What do bridesmaids pay for?

If there was ever an issue likely to divide opinion among your bridal party, it's whether bridesmaids should pay for their own dresses. It's been at the heart of family disputes for a long time, and that's partly to do with a lack of etiquette. There are no hard and fast rules - what one person thinks is acceptable, another might consider outrageous. 

So, how do you come to an arrangement that everyone is happy with? In this blog, we look at some of the possible solutions, and ask, 'what do bridesmaids pay for?' 

Bridesmaid dresses

In the UK, it's traditional for the bride to pay for the bridesmaids' dresses, but by no means set in stone. If you're on a tight budget and you can't afford to cover the cost of the dresses, it's reasonable to ask your bridesmaids to pay for them. These are some of your closest friends and family, so you'll probably find they are very understanding. 

Asking your bridesmaids to foot the bill for their own dress may mean you'll have to compromise on what they wear. Your bridesmaids are much more likely to hand over money for an outfit if it's something they'll wear again. We recommend setting some boundaries on colour, but giving them freedom to pick their own style of dress.

So, you could choose a colour like pale blue or leave it open to interpretation and ask your bridesmaids to choose a pastel colour dress or just any shade of blue. As long as you have one consistent thread that ties it all together, your bridesmaids can choose a style to suit their body shape and something that shows off their personality. 

Bridesmaid accessories 

Whose responsibility is to shell out for shoes, jewellery, hair and makeup? Well, it all comes down to the agreement on whose paying for the bridesmaid dresses. 

If the bride is paying for the bridesmaid dresses, then it's reasonable to ask the bridesmaids to cover the cost of their own shoes and even jewellery, hair and makeup. Just like with the dresses, you'll have to let go of the reins if you go for this option, so set some boundaries early on to avoid disappointment!

If the bridesmaids are paying for their own dresses, then the bride could offer to pay for one or two accessories. Jewellery for the big day makes a thoughtful bridesmaid gift - not only can they wear it again but it takes on sentimental value too. You might choose to pay for professional hair and makeup or splash out on a pair of designer shoes.

Don't forget about the floral accessories you'll be asking your bridesmaids to carry on the day. The bride is usually expected to pay for all the floral arrangements, but it's still worth making sure everyone knows what's expected of them upfront. 

The hen party and the big day 

Most people would agree that the hen party (or bachelorette party if you're in the US) is one of the things that the bridesmaids should pay for. Though it might seem like a lot of money to fork out, it's usually a cost shared between lots of people, and you don't have to break the bank to have a memorable night/weekend. Google 'affordable hen party ideas' and you are spoilt for choice, from traditional to creative ideas. 

But we're not finished yet because there are a few more things left to consider:  

  • Wedding day accommodation is up to the bridesmaid  
  • Travel to the ceremony for the wedding party is usually at the bride's expense
  • Staying in the bridal suite the night before the big day could go either way

Bridesmaids spend on average around £1,300 in the lead up to the big day, according to research by American Express. This might sound off-putting, but it's not as simple as handing over a wad of cash to the bride. Weddings can take years to plan, so these costs can be paid for in small chunks over time. 

Reaching an agreement on paying

It's really important to establish whose paying for what early-on. Having an open and honest conversation about costs at the planning stage, gives brides and bridesmaids time to save up the money they'll need. If you can't afford to pay for the bridesmaids' dresses, don't wait until you're at the cash desk to let them know. 

With plenty of notice, most bridesmaids are happy to pay for their own dress, but remember it's not their only cost. They'll also be forking out for a bridal shower gift, a wedding gift, the hen party, and accommodation, so if they choose to buy a cheaper bridesmaid dress, it's not a reflection on how much they value you. 

Whether it's a dress, shoes, jewellery or hair and makeup, if you've got a style in mind to match your wedding dress or theme, let your bridesmaids know before it's too late. Set some boundaries or maybe even suggest some retailers you really like. But most importantly enjoy this planning stage - it will be the big day before you know it.