Who Pays For Bridesmaids' Hair and Makeup? It Really Depends. Here's Why.
Being a bride-to-be means dealing with so many logistics throughout your planning process, including who pays for bridesmaids' hair and makeup for a wedding. There are so many ways to approach beauty services for your squad, even though it's typically among the various expenses that bridesmaids pay for, based on more traditional etiquette on the matter (more on that in a moment). According to The Knot 2022 Real Weddings Study, the average cost of wedding hair and makeup services is $130 and $120, respectively, But don't stress–there's no single or "right" way to handle glam costs and planning for your inner circle. (And, if you're currently on the hunt for amazing tress talents and makeup mavens that fit your style and budget, check out the wedding hair and makeup pros on The Knot Vendor Marketplace.) Read on for everything you need to know about all things beauty for the big day, whether you're the bride or a bridesmaid.
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Who Pays for Bridesmaids Hair and Makeup?
Well, there's no single, or simple, answer–if anything, there's probably a laundry list of questions to consider, and important factors that can help dictate the right outcome, from the wedding budget to bridal party size to the wedding location and vibe. Do bridesmaids pay for hair and makeup? Does the bride pay for bridesmaids' hair and makeup? Wondering how to ask bridesmaids to pay for hair and makeup? Or, as a bridesmaid, perhaps you're looking for pointers on how to save money on wedding hair and makeup? We've got the answers to all of that and more, ahead.
Option 1: Bride Pays for Hair and Makeup
The most traditional arrangement is for the bride to cover all glam costs for the bridal party. "The bride can have a bit more control over what each bridesmaid is getting since she is paying," says Mazz Hanna, celeb nail artist and co-founder of L.A.-based nail artist agency, Nailing Hollywood. Besides fully setting the beauty agenda for your big day by paying for your squad's services, it often affords the most GRWM time with your group of ride-or-dies on the big day, because it gets everyone in the same place and on a set schedule leading up to the main event. The main drawbacks of this approach, however, are that "it can be expensive, and difficult to coordinate everyone's schedules," Hanna says.
Option 2: Bridesmaids Pay for Hair and Makeup
Another option is to let bridesmaids opt in–and pay for their own–hair and makeup. Hanna calls this a "more cost-effective" approach that will "give your bridesmaids freedom to see who they want," but also requires the bride to be more flexible about the outcome. But, especially with big bridal parties, and the significant costs of throwing a wedding, allowing your bridal party to choose whether or not to have professional glam (and cover the costs if they do) can be a practical approach for a number of reasons.
I personally went this route for my May 2022 wedding and am glad I did: Among my nine bridesmaids (plus my mother, mother in law and co-officiant aunt), I knew a few wanted to make their own arrangements with a trusted stylist they already knew and felt most comfortable with, and others preferred to do their own hair and/or makeup. Since I'm very low-maintenance beauty-wise myself, my own bridal glam was frankly a stressful part of the planning process! As I could barely figure out what I wanted for hair and makeup, I certainly didn't have any direction or preference on my bridal party's looks, either. Granted, getting married in NYC meant my bridesmaids had countless options (location and price-wise) for arranging their own glam if they wanted to, which wouldn't have necessarily been the case for a destination wedding–or even a more remote location outside a major metropolis.
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Around two-thirds of my crew opted for hair and/or makeup–and coordinating a morning-of schedule for five to six people for each service honestly felt like a feat in and of itself (thanks entirely to my best friend and bridesmaid Rohini's incredible logistical wizardry!). I knew I had no desire to arrive (or make anyone else arrive) at 7 or 8 a.m. to begin the day, which coordinating services for a dozen people certainly would've entailed. Plus, because some friends and family preferred to do glam elsewhere before arriving, and some doing their own hair and makeup on-site, there was an ongoing flow of arrivals throughout the morning. For me, that created a calmer, less-crowded bridal suite and a (somewhat!) more mellow ambiance.
Option 3: Bride and Bridesmaids Split the Cost for Hair and Makeup
Another possibility, aside from covering all or none of your bridal party's glam expenses? Paying for a portion of the services, which can be an ideal middle ground for many brides. "I wanted to treat my bridesmaids to glam so they could feel extra beautiful, but I didn't have it in my budget to pay for both hair and makeup for seven bridesmaids," says Valerie Ericson of her wedding in Detroit in 2013. She decided to pay for her bridesmaids' hair, "because I know people have different levels of comfort with having their makeup professionally done."
