The High-Cost of Being a Bridesmaid and What To Do About It

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To be by your friend throughout the highs and lows of the wedding planning process, to see her jitters on The Big Day, to see the sweet but nervous smiles throughout the ceremony, and to cry along with her as she exchanges vows with her soon-to-be-brand-new-husband is something every friend wants to do. And, if you’re a lady there’s a very high likelihood that you’ve had a friend ask you to be in her wedding.

We all want to support those closest to us and to be there when they need us. But what do you do if you’re broke, in debt, have no money, are on a Spending Fast, or a Spending Diet, and you get asked to be in a wedding?

This time of year I get a lot of emails requesting tips on how to handle the high-cost of being a bridesmaid.

The emails usually go a little something like this:

“I’m a bridesmaid for one of my oldest friends this summer and I just found out that the planner of her shower wants to do a weekend away – it would include a day at the spa and 2 nights of going out dancing and having what I’m sure would be a fun time. But there is no way I can afford the hotel, spa day, dinner, drinks and all of the other expenses. What do I do?!! I’ll feel like a bad friend if I can’t go..but I will already be spending money on the dress for her wedding, which is a large expense in my opinion! Help!”

No one wants to be the friend that’s all, “How ’bout we do a potluck y’all!” (As incredibly sweet as a wedding like that would be.)

How to handle the high-cost of being a bridesmaid and what to do about it…

So, first things first. If you’ve already committed to being in the wedding you can’t back out after that. Because if you do, the friendship will likely be irretrievably broken. The only solution is to make the best of it. There are a lot of social moments that can be awkward or uncomfortable if you’re trying to save money and be frugal, and I’ve learned that sometimes it’s all about damage control.

When I find out that a friend (or sister) got engaged I try to evaluate the situation and figure out if I might be asked to be in the wedding. I figure that if I can be prepared for the request then that will make all the difference. It’s also good to think about being a bridesmaid far in advance of being asked because if you wait until she actually asks then they’ll be a super long pause and then it’ll be obvious that you’re thinking about it and she won’t like that, at all.

I consider these 8 aspects

1. Was she in my wedding?

2. How close am I to her? Acquaintance, friend (but not super close), friend (close), best friend, or sister?

3. Can I pay for the bridesmaid dress that will most likely be an average of $100 + possible hemming and tailoring? Matching shoes, accessories (necklace, earrings, etc.), hair styling and coordinating makeup will also be an additional cost.

4. If I’m asked to be the Maid of Honor I’ll be responsible for throwing the Bridal Shower and (most likely) the Bachelorette Party too. If I don’t end up being responsible for hosting the Bachelorette Party too then I’ll be responsible for making sure it happens, and attendance at both the Bridal Shower and Bachelorette Party will be expected.

5. If I’m asked to be a Bridesmaid then I may be asked by the Maid of Honor to pay for part of the Bridal shower and/or part of the Bachelorette Party and I’ll be expected to give a gift for each event as well.

6. Will the Wedding, Bridal shower, and Bachelorette party be out of state? Because that will mean food, flight, hotel, and car rental costs.

7. Do I have enough paid time off (PTO) time from work to participate in and attend all of the events? If I don’t have enough PTO that could mean a loss of income.

8. Can I also afford a wedding gift for the couple?

It feels like a bummer to think about these things during such exciting times but it’s super important because if you can’t afford to be a part of the wedding and all that it entails it’s best to tell her at the time she asks you to be in the wedding. Make a heavy emphasize on the fact that you love her, be forthright, be honest, and lay it out there. It’s time to go into heart-to-heart mode and explain that your money situation is not ideal right now and that you want to be a part of the wedding, but maybe in other ways?

Some things you could do that show your love and support for her and her big day are things like:

Helping to set up the reception area so it’s just right
Doing last-minute errands and tasks the day of the wedding (it is SO helpful to have someone dedicated to the random things that come up that aren’t expected)
Or, if you have a skill like graphic design, offer to help with the various event invites. If it’s photography maybe you could take an image for the Save the Date card, or if you love flowers you could offer to arrange the bouquets.
Basically, wrack your brain to think of something you can do to help her and support her throughout the wedding planning process and on the wedding day. It may be a hard conversation to have and she may not like you after you tell her where you’re at but it’s better to do that and be up-front then to back out after she’s already pictured you standing up there with her.

