You’ve been asked to be in a wedding. How exciting! But wait—before you accept, there are a few things to consider. While it’s an incredible honour to be in a friend or loved one’s wedding, the cost of being a bridesmaid is more than you think. There are plenty of hidden monetary expenses as well as the time and emotional energy that goes into being a bridesmaid.
For some people, the commitment is more than they can realistically afford. If you absolutely can’t make it work, it’s okay to say you’d rather be a guest or prefer to participate in a less expensive role. If you want to make it happen, though, go into the experience armed with the right attitude and follow these tips!
If you’ve been asked to be in a wedding, you’ve likely already realised that being a bridesmaid is expensive, but do you know how much it will cost you? Here are the common costs that the average wedding attendant faces.
We know that asking your bridesmaids to pay for certain things can be tough, and it can get awkward when your expectations don’t line up with theirs—especially when they’re doing so much to support you already. Whether it’s coordinating the bridal shower or bustling your dress at the wedding, be honest about what you expect from your crew, upfront about all costs associated with their commitment, and willing to compromise wherever you can. If you’re gracious and understanding, they will be too. To get the conversation started, here’s a complete guide to what bridesmaids are and aren’t typically expected to pay for.
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Who pays for the bridesmaids’ shoes and accessories?
Typically, each bridesmaid will be expected to provide her shoes and accessories. This means they’re selecting what they’d like to wear and may or may not have to run it by the bride. If brides prefer to have the bridesmaids all wear matching jewellery, they can select a matching piece to give the ladies as a gift and request that they wear it for the wedding. Some bridal parties opt to wear matching shoes, but the girls usually purchase those on their own since they’ll be keeping them for future wear.
Should a bridesmaid give a wedding gift?
Yes, it’s customary for bridesmaids to give the couple a wedding gift. Some bridal parties choose to go in on this together so they can present a larger gift to the couple, while others stick with individual gifts.
Should the bridal party pay for the bride’s expenses at the bachelorette party?
Yes. It’s customary for all of the bachelorette party guests (including the bridesmaids) to pitch in to cover the bride’s expenses. In the event the bride is planning a destination bachelorette party, each ‘maid will use typically only chip in for an evening out rather than pay for the duration of her stay.
Do bridesmaids pay for their hair and makeup for the wedding?
If the bride has the budget and would like the bridesmaids to all have professional hair and makeup done, she may cover the associated costs. If there’s a large bridal party and the girls would prefer to use their hairstylist or if the bride cannot cover all of the costs, the bridesmaids can offer to pay for their hair and makeup. Either way, this will have to be planned so the stylist can schedule enough time for the girls to get ready.
What expenses should I expect to cover as a bridesmaid?
Most often, bridesmaids cover the cost of their dress and undergarments, shoes, accessories, and hair and makeup for the wedding day. The bride may opt to cover any of the costs as mentioned earlier if she deems it appropriate. Additional costs may include the bachelorette party, an engagement gift, a wedding gift, a bridal shower contribution, a bridal shower gift, and any travel costs. Occasionally, the couple may pick up the tab for hotel accommodations.
To know more about bridesmaids check out our post on Choosing the Perfect Bridesmaid Dresses.
What expenses should the bride cover for her bridesmaids?
It’s standard for the bride to cover the cost of bouquets, transportation to and from the wedding venue, and a gift to her bridesmaids. Optional costs may include hair and makeup, hotel accommodations, bridesmaids’ dresses, and a bridesmaids’ luncheon (if hosted by the bride).
Typical Expenses for a Bridesmaid
It’s expensive to travel to any wedding, but when you’re also in it, you may need to arrive early and leave late, incurring extra hotel nights and having less flexibility to book cheap flights. Typically, you’ll spend at least $300 on travel. But it gets really expensive when all the pre-wedding parties—engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette—also require travel. Will you be expected to attend these, or are you off the hook as an out-of-towner?
A bridesmaid dress averages about $150—no small change. But factor in the cost of alterations, shoes, special lingerie, and other accessories and that price can quickly double to $300 or more. And though $150 is the average price for a dress, your bride might choose a bridesmaid gown that costs $500 or more.
Hair, makeup, and manicures
Lots of brides say to their ‘maids, “I thought it would be fun if we all got our hair and makeup done together!” What they leave out is who is paying for it. They get a uniform look, but you might get stuck with a bill for $100 or more.
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All those gifts
You’ll likely spend $100 on a wedding gift, $50 for a bridal shower gift, and $50 for an engagement gift. Of course, you might spend this much anyway if you were only a guest, but these costs are ones you’ll need to budget for.
Throwing the engagement party and bridal shower. As part of the bridal party, you may be expected to kick in for the costs—the invitations, food, favours, and decor. These vary depending on how many guests you’re inviting and how fancy the parties are, but a typical cost is $50 per host per event, so $100 total.
