It's an honor to serve as a bridesmaid or maid of honor in someone's wedding. That honor, however, generally comes with major expenses and a fair amount of stress. It's a hard thing to say no to, but by the end of the experience a surprising amount of people wish they had.
Over half of bridesmaids (58%) and 61% of maids of honor said they "felt pressured to spend money on bridal party-related expense," according to a new survey from CompareCards.com. That pressure led to a strained relationship with the bride 32% of the time for bridesmaids and 42% for maids of honor.
In addition, 43% of maids of honor and 35% of bridesmaids said they went into debt for their friend's weddings. That makes the question "would you like to be a bridesmaid/my maid of honor?" one that's not as easy to answer as it seems.
Being a bridesmaid can be very expensive, with the average person spending about $1,200 according to a 2017 WeddingWire study. Not every bridesmaid will face every one of these costs, but these are potential expenses, and the average weddings will cost according to the report:
- Bridesmaid dress: $208
- Shoes and accessories, like jewelry: $120
- Professional hair and makeup: $132
- Travel to the wedding: $115
- Accommodations: $205
- Hosting responsibilities, travel, and gifts: $800
- Destination bachelorette party: $400
Where does the pressure to spend all this money come from? It's the bride 48% of the time, while other bridal party members put the pressure on 35% of the time. Respondents who were allowed to pick more than one answer blamed their own desire to "be a great bridal party member" 32% of the time, and the groom got named by 21% of those surveyed.
That's probably OK if people leave the wedding happy about the money they spent. Unfortunately, a third of those surveyed said they regret the money they spent, and 44% of maid of honors felt that way.
Spending for a wedding can also cause long-term problems, as 68% of those surveyed put bridal party expenses on a credit card and 37% charged more than $1,000 in wedding-related expenses. That may explain why 37% of those asked to be in a wedding party turn down the invitation.
What should you do?
When a close friend asks you to be in their wedding, it's very hard to say no -- but that does not mean you can't discuss the situation with the person and explain your financial situation. If you honestly can only afford to spend so much (or not much at all), it's important to say that.
It's possible that you will agree with the bride that maybe you should not be in the wedding. You may also agree that the bride will keep expenses in check, or even pay for some of them for you.
These aren't easy conversations to have, but they're important ones. You can damage friendships by not being open and honest. You don't want to go into debt in order to be part of a wedding any more than you want to disappoint a close friend.
Talking is the only way to work these things out. A discussion, of course, does not guarantee a successful resolution, but it's your best chance to find a happy ending for all involved.