How to Budget for a Wedding as a Bridesmaid

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As soon as you say “I do” to joining a wedding party, you’re also saying yes to quite a few financial obligations. While being a bridesmaid (or bridesman or bridesperson) is an honored role in a wedding, there’s no denying it comes with the expectation of traveling to certain events, contributing to gifts, and adhering to designated dress codes. Obviously, you want to be there for the bride on the big day, but it’s a good idea to evaluate your finances to see if you can realistically budget out the costs of being a bridesmaid.

The first step in creating this budget is to get a bigger picture of the overall expenses associated with the wedding and pre-wedding events. After all, a bachelorette trip or destination wedding weekend will add to your costs as a bridal party member. Speak with the bride and the maid of honor to understand the scope of plans. It’s also helpful to lay out wedding party expenses in a Google Sheet to share with the entire group. That way everyone can keep track of costs per person—especially those group tabs that add up on a bachelorette—and easily split bills once the celebrations are over.

After you get a general idea of the price tag for the wedding party experience, you can start on your budget. “Take ten minutes and write down every cost you can think of—things like travel, lodging, gifts, and outfits—and next to each item, its estimated cost,” advises Courtney Alev, consumer financial advocate at Credit Karma. “Once you get to a total number, look at the money you have saved and the money you’ll have coming in between now and the wedding. Check to see if you have enough savings to cover this wedding without sacrificing other financial goals, or if you’ll need to continue putting money aside so this wedding won’t get you into debt.” If you need to save, Alev recommends diverting a certain dollar amount into a dedicated high-yield savings account on a weekly or monthly basis to keep you on track.

Cutting back on your own day-to-day expenses can help you save, and there are also ways to bring down the overall costs of the wedding experience. If bachelorette travel plans aren’t set in stone, you can provide suggestions to the bride and bridal party that can make the trip a bit easier on everyone’s wallets. “Do your research and come with suggestions—if you’re hoping to keep costs down, you’ll need to come to the table with a few ideas,” says Alev. “Understanding budgets up front can feel awkward, but can help prevent resentment down the line and aid in planning a party that everyone feels comfortable with.”

The financial expert advises that if you can’t afford the bachelorette or travel costs to a pre-wedding event like a bridal shower, being upfront with the bride is the best solution. You can bow out of one event and offer to treat her to a lunch or a fun activity within your budget to celebrate.

You also can be strategic with travel plans for the wedding itself. If you need to fly to the venue, Alev recommends booking early to avoid an increase in ticket costs. She adds that using travel points from rewards cards can be a great way to cut down on the total dollar amount you spendl. “If your credit card has been accruing points, use them,” advises Alev. “This is what the rewards are meant for—covering the cost of things like travel without spending actual cash. If the wedding isn’t for a while, you could consider getting a rewards card that complements your spending habits. Travel reward cards will help you earn points from everyday purchases that can later be redeemed for things like flights, hotels, rental cars, and more. Some of these cards have sign-up bonuses that help you earn additional points if you spend a certain amount in a set amount of time, though you’ll have to make sure you’re able to pay back your card on time and in full.”

If you need to book lodging for the wedding weekend, don’t be afraid to look outside the room block. “While the wedding party and other guests may be staying at one hotel, look around the area to see if there are cheaper alternatives,” suggests Alev. “You can also ask a friend or another couple if they want to share a room with double beds.”

Not only should you figure out costs for travel, but also make sure to ask about expectations for your wedding day attire. If the bride doesn’t need you to wear a particular style and just wants you to dress within a certain color palette, use this opportunity to scope out a great piece within your budget. You even can check out resale sites like Poshmark or The Real Real. Just make sure to get the okay from the bride before you purchase anything.

When it comes to gifts, collaborating on one group present with the other members of the bridal party is a great way to get the couple a big-ticket item without spending too much individually. If you’re going solo, however, Alev advises checking out the couple’s registry early to avoid getting stuck with the expensive gifts that tend to be left at the last minute. “If you’re really in a pinch, offer your talents in lieu of a gift,” she adds. “If you have a specialty the bride may otherwise pay for, see if she’d accept that instead of a gift. Do you have pretty handwriting? Offer to address the envelopes. Are you super organized? Offer to help with their budget or day-of coordination. It ultimately comes down to finding a balance between celebrating the people you love and staying on track with your finances.”

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