Miss Mink’s Plan for a Stress-Free Bridesmaid Experience

I look back at the first time I was a bridesmaid fondly. However, I cringe when I think about how much money I spent. I was just a graduate student, but spent as if I were comfortably installed in a lucrative career. (I was always headed toward a job in academia, so that was especially silly of me.)

I wasn’t really convinced that I would wear any of the bridesmaids’ dresses I’ve bought again. I held on to a couple, but they sat in my closet for years. I finally donated them to the Cinderella Project a few years ago.

When I started to think about my bridesmaids, I wondered whether they might have the cost of the role in mind. I came across this graphic from Mint a while back and posted it in the Weddingbee forums, but it’s so comprehensive that it’s worth posting again.

Check out the original on Mint.com’s blog.

These days, Mint says bridesmaids are spending around $1,700 to be part of a bridal party. I don’t think I’ve spent that much myself, but I imagine there are others out there who have.

I expect my ‘maids to spend much, much less than what’s listed above. Here’s the plan:

1. No engagement party, bridal showers, or bachelorette party.

We’ve been engaged for a year at this point, so it’s a little late for that. Showers are generally about gifts, and because we are a little older we don’t really need help outfitting a home. What’s more, my mother always taught me to save up to buy top quality items once, instead of having to replace things multiple times. As a result, I don’t feel as though I need to upgrade any of my appliances or kitchen gadgets. Lastly, I’m not really the bachelorette-party type. I love a good party, but I’m not much of a bar hopper.

2. The bridesmaids pick the dresses.

I hope that by selecting a color and letting the bridesmaids pick their dress styles, they’ll actually wear their dresses again. Every bride says it, but it almost never happens and I think that’s because the dress style is mandated.


Dresses from J.Crew (Discontinued)

3. The dresses will be from J.Crew.

J.Crew’s special-occasion dresses usually retail for $250, but they seem to be on sale constantly. I think I get at least one email each week offering 20% off, and the sale section of their site always has dresses for as low as $50. I hope alterations won’t be necessary. Can someone explain why the bridesmaids’ dresses ordered for me after having my measurements taken never fit while I can buy a dress off the rack at J.Crew and be just fine?


J.Crew bridesmaids / From Style Me Pretty / Floral Design by Loluma / Photography by Corbin Gurkin Photography

4. No restrictions on shoes, hair, or makeup.

I want my girls to wear what’s comfortable. I momentarily thought of buying them all the same shoes. Shoes are so personal, though. I decided to pick a neutral color and let them wear whatever they’d like. The best case scenario would have them wearing something that’s already in their closets!

Now, I have questions. Lots of questions. Feel free to answer one or all. I’d really love to get some different opinions on being a bridesmaid.

What do you think is an acceptable cost for being a bridesmaid?

What’s the most expensive bridesmaids’ dress you’ve worn? Did you wear it again?

Would you rather get an inexpensive bridesmaids’ dress that you would never wear again or a more expensive dress that you really would wear again?


Mrs. Mink

Charlottesville, Virginia
Wedding Date:
June 2012
Mascaras Get Married: Dancing All Night
Don't Be Such a Tulle
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  1. Member
    shellvee 2199 posts, Buzzing bee @ 6:14 am

    What do you think is an acceptable cost for being a bridesmaid?
    I paid approx. $600 to be in a friends wedding (conservative estimate) and that didn’t involve travelling at all. I am trying to keep my girls costs below the. $200-250 mark all up, as I have told them all I want is them to have a royal blue dress, if they want the hair make up etc I will book it for them but they don’t have to. If they only do dress it’ll be about $100 each.

    What’s the most expensive bridesmaids’ dress you’ve worn? Did you wear it again? I paid $380 for my BM dress, I actually have worn it again to a friend’s work ball but no it is not something that I could really wear elsewhere…

    Would you rather get an inexpensive bridesmaids’ dress that you would never wear again or a more expensive dress that you really would wear again? I’d prefer inexpensive that I can wear again, expensive doesn’t equal more wearable, and sometimes the inexpensive dresses are easier to “dress down” or alter to make more wearable – one of my girls is already talking about chopping her dress off to knee length after the wedding :)

  2. Member
    bRooklynRocks 4048 posts, Honey bee @ 6:25 am

    A lady after my own heart. I haven’t spent a lot for being a Bridesmaid before. I once had a $250 dress from JCrew but it went on sale at one of NYC’s sample sales and I got it for $60. A $20 alteration (it wasn’t my size but I wasn’t going to pass that up!) and we were good to go. I’ve resold it on the bee actually. For my wedding, I did JCrew sales online. I went line by line, found something in my colors, sent the BM’s and they got their dresses for $60 plus free s/h. One even sold her dress after the wedding. I didn’t care about hair, make-up etc. They wore silver shoes. I think they didn’t spend a lot. I can’t imagine spending $1700!!!

