Here's How to Not Go Broke as a Bridesmaid

We break down exactly where to save and where to splurge.
by Sarah Hanlon

Congratulations, you're a bridesmaid! As you prepare to celebrate your friend's relationship milestone, there is one thing to keep in mind: your bridesmaid budget. Saving money as a wedding party member can seem overwhelming. 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. 

Luckily, there are ways to create a bridesmaid budget and—yes—actually save money while being in a wedding party. While some costs are unavoidable, there are resources and tactics that can help you stay on top of your spending so that you don't go broke once the wedding is over. Here, we break down seven ways to create (and stick to) a bridesmaid budget, as well as where you can save and where to splurge. 

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, once you receive your bridesmaid proposal, you won't be blindsided with expenses. 

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 your bridesmaid budget. Glantz suggests creating a 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 staying organized with budgeting tools like apps and 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 budgeting. 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 these 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 research on your own 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 search the designer and the dress and you can find it for cheaper online—even used. Set travel alerts for travel deals and 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.

Consider Buying Experiential 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 bridesmaid gifts no one will use, offer to pay for wedding day hair and makeup (if possible) or keep the bachelorette party local to avoid extra travel costs," Glantz suggests. "Go in on things for the honeymoon (adventures and excursions) or even housewarming gifts that the couple will cherish for years to come." Encourage the couple to start their wedding registry sooner than later, especially since experiences like cash funds 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 programs like Rent the Runway to stay on top of your bridesmaid budget. 

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 your relationship with the bride. A wedding will last one day, so don't let it compromise your friendship. "I think that people should be reminding themselves that it's about the relationship in the long run, it's not about the party," Lapin advises. "Parties are fun but keep perspective in mind that it's ultimately about the relationship. 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."

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

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