When a friend or family member asks you to be a bridesmaid, it’s certainly flattering and exciting. However, it can also be torture on your wallet. Bridesmaids are often required to purchase a dress and accessories, front all travel costs, buy gifts for multiple events, and pay for a bachelorette party.
Elite Daily estimates that bridesmaids can expect to spend between $1,500 and $1,800 for the privilege of being part of the wedding. However, with some strategic planning, you can lower that amount significantly.
Expenses for Bridesmaids
All weddings are different, so you won’t know everything that’s expected of you until you ask the bride. Have an honest conversation with her about the events planned, and explain any budget constraints you have. It can be an uncomfortable discussion, but it’s better to understand your obligations upfront than to find out about an unexpected cost later. It’s likely that your friend is also overwhelmed with wedding expenses, so she may be more understanding than you think.
After speaking with the bride, reach out to the maid of honor and other bridesmaids to ensure they’re on the same page. It can be uncomfortable if a well-to-do maid of honor plans an expensive event for the bride and expects everyone to contribute equally. A conversation beforehand can prevent discomfort and help you better afford the range of wedding accouterments you’re expected to purchase.
1. Dress and Accessories
If your bride has a particular dress in mind, check out second-hand resources like Bridesmaid Trade, Tradesy, or eBay before you buy it full-priced. If you’re lucky, you may be able to snag it on sale or clearance from a bridesmaid retailer – some of the most popular retailers have clearance sections both online and in-store.
Thankfully, mismatched bridal dresses can be a popular look at weddings. If the bride would be happy with all black dresses of different styles, you’re free to search at bargain retailers such as TJMaxx, Marshalls, or Nordstrom Rack for a better deal. Retailers like David’s Bridal tend to put last year’s colors in the sale section, so this increases your chances of finding the perfect dress at a discount.
Most bridesmaid dresses, especially full-length ones, are designed with the expectation that they can be shortened to match the woman’s height. Bridal shops are notoriously expensive for alterations, so avoid them if you can. A local alterations shop can do a good, basic job for around $50 – or, consider asking a friend or family member who sews for some help.
Reselling the Dress
Unless you really love your bridesmaid dress, plan to sell it after the wedding using a site such as the aforementioned Bridesmaid Trade, Tradesy, or eBay. Make sure to sell the dress as soon after the event as possible in order to get the highest price for it, as popular colors and styles change quickly.
You can also donate your dress to nonprofits like The Princess Project, which takes used bridesmaid dresses and provides them to low-income high school girls in need of a prom dress. You can get a tax write-off for your donation, in addition to the satisfaction of knowing that your dress helped someone in need.
2. Shoes and Accessories
If the bride doesn’t have a strong preference for shoe type, ask if you can wear something you already own, or borrow something from a friend. If you need to buy shoes, budget $20 to $50 for a quality pair that won’t give you blisters on the dance floor. If you don’t have accessories that match the dress, Rent the Runway also offers jewelry rentals at only $5 or $10 per item.
3. Hair and Makeup
Some brides generously pay for bridesmaids’ hair and makeup, while others bring a stylist onsite and ask the bridesmaids to pay for what they have done. If you aren’t comfortable doing your own hair and makeup, expect to pay between $100 and $200 for onsite services. Even if you’re not an expert, it’s likely that one of the other bridesmaids is proficient enough to help you look your best.
If you’d still like to be pampered while saving money, ask the bride about going to a blow dry bar that offers a basic blow dry and style for around $40 per person.
4. Wedding Gifts
Every party thrown for a bride – an engagement party, a bridal shower, bachelorette party, and the wedding itself – traditionally involves some sort of gift. Set an overall gift budget right away to keep yourself from overspending. Aim to spend half that budget on the wedding gift and use the rest for other events. For example, if you have a $200 gift budget for the wedding, bachelorette party, engagement party, and bridal shower, plan to buy a $100 wedding gift and three $30 gifts for the other events.
Gifts for bridal showers and bachelorette parties don’t have to be overly lavish and expensive. A bottle of wine or some affordable kitchen accessories are just fine. Keep in mind that affordable items from the wedding registry tend to go fast, so buy early. Alternatively, see if others in the bridal party would like to pool funds for a larger gift.
Remember that handmade gifts and personal letters can be more meaningful than an expensive gift. A scrapbook, a framed photo of the couple, or a photo album of the bachelorette party and shower are inexpensive but heartfelt gift options.
5. Bachelorette Party
The bridal party typically plans and pays for the bachelorette party. A lavish party can cost upward of a thousand dollars, though a frugal one can be under a hundred. Plane tickets, transportation, hotels, and dining out add up quickly, so try to host the party locally.
If the bride really wants an overnight event, consider a staycation at a hotel in your city. And if you’re on the lookout for cheap events, check out daily deal sites such as Groupon and LivingSocial for deals on things like wine tastings, party boat cruises, or cocktail mixing classes.
You may want to start the evening with drinks and appetizers at home and then move on to a bar, restaurant, or club. To defray some of the cost, ask guests to bring their favorite bottle of wine, liquor, or a few mixers. Even if you’re the maid of honor, you don’t need to pay for everything yourself – the cost of the activities should always be split evenly amongst everyone in the bridal party.
6. Bridal Showers and Other Events
It’s a nice gesture to host a bridal shower or an engagement party, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to do so. It’s okay to step back and let someone outside the bridal party run the show, especially since it’s likely that one of the bride’s relatives may be eager to host.
As a bridesmaid, expect to be invited to all wedding events and showers, but don’t feel obligated to attend. Attending multiple showers and parties can become time-consuming and expensive if events are out of town. If you can’t spare any more days off or need time for other activities, feel free to politely decline.
7. Travel and Transportation
Timing can make a big difference when it comes to the price of a plane ticket. According to CheapAir.com, the best deals for domestic flights are available 27 to 114 days in advance – and, fortunately, services like KAYAK allow you to set up email alerts for when fares drop.
Unfortunately, many weddings happen during the summer when airfare rates are at their highest. If you don’t mind opening a new credit card, many airline-focused travel rewards credit cards offer phenomenal savings. For example, the Chase Southwest Airlines Rapid Rewards Premier Card often offers a 50,000 points sign-up bonus, which translates to around $700 in free airfare. Just be sure to sign up for the credit card far enough in advance to meet any spending requirements, and allow the points to post to your account.
8. Hotels and Lodging
When it comes to out-of-town lodging, consider both hotels and short-term rentals. The bride and groom may secure a discounted room block at a hotel, but a room through Airbnb or Vrbo may still be more affordable. Hotel rates vary by location and time of year, but Hotels.com reports that the average cost for a room is around $137 a night. Short-term rental rates vary depending on whether you rent a house, apartment, or simply a spare bedroom.
Be honest with yourself about what you can afford. If being a bridesmaid simply isn’t in your budget, it’s okay to decline. Make it clear that you’re still available for moral support or to help with wedding planning. The important thing is that you’re a good friend to the bride as she takes this next big step in life.
Have you found creative ways to save money while being a bridesmaid?