How much does it cost to be a bridesmaid?

Being a bridesmaid is an honor and a special opportunity to share an important day in a friend’s or relative’s life. See more pictures of bridesmaid dresses.
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Yes, it's an honor, but being asked to be a bridesmaid can also be a huge expense. Depending on the wedding's location, theme and budget, it's quite possible you may end up spending $1,000 or more for the privilege.

So what's in it for you? Well, aside from the joy of watching someone you care about become the better half of one couple, you get to help her plan, organize and prepare for the wedding. And even if she's hired a wedding planner, don't think there will be nothing for you to do. A wedding planner is just that -- someone who plans the wedding. The execution is up to the bride and whoever's helping (read: you). Though it may be fun to taste cakes and shop for dresses, it's also surprisingly expensive, and the more help the bride needs, the pricier your bridesmaid duties will become.

We thought it'd be a good idea to break down the actual cost of being a bridesmaid. We'll cover everything from the essential expenditures every attendant is expected to pay to the oh-my-goodness-I have-to-pay-how-much-to-board-my-dog fees you might not think about before saying "yes" to standing beside her when she says "I do."

What You'll Be Paying For

Regardless of the size and budget of the wedding or how intimately involved you are in the planning and execution of the event, there are certain costs to which every bridesmaid is going to have to commit. These are expenses that you'll incur whether you've agreed to be in the wedding party of a price-conscious saint or a blinged-out bridezilla.

The dress is the most essential and important bridesmaid-related purchase you're going to make. Unfortunately, it's also one of the most expensive. Sure, we've known girls who've served as bridesmaids in $30 dresses, but these kinds of situations are -- like attractive, intelligent and eligible groomsmen -- few and far between. You can count on spending around $200 to $300 on your dress, though it could cost significantly more if you're standing up for a well-to-do bride in an elaborate ceremony with a budget of $50,000 or more.

As any bride can tell you, no wedding dress fits right off the rack. You're not wearing a wedding dress, but it is a dress for a wedding, and the rule still applies. Regardless what you paid for your bridesmaid dress, chances are it's going to need alterations, and you're going to have to pay for those, too. The good news is that adjusting the gown won't cost as much as buying it in the first place, though you can still expect to pay an extra $50 to $100 to custom-fit the garment to your body.

Like the dress, shoes are one of the most basic of bridesmaids' budgeting concerns, though if you're smart (and the bride hasn't insisted on covering you in a heinous color or making everyone wear the same shoes), you should be able to find a pair of affordable heels you won't mind slipping on again after the wedding. You can expect to pay anywhere from $25 to $100 or more for shoes.

Some brides have the good sense to ask you to wear strappy black shoes or metallic gold or silver that you'll be able to wear again. (As former bridesmaids themselves, they know you appreciate being practical.)

But sometimes the bride prefers to have the shoes match the dresses, and that calls for dyeing. You can dye them yourself for $5 to $30. Or you can pay somebody to dye them for you, but that will raise your cost significantly. However you finance your footwear, think of the expense as an investment for your feet, not money wasted on someone else's big day.

And yes, you're expected to purchase a wedding gift no matter how much dough you drop on the couple's "I dos," but if you're strapped for cash, we wouldn't push it. A $50 to $75 present should be sufficient.

What You May Have to Pay For

You've got the bridesmaid's standard budget covered, but what about other potential expenses? There are more hidden and unexpected costs that go into being a bridesmaid than there will be drunken guests willing to raise their arms to spell out YMCA at the reception (and that's really saying something). But there are some additional common purse-draining surprise wedding costs.

There are two more bridesmaid expenses that vary wildly depending on your budget and the bride's wishes and tastes -- the bridal shower and bachelorette party. If you want to throw the bride an extravagant bridal shower with catered food, games, music and lavish gifts, you can expect to pay significantly more than what it would cost to get a few friends together, buy the bride several inexpensive presents and munch on cheese and crackers.

