How to Be in a Wedding Party Without Going Broke

EXPENSIVE PROPOSITION

For the members of a wedding party, the obligations go well beyond the event itself. There are pre-wedding celebrations, from the engagement party to the shower to cake tastings, and destination bachelor/bachelorette parties are increasingly in vogue -- not to mention a trend toward post-wedding festivities. While the nonstop events add up to lots more fun, they also add up to lots more expense. A survey by American Express found that the average expected outlay for members of a wedding party is $743 in 2016 and even higher for millennials -- $928. The money goes to necessities including travel and clothing for the big day. Before resolving to say no to the honor of being in a wedding party, relax. Bridesmaids and groomsmen can keep costs under control with a touch of effort and advance planning.

SHOP WHERE THE BRIDE DOES

For women, a big chunk of money goes toward wardrobe. A recent survey of more than 600 women by online bridal boutique Weddington Way puts the average cost of a bridesmaid dress at $165. There are many ways to economize. When the bride purchases a wedding gown from David's Bridal, for instance, bridesmaids get $20 off dresses from the store. The bridesmaid dresses run from $79 to $189 and include an extensive selection priced at less than $100.

J. Crew is a popular choice for bridesmaid dresses, and its promo codes generally apply to the wedding line. Sign up for the email list and be ready to pounce when a promotion arrives in your inbox. Likewise, watch for discounts on off-the-rack formalwear from department stores such as Nordstrom. If the dresses are coming from a bridal shop, search for the style online and ask about price matching.

GET ONE TUX FREE

Male members of the wedding party who turn to Men's Wearhouse for their formal attire can choose from a few special offers. For every five tuxes rented, a sixth one is free, and the savings can be divided among the group. Other chains and independent shops might offer similar deals so long as they're guaranteed to get a whole group's business.

PRACTICE PRIMPING

Weddington Way reports that each bridesmaid typically spends $89 on hair and makeup. But this expense can be pared by forgoing the pros. YouTube and plenty of practice can turn attendants into experts on their chosen looks by the time the wedding day arrives.

BOOK BUDGET ACCOMMODATIONS EARLY

Couples often book a block of rooms at a hotel for out-of-town guests or a destination wedding. Book ASAP to lock in the rate and be near the other guests. Most hotels allow free cancellation up to a few days before. If a hotel room at any price is out of range, crashing on a friend's couch or banding together with a group to rent an apartment or house for the weekend is a cheap alternative (check Airbnb, HomeAway, and other vacation rental sites).

FIND A FREE VENUE FOR THE SHOWER

Instead of reserving space at the newest, chicest restaurant in town, look for a free venue that allows self-catering and requires far less spending on decorations for the bridal shower. A local park (with shelter in case of rain) or the living room or backyard of a bridesmaid or relative can be more memorable than a commercial space.

Related:10 Budget Bridal Shower Ideas

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TALK ABOUT COSTS AS A GROUP

It's possible to hold the line on bachelor and bachelorette parties. Wedding etiquette dictates that party-goers divide the cost among themselves. The maid of honor (sometimes the bridesmaids, as well) and the best man traditionally choose the venues, but everyone should be on board with divvying up the cost and comfortable with the bottom line. One way to minimize the outlay is to hold a shower and bachelorette party over one weekend, especially if the chosen location is out of town or invitees must fly in.

STAY LOCAL

Travel for a bachelor or bachelorette party sounds exciting and fun but can be a hardship. In a 2015 survey by Priceline, 45 percent of respondents said they had to skip pre-wedding events because of the cost -- and 15 percent said they had been kicked out of the wedding party for doing so. Try to arrange an event in town, such as a relaxing spa treatment, a lively karaoke night, a laid-back bowling competition, or a chill jazz club.

BOOK AIRFARE AT THE RIGHT TIME

If a destination party is demanded, book travel ahead of time -- but not too far in advance. In CheapAir.com's latest annual study of the best time to buy flights, the company looked at nearly 3 million trips to find the sweet spot. The general answer is between 21 and 112 days in advance. Buying tickets more than three and a half months before will probably waste money (but offer peace of mind).

GO IN ON A GIFT

Wedding gifts, particularly from the registry, can easily break the bank for a wedding party member who has already forked over big bucks for clothing and festivities. To lighten the load, bridesmaids and/or groomsmen can pool their funds to buy one fantastic gift.

DON'T TRY TO DO TOO MUCH

Couples often rely on attendants to help with DIY projects for the wedding. Offer to tackle a task such as flowers or other décor -- anything that can be set up ahead of time -- perhaps in lieu of a gift. Just don't offer to bartend or DJ or oversee the buffet during the event. You do want to be a guest, after all.