The High Cost of Being a Bridesmaid

In case you missed a few comments made in my last couple of posts, 2013 is not only the year of possibilities for me, it is also the year of weddings. To be more specific, it is the year I will be a bridesmaid in three (and attending a total of four) of my closest friend’s weddings.

Now, you should know two things. One, I have never been a bridesmaid before. In fact, I have probably only been to a handful of my friend’s weddings… ever! Two, this year just happens to be the year that many of my girlfriends are saying their “I do’s.” And I could never say no to being a part of their special days.

But that doesn’t mean it won’t cost me a pretty penny to do so. The infographic below outlines how being a bridesmaid can cost as much as $1,700! If I was still in Victoria, I would scoff at that amount. Since I am now in Toronto, and airfare in Canada is not cheap, I am beginning to understand how quickly the costs can add up. Now is the time for me to be thankful that I am almost debt-free, so I can actually budget for these celebrations! Here’s what I need to save for:

Airfare
Airfare is obviously going to be my biggest expense. If I can average it out to $550 roundtrip (three trips to Victoria, one trip to Prince Edward Island), that’s $2,200 I will need to save. Fortunately, I won’t need to pay any other travel or accommodation expenses.

Dresses / Shoes / Accessories
Some dresses will cost more than others, and two I already have, but I’m expecting to spend about $300 on dresses, shoes and accessories, this year. However, I spent $200 on the first wedding last year, so my total budget for this category is actually $500.

Hair / Makeup
Again, the cost of these will vary per wedding, but I’m going to budget another $300 for this.

Bachelorette Parties / Bridal Showers
This category makes me sad, because I won’t be able to attend any of these events. But I will still be contributing to the parties and sending small gifts. For that, I’m budgeting another $300.

Wedding Gifts
Despite not planning on ever having a big wedding of my own, I love giving wedding gifts; so much so that I already know a couple of the gifts I am going to buy! Some of these girls have been my best friends since we were 13 years old. I’m saving at least $500 for their gifts.

Altogether, I’m looking at a total of about $3,800. To be in three weddings, and attend four, that actually doesn’t seem too high. And, to be honest, the number doesn’t scare me at all. Each of the weddings I go to in Victoria will give me a quick chance to see my family and friends, and the wedding in PEI will take me to a part of the country I’ve never been. $3,800 for four mini vacations? That sounds reasonable to me.

Have you ever been a bridesmaid? How much did it cost you to stand up for your friend?

Top Image: Etsy – OtisBWeddings

65 Comments

  1. I recently started following your blog and great job on lowering your debt! This post stuck out to me because I have been a bridemaid 3 times already and I will be one again this year. I estimate that it has cost me about $1000 per wedding so your estimates are pretty accurate.

    • Cait

      January 10, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Thanks, Sophie! And good to know my estimates are accurate. I know the costs would be a lot higher, if I had to pay for accommodation, etc. but I’m lucky that I will have a free place to stay everywhere I go.

  2. Being a bridesmaid can be SO EXPENSIVE! I have never been one, but had my own wedding and tried my best to cushion people from the cost of participating. It really is scary how quickly costs add up, it’s ridiculous. It’s awesome that you have a handle on the costs already and know how much you need to save. I would absolutely love a guest post on some of your wedding gift giving, after you’ve given them :-)

    • Cait

      January 10, 2013 at 12:39 pm

      Ooo, let’s discuss a guest post after my first wedding or two, haha. I’m also planning on writing a post after each wedding, so I can later add up the total costs of them all.

  3. Being a bridesmaid is expensive! My friend is getting married but is making it pretty cheap for all of us.

    • Cait

      January 10, 2013 at 12:40 pm

      Nice. I know that each bride is different, from both the size of their wedding, the style of their wedding, and their budgets… so all of mine will cost me different amounts. But I still think this is fairly cheap, overall.

