You’re asked to spend a lot as a bridesmaid — do you really have to buy the bride a gift for that shower as well?
When one of your best friends asks you to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, a million thoughts and emotions run through your mind: excitement about the wedding and other events where you’ll get to celebrate the happy couple, love for your friend and her soon-to-be spouse, appreciation for your close friendship, and probably a slight dose of dread when you start to think about how much all of this is going to cost.
If you’ve been a bridesmaid before, you have a pretty good idea of how quickly expenses can add up. If this is your first wedding, just know that the average bridesmaid shells out around $700 leading up to the big day — and that doesn’t include travel costs or costs associated with hosting a shower or attending the bachelorette party. All events and expenses considered, you’re looking at a lot more than $700. That’s a lot of money for anyone, but it’s particularly tough on women in their 20s and 30s, (and let’s not ignore the fact that you might have two or more friends get married in one year!). You want to be a good friend who’s appreciative of the honor to be a bridesmaid by not complaining about expenses, but that doesn’t mean you should simply grin and bear it — quite honestly, it would be unwise if you didn’t think strategically about ways to cut costs.
Thankfully, you aren’t the first person to face this dilemma, so we’re here to share some of the best ideas we’ve heard.
How Many Gifts Do You Really Need to Buy?
Aside from the matching T-shirts the maid of honor decides to get for the bachelorette at the last minute, or the unexpectedly high price of alterations for your dress, there are several wedding-related expenses you can anticipate and budget for, and one of those is gifts. Obviously, guests are obligated to buy a wedding gift for the couple, and if you’re invited to an engagement party or bridal shower, it’s appropriate to bring another gift (albeit a smaller, less expensive one) to that event as well. But what about when you’re a bridesmaid who has been invited to multiple showers, the engagement party, and the bachelorette party — are you expected to bring a gift to each of those events? And do you also need to purchase a wedding gift?
The short answer, unfortunately, is yes, and this part of being in a wedding party is nothing new. Your mom or aunts can likely sympathize with buying multiple gifts and attending various wedding-related events leading up to the big day, but the long weekend in Vegas for the bachelorette party? Not so much. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to be smart about your gift-giving so that you don’t blow your budget. As long as it’s something you can control (as opposed to the $75 shoes the bride is asking everyone to buy), you should take advantage of that.
Let’s be honest: the biggest gift you’re giving the bride is your presence, and she knows that. If the engagement party or bridal shower are out-of-town events for you that you really can’t afford to travel for, opt to sit them out. Especially if you’re one of the few bridesmaids who would have to fly to attend, the bride should be completely understanding if you say you can’t take the time off of work, or that you want to save up to travel for the shower being hosted by all the bridesmaids or the bachelorette weekend.
Thoughtful Gifts Don’t Have to Be Expensive
There are several ways to save money when it comes to wedding and shower gifts. If you’re invited to multiple showers or parties leading up to the wedding, you could buy a multi-part gift and give the bride one piece at each event. For example, you could buy a set of baking pans or kitchen utensils off of the registry and give one at each event. Another idea is to pick a theme and buy several small, inexpensive gifts to give at each event that might not seem like much on their own, but altogether create a thoughtful, curated gift for your friend and her spouse-to-be.
As another option, you can forego the theme idea completely and buy the cheapest items off the registry. Wedding guests will probably want to spend more than $18 on a colander, but if it’s on the registry, the bride will appreciate you buying it for them, no matter the cost.
Another popular option for the wedding party to save money on gifts is to pool together money for a group gift. If each of you spends just $50, you’ll be able to buy one of the most expensive gifts on the couple’s registry without breaking the bank yourself.
Finally, another way to save money on either an engagement or wedding gift is to go the personal route. This is certainly not always the case, but it’s possible to get a personalized gift that isn’t on the couple’s registry for less than you might typically spend on a wedding gift. For example, you could ask friends or family to contribute recipes and assemble a book of them for the couple, or an album of photos from all the pre-wedding festivities can also be a sweet and inexpensive way to commemorate that special season of the couple’s life. You could also take the couple’s wedding invitation to be framed so that they can always remember the sweet details of their special day.
Don’t forget, as part of the bachelorette party, you might also be asked to chip in to cover the bride’s expenses for the weekend, and there might be a lingerie shower you need to purchase a gift for as well. Lingerie can get pricey really quickly — this is another great opportunity to go in with a friend on a joint gift to save a little money.
As important, special, and fun as it is to be a bridesmaid in your friend’s wedding, there’s no getting around the exorbitant costs associated with accepting the role. Hopefully your engaged friends are cognizant of this and try to limit the costs they request the bridal party to take on. Before accepting the role, it’s completely understandable to ask your friend what will be expected of you (cost wise) and to politely decline if your finances don’t allow it.
As a bridesmaid, know that you are expected to shower your friend with gifts like any other guest — but don’t feel like you have to pull out all the stops for each one. With a little creativity, you can choose a budget for all the gifts you’ll end up giving that is totally reasonable.