  3. Member
    MaggieL 494 posts, Helper bee @ 6:44 am

    My mom and aunt are making my girls’ dresses- should only be about $50 per person. And I have a friend who is doing all our hair for $25 each. As for shoes and jewelry…doesn’t really matter to me what they do! I’m probably going to gift them all a piece of jewelry.

    I’m all for keeping it cheap for them!

  4. Guest Icon Guest
    Psingo, Guest @ 6:53 am

    I’m doing just about the same thing…except for the bachelorette part. I really just wanted an excuse for a trip with my girls lol (which I’ve never had) and I’m paying for myself. The girls get to pick all of their own stuff with the only mandate being that they feel pretty in it :)

  5. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:01 am

    @ShellVee: $380! That’s about what my most expensive one cost…and I never wore it again. :(

    @bRooklynRocks: Just wait until you see what we did. You’ll freak!

    @MaggieL: I’m with you…I didn’t even realize brides were dictating shoes these days until I saw a beautiful picture of a wedding where the bridesmaids looked exactly alike, from head to toe. Thankfully, no bride has ever told me what shoes or hair style I had to wear.

  6. Member
    moosey 273 posts, Helper bee @ 7:02 am

    Good questions! I’m not sure what an acceptable cost is – but the more inexpensive, the better.

    The most expensive dress I’ve had to buy was around $300 all said and done, and is currently in a garbage bag waiting to be taken to the Sally Anne. It didn’t even fit me after alterations and is a super shiny taffeta concoction that I really, really would never wear again.

    As for your last question – I don’t think I have worn a fancy dress in the past four years aside from bridesmaid dresses, so I would rather have the cheap dress I won’t wear again because I honestly probably wouldn’t even wear the nice, expensive one again! My dress for my sister’s wedding was super cheap and actually my style and I’ve NEVER worn it again even though I’d love to.

  7. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:04 am

    @Psingo: One of my ‘maids wanted to do something, but I work crazy hours between now and the month before the wedding. Going somewhere would just be stressful. I’m aiming for no stress!

  8. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:06 am

    @moosey: There’s a simple solution: host a party where your girlfriends wear bridesmaid dresses! It’s like an 80s party, but no one has to go out to buy anything. :)

  9. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:19 am

    @moosey: Ah…mine all wound up in garbage bags on the way to Goodwill as well!

  10. Member
    leebaby711 362 posts, Helper bee @ 7:32 am

    I think that’s a great plan Miss Mink! I picked the color too and allowed my bridesmaid to pick a dress from anywhere, and they were all thankful for that. One found a clearance dress for $40 and she looked amazing. I found that letting the bridesmaids feel comfortable and look their best, makes for a happy day. You sound like a very thoughtful bride!

  11. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:32 am

    @leebaby711: Aw, thanks! I’m glad it worked out for your girls!

  12. Guest Icon Guest
    Lexy, Guest @ 7:50 am

    I have been a bridesmaid twice, once in ’94 for my mom’s wedding to my stepdad. My dress was pretty atrocious, but I actually wore to church for Easter a year later.

    The second time I don’t remember how much the dress was, I feel like it was about $150, but I had to travel across the country to the bride’s hometown so my total costs were probably pretty close to $1,000 (with a free hotel using my dad’s hotel points) and I was unemployed at the time :-(

    However, that dress was a slightly fancy LBD that I had taken up and wear fairly frequently now.

  13. Guest Icon Guest
    Lexy, Guest @ 7:51 am

    Oh, also, I love the J-Crew dresses! I only have one bridesmaid so I told her to wear whatever she wants but we email each other dresses all the time so I sent her a couple of J-Crew ones that I like, just for fun. She’ll probably go Target though.

