7 Expenses Bridesmaids Are Traditionally Expected to Pay For
Whether you're celebrating a best friend, a family member, or someone you've known for years, being a bridesmaid is a huge honor—but it's also a major financial commitment. The role comes with quite a few obligations: You'll have parties to host (and attend), outfits to purchase, and wedding day duties to support the to-be-weds. The costs associated with being in a wedding party can quickly add up, so it's critical to brush up on the monetary expectations before agreeing to take part.
As a potential bridesmaid, know that it's normal—and, in fact, encouraged—to talk about finances prior to offering up your time and service as a wedding party member. Doing so will alleviate a lot of the financial stressors often associated with being part of the wedding.
The Knot Pro Tip: "We live in a society where money conversations have been deemed near taboo, but studies show that those who talk the most about finances from a healthy and proactive, money-management perspective are often the happiest in relationships," says The Knot Deputy Editor Esther Lee. "To prevent any misunderstandings (or breed possible resentment, even), it's better to be transparent from the start. If you're unable to financially support every bridesmaid event (a bachelorette party to Cabo or the Amalfi Coast, for example), it's better to share your circumstances upfront and to support the bride-to-be in different ways."
Frequent and transparent communication is key to being a great bridesmaid. As you read up on what bridesmaids traditionally pay for below, consider how those expectations line up with your current financial status. Do you have enough time to budget for a dress and accessories? Can you realistically afford a bachelorette trip? Can you commit to helping throw a wedding shower? Also, recognize that being a bridesmaid isn't all about monetary obligations. Perhaps you'd like to skip the bach party, but can instead offer support by assisting with certain planning duties or day of tasks. Talk to the bride about what she's envisioning for her wedding crew, and use our guide below to determine if you can commit to the role.
What Do Bridesmaids Pay For?
Ultimately, no two wedding parties are the same, and there aren't steadfast rules that dictate what bridesmaids pay for. That said, there are quite a few costs that you can almost always expect to come along with the commitment.
The Knot Pro Tip: "When I look back on my time serving in wedding parties (yes, many and multiple), this included paying for travel, the bachelorette party, attire, hair and makeup, sometimes the shower, gifts, and more," Lee explains, adding that it can be helpful to evaluate your broader financial goals and how these expenses factor in. "For me, that time, effort and money were well-spent because I was happy to support my friends. Of course, though, you have to measure what works best for you in your given situation."
Here, we break down the most common fees that bridesmaids are expected to pay for.
Bridesmaid Dress and Accessories
Do bridesmaids pay for their own dresses? It's a common question, and the answer is almost always yes. "Bridesmaids are typically expected to pay for their own dresses," says Napa-based wedding planner Lindsey Nickel, founder of Lovely Day Events. While the bride will often have a vision of what bridesmaids are going to wear, the method of selecting dresses varies. Some may request that all bridesmaids wear the same dress, while others take a more relaxed approach to shopping (which may allow you to choose a more affordable option). Nickel adds that purchasing additional wedding day accessories also falls on bridesmaids. If you're given the go-ahead to shop freely, consider a variety of money-saving hacks to stay on budget. "If you can pick your own jewelry and shoes, look through what you already have or check thrift stores and websites like Facebook Marketplace for a good deal," she suggests.
The etiquette around who pays for the wedding shower typically depends on the host. "The bridal shower is one expense that really varies among couples," Nickel explains. "These days, it's not uncommon for an aunt, family friend, or a mother to host it."
If you're not sure whether bridesmaids pay for the bridal shower, touch base with the maid of honor and the bride's mother. While the host often foots the bill, extra costs for food, decor and activities may be split up among the bridesmaids. Exact expenses will be determined once hosting duties are confirmed and planning details are underway.
The Shower Gift
A bridal shower gift is not always required in addition to a wedding gift, but this bridesmaid expense rule can be a little murky. Traditional wedding etiquette indicates that it's generally best to buy both, as showers are known as gift-gifting events. Of course, if you've already committed a lot of money to the party itself (along with other elements, like a destination bachelorette), you don't have to splurge on another gift—especially if it's out of your price range. When building your bridesmaid budget, it won't hurt to set aside some funds for a shower gift, especially if the party has a fun theme like a lingerie swap. Or, you can always consider going in with other bridesmaids on a group gift for the shower.
The Bach Party
You might wonder if bridesmaids pay for the bride's bachelorette party, and the answer is a bit complicated. "Bridesmaids typically plan and pay for the bachelorette party," Nickel says. Of course, exactly what you pay for depends on the entire group. Some bridesmaids may cover the entire trip—including travel, lodging, decor and activities, so that the bride doesn't pay anything out of pocket.
This, of course, isn't always the best financial move for everyone, especially for a multi-day event, or one set in a far-flung locale. Your group might decide to cover the cost of the bride's flight there, or perhaps you'll all chip in on the Airbnb as a gift to her. Generally, you don't have to be expected to cover every single cost of the bachelorette party, because it can really add up over time. Before the planning begins, sit down with the entire group to discuss what everyone can afford and devise a system that works for everyone involved.
Wedding Day Hotel and Travel
Traditionally, how the bridesmaids get to the wedding and where they stay falls on them. Some brides may offer to split the costs of travel and accommodations, or they'll set up hotel room blocks at discounted rates. It's best to iron out these details a few months in advance to avoid any last-minute surprises.
In money, time and effort, you're paying a lot as a bridesmaid. Despite this, traditional wedding etiquette still indicates that it's best to give a traditional present. "Bridesmaids are expected to give a gift," Nickel says. If money is tight, you can always get something small off the couple's registry, or go in on something bigger with a few others. "Consider pooling funds with other bridesmaids to purchase a group wedding gift." Another option? Instead of getting the bride several less expensive items, save up and splurge on one nice gift for the entire wedding experience.
Prewedding Event Attire
Wedding parties require great outfits, so you'll also be expected to pay for those as well. That's not to say you'll need to invest in a whole new wardrobe, but given the recent trend of themed bachelorette parties and showers, prepare to spend some money on clothes for events—or, at the very least, a few accessories for thematic dress codes.
What Bridesmaid Expenses Do Brides Pay For?
While bridesmaids pay for quite a few expenses, not everything falls on them. There are some other costs that are most often covered by the bride or the couple, which we explain below.
Wedding Day Hair and Makeup
Do bridesmaids pay for their own hair and makeup on the wedding day? This one's a tricky question, because the answer really depends on the couple's budget. Oftentimes, if the bride wants bridesmaids to have their glam professionally done, they'll cover the bill as a gift. "If brides have it in their budget to cover hair and makeup services for their bridesmaids, it's a nice way to say 'thank you' for being part of the big day," Nickel says. Another option is for brides and bridesmaids to split the bill. If the bride doesn't have a preference for wedding party hair and makeup, the responsibility falls to the bridesmaids. Ultimately, it's best to find out the method of payment early so that everyone can prepare accordingly.
Bouquets, Corsages and Other Floral Accessories
When it comes to flowers for the wedding party, the bride and her family are expected to pay for the bridesmaid bouquets and other floral accents like corsages.
Wedding Day Transportation
Traditionally, the bride and her family are responsible for coordinating and covering day-of wedding transportation (to and from the hotel, ceremony and reception) for all guests and the wedding party. Regardless of how the family decides to divvy it up, bridesmaids typically don't have to worry about this one.
Accommodations the Night Before the Wedding
If the bride wants to spend the night in a shared hotel suite with friends on the eve of your wedding, they're expected to cover the costs. Bridesmaids may have already split a room with a plus-one for the duration of their stay, and shouldn't have to pay for yet another room.