It’s exciting to be by the bride or groom’s side as part of a wedding party—it’s also expensive. Being in a wedding party can cost, on average, anywhere between $1,200 to $1,800. This amount typically includes engagement and shower gifts, expenses for bachelor and bachelorette parties, your wedding outfit (if you’re a bridesmaid, hair and makeup alone can cost a few hundred dollars), and gifts for the couple. For destination weddings, things can add up even faster.
When you’re not on the same page about spending, it can cause tension and resentment throughout a wedding party. You need to be able to talk about how much you can and cannot afford upfront. We know, easier said than done. Don’t go into personal debt because you didn’t speak up. Here’s how to talk about money when you’re in a wedding party.
We need to get this out of the way: If you say yes to being in a wedding party, you’re agreeing to the responsibilities that come along with the job (within reason, of course). If you’re the maid of honor or best man, there are additional duties you should be aware of, like planning pre-wedding activities and attending all related parties.
If you’re not sure you can financially swing it all, sit down with the bride or groom and clarify what’s expected of you from the beginning. Get a sense of what’s in store: are they planning a destination wedding? Keeping things on a tight budget? Once you have a clearer picture of what they’re anticipating their wedding party to spend, you can then see what’s possible for you personally.
After you have a sense of what expenses you’ll need to cover, be honest about your financial situation. You don’t want anyone to assume you’re OK with something when you’re not, and you also don’t want to promise something you can’t afford, either.
If the maid of honor or best man is in charge of the wedding party activities, let them know where you stand—in person, if possible. Don’t be afraid to be specific about what you can afford. If you’re saving up for a house, destination bachelor parties may be off the table for you, for example. Likewise, if you’ve recently been laid off, maybe even smaller-scale costs, like professional wedding hair and makeup, are out of your current budget.
You also don’t need to be experiencing a massive life change to talk about your money situation. People are in varying financial situations—that can be enough of a reason. You still have to speak up, though.
Most money tension comes when people aren’t on the same page about expectations. Nip potential bad feelings and awkward situations in the bud by being clear—with everyone—about what you are comfortable spending as soon as possible.
OK, here’s what you can’t do: raise a problem without raising a solution. It’s easy to say “this is too expensive”—most things are. Come prepared for any specific financial conversations with something to say besides “I can’t afford this.”
For example, if an NYC bachelorette getaway is on the table and you can’t really swing it, suggest a cabin excursion in a more local area. It’s still a trip, but on a more affordable scale. If everyone would be saving big, explain other ways to use a little of that extra money to make the weekend feel more personal and special for the bride. Use the money you would’ve spent on $15 cocktails in the city and stretch it further with all the brides’s favorite foods plus monogrammed decor.
There are also ways to cut down on your own costs even if other members of the wedding party want to partake in something more expensive. If your mom is great at sewing, for example, ask her to alter your dress or suit instead of having it done by a bridal store. You can also save by splitting a hotel room with another member of the wedding party, or going in on gifts with others.
If you’re not happy with how a situation is playing out, or are spending more than you expected, you may be inclined to rant about the piling costs. Don’t do that. Talking negatively about anyone in the party, and especially about the bride or groom, only furthers tensions—and frankly, makes you look bad.
Address your concerns directly with the bride or groom as soon as possible (or the person in charge of organizing pre-wedding activities). Explain that your financial situation makes you unable to do certain things, like attend an out-of-town bridal shower or buy an expensive dress. Anyone will appreciate honesty upfront over complaining later. The last thing anyone wants to do is add stress or drama to a joyful time.
Too often we forget that we’re being asked—not told—to be in a wedding party. So, we have the ability to say “no.” If your current financial situation simply does not allow you to cover the costs that come with the job, it may be in your best interest to politely decline the offer.
As with any hard conversation, delivery is key. Tell the bride or groom that you’re honored they asked you to be in their wedding party, but you can’t afford the associated costs at this time. This is best said in person, as rejecting a wedding party offer over text or email can come across as impersonal or can be misconstrued.
Make it clear that just because your finances prevent you from being part of the wedding party, it doesn’t mean you don’t want to celebrate their big day. In other words, let a bride-to-be know you still plan on attending her nuptials.
As a consolation, you can always take the bride or groom out for a celebratory meal or have them over for an intimate dinner. The important thing is that you don’t let money prevent you from supporting your loved one, and you honor their big day in a way that’s manageable for you.