How To Be In a Wedding Without Falling Into Debt

Real Money Talk Anonymous young bride and bridesmaids stand side by side with beautiful, colorful bouquets hiding their faces

Let’s set the stage of a typical, 2018 engagement announcement: You wake up on a Saturday morning, and (obviously) immediately check your phone – you have 3 missed calls from your best friend. You call her back thinking, ‘Wow what happened last night. Is this an emergency?’ She answers, excited, elated and overcome with emotion. ‘I’M ENGAGED!!!’ she screams.

You cry, you laugh, you make plans to see her (and that rock!) the following weekend. After the Instagram photo with the caption ‘I said yes!’ is up, their Facebook relationship statuses have been changed to ‘engaged’ and the buzz has slightly died down, you’re officially asked to be in the bridal party. ‘OF COURSE,’ you exclaim. And then together you speedily jump down the Pinterest rabbit hole – picking out accent colors, hairstyle ideas, and bachelorette party destinations.

After the initial excitement has died down, you ask yourself, “Oh crap, how am I actually going to afford all of this.”

And listen up gentleman, it isn’t just bridesmaids who have to shell out some major dough – it’s groomsmen, too. According to Bankrate.com, members of the wedding party each spend an average of $728 on gifts, travel, and attire. (Side note: guests don’t get much reprieve either — attending the wedding of a close friend or family member as a guest costs $628 on average.)

The last thing you want during your friend’s special time – when she is the epitome of stress – is to be anxious about money. And you certainly never want to put yourself in a position of damaging your finances or falling into debt. So before you freak out or feel like you need to up your credit card limit, take a big, deep breath and follow these steps to avoid the D word.

Have the Real Money Talk

Whether you’re a sibling, a bestie from college, or an in-law, the fact that you were asked to be in the bridal party clearly means one thing: you’re loved by, and important to, the bride and groom. If you’ve been asked to be a part of their special day, you should feel comfortable having the #RealMoneyTalk. Odds are, they are having this conversation with their families, too!

So be honest. Let them know that you may have to cut out some of the fun engagement activities, or opt out of certain events. What’s most important to them – and should be for you, too – is that you get to be there to celebrate with them on their big day. Additionally, try and think of the situation the other way around. You wouldn’t want, what some consider, the most important day of your life to cause the people you love most, panic and big financial pains either.

It’s Not Just the Bride Who Can Be Picky

From the venue destination to getting glammed up the day of, all of the aspects that go into being in a bridal party are no joke. The wedding movie romcoms don’t lie, people take this very seriously. Although you love your friend, you don’t need to spend upwards of a grand on a single wedding.

There are some ways you can reduce the cost of being a bridesmaid, without hurting the bride’s feelings or feeling like you’re missing out. Just be thoughtful in your decisions leading up to the big day.

  • Think about renting your dress. One of the more obvious expenses for bridesmaids is the cost of the dress and all the accessories to go along with it. While this was once an area reserved for guys, there are a few designer dress rental services out there now. You pay less and return the dress after the wedding, which means it won’t clutter up your closet, either. A dress from a site like Rent the Runway could be the perfect solution.
  • Chip in for a gift with other bridesmaids. If you pool your money together, you can get the bride a truly spectacular present, while spending less than you would if you went your own way.
  • Don’t go *too* all out for the Bachelorette party. The good news? You’re not expected to foot the bill for other guests at the party. Typically in bachelorette party etiquette, cost of things such as food and drink and the price of admission can be evenly distributed. Also, try taking it easy on the decorations – no one needs that many pink feather boas.
  • Brush up (literally) on YouTube makeup tutorials. There’s also the cost of getting your hair and makeup done for the big day. Try taking the do-it-yourself route when it comes to hair and makeup – it can be a big money-saver. Otherwise, you can expect to drop around $100 just to have someone put your hair up and do your mascara.

Plan, Prepare, Party!

According to Brides Magazine, the average engagement length in the U.S. is between 12 and 18 months – more than enough time to set aside some funds to pay for the corresponding expenses, and give your savings account a little boost. Once you have a timeline to work with, start developing your financial plan.

First things first, check where you stand financially with Turbo – you don’t want to let saving for this wedding get in the way of your other financial goals.

Next up? Prepare what you need to pay for now, and what you can put off until later. If you need to book travel for the wedding, bridal shower, or bachelorette, it’s best to do that as soon as possible. Start researching different dress and jewelry options that you know fit the bride’s style. And most importantly, be realistic about how much you can actually spend when all is said and done.

Getting ahead of your finances and knowing where you can allocate some additional funds will give you the peace of mind throughout the process, the means to be a good bridesmaid, and more importantly, the ability to focus on being a good friend. After all, this experience should be a fun time for you, too! It’s not all about the bride… (don’t tell her we said that!).

I hope some of these tips will help you stay clear of debt, while still keeping your friend’s wedding as special as possible. For those who are wedding party veterans, what are your tips on staying debt-free during a wedding? Tell us with #RealMoneyTalk!

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