Being a bridesmaid is both a blessing and, quite frankly, a curse. On one hand, you’re excited to be there for your friend on her big day, but on the other, you might have to live out of your car if being there costs as much as one month’s salary.
The financial stress of being a bridesmaid is compounded by the fact that you might have that honor multiple times in a single year. On average, bridesmaids shell out $1,300 per wedding. That’s unfeasible to pay once if you’re strapped for cash, let alone three or four times.
But no fear—it is possible to be a good bridesmaid and pay for groceries this week. All it takes is being proactive, honest and a bit creative.
Try these five money-saving tips:
1. Make a budget
Open an excel spreadsheet, a bottle of wine and take a deep, long breath; it’s time to face the facts. Figure out your travel needs (car, bus, plane), expected responsibilities (are you paying for your own dress? Are you throwing the bridal shower?), what gift you’re planning on buying and other incidentals that may pop up along the way. From there you’ll be able to see approximately how much this wedding will cost you, where it’s important to spend and where you can save.
If possible, sit down with the entire bridal party and the bride herself (see tip #5) and plan a budget together. If the bridal party is expected to pay for their own dresses—compromise and plan a low-key bachelorette party. If you all get on the same page early on and have a budget to stick to, there will be fewer hiccups later in the process (and hopefully no unexpected financial commitments).
2. Split a meaningful, unique gift with your fellow bridesmaids
While bridesmaids aren’t always expected to purchase a gift, it can feel awkward to show up to a bridal shower or wedding reception empty-handed. Instead of buying that expensive blender or crockpot on the couple’s registry, opt for a unique, heartfelt gift that you can go in on with your fellow bridesmaids. If you split a $100 or even $200 gift between four bridesmaids, that’s only $25 or $50 each; a steal for a gift the bride will cherish forever.
3. Throw a potluck bridal shower
The cost of the shower falls on the shoulders of whoever throws the shower. If that’s you, it can feel like an overwhelming financial burden, luckily, a bridal shower doesn’t have to break the bank. Instead of reserving a room at a fancy restaurant, opt to throw the shower at a house—with all members of the bridal party on the hook for bringing an appetizer, drink, main dish or dessert. Pick up decorations at a thrift store or Dollar General and viola, you have a wedding shower on the cheap. (Bonus savings if you can combine the wedding shower/ bachelorette party into one event).
4. Scour eBay
Some brides will let you choose a dress within their color palette and theme—especially if you are forthright and present the bride with the cheap dress you have in mind early on in the planning process. eBay has great deals (there are a whole lot of bridesmaids-of-weddings-past willing to sell their designer dresses for cheap). By showing the bride that you can find a beautiful, on-theme dress for half or a quarter of the price of one she’d find in-store, you’re showing that she doesn’t have to sacrifice her dream wedding or your bank account.
And a dress isn’t the only item you can score for less. Look for jewelry, shoes, bachelorette party/bridal shower accessories, even gifts. The best part? Once the wedding is over, you can resell whatever it is you bought on eBay (or a consignment shop) and get back at least a percentage of what you bought it for (or maybe even make a profit).
5. Be honest
As a bridesmaid, you have the honor of standing by your good friend as she marries the man or woman of her dreams. Remember that as the wedding process gets stressful—the bride is your friend, your good friend. Be transparent about your finances (without giving details that are too personal) and honest about the strain an expensive wedding could cause for you personally. This may mean having to politely decline the invitation to an extravagant bachelorette party in Vegas, but often times it can mean working with the bride to create a wedding experience that’s affordable to all involved.