“I wish brides would realise it’s their “biggest day”, not mine.” 10 anonymous bridesmaids reveal how they *really* feel

It’s wedding season, but bridesmaids have had enough of expensive hen parties

I wish brides would realise it's "their biggest day" not mine
(Image credit: Future)

Lately, I’ve been lamenting the lack of weddings in my life. Sure, I don’t want to get married, but would it hurt one of my friends to put on a frothy white dress and throw a big party for all our best friends? Of course, I’m kidding (kind of; I do have a dress I’ve been dying to wear), but friends, colleagues, and kindly strangers have been quick to point out the flaw in my thinking.

Weddings are expensive, and according to new research from Experian, over one in ten of us have gone into debt by attending one. The same report reveals that attending a wedding costs guests nearly 20% of their monthly salary. The Maid of Honour and Best Man bear the brunt of this cost, spending approximately £211 more than other attendees.

Attending weddings as a single person is a financial stab to the heart.

Anonymous

“I think it’s insane that I’m expected to pay 1k for a wedding,” replied one embittered bridesmaid to my open call about soaring wedding costs. She’s not alone. When I asked for stories about the financial burden bridesmaids face, my inbox was flooded with tales of wedding woe.

“I wish brides would realise it’s their “biggest day”, not mine.” messaged *Amy, 26. She remembers the lurching feeling in her stomach as her phone blurted with news of *another* hen do. “The bride’s sister set it up, and as soon as I’d shown any interest, it was “Great! That’ll be £1,500 for a week in Marbella, here are my deets x””. Amy says she felt she couldn’t back out even though the trip was more than a month’s salary, and she didn’t feel she’d ever fully committed.

Why do we have to have willy straws, wear black and the bride wears white, all the same generic bullshit.

Anonymous

It’s become a right of passage for brides to expect their friends to fork out triple figures for their hen do, and it’s a vicious cycle. As Hattie, 37, says, “I’ve paid so much for my friend’s weddings over the years, I have a rough estimate in my mind for how much I expect them to pay for mine when the time comes.” Is this really how we should be viewing marriage? To quote the Black Eyed Peas, where is the love? And what’s the emotional cost of seeing friends as indebted to you?

Despite three in four bridesmaids saying pre-wedding celebrations are too extravagant and expensive, the trend shows no sign of slowing. “It’s no secret that the cost of living is also impacting both weddings and hen parties, but this isn’t stopping people from organising and celebrating the new chapters in their life”, confirms Dayna Isom Johnson, Etsy’s Trend Expert.

In a maddening twist, Etsy reports another burgeoning trend—the divorce party, popularised by influencers like Sabrina Philipp, who spent $30k (£24k) marking her newfound freedom. Look, I’m not entirely against the idea of celebrating a breakup (despite refusing to attend one myself), but if swaggering down the road, arms outstretched like Christ the Redeemer, was enough for Nicole Kidman, why isn’t it for us? I mean, she was married to Tom Cruise, so if anyone deserved to slingshot her wedding band into the ocean, it was her.

From marriage to divorce (don’t even get me started on baby showers), being a friend in 2024 is an expensive business. No wonder these bridesmaids needed an opportunity to offload. Read on for the honest accounts of 10 anonymous (and aggrieved) bridesmaids.

How much is too much to pay for a friend’s wedding?

“Take me back to the 1920s.”

“We now live in a society where having a London hen that requires you to drop +£300, a hen abroad (we’re talking £500-1000k) PLUS the actual wedding (££priceless££)…And, then the happy couple’s gift suggestion of ‘a kind donation’ (£££!!) towards their honeymoon, is acceptable and the norm. Take me back to the 1920s. However, when it comes to mine, I’ll probably be doing the same.”

- *Andie, 36

“Why cant they see its cripplingly expensive for us singletons.”

“A few years ago I was privately struggling with money and was heading to the airport for my fifth wedding of the year with less than £20 in my bank account, anxiously waiting for my wages to drop in.”

