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Bridesmaid Budgets | Manolo for the Brides

Bridesmaids, Remember to Budget!

For some, being asked to serve as a bridesmaid is both an honor and a burden. Time spent assembling complicated wedding invitations or funneling candy into favor boxes is one thing; money spent is quite another. I’d wager that most of you reading this would be happy to accompany a friend as she shops for her wedding gown or samples wedding cake. Would you be as pleased if you found out this same friend expected you to pay $600 for bridesmaid attire? Or if she made it clear that her idea of the perfect bachelorette party is a week in Cancun paid for by her attendants?

bridesmaids-dresses

It’s not uncommon for bridesmaids or a maid-of-honor to accept a wedding party post without knowing what they’re getting into. That’s why there are books like Everything Bridesmaid: From Planning the Shower to Supporting the Bride, All You Need to Survive and Enjoy the Wedding and The Bridesmaid Handbook and The Bridesmaid Guide: Etiquette, Parties and Being Fabulous and even The Quintessential Wedding Guide … Maid of Honor.

In other words, while first-time maids and MOHs may not know quite what’s expected of them, there are plenty of how-tos out there ready to help. Get your dress on time, they say. Throw a bridal shower. Bustle the gown. Herd the groomsmen. Hold the bride’s bouquet. Give a speech. And so on.


But perhaps the most important to-do on the bridesmaid’s checklist should be “Consider your budget.” Brides (and grooms) put together a wedding budget, so why shouldn’t attendants put together bridesmaid budgets (and groomsman budgets)? Being part of a wedding can be expensive, depending on the wedding. It needn’t be complicated — simply ask yourself how much you expect to spend based on certain criteria.

Does the bride have upper-crust taste in clothing that could translate in your bring asked to spring for an expensive dress you’ll never wear again? In the case of a destination wedding, will you have to pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars for airfare and accommodations in addition to your wedding day finery. Will you have to pay to have your hair styles and makeup professionally done? Are there pre-wedding events planned that will require some outlay of cash? Then it’s time to ask yourself how much you’re willing to spend or can spend — be realistic, don’t be swayed by guilt or what you think everyone else can spend — and, finally, if you’re up for it, straight up ask the bride how much she expects her bridesmaids to lay out.

This is important, considering that the second most chosen response on a Savvy Sugar poll asking What’s the Most You Have Spent as a Bridesmaid? (right after “I’ve never been a bridesmaid.”) was “Well over $1,000.” You read that right, 17% of respondents have spent more than a grand preparing for and participating in someone else’s wedding. For those whose eyes are bugging out, I’ll add the the third and fourth most chosen responses were “Between $100 and $300.” and “Between $300 and $500.”

I’m lucky in that I’ve never been asked to do much as a bridesmaid or maid-of-honor other than buy a suitable dress in such-and-such a color since more often than not I’ve had to travel to participate in the weddings of faraway friends. I wouldn’t have minded, though, having to spend some money (maaaaybe up to $500?) and much more time helping the brides prepare for the big day. But thousand bucks? I think I would have had to gracefully decline unless it was a sister or my mother or someone equally important. What do you think?

10 Responses to “Bridesmaids, Remember to Budget!”

  1. class factotum October 6, 2009 at 8:27 am #

    Wow. I am so glad my friends got married in the 80s. All I was expected to do was buy the dress and show up. We didn’t have bachelorette parties. The bridesmaid lunch was hosted by someone else. I had to buy two lavender dresses that NO I DID NOT EVER WEAR AGAIN*, but they were not expensive. In every case, the bride’s family found places for the bridesmaids to stay (all out of town weddings) at no cost to us. In one case, the bride’s parents paid for half of my dress.

    The other bridesmaids and I just got to hang out with the bride and have fun.

    * The teal one I could have worn again but just never had the right occasion. I live a blue jeans a t-shirt life, not a long teal gown life. Alas.

  2. toronto photographer October 6, 2009 at 10:02 am #

    it adds up to be a brides maid. On the other hand the dress, shoes etc. unlike the wedding dress can be used for other occasions and in my opinion, with this in mind should the styles and colors be planned.

  3. Twistie October 6, 2009 at 11:10 am #

    IMNSHO, the bridesmaids are responsible for the cost of their dresses, shoes, appropriate undergarments, travel (including any housing costs), and wedding gift (which, as often noted here, can be simply a congratulatory note). The MOH is further responsible for the costs of the bridal shower and/or bachelorette party at a budget she can comfortably afford, should she choose to throw either or both parties. That’s it.

    Brides, if it’s important to you that your bridesmaids throw lavish parties for you, then do everyone a favor and choose them according to their trust fund balances. If it’s vital that their hairdos, makeup, and mani-pedis all match, pay for it yourself. And if your dearest friend comes to you and says she has to bow out of your wedding because of the expenses, either rearrange your plans or offer to pay at least part of her bill. Don’t make the honor of attending you at your wedding too expensive to be worth it.

