How to Not Go Broke as a Bridesmaid Amid the Wedding Boom

You don't have to go into debt for weddings—we're here to help you keep your finances on track.
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Jul 12, 2022
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Congratulations, you're a bridesmaid! As you prepare to celebrate your friend's relationship milestone, there's one very important thing to keep in mind: your bridesmaid budget. Saving money as a wedding party member can seem overwhelming, especially amid the year of the wedding boom. There are plenty of expenses to cover—from booking bachelorette party travel to buying matching T-shirts and finding the bridesmaid dress. The cost of being a bridesmaid is sometimes downright daunting. Plus, with the added pressures of inflation challenges and rising costs across the board, you might be wondering if it's possible to not go broke while being a bridesmaid.

Here's the good news: There are ways to create a bridesmaid budget and—yes—actually save money while being in a wedding party. Although some costs are unavoidable, there are resources and tactics that can help you stay on top of your spending so that you don't compromise your personal finances once the wedding is over. Here, we break down nine ways to create (and stick to) a bridesmaid budget, as well as where you can save and where to splurge.

Evaluate Your Financial Status Before Accepting the Role

Before you accept your bridesmaid proposal, we recommend evaluating your financial status first. Brush up on the costs of being a bridesmaid, and reflect on your current situation. Can you realistically afford traditional expenses like bachelorette travel, matching fanny packs, or shower decorations? If these costs will set you back, consider your response. "It's an honor to be asked to be someone's bridesmaid, but agreeing to this shouldn't set you back financially," says Sara Kalsman, Certified Financial Planner at Betterment. "This is a great time to check in on your financial situation."

It's okay to RSVP no to a wedding, and it's okay to turn down being in a wedding party—especially if you can't commit financially. There are plenty of other ways you can celebrate the couple, such as enjoying a private dinner together, sending a wedding gift in the mail, or by participating in the wedding in another capacity (perhaps as an usher or a ceremony speaker).

Ask About The Costs You Should Expect To Cover

One way to not bust your bridesmaid budget is to know exactly what you need to budget for. Hidden fees and last-minute expenses may force you to overspend, which can cause financial stress after the wedding. To avoid this altogether, create a budget that covers every cost you'll need to cover.

Start by talking to the couple to get an idea of what you should expect. You can also touch base with the maid of honor or the couple's family members to see what events and fees are likely to arise. If anything seems like it won't fit into your bridesmaid budget, communicate that to the couple. "If there are certain costs that you know you cannot currently afford, talk to the couple to let them know. You may not be the only bridesmaid in this position," Kalsman suggests.

She also recommends making spending parameters for yourself to ensure that you stick to a budget that works for you. "Don't be afraid to set financial boundaries, such as not taking on new debt, giving yourself time before you accept a decision, and letting others know when an expense is not within your budget," Kalsman adds.

Create Your Personal Budget Early

You might be able to predict when you're going to be asked to be a bridesmaid. If your friends are entering this stage of life, start to put money aside as a precaution. That way, you won't be blindsided with expenses when the bridesmaid proposals start rolling in. "As soon as you have an idea of what costs might be associated with being a bridesmaid, set a budget and work this into your discretionary spending (also known as your non-essential living expenses, such as dining out, vacations, and entertainment) to determine what you can afford based on current savings and monthly cash flow," Kalsman recommends.

Once you are asked, take time to create your own personal bridesmaid budget before committing. Jen Glantz, author and founder of Bridesmaid for Hire, encourages bridesmaids to communicate their budget goals with the bride as soon as possible. "Before committing to being a bridesmaid, do a reality check," she says. "How much time and money can you devote to this wedding? Then, communicate that openly and honestly to the bride first before sharing it with the bridal party. Rather than doing it in a defensive way, share what you're planning on spending and see if the bridal party can agree on spending limits for the dress and bachelorette party."

Keep Your Money Organized in a Spreadsheet

Once you start making purchases, it's important to know where your money is going to help you stay on top of spending. Glantz suggests creating a bridesmaid budget spreadsheet to keep yourself organized. "One of the easiest ways to track your spending is with an excel spreadsheet," she says. "Plan your budget first for gifts, travel and the dress. Then as you spend, jot down how much so you can compare and contrast and keep on track."

Other financial planning experts encourage organizing with budgeting tools (Kalsman recommends apps like YNAB and Mint), as well as leveraging your bank accounts with numerous saving tactics. Keeping track of your money will help prevent you from over-spending throughout your time as a bridesmaid. Instead of paying for expenses as they come up, plan ahead so you know exactly how much you want to (and can afford to) spend.

