We’ve all heard those horror stories of demanding brides who expect the world from their best girlfriends — $500 bridesmaid dresses, round-trip flights to tropical destinations for the bachelorette party, designer shoes. You get the idea. But if you’ve been asked to join the bride’s squad, don’t panic! These over-the-top tales are rare, and you more than likely won’t have to cash out your entire life’s savings just so you can stand at the altar with your BFF.
With that said, there is no denying that being a bridesmaid costs money. In fact, a 2017 study that polled more than 13,000 brides found that the average bridesmaid spends around $1,695 to be in a wedding. That’s not your average weekend for many of us. But if your betrothed bestie is considerate — for example, if she picks out bridesmaid dresses that you can wear again — then the budgetary blow might not be so bad. Here’s what you can expect to pay for when you’re asked to join the bridal crew.
What You’ll Pay For
The following items are things that bridesmaids are traditionally expected to pay for. Whether you actually have to pay for them depends on the wedding and the bride.
- Your Bridesmaid Dress — Expect to pay for your bridesmaid dress and any alterations. The average cost of a bridesmaid dress is around $150, and alterations can set you back another hundred or two. If you and your fellow bridesmaids are worried about the spend, ask the bride to consider alteration-free convertible dresses.
- Shoes and Accessories — You’ve got to look fresh! You’ll need to pay for your bridesmaid shoes as well as any accessories that the bride requests. Sometimes, the bride will give jewelry or accessories as gifts, so you may not have to incur this cost.
- Hair, Makeup and Nails — Typically, you’ll have to cover your own hair, makeup, manicure and pedicure before the big day. However, note that the bride should only require professional hair, makeup and nails if she’s willing to front the cost. If she’s not paying, it’s totally fine to stick to DIY beauty or have a friend help.
- Bridal Shower Gift — You’ll want to make sure that you set aside a little extra money so you can shower the bride-to-be on all the girls’ days leading up to the wedding, including the shower and bachelorette party.
- Bachelorette Party — This one’s for the bride, so don’t expect her to cover any expenses. Travel, accommodations, transportation, drinks, favors, décor (raunchy ones, if that’s your style) — all of it is the responsibility of the bridal party. If you’re the maid of honor, you may have to head this one up, but do expect the whole crew to split the majority of the expenses.
- Travel Expenses — If the wedding is local, you’ll need to pay your way to get to all the wedding-related events, including the bachelorette party if it’s out-of-town. If the wedding is elsewhere, the bride and her family may pay some portion of your travel expenses.
- A Wedding Gift — It’s the age-old question: If you’re in a wedding, do you have to buy a gift? It all comes down to your personal preference. You won’t be expected to give a gift, so it’s totally up to you. A great option is to have all the bridesmaids contribute for one group gift.
What You Won't Pay For
Again, the following items are things that the bride and her spouse-to-be typically cover, but there may be some extras that are or are not covered, depending on the wedding.
- Flowers — It’s a safe bet that the couple getting married will take care of all the flowers for the bridal party, including the bouquets for the ladies and the boutonnieres for the guys.
- Jewelry (Sometimes) — It’s common for the bride-to-be to gift her bridesmaids with special pieces of jewelry or accessories to wear on the big day. However, she may ask you to wear specific accessories that you must furnish yourself.
- Hair and Makeup (Sometimes) — Again, whether she pays for hair and makeup really comes down to what she expects. If she wants everyone to have their hair and makeup done professionally, she should offer to pay.
- Transportation — It’s the responsibility of the bride and groom to get the entire bridal party from point A to point B on wedding weekend. Whether it’s a limo, a party bus or a friend shuttling you in a minivan, you can expect to be chauffeured around.
- Travel Expenses — Strictly traditionally speaking, the to-be-married couple should front some of the bill for the bridal party if it’s a destination wedding. Often, the couple and their families will cover lodging for the bridesmaids and groomsmen, but you may have to pay for your flight.
Who Pays? A Matter of Etiquette
As with many wedding-related things, who pays for what is a matter of good old-fashioned etiquette. If you’d like a rundown on traditional (read: a little archaic) wedding expense etiquette, it’s always a good idea to consult the authority on all things etiquette, Emily Post. At the end of the day, though, what you fork over for your pal should be given from the goodness of your heart, not because it’s expected.
Then there’s the question: What if you can’t afford to be a bridesmaid? If you find that it’s simply not in your budget, you are not obligated to accept your friend’s offer to join her bridal party. It’s all completely optional. Your best bet is to have a candid conversation with her, explaining that there is no wiggle room in your budget, and she will understand. Being a good friend and being there for all her milestones means more than spending money.