Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Budget Bridesmaid: How to Pinch Your Pennies and Keep Your Sanity through 27 Weddings

I am used to big life events happening at the same time as all my friends: graduating from elementary to middle school/high school/college together. In the past, when these events happened at the same time I was always happy (i.e., “Yay! Let’s have one big college graduation party to celebrate all of our success!”)

Buuuuut, when all of your friends get MARRIED at the same time? That is when it can become a bit overwhelming.

Take it from me: a professional bridesmaid and wedding attendee. This year alone I will have attended nearly a dozen weddings, and I’ll have served as a bridesmaid in many of them. Here are some tips to help you budget for all of the travel, tears, dresses, and dramas that come right along with the rockin’ parties and joyous nuptials. Tried and true, my friends, I am an expert.

Manage Expectations: Tell the bride upfront what your budget is and what you are willing to spend. I was so honored and excited to be asked to be in the weddings, I didn’t want to damper the moment with the dreaded money talk. But, truthfully, I should have because some of my brides lived far away and had many expectations about dress fittings, bridal showers, bachelorette parties, and more. I didn’t have the money talk with them until things came to a head (they expected me to pay for travel, events, flowers, hair, makeup, and accomodations that I just couldn’t afford), and it wasn’t a fun conversation. Money talks can really put a damper on even the strongest friendships, so have them early and often so no one is surprised when you set your financial boundaries.

Camping Chic: Last month I went to a wedding in Monterey, California and most of my friends were staying at a swanky hotel. As much as I would have loved to stay there, the cost was just too high. Instead my bf and I ended up finding a camp site on the beach and pitching a tent and making a fire for one night. The hotel-stayers were jealous – they didn’t get to wake up to the sound of crashing waves! The second day of our trip (the night of the wedding) we checked into a charmingly affordable bed and breakfast in the afternoon, got ready for the wedding there, and stumbled back to our warm little room after the festivities ended. For two nights in one of the most expensive tourist destinations in California we spent less than $75 on accommodations…and we got a free breakfast!

Re-wear Dresses: This is more about being an attendee than a maid, but re-wear dresses! Really. It is okay to wear the same dress to different weddings. Who cares if your pictures look the same? The event is about the couple getting married not your dress. It took me a while to get on board with this one. Mostly because I love dresses and shopping for special occasions. But, if you have a few weddings in a year you can save big bucks by wearing the same dress to all of them. This year I estimated that I saved $700 by not buying dresses for every single wedding I attended.

Renting Vacation Houses: Whether with a group of girls for a bachelorette party, or a group of friends attending a wedding, VRBO is cheaper and often nicer than a hotel! They have houses all across the country and often include amenities like a private pool or jacuzzi!

DIY Presents: Instead of buying a present for the bride for her bridal shower or bachelorette party, why not make her something? For one of my friend’s bachelorette parties I asked all of her nearest-and-dearest ladies (friends and relatives alike) to secretly email me their favorite recipes. I made a little recipe book (you can bind it at Kinkos or use cute ribbon) and the bride loved it! Also, I gave a copy to all of the girls who attended the bachelorette party as a fun souvenir (because who doesn’t love a cookbook?) Here is the cover of a cookbook I recently made on Picassa for a friend's bachelorette party favor.

Do Your Own Hair and Makeup: You can do your hair and makeup like the professionals! Just check out YouTube for hair and makeup tutorials and you will save yourself a pretty chunk of change, and no one will be the wiser. My advice would be to practice it at least once before the big day, but before long your hair will be just as fabulous as if you had it done at a salon. Don’t believe me? Check out this YouTube creation I did for a wedding.

Hope these tips are helpful! May your weddings be merry, bright, and budget-chic!

(*)Author's photo note: The photos above are dramatizations. Two of my closest friends have recently gotten married, and since they love me so much, I know they don't mind that I use photos from their wedding or their bachelorette favors for my blog. Those particular brides are absolutely gracious, but not every bride has the same compromising outlook. :)


  1. This is *so* me! And I'm surprised you didn't ask me to design the cookbook cover.... I kid, I kid!

    I always thought that if you were inviting and expecting people to come from long distances, and not paying for it, then their attendance *was* the wedding gift -- at least that's how it works in my circle. And in my experience, I've gotten free room and board when I travel for weddings... granted its more like old aunt's guest room rather than swanky hotel, but who needs that?!

  2. Great info!!!! Your hair turned out so darling in that photo... gotta love youtube tutorials:)

  3. I feel fortunate that I've only been in a few weddings. I moved away from my hometown in my 20s & have only remained in touch w/ just a few lovely friends.

    For my own small wedding of 50 people, I had one bridesmaid & I asked her to buy a simple black (of course) cocktail dress of her choosing that she would wear again & again.

    I applaud your ingenuity, honey. Reality is not like the movies.

  4. It can be so expensive to be in a wedding or weddings. Love the cookbook! That has to be the greatest idea ever :)

  5. Thank god most of my friends are dudes. :-)