Bridesmaid dress etiquette: who pays and how to handle it

Being asked to be a bridesmaid at a friend’s wedding is a truly exciting time in life. It can be one of the most enjoyable experiences that you certainly don’t want to miss out on. The day can be hugely exhilarating, plus you get to experience the whole thing with one of your nearest and dearest pals and celebrate her big day. So of course, you’re going to say yes.

But what happens after you say yes? When it comes to being a bridesmaid, the financial lines are often blurred and it can become really awkward to figure out who is paying for the bridesmaid dress. Don’t worry, we’re here to help.

Type of brides

bridesmaid dress etiquette

There tend to be three types of brides in this situation. There are brides who offer to pay for everything. This includes the dress, the hair, the makeup, shoes and any accessories she wants you to wear. This kind of bride is probably not going to be standard kind as if you’re having multiple bridesmaids, shelling out for all of them is going to be hugely expensive.

The second type of bride is probably the most common. This bride will offer to split the costs between the two of you so that you’re not financially burdened and the whole thing feels really fair.

The third type of bride is the one who will expect you to pay for all of your own things. For many bridesmaids who are strapped for cash, being asked to buy your own, probably very expensive dress that you’ll never wear again, is going to be hard to face up to. For all bridesmaids in this situation, here’s out helpful guide on how to figure it all out.

Offering to pay for the dress

bridesmaid dress etiquette

If you don’t know what kind of bride you’re dealing with and you want to know just flat out, then offering to pay for the dress is a good way to figure it out. With this tactic, you’ll find out straight away whether the bride is looking for you to pay, for her to pay or for you two to split it.

The problem with this tactic is that if you can’t afford to pay for your dress or if you simply don’t want to pay for all of it, offering to pay will make the bride think you can handle the expense. So of course, they’ll likely agree unless they have the budget to handle it all.

A good way to approach this is to think about the dress is question. Discussing the budget and finances of the bridesmaid dresses can be premature if the bride has no idea what the style, brand or fabric is going to be. Once all of this is narrowed down and there are some options in play, then you can realistically figure out if you can afford it.

So if the dress is expensive but it’s something you love and would be able to wear again, then offering to pay is a bit of a no-brainer. You should be looking to pay for the dress in this situation unless the bride insists otherwise.

If it’s a dress that the bride loves, but you could never wear again and it’s also hideously expensive, then you might want to say something. Without getting upset or angry, simply tell the bride honestly that it’s not your style and it’s out of your price range. If she still wants you to get it and wear it, then a reasonable bride would fork out either all of the money for it, or a portion of it.

Something to consider here is the possibility of selling the dress after the wedding. If the bride wants you to wear something expensive and it isn’t your style, you would very likely be able to sell it on to someone else online and get some of your money back. You won’t be out too much cash and the bride gets the style of dress she wants. It’s a win-win!

Other costs

bridesmaid dress etiquette

As a bridesmaid, the dress isn’t going to be your only cost. The potential costs include shoes, jewellery, hair, makeup, accessories, the hen do and bridal shower. Adding these all together will result in a very expensive experience for you so entering into this situation needs to be something you prepare for.

Like we’ve said, some brides will help with the costs depending on what they are. Often there are package deals for hair and makeup artists to do the bride and a few bridesmaids at a special rate. Lots of brides opt for this kind of option as it may not be that much more expensive and it’ll make the lives of the bridesmaids loads easier.

With everything else, like the dress, consider whether you’ll wear it or use it again. If the bride is set on hugely high platform stilettos for your shoes but you don’t ever wear heels like that, then perhaps fight for a style that you’ll wear again. If you don’t win then ask her to help with the costs.

How do you talk about money?

bridesmaid dress etiquette

Discussing finances can be extremely tricky, but it’s better to get it done and dusted first thing. Many bridesmaids who don’t say how they’re feeling in this situation can be left feeling bitter even months after the wedding is over.

So to not spoil the friendship, keep the lines of communication open. It’s all about communication. Be honest up front with your friend and things will be completely fine. Be upfront about your finances and tell her that if she wants you to wear something super expensive and not in your style, that perhaps she could help out with the costs.

Most people just want their friends to be honest with them. No one likes phoniness! So just be brave and have the money talk. It’ll make everything so much easier.

bridesmaid dress etiquette

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