So you’re going to be a bridesmaid—how exciting!
And, well, expensive. Unfortunately, participation in your bestie’s special day will come with a hefty price tag—sometimes upward of $1,695, according to calculations by Mint.com. And while there’s no way to get around the financial reality (short of selling your first born’s naming rights to Monique Lhuillier), finding a few places to trim your expenses can help you get through the big day without completely blowing your budget.
1. Be a Vigilant Traveler
If you’ll be traveling a lot, be aggressive in tracking airfare and staying on top of deals. Bing, Kayak, and numerous other sites all have great tools for fare predictions and travel alerts. Or, if you know you’ll be flying a certain airline, follow it on Facebook and Twitter—many airlines have sales they only announce on social media.
While monitoring airfare like a crazed stalker is additional work (as is nailing down the bride and other bridesmaids on shower and bachelorette party dates), it’s a great place to save on what can end up being the granddaddy of expenses for most maids (averaging $900!).
2. Lodge Like a Pro
Another big expense that adds up fast? Hotels. So skip them, and use sites like Vacation Rentals by Owner and Airbnb to secure a rental home for everyone to stay in, instead of individual overnight rooms. This is a great option for the bachelorette weekend, or, if the bride is okay with everyone staying off-site, even for the wedding. Plus, having everyone stay together is a great way to simplify logistics for everyone.
3. Stay Crafty
If you’re throwing a shower, skip the expensive stationery and designer decorations and craft up your own party décor. It’s fun, meaningful, and if you have a Pinterest-obsessed bride on your hands, she’ll probably appreciate your efforts more than an expensive splurge. Need inspiration? Check out our seriously simple DIY board on Pinterest.
Perhaps the most painful expense of all is the $200, $300, or even $400 dress that you’ll never wear again. (Really. Never.) So, point your bride over to Little Borrowed Dress, the website I started to let women rent—yes, rent!—bridesmaid gowns, for the fraction of a cost of a buying one.
And shoes? Jewelry? If you get artistic control over your accessories, pull them out of your closet. (Accept the fact that people’s eyes will be on the bride and groom—not your slightly scuffed sling-backs circa 2006. Sorry.)
5. Skimp at the Spa
Another thing that will go unnoticed: The fact that your manicure came from the nice folks at the mall and not the overpriced resort spa. If you have to prioritize beauty services, pay for your hair—it’s the hardest to do yourself and the most critical in photographs. Professional makeup, pedis, and massages are fun if you’re looking to splurge, but easy to toss if you’re not.
6. Give Gifts Conservatively
Believe me—with everything you’re spending as a bridesmaid, most brides won’t take issue with the fact that your shower gift wasn’t a doubloon-encrusted crystal candelabra. While you should bring a gift to each event you attend (shower, engagement party, bachelorette party), prioritize your spending on the wedding gift. For the other events, you can easily opt for a small item off the registry or something unique and sentimental. Even a nice bottle of wine is a gracious gift from a cash-compromised maid.
The Bottom Line
The bride picked you to be in her wedding because she wanted your support and encouragement through this huge event in her life, not because you’re a billionaire. So, if finances are a serious issue, have an honest conversation with her. (Note: Her finding out your concerns because you had too many mimosas and griped to a co-maid does not an honest conversation make.) A grateful bride and true friend will do everything she can to accommodate your situation and make this a happy experience for you, too.
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