Real Talk: Who Pays for Bridesmaid Dresses?

Find out if you'll be footing the bill.
by Emily Platt

True love may be priceless, but typically (and unfortunately), other wedding elements aren't. That includes the bridesmaid dresses. Outfitting the bridal attendants comes with cost—but who shells out for the special attire? Do bridesmaids pay for their own dresses or does the bride foot the bill? As with most nuptial expenses, traditional etiquette dictates the spender. But as with all modern wedding decisions, there's also some flexibility. Read on to discover your options.

So traditionally, who pays for bridesmaid dresses?

According to etiquette, each attendant is expected to cover the costs of their entire ensemble, from their dress (or their jumpsuit, or whatever look they're rocking) all the way down to their accessories. That goes even though the bride traditionally picks the attire.  

Okay, but who buys bridesmaid dresses nowadays?

Typically, each bridesmaid is still tasked with buying the dress she'll wear on the big day. That being said, there are ways for brides to lessen each attendant's financial burden. If they're able and willing, brides are welcome to offer to pay —especially if they have a smaller wedding party and fewer outfits to purchase. (But again, by no means are they required to.) Or, they can split the cost. One of our favorite bridesmaid dress retailers, Brideside, sells gift cards which brides can present to their bridal party as thank-you gifts for their support. In addition, brides should be conscious of their bridesmaids' budgets and all the additional costs they'll be accruing in order to participate in the wedding.

Tying the knot and looking for ways to help your nearest and dearest pay less? Consider offering aesthetic guidelines and letting each attendant choose their own look, so they have more control over the price. Know that they'll be traveling a lot to attend your various festivities? You can also opt to shop for bridesmaid dresses online instead of together in person at a salon. (It'll cut down on some travel costs.) This is where retailers like Brideside really come in clutch: The company connects clients with virtual stylists and lets them try dresses on at home, making the remote experience a total breeze.

How much should buyers plan to spend on bridesmaid dresses?

Now that you're clear on who pays for bridesmaid dresses, it's time to talk about what you'll (or they'll) be spending. According to The Knot 2018 Real Weddings Study, the national average cost of bridesmaid dresses is $142 each. (And for weddings that cost upwards of $60,000, that average rises to $197 per dress). Of course, keep in mind that prices vary a lot based on region, brand and style of gown.

Looking for some affordable bridesmaid dress options? Check out David's Bridal, (with tons of looks under $100), The Dessy Group (with plenty under $150) and Brideside (with a bunch under $200). Other sites worth browsing include ASOS and Nordstrom—just filter by price. And don't forget about your "something borrowed"—consider renting designer dresses for a fraction of their retail cost using Rent the Runway's amazing Wedding Concierge Service.

If you're a bridesmaid and you're still feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of buying your own dress, be open and honest about your worries. The bride chose you to stand by their side on the wedding day, which means you're important to them—important enough that they should be willing to field any concerns and brainstorm a solution together. On the flipside, if you're the bride, make your attendants aware of your expectations ASAP. That way they can plan ahead, adjust their budget accordingly and bring up any issues well in advance of your nuptials.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links, some of which may be sponsored by paying vendors.

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