My brother-in-law is being honored by a charity, but tickets for the ceremony cost $375. Shouldn’t he offer to pay for my ticket?

Dear Quentin,

My brother-in-law is being honored by an organization that provides medical assistance to children of families who can’t afford their treatments. I was included on the email invitation, and the ticket price is $375 per person. I feel that it is unfair to ask an individual to incur such an expense. 

I feel pressure to attend from my brother-in-law and his wife. My brother-in-law is on the organization’s board and was part of the team that set the ticket pricing. While it may be OK for a business, it’s an exorbitant price for an individual — namely me. Should I pay the price of admission or tell him it’s too pricey and send my regrets? 

Feeling Squeezed

Dear Squeezed,

If he wants you to attend badly enough, he would gift you a ticket — along with an invitation.

Take out two sets of scales, and weigh the following considerations: (1) the importance of this event in your brother-in-law’s life, (2) your relationship with him, (3) whether you can afford to spend $375 on a ticket for one night — to put that in context, you might spend $335 for one ticket to see “Hamilton” on Broadway — and (4) the knowledge that the money is going toward a good cause (although it does not qualify as a tax write-off in its entirety).

Friendship can get expensive. And even our extended family can cost us a pretty penny. That includes things like spending $5,000 on a destination wedding, attending a friend’s child’s communion or bar mitzvah or school play, or forking out $400 on a bachelorette party. We do these things because 99% of life is about showing up. It’s often easier to say yes, and we’re usually glad we did. We see the joy on our loved ones’ faces, and we feel good for making the effort.

‘Real friendships leave space for mistakes, the odd ill-judged comment and, yes, not showing up for someone’s big night because the ticket costs $375.’

But — you probably saw that coming — the bottom line is that no one should be forced to do anything. If it was an absolute necessity for you to be there, your brother-in-law could buy your ticket and invite you as his guest. Sure, he’s your brother-in-law and it’s a big night for him, but it’s probably enough that his immediate family is there to cheer him on. I don’t think he needs extended family to make up the numbers, particularly at that price. 

Every relationship has its own set of parameters, and family invitations can come with baggage. (Exhibit A: “He’s always been jealous of you. This is the confirmation we need!”) But if that were the case here, you probably would have mentioned it in your letter, and it would be one more reason to send your regrets. Real friendships leave space for mistakes, the odd ill-judged comment and, yes, not showing up for someone’s big night because the ticket costs $375.

Don’t put a price tag on the invitation, even if you are sending your regrets primarily because it costs $375 (and another $375 if you decided to bring a plus-one). You could host your brother-in-law for drinks at a later date and make a fuss about his achievement. But you are not obliged. Send your brother-in-law a card and a bunch of flowers on the night of the event to congratulate him and let him know how proud you are of him. 

“Real friendships leave space for mistakes, the odd ill-judged comment and, yes, not showing up for someone’s big night because the ticket costs $375.”

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