Who Buys the Bridesmaid Dresses? Top Tips and Rules of Thumb

Weddings are joyous occasions filled with love, celebration, and the coming together of two souls. However, they also come with a hefty price tag. According to wedding planning platform Zola, the average cost of a wedding in 2023 is projected to reach $29,000, up from $28,000 in 2022.

In addition, 77% of wedding-related vendors have recently raised their prices, leading to higher costs for both the happy couple and their wedding party. 

As budgets become tighter, the question arises: Who buys the bridesmaid dresses

The Cost of Bridesmaid Dresses

Traditions surrounding wedding expenses have undergone significant transformations over the years, and the question of who pays for the bridesmaid dresses is no exception. In the past, it was customary for bridesmaids to bear the financial burden themselves.

However, as weddings have become more elaborate and expensive, etiquette around this topic has evolved. But has who buys the bridesmaid dresses changed along with it?

How much do bridesmaid dresses cost?

The cost of bridesmaid dresses can vary significantly depending on style, fabric, designer, and customization options. According to The Knot, the average bridesmaid dress cost in 2022 was $130 per person, remaining the same since 2021.

That said, bridesmaid dresses can range from $100 to $300 on average, with variations based on the region and the specific boutique or retailer. Factors such as the number of bridesmaids, alterations, and accessories can also impact the final price. 

Zola highlights that bridesmaid dresses can account for a significant portion of a wedding party’s expenses, providing a similar viewpoint to The Knot in that the average cost of a bridesmaid dress is about $150. They note that while affordable options are available, higher-end designer dresses or customized ensembles can exceed the average price range.

Considering the overall budget of the wedding and the financial circumstances of the bridal party is essential when discussing who bears the cost of bridesmaid dresses. While $150 might not seem that bad for an excited bridesmaid, it’s important to remember that more goes into the cost of the dress than the dress itself, which is why dresses are usually ordered 6 months in advance.

Heather Baldridge, seamstress, and wedding dress specialist at Custom Sewing by Heather in the Twin Cities, says, “The cost of bridesmaid dress alterations can vary. We may need to take in the sides, adjust a hem, or adjust the straps. It’s all about what you buy, but on average, alterations for a bridesmaids dress can cost up to $150 or more.”

Then there are the shoes, accessories, hairstyle, nails for the big day, and more, all of which bridesmaids need to account for when agreeing to be in a wedding. And don’t forget the costs for the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and any other potential events. All of those expenses can add up fast! 

How to Reduce the Cost of Your Bridesmaid’s Dresses 

If you’re concerned that your bridesmaids might be biting off more than they can chew, here are some tips to reduce the costs of the bridesmaid’s dresses for your big day.

  1. Opt for off-the-rack styles
  2. Embrace mix-and-match dresses 
  3. Explore sample sales and discounts or online retailers that offer bridesmaid’s dresses at competitive costs
  4. Consider renting or borrowing
  5. Opt for dresses that your bridesmaids can wear again and again
  6. Select dresses with fewer embellishments, which can lessen the costs for alterations

Taking steps to lessen the financial burden on your bridesmaids is sure to be appreciated. Also, keep in mind that there are options for what to do with a bridesmaid dress after the wedding to help recoup some cost and get more use out of it, such as reselling your dress.

who pays for bridesmaid dresses

Who Buys the Bridesmaid Dresses?

In the U.S., traditionally, the bridesmaids and maids-of-honor are responsible for purchasing their own dresses. According to wedding etiquette, bridesmaids are expected to cover the cost of their attire, including the dress, shoes, accessories, and any necessary alterations. This tradition stems from the notion that being a bridesmaid is an honor, and the accompanying expenses are part of that role.

However, exceptions to this rule have become increasingly common. In many cases, the bride and groom help with the financial burdens on their bridesmaids, especially if they know potential budget constraints. It has become more common for couples to offer to pay for a portion or the entire cost of the bridesmaids’ dresses as a gesture of gratitude for their participation in the wedding.

Megan Nova, wedding planner and author with AwesomeBridal, says that “as the bride usually chooses the color palette and the model of the dress, she can offer to pay for it as long as she dictates everything involved with the same. In cases when the bride has set her heart on a specific dress that is rather expensive, it is found appropriate for her to cover the expenses.”

Traditions Outside the U.S.

Wedding customs and traditions vary globally, including the financial responsibilities associated with bridesmaid dresses. Countries like the United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada have diverse approaches. Let’s understand more.

Who buys the bridesmaid dresses in the United Kingdom?

In the UK, the tradition varies. According to an article by Rewritten, the responsibility for paying for bridesmaid dresses typically falls on the bridesmaids themselves. However, it has become more common for the bride to offer to contribute or cover the cost of the dresses, especially if the bridesmaids’ budget is tight.

Who pays for the bridesmaid dresses in Australia?

In Australia, the tradition is similar to the US, where the bridesmaids usually cover the cost of their own dresses. Not only do they pay for their dress, but bridesmaids are typically expected to pay for their attire, including the dress, shoes, and accessories.

Does the bride pay for the bridesmaid dresses in Canada?

In Canada, the financial responsibility for bridesmaid dresses can vary. According to Peppermint and Co., the general expectation is that bridesmaids will pay for their dresses. However, it is not uncommon for the bride to offer to cover the cost of the dresses, mainly if it is within her budget and she wishes to relieve the financial burden on her bridesmaids.

As you can see, the approach to who pays for the bridesmaid dresses in Western-style weddings is relatively consistent from country to country.

The Bottom Line

In the realm of weddings, the question of who pays for the bridesmaid dresses is no longer a straightforward answer. While traditional norms suggest that bridesmaids should cover the cost, modern wedding etiquette has shifted towards more flexible arrangements.

Today, the wedding couple are increasingly aware of the financial burdens their bridal party faces, leading to discussions and exceptions to the rule. 

Open communication, consideration for individual budgets, and a shared understanding of expectations are vital whether the bride pays for the bridesmaid dresses or not. Ultimately, finding a balance between tradition, practicality, and the financial well-being of the wedding party is key to creating a memorable and harmonious wedding experience for all involved.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a bridesmaid need to pay for?

Bridesmaids are responsible for purchasing their own dresses, shoes, and accessories. They must also pay for necessary alterations to ensure a proper fit. In addition, bridesmaids are usually responsible for their hair and makeup costs and any travel and accommodation expenses related to pre-wedding events or the wedding itself. Bridesmaids must be aware of these financial obligations and budget accordingly to fulfill their role in the wedding party.

What if I can’t afford the bridesmaid dress?

If you can’t afford the bridesmaid dress, discuss your financial constraints with the bride. According to an article by Money.com, discussing your situation early on may lead to finding a suitable solution. The bride might be understanding and willing to consider more affordable dress options or offer financial assistance. By communicating your concerns, you can work together to find a resolution that allows you to participate in the wedding without straining your finances.