Bridesmaid dresses and shoes: who pays?

The question of who pays for what at a wedding is an etiquette minefield. Some people have stringent traditional views whilst others take a very flexible approach, and the clashing of ideas can lead to arguments, tears, and tantrums before the big day is even in sight. Bridesmaid dresses, shoes, and accessories are one of the biggest grey areas around, and opinions differ widely even across bridal advice columns and forums. Like every stage of your wedding, you will need to find your own way. To help you decide how to approach this thorny issue, we have brought together some key considerations below.

What’s the traditional approach?

Traditionally a bridesmaid or groomsman would pay for all attire and accessories themselves. To be asked to be part of the wedding party was an honour and paying your own way was simply a way to show support and commitment to the happy couple. This makes a lot of sense looking back, a cash-strapped young couple would have struggled to cover the cost of attendant attire.

Now, however, the couple or couple’s family often do pay for bridesmaid’s outfits and shoes, and there is no single right answer to this question.

What if my bridesmaid can’t afford to pay?

If you would like your bridesmaid to pay for her dress, you should take a moment to consider how this may impact her financially. If you have your eye on an expensive dress and your bridesmaid is struggling by on an internship, then it could cause a lot of friction to ask her to pay.

If you want to ask your bridesmaid to cover the costs, prepare to be flexible in the choice of dress and try to consider options she can feasibly wear again. An alternate approach is to offer to put in a percentage of the total cost; finding a balance that works for you both.

What if I don’t feel comfortable with the situation?

For many modern brides, asking their bridesmaid to contribute financially to their wedding is something they simply don’t feel comfortable with. That’s not only completely understandable, but a view that is becoming more and more common. Taking control financially can not only ease a moral pressure, but also give you greater stylistic control over what your bridesmaids wear on the day. Remember to consider accommodation, hair, makeup, and nails too, and be clear with your bridal party just what will and won’t be covered.

Will a gift help to balance the scales?

A gift to your bridesmaid may be a way to thank her for contribution to your wedding, but it should recognise more than a financial contribution. A bridesmaid has given the gift of her time, love, and support. Remembering these contributions should be the primary factor when choosing a thank you gift.

The bottom line

Remember that wedding etiquette is a guide, not a rulebook. You ultimately decide how to plan, pay and organise your wedding. Do what feels right and always make your bridesmaids aware of what will and won’t be covered in your budget as early as possible.

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