Always a Bridesmaid: For Love and Money

This bridesmaid knows how to budget.

It’s February, and I’m going to be traveling to three weddings this year—so far. With three engagements just sealed over Christmas and others I predict approaching, it may be more than that. I’ll be a bridesmaid in one and maid of honor in another. And I still don’t know how I’ll come up with all the cash.

When it comes to sharing a loved one’s big day, the only thing I can think of when I hear that excited voice on the other end of the phone is “Yay!” and “Congratulations!” and “Another one bites the dust!” But usually it’s only after I’ve agreed to some degree of responsibility that I start thinking about how much it’ll cost.

For me, the biggest expense is the travel. Three plane tickets—or six nine-hours-a-leg tanks of gas for my Corolla—far outweigh any Lenox place setting I might buy or singles I’ll be tucking under the stripper’s G-string. Especially when flying into one of the most expensive airports in the United States (Cincinnati—surprising, right?). But whether you have to travel or not, there are plenty of things the bridal party ought to think about when budgeting for a loved one’s big day. I’m still working on my plan of attack—maybe writing this blog will serve as my motivation.

For starters, I’m still not sure if the bachelorette party will consist of an evening at nightclubs or a weekend getaway, so it’ll be hard to plan for that expense. I’m trying to plan ahead by siphoning off just a little bit of cash—I started saving about $50 a paycheck beginning a few months ago—into a separate savings account. Plus, I don’t want to take money for the weddings out of my own savings account—that’s a good way to overspend without knowing what’s hit me. I know myself, and when I’m spending for someone else, it somehow feels like it’s allowed, like it’s more urgent at the time, and I just spend it. I figure if I have a limit—even if I don’t know yet what that is—I’ll be better off personally.

As far as travel goes, I plan to drive as much as I can to save the cost of two plane tickets—for me and my date—for what are currently (fingers crossed) relatively low gas prices. Also, on all nights but the wedding night, I’ll save on hotel costs by staying with family or friends. I’m also hoarding vacation days so that for two consecutive wedding weekends in the same city, I can stay in town all week and only pay one trip’s travel expense.

How else to save? I figure it’s about compromise. Just as the groom makes a compromise to pretty much agree with whatever the bride wants, the bridal party can think about compromise as a way to rein in spending. If you’re going to have a fancy bridal shower at a swank venue for 50 women, maybe don’t go with the wild trip to Vegas. If you’re going to have the bridal shower at home and have the bridesmaids split the task of bringing refreshments, maybe you can spring for a hotel room, concert ticket, or some other fun outing for your bride. Fortunately, the two brides I’m working with this year are so considerate—overly so, in fact—that I know they’ll be happy with whatever I plan and can afford. Which gives me all the more reason to want to do the best I can.

Another thing I’ve realized is that everything isn’t about the bride. No, seriously—it’s not. It’s also about the bride’s friends and family. You can plan a fancy party for the bride, but if no one she loves can make it or afford it, she might not be too happy. See what the bride wants, and if it includes certain people, consider what’s doable for those folks. Especially this year, when a lot of people are hurting financially, don’t put the bride’s family out just to wow everyone. A happier bride’s family means a happier bride. (That’s right, friends: When I get married, don’t you dare cross my mom.)

In addition to the bridal shower and the bachelorette party, there’s one other thing I’m budgeting for (but let’s face it, I’ll probably stress out about the wedding gift, hair appointments, and other various expenses the week of): bridesmaid dresses. One bride didn’t have a real preference of what we got and didn’t want to have to pick, either. So the task largely fell to us to pick something that fit the color scheme and our bodies relatively well. It turned out to be a great opportunity to save money by doing a little more shopping around. You never know what shop will have a dress from three seasons ago that looks exactly like what you want to wear but, like all things last-last-season, is still less expensive.

If you tell your bride up front that you’re limited in funds—or in my case, also limited by distance—and she still wants you to be a part of her bridal party, then she understands that you may not make the dress-shopping outings, the cake tastings, or every relative’s shower. That you may not be able to go on a tropical bachelorette getaway. But I hope that my budgeting efforts allow me to do the most I can to contribute to my friends’ special days.


Katie, a local bridesmaid-to-be, writes occasionally about planning for and being part of three (and counting) friends' weddings in one year. To follow her adventures from the beginning, click here.

To read the latest Bridal Party blog posts, click here.