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Home » Lifestyle Finance, Live

Avoid Putting your Bridesmaids & Groomsmen in Debt

Last updated by on 19 Comments

If you’re in that twenty to thirty-something age range, odds are that you have friends and family who are getting married. If you are close with any of them, there’s a good chance you will be asked to be in the wedding party at some point.

This post was put together with the help of my wife, an expert in this topic area. She has been in six wedding parties, three of which as the Maid of Honor (I’m lucky I scored a likable wife!).

Would you like to be my Bridesmaid/Groomsman?

It’s really tough to say “no” to that question, but if you’ve never been through it before, it’s important to know what saying “yes” means, especially if you’re in a tough spot financially. I’m sure a lot of us who’ve been through this phase have reluctantly said “yes” to someone who we knew we wouldn’t be in touch with in a year who had like 12 people in their gigantic wedding party (and yeah, we’re not in touch anymore as predicted).

The bridesmaids definitely have the roughest go financially, with a huge burden being put on Maid of Honors, in particular.

The Cost of Being a Bridesmaid:

cost of bridesmaid & groomsman

  • Gift for the Shower: ~$50
  • Gift for the Bachelorette party: $25-$50
  • Gift for the Wedding:  ~$50 (yes you have to buy gifts for each party)
  • Dress: $150-200
  • Shoes: $30
  • Alterations: $50
  • Undergarments: $30
  • Hair: $50
  • Makeup: $50 (some brides ask to have done day of, others brides – the good ones – don’t)
  • Total cost of being a bridesmaid : ~$500

The Added Cost of Being a Maid of Honor:

It’s hard to put a price on this, but the Maid of Honor generally bears the brunt of paying for the bachelorette party. It could include travel, drinks, limo, taxi, gag gifts, entertainment, and other miscellaneous stuff. Additionally, the Maid of Honor can get stuck with bridal shower costs if the mother does not pick up the tab (they most often do). Let’s assign a total additional cost of $500 for the b-party.

The Cost of Being a Groomsman:

  • Gift for the Wedding: ~$50
  • Tux Rental: $150-$200
  • Shoe Rental: $20 (if not included with tux)
  • Alterations: usually comes with tux fitting
  • Haircut: $20
  • Bachelor Party: $50/person
  • Total cost of being a groomsman: ~ $350

The Added Cost of Being the Best Man:

The groomsmen tend to be a little more involved in paying for the bachelor party than the bridesmaids, so the Best Man tends to not get as stuck with as big of a bill as the Maid of Honor. However, they will often get stuck with the costs for a limo/taxi, gags, and of course, the stripper (j/k, but not really if that’s the kind of party you’re having). Total additional cost for Best Man – $200 (we’ll assume you’re going the ‘no stripper’ route).

Travel/Opportunity Cost of Being a Bridesmaid or Groomsman:

Again, hard to assign a number, but both could be significant if you don’t live in the near vicinity of the bride or groom. There is the cost associated with travel to and from and maybe even time off work to attend all the parties, rehearsal dinner, and finally the wedding.

Considerations from the Bride and Groom

We ask three things from you before you make someone pony up $500-$1,000 for ‘your special day':

  1. When you ask someone be a bridesmaid/groomsman, put yourself in their shoes. Ask yourself, “If I were in their situation financially, would I like to be asked to be in their wedding for the same cost that I’m putting on them?”.
  2. Do you really need 10 or 12 people in your wedding party? And do you HAVE to add that one poor sap just to even your pictures out? Really?? My wife and I had a Best Man and a Maid of Honor, and that’s it. We don’t regret it one bit and you probably won’t either.
  3. What’s wrong with khaki pants (for the guys) and old prom dress for the gals (if they still fit)? In fact, that’s what we told our Best Man and Maid of Honor to wear. They spent nothing for the day of the wedding. Break free from stodgy American wedding traditions! You’ll like yourself more later on for it.

Considerations from Those Being Asked to be in the Wedding

Unless you really don’t like the person and don’t see them as a long-term friend, you can’t really say “no” and you’re pretty much stuck with what the bride/groom ask for. Grin and bear the expense, and don’t hold any ill will. They may in your shoes someday at your wedding, after all.

Wedding Party Discussion:

  • Have you said “yes” and had no idea what you were getting into?
  • How much did it cost you to be in each wedding party you were in?
  • Have you been asked to be in a wedding from someone you didn’t really care much for or have not kept in touch with?

