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Too broke to be a bridesmaid?

It's not uncommon to turn down an invitation to be in a friend's bridal party, considering how much it can cost.

By Karen Datko Jul 20, 2012 2:51PM

Image: Bridesmaids (© FEV Create Inc/Getty Images/Getty Images)Just over 20% of Americans have declined to be in a bridal party because they couldn't afford the cost. The number is even higher -- 37% -- for those in the 18- to 34-year-old group, says a new CouponCabin online survey on the cost of friendship.


You have to wonder about these online surveys. (Another one by CouponCabin found that 15% of Americans would be willing to miss the birth of their own child if they had tickets to watch their favorite team in the Super Bowl. That can't be right.)


But this new survey result rings true and bolsters what many have come to know: The costs associated with weddings have gotten out of hand.


For instance, a newly married man trying out for a staff writing job at Get Rich Slowly reported in a post there that friends and family held 10 (!) showers. "Yes, that's a lot. We've been truly blessed," he wrote. One reader remarked: "Wedding culture in the U.S. is tacky and insane, and this article confirms that it's getting worse than I even imagined possible."


What can you do when you're asked to be in a wedding and you're not sitting on a mound of cash? (Post continues below.)

Blogger Anna Newell Jones recommends that you anticipate the question if one of your friends gets engaged. (You'll likely have a good idea which close friends will ask you to stand up with them.) That gives you time to figure out whether you have the available funds and time off from work, just in case you're asked.


If you can't afford it and you get the call, "It's time to go into heart-to-heart mode and explain that your money situation is not ideal right now and that you want to be a part of the wedding, but maybe in other ways?" Newell Jones writes. She suggests you volunteer any special skills you have, or otherwise lend an extra hand. (Newell Jones was writing about bridesmaids, but this advice works for either side of the aisle.)


Here's another approach: We recommend that the future bride and groom give each perspective member of the wedding party an estimate of what that person can realistically expect to have to spend if they accept the post. Perhaps you should even set a maximum that you truly won't exceed. 

The need for more transparency before people accept wedding party responsibilities became glaringly clear to us after reading this Q&A from The Knot:

Q. How do I let my bridesmaids know that they have to pay for their own bridesmaid dresses? Two of them have never been in a wedding before, and I'm not sure if they'll think I'm being rude.
A. Don't worry! You're obviously not in danger of being rude if you're worrying about this. The easiest way to let them know is to be open about it. Bring your maids dress shopping with you, and when you're looking at a particular dress, it's OK to say to the group, "Do you girls think this one is going to be too expensive for you?" If one of the newbie maids blanches, either you or one of the girls who's been down this road before can explain that it's the norm for bridesmaids to pay their own way when it comes to dresses (and often accessories). …

If you really care about whether your dear friend can afford to be in your wedding, you should make sure she finds out about her financial obligations before that late date.

How much dough are we talking about? has an infographic that puts the total bridesmaid cost at $1,695. Some details:

  • Travel. That includes three separate $300 round-trip flights to the shower, bachelorette party and the wedding. Of course, you may be able to tweak that into two trips or even one.
  • Gifts. That's $50 each for an engagement gift and a shower gift, plus $100 for the wedding gift. Mint says it's OK for bridesmaids to pool their money for a nice wedding present instead.
  • Chipping in. Add $50 for your shower contribution and $60 for bachelorette party expenses. Mint suggests you ask attendees of the bachelorette party who are not part of the bridal party to help pay for it.

The key to all of this is that the bride and groom understand that they're creating a financial obligation and should make sure it's affordable to their dearest family and friends. A wedding should not put anyone involved in debt. 


More on MSN Money:

Jul 21, 2012 2:09AM
I can't believe they wrote Mutt-Rimony....*L*... about DOGS getting married.

I wonder if Endeavor will allow Mutt to get married....

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