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Home / Bridal

The broke girl’s guide to being a bridesmaid

Being a bridesmaid doesn’t come cheap. In fact, it’s getting really, really expensive. From a recent quick survey, we have established that it costs, on average, about Ksh. 50,000, just to play the role of bride’s best friend.

So what do you do when you REALLY want to be by your friends’ side on her big day but you cannot afford that price tag?

A lady wrote to us about a common dilemma young girls aged 20-30 face:

“I was asked to be a bridesmaid for a college friend of mine and I was super excited.  Not only because she’s a great friend, but also because I’ve never been a bridesmaid.  As the planning started though, I realized that being a bridesmaid is going to be really expensive and I really don’t know if I can swing it.  I don’t want to ruin my friend’s plans, but how do I not go broke?  Help!’

Turns out, another reader is still paying off credit card debt from the last three weddings she took part in, not to mention her car loan payment and food, rent and utilities. Fortunately, and unlike many young people between the ages of 18 and 29, she does have a job. Unfortunately, one in three people in her age group are either underemployed or unemployed.  Making it tough for many girls to cover their bridesmaid duties (at least in the ways traditions expect).

(FYI: Groomsmen can expect to pay a similar figure. What you don’t pay for in terms of girly stuff like makeup will likely go towards the bachelor party.)

Those of us in the industry (and those who have been bridesmaids before) know that being a part of a wedding party can definitely get pricey.  “I did my wedding in 2003. I thank God that my bridesmaids were so good that they agreed to pay Ksh.15, 000 for stitching only, because I came with the fabric,” says Dr. Catherine, editor of Samantha’s Bridal. “However, one girl I had asked to be on my line up dropped out.  She told me she couldn’t afford,” Catherine adds.

With the bridesmaid dress, the bridal shower, and gifts, the total can add up to a tidy sum. If it is your first time as a bridesmaid, the amount can come as a bit of a shock especially if you are still unemployed or in a job that doesn’t pay much. 

There is also the planning of the wedding   and the bridal shower, which sometimes involve planes and hotel rooms. And then there’s the travel expense for traditional parties, hair, makeup, and mani-pedis on the big day. Let’s not forget the gifts. All that can add up to a scary amount of cash.

Here’s the breakdown for bridesmaids:

Engagement gift = Ksh. 5000

Bridal Shower contributions and gift

= Ksh. 5000

Wedding gift = Ksh. 5000

Dress = Ksh. 7000 and above

Shoes = Ksh. 4000

Hair, makeup, nails = Ksh. 10000

Marion Obura, a wedding planner and CEO of Majestic Events recalls almost having a breakdown after spending Ksh.30, 000 as a bridesmaid on her cousin’s wedding. At time, she was just starting out as a wedding planner and it seemed like a lot of money to spend on a wedding.  “At that point, it was not a priority and I realized, OMG, it costs so much to be on this line up. This is going to be my first and the last”, recalls Marion.

Ouch. No wonder one of our readers asked, “Can I back out without my friend hating me? Or how can I tell her and the other girls that I can’t do anything really expensive? Some people are already making noise about an out-of-town bridal shower!’’

So how do you go from saying “Yes, of COURSE I’ll be your bridesmaid” to watching almost 50k stage a prison break from your bank account?

Marion says, the first thing you should do is to be honest with yourself and think about the cost involved in being a bridesmaid. You should ask yourself how much can you realistically spend on the wedding and its related activities.  I know you want to be involved in the making of the entire event, but you also want to be able to buy groceries and toilet paper after the wedding.

You’re not a bad friend if you say “No.” Here’s how to bow out gracefully or cut costs to make it work if you have already said yes:

After you sit down and look at your budget, talk to your friend (the bride) about your concerns.  Let her know that while you are super excited for her and want to do everything, you are worried that you won’t be able to.  If she is your friend, she will understand and maybe change her plans to make it easier for everyone to chip in financially. If she doesn’t understand then maybe, it’s time for you to revaluate your friendship.  Either way, having the conversation will set her expectations so that she’s not disappointed and will allow you to still be a part of the wedding while not going broke.

“How you do it is really important,” says Marion. “You re in a wedding, so everything about you will be scrutinized from the moment you walk down the aisle with the bride. Look at the jewellery cost, the hair, the makeup, and the shoes. If you can’t afford them, then ask her if you can offer support in any other activity.” she adds.

How to save money when you’re part of the bridal party

Just because you’ve agreed to participate in the wedding, doesn’t mean you have to fulfil your obligations in the same way like the other bridal party members. Do what’s right for you and your bank account by making one or two thoughtful but modest gifts. Also, remember that proper etiquette allows you up to a year to give the couple a wedding gift.

Here is what you can do to celebrate your friend’s big moment without breaking your budget:

The dress: if the bride is going for a big name, request for the fabric sache and look for another tailor who can make the dress well and at a cheaper price. “Go look for it, determine what your design is and go look for another tailor,” says Marion.

Make-up: If you are good at it and let’s say the bride has a makeup artist who is charging Ksh. 25,000, why not do it yourself to save cost? You can start by doing a make up trial and showing your friend (the bride) first to be in line with her wishes. “You are using your own products not because you don’t want to use your friend’s make up artist but because you are doing your best to stay within your own budget and still be a bridesmaid,” advices Marion

Jewellery: You can either use what’s in your wardrobe or request from your friend or sister. Make that be your something borrowed!

Shoes: You can check out some on your wardrobe that you haven’t worn for a long time or borrow from a friend.

So now that you have received an invitation to be a bridesmaid and you have suddenly realized that you can’t meet the cost, how do you decline the invitation?

Be upfront and honest and let your friend know you can’t do it. However, caution should be taken not to overload them with a list of your reasons of why you can’t be in the line up. Remember, the subject of your conversation should not just be you and your troubles. All you have to say is, ‘after going over my budget, I can’t be a bridesmaid.”

You can offer to be of assistance for another service that is non monetary or offer your skill as a wedding present.  For instance, you can say, “I’d love to host one event, or pass out programs at the ceremony, or help you out in any other way.’ Then, in a few days, follow up with a card saying, ‘Thank you for asking me. I’m so happy for you.’ Not an email, or a text message, but an old fashioned card. This will help heal any hurt feelings because it shows that you gave your friend’s request a lot of thought.

If you have a wedding-appropriate skill, you can offer your time as a gift.  Maybe you’re between jobs and you have NO money but you do have time and can help with any and all DIY jobs.

If you haven’t said yes but you really, really want to be in the wedding, despite the fact that you can’t afford all of the associated costs, just tell your friend what you can and can’t afford. But remember, you can only do this at the very beginning, before you agree to take the job. Just be honest and say, ‘I’d love to be a part of this, but after looking at my budget, I can’t afford everything. Here’s where I can and can’t participate. Is this all right?’ That way you don’t leave the couple or other bridal party members in a bind. What about you? Have you ever dodged bridesmaid duties or wished that you had due to finances?

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