Talking about money is always one of the least exciting parts of the wedding planning process (and often the most stressful). If you’re not sure where your wedding party comes into play, you’re definitely not alone.
From the get-go, make sure to communicate with each of your bridesmaids about what they’re comfortable with. The last thing you want is a bridesmaid who is afraid of telling you that she’s going into debt because she can’t afford the Airbnb that your maid of honor booked for the bachelorette party. Weddings can be expensive, but it’s important to remember that this isn’t their wedding.
So, what do bridesmaids pay for in a wedding exactly? Below are some snippets of guidance for who should spend money where, and how to broach the topic, if you think it might be a point of contention.
Let them pay for: their day-of ensemble.
When it comes to the wedding day, your bridal party is responsible for buying their own bridesmaid dress. When choosing the bridesmaid dresses, make sure that you’re considerate of everyone’s budget.
Don’t ask them to pay for: new bridesmaid shoes, accessories, and a $300 gown that you selected.
If you want matching gowns, have an up-front discussion with each of your maids so that you can figure out a budget before you make any selections. While some bridesmaids may have a couple hundred dollars to spend, others might have $70—and that’s okay. In summary, try to be as flexible as you can with wedding attire. That might mean picking a color and silhouette, but letting your bride tribe pick their own gowns so that no one feels embarrassed about what they can (or can’t) afford. If you’re envisioning specific accessories (maybe an earring style or shoe color), then try to give them some direction without being overly selective or controlling.
Let them pay for: whatever they would like done (within reason).
Most of your bride tribe are going to want a hair professional to work on their locks for the big day.
Don’t ask them to pay for: makeup or a hairstyle that they don’t want or can’t afford.
In general, if the bride is requesting that everyone have their hair and makeup professionally done, she is expected to foot the bill. However, with the average cost of hair and makeup amounting to about $150 per person, this isn’t realistic for everyone. The best alternative is to give your bridesmaids the option and let them cover it. That way, you won’t be in the awkward position of having a bridesmaid tell you that she can’t afford to have her hair or makeup done.
If you have a larger wedding party, you can even ask one of the other bridesmaids—who is up for the job—to help out with glam on the big day. Chances are that there’s someone who’s a makeup master or can work some magic with a curling iron.
Let them pay for: decorations, their own lodging, and any unexpected “surprises.”
Don’t ask them to pay for: all of your expenses (or plane flights to some extravagant location).
The bachelorette party is the chance for your MOH and bridesmaids to do some planning, and have fun with it. This means that budgeting for things such as a place to stay, activities, decorations, and meals falls on them. While it might be customary for the wedding party to foot the bill for the bride’s expenses, it’s not always necessary (and definitely shouldn’t be assumed). If your MOH knows that you’re okay spending a little bit of cash, and it would open up the door to some more exciting activities, then make sure that you communicate that to her early on.
Let them pay for: a small, non-obligatory gift (if they insist).
Don’t ask them to pay for: a traditional wedding gift.
It’s fairly customary for bridesmaids to purchase a wedding gift, so if they insist on getting you that Chemex you’ve always wanted or decide to go in on one large purchase, no need to try and stop them. However, make sure that they know that there’s no pressure (and definitely don’t ask them if they’ve purchased a gift or not). In most cases, your maids will have spent enough money on your wedding, so there’s no reason to ask them to spend more nor make them feel guilty about it.
Let them pay for: their flights and hotel/Airbnb (if you have a destination wedding).
Don’t ask them to pay for: more than one or two nights of lodging (or day-of transportation).
There’s no expectation for the bride to cover the bridesmaids’ hotel stay, so don’t sweat it. The only exception might be if you ask them to stay in a specific hotel or share a suite with you the night before the big day. However, most wedding parties cover their own travel and lodging expenses, aside from the day-of transportation (such as a limo between the ceremony and reception venue), which should be incorporated into the overall wedding budget.
Let them pay for: whatever is included in their plans.
Don’t ask them to pay for: anything specific.
This is a tricky one, but like the bachelorette party, the wedding shower is often organized by the MOH. This means that the food, decorations, and other costs are often split amongst the bridesmaids (or, on occasion, parents or other close friends of the bride). Having attendees chip in for food (or bring their own, potluck-style) is one way to reduce the individual costs for your wedding party. However, in this instance, it’s the job of your MOH—or whoever is planning—to make sure that everyone is comfortable with the costs involved.