When being a bridesmaid isn’t in the budget

It’s safe to say that I’ve been a bridesmaid approximately half a dozen times, and a wedding guest almost double that many times in my life. I’m not embarrassed to say that when one of my best friends asked me to be her maid of honor I burst into tears because it was so sweet to be asked. I’d met her freshman year of high school and we had spent our teen years together, attended the same college and strengthened our bond over all this time. It was one of the loveliest requests I’d ever had, as well as an honor.

Since she was the first of our group of friends to get engaged, I didn’t have a full comprehension of the expenses involved in being in a bridal party. And it can really add up. Which is why a couple years later, when I was in between jobs I had to bow out and decline an invitation to be a friend’s bridesmaid. Solely due to finances, but I was still wracked with guilt over it because the girl who asked me was a close friend, and the last thing I wanted her to think was that I was being dismissive of her request. Luckily, we were close enough that she not only understood why I couldn’t commit in light of my uncertain financial future, she passed along my resumé and set me up on job interviews.

When it comes to being a bridesmaid, expenses can add up and fast. There’s the actual dress, which can run upwards of a few hundred dollars, alterations tend to be costly, and you might need to get new shoes to match. Then there are the parties. The bachelorette party tends to be paid for by the bridal party, sometimes the bridal shower is as well, then there’s gifts for the shower and the wedding day. Showers have a registry AND a wishing well gift, There might also be an engagement party! If it’s a destination wedding it could involve flights, hotels, possibly rental cars. It can all put a very hefty dent in your wallet. So what do you do if you’ve been asked but know that you can’t swing it on your budget? It’s not always easy, but no true friend would ever want you to sink into debt over bridesmaid duties. Here are some ways to deal.

Ask for some time

If you’re not sure if you can handle bridesmaid duty, but want to, explain that you need to go over your budget and see what you can do to make this work. Don’t agree immediately if your brain is telling you it’s not responsible.

Figure out how to make concessions/compromise

If the thought of turning your friend down really bums you out. Ask your friend if she thinks it might be possible for you to not have to partake in ALL of the activities. Example: you decide you will save up for the dress, but have to skip the bachelorette spa weekend or weekend trip to Vegas with all the girls. Splitting the cost of gifts with other friends can also help economize and save you some money. Sharing hotel rooms can also help or if you need to grab a flight, see if anyone you know has access to buddy passes. Check travel sites, set up alerts from Kayak and other price saving sites to let you know about hotel and flight rates.

Don’t beat yourself up

I absolutely dreaded telling my friend that I couldn’t be part of her wedding. Especially since she was someone I had known for more than half my life. My stomach dropped and I felt panicky and nervous every time I thought about picking up the phone and telling her. But as I mentioned earlier, as one of my best friends she was well aware that I was unemployed and looking for a new job, with my savings dwindling while I searched. Was she disappointed? Of course! But she never compounded my guilt by adding to it. She told me she loved me and was happy that I was able to attend her shower and her bachelorette and knew that in spirit I was with her on the actual day. That made me feel a thousand times better about not being able to be present for her wedding day. Don’t believe the bridezilla stereotype, that bride to be is still the person you’ve known all your life.

Love isn’t about money

When someone asks you to be their bridesmaid, it’s out of love as a best friend or family member. But it’s not a bottom line litmus test to prove how we feel about each other. That happens day to day with friends and family. My friend showed that my inability to be in her wedding didn’t make her love me any less. She didn’t just try to help me find a new job so I could swing a plane ticket, she did it because she knew I needed to pay my bills and get back on track financially in all other areas of my life. And not being able to attend her wedding made me do my best to give her meaningful little gifts leading up to her day and beyond when she became a mom. There’s never been a misstep in our relationship because I couldn’t don a dress and hop on a plane. Oh and in the end? She is the reason that I did find a new job in a new industry in which I’ve spent the last five years.

When it comes to someone’s wedding day, there isn’t anyone I know who doesn’t want it to be perfect. But life isn’t perfect and the best thing you can do when you can’t accept an invitation to be in a bridal party is communicate and talk to your friend like you would about anything else. Be honest about your situation if they don’t know and tell them that you will be there in every other capacity that your budget can allow. And that none of your financial restrictions could ever possibly dull your love or excitement that they’ve found the person they want to be with for the rest of their life.

[Image via Searchlight Pictures]