  4. I was the Maid of honor for my best friend’s wedding in October. Thankfully it was in the city I live so I didn’t have to pay for a flight or hotel. Don’t forget to budget for having your dresses altered if they need it. Mine cost $50 to have taken out a little bit. Ordering a dress size larger would have meant taking it in a lot. On the plus side this is a dress I’ll be able to wear again.

    • Cait

      January 10, 2013 at 12:41 pm

      I’m fortunate in that my mom is a seamstress, so she can probably do any alterations I need. But it’s great that your dress is one you’ll be able to wear again! I think only one of mine will be like that.

  5. I was a bridesmaid for my sister, and luckily they are frugal people so it didn’t cost me much. It cost me less than $1000, including travel, the bachelorette party and the wedding gift. I’ve spent almost that much just to attend friend’s weddings before!

    Another reason I’m going to elope!

  6. I’ve only been a bridesmaid once, thank god! I must admit I’m not a fan of most weddings. I’m glad you are at least happy about it because when you are asked and you don’t want to, it’s a tough situation because how can you say no. I’m glad also you are in a position to be able to afford it. But they just HAD to wait until you moved clear across the country didn’t they!? lol!

    • Cait

      January 10, 2013 at 12:42 pm

      Haha, well to be fair, most of them asked me before I left… so I knew what I was getting into! But living so far away definitely adds some obvious challenges.

  7. I love my friends, but being in their weddings stopped being fun, esp when I added up all the costs last year.

  8. PEI is so great, especially in the summer! I grew up there. You will love it. Lots of free/cheap activities to do – especially spending the whole day at the beach with a picnic (you have to pay for the national parks like Cavendish/Stanhope/Brackley, but there are a ton of free alternatives that are just as nice or nicer, IMO). Also scenic drives, biking, farmers market, artist/artisan galleries, etc…. Which part of the island will you be on?

  9. Being that I’m a bloke I’m going to say No, I’ve never been a bridesmaid ha! Weddings can either be an expense that won’t really break the budget or one that you have to save up for aggressively for a while. In my opinion it all depends on what the bride wants, colours etc. As well, destination weddings, airfare can put in a huge dent. Most of my mates are already married and live in the UK and other places around the world. For our wedding we went with simple so the bridesmaids had hardly any expenses at all and less stress on the pocketbook. None the less an expense is an expense and planning is important! Thanks for sharing! Mr.CBB

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      It’s definitely an expense, but one worth saving up for. If it weren’t for the airfare, it wouldn’t cost me very much at all! But if I look at them all as mini trips back home + a quick trip to somewhere new, it seems even more worth the expense.

  10. Wedding can be outrageous! I did my best to keep expenses as low as possible. We took a gamble and after the girls tried on a few styles they liked we ordered a similar style online, they only paid $55.00 for their dresses and looked beautiful…so much so that another friend used the same site and bought the exact same dress for her wedding 6months later haha.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:29 pm

      Nice! The first dress was $150, my second one was free, and I can’t imagine the third will be more than $100. I’m feeling ok about that.

  11. Bridesmaid Debt just happened to me at the worst month ever December 15. As beautiful a Christmas wedding is, it literally broke me bank!

    I love my friend dearly but at the end of it all it cost me $1200 which is a lot of money for me ! What really got me is the dress she went from picking out a 80 dollar bridemaid dress which was awesome; but then a fast trip to a actual bridesmaid dress store she changed her mind!
    Cost of dress with alterations =$400 for a dress I will not wear again. What also grinded me gear was hair, she booked us all in to a salon and just to get my hair curled which I could have done a way better job cost me $75 and I ended up brushing it out ! Anyway it turned out to be a nice wedding but it was not easy to get through finacially!

    And now I am another bridemaid but luckily my best friend picked the color she wanted for the dresses and we can go out and find it!

    Another way I will save money this time is doing my own hair, trying out new styles every weekend before the wedding You Tube is great for it ! You can also learn how to do your makeup on your own. Shoppers drug mart will do your make up too as long as you by a product like lipstick!

