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NJ Wedding Awards

Costs To Be A Bridesmaid

It’s amazing how quickly a paycheck can reinvent itself as a ruffled, sea green cocktail dress and a handful of genital-shaped confetti. There’s no wide-ranging survey to assess the average national cost of being a bridesmaid, but $1,500 is often bandied about. In the pursuit of non-scientific studies and pure curiosity, we recently asked women tell us much they spent, how it broke down, and how they felt about it. The lowest amount we got was $60 and the highest was $3,000…but after reading all 66 responses, it was clear that it’s not total the amount spent, but how it’s spent that really matters to the everyday bridesmaid.

Here are some of their stories…

1. Julia, $800

Age: Withheld
Wedding location and date: 2009 in Pemaquid Point, Maine
Relationship with the bride: Best friend from high school

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
Thanks to the wonderful bride, I spent $175 on a J. Crew dress. The dress was originally $250, but she found every possible discount for all 11 of her bridesmaids. We combined discounts and ordered during a sale time that she alerted us to. I spent$0 on alterations because I bought the dress in my petite size, choosing out of the eight or nine options of which cut looked best for me.

Have you worn the dress again?
Yes, I’ve worn it regularly since I got it.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes and jewelry?
We did our own hair and makeup! Between 11 bridesmaids, there are probably still bobby pins lurking in that hotel room. I bought the very simple silver hoop earringsshe requested, and the shoes were up to us, so I used what I already had.

How much did you spend on the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
I didn’t spend any money on the bridal shower because it was out of state, I had no money, and I forgot to send a gift. For the bachelorette party, I think I spent around $200. I took the bus from New York to Boston, then got a ride with a friend to Cape Cod, where we spent the weekend at a friend’s family’s house. We went to a bar one night in matching T-shirts. It was a thing.

How much did you spend on travel for wedding?
Getting from New York City to Maine without a car would have been hugely complicated if not for friends from out of town who flew into New York. We rented a car for the weekend, so it was probably $100 per person.

Did you give a gift?
I went in on the gift that my parents got, which is to say I signed their card (see below re: graduate school). But I did give the bride some really nice makeup the morning of the wedding, and I felt really good giving her something that she didn’t have to share.

How did the bride and/or her family help keep costs down?
Ashley (the bride), her sister, and her mom were ON IT from the very beginning. They were organized and interested in making the whole process easier and fun for the whole gang of 11 far-flung bridesmaids.

I just stumbled upon an email that really sums up the whole experience. In the week leading up to the wedding, Ashley’s wonderful sister Courtney sent an email to all of the bridesmaids with a little paragraph thanking each of us for specific things that we did as a part of the process. Aside from that, they gave us all really cool swag bags with flip-flops, a necklace to wear for the wedding, and a bunch of other little things that I kept.

Any final thoughts?
I loved everything about it. I still love wearing that dress! I just searched my email for information about this wedding and almost all of the emails are signed “WHY DID I GO TO GRAD SCHOOL” so…yeah.

2. Kitty, £700 (~$1,050)

Age: 27
Wedding location and date: May 2014 in London
Relation to the bride: Best friend from college

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
She was very insistent that the bridesmaids would have Vivien of Holloway dresses, that she paid for. This was an amazing gesture, but as someone who is 5’11”, and plus-size, I knew they wouldn’t fit me. She bought me a dress three sizes too small and said I’d have to get it modified. I took it to a dressmaker with fabric from the designer and had it made bigger for £50. The bride really did not want me to get it made bigger, she wanted me to fit in it as it was, and she was very awkward about the whole situation.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes and jewelry?
I spent £25 on jewelry she chose before changing her mind, and £30 on shoes. She also had us spend £20 on a lipstick she wanted us to wear.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
I traveled two hours to the bridal shower after being hospitalized with a suspected stroke. I spent £40 on a necklace for her and a gift for her mom, who hosted. I didn’t go to the main bachelorette party because I was still sick; I couldn’t afford it! I spent£40 on a makeup party at her house.

How much did you spend on travel for the wedding?
After spending £300 on trips to London by train for dress shopping, I was kicked out of the wedding.

What happened?
After the bachelorette party, she left a message telling me my hair wasn’t an acceptable color. I had pink hair with very long roots (due to my illness, I hadn’t dyed it in a while), and was told I wasn’t allowed to keep it pink or dye my roots, as her hair was to be pink.