Another thing to do is to try to be a part of the bridesmaid dress selection process from the very beginning. This means keeping the bride’s Wedding Day vision in-tact but also helping to steer the girls into the less expensive dress options rather than the “it costs WHAT?!!!” territory. And, you get bonus points if the bride picks an inexpensive and cute dress that you can actually really wear again, like, for real wear again, and not pretend “Oh, YEAHHH, I’ll definitely wear it again!”

In the end, an honest look at your financial situation and a long talk with your friend just might be the perfect solution to the high-priced Bridesmaid Blues.

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Have you ever been asked to be a bridesmaid and knew you couldn’t afford it? How did you handle it? Do you have any tips for those who are struggling with this?

37 thoughts on “The High-Cost of Being a Bridesmaid and What To Do About It

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  1. Leslie

    I find that alot of times, you can find popular bridesmaids dresses (David’s Bridal, Alfred Angelo) on sale for cheap on WeddingBee or Recycled Weddings, etc. Go try on with everyone, get your size, and then it’s usually pretty easy to find the color and size!

  2. Leslie

    Colors are rarely changed, or styles, so for example, you would go to wedding bee or whatever and type in the color and size, like “Guava size 4” and it would pull if any are for sale- sometime I will google it too, because then it pulls from all the used wedding websites- I’ve also sold a few that would just get lost in my closet afterwards!

  3. Kate

    my best friend just got engaged and i know it’s going to cost me a ton of money, while i’m happy to plan…they also decided to get married in may, so there’s unfortunately not a ton of time to save like with a usually year long engagement. and we have 2 other weddings in may as well, one being a destination wedding. i am definitely going to have to get creative!

  4. Vivian

    I’m getting married in October so this has been on my mind. I want to be as little of a burden on my bridesmaids as possible. Instead of forcing everyone to wear the same dress, I’m giving them a printed swatch of the wedding color palette witch the parameters that the dress needs to be knee length. That way they can choose something that fits their budget yet still looks coordinated with the rest of the group.

    Also if you are the MOH and you’re out of state ask your friend to appoint someone local who you can plan the bridal shower (mom?) and/or the bachelorette if you don’t have the funds to plan them. I think a practical bride would understand this request and appreciate your honesty. You can still be a part of the day from far away by sending a bridal shower gift, or maybe spring for all her drinks at the bachelorette party.

    Lastly consider starting the bachelorette at a fun lingerie/toy shop. Lots of boutiques have begun to offer their store location as a party starter (chance for them to make money!) Many allow drinks/snacks to be brought in too. You can ask everyone to pitch in for the bride’s gift card to the store so she can shop at the party! Follow this with a night out at the bar where everyone pays their own way and you’ve made a great night without busting the bank.

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      great ideas vivian and i’m sure your girls are SO appreciative that you are thinking about them financially too! my little sister did that for us and it was so awesome to know that she was considering the cost of things for us.

    2. Lynnette

      I think what you decided to do was fantastic with the idea of a color swatch and parameters. Then even if they couldn’t find a dress, it could actually be made from many of the wonderful formal patterns. It is a fantastic idea.

  5. Erin

    Thanks for your great post Anna! Your blog has wonderful tips and I love your practical approach to things. I, too, have found that a change in spending is so connected to a change in heart- if we’re leaning on it to validate us and make us feel special and acceptable, it will be SO hard to break the spending cycle!!

    I got married shortly after graduating from college, and I knew my friends were all as broke as I was! But I was having a big wedding (lots of church family to invite)…, and I did want it to be elegant and pretty. Even before my hubs and I got engaged, though, I knew I wanted our wedding to be more about the people who had shaped our lives, turning us into the people who eventually fell in love, than about us Us US (and especially not ME ME ME). So, I looked and looked and looked and eventually found super cute dresses from Target online, on sale for around 50 buckaroos. I would never spend that much on a dress for myself, but for bridesmaids dresses? pretty cheap. I let my gals choose their own shoes (color was chocolate brown, so it was easy), and their own earrings– because who can even see them anyway? The out of towners stayed at my house so they wouldn’t have to pay hotel costs (I wanted time with them anyway). We did get manicures for the ceremony ($16), but we gave each other facials and massages. They all have very different hair, so I let them style it the way they liked best. I think the average total cost for them was somewhere around $150, including travel.