Of course, the same can be said of the bachelorette party. There's a big difference between buying the bride-to-be a few drinks and flying to Vegas with your girlfriends for a decadent last hurrah. The party budget is up to you, but some bridesmaids spend more on the bachelorette party than they do on all other wedding-related expenses combined. Even if you're keeping it cheap and simple, we'd suggest stashing away at least $200 to $300 for the two events, and that's a conservative estimate.

Don't forget that even though everyone's eyes will be on the beauty in the white dress, you'll still want to look your best, too. Budget at least $100 for hair, nails and makeup. These costs are sometimes covered by the bride or her family, however.

Planning a wedding is hungry work, and you're not always going to have time to go back home and cook. Prepare to spend at least an extra $100 over the months leading up to the wedding on unplanned meals out, and that's if you don't eat much and are willing to down cheap fast food.

You probably already own a strapless bra, but do you have one in that hideous shade of off-puke green to match your bridesmaid dress? Not likely, so plan on spending an extra $40 or so for the brassiere.

Hidden Travel Expenses

How much is a gallon of gas? You'll drive all over town trying on dresses, nibbling cake and rating caterers.
How much is a gallon of gas? You'll drive all over town trying on dresses, nibbling cake and rating caterers.
Thinkstock Images/Comstock/Thinkstock Images

Traveling costs are a huge expense most bridesmaids don't consider until after they've already signed on to be in the wedding party. Commuting costs are bad enough for a local ceremony, but look out if the bride is planning an out-of-state (or country) wedding. Paying for round-trip airplane tickets, a hotel room and forking over the dough for all your meals could easily amount to $1,000 or more on a weekend-long destination wedding, and those are just the expenditures you're prepared for. Be ready for some common hidden expenses to get an idea of what you'll really be spending on bridesmaid-related travel costs.

Gasoline. Sure, you figured you'd burn a tank of gas heading to the wedding site and back on the big day, but even if the ceremony and reception both take place in your own backyard, you'll be surprised how much gas you'll use. You'll be visiting florists and caterers and making late-night trips to provide a stressed-out bride a shoulder to cry on. Even if it's a local ceremony, plan on spending at least $150 to $300 on gas.

If you're heading into a metro area to run errands for the bride (a very likely situation), prepare to pay for plenty of parking as you drive to different vendors for dress fittings, cake samplings and florist consultations. Figure $50 to cover it.

And don't forget the surprisingly high cost of paying for your pets to be cared for while you travel to a destination wedding. If you have more than one animal, the fees for boarding your furry little friends can be doggone costly, even if you're only away for the weekend. Budget $75 for one animal and another $50 for each additional pet.

Being a bridesmaid is costly, time-consuming and stressful, and the role should not be taken lightly. Even the most casual and laid-back wedding is meticulously planned, so bridesmaids' duties almost always include more than simply standing next to the lady saying "I do" in an outfit of her choosing.

Still, being asked to be a bridesmaid is a true honor. Without her bridal party, the bride wouldn't be able to plan and prepare for her wedding. Though being a bridesmaid is an expensive role, it's also the most important friendship-related duty you'll ever perform. Both you and the bride will remember it for the rest of your lives!

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Sources

  • Dunleavey, MP. "The Bridesmaid's Survival Guide." MSN. 2011. (June 11, 2011) http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/CollegeAndFamily/LoveAndMoney/TheBridesmaidsSurvivalGuide.aspx
  • Knot, the. "Budgeting for the Wedding: Who Pays for What?" 2011. (June 11, 2011) http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/wedding-budget/articles/wedding-budget-who-pays-for-what.aspx
  • --- "Bridesmaids: Etiquette Q&As for the Bride." 2011. (June 11, 2011) http://wedding.theknot.com/wedding-planning/bridal-party/articles/bridesmaids-etiquettes-for-the-bride.aspx
  • --- "Bridesmaids: Money Matters Q&A." 2011. (June 11, 2011) http://wedding.theknot.com/bridesmaids-mother-of-the