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Bride or bridesmaid: who pays for what?

what do bridesmaids pay for

We figured it’s about time we tackled this topic. It’s tricky because it’s about money, and money can be a sensitive and divisive subject. But for what it’s worth, here’s our two cents (pun intended).

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is a special honour. We all know this. What’s typically accepted as well is that there’s a bit of an expense associated with the honour. The question is, how much? And out of the bride and bridesmaids, who pays for what?

Our personal feeling is that there shouldn’t be any set-in-stone rules when it comes to who should pay for what for bridesmaids. Bridal forums might tell you otherwise (and my god, what a horrifically messy can of worms this question opens. We wish anyone engaging in those conversations online good luck), but at the end of the day, it really comes down to what the bride feels comfortable with, the level of formality she wants at her wedding and her budget.

This said, there’s probably a bit of etiquette that you could use as a guideline.

We’d say there’s a fairly solid consensus that the couple should pay for anything beauty-related for bridesmaids, like hair, makeup, tans or nails. Basically, anything that affects the way the girls look that the bride has specifically requested.

When it comes to dresses and shoes, it’s kind of a grey area but one of the big factors that can influence whether a bride should pay is the level of flexibility she allows her bridesmaids in the decision making of what they’re wearing. For example, if a bride has her heart set on a particular dress style and shoes that aren’t necessarily to the taste of her bridesmaids, she might want to pay for these – or at least pitch in financially.

However, if she’s happy for her bridesmaids to just choose an outfit that fits within a certain colour scheme, there’s probably less obligation for the bride to offer to pay because the bridesmaids can shop to their own budget, and they can choose something they can wear again.

If it’s a destination wedding, the couple might want to help cover accommodation the night before the wedding as well as the wedding night, particularly if the whole wedding party is staying in the same property together. This could be seen as a token of appreciation for the support and travel that the wedding party have put into the day.

The traditional premise of what a bridesmaid is has changed hugely over time. In the pre-Victorian era, the role of bridesmaids was apparently to wear the same outfit as the bride in order to confuse evil spirits that wanted to sabotage the newlyweds. It’s pretty clear we’ve come a long way since then. In fact, we should probably just start calling our chosen support team ‘bridesbabes’, because there’s no obligation for them to do anything maid-like at all.

Choosing bridesmaids is more about acknowledging the special ladies in your life that have supported you thus far on your journey. You want them involved in your wedding because they’re your family and because you couldn’t imagine drinking champers on the morning of your big day with anyone else – not to fulfil specific duties, look a certain way or pay for certain things.

Even the fact that there are so many strong opinions about who should pay for what when it comes to bridesmaids is problematic – it shouldn’t be a stressful ordeal, rather an open, honest conversation you have with your girlfriends over a bottle of wine. Recognising that everyone has different priorities and attitudes towards weddings is the biggest thing, because at the end of the day no relationships should be affected by something as trivial as cash spent on a dress or shoes.

Photo by With Heart.


After more wed-related advice? You can find a whole bunch of topics right here.

14th January, 2021

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  1. “at the end of the day no relationships should be affected by something as trivial as cash spent on a dress or shoes.” bang, right on the money! couldn’t have put it better myself

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