The debate of who should pay for a bridesmaid’s dress is one that many couples might find themselves pondering amidst wedding planning. On one hand, you—of course—love your bridal party and want to show them how much you appreciate them. But it can be expensive to pay for bridesmaid costs on top of everything else going into your wedding day.
So what’s the right thing to do? Below, we explore some factors to take into consideration when deciding who should pay for the bridesmaid dresses, so you can make a fair and informed decision.
According to traditional wedding etiquette, in the US and Australia, each member of the bridal party— including bridesmaids, Maid of Honor, Matron of Honor, and Mother of the Bride and Groom—is expected to cover the cost of their wedding day ensemble. That includes their outfit (be it a dress, jumpsuit, or otherwise), shoes, and accessories (including jewelry, unless gifted by the couple or bride). This is most often the case, even though the bride typically directly chooses or sets guidelines for the ensembles.
That being said, this tradition differs around the world. In the UK and Ireland, for example, the bride or couple more often than not pays for the bridesmaids' dresses. In any case, if you're unsure of what's traditional where you are, don't be afraid to ask friends and family (or do a quick internet search) to get an idea of what's more common in your area.
If you’ve ever been a bridesmaid before, you know just how pricey it is to be part of the wedding party. If budget allows, the bride may opt to cover the costs of the bridesmaid’s dresses herself to lessen the burden.
This scenario works best if you have a small bridal party—you probably don’t want to pay for 12 dresses, no matter how big the budget. This is also a good option if the bride has her heart set on exceptionally expensive dresses.
It, however, may also become the case if the bride has their heart set on someone being in their bridal party, but this person can't afford the preferred dress. As a kind gesture and thank you, the engaged couple may cover the cost of this person's dress. Bear in mind that this should be kept private, as to not make things awkward or have the other bridesmaids feel slighted.
Covering the cost also isn't the only option. We highly suggest selecting your bridesmaids' dresses as early as possible, giving everyone enough time to save up for and order theirs, as well as get alterations if needed. Alternatively, you can opt for a bridal party of mismatched dresses that fall within a color scheme. Not only does this open the door to more affordable options (great for you), but allows bridesmaids to choose a dress they'll feel beautiful and comfortable in (great for them). You may love a certain style, but body types and bridesmaids' budgets vary. Mismatching tends to be a win-win.
It’s completely acceptable to ask each bridesmaid to pay for her dress. After all, accepting an invitation to be part of the bridal party usually implies agreeing to these types of wedding expenses. (Although the bride should always be upfront about expected bridesmaid costs.)
If you do ask your girls to pay for their dresses, be sure to pick versatile bridesmaid dress styles that aren’t going to blow anyone’s budget out of the water. You could also decide on a single color—like black, blush, or navy—or a color palette that matches your wedding scheme, then let everyone pick out their dress. This way, your girls have some control over the cost and style.
Another option is to have your girls pay for their dresses, but help out with costs where you can. If you know one of your bridesmaids recently lost their job or is still in school, you can offer to help pay for all—or part—of her dress (as discussed above). Or, you can offer to cover the costs of alterations.
If you choose to go this route, it’s best to approach this on a case-by-case basis. And be graceful in how you handle the situation. Remember: Your friends are at your wedding because you love them. Don’t let the cost of a dress get in the way of your celebration and friendship.
How much you want to spend (or have your bridal party spend) on dresses comes down to personal preference, as well as your specific budget. However, to put some numbers out there, the average cost of a bridesmaid dress is typically between $100 and $500. That being said, it’s possible to shop at a secondhand or resale shop for dresses if you’re on a budget. You could also look to a dress rental site for chic options at more affordable prices.
If you’re concerned about asking your bridesmaids to buy a dress at a certain price point, you can always tell them to buy their dress in the color of your choice. Just be sure to be detailed in your about what shade, length, material, and style they should be looking for—and always have a final conversation before any purchases are made.
Are your bridesmaids each paying for their dresses? That’s completely acceptable. But, if you'd like, you can still show them some love in other ways. If you picked out the dress yourself, you can pay for the alterations. Or, if your budget allows, offer to pay for their hair and/or makeup services on the day. You can also always go the traditional route and give your maids a gift (bought or DIY'ed) at your bridal shower or bachelorette party to show your appreciation. A cute robe, earrings, or a necklace they can wear for the wedding and beyond are just a few great options. You can also go with one of the other great gift ideas listed here.
Need more wedding party advice before the big day? Zola’s got you covered.