Always the bridesmaid and always broke? It is no wonder with the average bridesmaid spending close to $1,700 based on a 2010 study. Expenses including dresses, shoes, jewelry, travel, lodging, and the bridal shower can really add up. Of course, not all brides choose the most expensive of everything, but there is really no way to know when asked to be in a wedding.
When you accept, you are accepting not only the duty and responsibility, but the financial burden as well. While you may be more than willing to do these things for your friend, there is no reason to go into debt for a wedding that is not even yours. If you cannot afford it and you know it, say so politely. You may get an offer for help, but if not, walk away with your checkbook intact. Of course, if this is your sister asking you, saying no is a lot harder.
Know What Is Expected
If you really want to do it, some options can help cut costs tactfully. It helps to know where and when it is okay for you to speak up and where it is not, as well as what exactly is expected of you. For example, unless you are told otherwise, expect to pay for the entire outfit and any lodging and travel expenses related to the wedding. You should also expect to chip in on the bridal shower and bachelorette party.
Ask about Options
As far as dress and accessories, do not visibly balk if the bride chooses a $300 dress. A public display of dissention is not going to help anyone. However, know that you can politely ask for another option. Look around for a cheaper option that is similar. The bride may have been too overwhelmed or in a hurry and chose the first one she liked. Present the alternatives to her, and if she is not for it, ask if you can choose your own dress of the same color and style. If the wedding is a ways off you may be able to find a suitable alternative for a fraction of the price. If you are able to get the same shoes and jewelry as everyone else, you will not stand out in a slightly different dress.
Generally, the bridal party should split the cost of the shower. I the costs are being split evenly and you cannot afford your entire share, ask if you can bake cookies, do all of the set up or clean up, or something else to make up the difference. This could also end up reducing the cost for everyone else. If you are going to be making some of the snacks instead of having to order them, the total bill goes down for everyone. Consider splitting a larger gift with other bridesmaids and you can have a part in a better gift for less money than a smaller gift may cost.
Travel costs are often the hardest to save on. You can always try to drive or take a bus instead of fly, or try some of the budget travel sites for booking airline tickets. If you are traveling, try to plan as many other activities such as the shower or the bachelorette party on the same weekend to keep from having to pay travel expenses twice. Ask the bride if there is anyone else traveling that may be willing to split a room with you for the weekend. A little creativity and an open mind can result in big savings.