The cost of being a bridesmaid
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Thursday, April 26, 2018
By Kelly L. Sherlock
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This is a topic that we can cover time and time again, and I have. Being a bridesmaid can often come with drama, hurt feelings and above all else, expenses that are far beyond the means of a twenty or thirty year old. And that, my friends, is what we are discussing today. Money! What is the realistic expected cost of being a bridesmaid and why is a nightmare of a bride expecting you to spend your life savings just because she is getting married?

The typical responsibility of the bridesmaids include things like a dress for the wedding, throwing a shower and providing a gift for that shower, which should be a joint gift between all of the bridesmaids and possibly a bachelorette party, if you have a fun bride. An extra expense might also include hair and make-up on the day of the wedding. Now let’s break this down:

  1. A dress for the wedding – This can be one of the worst days if a bride decides to get all of her bridesmaids together to go dress shopping. The chance of having even 3 women agree on the same style dress is unreal, so having up to 10 women shopping together without having heated moments will not happen. Often times you have those girls that want to please the bride so they say they will pay anything. They are the doctors and lawyers of the group – or they are married to the doctors and lawyers. I’m kidding, kind of. Here’s the reality; would you go shopping as a wedding guest and drop $300 on a dress to attend a wedding? If not, then why would you expect your best friends to do that for your wedding? Some of my friends are the type that would spend $300 on a dress for a wedding but we are almost 40 years old so we have earned that lifestyle choice. But for most of the younger brides getting married, that is not the case. Think about the price that you would pay and use that as your guideline. After all, these women are supposed to be your friends. In my opinion, if your guideline is $150, and then you pick a dress that is over that amount, then you have to pay the overage! On the contrary, if you have a group of women that are fortunate enough to spend the money and they all fall in love with a $250 dress that they really want to buy, then that’s great. But that is not the norm, so be prepared to pay a portion of the dress expense if you are the bride that HAS TO HAVE the Vera Wang that your friends can not afford.
  2. The shower – Also an event that has the potential to get heated is the planning of the bridal shower. This responsibility actually falls a bit more on the bridesmaids themselves, since they are essentially deciding everything behind your back, so what they spend it honestly up to them, or the bossiest of the bridesmaids that inevitably wants the shower to be at the PLAZA when the rest of the girls are on a Taco Bell budget. At any rate, the thing that can get out of control regarding the bride is if she has a million showers besides the bridal shower and expects her bridesmaids to attend them all and bring gifts. Not cool! Typically, the couple would have had an engagement party, so a bridal shower and an engagement party are more than enough. If she has family or other friends that are throwing her showers for a specific group of family members or friends, leave the bridesmaids out of it, of at least be courteous enough to DEMAND that they do not bring gifts!
  3. The bachelorette party – The bachelorette party should not be stressful at all! And there’s no reason for it to be out of control regarding finances. The first rule is plain and simple, if the bride wants to go out of town for her bachelorette, no one should be paying for her travel! The bridesmaids should not have to pay for the bride’s flight and her portion of the hotel stay no matter what! It is hard enough for women to be able to pay their own way and if you truly cannot afford it, you need to be the person to step up and say “I’m sorry, I can not afford it”! There is nothing wrong with being honest and missing out. If she is the type of bride that really wants everyone together, she will decide not to put the stress of paying to travel out of town on her girls when she knows they cannot afford it. Otherwise, if you are staying in town, maybe all of you pay for the bride’s dinner. Or just drinks throughout the night. I do not believe that the bachelorette party has a hard, fast rule that the bridesmaids have to pay for the bride’s drinking problem all night. Sure, maybe each girl takes a round, but honestly, it is not that deep.
  4. Hair and make-up on the wedding day – Again, if the bride requires you to have hair and make-up done, then the payment should come from her. Anything that is forced on you due to a “vision” that the bride has if her problem to pay for! If she has a make-up artist and a hairdresser coming to the provide services on the morning of the wedding and she asks if you want hair or make-up done, do it if you can afford it. But if you weren’t given the option, rather you were told you had to do it, then she should pay!
  5. A few other costs associated with being a bridesmaid might be:
    1. Shoes – First, if your bride is still dictating the shoes that you wear, you might reconsider being friends with her. Seriously. And again, if she is requiring you to wear specific shoes, not a specific color, then she should pay
    2. If this is a destination wedding, you will have to pay for your hotel room and travel. I have some clients that have paid for the hotel rooms of their bridal party and that is great, if the bride can afford it. But, as a friend, you would have gone to the wedding anyway, so you would have had to pay for your travel and room whether you were in the wedding or not.

The reality is that being liked by your friends can be very expensive! Being a bridesmaid comes with certain expectations that, unfortunately, are what they are. They come with the territory. You can estimate that every time you stand in a wedding, you may spend an average of $400 - $500 and that is just if the wedding is in town AND IF you have a reasonable bride that sticks to a lower priced dress for the bridesmaids.   When you think about $500, it might not seem too bad, but when you think about having 3 friends get married in the same year, now you’re spending $1500 on weddings, AT LEAST!

In my late thirty’s, I am always up for a trip be it a wedding, a bachelorette party or anything really. But in my twenty’s and early thirty’s, there’s no way I could have afforded to be in 4 weddings in the same year, in particular with the expectations of the brides that I see. Good thing I am just the planner, but for those of you not being paid to be a part of these weddings, you should just be honest with yourself and your friend. In the end, attending the wedding and still loving your good friend is better than pretending you can afford to be in it and hating her by the time the wedding day comes!

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Caroline - This post is so on par it's not funny! Thanks for clarifying what should and shouldn't be paid for by the bridesmaids, we appreciate you!