Kelsi Andrew-Wasylik remembers the financial strain of being a bridesmaid last year, shortly after losing her job.
"It was a huge struggle for me because it was one of my best friends," says the 32-year-old. She found temporary work waitressing and to cover her bridesmaid-related expenses, she saved her cash tips in small labelled jars.
"Dress, hair, makeup…just these little jars because it was the only way I could keep track."
Getting hitched is not cheap these days. The average expected price tag for a Canadian wedding, honeymoon included, will hit $30,717 in 2015, according to one survey. And with two-thirds of engaged couples tying the knot between June and September, it's safe to say that wedding season is in full force.
But it's not just the bride and groom who are feeling the financial pinch. When you add up the cost of a gift for the engagement party, bridal shower, and the day of the ceremony, Canadians plan to spend an average of $776 on wedding-related presents, according to this recent survey. It also found that 81 per cent of those polled feel the cost of weddings is rising and that two-thirds think weddings are a financial burden to guests.
Despite being able to borrow a bridesmaid dress, a move that saved her $300, Ms. Andrew-Wasylik dished out $1,200 to be a part of that wedding party. Since it took place outside of Oshawa, Ont., the Toronto resident needed to cover the cost of a hotel room for the night.
It's an expensive ordeal, says Shannon Lee Simmons, a fee-only certified financial planner. The cost is especially high for bridesmaids, who can expect to spend roughly $1,000 before the day is done.
At the core of the problem is a growing financial burden placed on the wedding party, which has gotten out of hand, Ms. Simmons says. "The expectations of what is normal have to come back down to normal."
She says she's seen a lot of resentment build up between groups of friends who go through a period where there are two or three weddings in a row. And since many Canadians aren't comfortable talking about money, brides can be out of touch with the financial situations of their friends.
"You may think everyone is fine and meanwhile that $350 dress is killing one bridesmaid," she says.
If the cost is too much, Ms. Simmons feels it's acceptable for people to say no. Brides and grooms need to be accommodating to their wedding party, or understand when their friends turn down the offer to be a part of their special day.
Ms. Andrew-Wasylik disagrees. "People say you can always say no but no one's going to do that. Realistically you're going to say yes and you're going to go into debt."
But as she prepares for her own wedding this fall, she keeps her friends' finances in mind. "My friends have taken to calling me bride-chilla," she jokes.
While other brides have chosen out of town bachelorette parties, Ms. Andrew-Wasylik says she's happy staying in Toronto and having a picnic. "I've made it very apparent that everything is their choice," she says.
She's also open to mix and match bridesmaid dresses – one of the biggest expenses, ranging from $200 to $500 – where bridesmaids can wear any style of dress they want, as long as they are the same colour.
Financial planner Ms. Simmons says that in an ideal situation, brides and grooms would make their wedding party part of the financial decision making process. She starts saving with her clients a year and a half ahead of time for their upcoming wedding duties.
"Brides need to have an honest and open conversation with the whole wedding party about what's reasonable and then live within that," she says.
Stephanie van der Meer has been a bridesmaid three times, with costs for each starting at $500 and topping $1000. She's also experienced different demands from required matching shoes, to a professional makeup job.
While she admits some expenses are unavoidable, she has found ways to save money. Since gifts can get pricey, Ms. van der Meer suggests opting for something more personalized.
"The first wedding I was a bridesmaid in I made her garter, in another I made a painting," she says.
"Money isn't everything in these situations," says Ms. van der Meer. "There are ways around it. Just make do to have those memories and commit to someone knowing they would do it for you if the tables were turned."