    LITTLE DID I KNOW (ok maybe I suspected this might be the case), that by letting go of what the wedding industry screamed was “my right” to micromanage and make everyone kiss my white lacy backside, I had the most cooperative, laid-back, drama free wedding preparation EVER. My memories of my time with my bridesmaids are meaningful and special, with no negative tensions to taint them. And I still had a stunningly gorgeous wedding. I would highly encourage brides to make a few sacrifices for your friend, or to at least be understanding when they cannot throw themselves under the financial bus for the sake of your dream. Be considerate of the expenses listed in the post. It CAN be done, and it can be a really positive experience!!!

    Sorry for the short novel… I just wanted to share a happy example of what a cost-considerate wedding can be!

  6. S

    My husband was asked to be in his friends out of state wedding. He told his friend he couldn’t afford to go. I am not sure how tactful he was but his friend of 30years hasn’t spoken to him sin ce.

  7. Amelia

    I recently got asked to be a bridesmaid in a wedding, I had to decline but my friend fully understood since I live half way across the world from her at the time being, I am still trying to save money up for a flight back to just be able to be at the wedding, shes like my sister!

    My wedding was sweet and small, I only had a maid of honor and best man, we told them the color and to just dress nice. The original plan was to have the small wedding now (we where moving) then later have a bigger ceremony….our little wedding turned out so amazing we decided to not even have another ceremony. My uncle did my hair for it, i got a cute white dress for 30 bucks from a local shop, paid my friends dad 50 dollars (the county judge) to be there to wed us, had beautiful decorations that I got on sale, made my own cake with my best friend (it looked great), the wedding was at a cute local park that is free to use, and we borrowed the chairs for the wedding from a community build (small town and connections!) I spent at the most for the whole wedding 200 dollars and it was amazing, and beautiful, I am thankful that I had friends, family, and great connections!

    1. Lise

      Amelia – THAT’S what a wedding is supposed to be.
      About love and the unity of two hearts – two families into one.

      I’m SO frustrated with my friends and their pomp and show.
      None of them are thinking about anything but how they can have a debutante showing of a wedding and aren’t conscious of the impact these demands have on other people.

      As their friend you want to be there – but as a pragmatic person you feel torn because you can’t legitimize spending $2000 – $3000 a pop (which is what it’s adding up to for my friends)
      Although there’s never been a direct ‘ you MUST spend this, or you HAVE to do that… it’s all implied.

      I truly miss the days where a wedding was the family and friends getting together, pooling our talents and resources to create the most special beautiful day for the couple we all love together to celebrate their love.

      Since when did weddings become a chance for everyone to be a celebrity for a day!

      CONGRATULATIONS on what sounds like a glorious and beautiful celebration of your love with your partner.
      (it’s truly refreshing to hear about)

      1. Lynnette

        You could very much think like me. I simply could not bring myself to add the burden of the expense of a formal they might never wear again. Simply I choose the pattern and material from Simplicity and I had the money to buy all of it for the Bride’s maids and Matron of Honor. Then we all got together and pinned the pattern pieces, my mom cut them, my aunt made the dresses. Each dress took a day to make after the pinning. All the Groom’s men were required to wear Black shirts and black slacks and had Cream colored vests made in Satin, with the groom wearing a Red Satin Vest. My father and Uncle cooked all the meats, the family brought dishes to pass. All the ladies in my family made all the decorations. It was the best day ever.

  8. Lise

    My friends all so wonderfully decided to get married in the same year – FIVE WEDDINGS one year… all across the world from Mexico to Newfoundland Canada.

    I’ve been asked to a bridesmaid in three and MOH for one.

    One of the girls asked me to be a maid (and I said yes) before she announced any details.

    She then announces she’s booking a $2500 per person destination wedding to Mexico – just five weeks ahead of another girl who I am MOH too (and who’s also having a $2500 per person destination wedding to Mexico!!)

