If a close friend or family member is getting married it’s an honor to be asked to join the wedding party. However, if your budget is tight because you’re saving up for a financial goal, paying off bills or have had a recent financial reversal like the loss of a job, you might need to do some thinking before you say yes.
The average spend by bridesmaids and groomsmen can exceed $1,000 for clothing, wedding and shower gifts, bachelorette or bachelor party expenses and other incidentals. Add any number of factors – more expensive dresses, a purchased tuxedo, an upscale gift registry, a destination wedding – and suddenly, the cost of standing up for a friend’s wedding can rival a rent payment, or beyond.
It can be tough to refuse a friend who wants you to be in his or her wedding – planning, saving and bargaining can help you avoid having to turn them down. Here are some ideas to potentially lower the wedding party’s costs on the key items:
Clothing. Men luck out a bit in the tuxedo rental department because group discounts are often available for wedding parties. (Note to guys: If you’re not going to get at least four wearings out of a tux, you may want to forego buying one.) However, for women, the landscape can get trickier – you’ll probably never wear that dress again. So maybe it’s time for negotiation with the couple. If the dresses or suits don’t have to be identical, you can consider second-hand shops and online resale sites that can save significant money. Second-hand can be a big winner as well.
Gifts. With more pre-wedding events going co-ed, men and women in wedding parties may be buying both shower and wedding gifts for the couple. How can you cut that cost? The attendants can split a bigger gift at a lower cost per person. If you’re already investing a significant amount of money in the wedding, consider a more sentimental gift that won’t cost as much but will still be meaningful. If you want an alternative option to the typical registry gift, think about contributing to the couple’s honeymoon fund.
Travel. Start searching for discounts the minute you’re asked to participate, particularly on air and hotel – waiting will likely impact your budget. If the wedding is out of town or if overnight stays become a necessity, driving or rooming with other attendants can be a good option. Food costs can be cut by packing food for the drive. If friends live near by the wedding destination, ask if you can stay with them. Stay close to the proceedings – after all, cabs and onsite rental car costs add up, so it’s wise to minimize travel distances. One last tip – check all your travel options one last time before you head to the wedding. Check to see if there are any special deals, price changes or upgrades to your travel or accommodations that you can take advantage of.
Pre-wedding celebrations. Bachelor and bachelorette parties are notorious for being over-the-top, but that doesn’t mean you have to empty your savings to show the couple a good time. For safety and savings, consider locations with plenty of restaurants and bars close together so you can walk from place to place. Home-based parties can be a fun option, too.
After considering all these options, what if you still need to say no? Don’t wait. Be early and be honest with your friend. And offer to help in any way you can.
Bottom line: Before you say “yes” to the dress, the tuxedo or the other list of expenses common to the wedding party, do some thinking about alternatives the couple might go for. The right amount of finesse and creativity can preserve your friendship and your budget.
By Nathaniel Sillin
Nathaniel Sillin directs Visa’s financial education programs. To follow Practical Money Skills on Twitter: www.twitter.com/PracticalMoney