    In the end I love my friends and I am glad that they are happy.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:35 pm

      Oh yea, I absolutely hate the idea of getting my hair done… it’s super straight/flat and never holds style… so I’m sure that part will be a waste of money. But I’m with you on doing your own makeup! My sister can help me with that, which is great. :)

  12. Oh man. I think you’re going to be pretty darn sick of weddings by the time you’re done with these. I would encourage you to think very carefully about the weddings you absolutely must attend, and skip the others. It can be tempting to go to every wedding, which is what we did for awhile, but they add up soooooo fast. It is such a time & money drain to attend weddings, even though I am truly happy for those who have gotten married. I would absolutely skip the travel to bachelorette parties & showers.

    We have traveled 2500 miles back “home” five or six times for weddings in the past four years, in addition to other non-wedding trips back “home,” and once to GREECE for a wedding (ok, that was awesome), and finally had to start saying NO to all the others that are not immediate family or extremely close friends. We will be attending yet another wedding (J’s brother’s wedding) in the fall of this year, which I am sure will be back “home” again. After this, unless J’s two best friends get married any time soon, we probably are done with weddings for awhile. I just received a Save the Date yesterday for an August wedding back “home” and I will be declining to attend.

    I have been a maid of honor once, and a matron of honor once. That’s the extent of me being in weddings. When I was a maid of honor I had to buy an expensive bridesmaids dress, but luckily no jewelry or shoes. No bachelorette party, but two showers. As the matron of honor for my sister-in-law’s wedding a couple weeks ago, she just told me to wear something navy blue. I already owned a navy blue dress so it was perfect! Her wedding was a small, family-only affair so it was super low key. I was the only person standing with her.

    Luckily I’ve never been in a wedding where the bride was a bridezilla or super demanding of her bridesmaids. Phew. I don’t anticipate being in any more weddings!

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      I wouldn’t go home for a wedding of any acquaintance, but some of these girls have been good friends of mine for more than half my life. Saying no isn’t an option. I cannot wait to see each of them walk down the aisle. :)

      But I can see the annoyances of buying dresses you don’t love, would never wear again, etc. And it’s not easy to imagine paying for so many flights, in one year. The good thing is I can’t imagine there will be any weddings for a while, after these ones.

      • Oh, yes, I totally agree you cannot miss out on these! But we made the mistake of saying yes to friends that we weren’t über close to, and realized quickly that attending those weddings weren’t the best idea.

        I hate that the bridal salon will say, “oh, you could totally wear this again!” Um, no. I bought a MAROON bridesmaid dress. Strapless and two-piece. It was as awful as it sounds. It hangs in my old bedroom closet at my mom’s house. Yikes.

  13. I never have, though I am getting married in May and have decided to have two bridesmaids. I told them I didn’t care what they wore, though it would be ace if the colours matched – I think they want to go shopping however. I don’t mind paying for their dresses within reason (like, maybe under $200 each). Anyway, we’ll discuss that when it comes time to shop… I genuinely am happy for them to choose; I don’t believe in dictating hideous styles or colours that will never be worn again. I’m not going to pay for hair and makeup for myself, so I don’t plan to do it for them either.

  14. I’m so glad that I only have one friend who wants a real wedding and is close enough to me to ask me to be her bridesmaid — pricey!!

  15. As you know, I’m a bridesmaid in my best friend’s wedding this summer – this will be wedding #3 as a bridesmaid for me. I’m so glad she’s getting married in our hometown, and not her fiancee’s (aka in ENGLAND!) – although I’d love an excuse to go to England again, that would have been expensive as heck.