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19 Comments »
  • Stephanie says:

    I agree that being in a wedding can be a big expense, but I would alter (pun intended) some of your prices and traditions.

    1) A maid of honor should never pay by herself for the shower and bachelorette party. I’ve been in three weddings and helped throw showers/bachelorette parties for two other weddings for which I was not in the wedding party. You can easily throw a nice, do-it-yourself shower for $150 or less, and if you have five people splitting that bill, it is pretty cheap. And, aside from one bachelorette party in Vegas that we all agreed we wanted to do, all bachelorette parties have only been a little more expensive than a regular night on the town. One tip: for a bachelorette party, I never expect the hostesses to foot my bill. We’ve always paid for ourselves along the way, regardless the group of friends I’m with. And yes, travel is always expensive, so do the shower and bachelorette on the same weekend so if anyone has to fly, they only have to fly that weekend and the wedding weekend.

    2) $200 is a lot for a bridesmaid dress. I would say keep it under $150. Also, I have never bought new shoes or new undergarments for a wedding I’ve been in. Maybe my friends are just reasonable people, but the only item I’ve ever been asked to buy is a dress. Ummm, old prom dresses would look pretty silly if my friends and I were to wear ours, but I agree that it could be nice to say, “wear a black, knee-length dress” and then the bridesmaids get a lot of style and price ranges to choose from.

    3) Hair and make-up purchases should always be optional. I know there are some crazy brides out there, but unless you’re going to pay for those expenses yourself as the bride, you can’t make it required. I wanted to treat my bridesmaids to manicures, so I paid that, and they decided if they wanted to get their hair done…some did, some didn’t, everyone looked beautiful at the wedding. None of us, including myself, had our make-up done for my wedding.

    4) When deciding who to include in your wedding party, don’t forget that typically brides and grooms give their wedding party members gifts. If you have 10 girls and 10 boys, that’s a lot of gifts.

    Good post!

  • Heather says:

    I have been in 3 (soon to be 4) weddings, and just got married myself last year. I agree with many of your points, and have a few suggestions based on my experiences (mostly for the ladies):

    1. The “old prom dress” idea will not cut it with most brides. However, some opt to let the bridesmaids select their own dress, as long as it is the same color as the other girls. Also, there are many websites to buy and sell used bridesmaid dresses. I recently sold one of my dresses on project ruffle swap.

    2. It is important for everyone in your bridal party to be on the same page when it comes to costs. People should be honest about what they are willing and able to spend on the wedding and pre-wedding events. It’s going to be uncomfortable if one person doesn’t care how much he/she spends while others are on a tight budget.

    3. I hate the idea that people you ask to be in your wedding are still “required” to get you a shower and wedding gift. Consider telling your bridesmaids that you consider giving you a shower and bachelorette party to be a gift. If you still feel obligated, or just want to give a gift, consider pooling together with the other bridesmaids to get a bigger gift that is reasonable when the costs are split between each person.

    4. Lastly, brides need to manage their expectations. It is expensive to be in someone’s wedding and you need to understand the monetary and time commitment your are asking of people.

  • Ryan says:

    Good post, though I think you and your wife are the exception to the rule on a lot of things (I suppose that’s the point of the frugality blog).

    Advertisements add a nice dollar in the pocket, but I think they tend to cheapen your blog posts – especially when you dedicate an entire post to a company who is a blog advertiser.

    -Ryan

  • Michelle says:

    The one thing I would add is to discuss expectations and obligations up front before agreeing to be in a wedding party, in any role. This means frankly asking what is expected, and who is expected to pay for it.

    I’ve been in four weddings. I love being in touch with the three brides/ friends who communicated up front, were thoughtful, and good humored – including the bride who calmly repaired the hem of my bride’s maid’s dress using duct tape.

  • Jeff Walden says:

    People really need to pay attention to small yet large things like this.

  • Jessica says:

    We got married this past August. We live in Texas but got married in upstate NY where I grew up. We make quite a bit more than most of our friends and we didn’t want to ask people to have to travel to NY just to be a part of our wedding so we only asked people who told us they would be going to the wedding no matter what.

    Then, we paid for the dresses, tux rentals and the hotel rooms of our wedding party (3 brides maids and 3 groomsmen, plus parents). I told the girls to get whatever brown shoes they wanted to wear with their dress. I gave them jewelry as their bm gifts so they didn’t have to purchase that for the wedding either. We rented a 12 passenger van for transporting everyone around so no one had to rent a car. As far as hair and makeup went we paid for someone to come to the hotel and do everyone’s for them (a friend who gave me a good deal). The wedding party basically had to pay for gifts (if they chose), showers/bachelorette parties and air fare.

