Are you falling victim to 'oblication' travel?

We often receive invitations from loved ones to attend weddings and other social events away from home, especially milestones like reunions, graduations, anniversaries and bachelor/ette parties. We feel obliged to travel for these vacations, hence the term 'oblication' but we aren't always prepared for the expense.

Travel News - Portrait of bridesmaids and maid of honour
Travelling away from home for events like weddings can place a huge strain on guests' finances and time. Image by Getty

This form of travel is undertaken by nearly half of Americans, according to a survey from travel booking site Hotwire. As much as US$197 billion was spent on trips that people felt obliged to take over a one-year period. At times, these events can take away from trips that people might actually enjoy, especially as most people tend to use up their annual leave from work for 'oblication' travel, leaving them with no days left to plan their own trips.

Is it ever okay to decline an invite to these social events? Myka Meier, a British-American etiquette expert who is based in New York and was trained by a former member of The Queen's Household in Britain, told Lonely Planet that there are times when it's okay to say no, especially when required to travel a number of times for one big event.

"Sometimes with weddings comes the bridal shower, the bachelorette party and of course the wedding. If circumstances do not allow you to make all, or you simply do not wish to use your vacation to attend all, choose the event that pulls the most weight (in this case the wedding) and make sure you show up there with bells on," Myka told Lonely Planet.

"If you’re [the one] planning a trip and want the most people to be able to attend, be conscious of cost, hotels, travel methods and location, as well as the amount of days you are planning across... it’s important to remember not everyone wants to spend their year’s allowance of holiday to celebrate one occasion."

Travel News - Close-Up Of Wedding Rings And Seashells On Sand At Beach
Couples planning to invite guests to a wedding abroad should be mindful of people's mixed ability to fulfil the commitment. Image by Getty

It's important to be realistic with yourself and the person who is sending the invite. While it's necessary to fulfil certain commitments, especially around milestone celebrations, it's also okay to politely decline if the trip is placing a huge strain on your time and finances. Myka advised that you should think carefully before sending an RSVP and avoid cancelling a trip that you have agreed to attend unless it's absolutely necessary.

"Out of respect for the people you are traveling with, are going to see, or for the event you RSVP’d to, it’s always the most polite to attend if you said you were coming," she said. "By taking the time to RSVP yes, other people have planned around you, and to cancel may leave them in a bind. Think about how cancelling would affect others attending.

"The goal would be ultimately not to accept an invitation to attend in the first place, rather than cancelling later. Often for weddings or formal events, people hosting must pay well in advance per head of attendance with strict cancellation policies. By guests cancelling last minute, you may leave them financially at a loss too."

Travel News - Happy friends enjoying a rooftop party
Wedding-related events such as engagement parties and bachelor/ette parties can often require guests to travel multiple times. Image: Martin Dimitrov / Getty

Myka Meir runs Beaumont Etiquette, a consultancy that teaches courses in British, Continental European and American etiquette to both adults and youth. You can follow her on Instagram where she often posts royal etiquette and style tips.