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The ever-escalating bill for being a bridesmaid

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Heads-up to those of you who'll have the honor this wedding season of being a bridesmaid: Get ready to open your wallet.

A recent survey by Weddington Way and Priceonomics confirms that the cost of being a bridesmaid is steep. The survey found that bridesmaid-related expenses -- including that lavender dress that your bestie promises you can shorten and wear again -- come to $1,324 on average. Bridesmaids who live in the high-cost Northeast can expect to spend even more, an average of $1,466 per wedding, according to the survey of more than 600 Weddington Way customers.

By age 27, the average American woman will be a bridesmaid three times, which means she can expect to dish out nearly $4,000 on related expenses -- including the cost of buying dresses, shoes, accessories and gifts, paying for travel and hotels and participating in bridal showers and bachelorette parties.

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The average American bridesmaid spends slightly more than $380 -- or about 30 percent of the $1,324 total -- on clothing, hair and makeup. The dress, typically chosen by the bride, is the biggest expense in the clothing-and-primping category.

Bridesmaids can expect to spend even more on pre-wedding festivities, which, like weddings, have gotten more elaborate over time. Costs related to participating in a bridal shower and bachelorette party now account for nearly 40 percent of the total expense of being a bridesmaid, or about $500, according to the survey.

"Weddings have become more elaborate, and all the pre-wedding festivities have become equally as elaborate," said Andrea Woroch, a consumer-savings expert based in Bakersfield, California.

"Instead of a night out on the town, bachelorettes and bachelors may do weekend getaways -- sometimes to exotic locations such as Mexico, the Caribbean or Las Vegas -- and those trips come with travel costs," said Woroch, who has had plenty of first-hand experience being a bridesmaid.

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She has done so a dozen times, and at significant cost. Some of her fellow bridesmaids racked up credit-card debt to cover their expenses, noted Woroch.

You can find ways, she added, to take the financial sting out of being a bridesmaid. It might make sense, for instance, to pass on the bachelorette trip to the Bahamas and send of bottle of Champagne to the bride's hotel room as a thoughtful gesture.

Consider doing your own hair and makeup or going stag to the wedding, which means you can give a gift that covers the cost of feeding one guest, rather than two, and may be able to share a hotel room with a fellow guest, said Woroch. If the bride has her heart set on a specific dress for her bridesmaids, look for it online at sites that sell used formal wear at a significant discount, suggested Woroch.

"Speak with the bride and talk about expectations, and be honest about your financial situation," said Woroch. "Certainly," she added, "you shouldn't go into debt to be part of the festivities."

If it's any consolation, being a bridesmaid will cost a lot less than tying the knot: The price tag for the average U.S. wedding is $26,000, according to Priceonomics.

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