The bachelorette party
In addition to what you normally spend for a night on the town, bachelorette parties mean you’ll be kicking in for the bride’s drinks and entertainment, and probably buying a few naughty favours and items for games. Budget $100 for these “extras.” If it’s a destination bachelorette—like a girls’ weekend in Vegas—that cost goes way up.
So what’s the total damage for being in a wedding? At least $1,000 (and that amount can easily and quickly balloon). Fortunately, there are ways to be a bridesmaid on a budget.
Tips for Saving Money as a Bridesmaid
Hopefully, your friend asked you to be in the wedding because she values you more than your pocketbook. When she asks, first tell her how honoured you are and how happy you are for her. Then—ideally before you’ve accepted—let her know that you’re on a budget. Ask if she can work with you to keep costs down.
Know what you’re in for
Sometimes it’s the unexpected costs that are the hardest to deal with. Find out if the bride has expensive plans for the bridal party, such as a destination bachelorette party. It can also be good to know all the typical duties of a bridesmaid.
Don’t just complain
Being honest doesn’t mean you have to be a Negative Nelly. Instead of just remarking about how expensive everything is, make sure you are speaking up to offer creative (and cheaper) alternatives. The first is a way to lose your friendship, while the latter can help cut costs for everyone.
Saving money on a bridesmaid’s dress
Suggest to the bride that all the bridesmaids wear different dresses in the same colour. It’s a beautiful way to unify the wedding party while allowing each woman to pick the dress that works for her and her wallet. If the bride would rather have a uniform look, be helpful by researching dresses and finding attractive options at lower price points.
Throw a joint shower/bachelorette
Instead of separate events, hold an evening lingerie shower with cocktails and snacks. Out-of-town bridesmaids will especially benefit by not having to buy two different plane tickets, but everyone will save money and hassle by consolidating.
Stay as a group in an Airbnb
Instead of separate hotel rooms, find a house that the bridal party can rent together through a website such as Airbnb. If there are only a few out-of-towners, see if any of them are interested in sharing a room with you.
It’s okay to say no
Even with cost-cutting measures, being a bridesmaid is expensive. If it’s not in your budget, you can say so, politely of course. Let them know how thrilled you’ll be to be a guest, and that you hope she understands. And if you do say yes to being a bridesmaid, you don’t have to say yes to every event. Choose to do your hair and makeup, and skip the pricier parts of the bachelorette.
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). Still, it 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. 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 just to 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 budget. 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 bridal party is staying in the same property together. This could be seen as a token of appreciation for the support and travel that the bridal 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. We’ve come a long way since then. We should probably just start calling our chosen support team ‘brides babes’, 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 no relationships should be affected by something as trivial as cash spent on a dress or shoes.
The Mental “Expenses” of Being a Bridesmaid
Okay, so you’ve crunched the numbers and are prepared for the financial cost of being a bridesmaid. Great! It’s also important to be prepared for the mental “expenses” as well. Fulfilling your bridesmaid duties requires a lot of time and planning. You’ll need to be emotionally invested in helping the bride achieve her vision of the big day throughout the planning period. Bridesmaids should help diffuse the stress of preparation and make it as easy as possible for the bride to make decisions. It’s also your job as an attendant to be patient when (yes, when) the bride has a freakout. Or two. Or three. It’s all part of the experience, trust us.
Consider the Couple’s Wedding Expenses
Yes, it’s expensive to be in a wedding. Consider in comparison how much more the couple are spending on the wedding. This is to be expected—it’s their wedding, not yours, after all—but it can make you feel better about the cost of being a bridesmaid. You care a lot about the couple and are most likely willing to spend a bit to take part in their big day. Take a deep breath, do the math, and get budgeting.
If You Can’t Afford the Cost of Being a Bridesmaid
Sometimes, no matter how much you want to make it work, it just isn’t feasible. Nobody wants to let their friend down, but you can’t argue with math if the budget just doesn’t add up.
If you know, you can’t afford to be a bridesmaid but still want to support the bride on her big day, ask to take on a different role. There are plenty of wedding roles beyond the wedding party with a much lower financial commitment. Offer to be a passage reader, a program attendant, or even a personal attendant. The personal attendant fulfils a similar role to the bridesmaid, but primarily on the day-of. She gets to spend time with the bride on the big day, helping her get ready and making sure everything is organised but doesn’t need a matching dress. It’s a great way to be closer still involved without becoming too financially involved!
Knowing what to expect financially is an important part of being a bridesmaid. If you’re in a pinch money-wise, being asked to spend a lot to be in a friend’s wedding can quickly breed resentment. Yikes! That’s not how you want to remember the experience. If you’re aware of the cost of being a bridesmaid at the time you’re asked, though, the whole process will be a lot smoother and more enjoyable.
Weddings are expensive, but they’re also SO fun and memorable! You’ll make incredible memories being a part of your friend’s big day. You’ll also probably meet some awesome new friends through the planning stages and hanging out with the rest of the bridal party. The couple will be SO thankful that you were a part of their big day—and that’s priceless.