Spring is here, and that means wedding season.
Though it's considered an honor to participate in a friend's or a family member's wedding, the privilege can cost you a pretty penny.
This season, however, the economy is giving some bridesmaids a much-needed break. Video: This season's hottest bridesmaid dresses
Kim Billings, a 34-year-old teacher from Cherry Hill, N.J., was in 11 weddings -- several of them right out of college -- before she got married.
"I was living alone, most of the time on a teacher's salary, with college loans still looming at the time," she recalls of those years in her 20s. "I went into a small debt over the bridesmaid duties. I didn't even buy wedding gifts at times because I couldn't afford them due to all the costs involved with the wedding."
Billings decided not to have bridesmaids when she got married a few years ago.
The recession has brought a change in attitude. Reports indicate that brides are being more considerate of their bridesmaids' wallets and that designers are using cheaper fabrics. Another bridesmaid bonus is the increasing number of mainstream retailers that have entered the wedding-fashion industry in recent years, driving down prices.
In a recent survey by wedding retailer David's Bridal of engaged or recently married women, 73% of respondents said their bridesmaid dresses wouldn't -- or hadn't -- cost more than $200. Some custom-made dresses can run several hundred dollars before tailoring, which can cost an additional $100. Slide show: Dresses from $135 to $360
David's Bridal, in particular, is benefiting from this shift to less-expensive dresses. The company is seeing a broader range of customers because of the recession, says Dan Rentillo, the company's vice president of design. Instead of shrinking, like many other retailers, the company is expanding. It has 290 stores across the country and opened its first Manhattan location in March.
"All of our dresses are well under $200," Rentillo says. "They're really about $150 or a little less. That's probably the sweet spot."
That price point is preferable to many bridesmaids, especially those who are out of work or worried about their jobs. Video: Hair, makeup and . . . liposuction?
"Brides have always been sensitive to the fact that their bridesmaids are putting in a lot of time and money to be a part of their bridal party. Now that there's a recession, there's more sensitivity," Modern Bride Editor-in-Chief Antonia van der Meer says.
A dress to wear only once?