Who Pays For the Bridesmaid Dresses When . . . ?

If you Google "Who pays for bridesmaid dresses?" hoping to walk away with answers, you're in for a massive disappointment. From experts at The Knot to Say Yes to the Dress, it seems that nobody can agree about whose responsibility it is to foot the bridal party's bill! Because every wedding is different, there is no "right" way to handle bridesmaid costs, but we can give suggestions based on unique situations. If you're a bride who's struggling to determine the proper etiquette for your big day, read on.

The Dresses Are Really Expensive

As a general rule, the bride should not require bridesmaids to pay for their dresses if her pick is astronomically pricey, say $300 or higher. Either cover the cost, pitch in to help pay for the expensive dress, or decide on something that's affordable for everybody!

The verdict: Bride pays, or at least helps pay, when the chosen dress costs a lot.

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The Gowns Are Custom Made

Getting custom-made gowns is a great idea for wedding parties because each bridesmaid is sure to have a perfectly fitting dress. However, the cost of building a garment from scratch can escalate quickly! In this scenario, the bride should pay for the fabric and trimmings.

The verdict: The bride pays for the fabric, while her bridal party pays for garment construction.

The Only Restriction Is a Common Color Scheme

If you want to stick to a specific color palette for your nuptials but don't care about the bridesmaids' individual dress styles, your maids should be able to choose a dress that they'll wear again. Because of this, they can invest in the pieces themselves.

The verdict: Bridesmaids pay, because they chose the dresses and can wear them again.

The Bridesmaids Are All Young and Broke

If your bridal party is made up of broke college students, the odds are that you're in the same position. Because you might not have the funds to spare for helping your maids in their purchases, try to decide on extremely affordable dress options. Better yet, allow them to wear a dress that they already own!

The verdict: Bridesmaids pay, but the dresses must be extremely inexpensive. Otherwise, the bride should cover their cost.

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The Bridesmaids Are Making Major Changes or Sacrifices

For bridesmaids with unique personal styles, taking on such an important wedding role can be taxing. Some brides ask their maids to dye their hair, cover tattoos, take out piercings, and so on — if you're asking your bridesmaids to make these types of major changes for your big day, you should show appreciation by buying their dress.

The verdict: Bride pays, because she's asking the bridesmaid to make other (potentially costly) changes.

It's a Destination Wedding

Destination weddings are expensive for everybody involved. If you're asking your bridesmaids to travel to an exotic location and pay for lodging, you should cover the cost of their outfits.

The verdict: Bride pays, unless she's paying for airfare and lodging.

The Bridesmaids Have Total Freedom

If you're allowing your bridesmaids to choose any dress they want, they should foot the bill. They are able to choose a dress at any cost or skip paying altogether by bringing one from home!

The verdict: The bridesmaids pay for their own dresses, just like regular outfit shopping.

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The Dresses Are Unwearable in the Real World

While we fully support your bridal right to enforce whichever aesthetic you desire for the wedding, you know when the bridesmaid dresses aren't ever going to be worn again. Whether it's a tulle skirt or an unflattering color that sets the dress apart from the norm, be sensitive to your bridesmaids' tastes — otherwise, you should be the one to pay for their one-time-wear dresses.

The verdict: If the dresses are something only a bride could love, she should consider paying or helping the maids pay.

The Bridal Party Is Gigantic

While it's a sweet gesture for the bride to cover the dress costs for her maids, it becomes a lot harder with a big bridal party. In this event, the bridesmaids should probably cover their own attire.

The verdict: The bridesmaids pay, unless the bride is expecting each maid to drop hundreds of dollars on a dress.

The Bridesmaids Are Covering Other Major Costs

Many brides like to treat their bridesmaids to spa services, mani-pedis, and hair appointments for the wedding. However, if the bridesmaids are covering these costs themselves, it might be nice to buy their dresses instead.

The verdict: Bride pays, because her maids are paying other large wedding costs.

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The Wedding Is a Backyard, Low-Budget Affair

When funds are extremely tight, the couple likely hasn't designated funds to pay for their attendants' attire. In the event of a low-budget affair, the bridesmaids should pay for their own outfits.

The verdict: The bridesmaids pay.

The Uniform Is Cultural Garb

When a couple decides to marry in a traditional cultural ceremony, many members of the bridal party will be unsure of how to dress. In this scenario, the bride should not only guide her bridesmaids in the process of acquiring a proper outfit for the wedding, but also cover the cost.

The verdict: The bride pays — cultural garments are often expensive, and her maids will probably never wear them again.

The Bridal Party Is Tiny

When the bride only chooses one or two bridesmaids, it's a nice gesture for her to cover their costs. Understandably, this isn't always possible; sometimes the reason for the small bridal party is a tight budget! If it's a possibility, however, the bride should pay.

The verdict: The bride pays if she's able.

You Were Her Bridesmaid

If you served as a bridesmaid to one of your chosen maids, simply mimic her wedding etiquette. If she asked you to pay, you should do the same . . . or vice versa!

The verdict: It all depends!

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Guest's picture

I paid for the dresses, shoes and purses for my maids (ok, I only had 3 and the whole outfit was about $100 for everything). I told the girls that this was my gift to them, instead of a piece of jewelry or bridesmaids' lunch.