Being in a wedding may be an honor, but it’s expensive. Like, really expensive. Like, “I have to spend hundreds of dollars on clothes and travel then buy you a present to thank you for the opportunity” expensive. According the the most recent American Express Spending and Savings Tracker, the cost of being in a bridal party is now $701, up 13% from 2014.
But an honor is supposed to be priceless — or at least not send you to the poor house. Here are some ways to trim the bridal party sticker shock:
Navigating sartorial demands is tricky because you’re limited to the wishes of the bride and groom.
Fellas, there’s not much you can do to reduce the cost of a tuxedo, but some tux shops do offer discounts when everyone rents from the same place. Unless you plan to wear it four or more times in the next few years, you’ll want to rent instead of buy.
Ladies have a little more wiggle room here. Once the bride has settled on a color and style (a process during which you can advocate for the lets-get-different-dresses-that-express-our-personality-and-are-consequently-cheaper approach) you can start scouring the recesses of the internet to find “gently used” dresses. Tradesy has a bridesmaid section, but steadfast options like Ebay can also help you find discounted dresses. Also, a local tailor may be cheaper than a bridal salon for alterations, so shop around before settling on a seamstress. And remember, you’re probably only going to wear the dress once — no need to splurge for a perfect fit, just enough tailoring to help you feel confident.
The American Express study also found that the average cost of a wedding gift is $106, plus an additional $77 for the shower gift, $86 for the bachelor/bachelorette party, and $89 for the engagement party.
One way to avoid racking up the gift expenses is by offering to contribute to the wedding in a creative way. Good at graphic design? Ask if they need help designing the invitations. A photographer on the side? Offer to take the engagement photos. When your friend tries to compensate you for your work, tell them it’s your present to them for their special day. Not only will your skills make a touching gift, they will also save the bride and groom money in the long run.
If your creative skills aren’t up to par, you still have options. First, try getting to the registry ASAP, before the cheap options (trivets! wooden spoons!) get scooped up. Pairing them with other low-cost items can help you create a themed gift (i.e. measuring cups + mixing bowel + cookie cutters = starter set for bakers) without selling your soul to pay for the professional stand mixer. If the registry still isn’t an option, you can buy off the list – just make sure you keep the couple’s style and preferences in mind, and always include a gift receipt.
Buddy up. With hotel rooms averaging $141 nationwide, split the cost with a fellow member of the bridal party. And though it’s hard to strategize when to get the cheapest flights, studies suggest booking 50 to 100 days before the event to get the best deal.
Again, booking early can help transportation costs, but also consider Airbnb for cheaper lodging. For wild nights, consider locations that offer a high concentration of bars and restaurants so you can walk from place to place instead of relying on cabs or renting a limousine. You can also double down on the weekend by hosting both the bachelorette and bridal shower at the same time. It cuts travel costs in half, and one trip means less time off of work.
Bridesmaids are also often tasked with throwing the bridal shower, and food, decorations, alcohol and favors add up fast. One way to curb the cost is to host the event in someone’s home instead of renting out a room in a restaurant. You’ll avoid rental fees and have more flexibility with food and alcohol. It’s also a chance to flex your Pinterest muscles and adopt a DIY approach. Unless you want the shower to be a complete surprise, run generic ideas past the bride. If she’d rather not have the shower at someone’s home, consider parks (have a backup plan for weather), fraternal organizations or community spaces in condo or apartment complexes as well as her favorite restaurants.
And even though the financial tab for the shower often falls on the ladies, you groomsman may not be in the clear for long. Jack and Jill wedding showers are on the rise.
The Alt Option
Remember, if money is tight, being honest with your friend from the very beginning can help avoid a lot of headaches in the future. You can say no to the opportunity, and hopefully your friendship is strong enough that the bride or groom will understand. Start by acknowledging how honored you are to be offered a part in their day, but explain that financial constraints might keep you from performing your duties. You can finish the conversation by offering to help in other ways, like hosting the bridal shower or helping with last minute crafts and decorations. Besides being open with them, you also want to have the conversation as soon as possible to avoid causing last minute stress for the happy couple.
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