Real Talk: Who Pays for Bridesmaid Dresses?

Plus, answers to the burning questions on everyone's mind.
sofia deeb headshot
Sofia Deeb
sofia deeb headshot
Sofia Deeb
Assistant Fashion Commerce Editor
  • Sofia writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide with a specialty in fashion and e-commerce.
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Sofia was a writer for Santa Barbara Life and Style Magazine.
  • Sofia studied cultural anthropology and journalism at the University of California, Santa Barbara.
Updated May 18, 2023
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Real talk: Who pays for bridesmaid dresses? If you've recently been asked to be a bridesmaid, or are a bride preparing to extend an invite to your closest friends, chances are you've had this question on your mind. According to The Knot's Real Weddings Study, the average cost of a bridesmaid dress in 2022 was $130 per person, but who's actually in charge of footing that bill is often unknown to first-time bridesmaids (and frankly some of us seasoned veterans as well).

Money can be a taboo topic to discuss around friends, but that's where we come in. As your go-to source for all things related to wedding budget, we're here to answer the question that most bridesmaids are wondering about (but don't want to ask).

Who Pays for Bridesmaid Dresses?

Typically, bridesmaids are expected to pay for their own dresses.

Now, I know what you're thinking; Another thing to buy? Between the costs of outfits, travel, lodging and gifts, being a part of a wedding party can get pretty pricey. Thankfully, with affordable brands like Birdy Grey, Lulus and Kennedy Blue, it's easy to find a bridesmaid dress that both you and your wallet will love.

Of course, there are plenty of ways couples can lessen the financial burden placed on their wedding party as well. For starters, it's important to keep everyone's budget in mind when deciding on attire and to avoid choosing a dress that may be unrealistic for some. If they're able and willing, couples can also choose to take on the cost of dresses themselves—especially if they have a smaller wedding party and fewer outfits to purchase. (But again, by no means are they required to.) Similarly, there's always the option for couples to ease the financial burden on their wedding party by splitting the cost of attire with their group.

Who Buys Bridesmaid Dresses Etiquette Q&A

Do bridesmaids pay for their own dresses if the bride chooses them?

Here's the sitch: By accepting an invitation to be part of a wedding party, you're agreeing to help bring the couple's vision for their big day to life, and there are typically some costs associated with doing so. Couples will usually choose their wedding party's attire based on popular styles for the specific location or season. That means you'll likely be expected to pay for your own dress even if the bride chooses it.

The good news, however, is that more and more couples are now opting for mismatched bridesmaid looks by encouraging their crew to pick out their own dresses. Not only does this add an interesting visual element to the group's ensemble, but it also helps ensure that no one is forced to purchase an outfit that's outside their budget.

Does the bride pay for bridesmaid dresses if the bridesmaid can't afford to?

We all have that one friend whose horror stories about the excessive expenses they faced during their time as a bridesmaid cause us to be weary about taking on the role ourselves. But with so many affordable bridesmaid dresses on the market today, the truth is that being a bridesmaid doesn't have to mean breaking the bank. However, you should be prepared to set boundaries when it comes to your own personal budget.

Unless specified otherwise by the bride, it's safe to assume bridesmaids are responsible for purchasing their own dresses. However, if the bride picks a dress that's outside your personal budget, you can always talk with them about other potential options. Because many brands carry bridesmaid dresses in the same key colors, there might be an opportunity to opt for a similar look for a lower price. Alternatively, they might be willing to split the cost of the original dress with you. Remember: The couple is including you in their special day for a reason—they'll be more than happy to work with you to find the right option!

When should I start saving for a bridesmaid dress?

Let's be real: attending a wedding can be expensive, especially as a bridesmaid. Because you'll likely have other expenses to cover leading up to the big day, we recommend getting an early start on saving. Once you have all the details of the event squared away, it can be helpful to create a timeline outlining the upcoming purchases you'll have to make.

According to our Real Weddings Study, the best time to purchase a bridesmaid dress is six months before the event, so it's a good idea to start budgeting money for it immediately after accepting the invitation to join the wedding party. Remember that shipping and alterations can take time, so the earlier you get to planning your look, the better!

Is it true that bridesmaids are *also* supposed to pay for hair and makeup?

The short answer: It depends. Who pays for bridesmaids' hair and makeup can vary from wedding to wedding. Sometimes the group comes to a consensus to do their own hair and makeup in an effort to save money. You might also choose to opt in and pay for one service but not the other. However, if the bride insists on everyone getting glammed up professionally (and has a specific vision for both hair and makeup), it's customary for them to foot the bill.

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