Who Pays for the Bridesmaid Dresses?

Our etiquette experts have all your bridesmaid dress questions answered

Updated 03/20/18
Product Disclosure

Photo by Don + Helen

If you've been asked to be a member of the bridal party for a close friend or family member's wedding, congrats! While this is definitely an exciting undertaking, it can also get pretty costly, which presents the question of who pays for the bridesmaid dresses? Is the bride responsible for purchasing all of the bridal party dresses, or do the bridesmaids buy their own dresses, along with covering alteration costs? What if one of the 'maids doesn't have the budget for the gown? Everything related to what the bridal party pays for can get tricky, so we had wedding etiquette experts weigh in to answer all of your burning bridesmaid dress questions.

Who Pays for the Bridesmaid Dresses?

According to Gabriella Risatti of Gabriella New York Bridal Salon, old school rules regarding who pays for bridesmaid dresses have gone out the window. If the bride can afford to, it's a very thoughtful gesture for her to pay for the dress or a portion of the cost for each of her 'maids. "We’ve seen more brides paying for their bridesmaid dresses, especially if they pick a more expensive dress for their 'maids to wear," says Risatti.

But, many brides can't afford to do so, so bridesmaids are usually expected to pay for their own dresses and accessories, as well as hair and makeup and transportation to the wedding. According to Diane Gottsman, national etiquette expert, author of Modern Etiquette for a Better Life, and founder of The Protocol School of Texas, traditionally, bridesmaids should be prepared to cover the costs for these expenses once they accept the offer. It's up to the bride to let everyone know about all the upcoming financial responsibilities from the get-go, and bridesmaids should be honest up front if they'll be under a monetary strain.

How Much Should Bridesmaid Dresses Cost?

Since your bridesmaids will most likely be spending a significant amount on your wedding, it is very important that you carefully consider the cost of their dresses, as well as their heights and body types when choosing their outfits. Gottsman says bridesmaid dresses can range anywhere from $100 to upwards of $800. "It all depends on how lavish the wedding is, and the stores you go to shop," says Gottsman.

As you browse gowns, choose styles that are flattering, comfortable, and within an agreed upon budget. This is usually at the heart of any conflicts that may arise between brides and their bridesmaids: The last thing you want is for your attendants to be upset or frustrated about having to shell out a ton of cash on a dress they will never wear again.

What If a Bridesmaid Can't Afford the Dress?

If a member of the bridal party isn't able to foot the bill for the bridesmaid dress, Risatti recommends the bride helps cover the cost and work the dress into her own wedding budget, if possible. However, this should be kept a private matter so that the other bridesmaids don't feel slighted. Risatti also suggests that brides pick their bridesmaid gowns as early as possible so that each bridesmaid will have more time to save up for the gown. You can even see if the store selling the gowns offers a payment plan.

Or, if the dress isn't in the budget for the bride or the 'maid, consider shopping for a similar look that costs much less. "While you wouldn’t want to sacrifice style, there are a lot of great, affordable bridesmaid dress options out there, so it’s worth looking," says Risatti.

If the bridesmaids are selecting different gowns within the same color scheme, it's also easier for her to find a pretty style without breaking the bank. "You get to be more flexible," says Gottsman. "Or, someone might already have one hanging in their closet that she might like."

If all options have been exhausted, the bridesmaid may need to take on a different role within the wedding. According to Risatti, she could do a reading at the ceremony or help greet guests, which will make her feel involved without having to splurge on a pricey dress.

Related Stories