Being a bridesmaid is like being part of the coolest clique at the wedding — you even have your own table. But, sitting with the cool kids isn’t cheap. From dresses to destination bachelorette parties to travel for the big day, bridesmaids, on average, are spending $1,200 to $1,800 to be in a wedding, according to a recent WeddingWire study.
It’s no wonder that a survey by CompareCards found that 58% of bridesmaids say the pressure they felt to spend put a strain on their relationship with the bride. Yes, being asked to be a part of your friend’s big day is an honor, but if you’re strapped for cash, wedding festivities can put a strain on even the tightest of friendly bonds.
But, who said you can’t have your wedding cake and eat it, too? Take a walk with us down the savings aisle to learn how to cut wedding costs and tension when it comes to wedding expenses.
BE A PROACTIVE BRIDESMAID
If you want a real say in how much you’re spending for your friend’s wedding, don’t text the bridal party group chat that with an ambiguous offer of help. “It’s important to be specific, and proactive as to what you want your role to be,” says Matt Schulz, chief industry analyst at CompareCards.com.
“For instance, offer to help find options for places to stay and fun activities for the bachelorette,” says Dana Marineau, vice president and financial advocate of Credit Karma. “This way, you’ll have control over finding affordable options.”
You can also help the bride brainstorm creative, cost-saving ideas for upcoming wedding-related events. Doing so allows you to have more of a say when it comes to staple decisions like the cost of the dress (yours, not hers, of course) or a pre-wedding makeup artist. And, if the bride is too stressed out over her future mother-in law’s seating arrangements, reaching out to the Maid of Honor to discuss your financial concerns can help prevent a bridal blowout over expensive details. Note: If YOU happen to be the Maid of Honor, put the word out to the bridal party that you’re looking for thrifty ways to cut costs. Making it clear that you are trying to arrange events that will appeal to a wide range of budget restraints will go a long way towards easing financial tensions for everyone in the months leading up to the big day.
“Don’t be afraid to get extremely technical and break out a budget tracker with estimates,” Marineau suggests. Creating a spreadsheet with wedding expenses and sharing it with the wedding party can help give everyone a projected budget so things don’t get out of hand.
EMBRACE THE ALTERNATIVES
Considering that 37% of people have declined invitations to a wedding because of costs, it’s important to be vocal when it comes to keeping a bridal party with a runaway budget on track. But when opposing a certain idea or expense, it’s crucial you also come to the group with another option ready. Say, “Let’s look at all of our options first,” or, “I think I can find something similar for a different price,” to make it clear you are making wedding decisions in a budget-conscious way.
It also helps to stay local. “There are so many places around the U.S. that have fun places to spend a bachelorette weekend, that are within driving distance,” Marineau says. “Consider choosing a location where you and a few friends can drive to save on travel costs.”
Suggest free activities like hiking, sightseeing, game nights or crafting. Groupon or another local discount app can be your secret weapon when it comes to finding group deals. But if your discount app is lacking when it comes to a frugal group spa rate, try something different. For example, a spa-themed slumber party at your house or a cheaper rental home from Airbnb can be just as much fun as a pricey hotel.
In terms of hair and makeup for the big day, ask a friend of the bride to be on-hand on the day of the wedding to help bridesmaids do simple updos. If you’re lucky, one of the bridesmaids is a makeup artist but, if not, jump on YouTube and school yourself with a couple of bronzing and contouring tutorials that are in line with the look the bride wants.
GET CREATIVE WITH YOUR GIFTS
Whether or not you can participate in your friend’s wedding, a gift is still somewhat of an obligation. But if you don’t have the money, offer your talents in lieu of a gift, Marineau says. If you’re a hairstylist or a seamstress, your skills can easily be a “present” to the bride, that allows you both to save money. You’re saving on having to buy a present, and she’s saving by not having to hire the job done.
“Do you have pretty handwriting?” Marineau says. “Offer to address the envelopes. Are you super organized? Offer to help with their budget.”
On that note, one word of caution if you’re hoping to snag a bargain on a registry gift: buy the economical gift sooner rather than later, because you are not the only bargain shopper who will attend your friend’s wedding. The cheaper gifts often get snapped up quickly, and it’s much better to spend $40 on the blender now than $150 on the espresso maker in a few months.
REJECTING THE BRIDESMAID PROPOSAL
Sadly, sometimes no amount of flyer miles, credit card points or negotiation can help you afford to be in your friend’s over-the-top destination wedding. When this happens, you simply have to say no… because there are worse things than not being there — still paying for your friend’s wedding a year later because you charged it on your credit card is one of them.
“Often, being able to attend a wedding depends on how much you have saved,” Marineau says. “If you think you’ll spend money you don’t have to attend a wedding, it may be best to stay home and save instead.”
And that’s OK. After you delicately and lovingly say no, you can take your newly married friend out to lunch and listen to her reminisce about the festivities. And that special time together can be just as meaningful — if not more so— than being there for her big day.
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