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Trim Your Wedding Party Pricetag

financial frannyIn the midst of wedding season, something’s been bugging Financial Franny. When did weddings get so huge, fussy and over-the-top? The last wedding I attended, I couldn’t help but think about how much the bride, groom, their parents, attendants and anyone else—was going into hock for such a lavish event. Of course, the couple and their parents generally foot the bill, but weddings tend to get pricey for everyone involved, including the bridesmaids and groomsmen.

Case in Point: My daughter had the experience of being in a friend’s wedding, which initially she was thrilled about. Starting off with saying yes to the bridesmaid’s dress, it was rolling expenses from there on out—gifts, bridal shower, bachelorette trip to Vegas, t-shirts, hair, makeup, lodging, and other charges. When she totaled it up, it came to a whopping $2,000! Yes, Vegas was fun. Yes, the wedding was beautiful. But, she was not thrilled with the extravagant price tag for her participation. It pretty much wiped out her savings.

Many people enjoy being asked to be part of a weddings, but nowadays, with weddings averaging $25,000—$35,000, these over-the-top events can hit everyone hard in the wallet. In a recent Fox News survey, at least 30 percent of bridesmaids and groomsmen polled have gone into debt for a wedding. What’s more, many said that their financial obligations for the big day put a strain on relationships. A group of 700 Americans between the ages of 18 and 53, both men and women, agreed that they felt pressured to spend big on wedding expenses, with 58 percent of bridesmaids and 43 percent of groomsmen saying that the final cost of celebrating a friend’s marriage made them feel “queasy.”

Queasy? What happened to all the love, hearts and flowers? Apparently, these sometimes go right out the window once the expenses kick in. (My daughter definitely felt ‘queasy’ over the expense.)

This leads Franny to consider how much it really costs to be in a wedding. Here’s a breakdown of the typical expenses for a bridesmaid and groomsman:

The Dress. It’s the first thing everyone thinks of, but sometimes can be the least expensive, when you add in cost of all the other items. A bridesmaid dress averages about $150. But once you add in the cost of shoes, alterations, lingerie and other accessories, expect to spend around $300. And the guy’s tuxedo rental can cost between $150 and $250 to rent one for the day, including shoes, ties, etc.

Hair, Makeup and Manicures for the Ladies. Better count on another $100 for the group salon outing.

Gifts. Even though you’re in the bridal party, you’re still expected to buy a shower and/or wedding gift. This could run $150 or more for both.

Bridal Shower. If you’re part of the bridal party, you will probably be expected to kick in for the celebratory costs—food, venue, favors and décor. Count on $50 – $100 for your part.

Bachelorette or Bachelor Party. Back in Franny’s day, we went out with the girls to the local bar, danced a little and had a fun night. Then we went home. Flash forward a few decades: A long weekend or weeklong trips to Vegas, Nashville, Florida, Mexico—you name it—the sky’s the limit for what some bridezillas want. It’s all fun and good, and of course a great time. But what if one (or more) of the bridesmaids feels hesitant about spending the money? A $500—$1,000 trip makes the commitment a little less palatable. Total Cost: The total cost of being a bridesmaid or groomsmen could potentially run anywhere from $500—$2,000, maybe even more. Wow!

So, brides: it’s always nice to be sensitive and keep costs manageable. Or, if you really want to do it up with a pre-nuptial vacation, why not pay for part of it to alleviate the strain on everyone’s budget? It also saves the embarrassment of a bridesmaid having to tell you no. Ditto for the Bachelor party; weekends away in destination cities are increasingly becoming more the norm, foregoing the simple “night out with the guys.”

Tips for lowering your expenses
Here are some suggestions for those in the wedding party that will keep expenses down without being a party pooper. Before you say no to joining in at the altar, check out these tips to steer your bride or groom towards saving money where you can:

  • Be honest and upfront. Let the bride or groom know you are on a budget and ask if he/she can work with you to keep costs down.
  • Expect the unexpected. Sometimes those are the costs that break your budget – like a destination bachelorette or bachelor party. Start a savings fund and add to it each month to stay ahead of the game.
  • Don’t complain about expenses. Rather, offer up creative and cheaper alternatives.
  • Save money on the dress. Suggest to the bride that you all wear different dresses in the same color, which will allow everyone to pick their own dress according to her budget and body type. This is actually trending these days.
  • Steer your groom towards a less-expensive tuxedo. Does it need to be a designer tux? Some frugal grooms are now opting to choose nice tailored suits instead—a great look, plus the groomsmen get to keep the suit.
  • Pick and choose what you will participate in. If you can afford most of the wedding expenses, but just can’t swing the bachelor or bachelorette party or trip, then it’s perfectly OK for you to opt out—again, with honesty. “I simply can’t afford a trip at this time.”

Sometimes you just have to say no
Lizzie Post of the Emily Post Institute says, “If you don’t have the time or the finances—and let’s face it, the desire—it’s OK to say no.” That’s good advice coming from the folks who are experts in etiquette. Instead, say you will be thrilled to be a guest, or suggest that you could assist in some other way—perhaps as a reader during the ceremony, handing out programs or managing the guestbook/gift table. A mature friend will accept your gracious decline.

What if you said yes to everyone who asked? You could very easily end up like Jane from the movie “27 Dresses”—a perennial bridesmaid. Jane finally gets married, making all 27 of those brides wear the ugly dresses she had to wear in their weddings. Cute movie—I’m sure Jane spent A LOT of money, though.

Resources: Thespruce.com, Emily Post Institute, Washington Post, Fox News, ABC News, Theknot.com