    In the two previous weddings, one was out-of-town (aka hotel/travel) and cost me about $1,300 (part of that cost is because I was living in Timmins at the time, and travelled home for the stag and doe and bachelorette – $150 in gas each time, and had a $300 flight that I ate the cost of after being laid off). The other was in my hometown, and only cost about $550 as I stayed with my parents, was nearby for all the events, and my gift to her was making the cake/cupcakes for her wedding: the cost for that was very low (besides 15 hours of my time :)

    I’m slightly confused about one part of your budget, though – are you budgeting $300 per dress, or is that overall for the ones you still have to buy? If overall… what the heck lines are your friends choosing!? My dresses have always been $200-$250 each; and we’re looking at dresses in the same price range right now for my BFF’s wedding. Luckily, out of all three weddings 2/3 dresses (assuming we buy the one that is currently top listing for this summer) I’ll be able to wear again at another wedding or formal event.

    L.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:48 pm

      Sounds like your hometown wedding was cheap! Other than airfare, all of mine will be no more than that each… so that’s good to see / think about.

      And we talked about it in-person, but for anyone who might read comments, one of my dresses is free, the other is a maxi dress, and then the other will just be something I buy and can wear to attend other events.

  16. Wow that is so crazy expensive! I’m getting married this summer and I’m doing my best to make things as cheap and accessible as possible, two of my bridesmaids are students, so I’m not crazy about saddling them with a big bill for participating. I’ll have to do a post soon about how much I expect it’ll cost them to stand up with me.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:49 pm

      Good idea for a post! I’m definitely going to do a recap after each wedding, so I can total them all later.

  17. Oooh yes, bridesmaid costs! I just purchased a $250 bridesmaids dress for my sister in law’s wedding. Luckily, it’s actually really pretty and silk and I can wear it again. Still 3 weddings in a row is tough. I hope you have a blast though. There are really only a few years where you can be a bridesmaid so I say live it up. :)

  18. I am a bridesmaid for my English sister from another mother. This is the first wedding that I’ll be in and it’s in London and I’m in Colorado. Am freaking out! It’s a huge honor because she has 5 sisters-they are all her bridesmaids-and me! I cried when she asked. Luckily, I won’t have to pay for the accommodation. Food will be cooked at the house. Then, I realized that I will have to pay for: the dress, gifts for my friend and for her fiancee, little things for the other bridesmaids. I am the only American guest so I feel compelled to bring some American treats. And….will pay for the little side trip to Iceland (free layover, will stay in a hostel). I am on a complete spending fast and will pay cash for everything. Go big or go home! I think it will be around $2500. Happily, I have vacation time so I won’t lose any pay.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:54 pm

      Good you won’t lose any pay, while you’re away! And while $2,500 might seem like a lot, the fact that you’ll have the time and money to also visit Iceland while you’re in that part of the world is incredible. Enjoy your time away :)

  19. My fiance was just a bridesmaid at a wedding that, in hindsight, was a lot of fun to be at but man, did the bride milk the lead up to her special day. Parties and get together’s and preparties and more parties and help me do my hair and so on. I nearly went mad, as the costs just piled up. My fiance and I are doing a very frugal wedding, so we wont be “getting it back” by doing the same to others, making them shell out on our behalf. I think the hole thing is ridiculous: the important thing is marrying someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, right?

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:56 pm

      That should be what it’s all about, yep! I’m with you, though. I honestly can’t imagine having any kind of big wedding, nor any of the parties that lead up to it. A private ceremony and dinner with family/close friends sounds great. Now I just need to find someone who wants to do that ;)

  20. Oh lord……….$1000 per wedding for a bridesmaid? That is way way too much money to spend in my humble opinion. If you can swing it then by all means go ahead but wow my mind is blown away.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:57 pm

      Well, remember that most of the budget is airfare… if I was still in Victoria, it’d be more like $4-500 per wedding.

  21. I was a groomsman in three or four weddings my last year of college. Those tuxes can add up fast. Thankfully they were al local weddings, or ones I could drive to in a few hours so that limited the cost to a certain extent.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 3:58 pm

      I think it’d be cheaper to be a groomsman, than a bridesmaid. There’s no hair, makeup, etc. to pay for! ;)

  22. I’ve been a bridesmaid 4 times and two of them happened within two weeks of each other (and my husband was in the wedding party for both of those too-yikes! Pricey summer/fall that year!)

