Taking on a bridesmaid role is a treat for so many reasons, but there’s one aspect of it that almost always causes controversy. Money.
When it comes to what costs bridesmaids should cover, people often have very differing opinions. Whether you look at it from a traditional aspect or with fresh eyes, there is a pretty blurry line when it comes to what bridesmaids should pay for, and what costs should be covered by the couple.
The real answer to what costs bridesmaids should cover is almost always going to depend on the couple, the bridesmaids, everyone’s finances, and a lot of personal preference. But there are some traditional rules that many stick to, and we're going to dive into them right now.
What Costs Do Bridesmaids Cover & What Should the Couple Pay For?
From matching bridesmaid pyjamas and bridesmaid shoes, to wedding hair and makeup and paying for the hen do, here’s a list of costs associated with being a bridesmaid, we’ve taken a look at all bridesmaid costs and detailed who should foot the bill, and why.
But as we said before, it’s important to remember that each wedding situation is unique in its own right, and people can only afford what they can afford. This information is super useful as a guide if you’re not sure what a bridesmaid should pay for, but if you’re wondering whether or not you can break the mould on these - the answer is absolutely. Do what works for you.
- Traditional Bridesmaid Costs & Who Should Pay
- Additional Bridesmaid Costs & Who Should Pay
- How to Talk About Costs & Money With Your Bridesmaids
Traditional Bridesmaid Costs & Who Should Pay
There are some costs that traditionally come with most bridesmaid and maid of honour roles, but knowing who should pay for each can be a pretty blurry line.
However, to make that blurry line a little clearer, we asked Hitched Instagram followers* for their opinion on what costs bridesmaids should cover, and they sure had some strong opinions. With over 1,000 taking part, it’s safe to say that these answers are pretty reflective of what the public really think.
Bridesmaid Dresses - The Couple
Who Pays for Bridesmaid Dresses? The Couple - 83%, The Bridesmaid - 17%
In our Instagram poll, people felt strongly that the couple should cover the cost of the bridesmaid dress. Of all the questions we asked, this was the biggest split in the vote, and it’s understandable why. Whilst there are no hard rules that say a couple should foot the bill for a bridesmaid’s dress, it’s pretty widely accepted that they will.
This is especially true if you’re asking your bridesmaids to wear a specific dress, colour or style. If you’re being specific about what they need to wear, it’s good form to pay for it or at least offer some money towards it. If you’re not able to cover the cost of your bridesmaids’ dresses, make sure you communicate this early on and are really clear about it.
We’d also advise being more flexible about the style and dress itself. If the bridesmaid is paying for the dress themselves, it’s not fair to insist on a design that they can’t wear again, is out of their price range or they just don’t like. Plus, there are so many gorgeous cheap bridesmaid dresses that look totally expensive.
Bridesmaid Shoes - The Bridesmaid
Who Pays for Bridesmaid Shoes? The Couple - 24%, The Bridesmaid - 76%
Accountability for costs shifted when we moved onto bridesmaid shoes and accessories. Though people felt strongly that the couple should pay for the bridesmaid dress, over three quarters of respondents said that bridesmaid shoes are a cost the bridesmaid should cover.
Often, couples are much more flexible about the shoes their bridesmaids wear and may just ask everyone to wear a silver bridesmaid shoe, something nude or give complete free reign. Another reason for bridesmaids covering this cost is that often bridesmaids will already own heels or flats that are wedding-appropriate.
Because it’s an additional cost that could be avoided if you wear something you already own, it makes sense for bridesmaids to cover this. Having said that, if you want all of your bridesmaids in a particular shoe or heel and there’s no flexibility, they may expect you to cover that cost.
Bridesmaid Jewellery & Accessories - The Bridesmaid
Who Pays for Bridesmaid Jewellery & Accessories? The Couple - 38%, The Bridesmaid - 62%
One of our weaker splits was whether or not bridesmaid jewellery and accessories was a cost bridesmaids should cover. Despite it not being as strong as the others, 62% of people did insist that bridesmaids cover the cost of their own jewellery and accessories.
