The Broke Girl’s Guide To Being A Bridesmaid

Being a bridesmaid doesn’t come cheap. In fact it’s getting really, really expensive. According to, it costs, on average, about $1,695, just to play the role of bride’s best friend. It was all too much for Salon’s Carey Purcell, who recently wrote a piece about how she can’t be a bridesmaid in her friends’ weddings anymore because she just can’t afford it.

How does a girl go from saying “Yes, of COURSE I’ll be your bridesmaid” to watching almost two thousand dollars stage a prison break from her bank account? Well, there’s the bridesmaid dress, which can be $400 (it can ALSO be more). There’s the planning and throwing of showers and bachelorette parties, which sometimes take place out of state and involve planes and hotel rooms. And then there’s the travel expenses, hair, makeup, and mani-pedis on the big day. Let’s not forget the gifts. All that can add up to a scary amount of cash.

So what do you do when you REALLY want to be one of your friend’s go-to girls on her big day but you cannot afford that bonkers-times price tag? Thoughts below.

Be Upfront With How Much You Can Spend On The Wedding

Find a good time to do this early on in the planning process. Sit your bride down and tell her that you love her to the moon and back and you so want to be a part of her day, but you can’t spend more than X amount of dollars over the course of the year. If the bride is really set on $500 dresses and a bachelorette party in Thailand, and you can’t foot that bill, you need to be prepared to sincerely apologize and tell her you can’t be a bridesmaid. Offer to help with the DIY projects, play an attendant role during the big day, you can work together to find a way to be significantly involved in this wedding.

See If It’s Possible For The Bridesmaids To Rent Instead Of Buy Their Dresses

Ideally you have a bride who gives you a paint chip and you can go troll around TJ Maxx for that exact shade of lavender. Or your bride picks $50 dresses for you (that’s what I did). But if your bride is hellbent on expensive dresses, send her links to sites like Little Borrowed Dress and Rent the Runway. Dudes rent their tuxes all the time, we should make this a more popular option for ladies as well.

Make Your Shower and Bachelorette Gifts

I’ve heard of girls making albums for their brides for shower/bach party presents and I think that is the sweetest thing. I had a friend who couldn’t come to my bachelorette party who made Mad Libs for us to play at brunch and it was the loveliest way of her being there without actually, you know, being there. Fancy sheets and lingerie are fun-times, but a thoughtful, personal gesture is equally fun-times (if not more so).

Tip: If you do need to get your bride lacy bits for her sexed-up bach party, I highly rec The French Lingerie Outlet,  the prices are criminally cheap.

Offer a Skill As a Wedding Present

If you have a wedding-appropriate skill, you can offer your time as a gift. If your mom made you take calligraphy lessons as a child and you still have that antiquated skill all ready to go, maybe offer to address the invites. If you once worked for a florist and the bride was planning on doing Trader Joe’s flowers, you can offer to arrange the wedding party’s bouquets and boutonnieres. Maybe you’re between jobs and you have NO money but you do have time and can help with any and all DIY jobs.

Get Your Hair/Makeup/Nails Done Separately (And On The Cheap)

Say you’re a bridesmaid who can’t afford to get your hair/makeup/nails done professionally, like the rest of the bridal party. You can find Groupons/Living Socials for all these services (look early and look often) and you can also hit up beauty schools and see if they have student salons. I go to a student salon before big events and a blow-out is $7 (as opposed to $40) and a mani is $5 (as opposed to $20), which adds up to $12 (not $60). Or trade your beauty school friend a favor, she helps you for this wedding, you dogsit for her on her upcoming vacation. Bartering existed way before cash and credit, and it’s still a very effective way of getting everyone what they want.

So those are my thoughts re: how to be a bridesmaid without forgoing paying rent and buying groceries. What about other girls out there who don’t have a million-kajillion dollars at their disposal. How do you make the bridesmaid thing work?

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