    I simply cannot afford $5000 in five weeks AND sacrifice all of my time off.

    WHAT DO I DO?!?!

  9. rae

    My friend and I sort of lost connection when I got pregnant. We saw eachother twice in the post year. I found out via Facebook that she was getting married! Two days after I had my daughter she asked me to be a bridesmaid… I said yes not having a moment to even digest the idea! My daughter is now 2 months old and she has picked my dress and I have to be fitted for it this week. first off I do not like the dress that I will have to spend $200 on, and second I do not plan on being this size in 7 months when she gets married! I’m so torn, I should not have just said yes. I cannot afford it and I just had a baby, I’m flattered but I truly wish I didn’t feel obligated to say yes ! So my question is, would it be completely disrespectful to back out ?! tia

    1. Brandi

      Rae, what did you do? I says yes to be in my friend’s wedding, she was just in mine in March and hers is a little under a year from now. Well shortly after she asked me to be in the wedding I found out I was pregnant. I’m due 6 months before her wedding and just can’t afford all the costs and the time consumption. So please say things worked out well for you!! :)

  10. Megan

    Hey Anna- I’ve been following your blog for about 18months now and I love it.

    I’ve gone to this post because I’m in a pickle. What would you suggest if in the moment we pannicked and said ‘yes’ before we’d worked out if we can actually afford to go?

    Last year my boyfriend and I went on our first overseas trip (in 7 years!!) We are from Australia and went to Italy for a few weeks. We made the extra effort of purchasing a flight to the UK visit my best friend from high school, who has moved there to be with her fiance and 3yrd daughter.

    While we were there she completely struck me by surprise asking me to be the maid of honour and telling me it would mean the world to her. I pannicked and said yes- I’ve never been a bridesmaid before- hoping that somehow we’d come up with the money. That was August 2014- it’s now January 2015 and I’ve realised we’re f**ked financially. We don’t have savings, we are in debt, we are trying desperately to get our lives started together- my boyfriend can’t even afford to buy me a ring to propose to me! He’s been applying to find a better job and I’ve been working to try and get my business up and running but it’s just not happening in time…

    So now I don’t know what to do. I feel like if I can’t afford to go, I need to tell her really really soon- her wedding is in May, so only 4 months away, so if I can’t and I leave it any longer I know she’d be furious.

    I want to be there for her but it’s so hard- the UK is a very long way away from Australia and the flights alone are so expensive!

    Your thoughts would be very appreciated xx


  11. Linh

    Hello my sister is getting married In June. So I am wanting to plan a bridal shower in April. I am not sure what I am suppose to do. I am thinking a spa day for at least ten girls. Would I be responsible for the other girls or just for the bride? In May we are going to vegas for her bachlorette. Seems never ending. Lol

  12. KM

    The money issue has been one of the toughest parts of the wedding planning process. I am not liking the wedding planning, it is not fun. I don’t want my bridesmaids to go broke or spend lots of money for me so I am trying to be as cost effective as possible. I am buying their bridesmaid dresses for them, even though most of them insisted that I didn’t have to. I am chipping in for their hair and make-up, if they so choose to have it done professionally. I gave them the choice of having it done professionally or doing it themselves. Either way, it doesn’t matter to me. I don’t care if they all have or don’t have the same hair style. I am also thinking about necklaces, but if I do, I am going to purchase it for them so they don’t have to worry about it. The wedding is five hours away in a destination that is not usually a hotspot. I feel bad about making my friends drive five hours. However, the wedding is in a city where almost half of the guests will live. I moved from there when I was 11, so pretty much all of my family is in there, including my grandparents and they are too old to travel. If I didn’t know anyone there, I would just have it where we live. Anyway, I don’t expect any gifts, in fact I want to tell my bridal party not to get me anything since they are spending the time and money to travel there. Is there a tactful way to do that? I do feel bad that two of my bridesmaids have to fly in, but they would have to fly in even if it was where we live. Anyway, I would love to cover their lodging too, but it’s just not in our budget. I don’t expect them to come for the bachelorette party or the bridal shower since they are a plane ride away. No expectation at all. I am just going to tell them to wear silver shoes, whatever silver shoes they can find. I am trying to be as considerate as possible, but I still feel guilty.