As time went on, I began receiving dozens of messages a day, via Facebook, email, and text, from the bride and her mom, asking questions and making demands. I was told I wasn’t dedicated enough, or giving enough of my time to being bridesmaid. In the end, she told me I wasn’t focused on her wedding and that I was no longer welcome in her bridal party, but I could still attend the wedding as a guest if I wished. I declined and have not spoken to her since.

Here's How Much It Actually Costs To Be A Bridesmaid
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed Life

3. Katie, $310

Age: 34
Wedding location and date: April 2009 in Queens
Relationship with the bride: College roommate

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
$40 — it was from Target and it didn’t need any alterations.

Have you worn the dress again?
I re-wore it about four years later for another wedding I was a bridesmaid in. Best $40 I’ve ever spent.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes or jewelry?
The bride spent about $100 per person to get our hair done. I bought new flats half off (~$40 at Banana Republic) that I wore frequently.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
There was no bridal shower. For the bachelorette party, I spent about $80 on penis straws/party favor things from Spencer’s Gifts and about $100 on food/drinks/activities for an evening out in New York. I didn’t have to travel.

How much did you spend on travel for wedding?
Nothing. The wedding was local.

Did you give a gift?
Yes, I spent about $100 on a set of silverware.

Any final thoughts?
We’re best friends, so I was very happy to be there for her that day. She was a bridesmaid in my wedding, and the dress she wore for that was more expensive, so if anything, I’m the jerk! My bridesmaids vetoed my choices for dresses and found an $80 dress at Anthropologie they all liked better (my wedding was at the zoo and the dress had flamingos all over it), and in the end they looked great — it was way better than the more boring ones I had picked.

4. Maddie, $700

Age: 29
Wedding date and location: May 2015 in Cleveland
Relationship with the bride: Best friend for more than 10 years

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress?
A little under $200 including alterations. I spent $30–50 to add spaghetti straps, take in the bust, and let out the waist and hips. I told the bride I thought the dress was too expensive, but I wasn’t able to be there when the other girls decided on the dress, so my opinion wasn’t heard.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes or jewelry?
The bride paid for half of our hair, but not for makeup — maybe $75 per person for both. She gave us earrings and necklaces to wear as a gift. The bridesmaids decided to wear nude shoes, which I already owned.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
I split the cost of a KitchenAid mixer with two other bridesmaids as a bridal shower gift, so it was ~$50. Then, the mother of the bride asked for money from all the bridesmaids AFTER THE SHOWER — about $125 per person. I was very upset about this, because she didn’t tell any of us that she expected us to contribute financially. We were scrambling on the day of to pay the caterer.

For the bachelorette party, I contributed about $200 for a limo, hotel room, drinks, a tiara, beads, etc.

How much did you spend on travel for wedding?
I spent $150 for one night at a hotel, which was close to where I live.

Did you give a gift?
Yes, I crocheted her a blanket. I probably spent less than $50 on yarn and materials, but it took me a few weeks to make the blanket, working on it for a few hours every other day or so.

Any final thoughts?
After this wedding, which was my third time being a bridesmaid, I decided I would really hesitate at being a bridesmaid again, and I also decided not to have bridesmaids at my wedding.

It also opened my eyes to the truth of the relationship between my BFF and her mother, and the stress that the wedding planning process put on their relationship. I made a promise to myself that once I start planning for my wedding, I would not let my mother dictate the decisions, and my fiancé and I are staunch on paying for everything ourselves so we can make it our wedding and not our parents’ wedding.

Here's How Much It Actually Costs To Be A Bridesmaid
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed Life

5. Jess, $2,500

Age: 27
Wedding location and date: May 2013 in California
Relationship with the bride: Best friend from college

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
$320 for the dress and shoes. I got to choose the cut of the dress, not the color.Alterations were an additional $90.

Did you wear the dress again?
No. It isn’t my favorite color, but it is really cute and was a flattering cut.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes or jewelry?
The bride gifted us some really cute jewelry to wear for the ceremony that I probably would have worn again if I could remember where I put them. The bride and her family also paid for our hair, nails, and makeup.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
I opted out of the shower, since I had to do a lot of flying and paying for the other things. The bachelorette party came out to $1,000 for the flight to Atlanta, the room, lots of eating and drinking, and favors.

How much did you spend on travel for wedding?
It was $400 for a flight to California, $250 for a hotel room for one night, and $50 for miscellaneous expenses.

Did you give a gift?
Yes, I think it was around $100 — I bought one thing off the registry for $50 and another cute personal thing to supplement.

