The bridesmaid budget - Give Me Back My Five Bucks

The bridesmaid budget

Now that summer is in full swing, so is wedding season. Most of my good friends are already married, and I’ve been fortunate to be a part of a wedding party three times so far in my life.

Recently, I was asked to be maid of honour at my friend’s summer wedding in 2013. Even though the big day is over a year away, I will need to create a budget, and spend every month saving money – because while I am incredibly happy to be a part of their wedding day, the costs associated with being a maid of honour can be substantial.

According to Mint.com, the estimated cost of being a bridesmaid can be close to $1,700. When you consider the cost of flights, the dress, alterations, accessories, gifts – plus the engagement party, shower, and bachelorette party, it can be easy to see how you could end up spending much more than the $1,700 estimation.

Here are some tips to help you keep on top of your spending, and make sure the bride has the most memorable experience of her life.

Create a budget

A budget might sound boring when you have parties to throw and outfits to buy, but that’s precisely why you need one. As a bridesmaid, I have spent well over Mint.com’s $1,700 estimation on more than one occasion – destination weddings will put a big dent in anybody’s budget. But without a budget to help me stay focused, I might not have been able tos save up enough money, and I definitely would have ended up spending much more than I was able to afford.

Your budget should account for every expense, not just the major items like the dress, and cost of the flights. You need to also factor in the cost of dress alterations, accessories, gifts, cab rides, celebratory meals out, alcohol, party favours, and decorations. Once you’ve added up all the costs, create a savings plan to see how much you will need to save, and don’t be afraid to speak up if you simply can’t afford everything the bride wants. Being honest with the bride will save you both from any resentment or hard feelings.

The bridesmaid dress

Your dress will likely be nowhere as expensive as the bride’s wedding dress, but it doesn’t mean your outfit will be cheap. The bridesmaid dresses I’ve purchased have ranged from $75 to well over $200 – and that’s before alterations.

Sometimes a bride will want each of her bridesmaids to wear matching outfits, shoes, and accessories. It works if everybody has the same price range in mind. However, if the bride hasn’t started narrowing down dress choices, try asking the bride to pick colour swatches for the dress and all of the accessories – that way each person in the bridal party will be able to find everything she needs within her own budget and personal style.

The last time I was a maid of honour, the bride picked a colour swatch and I found the perfect dress online. It was $225 before taxes and shipping, so I quickly searched eBay to see if anybody was selling the dress in my size. When I found it, I e-mailed the bride a photo, got her approval for the dress, and bought it off of eBay – for 75 per cent less than on the website.

Consider your gift purchases

If you are part of the wedding party, not only will you be invited to the wedding, but you will probably be invited to the engagement party, wedding shower, bachelorette party as well. You don’t need to spend a lot of money on each gift. Consider buying smaller gifts for the parties leading up to the wedding, and save your “big” gift for the wedding itself.

Split the costs

Sometimes it can be a nightmare trying to split up the expenses for party favours, decorations, and other miscellaneous items with the other bridesmaids. A free app like Splitwise (available for iPhone and Android) can help you keep track of group expenses, record payments, and divide up bills between multiple people.

Group the events

If the other bridesmaids live out of town, try not to ask them to fly in for multiple events. Sit down with the bride and find a time that works for everyone – grouping the shower and bachelorette party on the same weekend will save a lot of money.

It is important to be honest with yourself, and with the bride. If you cannot afford to be part of the wedding party, be appreciative of the honour, but decline as soon as possible. Both you and the bride will be disappointed, but consider offering to help with the wedding in a lesser role instead. Organizing the bachelorette party, helping to mail the invitations, or putting together the wedding favours will be much appreciated by the bride.

Have you ever said no to being part of a wedding party?

About Krystal Yee

I'm a writer, personal finance blogger, and marketing professional based in Vancouver. I'm a former Toronto Star (Moneyville) columnist, author of The Beginner's Guide to Saving and Investing, and co-founder of the Canadian Personal Finance Conference. When I'm not working, you can usually find me running, playing field hockey, or plotting my next adventure.

