How to Navigate Bridal Showers and Weddings Gracefully While On A Budget

attend shower on a budget

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There comes a time in a girl's life, usually around the age of 24, when the last wedding you remember attending was your second cousin's whose name you don't remember because you were only 7 years old.

Then, overnight, the deluge of engagements and subsequent weddings begins. Your best friends start getting engaged. Your cousins, sisters, and old friends from high school you haven't seen in years start slipping on rings and mailing out invites.

Pretty soon, you're invited to three weddings a year for what turns out to be the next eight years, and you are asked to be a bridesmaid in half of them!

This was certainly my experience from my mid-20s onward. At the time of this writing, I've been a bridesmaid in six weddings and have two more coming up (that I know of!)

This doesn't even include all of the weddings I've attended without being a member of the wedding party.

That's a lot of wedding expenses to save for! Not to mention each of these weddings followed a bridal shower, and many of them ended with a baby shower as these things often do.

money saving tips for wedding guests

So what's a frugal girl to do?

Navigating each of these showers and weddings as gracefully as possible is important to me, but there are also a number of costs that come along with these events.

For each wedding you are invited to, you will likely need to budget for both a bridal shower gift and a wedding gift. If you are part of the wedding party, plan to budget much more!

You can expect to pay for a number of bridesmaid items like: 

  • A bridesmaid dress
  • Hair and makeup services
  • Spanx and gel bras
  • Alteration services
  • Jewelery
  • Heels
  • Gifts
  • Champagne for the big day

All of this can add up to a big chunk of change! 

So how can you navigate all of these events while keeping your budget intact? Let's dive in!

1. Create A Savings Account for Weddings and Showers

One of the easiest ways I've started preparing for costs like these is by creating a separate savings account just for gifts. Whether they be birthday gifts or bridal shower gifts really doesn't matter. 

At the beginning of the year, I decide how much I will set aside monthly in this gift account, and then I follow through with it. Currently I set aside $25 a month for gifts, not including Christmas. Of course, you don't need to set aside the same amount I do. If you'd rather save $50 per month or $10 per month, that's great too.

The benefit here is in consistent saving so that you don't feel the pinch all at once when you get invited to three baby showers in June and your cousin is getting married in July.

2. Give Creative Gifts On A Budget

Getting a little bit creative with your gifts can help you save a lot of money while still giving a lovely gift. Keep in mind, it's considered bad form to give gifts that aren't on the registry! One exception to this rule is if the registry has already been bought out by other guests. 

Unless you are really close with the person who is being celebrated, it's best to stick to the registry and choose items that she has listed on there.

So how can you save some money while still getting registered gifts?

One great way is to sync up with a couple of other guests and go in on a single large gift together. This is such a great way to treat the lady of the hour!

Often times there are more expensive items on registries that moms-to-be really need, such as strollers or car seats, but typically aren't fulfilled due to their cost. The same often goes for brides who need long lasting useful home appliances that are over $100.

If you can find a handful of other people to chip in with you, you can easily give a $20 to $30 gift that is also the best gift at the party!

3. Bring A Homemade Dessert As Well

If you are finding yourself on a major budget but have a shower to attend, one thoughtful way to gift without the expense is to choose a smaller gift from the registry and then bring a homemade dessert for the party.

Bonus points if you can tailor the dessert specifically to the lady of the hour! Maybe you can write a sweet note in icing, or create some cute designs that will really speak to her. 

Either way, a scratch cake or other dessert will be much appreciated and can act as a buffer alongside your smaller registry gift.

save money on bridal baby shower

How to Save Money on Weddings and Bridesmaid Duties

Weddings by nature are always a tad bit sensitive, but that doesn't mean there aren't socially acceptable ways to save money.

The first thing to consider is your relationship with the engaged couple. Is this someone you know really well, or a friend you haven't seen in a few years?

How well I know the person makes a big difference in my spending when it comes to wedding. When it comes to close family and best friends, I simply plan the year with a much healthier budget so that we can all enjoy the bachelorette party, bridal shower, and wedding without much budgeting fuss. 

To me this is just one of those things where it's worth spending on for the memories that are made.

Keep in mind, though, that personal finance is truly personal. What matters to me may not matter to you, so it's important that you make your own decisions regarding wedding costs!

If these types of expenditures aren't part of your value system as much, then it's perfectly acceptable to spend less.

save money as a bridesmaid

How to Save Money on Wedding Gifts

1. Search around for discounts online.

If a bride has a particular item listed on her registry, you may be able to find the exact same product at a discount through other online retailers.

