Dear Mrs. Riches:
One of my dearest friends is getting married and those of us closest to her are very excited. But I think I speak for all of us when I say that the price of being one of the bride's dearest friends has gotten outrageous. In return for the honor of being a bridesmaid, I've paid for a dress, shoes, and matching bag ($500), two shower gifts (one in-state, another out-of-state), and airfare and hotel accommodations ($850). I have yet to pay for hair and makeup for the big day and a wedding gift ($200?), plus any miscellaneous expenses associated with staying far from home. I don't want to put a damper on the "wedding of her dreams," but it has fast become my nightmare. Mrs. Riches, when did the price of friendship get so high?
Score one for the bridal industry. They fix their prices outrageously high, yet they still get people to buy into that drivel about how "your big day only happens once," so many people spare no expense. It's just too bad that we can't sic the Federal Trade Commission or the Department of Justice on them or on all the brides and grooms out there who pass on the crazy costs to their wedding party.
While it won't help to fix your current problem, I do want to beseech future brides and grooms to consider the costs that are passed on to their friends. In comparison to your total wedding bill, the bridal party's portion of expenses may seem like small potatoes, but remember that this is not the wedding of their dreams, nor do they get to share in the connubial bliss, wedding gifts, or lifelong memories. Look for ways you can lessen the financial burden -- choosing reasonably priced attire, offering to pay for excessive costs, having just one shower rather than multiples -- so that your bridal party will feel honored rather than pressured.
As for your situation, many of your costs are already sunk. But when it comes to expenses yet to be, you have some wiggle room. Scale down the cost of the wedding gift by using your creative talents to make an album, frame their wedding invitation, or create a photo collage of the bride and groom. Do your own hair and makeup rather than going to a high-priced salon. Consider indicating to your friend that money is a hardship. While many bridesmaids and groomsmen are reluctant to share money struggles, remember that it is the happy couple who should shoulder any embarrassment. It's their big day that has created your financial crisis.
Do know you are not alone. The epidemic of lavish weddings has forced more than one bridesmaid to overspend -- which is great for companies like online wedding planner The Knot
Want to take the high road and keep wedding costs down? Try:
Fool contributor Elizabeth Brokamp is a licensed professional counselor who regularly talks money with her honey, Robert Brokamp, editor of The Motley Fool's Rule Your Retirement newsletter. She does not own shares of The Knot, which is aMotley Fool Rule Breakers pick. The Fool has a disclosure policy.