Asking your close friends for large sums of money is intimidating. No one likes being put in the position of begging for a lifeline when there’s not enough cash to cover the month’s rent, for example. However, when weddings are involved, a strange shift seems to take place. Suddenly, it’s socially acceptable to ask that your closest girlfriends dish out hundreds (or even thousands) of dollars to take their roles of honor in your wedding party.
If you’re like most brides, you see yourself as a reasonable person. You just want a beautiful wedding surrounded by your beaming bridesmaids, after all. So what happens when a bridesmaid can’t afford it anymore? Here’s what to do when money troubles put your wedding party on the line.
Match Your Wedding to Your Friends’ Budgets
Wedding planning is a dreamy and beautiful time. In your ideal scenario, everything is picture perfect: the sun is shining, the flower girl is well behaved, and all of your bridesmaids walk down the aisle wearing matching designer dresses. However, just like the weather (or a young flower girl) doesn’t always behave, budget woes can shatter a wedding dream. It happens to nearly everyone sooner or later, and it’s not the end of the world; you just have to employ a little more creativity to get the wedding you envision.
As you adjust your ideal wedding expectations to become achievable in real life, give a few thoughts to your bridesmaids’ budgets. Even if you have a generous wedding fund for your own bridal attire, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you can assign your friends ornate dresses to match (unless you can afford to buy them all yourself, of course). From the bachelorette party to the hotel accommodations, make sure you don’t make plans that exceed your bridesmaids’ financial abilities. The whole point is to have your friends’ smiling faces around you on your wedding day, after all–and it’s within your ability to keep them smiling!
Option Number One: Buy It Yourself
When the majority of your bridesmaids can afford to take part in your wedding plans, you may decide it’s easiest to just pay the way for those who can’t. After all, it’s been your lifelong dream to have a bachelorette party in Vegas. You’re not about to give that up just because your best friend got laid off. If you can afford it, go ahead and buy the extra plane ticket, dress, manicure, or other perk so your struggling bridesmaid can fit in. At its heart, the occasion is about including your best friends and having the wedding experience of your dreams.
If you decide to give your less-affluent friends a hand, don’t announce it to the world. First of all, you could embarrass them. Second of all, you might provoke jealous muttering among the bridesmaids who could afford to pay. Remaining a silent donor is the most graceful way to have what you want–and have your friends there, too.
Option Number Two: Level the Playing Field
Sure, if it were up to you, all your bridesmaids would happily wear dresses from the latest Angel Sanchez collection. But what happens when one of your friends tells you she simply can’t afford it? First of all, resist the temptation to get mad. Being on a budget is not the same thing as being a bad friend. If you want your friend to be a part of your bridal party, you need to be willing to level the playing field.
One of the least complicated ways you can solve the problem is by avoiding the financial issue altogether. Simply choose a less expensive set of bridesmaid dresses (or hotel rooms, or bachelorette activities) so that even the least-wealthy of your friends can afford her part. Sure, you may have to compromise your wedding day vision a little. But with everyone on equal footing, you avoid awkward conversations about who needs financial help and who has to pay full price–and you free up some of your own funds to splurge on other wedding details!
Option Number Three: Leave a Way Out
Everyone gets it: your wedding is your special day and how you choose to celebrate it is completely up to you. You don’t have to compromise your vision of wedding-planning meetings at fancy French restaurants and weekly mani-pedis to sample every combination of wedding colors. You also aren’t obligated to take your less well-off friends along for a free ride. Being a member of a wedding party comes with a set of perks and obligations, and anyone who can’t keep up is welcome to bow out.
You can help your friends by doing a little research before you invite anyone to be a bridesmaid. Pull together a list of activities you’d like to do and items you’d like to buy, including a general prediction of total cost per woman. That way, when your friends accept their roles, they’ll know what they’re getting into. When everything is listed up front, you avoid embarrassing financial realizations down the line. What’s more, you ensure that every bridesmaid who commits is fully ready to make your wedding spectacular.
The most important thing to remember when offering an expensive bridesmaid role to your friends is that there is no shame in declining the honor. Nearly everyone has faced hard financial times at some point in their lives. If your friend decides she’s more comfortable being a guest than a bridesmaid, assure her that you understand and that she will still be a guest of honor. After all, being invited into the wedding party is like being nominated for an Academy Award; even if you don’t go onstage, it’s still a really big deal.
Ultimately, your wedding celebration is up to you. It’s your choice whether you’d rather include as many best friends as possible, or you’d rather invite an exclusive contingent to pursue your most extravagant dreams. Keep in mind that there are other ways to include friends who can’t afford bridal party obligations (giving them personal time and quality attention in the months leading up to your wedding is one important way), and that being a bridesmaid is only one way to participate in a wedding. It’s never a threshold test of friendship.
After all, your wedding day will come and go–but your true friends will be in your life forever.
Lisa is a special needs teacher and a hugger. She always makes time for everyone and lightens up everybody’s lives with her presence. When she is not chasing her students around the yard, she finds time to write about what she truly loves, and you guessed it, its people and relationships.