The Cost Of Being A Serial Bridesmaid
Being a bridesmaid can be a lot of fun. But it can also be taxing, mentally and financially, especially if you’ve been called up for duty on multiple occasions.
These days, bridesmaids are expected to organise the phallus paraphernalia for the hen’s party, supply the hot pink ‘Bride to be’ sash, attend dress fittings, host the bridal shower, and wear a pastel dress that probably doesn’t suit their skin tone. All of this comes at a price.
Lucy was first asked to be a bridesmaid back in 2013. She was both honoured and elated. Since then she’s been asked to be a bridesmaid twice more. This means two things: Lucy is an extremely likeable person, and she has spent a significant amount of money taking part in her friends’ wedding days. Lucy’s opinion of being a bridesmaid has diminished since 2013, largely due to the financial toll it has taken on her.
Each time Lucy has been asked to play the role of bridesmaid, she’s forked out a stack of cash. All of this was compounded by the fact that she lives and works in Europe, meaning that for each wedding she must buy a return flight to Australia. “The first time I was a bridesmaid I spent $900 between the outfit, the hens party, the extra [money] we felt we had to put in for the hens party and anything else in between! The second wedding was amazing and the bride wouldn’t let me pay for my dress and contributed $500 for my flight from where I live in Europe to Bali. Regardless of this, it still cost me $800 for flights and $70 for the hens day.” says Lucy. “The third time round cost me $1300 for flights back to Australia, $360 for my dress, $70 for my shoes and $180 for the hens.”
We can all agree, that’s a lot of cash-money.
Meanwhile when Bridget recently got married, she made the decision to not have any bridesmaids at her wedding. “I made the decision for a number of reasons, apart from it being a huge expense and creating a bit of a hierarchy in your friend circle. My husband is Colombian and they don’t do bridal parties – it’s a very Western thing.” says Bridget. “I had a destination wedding that was quite far from both Australia and Germany (where I live now). Because of that, I knew that due to financial circumstances, there was a high chance some of my closest friends and family weren’t going able to attend. Making them a bridesmaid would have added pressure and made them feel terrible – I couldn’t do that to them.”
Weddings are a strange beast. Normal, understanding and compassionate women can be transformed into selfish humans, incapable of seeing the bigger picture. Suddenly minor details become major problems – the colour of a pair of shoes, seating arrangements, music selection, the list goes on.
“A huge expectation is to know the bride so well that every small detail for the hens day is perfect. Everything needs to go superbly, and every detail must come to fruition otherwise there is the chance the bride will turn molehills into mountains. On top of this, the mother of the bride will be watching the whole time.” says Lucy.
So you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid. Instead of being filled with emotion like honour and happiness, you’re overcome with dread and guilt and a general sense of ‘Do I have to eat instant noodles for the next six months to be able to afford something that isn’t entirely my own choice?’. Here’s what you should do if you can’t cover the cost of being a bridesmaid:
#1 Be honest. Immediately.
Explain to the bride your financial situation as soon as possible. It’s better that she hears it from the outset, rather than a month before the wedding, when stress levels are starting to peak. This way she can consider your finances when planning things like dresses and shoes – it may mean that she is more flexible in what she expects you to buy and what she will contribute.
“If you as the bride are the one making calls on what the bridesmaids can buy and how much they spend, you shouldn’t expect them to pay,” says Bridget.
#2 What would you expect if the roles were reversed?
Try to imagine that it was your wedding. How would you feel if your bridesmaid told you that they couldn’t afford to take part in your wedding? Would you expect them to cough up the money regardless, or would you consider their financial situation and offer to cover their costs? Like your mum said, treat others as you would like to be treated yourself.
Every bride is different, and will have different expectations from you. “Each bride is focusing on different aspects of the day. Some don’t care and just want to get married to the man they love. Some need to show off their money and some feel they need to make huge declarations of their love and create a show for guests.” says Lucy. “At Sarah’s wedding, the expectation was to play the part. At Hannah’s it was to be by my best friend’s side and help her enjoy the moment with no pressure. At Carly’s it was to keep the attention on her for the entire process.”
#3 Keep your cool
It’s bad enough that you’re having to cough up an extortionate amount for a pastel dress that you don’t like, and will only wear once. Make sure you keep your thoughts to yourself though – you don’t want the bride hearing that you’ve been whining about her day behind her back. Try to be diplomatic and reasonable.
#4 Weddings are celebrations
And celebrations are meant to be fun. Remember this, and do your best to remind the bride, too.
Tegan Reeves is a Wollongong based freelance writer who isn’t afraid of oversharing. She writes for Beat magazine, BRAG magazine and is always up for a Fleetwood Mac singalong.