    What did my bridesmaids have to pay? $50.00 for materials and patterns for their outfits, the cost of whatever trims they chose to use and any costs for having the skirt and blouse made up (nearly all of them sewed and one had a professional seamstress best bud, so I don’t even think anyone had to pay for having them sewed), and whatever travel they had to do. My MOH threw a lovely shower for me in her home with delicious homemade goodies. All of them gave me lovely wedding gifts, and the three that were close enough geographically also gave me delightful shower gifts.

    Three of our attendants (two bridesmaids and a groomsman) did have to pay to fly cross-country to be with us, but considering that two of them were my brother the alpaca rancher and his wife, I think they would have had to cover that had they not been in the wedding party. Since all three had family in town, none of them had to pay for a hotel.

    The most I ever had to pay to be in a wedding? I think it came to $120.00 for the dress, about $30.00 for the shoes, and the entirely self-imposed cost of the wedding gift. So something in the $200.00 range in 1992.

    When I was MOH in 1987, the dress was roughly $50.00 (fabric, pattern, findings) and homesewn by my mother. The shoes were $15.00. The cost of throwing the shower in my home with homemade treats was roughly $40.00. Add in the shower and wedding gifts, and I probably spent about $200.00 for that one, too.

    It was cheap to be a bridesmaid when my brother the alpaca rancher got married in 1986. The fabric, pattern, and findings for the bridesmaid dress came to a whopping total of $35.00. My mother sewed it. $20.00 shoes. No shower. Between my outfit and wedding gift, I think I spent a sum total of $85.00 on the whole shebang. Most of what I provided during the process was immoral support to the bride.

    Remember: clothes, shoes, travel. That’s ultimately what the bridesmaids should be responsible for. If they choose to throw you parties, too, that’s gravy. Anything else you want of them, pay for it yourself.

  4. Caroline October 6, 2009 at 12:00 pm #

    I’m getting married next April. The only thing I’m asking my bridesmaids to pay for is their travel to the wedding (half of them live 3 hours away) and any gift/shower they wish to give. Neither of those (gift/shower) is expected. That being said, my Matron of Honor is pregnant, and will probably just end up buying her own dress because she will want something she’s comfortable in. I don’t care; I asked her to tell me how much it was so I could reimburse her, but she said she won’t. Which just means her baby gifts will be that much bigger. :)

    By the way, the dresses in that photo are GORGEOUS! Who/where are they from?

  5. Never teh Bride October 6, 2009 at 12:45 pm #

    Alas, Caroline, I found the pic without finding the source! I’m pretty sure they’re from the UK, however. Anyone have a clue for us? (I’ve also posted the pic to Twitter, so perhaps someone there will know!)

  6. Melissa B. October 6, 2009 at 8:45 pm #

    The last time I was a bridesmaid, I spent over $1k, easily. The bride was a dear friend and I was thrilled to be part of her wedding, but I think she got a bit of “wedding brain” and lost sight of how much she was asking us to spend. I realize now that it can seem like a drop in the bucket compared to what the bride and groom are spending, but it’s still a lot of money to your pals in the wedding party!

    My mom, bless her heart, witnessed my stress over covering my bridesmaid expenses, and when I got married she paid for not only the bridesmaids’ dresses but their hotel rooms. I’m not saying that’s mandatory, but I think if you can afford it, it’s a nice gesture, especially if (like me) your friends have gone into fields that are not known for their money-making potential (e.g. social work).

  7. Twistie October 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm #

    Melissa B., I think I love your mother.

  8. AW October 7, 2009 at 8:38 am #

    This is a topic that’s been heavy on my mind lately. As I prepare for my own wedding in January, I’m blessed to be a bridesmaid this fall and three times next year for dear friends. I’ve been a bridesmaid 3 times before, so this is a lot all at once. Typically I’ve had to buy the dress, shoes, alterations, wedding gift and attend a shower, lingerie shower(with gift), and bachelorette party, and pay for travel and hotels. Some of the times I’ve had to get my hair and nails done– at my own cost. Usually I’d split the cost of hosting showers and bach parties, which is where the real money goes, but it’s all part of being a BM or MOH. I’d say I usually end up spending.. $500-600. We’ll see how it goes this year, because there are 5 other family weddings for my fiance’s side in the next 2 months and all the showers/parties that go with that, but I am sure that’s another post. :-)

    I do want to reiterate that I’m really happy to be a part of these wedding parties, and only a few times has the costs been too much for me. This is a great post to remind myself that I need to budget for these costs! For my own girls, I chose an inexpensive store for their dresses, allowed them to choose whatever dress they wanted in a certain color, they can use their own shoes, they can do their own hair and makeup but they have the option to use my hair/makeup person. I haven’t had any showers or parties yet but they know that we’re all engaged/real tight on money, so I hope everything stays low key and cheap! :-) My big regret is that I can’t afford to buy them their dresses. So I hope to do something really great and useful as a gift for them. Or maybe I’ll win the lotto and I can give them that money back. :-)

  9. rachel August 23, 2010 at 5:34 pm #

    heyyy were can i find the bridesmaid dresses in the photo above ?? please write back x