Can I Decline to Pitch In for the Wedding Party Gift?

Q. I am a bridesmaid in a friend’s wedding. I have already dropped more than $1,000 on everything from the dress to the bachelorette party. Now I’ve been asked to chip in another $50 toward a gift from the whole wedding party. How can I politely decline the request?

Name withheld by request
A. Here’s an important lesson every woman must learn: Don’t agree to be a bridesmaid until you have a sense of what’s required of you, logistically and financially. If it’s a no-frills backyard affair, your time and money outlay should be minimal. If it’s a fancy destination wedding, expect the opposite.

It’s too late for you to make these inquiries now. You’re stuck, and—I’m sorry to break the news to you you need to pony up for a gift, just like all the other guests. Remember: You’re in this position because the bride is a close friend. Fifty dollars for a wedding present is a small price to pay for maintaining a valuable friendship.

Ahh… the destination wedding. This popular trend is raising all types of new etiquette questions. Here’s a recent question from a bridesmaid who is “in over her head” for her best friend’s destination wedding.

Dear Susie,

My best friend is getting married next month and she decided to have a destination wedding. She told us the total cost would be around $1,500, and I told her I would go no matter the cost, as she is my best friend. I ended up paying about $1,900 for four days in Mexico, which seems like a lot of money for the trip.
Also, she is requesting that we pay for our bridesmaid dresses on top of what we have paid for the trip. I’m not sure how to take this, but I think that they should at least be paying for the bridesmaid dresses. We didn’t have a bridal luncheon, and really nothing has been done for the bridesmaids. I understand that this is not about us, but I almost feel taken advantage of. Who do you think should pay for the dresses?
Thank you,

Dear Victoria,

Destination weddings can be expensive for guests and members of the bridal party. I recommend that all costs be discussed before one agrees to participate in a wedding, but it’s easy to be caught up in the emotion of the moment, and who can say no to their best friend, right?
While it seems logical for the bride to pay for the bridesmaid’s dresses, long-standing etiquette tradition is that a bridesmaid covers the cost of her dress. Personally, I feel it would be nice if your friend offered to pay for the dresses, but she might not even think to offer.

On the other hand, it is also traditional for the bride to cover the cost of lodging for out-of-town attendants. From what I’ve been hearing from bridesmaids, this point of etiquette is either unknown or somehow doesn’t apply to destination weddings, which I don’t understand. It does seem as if your friend made an attempt to inform you of the costs up front, but obviously she under-estimated some of the expenses.
Also, the bridal luncheon is an optional pre-wedding party that can be hosted by either the bride or her attendants. It is one way a bride can show appreciation for her attendants, and it is usually held anywhere from one day to a few weeks before the wedding.
If you feel it’s appropriate, I recommend that you talk with your friend. Explain that the costs are more than were estimated, and ask if she might be willing to help. Basically, you’re committed. You told her “you would go no matter the cost” and apparently she is taking you up on that, but please try not to let any resentment ruin your friendship. Good luck; I hope you are able to enjoy the wedding, building life long memories with your best friend.
If you have other questions or comments about gift giving or wedding etiquette, you can email Susie



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