    I’d say you’ll be doing well to get three dresses fetc. or $500. My cheapest dress (and only because the groom’s mom did most of the sewing) was $150 and this was 7 years ago. More recently (i.e. 4 years ago) my dresses were about $250 each. You can watch carefully and find shoes for less money. In most of the weddings I’ve been in, the bride has given accessories as gifts so everyone matches, so perhaps there are some savings (for you) in that department. I spent a small fortune on a stupid strapless bra in my size that I’ve never worn since (like $120 + tax) (I’m a big girl, would never wear strapless by choice, but the bride chose it, so what do you do?)

    When I was Maid of Honour (and the only other bridesmaid was in England and didn’t offer to chip in for the shower) I spent about $400 throwing my friend a shower. Thankfully, she viewed it as her bachelorette too, so that didn’t cost any more. The other showers I participated in throwing were easier financially, because the other bridesmaids/mom of the bride chipped in to throw the shower. I didn’t throw lavish parties either-food, wine, decorations, etc. add up quickly!

    Will there be Stag and Does for any of these weddings? I personally hate these (why should people come and “raise funds” meaning, give you money, for the party you want to throw that most of them will be invited to?) but my brother and his wife really wanted one, so the bridal party had to chip in for this as well.

    Since you’re far away, while you’ll have the airfare, you won’t have the repeated day trips out to do wedding-y stuff, which means gas (for 3 of the 4 I lived in a different city than the wedding/bride), lunch out, etc. It does all add up. It’s a cost of life, which is tricky because most of it is out of your hands (i.e., up to the bride to decide).

    I realize I sounds quite grumpy and pessimistic in my comment. Generally, I’ve really enjoyed being a bridesmaid so it is worth it for people you really love, but you really have to be prepared budget wise. You’re planning ahead, so you should be fine. Enjoy!

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 4:00 pm

      Stag and Does aren’t a tradition in BC; I hadn’t even heard of them, until coming to Toronto! So no, I don’t have to worry about that (thank goodness, haha).

  23. The last couple of weddings I have attended I was not a bridesmaid but had to fly to Europe to attend and it was very costly. In general even as a simple attendee weddings are expensive. Hotel nights, gifts, gas, dress… good thing I went to really different weddings and could wear the same thing twice :)

  24. Whoa. WHOA. Whoa. I am clearly blown away here. I haven’t yet been a bridesmaid and with airfare, that is so much money! But hopefully once it’s over you won’t be a bridesmaid too many more times? Or at least not all so close together. I’m sure it’ll totally be worth it in the end :) And you’re right, little mini vacas where you get to visit your family will be wonderful.

    • Cait

      January 12, 2013 at 4:01 pm

      I know of one wedding that I’ll probably be in in 2014, but I can’t imagine there will be anymore for a while after that!

  25. This is so exciting!! And how amazing that you’re in a better place financially to be able to be a part of your friends’ weddings without feeling stressed about it. You must feel so proud of yourself :)
    I hope you’re doing well, Cait <3

  26. It’s awesome that you can consider the weddings mini-vacations! I actually can’t believe the infographic includes flying in for the bachelorette and the shower. If you’re out of town and would have to fly to those things, I would think that it wouldn’t be expected (as it is for you this year).

    My mom just about lost her mind when I said I wouldn’t want any attendants if I ever got married, and hoped nobody from out of town asked me to be a bridesmaid because of the potential associated costs. I guess I just have a cold, grinchy heart!

    • Cait

      January 15, 2013 at 9:38 pm

      I know. I’m sorry to my friends but I would never fly home for the extra parties. And you don’t have a cold, grinchy heart… I don’t want a wedding at all! Just a quick elopement and maybe a cute dress. ;)

  27. Being a bridesmaid is definitely expensive – one year I attended ten weddings, two of which I was in and both happened to be destination weddings (had to attend considering one was my brother and one was my best friend). Experience-wise, it’s worth it because I wouldn’t miss their milestones for anything, but that definitely put me in a bit of debt. Your debt pay down is so impressive, by the way, great job!