  14. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 7:51 am

    @Lexy: Oh my gosh, you are an ANGEL for going all that way while you were unemployed. You get Weddingbee karma for that!

  15. Member
    futuremrscpt 955 posts, Busy bee @ 7:58 am

    I’ve been a bridesmaid three times, with three different dresses, and have never worn any of them again. Two of them were long and formal, and one is short, but still screams “bridesmaid” to me, so it too will not be re-worn. But, I only had to pay for my dress each time (I think? I can’t remember what all I had to pay for in the first one, it was too long ago).

    My best friends wedding (wedding #2) she bought my dress for me, we had our makeup done at the Clinique counter and I bought like a tube of lipgloss or something, and her neighbor was a hairdresser, so free hair do! Very inexpensive for me!

    My sisters commitment ceremony, I bought the dress from overstock and did my own hair/makeup.

    Overall I think $300 or less is what I’ve paid.

  16. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:02 am

    @futureMrsCPT: That’s awesome!

  17. Member
    lisaelanna 530 posts, Busy bee @ 8:04 am

    I’d rather get a little more expensive dress that I would wear lots, but having said that I don’t normally buy dresses for myself that are over $100 (and rarely even that much). I would, of course, be willing to pay a little more for a bridesmaid dress, but I really think most of the bridesmaids dresses I’ve seen are pretty outrageously priced at >$250. I don’t really understand why they cost so much more either…they are probably slightly better made than if you were shopping at the mall, but at the same time stores like Ann Taylor and J.Crew sell pretty high quality clothing. I think your J.Crew pick is a smart choice, I’d be happy doing that if I was one of your bridesmaids.

  18. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:06 am

    @lisaelanna: I actually think the bridesmaid dresses I’ve gotten from bridal salons have been pretty poorly made (including the $360 one). The best made one I’ve had was handmade by the bride’s sister…a professor of textiles at a major university. That dress was great…never wore it again because it was backless, but it was a beautifully made dress.

  19. Member
    knvprincess143 1036 posts, Bumble bee @ 8:44 am

    Chances are I won’t wear it again either way. Even if I totally <3 it, I personally don’t like wearing a special occasssion dress twice after being snapped wearing it in a million pictures. I’m sure many people will think that is snobbish, but that is just how I am. I tried to keep the cost of my bridesmaids dress under $100.00.

  20. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:48 am

    @knvprincess143: Are you worried about what people will think if they see you in the same dress twice? Unless the wedding is in the social section of the paper (and so many papers have done away with them), only the immediate guests of the wedding would see you in the dress, right?

  21. Member
    caybaybay 81 posts, Worker bee @ 8:56 am

    I’m the first of my close friends to get married so none of us have wedding party experience to compare to.

    I want my wedding to be as simple cheap and no fuss as possible. I’ll only have two BMs, SO’s sister and my BFF, not going to bother designating one of MOH. I have other close friends that I’d like to be involved in various ways, but I want the BM thing to just be simple.

    I don’t want them to buy a dress they won’t wear again. I’m thinking of just offering a colour scheme and letting them pick whatever. I don’t care if they get their hair or makeup professionally done or whatever… their choice.

    I’m also not having any engagement parties, showers, bachelor parties etc, and we’re not registering anywhere or asking for gifts.

    I just want everyone to have a good time!

  22. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 8:57 am

    @caybaybay: I bet your maids are going to LOVE you! Congrats!

  23. Guest Icon Guest
    Lexy, Guest @ 9:07 am

    @caybaybay: You’re going to set a great example for the future weddings! Brava!

  24. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:10 am

    @Lexy: Agreed! I think that many of the bridesmaid traditions of days gone by don’t always work for today’s women. We’re busy!

  25. hawk Member
    hawk 1117 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:19 am

    I actually have never been a bridesmaid! I was asked once but was unable to attend because I was graduating the same weekend. :-( So I obviously don’t have much experience with this, but I would think I’d much rather spend extra money on something I would wear again. (And the J. Crew dresses are truly wearable for multiple occasions!)

  26. Member
    knvprincess143 1036 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:24 am

    @Miss Mink: That is funny Miss Mink, I don’t know why it is, that is just how I’ve always been.

