Very few things are as heart-warming as being asked to be part of someone’s wedding party. Your friend or family member values your connection so much that they want you to be an integral part of the biggest day of their life. But, the one thing you may not have realized when you agreed to be a bridesmaid or groomsmen is just how pricey the role can be. Back in 2017, the average person would spend $1,200 to be part of a wedding party. But—between outfits, flights, and hosting the bachelor or bachelorette—that bottom line is definitely on the rise. Suddenly, what was originally thought of as an honor is starting to feel like a financial burden.
“There’s a constant narrative of ‘you only get married once’ or ‘my dream wedding is a once in a lifetime experience,’” says Raya Reaves, founder and finance coach of City Girl Savings, LLC. ”Both of these narratives make it hard to put a price limit on the occasion. If you’re the friend that tells the bride a budget is ideal, it could be taken the wrong way—and no one wants to upset a bride.”
But, what if it doesn’t have to be that way? What if it’s possible to show up for your loved one without blowing your budget? To help, check out these expert-approved tips for navigating this pricey situation.
Chances are, the bride or groom in your life is laser-focused on planning their dream day—and likely haven’t put much thought into how much you’re spending. (It’s not personal; the soon-to-be newlyweds have a lot of details to work through.) Instead of waiting for your loved one to ask about your budget, advocate for yourself and set boundaries ahead of time.
According to Pamela Eyring, president of the Protocol School of Washington, it’s a good idea to ask about the financial investment before you agree to the position. But, if you already said “yes” to participating in a wedding party, you’ll want to manage expense expectations ASAP.
“We tend to avoid confrontation and instead we harbor bad feelings or wait until the last minute to decline which can strain relationships,” she shares. “If you don’t ask about the investment, you won’t be able to make a good decision for your financial situation.”
When your friend or family member starts to talk about their wedding, gently let them know that you need to stay on a tight budget. “Help settle their emotions by explaining how important their wedding is to you and your desire to attend,” Eyring adds.
With so many wedding duties to tend to, it’s virtually impossible to do everything—especially if you’re working with a tight budget. So, what’s a person to do if they have to miss out on a bridal shower or bachelor party? For Eyring, honesty is the best policy.
“Speak honestly to the bride about your financial situation, stressing that as much as you’d like to attend, you cannot,” she says. “Suggest a compromise: you’ll be able to pay for your bridesmaid dress, travel to the wedding, be at the rehearsal and her wedding, but not be able to attend the bachelorette party if it’s too costly.”
Another way to master the money talk is taking a solution-first approach. “If the problem is you can’t afford to buy the bridesmaid dress, a solution could be to rent a similar style for the big day,” Reaves shares. “As long as you approach the conversation honestly, focus on the solutions you can make work, and keep your support high, you shouldn’t feel bad about pumping the brakes on your own spending. There is life after the wedding!”
Don’t Take it Personally
That said, it’s possible (and totally understandable) that your bride or groom will be disappointed to learn you can’t show up for them how they’d hoped. (No matter how legitimate your budget boundaries are, your loved one might perceive it as a slight to their special day.)
“That friend in your wedding party doesn’t want to disappoint you, but she also doesn’t want to add on to her debt,” Reaves adds. “Your bestie bride does care about your financial wellbeing. She’s just focused on one of the most important days of her life.”
Instead of letting your emotions get the better of you, it’s important to not take any conflict personally. If your bride or groom is bummed that you won’t be present during some pre-wedding festivities, see how you can support your loved one from afar. Whether you send a bottle of bubbly to their bachelorette party or research hotel options, small gestures will remind them that you’re a team player.
Nowadays, being asked to be a member of a couple’s wedding party isn’t exactly a surprise. In fact, you probably have a loose idea of how many times you’ll be a bridesmaid or groomsmen. So, why not get ahead of any financial fervor by saving ahead of time?
“If you have a lot of friends who are looking to get married in the coming years, open a savings account dedicated to future weddings—yours included.’” Reaves recommends. “You may not know what the price tag is that early on, but having something saved ahead of time will take the financial pressure off.”
According to the financial coach, setting aside as little as $25 per month will make a huge dent into your wedding party price tag. That said, you may not be able to implement a long-term saving plan for a wedding that’s a few months away. Instead, Reaves encourages you to cut back on non-essential expenses. “This is a temporary situation, and it’s better to save as much as possible to help you avoid using credit.” After all, that luxurious vacation or designer bag can wait until after your special someone says, “I do.”