How To Not Go Broke When You're A Bridesmaid In A Wedding

When a friend gets married, there's nothing quite like the honor of being asked to be a bridesmaid. It's exciting! It's a reason to dress up and celebrate love! It also takes one hell of a toll on the wallet for everyone involved.


Depending on where you live and how lavish the ceremony, the average price of a wedding in the United States in 2021 was $28,000 (via The Knot). And, if that didn't make you clutch your pearls quick enough and gasp, the average wedding guest can possibly spend as much as $3,000 for each wedding they attend (via Affirm). If that's what guests are likely to spend, then bridesmaids beware: You're headed into super, pricey territory. Like Kristen "Help Me I'm Poor" Wiig in "Bridesmaids" pricey territory.

But, before you start shaking in those Jimmy Choo heels the bride made you all buy, it doesn't have to be that way. You can actually financially survive a wedding. While getting through a full wedding season where you've been asked to be maid of honor or a bridesmaid multiple times might be a different story, you can at least swing a wedding (or two!) without breaking the bank.


Be honest with the bride

When it comes to weddings, the bride really hits the jackpot. Traditionally, their parents pay for the wedding, their fiancé's family pays for the rehearsal dinner, and when it comes to bridal showers and bachelorette parties, the maid of honor and bridesmaids pick up those tabs. If your friend who's getting married is sticking to tradition because their family can afford such an event, then lucky them. Also, if this is the case, they should realize just how lucky they are and how not everyone in their lives can turn to someone else for money.


"If there are certain costs that you know you cannot currently afford, talk to the couple to let them know," certified financial planner Sara Kalsman tells The Knot. "You may not be the only bridesmaid in this position. Don't be afraid to set financial boundaries, such as not taking on new debt, giving yourself time before you accept a decision, and letting others know when an expense is not within your budget."

Roughly 64% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, according to a survey by Lending Club and PYMNTS. Something that all brides should seriously take into consideration — especially right after COVID when some people are still trying to financially bounce back.

Make a budget (and stick to it)

When it comes to budgets, they're easier said than done. Sure, you can set one up in an Excel spreadsheet, color code it, and put in the first couple of expenses, but somewhere along the line, you might become lax or simply forget. If you truly want to be part of your friend's wedding and not come out of it knee-deep in debt, then a budget specifically for the wedding is going to be a major asset.


"One of the easiest ways to track your spending is with an Excel spreadsheet," author and founder of Bridesmaid for Hire Jen Glantz tells The Knot. "Plan your budget first for gifts, travel and the dress. Then as you spend, jot down how much so you can compare and contrast and keep on track."

Also be aware of what's the financial responsibility of the bride and the bridesmaids. For example, brides are supposed to pay for things like bouquets and/or corsages, as well as other details like transportation the day of the wedding (via Brides). Make sure you don't spend money where you're, traditionally, not supposed to.

Be thrifty when it comes to the dress

Unless you're dealing with a bridezilla, when it comes to the dresses that the bridesmaids will wear, everyone has some input. Well, except for the color; usually that mint green decision comes from the bride. Depending on the dress the bride chooses, you can rent instead of dropping a few hundred bucks on a dress you'll probably only wear once (via Finance Buzz). The groomsmen rent their tuxes, after all.


If the dress the bride wants everyone in isn't something that you can score at Rent the Runway or similar sites, then be prepared to sell it afterward. If it's something you know you'll never have an occasion to wear again or, even if it is, but you just simply can't afford to keep it, then there's no shame in selling it. But if this is the route you intend to go, you want to keep that in mind throughout the night. Trying to get red wine out of any fabric isn't just near-impossible, but could lead to you spending a ton on getting it professionally cleaned.

Embrace DIY

As bridesmaids, your tasks will include, well, lots of things that involve spending money. But if the group of you collectively decide that doing things yourself is financially wiser and more fun (because it is!), then go for it. A bridal shower doesn't need to be catered by Brooklyn's trendiest restaurant — as a group, you can do the catering yourselves (via Glamour). Letting everyone bring their expertise to the table, metaphorically and literally speaking, will not only make the shower affordable, but extra special. It's far more difficult to bake a homemade cake than it is to buy one.


Whether it's the day of the wedding or the events leading up to it, skip paying all that salon stuff that you can do yourself. Yes, the bride might have a vision, but you have rent, student loans, and that 20-year-old cat that's on half a dozen medications — you have financial responsibilities outside the wedding. Salons charge a fortune when it comes to hair and makeup for weddings (via Hello Giggles). You can certainly give yourself an up-do and a manicure for a fraction of what you would pay at a salon.

Be honest with yourself

Before you even say "yes" to being a bridesmaid, look at your finances and ask yourself if you can realistically afford it. Will it involve maxing out a credit card? Cutting back on groceries for a couple weeks? Letting your apartment go dark because you can't pay the electricity bill? If the answer to any of those is "yes," then your answer to the bride should be "no."


"Saying no is okay as long as it's done gently and with good reason," etiquette expert Lisa Grotts tells Well + Good. And if ever there were a good reason, money is definitely it. 

If you think you can swing being in the wedding and the cost of that aspect, as long as you skip some of the other events, like the bachelorette party in Vegas or the bridal shower in the Hamptons, then let the bride know (via Refinery29). Ultimately, it's best to bow out of those things in order to be at the wedding and the bride should appreciate that you're doing what you can to be there for the big day.

Weddings are supposed to be fun and a time for celebrating. While most celebrations in life will cost at least something, you shouldn't have to go broke for a wedding that isn't even yours. If your friend can't understand that, then maybe that person isn't the friend you thought they were and it's best you skipped out on being a bridesmaid after all.