Budget Wedding Myths: The Bridal Party

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

While we are on the topic of budget wedding tips that are not super helpful, lets talk about another common one: “A good way to cut back on the cost of your wedding is to cut the size of your bridal party, since a major hidden cost of weddings is the bridal party gifts.” Now, we are not having a large bridal party, and I know that lots of you are not choosing to have a bridal party at all. But! If you want to have your friends standing up with you on your wedding day, you should be able to have that, even if you don’t have a big budget.

I’m not sure when we all decided that it was mandatory to give expensive bridal party gifts, but it’s silly. Can you imagine if one of your best friends were getting married, and you found out she hadn’t asked you to be a bridesmaid because she felt she couldn’t afford to give you a nice enough gift? Right. Because being a bridesmaid is clearly something you do because you’re hoping for a big payoff.

So, with that in mind, I thought I would draw up a short list of what I think are the best possible gifts you can give a attendant, or anyone who helped you and supported you during your wedding.

1. Let the girls wear their own dress! Let the guys wear their own suits! That sh*t is a PRESENT. If you want everyone to match, give the girls their dress as a present, and give the guys a nice tie, or pay for their tux rental.
2. Don’t make them pay travel all over the country/world/universe for your bachelorette party in Vegas/Italy/Mars. Again, that in itself, is a present.
2. Write your attendants a letter, telling them how much they mean to you. Awww….
3. Give everyone a nice picture frame, and when you get your pictures back, give them a picture of the two of you on your wedding day. Really, that is all I want when I’m in a wedding. Access to the cache of professional pictures.
4. Pick up something for them on your honeymoon, if you are taking one. It doesn’t have to be expensive. They’ll appreciate knowing you were thinking about them at that truck stop in Idaho.
5. And of course, you can always buy indie. Check out One Small Star’s excellent gift guide here.

What are you guys giving your attendants/ wedding helpers? I mean *other* then the diamond and ruby tiara from Tiffany’s. Obviously. What gifts would you want as a attendant/ wedding helper?

Photo via MaggieMacPhoto’s Flickr stream

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com. #NASTY

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  • Jen

    I actually started browsing in a jewelry store that was going our of business while I was waiting to meet a friend for dinner and found a great necklace on sale which I got my MOH. I was still $60 but that was like 75% off and she will love it. The guys – BM and dads are getting very nice silk ties. And they all get to wear whatever they want. I did ask MOH to wear a blue dress but knowing her she probably would have worn blue anyway.

  • this sounds silly but.. im giving the bridesmaids juicy terry cloth hoodies (that i got on clearance online). the groom bought his groomsmen custom nike dunks on the nike id website in our wedding colors and they say ‘team romance’ on the side. so i might get the hoodies embroidered with ‘team romance.’

    his gifts are pricey but the hoodies were very reasonable and i know the ladies will wear them more than some goofy charm bracelet or something.

    ive also told them they absolutely dont need to buy us wedding gifts but of course they all blew that idea off.

  • Anne O.

    We’ll end up avoiding the whole issue. We’re not having a bridal party but NOT because of the gifts. Just because it doesn’t make sense for us. And damn what a stress saver, eh? ;)

  • ley

    My girls are buying their own matching dresses, but only because:
    1)I want quality to be even for the girls- one would be allowed to get a beautiful, expensive dress while the other would be forced to buy from a thrift store, even though they are both sisters.
    2)They’re family so I know exactly how much they can afford and wouldn’t pick anything too expensive.

    But that said…I’m buying them necklaces for presents. My fiance and I have about $0, so I couldn’t afford anything big, but I bought each of them a necklace to wear for the wedding (if they want). I made sure to find them all different necklaces that they would actually like and that are suited to what they normally wear, not cheap matching crap.

  • Much like Ley, I am buying my attendants jewelry to wear for the wedding. I’ve been looking on etsy, which is a problem, because there are just too many cute things! Anyways, it looks like I will be spending about $20-30 per attendant on something I think they will really like. I’m also paying for a day of manis/pedis/waxes and a boozy brunch for my bridesmaids and my my mom and future mother-in-law. While I’m a little concerned about the expense, I know that this day is going to be the kinda super-fun day I’ve always wanted to have with all my best friends and the kind of day that might only happen once in a lifetime. Also, my wedding is in this small town where spa treatments are really quite reasonable.

  • I was recently in a wedding, and the bride gave her bridesmaids flip flops that coordinated with our dresses. That was incredible because it was so nice to not have to wear 3″ heels! She also gave us beautiful but simple bracelets that she found on overstock.

    As a bridesmaid, it wouldn’t really matter to me if I got a gift at all. I’d be fine with a note, or just being able to be a part of all the festivities in celebrating a friends marriage.

