By Elizabeth Paal CFP®

Since the time when our parents said “I Do” the wedding industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar business, thriving on young women who’ve spent their lives fantasizing about that one special day they get to walk down the aisle in a white dress.  

The average wedding in the U.S. costs about $28,000, but that doesn’t include events leading up to the big day such as the engagement party, bridal shower or honeymoon. While the bride’s family may have a hefty bill at the end of the day, those picked to stand by her side as lovely bridesmaids also have a large price tag associated with their role.

When asked to be a bridesmaid, it is important to consider if you can afford it before saying yes. The average bridesmaid can expect to spend around $1,600 on each wedding she participates in. If you are in an average of one to two weddings a year, that’s about $1,600 to $3,200.

Between the engagement gift, bridal shower gift, bachelorette party, bridesmaid dress and alterations, hair and makeup and the wedding gift, things add up quickly! Not only is this expensive, but the amount of vacation time you have to take from work for various events adds to the cost as well.

I remember the first time I was a bridesmaid. I was extremely honored to be chosen for this role and could not wait to try on the dress and start planning the bachelorette party along with all of the other exciting duties as a bridesmaid. Luckily, it was my only wedding that year because I was in for a quick reality-check once I saw the bills come in:

  • Engagement Gift: $50
  • Bridal Shower Gift: $50
  • Bachelorette Party (airfare, hotel, food): $650
  • Dress: $250
  • Dress Alterations: $75
  • Shoes for Dress: $50
  • Hair and Makeup (bride covered hair so only paid for makeup): $75
  • Wedding Weekend (airfare and hotel): $500
  • Wedding Gift: $150

I spent $1,850 for one friend’s wedding in a matter of a few months!  I was floored when I saw this at the end of the day. I have some friends who are in three or four weddings per year, and I still wonder how they aren’t broke at this point in their lives.

Looking back at it now, there are some things I could have done to make it more affordable. The bride is already on cloud nine with all of the events; just having you as company is more important than a pricey gift. For the engagement and bridal showers, give something nice and thoughtful that doesn’t necessarily have a hefty price tag. Etsy has great ideas you can get for under $25.  

For shoes, ask to borrow a pair from someone if you don’t have something in your closet. I bought a pair, and my feet hurt so badly I ended up giving them to Goodwill after the wedding.

Do your own makeup. You do it every day on your own, and you don’t want to upstage the bride anyway.  Share a room with a friend the weekend of the wedding to cut the rooming cost in half.  If the bachelorette party is too expensive, trust me, the bride will understand. Take her out for a night on the town or out to a nice dinner just the two of you to celebrate.

It is important to remember, once your friend gets engaged, there is an average of 14 months of planning before a wedding, so start saving a little each month to cover these bridesmaid costs. Like I say in almost every article . . . budget, budget, budget!  I have replaced my vacation budget with a wedding budget so I can be there, if not as a bridesmaid, at least for the wedding weekend.

While being a bridesmaid can be a financial burden, it is something every girl should experience at least once. Afterall, that means you get the best view of your friend walking down the aisle to her new life, and there’s something about that moment money can never buy.

Elizabeth Paal is a registered representative of Lincoln Financial Advisors Corp., a broker/dealer (member SIPC).  CRN-1459243-033116