(ARA) - Standing up for your friend as her maid of honor or bridesmaid is a special experience you'll both remember all your lives. Yet your happiness for your friend, and your joy at participating in her wedding, can be tempered by concerns about the costs associated with being a member of the wedding party.
Just like the bride and groom, attendants often need to use credit to fund their wedding experience, including the cost of a dress, gift for the happy couple, the bachelorette party and perhaps traveling to the wedding location. Still, if you rely too much on credit, you could end up with debt - which is a lot worse than a dress you'll never wear again.
Careful planning and an honest discussion with the bride and groom about cost control can help ensure no one overspends on the big day.
Before you agree:
The first question you should ask yourself is: "Can I afford to be in this wedding?"
If the person asking for your participation is your best friend in the world, and saying "no" will harm your relationship, you'll have to find a way to fund your bridesmaid duties without breaking the bank. But if the invitation comes from a friend you're not particularly close to, it may be appropriate to decline, especially if the associated costs will be a financial hardship.
When the answer has to be "yes," your next move should be to assess your finances. How much cash can you reasonably set aside between now and the time the bills start to arrive? How much of your participation will need to be funded through credit?
If you know credit will be a big part of your wedding party budget, monitoring your credit for a few months may help you manage your finances. Membership in a product like CreditReport.com offers members valuable tools to help them monitor their credit for a monthly fee.
When it's time to say "yes":
Once you have an idea of how you can budget, it's time to have a candid discussion with the bride and groom. Let them know what you're comfortable with, and what will be beyond your budget. Determine what their expectations are for the costs you'll bear, and what they'll pay for.
If you find that your financial abilities and their expectations are too far apart, give them the opportunity to reconsider their invitation for you to be in the wedding.
Ironing out money matters at the beginning of the wedding planning process will help ensure you don't have to distract the bride and groom with the discussion as their big day approaches - and their stress levels go up.
When you're committed:
Once you've said yes and agreed on expenses, it's time to put your plan into action. Begin setting aside money right away, even if the wedding is a year away. The longer you have to save cash, the less you'll need to rely on credit as the wedding approaches.
Look for ways that you can cut expenses without impacting the wedding itself. For example, if the bridesmaid's dress must come from a pricey boutique, perhaps you can find matching shoes for less at a different retail store. If you'll be traveling to the wedding in another state - or even another country - shop for the best airline deal, and explore the possibility of using reward miles or hotel points to help defray your travel costs.
Compromise with the bride: If she agrees to let you wear your favorite little black dress, rather than drop a few hundred on something new that you'll never wear again, make it up to her by helping out in some other way. Perhaps you're a skilled crafter who can make one-of-a-kind favors for the reception. Maybe your graphic design skills could help her save money on custom-designed invitations. Or perhaps you can use your flower-arranging skills to help her save money on centerpieces, boutonnieres and bouquets.
With some advanced planning and loving honesty, you can help ensure your friend's big day is as perfect as possible-and that the only thing you're left with afterward are happy memories.