When you grow up with 4 siblings, 7 childhood besties and another 5 women who’ve become BFFs over the course of your adult life, the prospect of choosing between them to form a bridal party becomes another one of the too many choices of wedding planning.
At first I procrastinated the decision – much like I have the florist, hair stylist and make up artist we’ve yet to book with just two months to go until the big day.
On the one hand, I’d love to spend my wedding day surrounded by my #squad, #tribe or whatever else you want to call it.
On the other hand, organizing schedules, dresses, hair, makeup, bouquets and gifts for another five to ten people might saddle me more than I can or care to handle. Not to mention the costs.
Not just for me, but for them!
A recent survey found that a third of bridal party members go into debt for their friend’s weddings.
68% use a credit card to cover bridal party expenses, and 37% charge more than $1,000.
The survey also found that a third of those who’ve been in a wedding in the last two years regret the money they spent on doing so.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”A third of those who’ve been in a wedding in the last two years regret the money they spent on doing so.” quote=”A third of those who’ve been in a wedding in the last two years regret the money they spent on doing so.”]
Not to mention the fact that at age 27 – the average age of first marriage for women in the US – many are still just trying to get ahead – establishing careers, breaking the cycle of paycheck to paycheck living, paying down student loans, and trying to build up some savings.
61% of 25-34 year olds have less than $1,000 in their savings accounts.
Meanwhile, the average cost of being a bridesmaid is around $1,200.
In other words, we’re spending more to be bridesmaids, than we’re dedicating to our own savings goals.
All of which begs the question….
Don’t get me wrong, I love my girlfriends. And my relationships with them are undoubtedly important. But how much I spend on them is not a direct representation of how much I value them, and vice versa.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”How much I spend on my friendships is not a direct representation of how much I value them, and vice versa.” quote=”How much I spend on my friendships is not a direct representation of how much I value them, and vice versa.”]
In fact, the research suggests that the financial demands placed on bridal party members may be hurting their relationships with the bride rather than strengthening them (and yes, the same goes for groomsmen).
32% of bridesmaids and 42% of maids of honor say the financial pressure to spend on bridal party-related expenses strained their relationship with the bride.
And 48% of bridal party members who felt pushed toward spending reported the bride as the main source of financial pressure.
You might be thinking, ‘Well, you know what you’re signing up for when you choose to be in someone’s wedding’.
And to some extent that’s true. Unfortunately though, the question ‘will you be bridesmaid?’ rarely comes with an itemized list of expectations from the bride and groom and the estimated cost of each.
Those expectations and costs can vary wildly from one wedding to the next, and they may not be in alignment with what you anticipated when you accepted your bridal party duties.
While you certainly can (and probably should) say ‘no’ to those costs that don’t fall within your means, there can be an increased sense of obligation to spend when you’re in the ‘official’ bridal party.
Not to mention the fear of jeopardizing your relationship with the bride, being excluded from festivities or being judged by your fellow bridesmaids.
As one bridesmaid recently told BRIDES magazine, ‘Asking a friend to be a bridesmaid is like asking her to do an unpaid internship.’
Last week, I read a story about a 27-year-old questioning how she should go about covering the cost of being a bridesmaid in three weddings this summer. She had already stopped her monthly $100 contributions to her retirement account to save up and was considering relying on a line of credit to make up the difference.
My head nearly exploded when I saw the financial planner’s reply…
‘You’re very young still with lots of time to save for retirement. In the next six to nine months, you’ve got bigger fish to fry.’
I’m sorry, but being a bridesmaid does NOT qualify as ‘bigger fish to fry’.
Paying off high interest credit card debt? Yep. Covering a major medical expense? Indeed. Investing in a major career opportunity? Sure.
Being a bridesmaid? I don’t think so.
While researching this article I came across SO many resources on how to save money as a bridesmaid – tips on DIY wedding shower decorations, how to hack the cost of your bridesmaid dress, how to afford a destination bachelorette party, etc.
But why are we even putting our friends into a position where they need to save and stress so much, just to be able to celebrate with us?
[click_to_tweet tweet=”Why are we even putting our friends into a position where they need to save and stress so much, just to be able to celebrate our weddings with us?” quote=”Why are we even putting our friends into a position where they need to save and stress so much, just to be able to celebrate our weddings with us?”]
And if it’s our relationships that really do trump all, budgets and financial realities be damned, then why isn’t the bride footing the bill for her bridesmaids?
Now that it’s my turn to be a bride, I’m considering how to enjoy the benefits and joys of having bridesmaids… without the price tag.
The cost of attending a wedding is expensive enough. And while my friends are at a point in their lives where spending an extra couple hundred bucks on hair, makeup and matching dresses probably wouldn’t be too much of a financial burden, it just doesn’t seem like a great value for them. Or me.
I won’t feel any less supported because they’re not wearing a new dress or standing behind me holding matching bouquets.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”I won’t feel any less supported on my wedding day because my friends aren’t wearing a new dress or standing behind me holding matching bouquets.” quote=”I won’t feel any less supported on my wedding day because my friends aren’t wearing a new dress or standing behind me holding matching bouquets.”]
Don’t get me wrong, I still intend to spend the day surrounded by my besties – it’s why I splurged on booking the penthouse suite for our wedding weekend, so we could all get ready together.
But that’s a cost I’ll be taking on because it’s one of my priorities. It’s passing the cost of my priorities onto others that I think fosters the kind of resentment and pressure to overspend that puts unnecessary strain on our relationships.
So instead of putting my friends in the position of having to confront me about costs (or spend their way into debt out of a sense of obligation), my hope is that by forgoing the traditional ‘bridal party’ I’ll be able to enjoy more of a bridal party.
[click_to_tweet tweet=”My hope is that by forgoing the traditional ‘bridal party’ I’ll be able to enjoy more of a bridal party. (Why I’m not having bridesmaids).” quote=”My hope is that by forgoing the traditional ‘bridal party’ I’ll be able to enjoy more of a bridal party. “]
After all, without having to pick and choose among my best friends and coordinate extra bouquets, favors, dresses, and hair appointments, there’ll be more celebration and less obligation for everyone involved – myself included.