Similarly to the bridesmaid shoe argument, often jewellery and accessories such as hair pins, clutch bags and jackets are things that bridesmaids are likely to own. However, again, if you are very particular about everyone having matching everything, you may want to consider paying.
If you want all of your bridesmaids to wear particular earrings or necklaces, why not double this up as a bridesmaid gift, giving them each their accessory on the morning of the wedding. It allows you to cover the cost and create a sweet moment all at once, and means you don’t have to buy their accessories and a separate bridesmaid gift.
Bridesmaid Hair & Makeup - The Couple
Who Pays for Bridesmaid Hair & Makeup? The Couple - 73%, The Bridesmaid - 27%
A pretty strong sway towards couples paying was around who pays for bridesmaid hair and makeup. Similarly to dresses, 73% of users felt as though the couple should be responsible for paying for this. Whilst it is traditionally a cost that the couple cover, it’s also important to note that bridesmaid hair and makeup is not a compulsory cost.
Of course, it’d be lovely for bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup professionally done on the morning of the wedding, but if this is out of your budget to cover, you can make it optional for the crew and give them the option of paying for the professional hair and makeup artist to do theirs if they want to cover the cost themselves.
What’s much more of an issue for bridesmaids is when a couple insist that they have their hair and makeup officially done, but not cover the cost of it. If you would like all of your bridesmaids hair and makeup professionally done, covering the cost of this is often assumed. For anyone who can't afford a pro, there are plenty of DIY hair curlers and makeup products that the girls can use.
Bridesmaid Travel & Accommodation - The Bridesmaid
Who Pays for Bridesmaid Travel & Accommodation? The Couple - 22%, The Bridesmaid - 78%
Bridesmaid wedding travel and accommodation to and from the wedding was something that 78% of people felt should be paid for by the bridesmaid.
More often than not, bridesmaids will be responsible for getting themselves to and from the wedding, and will pay for their own accommodation the night before, and of. However, if you want your bridesmaids to spend the night before the wedding at your wedding venue or somewhere special with you, it’s important to consider the cost of this for them.
If bridesmaids are paying for their own accommodation and travel, we’d always advise being flexible about where they stay so they aren’t obliged to pay an expensive room fee if they would prefer a more affordable alternative.
The Hen Do - The Bridesmaid
Who Pays for the Hen Do? The Couple - 36%, The Bridesmaid - 64%
It’s become a bit of an unwritten rule that, when it comes to planning a hen party or organising a stag do, the couple don’t pay for themselves - and nearly two thirds of users in the poll agreed. Planning and deciding on this will fall upon whoever is planning the hen do - which is often the maid of honour or bridesmaids.
However, it’s not just the bridesmaids who cover this cost. Traditionally, the cost of the hen do is split between everyone attending (except the person getting married), so everyone pays for themselves, plus a fraction of the nearlywed’s cost.
Additional Bridesmaid Costs & Who Should Pay
Whilst we’ve gone through all the traditional costs bridesmaids should cover, and other big-ticket items the couple should pay for, we all know that nowadays, being a bridesmaid comes with several additional costs. But who should pay for these?
Whilst we don’t have polls for these costs, we know our way around the world of wedding etiquette - so here’s our take on what additional costs bridesmaids should pay for.
Wedding Party Accessories & Pyjamas
It may seem extra to some, but matching bridesmaid pyjamas and robes look *so* good in the getting ready pictures and also make a lovely keepsake for after the wedding. But knowing who pays for what is a bit of a tricky one.
Our Verdict: So where do we stand on this? In our opinion, if you’re asking your bridesmaids to wear matching pyjamas and robes that they wouldn’t otherwise ever buy, you should pay. Like with the jewellery, these can double up as a bridesmaid gift and keepsake for them to hold onto afterwards.
If it’s out of budget and you need them to cover the cost of these, we’d strongly advise you to make it optional for them. However, if these are something your bridesmaids are absolutely hell-bent on having, and isn't a suggestion from you, they can foot the bill.
Hen Party Accessories & Outfits
Hen party sashes, matching hen party t-shirts and anything else you want to wear together on the hen do really elevate the look and look amazing for those all-important Instagram pictures, but it’s another additional cost that many people disagree on.