    All of this allowed us to choose what we wanted without the fear if it breaking the bank for our friends and making up for the costs they would incur in having to travel to NY and throwing parties. It may have added to the total cost of the wedding for us but since we budgeted for it from the beginning there wasn’t any sticker shock what so ever.

  • Credit Card Chaser says:

    Definitely an almost impossible thing to say no to if asked. Some weddings can get even more expensive for the wedding party if the bride and groom opt for a destination wedding too!

  • Slinky says:

    After being subjected to a lot of ridiculousness from a friend who got married last year, I’ve been keeping bridesmaid costs in mind as I planned my wedding. I’ve told my girls they can wear any dress they want as long as it’s long, black, and formal. They can wear something they’ve got or buy something new or sew it themselves, doesn’t matter. I don’t care what they wear for shoes, jewelry or accessories. There was one accessory I wanted them all to have, so I bought really nice ones as their bridesmaid gifts. I’m paying for everyone’s hair and makeup. I’m also nixing the whole bridal shower thing. I don’t want or need one. I think that brings costs down to a pretty reasonable level.

    I really think the nitpicking of brides about how people’s hair and makeup are done and whether everyone has matching shoes and jewelry and what color they’ve painted their fingernails is so ridiculous. Bridesmaids are people too. :)

  • Financial Solutions says:

    I have been in 2 weddings, and just got married myself last year. I agree with many of your points. Thanks for nice post

  • jenninfer says:

    My bride keeps raising the number of people she wants at her Shower. We booked a meal and it cost 18 bucks a person and as the Maid of Honor I put the 500 non refundable deposit on the room. She just told me she is inviting 150 people and the number keeps raising. She doesn’t know everyone at the shower and her parents cant financially help. Her bridesmaids hate me because its gonna cost them about 250 to 300 a person and I’m gonna end up paying over 1000 bucks for this little wedding. I do feel like I’m putting on a wedding. I keep asking her to cut people but she is undecided. I don’t wanna tell her we are breaking the bank. But I’m exhausted.

    • Jon says:

      Forget that. It’s her wedding, she can take her spoiled problems to her own bank account. If I footed that kind of bill I would make them sign a contract saying that in the event of a divorce I get a full refund plus 2% interest for every year they were married.

  • BrokeBridesmaid says:

    Wow! I had no idea what I was getting into when I agreed to be in my friend’s wedding.

    Bridesmaid dress: $220
    (needed alterations but because they sent me the wrong size two weeks before the wedding, I negotiated them resizing the dress for free, thanks be to God)

    Flight to Wedding: $220

    Hotel for three nights (Rehearsal is two days before wedding): $280

    Rental Car: $125

    Hair and Makeup (optional, I opted out): $145

    Wedding Gift: $50

    I have just been informed that I need specific shoes and jewelry although I believe I can fake most of this with stuff I already have… what do they want from us? I also skipped the Bachelorette party because it was out of state.

    I plan on eloping.

  • Natalie says:

    My husband and I originally planned a more traditional wedding, but as wedding costs kept rising and no one else could help with costs, we eventually scrapped it and did a shotgun wedding. (Yes it was in Vegas, but since we live there, I don’t think that counts. :) ) We took two weeks to get ready and we got married just after midnight on Jan 1. I decorated the house with after Christmas decorations in silver and white. My Husband-to-be and his best man rented a tux. I told my maid of honor to wear black and white. We paid for a pastor at one of the hotels to come to my house and do the event. Her husband did the photography. We bought a couple of party trays and several magnums of Asti Spumante. I bought a nice silver and white ballgown from a department store. We invited about 25 of our closest friends and family. There weren’t any extra parties or gift exchanges aside from a few wedding gifts from our registry. I don’t think we spent more than $1000 on the entire event including everything but the rings. The only expense the party members had was the tux rental and optional gifts. I couldn’t have had a more beautiful and meaningful event. The pictures turned out great and I still look back fondly on the event 8 years later. The only thing I might have done differently if I had to do it again was splurge for a real wedding dress.