    But now that friends and friends of friends and family of friends and just about the whole town has access to the 800 pictures I’m tagged in from the 6 wedding I’ve been honored to stand up in on FB, adds to that fear.

  27. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:25 am

    @Miss Hawk: There’s a thread on the boards right now about brides who have never been bridesmaids. I guess the first time I was a bridesmaid, the bride was in the same position…we were 22. I was in grad school, she was in her first year of working after college. It seems so long ago. :)

    I haven’t been a bridesmaid as much as some of my friends…thank goodness!

  28. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:27 am

    Aw, knvprincess143, I don’t think your friends are judging you at all if you wear something twice! Granted, if you did it when you were young (wore the same thing to the prom two years in a row), that would have gotten talked about, but I don’t think adults really care all that much…except in socialite circles and some of those dresses are probably borrowed anyway. :)

  29. highwire Member
    highwire 1021 posts, Bumble bee @ 9:35 am

    I think it really depends on the wedding/income level of the girls as to what is reasonable, I think.

    I hope I gave my bridesmaids a bit of a break on costs. They stayed at a guest house that my in-laws paid for so they didn’t have to shell out money for a hotel. They also all lived close enough to drive to the venue, so no one had to buy a plane ticket. I picked out matching shoes for the girls, but gave them each $50 towards the purchase (shoes cost a total of $98 if they didn’t buy them on sale, which some were able to) I’m assuming when everything was said and done, each one spent no more than $400 (including dress, hair, shoes, gift, gas in their car, shower, bachelorette party, etc.) For a nearly 30k wedding, I think that is a low number.

    I’ve never been a bridesmaid before, so I can’t answer your second question.

    I’d rather get a bridesmaid dress that was flattering, good quality, and fit me properly. I think there is a wide range of costs that can facilitate a dress like that. But to answer your question, I’d go with the second option: the more expensive dress that could get multiple wears.

  30. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:49 am

    @Mrs. High Wire: I’m with you. I’d happily pay more for a well made dress. As I wrote in a previous comment, I’ve worn two bridesmaid dresses that weren’t great quality (one was expensive, one wasn’t). I was a little sad that so much money was spent on them when we could have used the same money and bought quality dresses at a non-bridal shop.

  31. Member
    TinyTina 3312 posts, Sugar bee @ 9:58 am

    The last wedding I was in I spent a lot… Most of it was traveling. I had to come up for the shower, the bachelorette party and the wedding. For the bachelorette party and wedding I had to shell out for hotels. Then there were the costs of the shower plus a gift for that and a gift for the wedding. There was the dress, alterations and hair. Yikes. It adds up so quickly!

    I’m trying to keep the dresses under $150 and thankfully my mom is paying for the shower, but I do feel bad that the girls will have to travel and shell out money for gas/hotels/food, etc. That’s what happens when your friends live 3 hours away. :(

  32. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 9:59 am

    @TinyTina: I know. I’m bummed that two of mine have travel expenses to deal with. :(

  33. Member
    Miss Fish 1786 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:29 am

    I love this mentality, I am doing the same thing with my girls! They’re all in school and I only spent $99 on my OWN dress, how could I validate giving them a mandate for a hideous dress? I sent them all a facebook message with the following guidelines:

    1. Dress- Must be black, and not make you look like a hussy. We are also planning silver ribbon/bows around the waist, but if that would look funny with the dress in question, we’ll work around it somehow. I can be innovative.

    2. Shoes- Should be black. Also, make sure you’re not going to break an ankle in them, because I will most likely be intoxicated and will not be driving you to the hospital.

    3. Jewelry- Silver, please. Just don’t wear anything that looks like you’re attempting to conduct solar energy.

    4. Hair- As long as you don’t look like you just rolled out of bed, I’m cool with it.

    5. Makeup- Per the request of *BMS NAME*, I am BANNING fake eyelashes.

  34. ticket Member
    ticket 501 posts, Busy bee @ 10:36 am

    The most I paid to be a bridesmaid in a wedding was roughly $600, it felt a little pricey at the time since I was unemployed but overall I know it could have been much worse. I would say the biggest expenses were by far the Bachelorette party and the dress. The dress was only about $150, but I was also asked to buy a coverall to go with it that was another $25 and I required alterations which was another $35. Unfortunately the dresses were NOT ones I would ever wear again. Floor length numbers from David’s Bridal that looked kind of like prom dresses.

