Bridesmaid Budget: Not Maid of Money, Not Spending Like a Sugar Daddy

Posted Feb 04, 2013 9:43 pm (3 years ago)

Boxes by Bethany of Rinse Repeat blog via Wedding Chicks
Boxes by Bethany of Rinse Repeat blog via Wedding Chicks
Maybe I’m a sucker, but no matter how many times I’m a bridesmaid, I love this part.  You hang out and get ready with all the girls.  You drink champagne somewhere you probably shouldn’t, like a church bathroom.  You get to know your friend’s friends, who you’ve probably heard tons about before.  You all get a little nervous but let the champagne and funny stories distract you.  You get to be one of the first who sees your friend in her dress, and she looks, yes, more beautiful than you have ever seen.  And it hits you that – wow, this actually IS a really big deal.  And you line up with your cute or awkward or shady groomsman counterpart and smile at the crowd, the ones who didn’t get to go behind-the-scenes, and whose only interaction with their friends all weekend will be a brief hello at the reception. 
Bridesmaid Dresses, Bridesmaids, simply bloom photography
With the mounting costs of being a bridesmaid, many women are considering “just saying no”.  But, it’s precisely because of those fuzzy behind-the-scenes moments that I am a total proponent of saying I DO when asked the big question of “Will you be my bridesmaid?”  (Not to mention that saying “no” could deal a blow to the friendship).   But that doesn’t mean I think we should just suck it up and spend like maniacs. 