Ericson notes she considered the life circumstances, stages and financial obligations of her friends when deciding how to handle wedding glam. "I got married in my mid-20s, and I had several bridesmaids in full-time graduate school at the time; just traveling to the wedding and buying a bridesmaid dress was a huge expense," she explains. "I felt that covering hair services and leaving makeup optional was a great way to pamper my bridesmaids and not make anyone feel left out if they couldn't afford a service."
Paying partially for your crew's glam can be a great alternative to a bridesmaid gift, Ericson says, "assuming most or all of the party enjoys hair and makeup," for a couple reasons. "No one needs more costume jewelry or monogrammed cosmetic bags, but most people love feeling extra pretty for an evening," she explains. "Also, wedding days are very long for bridesmaids" she notes, and it can be tricky to successfully DIY hair and makeup "looks that last all day and night" especially for folks that prefer a minimal or entirely glam-free everyday look.
Ericson didn't want to give guidance or directives for either hair or makeup, because both involve "very personal preferences, and wouldn't want someone to feel that controlled by me as a bride–I let everyone choose whatever they wanted!" Granted, even if you decide to generously cover some of the glam costs (and give bridesmaids carte blanche on their glam aesthetic), that doesn't guarantee everyone will love the outcome, despite the generous gesture: "While a couple bridesmaids complained about how their hair turned out and it irked me a bit, as it cost $120 per person, I would have felt worse if they were unhappy on their own dime," Ericson says.
How Do I Ask My Bridesmaids to Pay for Hair and Makeup?
"I would recommend creating a group chat, or sending each member of the wedding party a thorough breakdown of the bride's expectations when it comes to what each person in the wedding party will be paying," Hanna suggests, with price quotes from each glam pro, so bridesmaids "know what to expect ahead of time" budget-wise. By all means, outsource this task, Hanna urges: "If you are working with a wedding planner, I would lean into them to help coordinate everyone's glam," she says, and if you're sans planner, consider delegating this to an organized (and/or beauty-fluent) bridesmaid.
For brides that expect bridesmaids to cover their own hair and makeup (without making it an optional expense), expectations or demands should be tailored accordingly. So, just a bit of a reality check: if you're not paying for bridesmaids' glam, it's not really fair to determine how their glam ends up looking. "Nothing makes a bride look more like a bridezilla than having the bridesmaids pay for their own hair and makeup and then dictating the hairstyle or makeup style," Ericson says. "I can't imagine looking my friends in the eyes after everything they spent–dress, travel, wedding gift, shower gift, bachelorette party– and then telling them what to do with their faces and hair. No picture is worth that!" So, if you're dead-set on matching hairstyles or similar makeup looks for your bridal party, you should really be paying for it, and be mindful if some bridesmaids might not have the budget or desire to shell out for this particular wedding-related expenses.
If you're making all glam optional and on bridesmaids to coordinate for themselves, Hanna recommends sharing "some guidelines to make sure that everyone is getting great services all around," including examples (with photos) of nails, hair and makeup inspiration on a "glam moodboard" using Pinterest or a Canva template. She also suggests sending bridesmaids "a list of preferred or recommended hair stylists, makeup artists and nail artists" to help them find and book services nearby.
Help! I Can't Afford the Cost of Bridesmaid Hair and Makeup. Can I Do It Myself?
Look, weddings cost a lot of money all around–and brides should be sure to keep that in mind, Hanna notes. "By the time the big day arrives, chances are, your bridesmaids have already financially contributed to a shower and bachelorette party, and purchased an expensive dress and shoes that they will likely never wear again," Hanna says. "Try to take these things into consideration when setting expectations for hair, makeup and nails for your bridesmaids."
Personally, in my half-dozen or so previous bridesmaid experiences, I've been very appreciative when the bride covers some or all costs, of course–but most have made it optional, with the expectation it'd be my expense to cover if I chose to opt in. That's allowed me to make the right choose for me, depending on factors like I wanted to treat myself, the wedding location, setting and timing, and if professional glam worked budget-wise for me for a particular wedding (depending on the costs of travel, lodging, other wedding-related events I'd participate in like a bridal shower or bachelorette, etc).