Does the Bride Pay for the Bridesmaids' Dresses?

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Etiquette typically dictates who pays for the bridesmaids' dresses.
Etiquette typically dictates who pays for the bridesmaids' dresses. (Image: dress, flowers, shoes bridesmaids and bride wedding image by Paul Retherford from Fotolia.com)

Bridesmaids’ dresses play a key role on the wedding day, complementing the bride’s gown and photographed in pictures that will serve as lasting keepsakes for the married couple. While some dresses might be quite affordable, when brides pick out expensive gowns it leaves her attendants wondering whether the bride pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses. Understanding wedding etiquette helps determine who should pay.

Bridesmaids

In most situations, bridesmaids pay for their own dresses, including shoes and jewelry. The financial responsibility doesn’t stop there; bridesmaids also help foot the bill for the bridal shower (although the maid of honor may assume most of the cost) and pitch in for the bachelorette festivities. Bridesmaids also pay for their own accommodation for out-of-town or destination weddings.

Bride

Traditionally, the bride doesn’t pay for the bridesmaids’ dresses. However, brides sometimes pay for their attendants to have their hair and makeup done professionally on the day of the wedding. In some instances, brides may choose to pay for their bridesmaids’ dresses entirely, or subsidize the cost. If you’ve chosen custom-made, designer or very expensive bridesmaid dresses for attendants, it’s a thoughtful gesture to contribute to cost. Bridesmaids traveling from foreign countries where brides traditionally pay the cost of attendants’ gowns may appreciate the bride stepping in to help pay some of the cost. Brides also pay for gifts like a bracelet or necklace to thank bridesmaids for their help.

Communication

The role of etiquette is to provide guidelines for potentially awkward social situations, not to enforce ironclad rules despite individual circumstances. If you’ve been asked to serve as a bridesmaid in a wedding but paying for a dress could jeopardize your finances, have a candid discussion with the bride. Explain that you’d love to support her throughout the wedding process, but that you can’t afford to pay for a gown, shoes, jewelry and other bridesmaid-related costs that will undoubtedly crop up. She’ll understand and appreciate your honesty, and may choose another bridesmaid or elect to help pay some of your expenses.

Compromising

Although bridesmaids typically pay for their bridesmaid dress, brides and attendants can work together to avoid breaking the bank. Brides may lay out certain requirements; for example: a floor-length black sleeveless bridesmaid dress. Bridesmaids may then shop around until they find a dress meeting both the requirements and their budget. Bridesmaids may also request to wear their own shoes and jewelry, provided it meets the guidelines for the bride’s colors, theme and formality level.

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