Since Julie asked me to write a post for when she’s on her honeymoon, I thought it was only fitting that we talk about weddings! I’m a financial planner and I’ve helped a number of people plan to pay for their weddings and their honeymoons, but I have to say, the people who get the worst deal when it comes to bang for their buck on a day like a wedding day are the bridesmaids. Let’s break it down.
A recent report by Mint.com put the average amount spent for a bridesmaid at just under $1700. That, my friends, is more than most of my clients make in a month. Here’s where it all comes from: engagement gift, shower gift, wedding gift, travel to bridal shower, travel to bachelorette party, contribution to bachelorette party, travel to wedding, dress, shoes, alterations, jewelry, hair, make-up, lingerie. And then if you are staying for more than the day of the wedding, hotel, food, travel around city. It all adds up.
So where can you cut it down or expect the bride to pick up the tab?
If your bride is from a traditional family, you can expect most of your day-of accoutrement to be covered like the dress, the hair and make-up, travel around the day of, maybe a hotel room. But you are expected to give a gift in this case. And coming from the South, I can tell you it had better be comparable to what is being spent on you.
If your bride is more modern, she may pick up the tab for your dress, but you will be expected to pay for it all. In this case, no major gift is required (according to me and Miss Manners). I still think a card and a gift card for breakfast the next day is nice, but you being there is the gift and they will be happy to share their day with you.
You can save on flights and hotels through discount travel sites like Hipmunk, Travelzoo, and Google flights. And see if you and a fellow bridesmaid can split a hotel room or if you can bunk with one of the couple’s local friends who has a spare bedroom.
Your accessories also don’t have to be the most expensive thing out there. You can find decent costume jewelry and shoes at thrift stores and department stores’ accessories departments. There is no need that even though the bride wants you in a diamond pendant necklace that it has to be real diamond. A nice cubic zirconium from Claire’s will probably do the trick.
If you are the bride, please be budget conscious. I’m sure most brides now are trying to do weddings on gum and shoelaces, so keep in mind that your bridesmaids’ dresses are not the place to splurge. A good alternative is to have everyone wear a dress they already own in your wedding colors or buy all the dresses at the same time to save on shipping and alterations. I know many brides who have elected to let their bridesmaids wear their favorite Little Black Dress to save the headache of finding a style that works for everyone. It helps that it’s also a cheap alternative. And be sure to talk to your Maid of Honor about the shower and the bachelorette party. A blowout weekend in Vegas is only fun if everyone can partake. I had a girlfriend who was more than happy with the bachelorette brunch we planned the day of her wedding. Everyone was grateful for the time with the bride before she was waist deep in cake-cutting and kissing Aunts from far-away lands…and her dad ended up picking up the tab anyway.
Finally, be up front from the get-go about how much you can spend. If she’s really that good of a friend, reminding her that you’re on a budget will not ruin her special day. I promise.
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