Bridesmaid Dresses mismatching maids Style Art Life Photography
 by Style Art Life
Here are the top ten ways I’ve managed to be a bridesmaid in 8 weddings, and help plan and attend 5 bachelorette parties and 4 wedding showers, without driving myself into debt.    
  1. Book the flight like, NOW.  As soon as you say I DO, start thinking about your flight.  Use sites that search all airlines for the cheapest fare, like Kayak.  If you want to get fancy, use Bing Travel, which recommends when you should buy your ticket to get the best deal.  You can also use frequent flier miles to ease the bridesmaid budgetary burden.  If you have your own system for finding the best fares, go with it, but as a general rule – the earlier you buy, the cheaper it is.    
  2. That goes for the hotel too.  Book a room as soon as the wedding group rate is available – those rooms can fill up, and there’s no excuse for missing out.  Usually, the bride and groom also provide a more affordable hotel option – take it.  In the event all options are outside your budget, find a nearby cheaper hotel on Kayak or There is no shame, and you’re not trying to impress a younger woman.  People will remember that you were there, but not whether you stayed at the fancy hotel.
  3. Skip the bachelorette and shower.  This sounds harsh, but keep the objective in mind – being able to afford being in the WEDDING.  The shower is all about the gifts, which you can send (see below for gift tips), and the bachelorette party is all about partying, which means people will be so tipsy, they’ll barely notice your absence (in fact, have champagne sent to the room and you’ll be a living legend).  Any explanation will work, including the truth.  If you do go, remember: book airfare asap, share costs with as many as possible, consider hosting at a home, choose clubs with no cover, and agree on a drink maximum at group dinners.  Miss “six $20 cocktails” hikes up the bill for everyone, and can ask for those on a separate check.   
  4. Find shoe love.  The cheapest way to get shoes?  Borrow from a friend.  Another way is to buy cheap – shop online and store sales, check out outlets like Nordstrom’s Rack and DSW, or scour department store clearance racks.  This approach is best for those seafoam green sandals you’ll never wear again.  A third way is to buy quality shoes you can wear for other weddings and even – gasp – in real life.  This means spending more now but saving in the long run by avoiding new purchases for each event.  My go-tos for stylish, versatile, but fairly reasonable shoes are Aldo and Nine West.  This is the best approach for colors like black, silver, gold, and other neutrals.  I have a pair of nude patent leather peep toes from one wedding that I wear all the time because I decided to spend on something I liked. 
  5. Buy jewelry like a 12 year-old.  Bottom line, nobody really looks at the bridesmaid’s jewelry.  Get your jewelry fake and cheap.  I mean, really cheap.  I’ve bought jewelry (including pearl strands and studs) on more than a few occasions at Claire’s, holding my head high as 12 year-olds got their ears pierced.  I’ve also found great items at department store sales, and the accessories section at cheap retailers like Forever 21 and H&M.  No one has said anything about them but compliments.  If you want something a bit more upscale, there are some beautiful and reasonable options on Etsy WeddingsHappily Ever BorroWED lets you rent accessories, and there are deals on high-end accessories on The Aisle NY
  6. Buy used, and sell when you’re done (or rent).  Bridesmaid purchases are annoying because they’re pricey and you’ll likely never wear them again.  Lots of women have been in the same position.  That means there’s tons of stuff – dresses, shoes, jewelry – that’s been used for a few hours and is just sitting out there.  There are websites where you can buy others’ barely-used stuff, and sell yours to recoup some expenses (or both).  My friend searched for the Ann Taylor bridesmaid dress she needed on a couple sites and found it at half price, and I recently recouped a few hundred bucks by liquidating some bridesmaid dresses camped in my closet.  There’s always e-bay, but you’ll probably have more luck on specialized sites like Recycled BrideBravo Bride, or Smart Bride Boutique.  (Note to brides: you can also buy or sell a used wedding dress on these sites or on Hustle Your Bustle).  Another great option is to rent a bridesmaid dress through a company like Little Borrowed Dress or Rent the Runway.
  7. Keep calm and carry on.  Avoid baggage fees both ways, checking hassles, and the chance that your bag will get lost (it’s happened to me, and I had to pay for a new dress and shoes last minute – NOT awesome).  As long as you’re not Snooki or J. Woww, you should be able to carry on enough shampoo, conditioner and hair products to get you through the weekend.
  8. Shack up.  Okay, not in that way.  If you’re not bringing your S.O., contact other bridesmaids going solo and see if they want to be roomies.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know them – chances are they’ll jump at the opportunity to save some cash and have company.  I was once in a room with three girls I barely knew and we had a blast exchanging stories about the bride and getting to know each other.  Just be sure to budget enough bathroom prep time for everyone. 
  9. DEY – Do Everything Yourself.  It bears repeating – no one’s really looking at you.  And getting your hair, make-up, etc. done by a new person can go horribly awry.  I went to the prom twice in the 90s and am good, thanks.  There’s nothing wrong with going simple, feeling comfortable, and saving dinero.  When the bride sends the inevitable “When do you want your hair/make-up/mani/pedi appointment?”, it is more than okay to respond with a “Oh, I’m just going to go ahead and do them myself.  I’ve had a couple bad experiences and am still recovering :)  Thanks so much though.  Very excited!”  If you want in on the salon girl time, pick one more affordable option and do the rest yourself.  
  10. Savvy gifting.  So, you have to get a gift.  But there are ways to save money without looking cheap.  Get on the registry asap.  Usually, there will be some “high impact, low cost” items like beautiful vases, candleholders, wall decor, etc.  These are pieces the bride and groom will appreciate everyday, but which are more affordable than less cool items ($200 pans?  Not now, not ever).  If you wait too long and go affordable, your gift will be a cheap-screaming hodgepodge of potholders, coasters and spatulas.  Another option is to split a gift with friends, or to make something memorable, like a photo album or personalized cookbook.  This is your friend and she loves you for you, not your money. 
If all else fails, and you can’t avoid spending more than you feel comfortable spending (e.g. the bride demands matching everything), you can always have an honest conversation with her.  If she is your friend, she’ll be okay with you taking a more affordable route or might even pitch in so she can have it her way.  And if she’s acting like a bridezilla, there is no better person to give her a healthy dose of reality than one of her closest friends. 

Best of luck this wedding season.  Here’s to getting back to what being a bridesmaid is all about… and not spending like a sugar daddy.

 Authors:  The Hustle Your Bustle Girls, TK & Katie, are co-founders of 
Hustle Your Bustle, an online bridal marketplace for the resale of high-fashion wedding gowns and bridal apparel. 

To contact the authors: 
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Hailey The Wedding Dress Hustler

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