    You are so considerate to your bridesmaids, you get an awesome bride award.

  35. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 10:42 am

    @Miss Fish: Oh my gosh, do some brides mandate fake eyelashes?

    @Mrs. Ticket: Aw, thanks!

  36. mspony Member
    mspony 9265 posts, Buzzing Beekeeper @ 11:12 am

    This was such an important issue for me too, and really tried to keep the costs low with JCrew dresses, local events (so less travel and lodging costs), and letting the girls pick their own accessories. I think the costs listed on Mint’s chart are a little off though; especially considering if you need to travel to the shower/party/wedding, you’ll probably need to pay for lodging, which isn’t listed.
    I don’t think I’ll wear any of my bridesmaid’s dresses again, even though some were expensive and some were cheap, but I just chalked it up to the costs of being in the wedding.

  37. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 11:27 am

    @Mrs. Pony: Agreed. I thought $1,700 was a bit much.

  38. Guest Icon Guest
    Anon, Guest @ 1:03 pm

    I think I actually spent close to $2000 on the last wedding I was in… it was super stressful from pretty much the moment my friend got engaged, but then throw in that much money? it was tough. But she didn’t have much of a support system (their families were… difficult), so I tried to do my best. But the costs were cross-country flights for shower, bach party, and wedding, hotels for bach party and wedding, shower gift, wedding gift, cost of co-hosting the bach party, dress, alterations, shoes… i think that was it. you’d better believe i’m working really really hard to keep the costs down for my girls!

  39. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:05 pm

    @Anon: Oh my gosh, you get friend of the year!

  40. Member
    bookworm88 3316 posts, Sugar bee @ 1:08 pm

    I’m going to try to cut costs by doing the I-pick-the-color-you-pick-the-dress route and also by having a bachelorette in NYC. Two of my BMs live up there and the other one and I can ride up on the Megabus together– so we won’t have hotel costs or anything but a weekend of bar-hopping. (Of course one is thinking of moving back home so here’s hoping she stays in the city for a little longer!)

  41. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:17 pm

    @bookworm88: Hooray for the megabus! Great idea!

  42. Member
    MissKabers 537 posts, Busy bee @ 1:48 pm

    oh no – i am so one of those brides that asked the girls to all wear the same shoes (well actually to pick out of two shoes) – but when i mentioned letting them all pick their own, they were nervous because of the color that we wanted and they thought all different wouldn’t look good with their short dresses. i searched everywhere for less expensive ones but eventually sent them the link – at least they were on sale though (so just around $50) plus we got a great deal on dresses so they were less than $50 a piece – i know that they are spending money on things like a shower and the hotel the night of – which i have done for them too, but still i worry that it is strapping them – for me it is important to show them how much we appreciate it – so i send them fun things in the mail – if i can (and if they want it) i will pay for hair and/or make up and i am getting them really personal gifts (and not mandating jewelry, etc) so hopefully i don’t come across as a bridezilla (my number one fear!!!)

  43. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 1:50 pm

    @MissKabers: It sounds like it was their idea to wear the same shoe? I don’t think you have to worry about being a bridezilla at all!

  44. Member
    MissKabers 537 posts, Busy bee @ 2:12 pm

    @Miss Mink: you are right – i just still get so nervous! ps – i’ve loved reading your posts! so glad you are a BEE! :)

  45. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 2:13 pm

    @MissKabers: Aw, thanks!

  46. Member
    Tostones 393 posts, Helper bee @ 3:23 pm

    I have been a BM three time, never wore any of those dresses or outfits again.
    The most expensive dress was ~$200 with alterations. Due to my height I usually always have to get extensive alterations with those store bought BM dresses. Between dress, shoe, hair, and other expenses (bridal shower, hotel when applicable). I have spent almost 500 being a BM at once. It was too much, I ended up regretting it because the bride was supposed to be my BFF and was totally ungrateful for the effort I and other BMs put into helping her.

  47. mink Member
    mink 2178 posts, Buzzing bee @ 3:34 pm

    @theoddbride: Aw, that’s such a shame. When it’s fun to be part of the party, I think it’s a little easier to throw those parties and make those trips.

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