  13. Distressed

    Help me!!! My fiancé, daughter, and myself are in my friends wedding and I’m the maid of honor. I’ve spent upward of $2500 so far and I haven’tput the bachelorette party together yet. She has 4 bridesmaids and two of which have not participated in anything and NOONE has given me a DIME. I love the bride and groom but I can’t afford this. I am a mother and I have a family of my own. I’ve talked to the bride only to find out she is broke and her husband to be is not helping at all. I can’t pay for one more thing. And they’ve gotten tons of money from the brides mother. And I am engaged and my parents haven’t offered me a dime for my wedding. What can I do????

  14. Harvey

    While the rest of her budgets had to be significantly adjusted in order to be a bridesmaid, including clothing and her savings, another woman said she never regretted the commitment. “I ve made a major investment in being a bridesmaid but I see it as an investment in our relationship,” she said. “I didn t really tally up the costs of this last wedding. When I make my budget, I prioritize gifts, parties and celebrating the people in my life.”

  15. Kathleen

    What is wrong with people? I would never put someone in a difficult financial position. I decided to keep things very simple and have my sister as my bridesmaid for a number of reasons. However had it been a friend, or anyone else, I would have done the same:
    1. Let her choose her own dress (just told her my rough colour scheme), shoes, accessories
    2. All she has to do is walk me up the aisle. Literally. Duties end there.

    Despite the fact my wedding is in 6 weeks, I actually found this page when looking for advice for the issue that arose this morning. I got a text message from my boss saying they are collecting ‘gift money’ for someone who is leaving for a (REALLY WELL PAID) job. My work was suddenly cut to part time 9 months ago after the company lost money… I am 100% supporting my fiance (who is at uni), pay more than half my income in rent, and just had 7 weeks unpaid off work as I am pregnant and had to stay away from the harsh chemicals in the lab at work during my first trimester, my fiance just had to print off his thesis ($100 for 3 colour copies!). Nobody at work helped me out or showed any understanding and now they put me in this awkward situation…

  16. Taylor

    Delicate situation. So my fiancée and I recently got engaged since we knew it was going to be a destination wedding from the start, so we told that to our party when we asked them, or shortly after in 1 case that we would be traveling involved for the wedding. Until recently the wedding party has been great, they are a solid unit of planning wonder. They have arranged an engagement party, started the pre planning for the shower and bachelorette parties and already have a established a chain of command. 1 of the bridesmaids is from out of town but has already booked complete travel to the engagement party and wedding. But now due to unexpected circumstances after the engagement party she doesn’t think she will be able to help out with the other costs, the shower and bachelorette. The MOH is pissed and wants me to crack the whip. Is that justified when BM#2 has already put out more $$ for the wedding the rest of the party combined?

    Our parents aren’t able to help and neither side is particularly traditional that they would consider anything other than a bachelorette parties a must have. For that sake neither are we. Do I tell the Bridal party to tone it down or tell the one to figure it out or step down.

  17. Brandi

    I think you should tell MOH to turn it down and change the plans a bit to accomodate YOUR wedding party. You obviously asked BM2 to be in your wedding for a reason. It’s your wedding so make sure MOH doesn’t have a say in who’s part of it or not. It should be fairly easy to change plans. Like bachlorette party everyone pays for their own and splits the bride’s tab. I had 3 in my wedding party and 1 wasn’t able to help at all financially. If my other 2 said to kick her out I’d be pissed. I told them I don’t need anything crazy and if they needed a little help I could pitch in a little but not much since we payed for the wedding ourself.
    But if you don’t want BM2 in the bridal party then kick her out, but I highly doubt that’s how you feel.

  18. jade

    I am a bridesmaid for my best friend who has gone a little wedding crazy. The dresses we HAVE to get are over $200 no exceptions. The resort hotel that we have to stay at is $240 a night for 2 nights, my husband and son have to rent tuxes. And then there is $100 for hair and $75 for makeup, plus shoes, jewelry etc. e Cannot afford this at all and we have a month to have everything payed for. HELP

    1. Kill Me

      You’re lucky – the wedding I’m in the dress is over $400 and we get NO say at all. Same with shoes. And, we are paying for hair and make-up.

