Mar 16, 2010

The bridesmaid's survival guide

Written by MP Dunleavey

The wedding may be the happiest day of the bride's life -- but does it have to be the most expensive day of yours? For many bridesmaids it can be, because tradition and expectation have merged into a giant snowball of expenses.

Negotiating with Bridezilla
portrait of two bridesmaid sitting on the steps outside a church

Peggy Post advocates a polite (of course) but forthright approach to money matters -- because it will only make you miserable to pretend that it doesn't matter. Here's how:

Scope the scene. The first step is to gauge what sort of celebration the happy couple has in mind. A weekend at the Four Seasons will put very different financial pressures on you, the bridesmaid, than a barbecue. "Can you let me know when you're getting married and where it's going to be?" is a tactful way to inquire.

Voice your concerns. Many brides have a rosy vision of their Perfect Day, but Post says it may be possible to negotiate certain concessions ("It's easier if you're a close friend or sister," she adds). Few brides will compromise on their desired location, but they might scale back on the cost of your dress or their own hope to have a wild bachelorette weekend in Vegas.

Be honest. "Instead of fretting and being resentful, it's important to carefully and calmly speak up if you really have to," Post says. For example, if you're in school, just had a baby, or were recently laid off, it's appropriate to explain your financial straits: "I'd love to be in your wedding, but I can only afford X for the dress." This gives the bride an opportunity to offer help or some other solution.

Don't overextend yourself.
Many attendants feel they must give a gift for every shower, plus a wedding gift more or less equal to what the married couple might have spent for each guest. This is a myth, says Post, who advocates a much more financially sensible approach: "Give a gift based on what you can afford and your relationship to the couple," she emphasizes.

Bridesmaids reaching for bouquet
Group Gift. Giving a larger gift, as part of a group is fine, and essentially easy and original. If you're invited to more than one shower, or if you're invited to a shower you can't attend - there's no need to struggle with financials over a gift, but instead with good planning ahead, you can master the best significant gift by setting up an affordable Group Gift. Everyone at the shower will appreciate it, and you will keep being the most fabulous bridesmaid.

So cheer up, and try to enjoy it, and maybe (just maybe) you will be lucky enough to find your dream guy if you make this adventure classy and easygoing.

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