Always a Bridesmaid? 5 Ways to Save Money
Wedding season is officially upon us, and while brides are planning one of the most memorable events of their lives, bridesmaids are scrambling for cash and cutting corners wherever possible. WeddingChannel's 2010 Real Weddings survey found that the average bridesmaid spends nearly $1,700 on the dress, accessories, travel expenses, and other costs.
Be Upfront About Your Finances
Not everyone can afford to fly to Fiji for a destination wedding or spend $400 on a strapless organza gown, so don't let the bride guilt you into spending money you don't have.
"You should say no if you're in a life situation such having a lot of student loans to pay or you just bought a house, anything where the expense of being a bridesmaid would hurt your relationship or your life," says Sharon Naylor, author of Bridesmaid on a Budget: How to Be a Brilliant Bridesmaid Without Breaking the Bank. "You can explain that, 'I wouldn't want to be the buzzkill who keeps you from having the wedding and shower you deserve.'" If you can't be in the bridal party, offer to help in other ways such as stuffing invitations or sewing table runners.
Dress for Less
Non-matching bridesmaid dresses are becoming more popular. In fact, "plenty of brides out there will say 'everybody wear your own black dress,'" says Naylor. According to The Wedding Report's 2009 Bridesmaid Report, 81.3 percent of bridesmaid dresses are only worn once, so wearing a dress you already own or choosing a dress you'll wear again can lower costs, as does renting instead of buying. BridesmaidTrade.com, RenttheRunway.com, and LittleBorrowedDress.com offer bridesmaid dress rentals.
Some bridesmaids have the dress altered for future use by adding straps or shortening the hemline. BridesmaidTrade and RecycleBride offer online marketplaces for reselling bridesmaid dresses, while NewlyMaid.com offers a trade-in program for old bridesmaid dresses. Donating the dress and getting the tax write-off is another option, adds Naylor.
Trim Your Travel Costs
Instead of flying, why not carpool with other guests and split the cost of gas? If you're not bringing a date, you can pair up with another bridesmaid and split the cost of a hotel room. Or if you have family and friends in the area, you can crash on their couch. Just reassure the bride that even though you're not staying in the hotel, you'll be there for the pre and post-wedding festivities, says Naylor.
She adds that if you're a member of a professional group or alumni association, the group may offer members a discount on car rentals.
Go Chic on the Cheap
Professional updos, spray tans, and manis and pedis are another bridesmaid expense, especially if the brides invites her maids to the salon but doesn't offer to foot the bill. Wearing your hair down or in a ponytail is much cheaper than an elaborate updo, says Naylor, and those styles don't require a professional hairstylist. "A really big style right now is a slicked back ponytail, which is easy to do but looks sleek and sophisticated."
If one of the bridesmaids is especially handy with hair or makeup, she could offer to style the bridesmaids while a professional focuses on the bride.
Plan a Unique Bridal Shower
If you're planning the bridal shower, Naylor suggests getting creative to cut costs. "Brunches have been popular for a long time and continue to be so," she says. "Hotels charge $12 to $20 per person, depending on their buffet menu, and your group gets a wide range of brunch foods and a free glass of champagne."
An evening dessert and champagne party is another budget-friendly option. "You set up a chocolate and dessert buffet, as well as a champagne and wine bar, and guests enjoy delectable treats," she explains. "It's a budget savings, as opposed to filling a cocktail party bar with lots of pricy shrimp cocktail and phyllo-appetizers." Nowadays, moms and aunts are more involved in planning bridal showers so they may be willing to defray some costs.