Flower girl, usher, and now a bridesmaid for the fifth time. This is not my first rodeo. I have been standing up in weddings for as long as I can remember. For as long as I could walk, really. I know there are steep bridal party costs that come with saying yes to the dress. But I said yes anyway.
It happened on Halloween. First, I pulled out a beautiful candle. Then, a few sweets tumbled out. Then, a Ring Pop with a note attached to it. Will you be my bridesmaid? My instinct was to say no to the expense. This would be my fifth bridesmaid dress. Five dresses I’ll never wear again. Assuredly, the road to financial independence is not paved with taffeta. But when I saw the look of anticipation on my cousin’s face, I couldn’t help but squeal a yes.
Bridal Party Costs
There’s no mistaking it. People shell out big bucks standing up in a wedding. Weddingstats.org estimates that bridal party attendants spend an average of $141 on their gear for the big day. Then, there’s hair and makeup and manicures and pedicures, oh my. Throw in new shoes and a clutch, and you’ve spent another pretty penny.
It’s absolutely possible to be more economical when it comes to getting dolled up. But it’s slightly more challenging to avoid the expenses that come with wedding events. There is a bridal shower or two followed by a bachelorette party. Then, there’s the actual wedding. For many people, each of these events is seen as a time to give a gift. Even if you select an inexpensive gift or opt out entirely, there are travel expenses to reckon with.
Showing your support gets expensive. If you run the numbers, it’s easy to see why some people estimate that being a bridesmaid costs them between $1,000 and $1,800. The high end of that spectrum echoed in my mind as a I stared at the Ring Pop. Two mortgage payments. One third of my entire Roth IRA for the year. Another dress.
So why did I say yes?
More than a Bridesmaid Dress
I wasn’t racked with guilt. I didn’t say yes out of familial obligation. I hadn’t signed on for a chiffon quid pro quo of sorts since she was in my wedding just a few years back. I said yes because I wanted to.
Can I think of better things to do with a couple hundred dollars? Would an extra $1000 towards my mortgage make me happy? Of course. And don’t even get me started on compound interest should I be able to toss it in my Roth IRA. Be still my heart.
Make no mistake about it. My future self will thank me for a lot of things. Adding another bridesmaid dress to my jungle of a closet is not one of them. I am not excited about having to buy another dress. But I can afford it. There might not be a line item for it in my budget now, but I have time to make the numbers work.
Weddings are another easy target in the personal finance world. This post would undoubtedly net more clicks if it were titled “12 Ways to Cut Costs as a Wedding Attendant” or “How to Never Get Asked to Be a Bridesmaid Again”. People lament the expense, the materialism, and the cliches. Never mind the absurdity of draping everyone in coordinated shades of polyester to mimic the ancient tradition of dressing a bunch of women in identical garbs to confuse angry spirits, keeping newlyweds safe. It is silly.
But what if we’re approaching this all wrong? What if it isn’t about the dress hanging in the closet? When I swipe my credit card in the next few months, I’m not just buying a dress. I’m buying a memory. Not unlike a vacation or a family reunion, this event will happen exactly once. Even if not every marriage ends in a lifetime of bliss, every wedding pulls together family and friends for a moment in time that will never happen again.
Each wedding–big or small, costly or frugal, dramatic or zen–is more than an aunt who falls down in the middle of a conga line*, a speech that rambles on a little too long, or three minutes of an obligatory Chicken Dance. It’s a show of support, it’s time to gather together, it’s a toast to the future while smiling over the past. It’s a celebration. And if that’s what it means to be a bridesmaid again, then zip me up. I am going to rock this dress.
*I deeply regret that my photographer did not stay until the bitter end.
So Tell Me…How many weddings have you been in? Am I silly to embrace this next dress?
Note: I’ll never support going into debt (boo!) or jeopardizing your financial future (double boo!). Nor do I think any bride, no matter how much of a ‘zilla they are, would want that either.