It’s an honor when a good friend or family member asks you to be a bridesmaid or groomsman in their wedding. However, it’s also a financial responsibility. Depending on the wedding budget, your friend or family member may ask you to cover your own travel expenses, dress or suit, hair and makeup — and you may also need to pay toward wedding-related parties and buy a gift for the happy couple.
Fortunately, with a little preplanning, you can be an enthusiastic part of the wedding party — without compromising your own financial goals.
There’s nothing wrong with telling your friends or family members you’d like to plan ahead on costs. “There’s a lot of variation on what brides and grooms offer to pay for, and what the bridal party has to cover,” suggests Kelli Grant, consumer reporter for CNBC.com. So just ask. If you live in a different city or state than the bride and groom, do you need to pay to travel back and forth a few times for fittings, showers and the big event? Are they covering the dress or suit or is that up to you? “And if you have financial concerns, be honest,” says Grant. “It’s better to gracefully decline to be part of the event than go into debt over someone else’s wedding,” she says.
Are you responsible for the engagement party or a bridal shower? There are lots of ways to help keep it budget-friendly, says event planner Donina Ifurung of On High Heels Events in Pasadena, California.
Some savvy brides and grooms don’t require that you buy a specific bridesmaid’s dress or suit/tuxedo. They’ll instead give you a color and let you choose your own attire, says New York City-based wedding and event planner Cat Feliciano, certified wedding and event planner and CEO of Events by Cat. If that’s the case, Feliciano suggests skipping the wedding-oriented stores. For better deals, “try the special occasion sections of big department stores,” she says.
“As a member of the wedding party, you can easily find out where your friends are registered before any of the other guests,” suggests San Diego-based event planner Francine Ribeau. “Be an early-bird shopper and grab the fresh — and less expensive — pickings,” she says.
It can make sense to book your hotel, flight and/or rental car as soon as the couple confirms their wedding date. That way, you don’t end up facing expensive, last-minute booking fees. However, if you’re flying, don’t book your seat too early — especially if it’s nonrefundable. According to surveys by CheapAir.com, the ideal “window” for great deals on domestic flights can be 104 days (or three and a half months) out to 29 days (one month) from your travel date.
Buy other people’s leftover gift cards at a discount from sites like GiftCardGranny.com to use at popular wedding registry places suggests money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. For instance, you can buy a gift card at GiftCardGranny.com at a nine percent discount. Then grab a “20 percent off any purchase” coupon from a site like CouponSherpa.com to help stretch your gift budget even farther.
If the bride and groom are holding a “destination wedding,” their group hotel rate might not be the best deal, says Woroch. Before booking a place to stay, talk to other wedding party members about splitting the cost of a nearby rental condo or home via websites like Airbnb, VRBO or Homeaway.com. Also, you don’t have to stay at the recommended hotel, notes Woroch. See if you can score a cheaper one a few miles from the reception on a website like Hotels.com. Consider whether you’ll need extra transportation if you stay elsewhere and remember cost-saving options like sharing a cab, rental or Uber car with other wedding-party members.
Instead of buying a traditional bridal shower gift, save money by creating it or offering to help make decorations for the party as your “gift,” suggests Jen Glantz, New York City-based “professional bridesmaid,” and founder of BridesmaidforHire.com. Do-it-yourself gift examples include scrapbooks, homemade frames for wedding photos or a handmade wedding guest book. Easy party décor can be centerpieces made of wood and local flowers or party favors from a local candy store. Check with the couple in advance to be sure they’re comfortable with your décor choices.
There’s no rule that you have to use the salon the bride books for the wedding party’s hair/makeup — especially if you’re paying. “You could save close to $200 by doing it yourself,” says Glantz. Just be sure to tell the bride in advance so there are no misunderstandings. Some department store makeup counters can even do special-occasion makeup if you schedule in advance and make a small minimum purchase.
Unless you’re already in a relationship, going solo to the wedding can save you big bucks, says Woroch. Why? You may feel less obligated to spend extra on a gift to cover the cost of your date. Also, if you’re traveling to the wedding, you could split a hotel room with another bridesmaid or groomsman.