Wedding season is here. While brides are planning one of the most memorable events of their lives, bridesmaids may find themselves scrambling for cash to pay for their part in the big day. From attire to travel to gifts, being a bridesmaid can be costly (especially if you're attending multiple weddings in the same year). Here are six ways bridesmaids can keep the costs low.
Dress for less. Mismatching dresses are a trend. If the bride is open to it, suggest bridesmaids wear dresses that reflect their own personal sense of style (and budget) but still fit in the color family of the bride's wedding palette. While the bride will still have the final say in what the bridesmaids wear, giving them several choices that fit in a budget-friendly price range will allow your bridal party to still look and feel gorgeous without breaking the bank.
Alter where you alter. Instead of paying exorbitant prices to have a dress altered at the dress shop, take it to a local tailor where prices tend to be affordable. More often than not, bridesmaids will only wear their dress for one day, so try to avoid investing too much money in the alterations. Even better, call a friend or family member with sewing skills, and see if they're willing to do it for free.
Trim the travel costs. As soon as the dates of the wedding, bachelorette party and bridal shower are confirmed, book travel ASAP! If you're within driving distance, try carpooling 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.
Combine the shower with the bachelorette party. Throwing a bridal shower and bachelorette party can be overwhelming, not to mention costly. Consider combining these special events to save on travel, lodging and food. To keep costs as low as possible, skip the jet-setting and choose a fun spot that's accessible to the majority of the bridal party and stay as a group in a rented house instead of separate hotel rooms.
Set a budget for gifts. On top of a wedding gift, bridesmaids are usually expected to purchase gifts for the shower and bachelorette party. Creating a sound budget for wedding spending will keep you on track. Make a list of how much you can afford to spend on gifts overall so you know exactly how much you need to save. Decide what you're realistically able to afford -- not what you think the bride will expect. Sure, we all want to give lavish gifts like fine China, but if you have rent and student loans to pay, never underestimate the power of a thoughtful, personal, do-it-yourself wedding gift. Another cost-saving strategy is to chip in with other bridesmaids -- if you all work together, you can get the bride a truly spectacular present, while spending less money than you would if you paid for a gift yourself.
It's OK to say no. Have a candid conversation with the bride and bridesmaids about your budget early. Be clear about what you can and can't do within your budget. Don't feel obligated to say yes to everything. Let the bride know how thrilled you are to be a part of her special day, but that there are some events you may have to miss. She'll understand!
There are many ways you can reduce the cost of being a bridesmaid, without hurting the bride's feelings or sacrificing this special milestone. With a little planning, organization and creativity, you'll have enough dough saved before the "I do."
Holly Perez is a consumer money expert at Intuit and mint.com spokeswoman, a leading Web and mobile money management tool that helps people understand and do more with their money.
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