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Ready to really look at your maid of honor budget? I have to warn you, it’s going to be scary. You might not like what you see. Let me go ahead and tell you now, the average amount of money a maid of honor spends on a wedding is a little over $2000. Yep. $2000 and you aren’t even the one walking down the aisle. Kind of a bummer, right? It’s okay though. I’ve got this all figured out for you. A while back I mentioned I’d been a maid of honor three times already and had two more times upcoming. Well, those two upcoming weddings have both been canceled (one for a happy reason, one not, if you’re nosy), but I was already planning the parties so I might as well share what I know.
You may have noticed that in general I’m less concerned with cost than I am with time. That’s not because I’m not good at budgeting. My husband and I met working at a bank. I’ve also worked in financial aid, and I’m currently a bookkeeper, so I know where my money goes. I just get really, really frustrated when people ask for my help getting their budgets together and then completely ignore me. But, I figure in this case I will never know if you stick to your maid of honor budget or not. So I will pretend you all walk away from this not spending a dime more than you meant to. Hooray! Now let’s get to everyone’s favorite topic: math.
Know Your Responsibilities
Okay, MOHs. Have you already said yes? Did you do so before or after checking on what all your bride expected? This is super important for your maid of honor budget, and if you got really swept up in the moment and said yes right away, you might be in trouble. Let’s get a list going. You’ve got to buy your dress, any accessories the bride wants to force upon you, pay for your hair and makeup if she demands it, throw a bridal shower, travel if it’s out of town, buy gifts for both the shower and the wedding, and, of course, throw the bachelorette party. That’s a lot, right? Less than the men spend. Their average is only about $1300. Still crazy, but not as high as it is for the ladies.
I have attached a worksheet above to help you get started. Go ahead and look at it. The first column is the average spent per item, not anything to do with your actual maid of honor budget. But, the unfortunate thing is your bride isn’t going to know how much she wants you to spend on a lot of this stuff up front. She should know if she’s having a destination wedding (you’ll obviously know if you live in different places), and she’ll probably already have thought about dresses and bachelorette parties, but she’s not going to hand you a guide to all of it, unless she’s Bridezilla, in which case you should run now. So, when you first start planning, I would estimate high on the things you don’t control, like the dress. Then pick the total you want to spend and spread it out from there.
Start with a General Maid of Honor Budget
Did you pick your total? Good. I’m not going to give you a specific number here because I don’t know your budget. You might be able to throw away $5,000 for funsies, but maybe you’ve got $500 max. You have to decide what works best for you and your wallet. Now, if you only have $500, you should make your bride aware of that right now. Seriously, right now, go call her. I forbid you to go into debt for the most important day of someone else’s life. Most likely your bride will either get you some help or agree to some money-saving items somewhere. I can’t help you if she doesn’t. I’ve never met an unreasonable bride. Seriously, I haven’t. I know they exist, but in my experience it’s always been more important to have the people we love around us than to have matching $300 wedding shoes.
Now that you’ve decided on a number, you can break it down. If you have to travel, add that in first. It’s non-negotiable for the wedding, so if you need flights check Google flights or Southwest to get an idea. Not familiar with Google flights? Here’s some cool tricks from CreditDonkey. I also monitor flights all the time with Airfare Watchdog, and you could try that for a couple of weeks to see what you’re looking at, even if you aren’t ready to buy. I’ve been getting their alerts for years, and honestly, there’s not a lot of variance. Summer travel is more expensive. So are Fridays and Sundays. If you see a really good deal, you book it, and if not at least you know the cost. Gifts will run you at least $100. Whatever’s left, split between your bridal shower and bachelorette.
The Bridal Shower
Do you really have to throw a bridal shower? I don’t know. I didn’t throw one for my sister. It didn’t make sense to. She lived in California, I lived in Nevada, my parents lived in Tennessee, her in-laws lived in Arkansas, and the rest of our family was in North Carolina. It would have been a very small shower, so we skipped it. For one I did a combination shower/bachelorette. So I’ve actually only thrown one separate bridal shower. My own MOHs (yes, I had two) threw me a surprise one the weekend of my bachelorette party, but I never asked for one or expected it. I think this kind of depends on your age and your distance from family. Typically this is the thing moms want to go to, but young friends don’t care as much.
If you are throwing one, you need to ask if the bride’s family will be helping you. If you’re the bride’s sister, it’s a good bet, but iffy otherwise. Some mother-of-the brides want their hand in everything, others would get annoyed if they had to participate. I wound up being able to use the MOTB’s house. She cooked all the food, while I brought all the games and prizes. If it turns out you’re co-hosting or the family is splitting it with you, you can half your budget. If you’re on your own, it is what it is. You can DIY most things and cook on the cheap if you need to. But, if you’re printing out a bunch of games and using your own ink, it might be cheaper to buy them. Etsy has some, but you can get a bundle like this on Amazon.
The Bachelorette Party
You need to know as soon as possible – will you be traveling for the bachelorette party? If so, your maid of honor budget just exploded. The good news is you are not responsible for paying everyone’s travel costs. That would be insane. If none of the other bridesmaids can afford it, you shouldn’t be traveling. You can split the cost for things like gas, hotels, and meals. Unfortunately, you’re still going to be in charge of any decor, snacks for the party, games, and activity costs for both you and the bride. The other girls might offer to help and it’s fine if you take them up on it, but you shouldn’t expect it and you need to budget up front.
If you’re not traveling, you’ll likely have a bigger crew to entertain, but cut out the hotel costs. You’ll still need to come up with a transportation plan if you’re all drinking. If you’re going out on the town, it’s reasonable for the girls to pick up their own bar tabs. If you’re staying in, you’ll be expected to provide the libations and food. One other consideration is the ever so popular bachelorette party shirt. If your bride really wants them, I say get them, but you need to get that money up front from the other girls. Otherwise you might wind up with thirty shirts you don’t need. Also, you know I’m not a fan of decorating anyway, but the dollar store is more about bridal showers than bachelorette parties, so if you’re budget doesn’t allow, just skip it. But, don’t forget a sash for the bride.
Adding it up
Let’s check out that maid of honor budget worksheet again. We’ve got five columns. You don’t need to do anything with the first two. I used what I could find for the averages, but I did have to do a little bit of guesswork. Research showed the average total was $2062 and my guesswork gave me $2053, so we’re at least in the ballpark. One note, I put travel costs on bridal shower, but not bachelorette. If you have to travel for a bridal shower, you should plan for the bachelorette at the same time so you don’t pay for transport twice. If you’re traveling for the bachelorette but not the bridal shower, you can use the activities column to estimate your costs.
Okay, so now the important columns. For the third, you’re going to work backwards. You already picked your budget right? Go through and estimate your costs so that they add up to your budget. It’s a good idea to estimate high on all the major purchases, like the dress and shoes. Then once you actually start buying things, you can use the fourth column. Once that’s somewhere between 1/4 and 1/2 filled out, redo your estimates on the remaining items. If you managed to estimate high on all the first purchases, you can always up the budget for the parties or gifts. If you’d rather save your money and those parties seem to be staying within your maid of honor budget, you save money. Hooray!