanted to escape what my life had become. Originally, I wanted to go teach abroad in the fall, most likely in high-paying Korea, so that I could live abroad in the short-term while earning money for travel in the long-term.

But I knew I couldn’t take a yearlong contract without missing the wedding, and I was unlikely to find a contract shorter than that.

So I changed my plans.

It was because of Alexa’s wedding that I chose not to teach abroad, and chose to backpack Southeast Asia instead.

It was because of Alexa’s wedding that I didn’t stay in Hanoi and become a party priest on the Halong Bay Cruise.

It was because of Alexa’s wedding that I canceled my initial flight home.

And it was all worth it — because seeing one of your best friends walking down the aisle, looking happier and more beautiful than she has ever looked in her life, is something that nobody should never miss.

Seeing Alexa and Grant finally get married, eight and a half years after their fateful meeting at a frat party (and Grant telling her that her hair smelled so good), was, to be cheesy, a love-affirming event.

I’ve been to weddings where I’ve thought, “Really?” as the vows were said.  Not here.  These two belong together.

Also, I should add that Alexa is Greek — Greek to the point that My Big Fat Greek Wedding isn’t much of an exaggeration — and her family can throw a great party.

And Greek weddings are all about the GREEK DANCING!

Greek dancing is insanely fun, simple, easy to pick up, communal, and easy to fake if you can’t get it right.  As far as I’m concerned, every wedding needs more Greek dancing!

But for me, the best part was seeing how happy Alexa was. She didn’t stop smiling once the entire night.

In 15 years of friendship, I have never seen her look that happy. And that alone made it worth returning home early.

As long-term travelers, we often make the choice to miss major events at home — weddings, reunions, holidays, travel blogger conferences (heh).  It’s a tough balance — do we prioritize our dreams or do we make sure we’re there for the important people in our life?

On one hand, if you try to be home for every major event, you’ll never travel. Period.  Especially if you’re in your late twenties or early thirties, when everyone’s getting married.

But if you miss a really important event, you could end up with regrets, in addition to the ire of your family (which you’ll probably get, no matter what).

When deciding, be sure to ask yourself, “Would I really regret missing this wedding?  Would I be okay with just seeing the pictures all over Facebook and dishing like crazy with the bride and/or groom about it after the fact?”

From now on, I know I’ll be prioritizing the weddings of my very best friends, like Alexa. I know that if I had missed this, I would have regretted it for a long time.

For more casual friends and more distant family members, I’ll try to be there if I can. But I won’t fly across the world for their sake.

When you build the unconventional life around the world, you need to make some hard decisions and prioritize what really matters to you. However you decide to do that is up to you.

Just be sure you’re prepared to deal with the outcome.

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24 thoughts on “Should You Come Home Early for a Wedding?”

  1. I agree with you. I actually had the same dilema before I left. I knew I wanted to leave but knew I had to be in Playa del Carmen for my Brothers wedding & home for my best friends wedding. I knew if I missed either I would regret it forever. So I changed my plans to start in Central America (wasnt in my plans at all) instead of Europe. That way I would be in Playa in time for my brothers wedding & it would be cheaper for me to fly home & I would still be able to attend the wedding & backpack around C.A. I;m now on my last week of this leg of the trip and am looking forward to going home to see my friends and also get a wardrobe change before heading off to Europe. Looking at the pictures looks like you had a blast~ I can’t wait for my best friends wedding.

  2. This is a timely post for me. I am missing one of my closest friends weddings this coming weekend. I’m on a one year contract, teaching in Japan, and it is impossible both financially, and at my job, for me to go back for it. I am so sad not to be there, and photos will never be the same.

    I’m glad you made it back in time for your friends wedding – it looks like tons of fun!

  3. Thank you for writing this Kate! Sometimes I get a little down on travel writing when all anyone says is to go travel, never come home and you will be happy. I am always wondering if they have a horrible friend and family life that they have no connection to home. I have been sticking around the US for the last few months for my sister’s wedding just last week. It is an event I couldn’t miss for travel.

    1. That’s the truth, Suzy — so many of the guides and blogs out there insinuate that you won’t miss anything. Not true at all. You can’t miss important events like these.

  4. I live in LA and my family is in Boston. I’m not halfway around the world, but at $550/RT for a plane ticket home, I might as well be! I miss all kinds of family events, but I am always sure not to miss the most important ones. =) Thanks for making me feel a little less guilty.

  5. She does look super happy! And agree with Andrew-major props to the girl who gave up her crown for her sister’s wedding! At the end of it all, that’s what it all about.

  6. I’ve missed quite a few weddings, graduations, baby showers in my travels–but the thing I’ve realized is that there are friends who I would absolutely fly home for their wedding/bachelorette party/baby shower etc. And then there are ones who don’t quite make the cut. I realize I won’t be home for every event–and the cost of a $2000 plane ticket isn’t always worth it just for a party–but there are some things that absolutely are worth it. Great post, can definitely relate–although luckily none of my best friends are engaged yet! 🙂

  7. Living many mile away from my family and homeland friends I have missed few events and will probably miss some more (today my niece is getting married 🙂 ) and it’s hard, but when making the choice to live abroad that’s the price you pay. I would have loved to be able to hop on a plane and go to all those events, but I can’t. If I was only travelling I guess it would have been a bit different, but still, the dilemma is there.

  8. Important events of important and dear people must never be missed! We can always travel anytime, but events like this are once in a lifetime.

  9. I have to say, I’m kind of selfishly happy that all of my friends thus far have chosen to have tiny, family-only weddings with no more than 5 friends in attendance, if that. It takes the pressure off me to attend, and allows me to go about my life without having to take weddings into account!

  10. Timely post. I’ve been considering (ok, planning on going to NZ unless something goes terribly wrong financially) leaving for some travel abroad in the winter and after a weekend at home and my g-pa having health problems, I was feeling a struggle. Would I feel guilty missing milestone events? Such good timing, yet again! After talking to my family/friends, 2012 year will probably be the best time to go. In mid- to late 2013, one best friend will get married and another will be trying for her first baby.. I better do it before!!

  11. It’s funny, I just planned my travel around being at a wedding in Scotland… so luckily I got to incorporate travel into the wedding attending! But I am also planning on being home in 2 years for my sister’s graduation, without a doubt.

  12. My year in New Zealand was cut a few months short by my brothers wedding In California, that really hurt my budget. I really had no choice, my only brother and I was best man. A long term ill aunt also died while I was away, It was hard to be away from home during that time even though the news was expected. Major things happen in your bubble while you travel, you need to be best prepared to deal with it.

  13. LegallyBrunette

    One of my best friends from high school planned his return from the Peace Corps around my wedding seven years ago, and I’ve never forgotten it. I was, and still am, SO honored and touched that he would do so. I’m sure Alexa feels the same way!

  14. Some timeless advice there. While I’m currently planning my Central & South America trip, I’m wondering if I should cut it short around October to return home for my 30th birthday, my mates wedding, followed by another mates wedding in Bali.

    Tough decisions… so much to see in Latin America, can I squeeze it into just a few months?

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