Should You Pay For a Bridesmaid's Makeup and Hair If She Can't Afford It?

The situation entirely depends on your finances—and theirs

Updated 11/17/17

Melissa Marshall

Every bride wants her bridesmaids to look their most radiant on her wedding day, from perfectly-coiffed locks to glowing skin and flawless makeup. Many brides choose to ensure a uniform look by providing a hair and makeup team for their wedding party, which makes for prime photo opportunities and more bonding time before the ceremony. While beauty professionals are by no means a wedding day requirement, they do ensure that your squad looks ultra glam and photo-ready all day long.

It varies by bride whether she foots the hair and makeup bill for the bridal party herself, or has each member pay individually. But, if the bridesmaids are responsible for this fee, what happens when one doesn't have the financial resources to pay for the service? Should she do her own hair and makeup, or should you cover the costs? Our etiquette experts weigh in.

Offering your bridesmaids hair and makeup isn't a one-size-fits-all custom, and therefore can be suited to fit your unique situation. However, according to Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, if the bride wants all the bridesmaids to have professional hair and makeup done, it should be stated up front, and the bridesmaid needs to decide whether or not she has the finances. "Going in as a bridesmaid, she has to realize there will be some financial costs associated with it, so if she can't do the hair and makeup, it's important to be honest upfront," she says.

However, if one of your girls can't afford to get her hair and makeup done, it'd be a generous gesture to help her out. Gottsman suggests that the bridesmaid pull the bride aside if she's having financial difficulty, and the bride should show some grace. "I think the bride should chip in privately and discreetly," she says. "It's not a rule, but it's the right thing to do. It's a courtesy and honor to be a bridesmaid, and the bride should know there's different levels of financial responsibility."

Common courtesy also suggests that if you absolutely necessitate hair and makeup for your all of your bridesmaids, the payment for said services should come out of your pocket. If the choice is left to each individual bridesmaid, you are by no means obligated to pay. By the same logic, if your bridesmaid doesn't wish to have her makeup done, there is no need to force the issue. However, leaving one bridesmaid out of the primping process is not an incredibly gracious manner of treating a dear friend. The bridesmaid might offer to do her hair and makeup herself, which could potentially clash with the other members of the bridal party if they all have identical looks. To smooth over the situation, offer to cover part of her hair and makeup cost. If your finances are such that you can manage to pay for all of your bridesmaids, you may want to do so. A number of hair and makeup artists provide discounts for large groups, so you may be able to secure a deal while pleasing every member of your wedding party.

Gottsman also suggests having a talented friend or family member volunteer to take over any primping duties before the wedding. Whether you enlist their help for the entire bridal party or for just one bridesmaid, this can help cut major costs for all parties involved. If only one bridesmaid can't afford professional hair and makeup, having a trustworthy relative tend to her 'do and cosmetic regimen will help make her feel less left out while the rest of the bridal party gets ready. No matter what, Gottsman says it's important for everyone to be respectful of one another.

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