Here is a great article I read in the Fort Worth Star Telegram.
Printed in the Fort Worth Star Telegram
By ERIN WHITE
Star-Telegram staff writer
If wedding planners tagged bridesmaids with skill levels, Arica Colley would quickly vault to master status. She's been a bridesmaid eight times and a part of the bride's house party so frequently that she's lost count.
The sunny 27-year-old from Arlington is the kind of friend who, on top of organizing bridesmaids' gifts, picks up knickknacks for the new couple's home and tells her soon-to-be-married gal pals to "just let me take care of the details."
Yet even Colley, a self-professed wedding lover, has become so exasperated with the over-the-top demands on the female members of the wedding party that she nearly split with one newly married friend after the wedding.
"We didn't talk for almost six months," she admits.
For the wedding in question, the bride had expected Colley to not only buy a dress, pay for alterations, pick up new shoes and jewelry, but to attend not one, but 10 showers. Oh, and the bachelorette party? A trip to New York City, paid for by the bridesmaids.
"I didn't really get mad about it at the time," Colley says. "It wasn't until after, when I started adding up all the receipts, and it was like, 'Whoa! I spent like $1,300!'"
Shelling out so much time and cash can make even the most devoted amiga wonder: Are brides pushing their bridesmaids too far?
Adding up the extras
"I think, certainly, a lot of them do," says Elise Mac Adam, an etiquette-advice columnist for IndieBride.com.
The average cost of a wedding is $26,000, an increase of 73 percent in the past 15 years, according to Fairchild Bridal Group. Bridesmaids can expect to spend $1,000 to $1,400 to be in a wedding, experts say.
"It's not the dress that's gotten more expensive," says Theresa DiMasi, editor of Brides.com. More events -- extra showers, brunches and spa days -- add up quickly. The trend of the bachelorette weekend -- an entire weekend of activities or, more commonly, a trip to Las Vegas or some other hot spot -- ratchets up the cost double-time.
Plus, as young people have spread out across the nation (and the world), wedding-party members have had to pony up more for travel expenses. And the mention of a "destination wedding" -- on the beach in the Caribbean or in a vineyard in France -- will cause any potential attendant to conjure visions of massive credit-card debt.
When Shelley Dodd of Arlington, a 27-year-old who has been a bridesmaid six times, was in her college roommate's wedding, she flew to San Antonio a few weekends before the wedding for the bachelorette party then drove down the weekend of the wedding, in addition to shouldering the cost for her attire and gifts.
She spent about $800 on the wedding and still got off comparatively light because of the short distance she had to travel for the party and wedding.
"You don't mind it, because it's one of your very best friends or your sister, but the cost is definitely something you've got to be aware of," she says.
Obsession with the 'blowout' wedding
Etiquette experts, by the way, say that all of Dodd's expenses, save the multiple shower gifts, are perfectly reasonable requests on the part of the bride.
April Ragsdale, a certified wedding consultant with Forth Worth's Princess Bride Productions, says she's seen the time commitment for bridesmaids increase considerably in the past few years.
"It's not the bridesmaid's job to help you address invitations or make the favors," she says, though many a bride magazine suggests often that brides "delegate" such tasks to friends and bridesmaids.
She blames the Western culture's increasing obsession with the "blowout" wedding.
Mac Adam says that she frequently comes across articles that encourage brides to add "traditional" tidbits such as brunches or extra showers to their wedding events -- which aren't traditional at all.
"They call it 'traditional-esque,'" she says. The bachelorette weekend, she says, evolved from the idea of a simple luncheon, and today's $300 bridesmaid dresses started as simpler frocks made by family or purchased at a discount rate from a friendly retailer.
'You should be able to say no'
These increased demands leave many young women with an uncomfortable dilemma: Disappoint a friend by turning down her request to be a bridesmaid or empty out the bank account for someone else's special day.
"A lot of [brides] come with unrealistic expectations. Anyone who thinks that it is a sign of an insubstantial friendship that someone says 'I can't afford something' or 'That interferes with my commitment to my career' is asking too much," says Mac Adam.
Recently, Brides.com's DiMasi says, an acquaintance pulled her aside at a cocktail party and asked for advice: She had agreed to be maid of honor for a woman she'd known since early childhood but was balking at participating as the expenses mounted. Tickets for the cruise-ship wedding alone would be $2,500, and because she didn't want to go alone, the maid of honor was considering inviting -- and paying for -- a guest. She also wondered if she should host a bachelorette party.
"And she works on her own, so she was looking at taking a few weeks off work when she wouldn't get paid," DiMasi says.
A bride asking for that sort of extravagance, without having an honest conversation with her bridal party about their ability to pay, is, frankly, inconsiderate and irresponsible, DiMasi says. She says she encouraged the woman to first weigh the importance of the friendship and then talk frankly with the bride to see if they could come up with a way to ease her financial burden.
Good advice, Mac Adam says.
"The culture that says, 'Oh, you can't say no to the bride' is devastating," she says. "You should be able to say no. You should be able to talk to her. This is your friend."
Which is why potential bridesmaids, Ragsdale says, should fight cultural pressures and not automatically feel like they have to agree to be in a wedding just because they were asked.
"An invitation is just that," Ragsdale says. "Because once you agree and the bride starts making plans, you really can't back out without causing her a lot of trouble."
Both Colley and Ragsdale stress that saying no -- whether to the entire idea of being a bridesmaid or to one particular demand -- needs to be handled gently and tactfully.
