How to Tell a Bride 'No'

Erin Lowry

The wedding industry is a multibillion dollar market, and most bridesmaids can understand why. The average cost of being a bridesmaid hovers around $1,700, according to Perhaps some bridesmaids can handle paying two months worth of rent to be in a wedding, but what happens when the invitations to be a bridesmaid starts to tip the scale toward paying $6,000 or $10,000 a season? You have to learn when to tell a bride the abhorrent word -- no. Here are some ways to soften the blow.

Expensive Bridesmaid Dresses and Shoes

The typical cost of a bridesmaid's dress -- before alterations -- is about $150, Mint reports. Every bride promises it's a forever piece that her bridesmaids will wear to future cocktail parties and other weddings. In reality, most of these dresses are unflattering, uncomfortable and going to the consignment shop the day after the wedding.

Before complaining about the cost of the dress, consider the other factors. Do you have to travel? How much will the hotel cost? Are there other areas you can be saving money so the cost of the dress seems reasonable?


Then tell the bride. If you can't afford the dress she wants, don't just say no. Offer her some practical solutions -- preferably alternative dresses that are similar in color and design but may be cheaper. Be sure to shop at discount stores such as Nordstrom Rack, Marshalls or T.J. Maxx. Brides and bridesmaids alike can also consider using dress rental services like

Professional Hair and Makeup

Weddings mean photos, and photos mean wanting to look your best. The cost of hair and makeup for a wedding is an estimated $100. But many women can do their own makeup -- and sometimes even their own hair -- for formal events.

Don't feel pressured to pay for both professional hair and makeup. If you feel comfortable with doing your own makeup, then just get your hair done professionally. If you can handle professional-level hairstyles, then ask your bride how she wants your hair done and just fix it yourself.

One of the other bridesmaids might even have impressive skills when it comes to applying the smoky eye or twisting a perfect French braid. Pool your resources, and work with the other bridesmaids and the bride to figure out a cost-effective way to do hair and makeup.

Multiple Pre-Wedding Events

Airfare for a wedding and bachelorette party and a bridal shower -- not to mention an engagement party -- can quickly double your original bridesmaid budget.

Just because you're a bridesmaid, it doesn't mean you need to attend every event. Miss Manners may not agree, but she's not covering the cost.

However, if you aren't going to attend a party, you need to openly discuss this with both the bride and other bridesmaids well before the event, especially if they expected you to be there to help with the budget.

International Travel

Does the bride want to get married abroad? You need to figure out if you'll be able to handle the cost of an international vacation. Even if you want to stand by her side, you may not be able to afford to.

Before you make the knee-jerk reaction to say no, consider the alternative of using credit card sign-on offers and reward points (commonly called travel hacking) to book your travel. It could save you hundreds of dollars.

Being a Bridesmaid in the First Place

Being a bridesmaid isn't a requirement. If a friend is the third bride in a year to bestow the honor of bridesmaid upon you, consider saying no. Explain to her that you simply cannot handle the finances associated with being a bridesmaid multiple times in a wedding season. Just be sure to express your love, support and admiration for her while you let her down easy.

The wedding industry may be a multibillion dollar money-making machine, but you don't have to be feeding the beast.

Erin Lowry writes about personal finance and manages social media for, a site dedicated to helping consumers save money by finding simple, transparent financial products. She is also the founder of the personal finance blog Broke Millennial.