  28. MomofTwoPreciousGirls

    January 13, 2013 at 11:36 am

    My first bridesmaid experience of this year is in March. I will have to fly from GA to AZ. The hotel she chose is way expensive, but I will stay with her the night before the wedding (she stayed with me!) and hope to stay with my husbands uncle the other couple of days. It’s tough because I am just about to go off severance from a lay off. Luckily, the attire for this one cost me $115 before alterations. I will do my own hair and makeup. I’m guessing the whole thing will cost about $500.

    In September my baby sister is getting married. We are all in the wedding. Me, my husband and my two daughters. That one is local but it will probably cost me about $1000. Ugggghhh!

    • Cait

      January 15, 2013 at 9:40 pm

      It’s expensive, for sure! But it’ll be nice to see your baby sis walk down the aisle. :)

  29. budget bridesmaid

    January 14, 2013 at 8:15 pm

    This service isn’t in Canada yet…but any of your US readers might be interested to know about Little Borrowed Dress (www.littleborroweddress.com). It is a bridesmaid dress rental site where you can RENT the dress for only $50. You don’t have to spend as much…and you don’t have to buy a dress you won’t wear again!

  30. Hello Cait,

    It would be lovely to become a bridesmaid but after thinking about the high cost, it seems scary. From dresses to accessories and the travel expenses, makeup and parties plus gifts, all these could be too much to bear. At any rate, it may be necessary to start saving since this is a new year and anything can happen.

    • Cait

      January 15, 2013 at 9:42 pm

      Hi Lakita,

      Are you suggesting that I save? Or you? I am definitely already saving, for these weddings!

      Thanks for your comment. :)

  31. Hi Cait,

    I had a similar experience to yours a couple years ago. I was a bridesmaid in 3 weddings (one of them abroad), had to attend 2 other weddings in addition to those and got married myself all in the same year!

    In total I have been a bridesmaid 5 times in my life. It really helps when your friend is not a bridezilla and considerate of everyone’s budgets. That’s not always the case though.

    I decided last year to “officially” retire from being a bridesmaid. Not all of my friends have tied the knot yet, but if they ever ask I will say I am retired from being a bridesmaid but will help them out in any other way I can.

    I recommend you retire too after you’ve spent enough, not to mention the amount of time you have to invest in these weddings too!

    Good luck!

  32. I’m staring down a pretty daunting next 18 months… As context, I have three close girlfriends (all former roommates from university) and one sister. One of my close friends is getting married in July, and the three of us are bridesmaids. I am getting married in October, and the three of them and my sister are bridesmaids. My sister and another of the close girlfriends are getting married in June 2014 (on back-to-back weekends!) and I’ll be the matron of honour and a bridesmaid in those weddings as well. It’s going to be pretty insane.

    On the one hand, it’s fun to be going through the whole wedding planning process with them at the same time, but it is going to seriously add up. I actually feel worse for the fourth friend who is not engaged (yet) and has to haul herself from Ottawa to Toronto for the other three weddings and associated events (she is the maid of honour in July, and a bridesmaid in mine and the June one). We’re trying, collectively, to keep costs down for eachother but there is no getting around the basic dress, hair, makeup, and gift expenses!

  33. I have never been a bridesmaid, but I’ve heard it’s expensive. If I ever get married I will try to keep the costs down becuase I don’t want my friends to feel burdened – I just want them to have a good time dancing at my wedding.

  34. I have plenty of bridesmaid gigs under my belt, but the most challenging one yet is coming up in April. It looks like it will cost me $3,500. Much of this expense is attributable to the fact that I live in Tokyo and the wedding is in Texas, but there is a lot of unnecessary expense due to the bride’s carelessness. (I’m going to be a bridesmaid to my brother’s fiance… who I have met twice.) I would have been much happier attending as a guest!

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