You’ve been asked to be in a wedding. How exciting! But wait—before you accept, there are a few things to consider. While it’s an incredible honor to be in a friend or loved one’s wedding, the cost of being a bridesmaid is more than you think. There are plenty of hidden monetary expenses as well as the time and emotional energy that goes into being a bridesmaid.
For some people, the commitment is more than they can realistically afford. If you absolutely can’t make it work, it’s totally okay to say you’d rather be a guest or prefer to participate in a less expensive role. If you want to make it happen, though, go into the experience armed with the right attitude and follow these tips!
The Cost of Being a Bridesmaid: (Way) More Than Just a Dress
You might think the bridesmaid dress is the most expensive part of being in a friend’s wedding. Turns out it’s just a small percentage of the wedding expenses associated with bridesmaid duties. Wedding Wire estimates that the average cost of being a bridesmaid is $1200 for each wedding. Yikes!
It’s worth noting, though, that the cost of being a bridesmaid—like the cost of living—varies by region. Bridesmaids on the west coast pay an average of $1360 per wedding, whereas Midwest ‘maids have it cheapest at $1100. Shoutout to our local Minnesota ‘maids!
No matter where the wedding is being held, or how much travel is involved, you'll be glad you researched the cost of being a bridesmaid before committing to such an important role. So now that we know the average cost of participating in a wedding, let's break it down!
Bridesmaid Duties Are Expensive: Parties, Travel, Gifts, Oh My!
Okay, so what are all these extra costs associated with bridesmaid duties? Here’s a breakdown.
- Alterations: Unless you’re paying big bucks to order perfectly-fitted gown, most bridesmaid dresses are not custom made. Nearly all bridesmaids will have to get their dresses altered in some way—shortened, taken in, straps added, etc. The cost of these alterations can quickly drive up the overall cost of the dress and should be considered when purchasing.
- Parties: Bridesmaids are expected to throw the bride several different parties. That often means buying or making treats for the engagement party, party favors for the bridal shower, raunchy decorating for the bachelorette party, and more. Many brides are opting for destination bachelorette parties, too. A night out is one thing, but a weekend away is another and can quickly break the bank if you haven’t prepared for the expense.
- Travel: If you’re lucky, the wedding is close to where you live. For many, however, attending a wedding involves travel. This can be as cheap as a $30 tank of gas or as expensive as a $650 cross-country flight.
- Accommodation: Even if you live in town, most brides want their ‘maids near them the night before the wedding. This means that most bridesmaids will have to pay for 1-2 nights in a hotel.
- Gifts: A wedding shower gift. Lingerie for the bachelorette party. A wedding gift. Even though bridesmaids are already paying a lot, it’s typically expected that they give gifts at each occasion. That can easily put them out an extra couple hundred dollars.
- Hair, Makeup, and Accessories: Some brides will want the bridal party to get their hair, makeup, and nails done together for the wedding. They might also insist on matching accessories and shoes. Altogether, these expenses can match or exceed the cost of a dress.
While these expenses vary by wedding, it’s easy to see how bridesmaid duties can be quite expensive. Start saving early for the cost of being a bridesmaid so you’re not struck by all the expenses at once! Some young women even set aside a certain portion of their monthly savings for wedding expenses. After all, it’s likely they’ll be asked to participate in or attend a significant number of weddings in their 20s.
Discuss the Bride’s Expectations for Bridesmaid Duties
Based on the estimates above, it’s easy to see how the cost of being a bridesmaid can vary widely—it all depends on the bride. Buzzfeed interviewed seven bridesmaids to find out how much their wedding expenses were. One bridesmaid managed to only spend $310 because her dress only cost $40, the wedding was in-town, and the bride paid for her ‘maids hair. Another bride, however, had to cough up a steep $3,000 for cross-country travel, party expenses, the dress, and more.
When a friend asks you to be in her wedding, talk about her expectations for the bridesmaid duties. Does she want a destination bachelorette party? Is her heart set on a $300 bridesmaid dress? Will she or her parents help defer the cost of certain bridesmaid expenses? While it may seem awkward, having this conversation early on will help you avoid unpleasant (or downright unaffordable!) surprises later. Besides, if you’re good friends, she’ll understand. Being transparent about your financial situation may also help her realize the importance of helping her bridesmaids save money.
Even if you agree to be a bridesmaid right away, it’s okay to talk about budget later when picking out bridesmaid dresses and determining other expenses. Ask the bride what she wants in a bridesmaid dress, then offer to do the preliminary search. She’ll likely be grateful to have one less thing to research, and you can find a budget friendly option that suits everyone. All Kennedy Blue dresses are under $150, so browse the full collection of bridesmaid dresses or check out this post highlighting 27 great options under $150!
The Mental “Expenses” of Being a Bridesmaid
Okay, so you’ve crunched the numbers and are prepared for the financial cost of being a bridesmaid. Great! It’s also important to be prepared for the mental “expenses” as well. Fulfilling your bridesmaid duties requires a lot of time and planning. You’ll need to be emotionally invested in helping the bride achieve her vision of the big day throughout the planning period. Bridesmaids should help diffuse the stress of preparation and make it as easy as possible for the bride to make decisions. It’s also your job as an attendant to be patient when (yes, when) the bride has a freak out. Or two. Or three. It’s all part of the experience, trust us.
Consider the Couple’s Wedding Expenses
Yes, it’s expensive to be in a wedding. Consider in comparison how much more the couple are spending on the wedding. This is to be expected—it’s their wedding, not yours, after all—but it can make you feel better about the cost of being a bridesmaid. You obviously care a lot about the couple and are most likely willing to spend a bit to take part in their big day. Take a deep breath, do the math, and get budgeting.
If You Can’t Afford the Cost of Being a Bridesmaid
Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it work, it just isn’t feasible. Nobody wants to let their friend down, but you can’t argue with math if the budget just doesn’t add up.
If you know you can’t afford to be a bridesmaid but still want to support the bride on her big day, ask to take on a different role. There are plenty of wedding roles beyond the wedding party with a much lower financial commitment. Offer to be a passage reader, a program attendant, or even a personal attendant. The personal attendant fulfills a similar role to the bridesmaid, but primarily on the day-of. She gets to spend time with the bride on the big day, helping her get ready and making sure everything is organized, but doesn’t need a matching dress. It’s a great way to still be closely involved without becoming too financially involved!
Knowing what to expect financially is an important part of being a bridesmaid. If you’re in a pinch money-wise, being asked to spend a lot to be in a friend’s wedding can quickly breed resentment. Yikes! That’s not how you want to remember the experience. If you’re aware of the cost of being a bridesmaid at the time you’re asked, though, the whole process will be a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
Weddings are expensive, but they’re also SO fun and memorable! You’ll make incredible memories being a part of your friend’s big day. You’ll also probably meet some awesome new friends through the planning stages and hanging out with the rest of the bridal party. At the end of the day, the couple will be SO thankful that you were a part of their big day—and that’s priceless.
How much have you had to spend to be a bridesmaid? What was one thoughtful way the couple helped you save money? Let us know!