  • I guess jewelry is a popular thing! I have a friend who makes jewelry, so we’re going to make the bridal party some necklaces that hopefully will be cool enough to wear again. Also, I had thought about the flip-flop thing. I don’t (can’t) spend too much on gifts for them, and like dudamis said – I don’t think they’re going to be expecting much. You know, a sincere note is always a really sweet gesture!

  • Anonymous

    I hate the idea of getting the wedding party matching gifts. To me, it’s another way to treat different people “the same.” We did not have a wedding party in the sense of “attendants,” but we did invite particular people to participate in the ceremony: four people, mostly family, stood at each of the four corners of our chupah; my dissertation advisor served as emcee and made an amazing speech; two friends read poems of our choice; another friend did a reading she wrote; my mom and best friend read a prayer my mom an I wrote together; my partner’s parents and stepparents read the traditional Jewish wedding blessings in Hebrew and in English. My cousin was our only real “traditional” participant because she begged us to let her be the flower girl– it was her last chance and she always wanted to be one. :) These people got invited to a dinner the night before the wedding (to which we provided transportation to those who didn’t have any), personalized thank you notes, and photographs of them with us from the wedding. Those who did lots of work and preparation (writing, etc) got personal gifts. I just don’t see the point of giving your friends objects that match unless they all happen to like those objects, or objects that say “wedding!” unless they really happen to like weddings.

  • We got the BMs makeup brushes and the GM Leatherman multi-tools. Useful and fun!

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    That is the stupidest reason I’ve ever heard for not having a big bridal party!

    We don’t know what to give ours, I was thinking of making them all personalised birds, like our cake topper, but I don’t know if we’ll have time. I was also thinking of making the girls personalised somethings (I don’t know what!) to hang from their bouquets.

    I can’t believe how expensive it can become for someone to be part of your bridal party. For them I mean – dresses, shoes, travel, travel to parties, showers, presents etc etc, it’s insane!

  • Since our wedding party is already spending money to be with us in the Caribbean, we’re buying their outfits. I think that’s only good manners though. I’m not sure what our gifts for them will be. If it were me, I’d love a piece of jewelry that’s timeless and would remind me of how much fun we all had at the wedding each time I wore it. :-)

  • Jessica

    I agree with the loosing the myth that they all have to have matching gifts. What about a gift that matched their personality? I made a gardening kit for a BM who loves to garden. Got a cocktail making book for my MOH, (who enjoys entertaining, and making mixed drinks) as well as other gifts that match their personality. I am also making them poppy hair pins that match their dresses (from a tutorial I bought on etsy.com) All something I know they will get more use out of than an engraved pink flask.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve told my maid of honor (my sister) to wear whatever her heart desires, and if it happens to be something brand new, I would help her pay for it. Our best man is getting the same deal. I don’t understand how the ‘mandatory bridal party gifts’ thing came about either! Or even favors, if you keep thinking in that vein. We are already feeding them, and providing entertainment in a giant family gathering! When else are some of these folks going to get the chance to catch up with Aunt Sue or meet Uncle Benny?! I LOVE how you so beautifully point out the confusing aspects of weddings. Great post!

  • cindy

    Hi there! Greetings from Malaysia! Just wanna say how I enjoy reading your blog! :) I dreamt of having a grand fairy tale wedding ever since I was a little girl! But then, now that I am planning my own wedding, I knew I had to be practical and realistic as I do not have high budget, plus am not really keen to spend a fortune for a one-day event, no matter how friends and relatives have been reminding me that this is Once-in-a-lifetime thing! :p
    Your blog reminds me to be practical and to stick to what I believe in. Hehe… thanks…

  • Oh man, it’s so not about the gifts. We haven’t got to planning this yet, but they’ll be small and heartfelt, to be sure.

    I like these myth-busting posts. Any more coming?

  • Meg

    Ms. Guilty, email me if you have any good ideas for more myth busting. Those were the two that I hate the most, so I did them first.

  • jammy

    i have 4 bridesmaids…i’m getting them each something personalized:
    MOH – she’s the hardest to shop for so it’ll probably something from one of my travels this summer

    Jo – travel kit (blanket, eye mask, pillow) since she travels a lot for work and the airport stuff is all germy

    Di – gift certificate to a cooking class

    Shish – gift certificate on jetblue or southwest to come visit sometime after the wedding (she lives in SF bay area we live in LA)

    the great thing is that each gift will be under $60 but will be meaningful and specific to each person…i felt weird getting them all the same thing anyway since they’re all so different…

    it was funny, when i told jo i was trying to figure out what to get them she was like “OMG i get another gift aside from being in the wedding? that’s never happened to me before, sweet.” it made me realize that they are honored just to be able to stand up there with us while we get married which is great…

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  • Passerby

    …what the heck are people spending on these things these days?!? Last I was invovled in a wedding, the standard was $15-$40 – that was the late ninties, so adjusting for inflation maybe $25-$60 a bridesmaid? It’s a gift, people, not a scholarship fund.