I visited my sister this past weekend and one topic of conversation that came up a few times was the cost associated with being a bridesmaid. We both have lots of friends getting married this summer and have each had the joy of being a bridesmaid in at least one wedding this season. It is no news that weddings are a pricey endeavor, but usually these discussions focus on the cost for the bride or the bride and groom. There are so many great resources out there for wedding budgets for brides, but as my sister and I discovered, not nearly as many for bridesmaids or members of the bridal party. Being a bridesmaid is an honor and a treat, but the costs can add up and surprise you if you aren’t prepared.
Based on our experiences, I put together a general bridesmaid’s budget guide. My hope is that this will help future bridesmaids and allow them to be able to focus on the exciting marriage of their dear friend or family member, rather than the shock of each individual wedding-related cost.
Start by budgeting for a gift for each shower you plan to attend. Your overall budget for this category will depend on whether or not you are the hostess. If you host a bridal shower, include the cost of invitations, food, drinks, decorations, location (if necessary), and any bridal shower game prizes (if necessary). Budget tip: If you are asked to throw a shower, ask other bridesmaids to go in with you and host the shower together.
Keep in mind that many brides have multiple bridal showers with different groups of people in their lives. Bridesmaids are typically invited to all of the showers. Some showers may be out of town, so make sure to incorporate travel costs into your expected budget if you plan to attend those.
Costs for this will vary greatly depending on the bride’s wishes. At the very least, be prepared to budget for a gift. If the party is a destination bash, budget for travel and accommodations. Typically bridesmaids cover the cost of the bride’s drinks or food, so plan to budget for this in addition to your own food and drinks. If you have input on where you stay, services like Airbnb and VRBO can sometimes be cheaper to split between a group than multiple hotel rooms. Rental properties also allow the option to celebrate at home for part of the trip, which can be more cost effective than going out for every meal.
Staying local or having the party in a city within driving distance can also save money, but the location should be the decision of the bride. If you don’t know how to make your budget for this, ask the bride early on what she has in mind.
Dress, Alterations, Shoes, Jewelry, and Accessories
The bridesmaids dress is one cost you can include in your budget from the get-go. While the bride may not have picked out what dress you will be wearing when she asks you to be her bridesmaid, typical bridesmaids dresses range from $75 to $300+. If you need alterations, getting them done by a tailor rather than at a bridal salon can often cut costs for bridesmaids. Some services, like Brideside, offer in-home trials with dresses, which can also decrease the need for alterations, since you can find exactly the size for you before you purchase.
Some brides ask bridesmaids to purchase a specific pair of shoes or a specific necklace or earrings, while others may give a color guideline (ie. nude heels, silver shoes, etc). If you are on a budget and have the flexibility of a guideline, rather than a specific shoe, ask friends to borrow their shoes, check the clearance racks at shoe stores and department stores, or browse consignment stores for the right shoes to fit the guidelines and your budget. The same goes for jewelry.
Hair, Makeup, and Nails
Hair, makeup, and nails are amenities that are different for every wedding and every bride. Some brides want every attendant to have their hair and makeup professionally done, while others don’t have an opinion on how their bridesmaids do their hair. Some brides who require professional hair and makeup will pay for it and some leave that to the bridesmaid. Have an honest conversation with the bride about what she wants and what you can get for your budget. If you have a friend who is really good at hair and makeup, ask her if she can help you on the big day.
Travel, Accommodations, Transportation for the Wedding Weekend
While making plans for your friend’s wedding weekend, don’t forget to keep in mind travel, accommodations, and (if flying) transportation. For an out of town guest, these costs can add up. To keep costs low, share an Airbnb or VRBO with other bridesmaids or stay with any family or friends in the area.
Wedding registries typically include gifts at all price points. You may want to give your friend a wonderful wedding present but with bridal shower gifts, a bachelorette party gift, and maybe even an engagement party present, your gift budget may be slimming down. Go in with some of the other bridesmaids on one large item, pair some of the smaller registry items, or get crafty and make the couple a piece of art or a “morning-after” breakfast basket of homemade and/or grocery store goodies to enjoy after a long night of celebrating. A small loaf of banana bread, some granola, and a bag of coffee wrapped in a simple hand towel would be a lovely and thoughtful budget gift. Check Home Goods, Target, and IKEA for unique items to fill the basket at reasonable prices.
If you’re still reading – you made it! :) This was lengthy, but hopefully useful for future bridesmaids. I hope this helps you enjoy the wedding party festivities without being blindsided by bridal party costs!
All photos are of my wedding day by the talented Graham Terhune of Anagram Photo.
This post was in partnership with Brideside. All opinions are my own.