Bridesmaid on a Budget

March 30, 2012 in handmade and vintage goods

Chappell Ellison
Chappell Ellison

Chappell Ellison is a designer, writer and design writer. She currently lives in Brooklyn, New York where she serves as a contributor for The Etsy Blog and design columnist for GOOD.

When a close friend announces she’s getting married, you’re thrilled. Soon you’ll be cooing over bridal magazines, talking wistfully of the future, while the bride-to-be enters the early stages of wedding planning.

But then she asks you to be a bridesmaid, and everything changes.

Gab sessions about her big day are no longer giddy and carefree; you start to see dollar signs. You want your friend’s wedding to be perfect, but for the budget-conscious among us, becoming a bridesmaid can be hazardous to our fiscal health.

In a blog post titled The High Cost of Being a Bridesmaid, thrift-minded blogger Anna Newell Jones shares advice based on her own experience. “I (wrongly) assumed that I was the only one feeling the pressures to spend the sometimes astronomical amounts of money during my tour of duty as a bridesmaid,” says Jones. “I was really surprised when I learned that other women were feeling the same financial stress around being in weddings that I had.” What follows are Anna’s best tips for budget-conscious bridesmaids who want to save money and keep the bride happy.

Carefully consider each aspect of the wedding.
To get psychologically prepared for the road ahead, Jones encourages considering eight different aspects before agreeing to be a bridesmaid. Some of these points include:

  • Can I pay for the bridesmaid dress?
  • Will any of the wedding events take place out of state or country?
  • Do I have enough paid time off to participate?
  • If I’m asked to be the Maid of Honor, can I afford to throw a bachelorette party?

“It feels like a bummer to think about these things during such exciting times,” notes Jones. “If you can’t afford to be a part of the wedding and all that it entails, it’s best to tell her at the time she asks you to be in the wedding.”

If your friend is going to ask you to be a bridesmaid, be prepared with your answer.
“Once you say you’ll be in the wedding, you have to follow through,” says Jones. If you agree to be a bridesmaid and change your mind later, it will only hurt and frustrate the bride. To avoid this, Jones recommends considering the wedding costs the moment you find out your friend is engaged. “If you’ve decided that you can’t afford to be in the wedding, be honest and forthright from the very start. Have a heart-to-heart and tell her that you love her and want to support her through the entire wedding planning process. Keep the conversation positive and focus on all of the many things that you can and will do to support her,” Jones offers.

If you are a bridesmaid who can’t afford to participate in the pre-wedding events, consider ways you can contribute without breaking the bank.
Do you have a secret obsession with making fascinators? Perhaps you spend your weekends crafting beautiful silver jewelry. Offer your abilities to create custom work, whether it’s accessories for the bridesmaids or centerpieces for the table. These small handmade touches can relieve the bride of the pressure to consider every last detail. Additionally, for brides who are conscious of their bridesmaids’ wallets, Jones encourages them to seek their talents. “Tap into your friends’ skills to see if they might be willing to help with the things they are good at,” suggests Jones. “By doing this, you not only save money for other priorities, but you get to have an even more unique wedding because each friend will infuse a bit of their own personality and spirit into their part.”

Make simple, easy decisions when it comes to dresses.
“Select a color — or a range of colors — and then let the bridesmaids select their own dresses from non-bridal specific stores,” says Jones. She says that paint chip samples found at the hardware store are a great tool for this. They’re readily available and they’re free. “That way, the girls can take the paint chip sample to the store with them so they buy just the right color dress.” Also, let the bridesmaids wear nude or black heels in the wedding. “This way, the shoes have a longer life, which means more bang for the buck,” adds Jones.

For bridesmaids who focus on contributing their DIY craft in lieu of other costly efforts, the result can be a truly original wedding. Jones, whose wedding photography business has taken her to dozens of original weddings, points out that frugal weddings can be every bit as beautiful as a fancy, high-cost affair. “We see everything from magazine-esque wedding-planner styled weddings to budget-friendly, DIY weddings,” says Jones. “Both styles are fun and special.” Ultimately, weddings should be about contributing however you can to ensure that the day is perfect. For brides and their bridesmaids, communication is key; be open and honest, and the friendship and love that you share will emanate throughout the wedding.