What Do Bridesmaids Pay For? 8 Expenses to Include in Your Budget

Here's who *actually* covers the cost of hair and makeup.
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
by
Sarah Hanlon
sarah hanlon entertainment and celebrity editor the knot
Sarah Hanlon
Entertainment & Celebrity Editor
  • Sarah is the Entertainment & Celebrity Editor for The Knot, with special focuses on pop culture and celebrity wedding news.
  • Before joining The Knot Worldwide, Sarah was a contributing writer for Bravo at NBC Universal.
  • Sarah has a degree in journalism and resides in New York City.
Updated Nov 21, 2023

Whether you're celebrating a best friend, a family member or other loved one, being a bridesmaid is a huge honor, but it's also a major financial commitment. We won't sugarcoat the fact that you'll have quite a few expenses on the horizon, but exactly what do bridesmaids pay for? If it's your first time being a bridesmaid or maid of honor, this list of common bridesmaid expenses—and how much it costs to be a bridesmaid—might surprise you. For starters, you'll have events to attend and outfits to purchase, but there could be other financial expectations, like gifts and surprises for the to-be-weds. Know that it's normal (and, in fact, encouraged) to be honest about what you can realistically afford, because doing so will alleviate a lot of the financial stressors often associated with being in the wedding. Brush up on the full list of what bridesmaids should pay for so that you can plan to budget accordingly.

In this article:

What Do Bridesmaids Pay For?

Frequent and transparent communication is key to being a great bridesmaid. As you read up on bridesmaid expenses, consider how those expectations line up with your current financial status. Are you able to swing the average cost of a bridesmaid dress—plus 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.

"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."

"For me, that time, effort and money were well-spent because I was happy to support my friends," says lee. "Of course, though, you have to measure what works best for you in your given situation."

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. Here, we break down the most common things that bridesmaids pay for in a wedding.

Bridesmaid Dress and Accessories

When you're in a wedding, one of the biggest questions is: who pays for bridesmaid dresses? "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 the bridesmaids are going to wear, the method of choosing and purchasing the dresses varies. Some may request that all bridesmaids wear the same dress, while others take a more relaxed approach to shopping and allow people to choose their own dresses (which opens the door for more affordable and rewearable options). Nickel adds that purchasing additional wedding day accessories also usually 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.

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The Bridal Shower or Wedding Shower

Although planning the bridal shower is usually one of the maid of honor's main duties, bridesmaids could also be expected to help plan (and pay for) the event. "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 or 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 Wedding Shower Gift

This bridesmaid expense can be a little murky. Traditional wedding etiquette indicates that it's generally best to buy a bridal shower gift and a separate wedding gift, since showers are typically 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 party), 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 Bachelorette Party

"Bridesmaids typically plan and pay for the bachelorette party," Nickel says. Of course, exactly what you pay for depends on the entire group, but at minimum, you'll be responsible for covering your own costs. On top of that, some bridesmaids may cover the entire trip for the bride-to-be—including travel, lodging, decor and activities, so that she doesn't pay anything out of pocket.

This 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 for 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 you can all afford and devise a system that works for everyone involved. If you're not able to attend the bachelorette party, it's a nice gesture to contribute a small amount or find another way to surprise the bride-to-be.

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.

Wedding Gift

You're paying a lot as a bridesmaid—in money, time and effort. Despite this, traditional wedding etiquette still indicates that it's best to give a wedding present to the couple. "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 events require great outfits, so be prepared to add those to your list of bridesmaid expenses too. That's not to say you'll need to invest in a whole new wardrobe, but given the popularity of themed bachelorette parties, engagement parties and other events leading up to the wedding, you might need to shop for a new look or two—or, at the very least, a few new accessories.

Wedding Day Essentials

It goes without saying, but as a bridesmaid, you'll also be responsible for bringing your own wedding day essentials and must-haves that you want on hand while getting ready. Stash items like toiletries, medicine, touch-up makeup and a change of clothes in a tote bag that you can easily bring with you. The couple might be assembling their own wedding day emergency kits and the venue might even have useful supplies on hand, but it never hurts to be prepared.

What Bridesmaid Expenses Do Brides Pay For?

While bridesmaids pay for quite a few expenses, not everything falls on them. These costs are most often covered by the bride or the couple instead.

Wedding Day Hair and Makeup

Similar to deciding who pays for the bridesmaid dresses, the topic of bridesmaid hair and makeup is always up for discussion. It's a tricky question, because the answer really depends on the couple's budget. Oftentimes, if the bride wants bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup 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 to split the bill—the couple could offer to cover a portion of the cost for each bridesmaid. If the bride doesn't have a preference, the responsibility falls to the bridesmaids, but keep in mind that the bride shouldn't 100% require professional HMU if she's not willing to cover the cost. Ultimately, it's best to decide 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, since they're considered as part of the wedding decor.

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 the entire wedding party—and guests too, in some cases. 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 the wedding, she's expected to cover the costs. Otherwise, the bridesmaids are responsible for covering the cost of their own accommodations, such as splitting a room with their plus-one.

Bridesmaid Robes and Getting Ready Outfits

It's cute to wear robes and other matching outfits while you're getting ready on the morning of the wedding, but does the bride buy the bridesmaid robes? The answer is yes. If the bride wants the bridesmaids to wear specific outfits, she's responsible for buying everything (like the matching slippers, button-down shirts or pajamas). These items are sweet gifts for the bridesmaids and a nice way to thank them for all of their support.

Samantha Iacia contributed to the reporting of this article.

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