  19. jason3

    It is absurd and rude to invite people to spend thousands of dollars for your “Big Day”. I know American women have been suckered into this idea that their wedding day is the end-all be-all of days. It may be for you, your immediate family, and for those female friends who share the same bizarre fixation, but it is not for the rest of us. Stop being psychotic and expecting people to spend and arm and a leg for your princess party.

  20. Brandy

    I have a question. I’ve been asked to be in a shower and I accepted. I’m the bridesmaid. I was asked last June of 2015. I recently lost a job, but just started one. Money has been tight. I’m not being frugal but more inquisitive because of the nature of how the maid of honor is handling the stuff. I have not received much information except half of a text that was so big that I didn’t get the entire message. When I finally got it resent, it didn’t say much for the cost. I have been not asked anything about any input for much of the planning. I’m a sibling of the bride. I should at least know a bit of what is going on. Anyway, yesterday out of the blue I was asked to pay 100 dollars. I simply asked what it was for exactly because I thought everything was taken care of through each of the bridemaids contributions, including my own. I responded that I could pay 50 and then another 50 within the next few weeks. I then received a nasty text exclaiming how I should have known better if I wanted to be in the wedding and how everyone is upset with me. I wasn’t aware of the last part.

    As being part of the family, I feel left out, hurt and being shamed for just asking what the 100 was for. I never said at any time that I wasn’t going to pay for it.

    I also feel like if there is going to be some planning for a wedding shower and bachelorette party that there should be some conversation amongst everyone on what people would like to do. It feels like a surprise after surprise. I’ve kept my composure and simply asked questions when it seemed like everyone else already knew the answer. I have not told my sister of what is going on and do not plan on doing that.

    Is it wrong for me to ask and is it wrong for me to state that I will pay 50 dollars in two separate checks? To add insult to this, she wanted me to submit the payment within two weeks because as she put it “She’s not a bank”. (That was her response to what the cost was for and that I was able to pay but in two separate checks, because of the job situation and also unbeknownst to her, I have been helping out with other things for the wedding.)

    Any insight would be helpful.


    1. Brigitte

      Brandy, I understand your situation, but you are in a delicate position b/c you are sibling of the bride. You are not wrong for asking MOH what expense is, especially since you already contributed. You will have to open communication with the bride, bride ‘ s mother, or another bridesmaid that you know well. I know this is an old post. Hope everything worked out well.

  21. Jen

    Great tips! My bridesmaids only had to pay $30 for their dresses and I tried to keep everything minimal! It’s possible!

  22. gerripotter

    One of my best friends is having a destination wedding and I am a bridesmaid. I have spend $1500 on flight and accommodations already, plus I have to spend money while there and buy my dress. Instead of offering to help any of the bridesmaids with any associated costs my friend, the bride, spent 10 000 on a boob job. Is it fair that I am feeling a bit annoyed and not planning to bring a gift to the wedding?

  23. Petra

    When I got asked by text message from a friend I’d known for six years I thought it’d be great! She’s always been really nice and generous when we were at uni. But her sister was maid of honour and took care of the Bachelorette party. Her sister had her own agenda to use the Hens party as a way to go interstate which met paying for hotels, food and flights. Her sister picked an expensive fiver star hotel. Three of the brides close friends pulled out. One of the other bridesmaids already lived in the interstate location so was happy to save some money as the party was coming to her. I had to fork the money to go to it. In hindsight I could’ve been honest and said I couldn’t afford it. But a part of me was desperate to keep this friendship. What made things worse was the suggestions I made about having dress code with colour co-ordination for one of the nights and games were disregarded. The night before we flew out the bride’s sister just booked a random over priced high tea place and a stripper show and drinks package for a bar. Knowing well we had already paid for flights and accommodation. All the people attending were doctors so maybe there was an assumption that we could pay. BUT OMG WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS!

    1. Anna Newell Jones Post author

      Hello Petra. Thank you so much for sharing. Social pressure to spend is a real problem. As you mention, honesty is the best policy, not only if you can’t afford it but even if you just don’t want to. Nobody is obligated to give a blanc check to someone else.


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