1. Skip the engagement gift
Your friend is engaged? Mazel! It's tempting to celebrate by surprising her with an engagement present, but it's not necessary. (Especially if she isn't having an engagement party!) Pick out a beautiful card and write a heartfelt note. She has plenty of time to receive gifts and this will mean just as much to her as a silver-plated frame would.
2. Set a budget
Make a spreadsheet of all the costs you anticipate - plane ticket, hotel room, dress, etc. Estimate how much you'll spend on each and figure out a cap for each item. Prioritize the musts - like travel and attire - and leave the fun stuff, like gifts, for last.
3. Check Tradesy before buying your dress retail
Tradesy.com allows users to buy gently used bridesmaid dresses at a premium. Let's face facts: no matter how well-intentioned your friend is, you're probably never going to wear it again. So why not get a recycled version for a bit less? Other sites to check are weddingbee.com and wedding-recycle.com.
4. Book travel ASAP
Explain to the bride that you're on a budget, and kindly ask if she'll let you in on the dates before releasing them to the public. Planning ahead gives you the most options. It's best to buy those plane tickets as early as possible.
5. Put your foot down
If the wedding events are all out of town, plane tickets can add up quickly. If you're invited to the engagement party, the bridal shower, and the bachelorette party - and they're all on different weekends - you'll have to put explain that you can only afford to travel for one event and ask your friend which is most important to her.
6. Get a roomie
Traveling to a wedding - or pre-wedding event - without a date? Ask one of the other single bridesmaids or guests if she wants to split a hotel room with you. It's a win-win: you'll have someone to get ready and head to the party with, and you're save money. Even if it's someone you don't know well, it's always worth asking.
7. Get into the registry early on
Give yourself the most gifting choices by checking out the registry as soon as it's live and before all the adorable, affordable gift options are long gone.
8. Ask for a group discount
Big bridal party? Many purveyors of bridesmaids dresses will give a discount to a large group. Don't be afraid to ask. 15% off goes a long way on a few hundred dollars.
9. Shop around for alterations
Need to have your dress altered? The shop you got it from will likely upcharge you for that service. Shop it around to several local tailors instead. Check Yelp for reviews and go for the best bargain.
10. Do your own hair
Some brides take care of the hair and makeup application costs for their entire wedding party on the big day, but not always. These individual services can be pricey. If the bride offers the services but doesn't offer to foot the bill, opt in for the makeup application and skip the hair styling. Remember, the photos last forever and it's far more important that your face looks flawless. Hair can always be fixed!
Nervous about doing your own hair? Read our guide for getting salon-worthy blowouts at home, or check out these five minute party hairstyles for inspiration.
11. Suggest the bridal party chips in for one bridal shower gift
Instead of each buying her piecemeal gifts, suggest chipping in for a larger gift. If a bridal party of eight contributes at least $25 each, that's a pretty nice gift - or gift card - you've got there!
12. Help plan the bachelorette party
Chances are, whomever is planning it would love your help. This usually falls on the Maid of Honor, and if that isn't you, get in touch with her and ask if she'd like some assistance in planning. You can help make sure that the event is fun - and clear costs with everyone ahead of time so that there are no awkward "But I can't afford that" pleas on the day of.
13. Don't spill!
Keep that bridesmaid dress in tip top shape so you can sell it to Tradesy.com or a similar site post-wedding and get some of that money you spent back!
14. Hold off on buying a wedding gift - for now
Your friend understands that you just spent a lot of money on her big day. Instead of stressing out about yet another expense - a wedding gift - put it off for now. Instead, give yourself a few months to save up for either something left on their registry, or a check. It'll be a welcome surprise in the mail for them.
15. "I know everyone is on a budget"
Whether or not you're the Maid of Honor or in charge, don't be afraid to remind your fellow bridesmaids that everything has a price tag. Work together to find creative solutions, and never hesitate to speak up (politely!) when you think something is too expensive or unnecessary.
Are you in a wedding this year? What's your favorite way to save money when a friend's getting married? Tweet us @wewomenCA!