Here are three lessons:
1. Be honest. It can be embarrassing to be that girl who says something costs more than she can afford. However, you’ll likely find the rest of the women in the bridal party will be thankful you spoke up. It’s the bride’s big day, and while she certainly has her own vision, you’re the one who will be making the payments. Whenever a friend asked me to be a part of her wedding, I made a point to tell her I didn’t have a lot of money and things were going to be hard for me. I felt better putting this out there in the beginning. One bride threw a fit when I bought slightly different (but much cheaper) shoes than the ones she picked out. I initially felt shamed and panicked about it, but I was honest and told her it’s what I could afford — and in the big picture of her wedding, it was a small detail. She understood and got over it.
2. It’s okay to say no. Apply this lesson whenever you need to. It’s okay to say no to being a bridesmaid at all if you aren’t up for all the financial (and non-financial) responsibility that accompanies this commitment. And it’s also okay to be in the wedding party, but to say you can’t attend the bachelorette party or you can’t afford to co-host the shower. Once I was in a destination wedding, and the bride also wanted to have a destination bachelorette party that involved a flight and a lot of activities. I had to call her and say, “I don’t have the money to attend because of all the other wedding expenses.” It was awkward in the moment, but I felt better saving the money rather than feeling resentful for such an extravagant weekend the whole time I was there. She understood my situation and didn’t think any less of me as a friend or a bridesmaid for sitting it out.
3. Be resourceful. Much like a bride who is furiously flipping through DIY bride books, you can find ways to save money for yourself and the rest of the party, too. Use your Google skills to find the least expensive pair of open-toed silver shoes on the Internet and send a link to the bride and other bridesmaids to show them the deal your found. Or plan the perfect bridal shower brunch where everyone can make something inexpensive to save on catering. Remember, at the end of the day, there’s always a way to do anything for less money; it just takes more time and brain power.
So would I be a bridesmaid for a 13th time? Yes, I would. Even after looking back at all the money and time I’ve spent, I still believe that good friendship justifies the investment. Celebrating the people we love is worth it. But I’ll make sure to follow my own advice and only participate when I’m comfortable. That’s not only best for my bank account, but my friendships.