Our Verdict: The beauty of hen party accessories and outfits is that you as the bridesmaid get to choose them. Because of this, any additional accessories should be treated the same as the cost of the hen party as a whole - bridesmaids and hen party members should cover the cost of their own and that of the hen herself.
Bridesmaid Dress Alterations
Whilst the couple usually covers the cost of the bridesmaid dresses, alterations are more of a grey area. This is always going to depend on who bought the bridesmaid dresses, why the alterations are taking place and what financial situation both you and your bridesmaids are in.
Our Verdict: For us, it mostly comes down to why the alterations are taking place. If your bridesmaid has a dress that doesn’t fit properly and they need alterations to ensure it fits correctly, it’s a nice gesture for you to pay. If the bridesmaid wants their dress to change the style, add something they want or tweak an aspect of the dress to something they prefer, they should offer to pay.
How to Talk About Costs & Money With Your Bridesmaids
Proving none of these opinions are unanimous, one Hitched user shared that, “Bridesmaids shouldn’t have to pay for anything apart from the hen do which should be covered by all the hens collectively,” while another insisted, “You shouldn’t get wrapped up in other people’s opinions! As a couple, only pay for what you want to.”
If you’re after some advice on how to approach bridesmaid and couple costs, we have a few tips for you.
Have an Open Discussion
The most important thing that you need when talking to your bridesmaids about money is communication. Talking about money is awkward (especially for us Brits!), but it’s a really important conversation to have.
Have an open and honest conversation with your maid of honour and bridesmaids about what you can afford to cover, what they can afford to contribute (if it’s needed) and ensure you are all on the same page. If you are honest from the get-go, no one can be upset about your decisions.
The worst thing that could happen to your bridesmaids is that they have multiple costs sprung on them that they didn’t expect.
Communicate Early On
Communication is key, of course, but the key to making communication about bridesmaid costs fair is by giving people plenty of notice.
If your bridesmaids are having to pay for anything, it’s vital that you tell them early on - this is especially important if you are asking them to pay for things bridesmaids don’t traditionally pay for. Not everyone can afford to fork out £50 here and £100 there at a moment's notice. Most people need time to plan and budget their finances.
Be Willing to Compromise
If you are asking your bridesmaids to cover costs that aren’t traditionally paid for by them, it’s important to be willing to compromise and not insist on specifics and deciding who pays for what will almost always require compromises from both sides.
Being flexible with certain things will give people much more patience and understanding when there are other things you are really set on. For example, if you are flexible with your bridesmaid shoes and jewellery and allow them to choose their own, they are likely to be more understanding when you want them all in a specific satin bridesmaid dress.
Consider People’s Finances
For anything that you are asking your bridesmaids to pay for, consider each of their financial situations. As many of us know, not everyone in one family or friendship group has the same income and financial limitations as everyone else and this has to be taken into consideration.
For example, if your bridesmaids are paying for their own dresses, shoes or accessories, consider a price-point that everyone in the group can afford and is happy to pay.
Consider Your Own Finances
As well as thinking about what your bridesmaids can afford, it’s also important to consider what you can afford as well. The cost of a wedding can add up and it’s really important to not commit to spending beyond your means because you feel pressure to pay for everything.
What’s more, asking your bridesmaids to pay for things isn’t the only way to manage your own financial strain. Having fewer bridesmaids, and opting for more affordable alternatives can all help to ensure you stick to your own wedding budget.
You Insist, You Pay
If you’re really struggling to decide what you pay for and what costs your bridesmaids cover, a nice little rule of thumb we like to use is; If you’re insisting, you should probably pay.
If there are certain things you are insisting on your bridesmaids having, whether that’s professional hair and makeup, matching designer wedding heels or identical earrings, you should pay for them. If you are giving plenty of options, being flexible and reasonable, it becomes much easier to ask them to contribute.
And it's not just bridesmaid costs to think about. For a complete guide, check out our roundup on who pays for what at a wedding, which discusses both traditional and modern takes on financial etiquette.
*Poll of 1,220 Hitched users taken on the Hitched Instagram account on 12th April 2023.