What Your Bridesmaids Should and Shouldn’t Pay For

Last updated: 11th Mar 2024

On your wedding day, you’ll be surrounded by your friends and family. Among them, your bridesmaids will be some of the closest allies and will have a key role to play not just in the wedding itself, but as part of the build-up as well.

But, when it comes to what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for, how do you know who picks up the bill? Is it you, your family, or your bridesmaids themselves?

Your bridesmaids will do a lot to support you already, and as tough as it is to talk about costs, it’s a must. Establish from the beginning what they’re responsible for and what you’ll be covering for them. Then hopefully that’ll mean there are no awkward arguments during the lead-up to your wedding.

But, how do you know who pays for what? What are the traditions and the unwritten rules about what you should pay for and what your bridesmaids should pay for themselves? In this post, we’re going to explore exactly that, including who should pay for the bridesmaids’ dresses, who pays for the hen do, and what else you should be aware of as your big day approaches.

Who pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses?

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One of the most difficult subjects to talk about with your bridesmaids is who pays for their dresses. Traditionally, the bride and her family are the ones who pay for the bridesmaids’ dresses. However, it’s becoming increasingly more common for bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses.

It’s also traditional for each of the bridesmaids to wear the same outfit, which will complement the bride’s beautiful dress. But, it’s also becoming more popular for each of the bridesmaids to wear a different dress, but one that usually sticks closely to the theme or colour scheme of the wedding.

Of course, this does depend on the costs involved. If the dress you’re asking your bridesmaids to wear comes with a high price tag, it’d be unfair of you to expect them to pay, so you’d probably want to foot the bill on that occasion.

Whatever you choose to do, or whatever your budget allows you to do, just make sure you’re open and honest with your bridesmaids at all times. If you’re asking them to pay, give them as much notice as possible, so they’ll have a long time to save. Asking bridesmaids at modern weddings to pay for their own dresses is relatively common, but it’s important to give them plenty of time to afford it. Saving for a £200 dress is a much easier task if your wedding is two years away compared to just a couple of months.

For more information, read our guide to wedding etiquette: who (traditionally) pays for what?

Who pays for the bridesmaids’ shoes?

While many brides and their families offer to pay for the bridesmaids’ dresses, it’s not as common to offer to pay for their shoes. Shoes may be a part of their outfit, but there’s usually far more flexibility when it comes to footwear than the dress. So, this will often be something the bridesmaids pay for, whether it’s flats, heels or wedges.

Who pays for the bridesmaids’ accessories?

Similar to the shoes, it’s usually the responsibility of the bridesmaids themselves to pay for any accessories they might want to wear, such as any jewellery or bags.

How much do bridesmaids’ dresses cost?

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The cost of bridesmaids’ dresses can vary hugely depending on whether you choose to buy dresses from a wedding boutique or a high street retailer. Neither is the right answer – both offer wonderful dresses – it just depends on your style, taste and budget.

Specialist bridal shops that also sell bridesmaid’s dresses, such as The Bride’s Wardrobe and Cherished Wedding Boutique, have ranges that suit a variety of budgets, with prices starting from around £200.

High street retailers such as M&S offer a great selection of affordable bridesmaids’ dresses, with prices ranging between £75 and £250. There’s also the option to rent, although this isn’t quite as popular with dresses as it is with wedding suits.

What if your bridesmaids can’t afford the dress you want them to wear?

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If you’ve asked your bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses (which you’re well within your right to do) then you may face an additional challenge: what if your bridesmaids can’t afford it?

If you’re asking your bridesmaids to pay for their own dress, then you possibly already knew about their financial situation. Similarly, you hopefully gave them enough of a heads-up so that they could save money for their dress. Even then, you may face the awkward situation where they’re not able to pay for the dress.

If this happens to you, where possible we’d recommend that this is something you try to find a little more budget for, and offer to pay for your bridesmaid’s dress. It wouldn’t be fair on that particular bridesmaid to expect them to pay, especially if it means them getting into debt. The only other option would be to uninvite them from being a part of the bridal party, which will almost certainly cause tension and could damage your relationship with them forever.

It’s a tough situation, and one that’s hard to offer advice on as every situation is different. Just make sure that you let your bridesmaids know they can speak to you about any concerns they have, because you definitely don’t want anyone to feel stressed or anxious because they’re struggling to find the funds to pay for their dress.

Do your bridesmaids pay for your hen party?

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Often, your bridesmaids will cover the costs of arranging your hen party, such as travel, accommodation and activities. But, expect to pay for a few drinks for your hens along the way.

The only exception to this is if you’ve had a heavy hand in the planning process. It would be unfair to expect your hens to pay for a long weekend to Prague – especially if you were the one to suggest it. Travel can be pricey, and not all of your bridesmaids will be in a position to pay for additional costs, especially if they’re not exactly cheap to begin with.

