To be asked by someone you love to be a part of their wedding, for many, can be an honor. This is especially the case if asked to play the role of maid of honor. But being a bridesmaid of any kind can also be very expensive. Per a study done of 20,000 brides by Real Weddings back in 2010, the average cost of being a bridesmaid was $1,695 when keeping in mind requirements of traveling to the wedding, the dress, hair and makeup worn for the event, as well as bridal shower and bachelorette party costs, gifts and more. That number has probably increased drastically over the last few years, as have the costs of most things due to inflation.
So if you’re asked to be in a wedding, you can expect to have to pay a pretty penny. But what happens if you truly can’t afford it? Licensed etiquette guru and wedding expert Elaine Swann says if you’re asked by a friend or loved one to join their bridal party, make sure you’re well aware of what the financial expectations are before you give them an answer.
“What would my role be? What are the things that are involved? And get a clear idea of what that looks like, whether it’s a bridesmaids’ trip to Cabo or merely hosting the bridal shower at the home of the mother of the bride,” she tells ESSENCE. “So ask first what’s involved. And then my recommendation is to put some time and space in between getting that information and giving your answer to allow yourself to really think things through, to see if it is something that you can take on.”
She adds, “Put it on yourself and say, ‘I want to make sure that I am accountable to you, that I’m committed to you. So let me just take a moment and make sure that I can be involved with everything and then go from there.'”
If you find that it’s something that is going to stretch your funds too thin, there’s a way to say no without it creating too great of an issue with your friend or loved one, the bride.
“My recommendation is to avoid going into any detail that may appear as though it can be fixed in some way,” she says. “For example, instead of saying, ‘Well, I don’t have enough money.’ Then they could say, ‘Well, I can give you the money.’ Or, ‘You don’t have to pay for this part.’ So don’t do that. What you do is go into the conversation with the declaration that you cannot participate but then offer another way to be involved.”
She says a good way to go about things is to offer to be a host at the wedding, or to help transport all of the gifts for the couple to their home for them as they prepare to shift their focus to their honeymoon. Pretty much, offer a plan B role that can still offer significant support.
“Of course, the bride will likely be disappointed but she will, in that instance, feel as though you still want to be part of her special day,” she adds.
Whatever you do, don’t say that the event is “too expensive,” as that can be taken the wrong way. And the last thing you want to do is to decline her request for you to participate in the wedding, and then be accused of speaking of the nuptials in a way that can be deemed insulting.
“The fact that it doesn’t fit your budget, they may take offense to it and say, ‘Well, this is just the biggest day my life.’ And now they may want you to reason with them. ‘It’s a once in a lifetime thing, can’t you really do this?’ And now it’s a thing,” Swann says. “So take that thing away and simply say, ‘I cannot do it. I’ve gone through everything. I will have to decline. However, I do want to be part of your day.’ And now you’re pivoting and taking the focus off of the fact that you can’t do it, that it’s too expensive, that there’s too many events and so on and so forth and just focusing on really being there for the person on their special day because that’s more so what it’s all about.”
There may still be sadness, but offering an alternative role that you will show enthusiasm about having lets the bride know that you have your reasons for not wanting to officially be part of the bridal party, but you still want to be there. That can go a long way in saving hurt feelings — and saving some money too.