Bridesmaids pay a price (beyond buying gowns)
By Tara Weiss
The (Westchester, N.Y.) Journal News
Always a bridesmaid and never a bride -- it's a more expensive cliche than most realize.
At the final fitting for her bridesmaid dress, Tammy Toporek is trying on a deep red strapless A-line with red shoes dyed to match the dress, a total cost of more than $300.
She spent more than $1,300 to be in her friend Melissa Peterson's wedding -- excluding a professional hair styling.
Such spending isn't unusual. Being a bridesmaid costs more than just buying a dress you'll probably only wear once. Being in a wedding party often means attending a bachelor or bachelorette party, contributing time and money to the bridal shower, having your hair professionally done, traveling to the wedding and ponying up for a hotel room. And don't forget the gift.
The average cost for a groomsman is $700, for a bridesmaid $1,400, says Kathleen Murray, a weddings editor at theknot.com.
Toporek, a New Yorker, and the other bridesmaids paid about $1,000 for the first bachelorette party -- a five-day cruise to Mexico and a night in New Orleans. Each of the four bridesmaids who went paid for herself and a fourth of the bride's fare. Bachelorette party No. 2 was a night out barhopping in Hoboken, N.J.
Toporek, who is getting married next year, says it's money well spent even though she hadn't budgeted for it and had to charge much of it. "Her fiance is going to Vegas, so we said, 'If he's going away, we're going away,' " Toporek, 28, says. "Every penny of it was worth it. We had a blast."
Men, on the other hand, have fewer expenses.
Danny Iacovides, a groomsman in the same wedding, spent about $500 for a three-day bachelor party trip to Las Vegas -- including his share of the bridegroom's fare. The other expense was the tuxedo and shoe rental, which cost $160.
"It gets expensive, but it's well worth it," Iacovides, 25, says. "I've never been in a wedding. I'm really enjoying it. He's my closest friend. It's an honor."
If money is an issue, communicate that to the couple right away.
"There's nothing wrong with bringing up financial concerns," Murray says. "Most couples will understand that. Hopefully they'll work with you.
"If you don't feel you can afford the expense of being in the bridal party, then maybe you can be an usher or do a reading. Or the bride and groom should consider their own financial situation and work out a deal where they help you out with the cost of attire or tell you it's OK to skip the bachelor or bachelorette party."
Peterson planned to thank her bridesmaids and her maid of honor with gifts and trips to a spa for facials and massages.
The wedding party often is expected to stay in a hotel with the bride and bridegroom and their families. If that's too expensive, Murray says there are tactful ways to ease the cost.
Stay with a friend or in a less expensive hotel and tell the couple, "I don't think I can afford to stay in such a fancy hotel, but I'll be there as soon as you want me to, and I'll do anything you want me to," Murray says.
There are other nonfinancial ways to help, too.
"When it comes to the bridal shower, you can say, 'I can't afford to give much, but let me write all the invitations and I'll do all the cleanup,' " says Sharon Naylor, author of more than 20 wedding-planning books.
This part was a sidebar:
If you can't afford such an honor . . .
• If you're asked to be a bridesmaid or a maid of honor, experts say you should expect to pay around $1,400. Groomsmen spend a lot less -- about $700. If that's not a financial option, there are ways to keep costs down without causing hurt feelings.
• Be direct. If money is an issue, first express how much you care about the couple and how honored you are to be asked to be in the wedding. Then explain the financial constraints you have.
• Instead of staying at a costly hotel or bed and breakfast, tell the couple that you're going to stay at a less expensive hotel nearby, but you'll come to their hotel whenever they need you.
• Instead of contributing money to the bridal shower, offer to address invitations, clean up after the party and think up party games.