Cheat sheet to what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for

If you’re in a rush, check out the below quick reference cheat sheet for everything you need to know about what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for:

What Your Bridesmaids Should and Shouldn’t Pay For
What you bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for: quick reference cheat sheet

Complete list of what your bridesmaids should and shouldn’t pay for

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Check out our below guide to discover what you might ask your bridesmaids to pay for. Just remember, every wedding is unique – just like your bridesmaids – so these aren’t strict rules that you should stick to.

Your bridesmaids should pay for: 

Your bridesmaids should pay for their own shoes and accessories. However, a great gift to thank your bridesmaids for being a part of your big day would be a token piece of jewellery that they can wear on the day.

Your bridesmaids should pay for: 

Hen party costs are also up to the bridal party – they can split this between them and still give you the best pre-wedding party of your life. The only caveat to this is if you have ambitious plans, such as a trip to Europe or something else on the pricier side.

Your bridesmaids should pay for: 

Travel and accommodation associated with your big day are the duty of your bridesmaids to organise and pay for. However, you could help them out by booking a block of rooms at a discount price, or if your venue is far away, you could arrange for a large group of you to travel together to cut down the cost.

Your bridesmaids should pay for:

If your bridesmaid chooses to give you a wedding gift (and they may not as they’ve already spent a lot of money and effort on your wedding) the cost is up to them. It may only be something small, but it will be a lovely keepsake to mark them accompanying you on your big day.

Your bridesmaids should pay for: 

Aside from any welcome drinks and wine/fizz with meals, unless you’re offering an open bar your bridesmaids will expect to pay for their own drinks, particularly as the evening reception begins.

Your bridesmaids shouldn’t pay for:

The bride is expected to pay for any floral accessories and the bouquets being held by the bridesmaids. Don’t forget about any extras, like corsages.

Your bridesmaids shouldn’t pay for:

If you choose to have your bridal party stay with you in your hotel suite on the eve of your wedding, that’s your responsibility and you should cover the cost of this.

Your bridesmaids shouldn’t pay for:

Transportation on your wedding day is also up to the bride and her family to pay for. Your bridesmaids will have enough to think about on the day, so do them a favour and arrange how they’ll get from the altar to the reception. You could save these costs by having the ceremony and reception at the same location.

Your bridesmaids shouldn’t pay for:

This one almost goes without saying, but your bridesmaids shouldn’t have to pay for any food on the big day. This includes any pre-ceremony food as you get ready, such as salmon and scrambled eggs and a cheeky glass of Buck’s fizz.

What about the grey areas?

As we’ve already highlighted, it’s entirely up to you and your budget to decide whether or not you offer to pay for your bridesmaids’ dresses. If you’re expecting your bridesmaids to wear a dress that’s on the pricier side, then this is something you should probably offer to pay for. One of the unofficial rules is that if you’re giving your bridesmaids certain ‘rules’ they have to stick to, then that usually means it’s something you should pick up the bill for.

Hair and makeup is another tricky one. If you’re not that fussed and want to save some pennies, ask them to do their own hair and makeup (they will look stunning anyway). However, if you specifically want a glamorous or particular look for your bridesmaids, you will have to pay for a professional. Your chosen hair and makeup artist can probably offer you a deal if they’re looking after several people in your wedding party. Read our post on the cost of wedding beauty for more information.

Alternatively, if your bridesmaids are being a little diva-ish and want to hire a professional without your requesting it, they’re probably better off picking up the cost – or you could split the bill in goodwill to keep them sweet. Remember, your wedding photos will last a lifetime, so make sure you’re happy with the final looks.

How to talk about money with your bridesmaids

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The most important thing you can do is keep money talk open and honest. Talking about money can be difficult at the best of times, but doubly so when you’re asking someone to spend some of their own hard-earned cash. As soon as you know your plans, communicate them to your bridal party so they know exactly what’s expected of them and how much they’re going to have to save.

Evening Standard columnist and wedding planning expert Hamish Shephard has the following advice: Asking someone else to spend money on your wedding can be a difficult subject to bring up. The best thing you can do is to just be honest. In the UK, the average cost of a wedding is £19,184, which can sharply rise if you have to buy dresses for three or four bridesmaids. 

If necessary, be prepared to compromise. You might be spending a lot of money on your wedding, but that doesn’t mean your bridesmaids don’t have financial concerns or commitments of their own. Before you ask them to pay for their own dresses, try to be sympathetic to their financial situation. The more open and transparent you are, and the more time you give your bridesmaids to save, the easier the conversation will be.

For more expert insights from Hamish Shephard, check out his recent feature on the Financial Times’ Money Clinic podcast, which covers the high cost of being a wedding guest, and how both guests and couples can approach the subject of money And for tips and tricks on saving some cash, read our guide to saving money on bridesmaid dresses.

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Happy Planning!

Last updated: 11th Mar 2024