- *Emma, 30

“It’s changed my perspective on certain friends”

“The amount of uncomfortable positions we’ve been put in this year with hen dos, stag dos, and weddings where the hosts assume we have £1-2k to spend on a weekend has honestly blown my mind. It’s changed my perspective on certain friends and, in some cases, threatened friendships.

The worst one we’ve had is a wedding in the middle of the week in November (meaning we have to take 3+ days annual leave) where we’ve been told we must stay in accommodation on site that’s £300 pp per night, must buy certain outfits to be approved by the bride and groom, and are expected to be at and cover the cost of the rehearsal dinner and breakfast the morning after, too. As it’s one of my partner’s oldest childhood friends, we can’t say no, but I’ve found it difficult to swallow. So many couples have unashamedly put us in situations like this, leaving us stressing about money and dreading the day. I think it’s just the assumption that we have this money to spend that I find the hardest to digest - sadly, unlike them, we don’t.”

- *Louisa, 34

“A selfish part of me also wants to recoup everything I’ve put in.”

“I’ve put in time, money and effort for so many weddings over the past decade and often worry that I won’t get the same level of enthusiasm when I get married. It makes me want something super toned down to keep other people happy - but a selfish part of me also wants to recoup everything I’ve put in.”

- *Caty, 29

“The only way to mobilise your friends once you enter your 30s is by getting pregnant or getting a man to give you a ring”.

“A friend announced she was getting married abroad, and of course, the initial reaction was pure excitement. For me, honestly, it’s not so much about the wedding, but finally cashing in on that elusive friends’ holiday that has never quite happened. Although, it’s incredibly infuriating that the only way to mobilise your friends once you enter your 30s is by getting pregnant or getting a man to give you a ring. But then, reality kicks in. The chosen destination was not exactly my dream pick, and the cost was not exactly the cheap and cheery price tag promised. I will reluctantly pay and silently mourn the friend’s holiday that will now not happen for another five years at least”.

- *Kirsty, 27

“I’ve started Googling ‘how to say no’”

“Being a bridesmaid can be both a lovely honour and a financial curse - I’ve stepped into the role so many times now that I’ve started Googling ‘how to say no’ in case anyone else asks me…”

- *Jazmine, 40

“The gift registry is £200+.”

“I’m stuck between buying a wedding present or buying a plane ticket to attend my friend’s wedding as the wedding is on the other side of the world, and the gift registry is £200+.”

- *Olivia, 28

“Attending weddings as a single woman has been a financial stab to the heart.”

“I love celebrating the people who mean the most to me, but whenever I’ve attended weddings as a single woman, it has been a financial stab to the heart. Pricey hotels, flights, hens, celebration dinners, pre-wedding parties, post-wedding parties, expensive gifts…it can feel endless, especially when there’s no one to split costs with, and altogether would cost me almost £1k per happy couple.”

- *Hannah, 38

“You shouldn’t complain about how much it costs - what did you expect!”

“No one will agree with me, but I really believe that if you helped to decide where the hen is and chose the Airbnb, then you shouldn’t complain about how much it costs, because what did you expect!? And please do not ask me to transfer £1.50 for some straws.”

- *Lucy, 25

“Life is too short to fork out hundreds of pounds for the sake of someone else’s happiness alone.”

“I think how ‘worth it’ a hen is depends on the context surrounding it: am I very close to the bride? Is the getaway somewhere I’d genuinely like to go myself? Will I enjoy the company of the other ‘hens’ in attendance? If the answer to any of these questions is ‘no’, I won’t be going. No offence, but life is too short and money too precious to fork out hundreds of pounds for the sake of someone else’s happiness alone.”

- *Ellie, 32

Mischa Anouk Smith
News and Features Editor

Mischa Anouk Smith is the News and Features Editor of Marie Claire UK.

From personal essays to purpose-driven stories, reported studies, and interviews with celebrities like Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and designers including Dries Van Noten, Mischa has been featured in publications such as Refinery29, Stylist and Dazed. Her work explores what it means to be a woman today and sits at the intersection of culture and style, though, in the spirit of eclecticism, she has also written about NFTs, mental health and the rise of AI bands.