Always the Bridesmaid … Without Going Broke!

Being asked to be someone’s bridesmaid is truly an honor. For a little while you feel on cloud nine, after all this is such a blissful occasion. But then reality hits and you start to hear about the dress you’re going to have to buy and the shoes and the matching purse and the list keeps on growing. If you’re in a wedding this season, here are some ways to spend way less without breaching bridesmaid etiquette: 

1. Shoes can be so expensive, I should know since I’m kind of a shoe addict, but I always shop for them when they’re on sale and you should too. When I was in the bridal party for Alma’s wedding, my roommate from college, I went looking for shoes and was able to get a pair discounted at the low price of $24.99, and these were good shoes. You also have to keep in mind that these should be shoes that you get to wear more than once. I wore mine to my college graduation, another friend’s wedding, my mom wore them for my sister’s graduation, so you get the point: make the purchase worthwhile.  

2. The dress is usually the deal breaker for a potential bridesmaid. When I was in college I had next to nothing to live on and I was very fortunate that Alma paid for my dress, but once you’re working and on your own people might not be so gracious. Rather than worming your way out of the wedding, getting the bride to buy your dress or just waiting around for the bomb to drop when the bride finds the “perfect dress” at Saks Fifth Avenue, as soon as you’re asked to be an attendant, jump in and volunteer to help the bride find a good value in dresses; in this economy you’ll be doing everybody a favor. One store that has been a hit with brides for their variety in prices is J. Crew’s Wedding & Parties. However, the most economical option, though somewhat logistically challenging, is to hit the clearance racks at department stores after prom season or after New Year’s Eve. If there are six bridesmaids, this might not be feasible. But if there are just two or three of you, and you live in proximity to each other, kidnap the bride on a Friday night and hit the mall. 

Again, like with the shoes, look for something that can be worn on different occasions. If the dress was a long evening gown, how about shortening it? I’ll also never forget the time I read about Renee Zellweger turning her Carolina Herrera wedding gown into a sapphire blue cocktail dress when her marriage failed after only four months. That girl knows a thing or two about not letting a dress go to waste! 

3. If you have to travel to get to the wedding, consider carpooling with other members of the wedding party or someone in the bride or groom’s family. Offer to share the gas expense. It can be fun and will save a ton of money over flying. And instead of rooming alone, bunk with other bridesmaids. If you’re the only single female that needs a place to stay, surely you can crash with wedding party relatives. 

4. When Alma was getting married we all met in the hotel room to get our hair and make-up done. While we were waiting for the stylist to arrive, we watched a marathon of “America’s Next Top Model” on TV. By the time the stylist got there, America’s next top model was about to be announced. The lady was so late that the bridal party went into crisis mode and we had to do our own hair to save time. It’s wasn’t plan A, but it did save some money. Why not search the Internet for styles you like and practice styling your hair. Then on the big day, just arrive with a knock-out up-do and say you decided to do it yourself.  

5. I like the way I do my own make up so I won’t go paying anyone for doing something I’m perfectly capable of doing for myself. Go online and find a make-up style you love and copy the look. If you need some colors you don’t have, pop for a new new eye shadows or lipstick (but don’t go buying the most expensive ones, remember my lessons for saving on make up) – it’s still cheaper than paying to have your make-up done. If you can’t afford even a new color, search for make-up tips using the colors you already have. And nails shouldn’t be a big deal after practicing Sally Hansen’s 5-minute manicure. 

So there you have it! You can be a bridesmaid without breaking the bank. It might be humbling, but do talk to the bride about your financial situation. If she’s like most brides, she’ll want to save money too, after all there’s not much room for bridezilla during a recession. 

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