"If this person has asked you to be in their wedding, they obviously think of you as a close friend, and you don't want to hurt their feelings," Colley says. She once felt obligated to decline an invitation because she thought the soon-to-be-groom treated her friend badly.
Instead of saying, "I think you're marrying a jerk," she just said, "I really can't afford it." Then she offered to pinch- hit where she could, a strategy Ragsdale recommends for any girl who wants to shimmy out of the wedding party. Offer to throw a shower, to put together favors or to help on the wedding day, Ragsdale says.
Colley says that her experiences have taught her that the bride might be cooler than you're giving her credit for being.
"Sometimes, it's the bridesmaids saying, 'Oh, my gosh, we have to do this. She wants us to do this' when, really, the bride doesn't care," Colley says.And although brides do have a responsibility to not mistake their friends for paid staff, Colley says the bridesmaids will have much more fun if they remember that they need to support their friend, the bride -- even if she is being a jerk at the moment.
"She might be acting crazy right now, but she'll get over it," Colley says. "The thing to remember is that your friend is under a lot of stress. Her whole life is about to change. It's not her job to hold your hand. It's your job to hold hers."
Within reason, of course.
What can reasonably be expected of me when I agree to be a bridesmaid?
Bridesmaids are not, contrary to what many do-it-yourself wedding instruction books indicate, stand-in wedding planners or coordinators. Here's what bridesmaids should expect when they agree to be in the wedding.
1. Purchase of dress, alterations, undergarments, accessories and, if specified ahead of time, pay for hair and makeup appointments. April Ragsdale, certified wedding consultant with Fort Worth's Princess Bride Productions, suggests that the bride pick up the tab on one day-of accoutrement or service, such as jewelry or a manicure, particularly if she's requiring bridesmaids to pay for extra maintenance.
2. Travel expenses
3. Lodging expenses. Generally, though, if a bridesmaid has to travel, the bride is expected to at least work with a hotel to negotiate a group rate. Ragsdale also suggests gathering together guests and the bridal party and calling an airline -- even if departure times and cities vary -- to try to get a discount code.
4. Attendance at one shower, the rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner.
5. Increasingly, being a bridesmaid also includes a spa day or a weekend getaway for the women in the wedding party. Ask the bride if she's planning either one of these activities and if so, how much of the cost you'll be expected to bear.
As a bridesmaid, how can I avoid spending more than I can realistically afford?
Ask the bride to set a budget upfront, even if talking about money feels uncomfortable. The bride is already budgeting the money that she'll be spending; it's not unreasonable to ask her to set a limit on what you'll be spending, too.
If I'm the bride, and I'm planning an event related to the wedding, do I have to ask the bridesmaids first?
Unless you're planning to pay for it yourself, yes. If you're coordinating an event, you have a responsibility to make sure it fits within everyone's budget.
What's the best way to keep from resenting the bride because I feel like she's piled too much on me?
Communicating expectations upfront is the easiest way to avoid bride/bridesmaid conflict. Brides: Detail exactly what's expected of your bridesmaids, including accessories; beauty maintenance, such as hair and makeup; event attendance; and travel and lodging expenses. Bridesmaids: Take the time to estimate your financial commitment, including alterations, shoes, makeup, travel expenses, etc., before agreeing to participate.
How can I decline to be in the wedding without losing the bride as a friend?
Be honest about why you can't participate. If you're in financial straits, tell the bride you simply can't afford it. Be sure to thank her for asking you and express your appreciation of her friendship. Then offer to help in any way you can. And be sure to follow through.
As a bride, how can I make sure my bridesmaids don't feel overwhelmed?
Ask yourself the following before assigning a task or making a request:
1. Am I treating this person like a friend or a paid employee?
2. Have I already paid someone to do this?
3. Would I want to do this for her for her wedding?
4. Will I remember this detail in a year?
Sources: April Ragsdale, certified wedding consultant; Anna Post of the Emily Post Institute, Elise Mac Adam, etiquette columnist for www.indiebride.com, Nicole Kraft, etiquette expert
The culture that says, 'Oh, you can't say no to the bride' is devastating, You should be able to say no.
The price of being a bridesmaid
$25 and up Shoes
$40 Strapless bra
$150 Hair, nails, makeup (including tips)
$50-$300 Travel (gas, plane tickets)
$400 Gifts (shower, wedding, bachelorette)
$75 Bachelorette party
Sources: www.theknot.com, American Wedding Survey
Tips on sticking to your bridesmaid budget
1. Be realistic about your budget -- don't underestimate how much you'll spend.
2. Be resourceful and don't pay for something unless you have to. Don't spend $50 on a store-bought cake for a shower. Have each of the bridesmaids bake a family recipe, and then present the recipe along with the sweets.
3. Corral the other bridesmaids and buy the bride one gift from all of you.
4. Don't assume that you have to have a crazy night out where you blow cash on Jell-O shots. Consider a low-key evening with a few activities that will be special to the bride.
5. Do your own hair, makeup, pedicure and manicure. Or consider going to a beauty college, where students will do hair, makeup, etc. for a reduced rate. Another alternative: Hire a friend who has experience with hair and makeup.
6. Negotiate with the bride. Ask if her if you really need to buy silver shoes -- or if you can wear the cute, strappy black ones you already own.
Source: Arica Colley, eight-time bridesmaid and sometime wedding coordinator