How to Save Money on Bridesmaid Dresses

Your bridal party consists of your best pals who have supported you throughout the planning process, who have sat up into the early hours with you making favours while sipping bubbly, and who will wear the second most gorgeous dresses on your wedding day. The process of finding and trying on dresses can be a lot of fun in itself – if not a little stressful until you finally find the dresses.

At this stage, you might have decided who’s paying for your bridesmaids’ dresses, which can come down to your own budget and preferences, and the budget of your bridesmaids. But whoever’s paying, you need to be conscious of the cost. If you’re paying, remember to manage your budget with our handy budget planning tool.

The average cost of bridesmaid dresses is around £80 to £500 per dress, which means you can times this amount by the number of bridesmaids you have to work out the total cost. So, if you have five bridesmaids, you might pay between £400 and £2,500 for all of their dresses collectively. 

So, how do you save money on bridesmaid dresses to ensure that – whoever picks up the bill – you don’t go beyond what your budget allows? After all, with the average wedding costing £20,775, you likely won’t want to add any more figures to your ever-increasing expenses.

In this post, we’re going to explore how to save money on bridesmaid dresses, including why they cost as much as they do and what you can do to pay less but still make sure your bridesmaids look stunning.

Why do bridesmaid dresses cost so much?

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As with most things that are wedding-related, there’s often a premium price attached to bridesmaid dresses. This is especially true when it comes to dresses made by popular brands and designers. Bridesmaid dresses from specialist wedding boutiques in particular are also often custom-made with expensive, high-quality materials and embellishments. Plus, couples are usually keen to spend more money on purchases for their wedding to make sure it’s extra special.

Thankfully, just because many couples spend between £80 and £500 on each bridesmaid dress doesn’t mean you have to pay that much. There are ways to make sure your spending is closer to the lower end of that scale.

Do your bridesmaids have to wear dresses?

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While it’s common for bridesmaids to wear dresses, there’s nothing to say that this has to be the case. If you’re asking your bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses, then you’re likely to get a whole selection of wonderful styles, personalisations and preferences.

Instead of dresses, you or your bridesmaids might choose to wear:

  • Jumpsuits
  • Rompers
  • Cultural attire
  • Separates
  • Pantsuits
  • Tuxedos

There’s no right or wrong choice. If you’d like your bridesmaids to all wear similar outfits, just make sure you coordinate this with them early on.

Do you have to pay for your bridesmaid dresses?

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As a rule of thumb, if you’re asking your bridesmaids to wear a specific dress or putting severe restrictions on what they can and can’t wear, then you should offer to pay for their dresses. If you’re open to them wearing a dress of their own choosing, and only have some loose requests – like wearing a certain colour – then it’s easier to ask your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses.

That being said, this is a rather murky rule and by no means something you should feel obliged stick to. For more information, read our blog post on what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for.

10 ways to save money on bridesmaid dresses

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Looking to save money on bridesmaid dresses but still have the best-looking wedding squad there is? Below are 10 ways you can spend less on bridesmaid dresses. For more money-saving tips, read our ultimate wedding cost-cutting guide.

1. Browse high-street retailers

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It might be tempting to rush straight to wedding boutiques and receive VIP treatment, but a great way to save money if you’re on a tight budget is by browsing the high-street retailers you might shop at all the time anyway. If nothing else, the high street is a brilliant way to get some inspiration and for your bridesmaids to try on a few fabulous outfits.

Need convincing? M&S has a wide range of amazing bridesmaid dresses, and the best part is that costs start from around £65. It’s always worth a trip to your local town or city centre to browse some of your favourite retailers. The quality and level of service might not match that of a designer boutique, but if cutting back on your wedding spending is your top priority, then this can be an affordable and cost-effective option. 

2. Consider second-hand dresses

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Many bridesmaids sell their dresses straight after a wedding, so there are beautiful, barely worn dresses out there just begging to be worn again. Similarly, suggest to your bridesmaids that they can sell theirs after (obviously not before!) the big day to make some of their cash back. Sites like eBay, Knot New and Vinted are great for finding affordable clothing which is practically as good as new. Going down the pre-loved route is also a great sustainable choice if you and your bridesmaids are eco-conscious. 

3. Rent your bridesmaid dresses

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Why not consider renting your bridesmaid dresses? This US trend has come to the UK, and the most gorgeous dresses, including Badgley Mischka and McQueen, are now available to bridesmaids at much lower prices than if you were to buy them outright. You might even be able to bag some extra deals by renting several dresses from the same supplier.

One thing to note is the returns policy. Make sure you return the dresses on time and without any stains or damage, as you might be charged an additional fee.

4. Shop online

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Online retailers are bursting at the seams with deals. Often the bridesmaid dresses that you’re looking for will be available at a cheaper price somewhere else, or some websites will offer discount coupons. Just be aware that you’ll need to be sure they’ll fit, and fit well – otherwise, you might just spend the same amount on alterations as you would have done in-store. Before you make your purchase, double-check the website’s return policy just in case you have to send something back or swap it for another size.

5. Shop end-of-season sales and outlets

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If you start bridesmaid dress shopping in plenty of time, you can hold out for some cracking deals at end-of-season sales. You’ll be amazed at how many gorgeous dresses you can find at almost unbelievable prices if you’re first in line when the sales drop.

6. Think creatively

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Why not think about going for a non-obvious dress style for your bridesmaids? For example, vintage-style tea dresses can be quite cheap to pick up, so having your bridesmaids in a selection from the same era will look cohesive and unique but not cost the earth. Alternatively, midi dresses are everywhere – capitalise on this by getting some formal-looking dresses for an informal price.

7. Ask your bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses

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If you’re conscious about your own budget, then there’s absolutely nothing wrong with asking your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses. Just make sure you give them plenty of notice and don’t ask them to drop hundreds on a specific dress.

Trust your bridesmaids and give them a few guidelines, like length and colour, and let them pick out their own dresses – that way, they’re likely to be willing to spend more as they can pick something they know they’ll wear again. Just check you’re happy with them before the big day.

8. Cut down on the accessories

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Your bridesmaids don’t all need matching clutches and shoes – ask them to stick to a colour scheme and style and let them buy their own or wear something they already have.

9. Be fashion icons

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Be brave and think ahead of the curve. Bridal jumpsuits are all the rage, but bridesmaids’ jumpsuits aren’t quite at the same hype just yet. This means they likely won’t have super premium price tags next to them, which is ideal if you’re looking to cut costs. Your bridesmaids would not only look incredibly chic in jumpsuits, but have money left over too.

10. Negotiate at boutiques

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If you’re keen on shopping at a boutique for your bridesmaid dresses (after all, nothing can compare to the luxury of boutique garments, or the experience of specialist service and attention), why not be brave and negotiate with the owner? You might struggle if you’re only buying a single dress, but if you’re buying multiple dresses (or even your wedding dress itself), you might well get a small percentage knocked off the final bill. When you’re spending hundreds (or even thousands), every little saving you make will quickly add up.

Plan your dream wedding on Bridebook

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Happy Planning!