The thrifty bridesmaid’s survival guide

Congratulations! Your sister, BFF, roomie, or that distant cousin you rarely talk to is engaged. And you’ve been asked to put on a dress of her choice, arrange brunches, walk down the aisle with an partner you hardly know, and raise a glass on the big day. In other words, you’re a bridesmaid! No matter how excited you are for the happy couple it’s no secret that being in a wedding requires a lot of time and cash. Even if your best bud is no “bridezilla” (and we have our fingers crossed that she’s not), some costs are unavoidable.

Wedding sites estimate that bridesmaids shell out at least $1,000. There’s the dress ($200-$250), alterations ($50-$75), engagement gifts and shower gifts ($100), the bachelorette festivities ($100), not to mention shoes, hair and makeup for the big day ($150 easy, probably more). Oh and travel costs, flowers, any invitations/decorations for events you opt to host and the actual wedding gift. In other words, you’re signing up for much more than a seat at the newlyweds’ table. Is it possible for the dutiful bridesmaid to do it all for less? Here are some ways to save:

Showers/Engagement Party

1. Bend the rules. Traditionally, the maid of honor throws the bridal shower and organizes the bachelorette festivities. If you can’t afford to throw a bridal shower for 50 guests on your own, offer to host something more manageable, like a small engagement dinner. Pick a theme that lends itself to frugality, yet doesn’t scream cheap. A Tuscan dinner can be sweet and simple, or a southern comfort party. To kick it old school, dress up the couple’s favorite childhood meals. Gourmet Fluffernutters?

2. Skip champagne. When going for the bubbly, try a bottle of asti, prosecco or cava – far less expensive than decent champagne. Go for a sparkling wine from the Cremant de Bourgogne region of France, which have the same control and standards as wines from the champagne area, suggests an expert from Red White & Bubbly in Park Slope. Best value: Gerard Bertrand Cremant de Lumoux, $19.95.

3. Make events BYOB. There’s no need to pay for décor, food, and keep the booze flowing on your tab all night. Ask guests to bring a bottle.

4. Keep decorations simple. Ask each guest who is attending a shower/engagement dinner to bring pics of him or her with the honored couple. These can double as place cards and keepsakes for your engaged friends. Also, know when to shop for deals. I scored several packages of napkins with a heart print for $0.25 after Valentine’s Day. For flowers, grab some pretty $5-$10 flowers at your local bodega and turn an old fish bowl or milk pitchers into vases. You may be able to bargain down bouquets with slightly wilting petal, just chop the stems and float the flower blossoms in a low vase with water.

Bachelorette Festivities

1. Use the subway on party night. Living in Brooklyn already saves you the cost of a renting limo or party bus for bar hopping. One point for your steep rent check!

2. Get a male friend to strip. Strippers are expensive. If you have a confident/shameless guy friend willing to do the job for some free drinks, it can’t hurt to ask. (Note: He has to be someone the bride doesn’t know or those pelvic thrusts can be a little awkward.)

3. Get a thrift-store tiara. Party supplies are a staple, but who wants to spend $50 on a tiara and bedazzled “bride-to-be” tank? Instead, head to the Brooklyn flea. Skip the “adult” stores geared toward bachelorette party gear. You may find some funky jewelry and old veils to wear there.

4. Bachelorette Craigslist. You trust it to find a roommate, why not use the site to score some cheeky glasses and raunchy jello molds? Perhaps an ad for gently used supplies of that sort? (Have fun writing that one.) eBay is also full of great steals. I spotted penis cookie cutters for $0.99. Let the bidding begin!

5. Go Groupon. Take everyone for a 90-percent-off facial.

The Wedding

1. Use a local tailor instead of the bridal shop. While you have little control over the cost your bridesmaid dress – good luck if the bride insists on Vera Wang – you can control the price of fittings. Stop by your local tailor (most dry cleaners offer tailoring); you might find that dress alternations there are less costly than at a fancy bridal shop.

2. Shop around for secondhand bridesmaid dresses. Check out the bridesmaid section on the site, where you can also sell your bridesmaid dress after the wedding. On, you can list dresses for free, or upgrade to a paid listing, with a percentage of fees going to the American Heart Association’s Go Red for Women Campaign.

3. Cut travel costs. If the bride-to-be orders dresses from an out-of-town store, get your dress measurements from a shop nearby and call them in. Don’t waste a trip out of BK just to get measured.

4. Don’t buy a special bra. Worried about your strapless staying in place all night? Don’t spend a ton on a fancy bra or cups that need to be sewed into your dress. Use your every day strapless and grab a roll of toupee tape to stick it to the dress.

5. Bunk up. Sure, it’s not the most romantic idea to split a hotel room with your boyfriend and your bud and her beau after witnessing your mutual friends get married, but for one night, you can deal with it.

6. DIY your gift. Help the couple get off to a hot and spicy start by giving them a collection of spices in cool jars. Or, put together a basket of homemade jams and preserves for the main gift, or. Never jammed or canned before? Peruse the archives Late Night Jam to get started. Kate Payne, author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Home-Making, suggests making wedding photo package. Even if arts and crafts aren’t your thing, spend a few minutes editing cool photos of the couple on a friend’s mac and frame the prints.

This post has been updated, originally published in 2011.


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