How Much Does It Really Cost to Be in the Wedding?

The costs of being a bridesmaid can quickly add up

Bride and friends taking selfie

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If you've been asked to be in a wedding, you've likely already realized that being a bridesmaid is expensive, but do you know how much it will cost you? Here are the common costs that the average wedding attendant faces.

Typical Expenses for a Bridesmaid

  • Travel costs. It's expensive to travel to any wedding, but when you're also in it, you may need to arrive early and leave late, incurring extra hotel nights and having less flexibility to book cheap flights. Typically, you'll spend at least $300 on travel. But it gets really expensive when all the pre-wedding parties—engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette—also require travel. Will you be expected to attend these, or are you off the hook as an out-of-towner?
  • The dress. A bridesmaid dress averages about $150—no small change. But factor in the cost of alterations, shoes, special lingerie, and other accessories and that price can quickly double to $300 or more. And though $150 is the average price for a dress, your bride might choose a bridesmaid gown that costs $500 or more.
  • Hair, makeup, and manicures. Lots of brides say to their 'maids, "I thought it would be fun if we all got our hair and makeup done together!" What they leave out is who is paying for it. They get a uniform look, but you might get stuck with a bill for $100 or more.
  • All those gifts. You'll likely spend $100 on a wedding gift, $50 for a bridal shower gift, and $50 for an engagement gift. Of course, you might spend this much anyway if you were only a guest, but these costs are ones you'll need to budget for.
  • Throwing the engagement party and bridal shower. As part of the bridal party, you may be expected to kick in for the costs—the invitations, food, favors, and decor. These vary depending on how many guests you're inviting and how fancy the parties are, but a typical cost is $50 per host per event, so $100 total.
  • The bachelorette party. In addition to what you normally spend for a night on the town, bachelorette parties mean you'll be kicking in for the bride's drinks and entertainment, and probably buying a few naughty favors and items for games. Budget $100 for these "extras." If it's a destination bachelorette—like a girls' weekend in Vegas—that cost goes way up.

So what's the total damage for being in a wedding? At least $1,000 (and that amount can easily and quickly balloon). Fortunately, there are ways to be a bridesmaid on a budget.

Tips for Saving Money as a Bridesmaid

  • Be honest. Hopefully, your friend asked you to be in the wedding because she values you more than your pocketbook. When she asks, first tell her how honored you are and how happy you are for her. Then—ideally before you've accepted—let her know that you're on a budget. Ask if she can work with you to keep costs down.
  • Know what you're in for. Sometimes it's the unexpected costs that are the hardest to deal with. Find out if the bride has expensive plans for the bridal party, such as a destination bachelorette party. It can also be good to know all the typical duties of a bridesmaid.
  • Don't just complain. Being honest doesn't mean you have to be Negative Nelly. Instead of just remarking about how expensive everything is, make sure you are speaking up to offer creative (and cheaper) alternatives. The first is a way to lose your friendship, while the latter can help cut costs for everyone.
  • Saving money on a bridesmaid's dress. Suggest to the bride that all the bridesmaids wear different dresses in the same color. It's a beautiful way to unify the wedding party while allowing each woman to pick the dress that works for her and her wallet. If the bride would rather have a uniform look, be helpful by researching dresses and finding attractive options at lower price points.
  • Throw a joint shower/bachelorette. Instead of separate events, hold an evening lingerie shower with cocktails and snacks. Out-of-town bridesmaids will especially benefit by not having to buy two different plane tickets, but everyone will save money and hassle by consolidating.
  • Stay as a group in an Airbnb. Instead of separate hotel rooms, find a house that the bridal party can rent together through a website such as Airbnb. If there are only a few out-of-towners, see if any of them are interested in sharing a room with you.
  • It's okay to say no. Even with cost-cutting measures, being a bridesmaid is expensive. If it's not in your budget, you can say so, politely of course. Let them know how thrilled you'll be to be a guest, and that you hope she understands. And if you do say yes to being a bridesmaid, you don't have to say yes to every event. Choose to do your hair and makeup, and skip the pricier parts of the bachelorette.