How did the bride and/or her family help keep costs down?
The other bridesmaid was more open with the bride and her family about not being able to afford a lot of things, so they helped her out because they could. I am certain that if I had asked, they would have helped me but I didn’t out of pride, and also because I really wanted to be able to make it work on my tiny salary, even just to say I could. The bride and her family also paid for most of the food during the wedding weekend itself.

Any final thoughts?
At the time, I was super super broke. Hilariously broke. And I was working freelance so it was double-negative costs on days I was out of town because I was paying to leave AND not getting paid to work. But I was also fiercely private about how little I was making and self-conscious about not being higher up, so I didn’t say anything and just somehow managed to pay for all of it. I didn’t take any other vacations or days off that year. And I should regret it or feel bitter about it but I don’t. It was really fun and it made me really think more about asking anyone else to attend anything that costs a lot of money in the future because you can never know what someone’s financial situation is.

6. Cory, $1,000

Age: 29
Wedding location and date: July 2014 in Costa Mesa, California
Relationship with the bride: Friend from high school

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
The dress was a Vera Wang dress from David’s Bridal, and it was $180. It was the most expensive bridesmaid dress they had. It was a long, flowy, light pink gown — not my style. I didn’t have to get any alterations, though.

Did you wear the dress again?
Never. It was frayed and dirty at the bottom from wearing it all night, so it immediately went to Goodwill the next day.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes or jewelry?
The bride paid for our hair and makeup as part of our gift and she gave us a bracelet we all wore as part of our gift. We did have to buy shoes from Aldo for $75.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
$80 for the bridal shower and $600–$800 for the bachelorette party.

Did you give a gift?
Yes, I gave them $100 in cash.

Any final thoughts?
I feel it was a total waste of money. I never speak to that bride now and barely did before she asked me to be in her wedding. I felt unappreciated and like it was all for her and her just wanting a wedding to be a certain way since “that’s how it’s supposed to be.” Nothing felt genuine. She also seemed grumpy the entire time. It was not a good experience, and I would love to go back and say no to being her bridesmaid.

After being a bridesmaid a few times, I probably won’t have a wedding or even a bridal party — it’s just not my style and I think it’s a waste of money. I wouldn’t make all my bridesmaids buy a certain dress I wanted or shoes. If I did pick out a dress, I would make sure it was very reasonable (nothing over $100) and would let them pick out their own style and not make them all wear the same dress. Also, I think making everyone pay for everything on a Vegas bachelorette party is ridiculous.

Here's How Much It Actually Costs To Be A Bridesmaid
Jenny Chang / BuzzFeed Life

7. Ali, $3,000

Age: 30
Wedding location and date: August 2013 in Seattle
Relationship with the bride: College roommate

How much did you spend on the bridesmaid dress, including alterations?
$178 — the bride and I chose one and the other bridesmaids did not like it, so we sent it back and ended up choosing a different one instead. She was very easy about it and even let us change her entire color scheme because of it! The first dress was coral, which she wanted, and the dress we ended up choosing was hot pink. It didn’t need any alterations.

What about hair, makeup, and any shoes or jewelry?
The bridesmaid gift was our hair and makeup for the wedding. She had us wear “nude” shoes (beige, I’m white), and simple dangly silver earrings.

How much did you spend for the bridal shower and bachelorette party?
I didn’t go to the bridal shower because it was in Seattle and I live on the East Coast.The bachelorette party was more than $1,000: $600 for the flight to San Francisco, $120 for a portion of the Airbnb, $90 for a wine tour and limo rental, $50 for a Bay to Breakers costume, $200 for food and drinks, and $50 for a gift.

How much did you spend on travel for the wedding?
The flight from D.C. to Seattle was $650, and the hotel room for one night was $120. I stayed at my mother’s the other nights. Dinner and drinks from the other nights I was in Seattle for the wedding came out to $200.

Did you give a gift?
Yes, I spent $70 total. It was a $20 basket from Rwanda, filled with $50 worth of random kitchen items she wanted.

How did the bride and/or her family help keep costs down?
Along with paying for the hair and makeup, her family gave us free food/drink at the rehearsal dinner, wedding, and post-wedding brunch/bbq.

Any final thoughts?
I loved being her bridesmaid — it was fun and I love her and wanted to support her. I didn’t realize how expensive it was until just now! It’s a little ridiculous, but it was fun for me too, so I feel OK about it.