It’s common and cutesy nowadays for soon-to-be brides to “propose” to their bridesmaids. Some pop the question by swapping out the engagement ring for a pair of earrings or a necklace, while others offer gift bags packed with items like custom tees, wine, mugs, candles, bath bombs, and nail polish.
One bride gained TikTok fame when she included something very unlike bracelets and facemasks in her proposal: a transparency letter outlining the time commitments and costs her wedding might incur. The bride, Lisa Torres, also assured her friends that a “no” wouldn’t offend her.
This, in my opinion, is a great idea. The execution is a little blunt, but its intent is loving and kind. And it may help brides mind the financial limitations of their party as they make plans for the big day.
Weddings are expensive. In 2019, the average cost of a wedding reception was $23,000, according to a study done by The Knot, a planning tool for engaged couples.
It can also be expensive to be a bridesmaid. I’ve served as a bridesmaid three times and spent as little as $400 and as much as $1,000. This range matched what friends said they paid to stand up in other weddings, but some studies suggest the average amount is even higher.
A 2017 WeddingWire study found that bridesmaids spend an average of $1,200 per wedding, though it noted that figure can quickly balloon to $1,800. A budgeting guide by David’s Bridal estimates that bridesmaids can expect to pay up to $1,500 when they agree to stand alongside the altar. The line items include expenses associated with wedding attire, an engagement party, a bridal shower, a bachelorette party, travel, lodging, and gifts. And, as Torres pointed out, bridesmaids also have to consider the cost of taking days off work.
These numbers point to a problem—bridesmaids often have no idea what kind of costs to expect when a bride asks them to accompany her down the aisle. And that can put pressure on not only a bridesmaid’s bank account but also her friendship with the bride.
Making clear expectations known in bridesmaid invitations
Torres’s letter offers a solution to this problem. Her message lists the expenses her bridesmaids would need to consider: a “bride squad” t-shirt, an estimated $500 for a destination bachelorette party in Mexico, a $200 dress, nude shoes, and gold accessories, for example. She also notes her plan to cover lodging for the night of the wedding and highlights that she doesn’t expect bridesmaids to attend her shower if they live more than an hour away.
Brides need not be as forward as Torres to be thoughtful about their friends’ budgets. It’s often the duty of the maid of honor to communicate expenses to the rest of the bridal party. Typically, the maid of honor will be in touch a few months before the wedding day to let the rest of the party know how much their gowns will cost, whether they’re on the hook for jewelry, and what the bride’s plans are for hair, makeup, and nails.
While a few months’ notice can be helpful, it may not be enough time for a bridesmaid to save the money she needs to cover all the wedding’s expenses. Earlier may be better, so that bridesmaids can confidently commit to the bridal party without worrying about looming expenses.
Keeping in mind true generosity
Bridesmaids are a part of a bride’s journey to the altar—not just in the sense of the wedding procession, but in supporting her as she grows from girlfriend, to fiancée, to wife. I asked my sisters and my cousins to stand up with me on my wedding day. I needed their familiar, easy company that morning as I worked through pre-ceremony jitters. But, more than that, I felt that much of who I was going to be as a wife—any kindness, humor, and empathy in me—I owed to them.
I would hate to think that cost could have prohibited any of them from standing by my side as I recited my vows. I think many brides would feel the same. A wedding, and all that it entails, is not a milestone because of a glitzy bachelorette party, fabulous gowns, professionally curled hair. It’s a wedding because two people want to celebrate their love and commitment among the family and friends who helped them get to that day.
It can cost a lot, or it can cost a little, to be a bridesmaid. But friendship is priceless.