Oh, money – it’s always such a tricky topic of conversation, isn’t it? But when it comes to deciding what your bridesmaids should chip in for, trust me when I say, it’s a chat worth having.
Whilst there are no hard and fast rules that say the bride should foot the bill for bridesmaid’s dresses, it’s widely accepted that they will – no matter how many ‘maids they choose to have. But when everyone’s juggling different budgets and life stages (not to mention living through the worst cost of living crisis we’ve seen) having an honest, heart-to-heart conversation at the start of wedding planning can save a lot of headaches later on.
After all, you know your bridesmaids better than anyone, right? And with stats showing the average cost of being a bridesmaid in the UK is around £665, by having an upfront chat about expectations and expenses, you’ll ensure that everyone can join in the fun without feeling the pinch.
We caught up with wedding experts Lucy Menghini, founder of bridal brand Six Stories, and Matthew Shaw, founder and creative director at wedding event planners sauveur, to find out what the wedding etiquette is around finances and bridesmaids.
Should the bride pay for bridesmaids’ dresses?
The honest answer here is; it depends. If the bride is going to ask the bridesmaids to all wear a certain colour, a particular brand, or a specific dress, then, usually, the bride foots the bill. If you want your bridesmaids to look like bridesmaids – and therefore wear something they probably won’t wear again, then the bride needs to fund this, adds Lucy Menghini.
“I’d say more often than not, a bride has a budget to cover most of or some of the dresses. However, it’s becoming more common for brides to consider covering the cost as a gesture of appreciation. The decision ultimately depends on the bride’s budget and the relationship with the bridesmaids,” she says.
“Whether you want to pay for these, or not, will depend on your overall budget,” adds Matthew Shaw. “When you start your wedding planning and speaking with your bridal party, lay out what you can (or are willing) to pay for and communicate well in advance so your bridesmaids can plan accordingly.”
Should the bride pay for the bridesmaids’ shoes?
Some couples are super laid-back about bridesmaid shoes and will suggest wearing something like a simple silver or nude strappy heel – especially since some bridesmaids may already have suitable shoes in their wardrobe.
“If you’re paying for dresses it is perfectly reasonable to ask your bridesmaids to purchase their own shoes (or wear shoes they might already have),” says Shaw. “You could also create a group chat with the bridesmaids so they can discuss shoes to ensure they’re all relatively similar and smart – if that’s what you want!”
Menghini suggests thinking about your non-negotiables. “Have you seen a specific photograph where [the bridesmaids] are all wearing a specific shoe? If so, then I’d say, yes brides you pay. It’s always very important to have a bit of a reality check of expectations and budgets. Even your bestest friend in the world has a limit on their budget and you need to honour this. They could be a really nice gift as a way round to getting the look you’re after.”
So, if you’re not going to pay for their dresses or shoes, does that mean the bride can’t have a say in what they choose?
Even if the bride isn’t picking up the tab for the dresses or shoes, she can definitely still have a say in what the bridesmaids choose. It’s all about open communication and collaboration. For example, if you’d like all your bridesmaids to wear a particular colour or all wear something floral, share your style ideas and then chat it out.
“I’m a big fan of asking bridesmaids to stick to a colour, not a specific dress, so if they’re paying themselves they can choose something they would wear again,” says Shaw.
“Getting married isn’t just about one day, it’s all the lovely moments in the run-up to the event,” adds Menghini. “Bridesmaid dress shopping and all the conversations in between are absolutely included in this – it should be a lovely, exciting experience. We recommend sharing inspo pics with the group, find some examples online and go from there,” says Menghini.
Should the bride pay for the bridesmaids’ hair and makeup?
Traditionally, brides would cover this as a thank-you nod to their ‘bride squad’. But, some brides and bridesmaids split the cost (for example, the bride pays for hair, and if bridesmaids want their make-up done, they pay for that), while others prefer to DIY.
“This all comes back to the budget and what everyone is comfortable with,” says Menghini. “There are lots of amazing online tutorials and brands out there and so most people know how to do their make-up really nicely. If you have the budget, and everyone would love the experience, go for it! Again, it’s all part and parcel of the journey to getting married.”
Shaw takes a more traditional approach and says that the bride or the wedding budget should factor in the cost of providing hair and make-up for the bridal party – “if it is something you want to provide,” he says.
Should the bride pay for the bridesmaids’ travel and accommodation?
If the bride’s got the budget and wants to show some love for her bridesmaids, covering their travel and accommodation can be a sweet gesture – especially if you’re getting married somewhere far from where they live, or abroad. In fact, if it’s a destination wedding, it’s much more common for the couple to cover these expenses. Expecting your bridesmaids to pay for flights to Italy and a four-night accommodation, for example, is a tall ask.
“It’s wonderful to be able to host your bridal party but this can be a sizeable amount of your wedding budget and will vary greatly depending on your wedding location. If you are getting married in the UK (or your home country) then I think it is reasonable for your bridesmaids to pay for their travel and accommodation,” says Shaw. “When going further afield it is worth considering whether this could be covered, or at least in part.”
Most brides usually have the bridal party together the night before, says Menghini, who suggests that the bride covers this cost. “But travelling to the event, and accommodation on either side would usually be covered by the bridesmaids. Just give a decent amount of notice and everyone should be able to manage. I would say though, everyone has stuff going on, make sure you come across in an open and compassionate manner for anyone who cannot attend.”
Who pays for bridesmaids flowers, jewellery and accessories?
Flowers are definitely a cost that needs to be factored into the couples’ wedding budget. “Wedding party florals should always be paid for, after that it is up to you,” says Shaw. “It can be nice to provide jewellery or an accessory as a thank you for their support but do not let this put pressure on your wedding finances.”
Jewellery is often considered a gift, adds Menghini, “so it’s not always expected for the bride to cover this expense.”
Any last tips on how to deal with these (sometimes) awkward questions around money?
First things first, initiate those financial conversations early. Be open and clear about the budget, so everyone knows what’s what. And try to be flexible by offering choices where you can – whether it’s dress options or other expenses (did someone say hen do…) – let everyone have a say.
“Your bridal party is there to support you in the planning of your big day and honest conversations go a long way,” says Shaw. “People are often working to different budgets and have different expectations. What matters most is that you have a truly special day and that everyone can enjoy themselves. I would always start with a conversation about what you are able to cover or not so everyone can plan ahead. If this comes from the bride at the beginning it will help smooth anything out further down the line.”
Menghini agrees that open communication is key – and so is being sincerely open to receiving feedback. “Set clear expectations regarding what the bride will cover and what the bridesmaids will be responsible for. Providing this information upfront helps prevent misunderstandings and ensures everyone is on the same page.”
Most importantly, remember that the wedding is just one day; your friendships are forever – so try to approach those money talks with sensitivity, love and understanding. “It’s important to remember that each wedding is unique, and flexibility is key to maintaining a positive and harmonious bridal party,” she adds.
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