9 Easy Ways to Save Money and Still Be an Amazing Bridesmaid
Being someone’s bridesmaid is an honor (and a ton of fun), but it usually comes with a serious price tag. Wedding parties are expected to pay for everything from bachelorette party expenses to bridesmaid dresses, hair, and makeup. The sum total often forces bridesmaids (and groomsmen) to heavily adjust their daily spending—or even put their own personal financial goals on hold—just to afford being a good friend to the bride or groom.
But don’t worry. If someone just asked you to be in their bridal party, we’re here to help you avoid going into debt as a bridesmaid without sacrificing on all the fun. Because being a bridesmaid should be fun—not anxiety-inducing. From registry gifts to dress alterations, find the secrets to saving money when you're in a wedding party.
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1. Book Travel as Early as Possible
The second you receive a bridal shower invitation or wedding save-the-date for the wedding, mark it on your calendar and start planning transportation. The earlier you book travel, the less expensive it is, and this is true for airlines as well as trains and buses. Booking travel early also gives you your pick of what time you leave, so there’s less of a chance for delays.
2. Know When to Say “No”
Of course, your friend or relative asked you to be a bridesmaid expecting you to do your part to support her. That said, there might be certain wedding events you simply can’t attend due to budget limitations—and that's okay. Maybe you skip the bachelorette party—or only attend part of it—if you’re saving up for wedding weekend travel and accommodations. Do your best to balance being present and being financially responsible. Yes, your friend’s wedding is important, but so is paying off student loans.
3. Set a Gift Budget—and Stick to It
Don’t splurge on a gift you can’t afford. Bridesmaids are most often expected to give gifts for both the shower and the wedding, and if that’s the case, set a slightly larger gift budget and divide it for each occasion. For example, if you’re working with a $100 gift budget, pick a fun $25–$50 shower gift, and a larger $50-$75 wedding gift.
4. Get to the Registry Early
The earlier you head to the couple’s registry, the more affordable gift options you’ll be able to choose from. If you wait until three days before the wedding, everything you could reasonably afford might be taken, and you’ll have to choose between a $400 vacuum and $10 salt and pepper shakers.
5. Split a Gift (and Other Expenses) With the Group
It never hurts to go in on gifts together. Why not help each other out—and get the to-be-weds something they love? Pooling your funds to get the couple a larger-ticket gift—like a bread-maker, custom couch, or a Vitamix—won’t go unappreciated. Amd when it comes to destination weddings and bachelorette parties, collaborate on a car rental and share hotel rooms (try a suite that sleeps four or more). And you could always see if AirBnb and Homeaway have even cheaper options for a large group.
6. Buy a Pre-Owned Bridesmaid Dress—or Rent One (if You Can)
You may not have this option, but if you do, take advantage of it. You could cut bridesmaid dress prices in half by finding a gown on sites like eBay, Tradesy, Poshmark, which sell heavily discounted, used (read: worn once) dresses from designers and popular retailers. When the party’s over, try reselling the dress and making some of your money back, or donating them to an organization like Goodwill or Operation Prom (you could receive a tax break for these donations, by the way).
But there’s also no need to purchase an evening gown you'll only wear once. Bridesmaid dress rental sites like Rent the Runway or Union Station let you borrow beautiful dresses for the big day, then send it right back. The same goes for accessories. Consider wearing shoes and jewelry you already have, borrowing from a sister or friend, or renting (you can rent jewelry online for so much less).
7. Don’t Get Your Dress Altered at the Bridal Salon
Dress alterations will help you look and feel amazing on wedding day, but avoid unnecessary ones. Yes, you need to hem the skirt so you don’t trip walking down the aisle, but if you’re buying at a bridal shop, they’ll likely try to convince you you need to add extra features, like boning or loops and hooks to hold your bra—you don’t. If the dress needs editing here and there, take it to a local tailor who can make it fit you like a glove at a reasonable price.
8. Take Advantage of Online Savings
There’s an online coupon for pretty much anything, so it’s time to get savvy about saving. RetailMeNot is a prime resource for coupon codes that can be used on things like accessories and registry items from most major retailers. And sites like Groupon and LivingSocial offer plenty of steep discounts on restaurants, beauty services, rental vehicles, and bachelorette party activities.
9. Do Your Own Hair and Makeup (Or at Least Get a Blowout, Not an Updo)
Professional bridesmaid hair and makeup can cost anywhere from $50–$100 per person per service. If you (and the bride) are comfortable doing your own beauty prep, it’s probably worth it. If the bride insists you get your hair done professionally (but doesn't offer to treat), remember that fancy updos tend to cost more. Head to a local salon for a $30 blowout—you’ll look gorgeous, save money, and no one will know the difference.