Choosing your wedding party is exciting and exhilarating. Your closest family members and friends will stand by your side and make memories of a lifetime. But it's no secret that weddings can be expensive for everyone. Asking your bridesmaids to invest a lot of time and money in your big day can be challenging. Wedding experts say that the key to politely navigating wedding expenses with your bridesmaids is communication, being receptive and open, and getting creative together.
Start the wedding planning by having honest conversations with your would-be bridesmaids. Then keep that conversation going throughout the whole planning process. "Wedding attendees should always try to be understanding of what the bride or groom is going through, after all they are both under a lot of stress and its likely they've never planned an event of this size before," says Esther Lee, senior editor of the leading U.S. wedding website The Knot. However, expectations can create conflict or disappointment, so it's important for the bride to be honest with her bridesmaids from the start. Share your vision with your bridesmaids, and let them share their travel or budget realities.
*See What's Budget-Friendly
Just as planning a night out with your girlfriends can become a conversation about who can afford what, most bridal parties have members with different financial situations. Here are three tips to having your wedding vision come to life while looking out for your bride tribe:
Be straightforward with your prospective bridesmaids about how much you want them in your wedding. Don't overlook talking about the time and financial commitments needed. "This is the kindest way to ask for someone's participation," says Katherine Frost, luxury wedding planner and owner of A Frosted Affair in Denver. "Financial misunderstandings ruin friendships, so don't avoid discussing money."
Based on your initial conversation, you should understand each of your bridesmaid's budgets, so be flexible about how much you want them to spend on attire, accessories, travel and other extras. Amy McCord Jones, owner of Flower Moxie, agrees. She has planned over 800 weddings and says a bridesmaid will spend $500 minimum, including dress, shoes, alterations, jewelry, hair and makeup, hotel, wedding shower, engagement party and bachelorette party. She urges brides to ask themselves how realistic their expectations of bridesmaids are. Will you allow the bridesmaid to pick out her own dress? If not, what amount seems reasonable to budget? Will you require them to buy the shoes and accessories you want, or can they wear their own? Do they need professional hair and makeup, or can they do their own? It all adds up, so think of the bigger picture and what's most important.
Keep It Under $750
Being in the wedding party isn't cheap, but it can be relatively reasonable. "Whenever possible, just keep all expenses for bridesmaids under $750 in total," says Frost. Even that amount may be asking a lot. Etiquette consultant Jodi RR Smith of Mannersmith Etiquette Consulting says that the cost doesn't have to all come from the bridesmaids' wallets. "It is not uncommon for brides to pay for shoes, accessories, hair/make-up, the hotel, etc. as part their gift to their attendants," she says. "The bottom line is that attendants should not go into debt for a friend's wedding."
*Light, Easy and Drama-Free
Etiquette coach Toni Dupree, CEO of Etiquette & Style by Dupree and a bride-to-be herself, encourages couples to do the "heavy lifting" of wedding planning. "The bridesmaids are for keeping the wedding activities light and easy," she says. She suggests that brides work with their bridal party to crowdsource wedding ideas.
"The bride can't think of everything," she adds. "Have the bridesmaids over for a wedding round table of sorts to get ideas for the decorations, the bridal shower, bachelorette party and divvy up hostess duties."
The thing not to do? Add on expenses that attendees aren't expecting. WeddingWire senior editor Kim Forrest notes, "As long as you're upfront, never vague and always gracious about who should be paying what, things should stay chill and relatively drama free."
At the end of your special day, the cake will be gone and the decorations taken down, but your bride tribe will stay! The more open you are through the process, the brighter, happier memories you'll share.