I have been asked to be a bridesmaid in my friend's wedding. I love her and her fiancé and I'm honored to share this experience with them. However, I recently found out that as a member of the bridal party, I am financially responsible for a portion of an engagement party for 30 of the bride and groom's friends and family members. I have also been summoned to help with the planning and organizing. After meeting with the other bridesmaids, it looks like the party is going to cost close to $1000 — that's about $200 for my share. As far as I know, the engagement party is traditionally hosted by the couple's parents. This is especially concerning because I know we will have to pay for the bachelorette party, dresses, shoes, hair and makeup, and I'm sure there will be more. Is this the new norm, and how do I tell them that I really can't afford it — I'm a grad student, nuff said? Any advice on the matter would be so helpful!
Dear Broke Bridesmaid,
You're right that traditionally, the bride's parents are the ones who pay for an engagement party, just as they traditionally foot the bill for the entire wedding. But the truth is, with wedding costs what they are, it's unrealistic to expect one party to be responsible for the entire tab. That's why, these days, the engagement party, as well as really any of the wedding costs, are usually covered by either the bride's family, the groom's family, or just paid for by the couple themselves. I certainly have never heard of any member of the wedding party (who, as you say, are individually responsible for a litany of other wedding-related costs) shelling out extra cash for the engagement party.
You don't mention the financial situation of the couple or their parents, but regardless of it, you should not be responsible for hosting that party. I wonder how this awkwardness even began? Could it be that another person in the wedding party (who maybe doesn't have your financial concerns) "volunteered" everyone to cover this expense without thinking twice?
Your reply can be simple: you took on certain costs when agreeing to participate in the wedding, but hosting this party wasn't part of the deal and, sorry, but you've already maxed out your bridesmaid budget. Then drop it. You don't need to keep apologizing or explain any further. Frankly, it's none of their business. Even if you had the cash, you should not have been put in this situation. Whoever "informed" you about this situation in the first place will probably be a bit miffed when you put your foot down, but I'm guessing that that person may have been the one to get you (all of you) into this situation in the first place.
By the way, having an engagement party is nice but it's by no means a necessity. If the wedding expenses are spiraling out of control, it's perfectly okay to skip it (and any bride that knows her friends are going into debt to pay for her engagement party should be ashamed of herself). If the party does in fact, happen, remember, it is the tackiest of the tacky to invite someone to the engagement party but not to the wedding, so the bride should dole out the invites very carefully.