The since-kindergarten friend, the summer camp friend, the practically-sisters friend, the little sister, the sister-in-law, the college friend and the roommate will answer without hesitation. “Yes, I’m honored,” they will say without fully grasping that the “bridesmaid” title comes with a Prada-sized price tag.
“It’s so expensive and a huge commitment,” Sara Wolf said, “Everything adds up.”
As a student at University of Maryland with no steady income, being a bridesmaid is her second largest expense of the year, after tuition.
Wolf never realized how much it would cost to be a bridesmaid until she sat down with some old receipts after two of her best friends’ weddings. For one wedding she had spent $150 on the dress, an extra $150 to build-up the dress modestly, $60 for the fabric, $130 on hair and make-up, $40 toward the hotel bill, plus shoes, bachelorette outings and a present for the couple.
“My mom tells me that for a wedding gift, especially if you’re in the wedding, you should be spending at least a hundred dollars,” Wolf said.
After doing the math, Wolf spent more than $700 for one wedding and combined $1,000 for two of her best friends’ during the summer. Compared to the national average, Wolf’s spending was on the lower side. Wedding and other websites like The Knot and Elite Daily reported that the average bridesmaid spends between $1,500 and $1,800 for the big day, including covering smaller events leading up to it, such as the engagement party, bridal showers and the bachelorette rendezvous.
College brides in particular, who have been bridesmaids themselves, understand the backstage costs; they often try cutting costs to minimize issues for their friends. For this reason, Avital Schwartz, a Kemp Mill native who wed in August at Congregation Shomrei Emunah in Baltimore, reserved the bridesmaid role for family.
“I hear how everyone else is talking about the stresses of being a bridesmaid and how it’s so much drama,” she said.
Schwartz feels that weddings are an important family milestone and giving friends such an involved job takes away from the family bonding experience.
As her family discussed wedding colors. Schwartz felt everyone should wear whichever color they liked best.
“I was totally flexible,” she said.
Schwartz and her mother scoured eBay and found six pastel gowns with modest sleeves for $20 dollars each. The dresses needed $20 in hemming. Her bridesmaids did their own hair and make-up.
On the other hand, Wolf’s experience dress-hunting to find a modest gown that matched the electric blue swatch she was given, was a “pain-in-the-neck.”
“There were a lot of problems at the dress store because they don’t sell extra fabric,” she said. “Initially I thought I would buy a spool of fabric for a shawl, but the spool was a different color with mismatched stitching so I had to return it, which the [store clerks] weren’t happy about.”
In the end, Wolf purchased two dresses, one longer and one shorter so she could cut the shorter one for its identical material in order to tailor the longer dress.
“The shorter dress was originally $120, but they sold it to me for $60,” Wolf said. “I told a friend and she tried to do the same thing, but they wouldn’t give her the same deal.”
Besides dresses, Schwartz’s bridesmaids opted for smaller, low-key parties leading up to the big day to cut on costs.
“They made songs and poems and spoke at the parties and shower, she said. “I’m definitely happy in retrospect.”
Newlywed Nini Slochowsky, who is pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology at Long Island University, says she almost didn’t have bridesmaids at her wedding because she was “scared of picking and choosing who was most important.”
“A very wise friend of mine told me ‘here’s the secret point of bridesmaids. When someone gets married, you may or may not know the fiancé, you may or may not be living near them in the future, and all of a sudden you don’t know where you fit into their new life. Here’s a way for the bride to say, ‘You’re important to me and you’ll always be important to me,’” Slochowsky said.
Ultimately, Slochowsky’s sister convinced her to ask four people. Trying to be “minimalistic” and “intentional,” the 24-year-old from Great Neck, N.Y., thought about the individuals she turns to most in her life.