22 comments

  1. I was just a “best man” at a wedding, and it was for one of my very best friends, so I never would have said no.

    However, having seen how much work this monstrosity of a wedding was, I would consider declining in the future if it was someone I was not actually close to or I would at least let them know my schedule and the level of commitment I would be able to have.

  2. Great post-I think any girl in her twenties can relate to the financial pain that is being a bridesmaid.

  3. One way to save money is to think about trade-offs. I couldn’t go to my friend’s bachelorette party because I was a) poor and b) visiting the place I would eventually move to for graduate school that same weekend; instead, I threw her bridal shower (at my family’s home, making most of the food from scratch). While it didn’t totally make up for me not hitting the bars with them (which isn’t really my thing anyway…) it was a gesture of how important she and her upcoming marriage were, and absolved the other bridesmaids from having to plan multiple events.

    • I think that was a perfect compromise. You still showed her how much you cared by throwing her a special bridal shower, even though you couldn’t make it to another one of her events. I bet that shower is something she’ll never forget!

  4. I’m currently the maid of honor for my bestie. I would not have said no to her. On the plus side she herself is really budget concious and trying to help keep costs down for us. We were given a color and told to pick out a dress. My dress is $210 but because it’s not long and formal and in a color that looks really good on me I’ll be able to wear it again. Same with my shoes. Neutral color, $24.99 from Payless shoes. The bride wants us to get hair and make up done which will be about $100 which I don’t mind. Also the bride has given each of us $100 to help offset costs. I don’t have to worry about flights because we both live in the same city and that’s were the wedding is. As for the bachelorette party it will not be a typical party as the bride is not a bar person. Living in Edmonton we will spend the day at the Amusement park at West Edmonton Mall (and because my boyfriend has AMA we will get discounted passes) and then we’ll go to one of the restaurants in the mall for dinner and drinks.

  5. I’ve never said no-each of the four times I’ve been asked, it’s been for someone very dear to me (my brother and three of my lifetime best friends). It is a pricey endeavour though, as you say. Four years ago this fall, my husband and I were both in the wedding parties for our best friends (marrying each other) and my brother. The weddings were two weeks apart! That summer was madness with the showers, parties, and clothes, and gifts. I shudder to add up all the costs (this was in the days before I found my financial sense, so I just kinda “winged it” that year).

    Upon reflecting on my four experiences, I would say not to assume that the person wants something extravagant for each traditional wedding related event. For instance, I threw a nice shower at someone’s home (my home was in a different city and not convenient for most of the guests), which my friend totally appreciated. I made it personalized and special for her, and she loved the results. But this same friend had no interest in the bachelorette party thing (thank goodness-not my cup of tea at all). For my brother’s wife, her mother and sister decided to throw this gargantuan ridiculous shower (don’t get me started), and the bride to be flipped out, as she did not like all the attention placed on her. Just don’t jump to conclusions that you have to spend a fortune!

  6. I’m not popular like yourself, so I’ve never been a best man at a wedding. That being said, I’ve seen close friends be a maid of honor and best man at weddings, and I can say that it’s very time consuming, and expensive.

  7. I actually had to tell my best friend that I couldn’t be the Maid of Honour cause I couldn’t afford the dress on top of all the possible costs. I told her I’d have to be a guest but I’d love to help her out. In the end, she told me she wouldn’t take no as an answer. She bought my dress for me and I was the Maid of Honour. But I was able to save enough to give her a decent wedding gift and throw a bachelorette party.

  8. I was asked to the maid of honour for my best friend whose wedding was last summer over the canada day long weekend…2 of her other bridesmaids started complaining that they couldnt make plans or go out of town that weekend since it would be her wedding. At first she ignored it, but their whining got so bad that she released them of their duties 2 months before the wedding! She had paid for the dresses herself so the girls didnt lose any money, and we hadnt had her shower/bachelorette yet. She ended up having a smaller bridal party which and she couldnt have been happier! She said that she would have preferred it if they had just declined when asked so she wouldnt have had to hear them whine for 6 months!