I personally use the free Shoptagr extension to help monitor when things I like go on sale. If you can tag a few items from the registry early, your chances of getting a notification are much higher! 

2. Use up any gift cards you already have.

If you happen to have gift cards laying around that match the wedding registry, now is a great time to use up the balance!

Don't have the right gift cards? Not to worry!

One way to still save money is to sell any unused gift cards you have on sites like Gift Card Granny. This is a site where you can buy and sell gift card balances online, and it's a great way to extract cash from a gift card you don't plan on using.

3. Combine Ebates and Honey for 10%-30% off.

If you aren't yet using Ebates (now Rakuten) and Honey for your online shopping, I've got a surprise for you! 

Using Ebates and Honey together is my secret weapon for getting a discounted price on nearly every online purchase I make. 

how to use ebates rakuten

Sound too good to be true?

It's not.


Here's how it works:

  1. Ebates gives you 1%-10% cash back on any purchases with their partner companies. They are partnered with more than 2,200 online retailers, so chances are the store you are purchasing from will be on that list! Another great thing about them is that there are no points, credits or other useless gimmicks. They send the cash straight to your PayPal account! (Or you can request a paper check, if you prefer Snail Mail.) Get $10 when you open your Ebates account here. 
  2. Honey is a free browser extension that scours the internet for discount codes and automatically applies the highest one to your purchase at checkout. I routinely get 10%, 20%, and even 30% discount codes on a regular basis, and it doesn't cost me anything.
  3. Click purchase! Between Ebates and Honey, you will often save anywhere between 10% and 40% off the original item price, which is pretty amazing since it'll take you all of about 10 extra seconds to go through the process.

How to Save Money As A Bridesmaid

1. Ask to choose your own dress with a common color and length.

If the bride is open to ideas for bridesmaid dresses, offer the idea of setting a dress color and length and letting each of the bridesmaids choose their own from there. Many of my friends have organized their bridesmaids dresses this way, and it has always turned out beautifully!

There are so many places you can find bridesmaid dresses under $100. Amazon and Lulu's both have amazing options that will save you a bundle.

save money as bridesmaid

Whatever you do, try to avoid David's Bridal at all costs. Their dresses are exorbitantly priced for what you get, and alterations cost a small fortune for a simple hem alteration. I've worn their dresses for a number of friend's weddings, and all of the brides have regretted going with them.

Of course, if that part isn't up to you and the bride isn't flexible, the best thing you can do is try to grab a dress from the clearance rack. This season's dresses will never be on clearance, but if the bride has chosen a length and color while giving leeway for the style, you can get a better deal.

Keep in mind that David's Bridal is very sneaky and they rename the same colors each season. So the same mauve purple color that was named "Quartz" this season was "Dusty Purple" last season.

You'll need to go into the store to make sure the dress you think is the right color really is. But if you can do this, you'll save a ton!

2. Wear jewelry you already have, or borrow some from Grandma!

One of the fastest and easiest ways to save money on being a bridesmaid is to wear jewelry you already have!

Even lower end jewelry can boost your expenses significantly, so try to get creative here. If you don't have anything that's wedding appropriate, ask your mom, Grandma, or aunts if they have anything they can loan you.

Most of the time you will be able to source some great jewelry for the big day at no cost!

3. Alter your dress yourself if can sew. 

Don't let David's bridal do it. If you don't know how to alter it yourself, take it to a cheaper mom-and-pop alterations shop instead.

If you've used a sewing machine at least a couple of times in your life, you can likely hem a dress yourself at home no problem. As long as the dress doesn't have an overly complicated cut, this shouldn't be too hard. I even hemmed my own wedding dress!

If this isn't one of the skills in your toolbox however, try asking around to see if there are other seamstresses in the family. You can always take the dress to an inexpensive tailor in your town if you need to.

My advice would be to avoid the tailors at David's Bridal no matter what. They typically charge at least $100 to alter a simple hem, and much more for other alterations.

4. Do your own hair and makeup, or choose another bridesmaid and help each other out.

Another big cost that comes with being a bridesmaid is hair and makeup. If this is something you feel fairly confident you can do, I highly recommend doing it yourself.

Another option is to pair up with another bridesmaid and see if you can do each other's hair. Or, drag your moms and aunts in to help style while you apply your lashes!


There's no doubt that partaking in wedding and baby shower festivities can add up cost wise, but there are so many ways to give generously without busting your budget.

Now I'd love to hear from you!

What tips and tricks do you use to save on festivities? Let me know in the comments below!

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