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When I look back at my twenties, I’ll remember the event that swung through my life the most during those years – weddings. But aside from remembering the awkward dance moves I’d bust out when the wedding band played a Bruno Mars song, I will remember how almost all of my disposable income went toward one thing, and one thing only, bridesmaid dresses.   When I clean out my tiny New York City closet, which I do only once or twice a year, I always find a pile of old bridesmaid dresses that I’m too attached to and can’t seem to get rid of. It’s not that those dresses breath memories of some of the greatest nights of my life or the dresses are so gorgeous they should be displayed in a museum and admired by strangers from around the world. It’s because, to me, they are what I spent all of my money on.   I don’t have a 401K, a savings account with more than four digits in it, or stocks. But I do have a closet filled with bridesmaid dresses that cost between $160-$350 a piece. I learned, the expensive way, that bridesmaid dresses don’t have to cost a couple of hundred, they can cost zero dollars. Here are five ways to make that happen.  
  1. Borrow Your Dress
You may wonder who in the world has the exact bridesmaid dress you need, in the right color, the right size, and the right style, but you would be surprised. There are a couple of main designers that a lot of brides choose when selecting their bridesmaid dresses. You can ask around your immediate friend group to see if they have the dress or even post it on social media.  
  1. Rent Your Dress
Thankfully there are bridesmaid dress companies now that let you rent the dress from them. This will cost you a little more than $0 – but it’s a better option than buying the dress new for a couple hundred dollars.  
  1. Wear Something You Already Have
Speak with the bride early on and see if she’s open to letting the bridal party wear a dress, of a certain color, that they already have. That way, you can grab something from your closet and don’t have to worry about spending a dime on a dress or alterations.  
  1. Sell Your Dress After the Wedding
So let’s say you do have to buy the bridesmaid dress and the dress costs you a couple hundred dollars, don’t think that after the wedding, there’s no way to get your money back. Instead of having the dress crumpled up in the back of your closet, or underneath your bed, there are websites and companies that will buy your used bridesmaid dress. This is a great way to earn back some of that cash or make all of your money back.  
  1. Get Involved in the Bridesmaid Dress Process
When the bride is starting to decide what dress she’d like all her bridesmaids to wear, jump in and ask if you can help her make that decision. This is a good way to keep the cost low or even the right time and place to ask her if the bridesmaids can just wear a dress they already have.

The first time I was ever asked to be a bridesmaid, I was a ripe 22-year-old, who had just walked across the stage at my college graduation. I had a resume, but my work experience only managed to take up less than half the page. I was living back at my parent’s house and working a part-time job where I had to clock out when I left to get lunch, use the bathroom, or step outside for a glimpse of fresh air. When I found out that the bridesmaid dress the bride picked out for us was $290, I nearly fainted. How in the world was I going to afford that? But then I found out that in addition to the $290, I would have to pay $75 for alterations and $55 for a good-fitting bra. And then, the dollar signs kept popping up in my inbox. I was told I had to spend $450 on a two-day bachelorette party and $125 on a gift for the bridal shower. There were other costs, many of them. I know because I contemplated walking into Bank of America and asking for a small loan. I even thought about working at a clothing store on the weekends just to pay for this extravagant bridesmaid role that I was so excited to say yes to months ago. It’s been 5 years since my first attempt at being a bridesmaid, and I’ve since learned that in order to not go broke as a bridesmaid, it’s important to set and stick to a very stern budget early on. Here are six ways to make sure that happens.  
  1. Say Yes to a Budget
Say yes to being a bridesmaid and then go home and say yes to a budget. Look at how much disposable cash you have to spend on this adventure and then plan backward to see how much you can afford per wedding milestone (on the dress, the bachelorette party, gifts, travel, etc.).  
  1. Say No to What You Can’t Afford
If there are things that don’t fit into you budget, know that it is okay to say no. If you can’t attend the bridal shower because you’d have to buy a $430 flight to get there or you can’t go to the bachelorette party because the trip, in total, will cost you over $1,000, it’s okay to skip it. You can make it up to the bride is many other, less expensive, ways.  
  1. Get Involved With the Details
If the maid of honor is planning a lot of the major wedding activities, ask to get involved and help her out. Knowing what she is thinking of planning and how much those things will cost, will allow you to know how much you may be required to spend. You can also talk some sense into her if you notice she’s planning activities that are going to cost the other bridesmaids more money than anyone has or wants to spend.  
  1. Share Your Budget
Bridal parties are filled with women who have been a bridesmaid multiple times and those who have never been a bridesmaid. It’s always helpful for others to see your budget, so after you’ve created it, ask the other women if they’d like to take a peek.  
  1. Skip the Something New
Say no to buying a brand new bridesmaid dress – you can get it used or even rent it. And say no to buying gifts directly off the bride’s registry, especially if you can find it cheaper some place else. If you can’t afford a traditional gift, you can make her something instead.  
  1. Don’t Wait Till the Last Minute
The best way to make sure you stick to your budget is to plan ahead. If you need to book travel and accommodations for the wedding, look in advance and scoop out good deals. Waiting till the last minute will have you shelling out a lot of unnecessary extra cash.

When we’re younger, long before serious boyfriends and college degrees, a lot of us begin to plan our weddings. We brainstorm how the day will go, using our Barbies as props and cut outs from magazines to imagine how the inside of our wedding venue will look. We think we know what we want and we think, when the day finally comes, we’ll be able to execute it as easy as one, two, three.   So when the day finally comes, and the love of your life has popped the question, and your ring finger is gleaming with a diamond the size of a full grown pimple, you will find yourself asking the question: can I plan my own wedding, like I did when I was younger, or do I need to shell out the hard cash for a wedding planner?   The first thing to consider is how much time you have available. Planning a wedding is a giant time sucker and will often feel like you’re taking on a part-time job. If time is on your side, then you can consider planning your own wedding. But you should also consider what type of planner you are. Are you organized? Detail-oriented? Patient? Willing to coordinate and negotiate with vendors? If you don’t think you can handle some of these things, you may want to enlist the help of a wedding planner, especially if you need fresh ideas or someone to keep you focused on a set timeline for planning your wedding.   The other thing you can consider, if you’re looking for help but don’t need a full-blown planner, is to hire a day-of coordinator. That way, you can have someone help you handle the details and the vendors on your wedding day.

When you first get engaged, you’ll find yourself almost suffocated with a wave of happiness and excitement. You’ll be saying yes to more than just a dress: wedding vendors, a venue, and even requests from immediate family members, before having the chance to take a deep breath. The best thing you can do, before making any wedding plans, is set a budget for your wedding. That way, you’ll limit overspending and you’ll also be able to see what packages you can afford when contacting and deciding on vendors. So when creating a budget for your wedding, your first question will be: how much should we spend on the wedding? The most important tip to remember is don’t spend out of your means. If you (the bride and groom) are planning the wedding together, have a conversation about how much of a chunk of your savings you want to spend on this one night. Keep in mind future expenses (a possible house, a new car, etc.) before deciding on your wedding budget. If you are getting help from family members, find out how much they are able to give you before you make your budget. The other thing to do is research the average price of different wedding expenses in your area (venues, flowers, photographers, etc.). Make a spreadsheet detailing these costs and then add them up for a grand total. This will give you a range of how much a traditional wedding in your area will cost. If you start to see it’s way out of your budget, you’ll be able to identify specific line items you can cut out or you may opt in for a smaller scaled wedding – perhaps even a destination wedding.