Name Your Savings Accounts

Intentionally setting aside money is one of the most important practices to save up for your role as a bridesmaid. But you'll need to be smart about your savings accounts so that you don't dip into your bridesmaid stash to pay for your daily latte. New York Times bestselling author and money expert Nicole Lapin encourages people to label their savings accounts to encourage smarter spending. So, when you're asked to be part of your friend's wedding, immediately store money into a savings account called "bridesmaid budget" instead of your general savings account. "[Naming savings accounts is] smart because you're visualizing it and it doesn't feel like it's just going into another bill you have to pay," she says.

When it comes to determining how much money to set aside, Lapin follows a three-step method. "I break it down in the three E's: essentials, endgame and extras," she explains. "When you're paying for bridesmaid stuff that will be in the 'extras.' I like to think of a spending plan like an eating plan. It's sustainable, it allows for small indulgences (like being a bridesmaid). These are the things that make life worth living and why we work in the first place, so definitely don't skimp on those things. Allow yourself to indulge within reason."

Budget for Big Ticket Items First

Some bridesmaid expenses are unavoidable: the dress, bachelorette party flight, and gifts, to name a few. These big ticket items are harder to save on, so budget for them first. Once these expenses are out of the way, it'll be easier to manage your money on smaller expenses like matching tank tops or bridal shower decorations.

When building your bridesmaid budget, get creative with where you save. Glantz recommends doing your due diligence to make sure you're making informed purchases. "Research before pulling out your credit card," she says. "Even if the bride tells you what dress to wear, Google the designer and the dress to see if you can find it for cheaper online—or even used. Also, set alerts for travel deals or collect coupons for registry gifts."

If you're looking into credit card perks, there are nifty options like American Express' Pay It Plan It program or Chase Sapphire's travel redemption boost. Some cards will help a bridesmaid earn money back while spending on costs like Uber rides or bachelorette party dinners. The best-case scenario, however, is to save in advance and have the assets ready for when you spend so that you can pay your credit card bills down immediately—which Kalsman says is absolutely essential. "To avoid incurring credit card debt, only put expenses on credit cards which you can pay back in full by the end of the month," she says. "Any balance you have left over will likely be subject to interest rates upwards of 20%. This can set you back significantly towards meeting your other financial goals."

Consider Buying Experiential or Group Gifts

When it comes to gifts, consider collaborating with your fellow bridesmaids to give the bride something she'll actually use and enjoy, making your spending worthwhile. "Rather than splurging on gifts no one will use, offer to pay for something like wedding day hair and makeup," Glantz suggests. "Or, go in on things for the honeymoon (like adventures and excursions) or even housewarming gifts that the couple will cherish for years to come."

We also recommend considering donating to a cash fund, or going in on a group gift with other bridesmaids—this is a clever way to get the couple one of the big ticket items on their registry without breaking your bridesmaid budget. Encourage the couple to start their wedding registry sooner than later, especially since experiential gifts like cash funds, event tickets, and gift cards are increasingly more popular.

Buy Used or Rent When Possible

Determining how to save on a bridesmaid dress is one of the most important tasks for staying on budget. Glantz encourages bridesmaids to research online to find more affordable styles from different retailers. If possible, buying a used dress or renting a gown is a great way to cut down expenses.

Instead of spending on new clothes for the bridal shower, bachelorette party and wedding weekend, turn to rental brands like Nuuly or Rent the Runway to maximize your bridesmaid budget. (Psst: Use code RTRKNOT to get 40% off Rent the Runway's eight-item plan for two months.) You can event rent wedding jewelry through a service like Rocksbox , which has a designated wedding subscription, to up your accessory game without breaking the bank.

Keep in Constant, Honest Communication

Ultimately, it's important to remember why you're a bridesmaid. If you can't participate in a wedding event because of financial restraints, tell the bride as soon as possible. "Share what's going on and offer an alternative," Glantz suggests. "Can't make the bachelorette party because it's in Fiji? Offer to take the bride for a local night out instead."

As you celebrate such a monumental milestone, don't lose sight of what's really important. A wedding will last one day, so don't let it compromise your friendship with the bride. "Parties are fun, but maintain the perspective that it's ultimately about your relationship," Lapin advises. "A lot of times people focus on the party and blow a lot of money. Keeping a long-term mindset is really important so that you don't get in the weeds of some of these financial landmines."

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