  9. This summer my boyfriend and I will be in the same wedding, he is the best man and I am a bridesmaid. The wedding is a destination wedding. With the flights, accom, clothing, meals etc etc etc we will need, I really am not planning on buying more than one moderately priced gift for the couple.
    In my opinion, if you are asking people to an expensive destination wedding, buy the clothing, etc, it would be kind of greedy to expect multiple presents as well.
    I think people expect too much and put too much emphasis on presents rather than celebrating with friends and family.

    • I tend to agree. With the destination weddings I’ve been to, I’ve given smaller gifts – like a nice bottle of wine, or pooled my money with another guest to get a joint present.

  10. It is a big expense to go and participate in a wedding but well worth it.

    I would not go into debt for this (when I didn’t have any money I had to decline some wedding invitations).

  11. I’ve only been asked to be in a wedding party once and, because it’s one of my closest friends, obviously said yes. But I would be lying if I said I didn’t worry about the costs associated with it. I try to toss a little bit of money each payday into an account for it but can’t be sure of how much I’ll ultimately need. I guess it’s better to save too much than too little.

    • Agreed. I usually try to save up more than I’ve budgeted just in case. But sometimes it’s hard to remember to count in everything, especially when a bride wants multiple parties or a spa day, etc.

  12. Ever since the bf and I together, its been weddings every year. This is the first year neither of us have a wedding to go to, and to be honest I’m kind of relieved. My budget can breathe a bit. Next year my lil sis is getting married and I’m the maid of honour. It’ll be my first time in a wedding party. She doesn’t want a bridal shower, stag n doe or engagement party, just the bachelorette, so it shouldn’t be too bad.

  13. I never knew how much it would cost to be a bridesmaid until this year… geeez! Having a budget definitely helped me out in this situation. Also the fact that the bride is awesome and very cost-conscious makes a big difference. :)

  14. I’ve been a bridesmaid once before, for my old collage roomie/close friend and am currently one for one of my oldest childhood friends (since we were 8!). It’s expensive, yes, but I would have never said no to either of these girls.

    I was living in Timmins at the time of my other friend’s wedding and she was 11 hours south of me in St. Catharines, so had to miss the shower as the Stag&Doe was a month prior and it was just two weeks before the Bachelorette and I just couldn’t afford the time off work and travel costs that often. I also wasn’t that helpful with planning things since I was so far away, but we had discussed this when she asked me and she was TOTALLY understanding of my situation. Crazily enough, I was MORE involved in her wedding/events than the 3 other bridesmaids who all lived within 4 hours of her. :/

    This current wedding is tough – I had saved, but I was unemployed for a month after an unexpected layoff and that money went to living expenses. Luckily, though, the dress is short and cute and I’ll wear it again, plus there’s not a lot of travel involved for me as she’s in my hometown (just 45 minutes away, and I stay with my parents). The shower/bachelorette are this weekend and will be pricey, but what can you do? These things happen.

    I would probably say no, however, if it was someone I wasn’t really close to and was out-of-town.

  15. When I got married I purchased all the bridesmaid dresses as their gift for being in the wedding party. I didn’t force anyone to pay to get their hair and makeup done and everyone still looked phenomenal. I didn’t want being in my bridal party to be a financial burden.

  16. no, I’ve never said no. But I’ve been told no.

  17. Nice post. I’ve always thought weddings have got out of hand with how much people spend on them. But, as you elude to, arguably the bigger problem isn’t the cost of the wedding for the hosts, but the costs which the guests (especially the best man, bridesmaid etc) are obliged to fork out for. It really becomes problematic when guests are asked to travel a long way and pay for expensive hotels and along with all the other costs of being a guest in the first place (new clothes, presents. Maybe it will become fashionable to have simple, modest weddings one day…

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