    When our best man got married he chose a destination wedding. Although he gave everyone plenty of time to plan and save for the event, it was in 2009, a bad economic year and over half of his original guests had to cancel. Although his parents paid for a big wedding, it ended up just being family and exactly 5 friends. That year I lost my job too and if my husband wasn’t the best man I’m not sure if we would have gone. Attending that wedding cost us over $1000 with travel, hotel, gift and tux rental. (The cost of the bachelor party was just the cost of a night at the bar divided by everyone but the groom and so wasn’t terribly expensive.) Unfortunately, I had to skip getting a shower gift as well and felt really embarrassed being the only one there with no gift, but it couldn’t be helped. Although the location, dress, dinner, cake, etc. were beautiful, I wonder if they had as memorable an event since hardly anyone could attend.

    I know this is only anecdotal information, but I hope it illustrates the point that the enjoyment of an event is not related to the cost.

    • Alaura says:

      Hey Natalie, my fiance’ and i have been together for 2 years and we’ve been planning our wedding for a few months now. My mom isn’t rich, my dad passed recently and my soon to be father in law is a lying cheapskate. What i’m getting at is we have to pay for pretty much our entire wedding by ourselves. The way it started out it looked pretty inexpensive, I even reassured my man that i would keep a good budget so we didn’t over spend. But the more I get into my planning, with Reception Hall, decorations, party favors, guest book, cake items..etc. it may just be a little too much for me to handle :( We have the date set for 2 years from now to make sure we’ve saved up enough, but it’s hard with him working and me as a stay at home mom with our 11 month old.. and i’m just completely unsure of what to do. I have my sister as my M-O-H and my honey has his best friend as the Best Man. We have 4 bridesmaids and 4 groomsmen. I want a semi-traditional wedding but i don’t think we can handle the costs. Our ceremony is planned to be at a beautiful public park and we’re doing our own catering with cake and dancing at the hall. But this just seems like too much. I’m of age to go to Las Vegas but not to have fun :P I found out last night my fiance’ would rather elope in Vegas, but i still want my big wedding, i mean my dress is already picked out among many other important things, what could you suggest i do? i am really at a loss here :(

      • Jon says:

        Want in one hand and $h!t in the other. Your guy is the only one working and you call his dad a lying cheapskate? He’s probably coming off as a liar because you put him on the spot and he does not want to flat out tell you “no”. On the other hand, this is your decision to get married, not his. So how is he cheap? From the sound of it, neither of you are even old enough to drink. He probably just got his son out of the house so the last thing he can deal with is your self inflicted financial burden. Not trying to come off as mean but there has to be an age when people no longer sugar coat things for you. Let this be that year. Trust me, I’m 25 and even people my age never learn when no one gives them tough love.

  • Γαμος says:

    I got married last year and this summer I am the best man for one of my best friends at a wedding abroad! I agree with many if not most of your points! Thanks for summing them up, the wedding is an expensive event but you can still save a lot of money if you plan ahead and devote some time and research!

  • Carrie says:

    Hi, I do love your posts, and you make a lot of valid points. I live in the UK, and it seems very similar to the points you’ve made about American weddings. I’m getting married summer 2014, but have been planning in advance to space out the costs so as not to end up in debt. I must be a very good bride by these standards because my bridesmaids and the best man are paying for nothing unless they choose to get us a present. We are paying for a joint bachelor/bachelorette party weekend for all of us. We are also buying all of their outfits and accessories, plus hair and makeup. We are paying for their travel to and from the wedding, and we’re are driving them too and from all appointments, rehearsals etc. It is adding a few extra costs to the wedding for us, but we have asked them to be part of our day and don’t expect them to have to pay out money for that, when it was our choice to ask them. Maybe that’s just us, but I wouldn’t want to buy a dress that I’m probably only going to use once. :)

  • Helen says:

    Hi, thanks for your post! Just as you write, I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I happily said ‘yes, it’s such an honour’ to a “be my BM” request from a person who’s not a very close friend at all. I had no idea about these traditions and costs. At first she just specified the dress colour; then she asked us to come check out dresses at a bridal store, and when she saw a $200 dress she liked we had no other choice but get it. I was a bit shocked and decided to take her offer to split the cost; then I thought about it some more and realized it’s not fair to her. And that’s when I asked whether she can just pay for the dress and keep it to herself. Result? She said ‘I’m not getting your dress, I refuse to lose $450 on you alone, period!’ and the next day said she’d prefer me to just come as a guest. Is she a bridezilla or am I a greedy fool?

  • Rachelle says:

    Hi. My name is Rachelle, and I was asked to be my friends MOH. I was never in this position before, so any advice you can give me I would really appreciate. Ps. One question that I could definitely use an answer to is approximately how much money do I ask the bridesmaids to put towards the bachelorette party?(There are 4 of us)

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