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'I do' have a bridesmaid budget Add to ...

I've been a bridesmaid or maid of honour in six weddings, so far. Lucky number seven is less than two weeks away. I love my friends and feel honoured and happy to play a role in their wedding day and all of the preparation leading up to it, but little attention is ever really paid to the costs associated with being a part of the bride's day - costs that can, and do, add up. If weddings are filling up your social calendar this summer, and financial stress is creeping in, you might find some of these tips helpful.

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Set a spending plan

According to TheKnot.com, bridesmaids can pay as much as $1,400 (U.S.) per wedding. That sounds ridiculous, considering that could buy you a week on a beach somewhere, but I've definitely spent that, or more, on friends' weddings. Having a spending plan that accounts for all of the major items - the dress and travel costs - as well as such minor expenses as cabs and accessories, will help you stay focused on not overspending. A simple spreadsheet will do the trick and it should work within your overall financial plan. If it doesn't, say so. If you've just had a baby, purchased a condo, or simply are strapped, then be honest with the couple and figure out a reasonable solution to tackle the impending costs.



Ditch the traditional dress

Although every bride will tell you that her bridesmaid's dress is a dress you'll wear again, you won't - ever. It's a shame considering the average dress costs around $260, according to Weddingbells' Annual Reader Survey. If you're just starting the search, ask the bride to pick a colour, as opposed to a single style, that you can all work with. That way you can search within your own budget. Generally, bridal stores are more expensive when it comes to dresses, so a department store is likely the better way to go. I'd also recommend consigning your dress immediately after the wedding and encourage the others in the party to do the same. In a previous wedding I was in, we all consigned our dresses as a set and they were scooped up by another bridal party.



Get glam for less

I'm a big fan of beauty schools. Prices will vary from school to school, but you'll likely pay a student stylist 50 to 75 per cent less than a professional. Every student is supervised by an instructor, so you're in good hands. A trial run before the big day is also a good idea. To find beauty schools in your area, visit beautyschoolsdirectory.com. This site will also direct you to other services, such as manicures, pedicures and massages, for far less than you'd pay at a salon.

Cut travel costs

If you're involved in a destination wedding, then you need to put even more thought into reducing costs. Claire Newell, Vancouver-based travel consultant, suggests tracking airfare prices at a site like Yapta.com. The site will alert you when hotels or flights are found within your budget. Ms. Newell also provides other money-saving travel tips here, as well as her top travel websites to make the process of travelling much smoother.



Gifts

If the essentials are strapping you, then forgo purchasing something off the registry and offer up something more practical and less expensive instead. When I was in school, I offered to pet sit while the newlyweds were away and help a bride-to-be with her work so she could take an extended honeymoon. It cost me my time but it fit into my budget. There are so many ways to be creative in giving your time and your energy without racking up more debt. Consider the interests and needs of the couple and go from there.

We shouldn't have to opt out of a friend's wedding because we don't have the funds. There are ways to make it work. Having a plan in place, getting creative about necessary expenses, and staying real about your current financial picture and what you can and can't afford will help you watch your friends say "I do" without going further into debt.

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