We’ve all heard the joke, “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride.” So when it’s finally your turn to be the one in white, you may struggle with two conflicting feelings:
- High Expectations: If you’ve spent big bucks to celebrate others, it’s only natural that you’d hope they’d be just as willing to spend on you!
- Guilt: If you’ve spent a ton in the past on friends’ weddings, you know how stressful it can be. The last thing you want is for others to feel pressured or burdened by your wedding.
Brides juggling those conflicting emotions reach out to me week after week on our @askarealbride Instagram page with questions like this:
The key to answering that question is understanding which bridesmaid expenses are mandatory, and which are optional. Read on for advice from Real Brides on what they’re asking their girls to spend and how they’re alleviating some of that pressure for their girls!
What are the mandatory expenses for bridesmaids?
Let’s start with the basics: at a bare minimum, what costs are bridesmaids obligated to cover? Here’s what I asked the @Ask a Real Bride community:
Over 600 brides responded, and 65% said the correct answer is “A:” Bridesmaids are only obligated to pay for travel to the wedding and their bridesmaid dress. Traditionally, this is the right answer; everything else is an “extra,” not a duty.
So, if you’re in the 35% of brides who thought you could require your bridesmaids to pay for professional hair and makeup, a bachelorette weekend, or a bridal shower, it may be time to adjust your expectations! While those things can certainly be planned and offered, they cannot be demanded. We’ll get into the details later in the article!
Let’s start with what’s required:
Mandatory Expense #1: The Dress
Thankfully, there’s a wide variety of dresses available to the modern bridesmaid, and most brides are able to find ones between $100-$250. Some of our favorite places to find bridesmaid dresses in this price range are Macy’s and, believe it or not, Amazon!
How Brides Can Help:
“I let my girls choose their own dresses from a reasonably priced website!” –Real Bride Lauren J.
I love this idea because it allows girls to spend on a silhouette and style they’re comfortable wearing!
No matter what dress you (or they!) choose, keep in mind that many girls will have to have their dresses altered—factor in an additional $50-$100 to the sticker price of the dresses you consider.
Another totally customized AND cost-effective option? Choose a color, and allow bridesmaids to find a dress that’s perfectly tailored to their style AND budget!
“I’m letting my girls choose their own dresses within a color scheme.” –Real Bride Sierra P.
Some may even have a dress hanging in their closet that could work!
And if you’re feeling really generous, here’s a wonderful option that is actually the norm in some countries, like the United Kingdom:
“We’re covering the dress! We don’t want anybody to be unable to celebrate with us based on cost.” –Real (British) Bride Cornelia B.
Mandatory Expense #2: Travel to the Wedding
Whether you’re getting married in your hometown or planning a destination wedding, it’s your bridesmaid’s duty to get to the wedding location.
But once out-of-town bridesmaids arrive, there’s the question of where they stay. Traditionally, the bride’s family provided lodging for bridesmaids who needed to travel to the ceremony location. If you didn’t know that, don’t feel bad! The majority of brides weren’t aware of this tradition either, and with the rise of destination weddings, it may not be feasible!
How Brides Can Help:
For a destination wedding: If you have a bridesmaid traveling alone, you could pair her up with another single bridesmaid and offer to pay for their hotel room. You could also allow single bridesmaids to bring a plus one to the wedding with whom they could also share lodging costs.
For a hometown wedding: You could offer a single bridesmaid a guest room in a relative or friend’s home for the wedding weekend or pay for their stay at a local hotel.
If any of your bridesmaids are married or traveling with their families, providing lodging is not necessary. A welcome bag is always a nice touch, though!
Now that we’ve covered bridesmaids’ mandatory expenses, let’s turn to the optional ones. How much can you ask bridesmaids to spend on these extras, and how can you communicate that none of it is obligatory? Our Real Brides weigh in!
Optional Expense #1: Bachelorette Weekend
Over 600 brides answered this poll question about the bachelorette weekend budget, and the results surprised me! It IS possible to plan a weekend for hundreds, not thousands!
How Brides Can Help:
Even though your maid of honor should take the lead on bachelorette weekend, there are a few things you can do to help alleviate the pressure.
Here’s what our Real Brides are saying:
“I made my bachelorette weekend 100% optional! No pressure from me to attend!” — Real Bride Emily C.
“I offered to pay for the house we rented for bach weekend so my girls didn’t have to contribute to that aspect of the weekend!” –Real Bride Angela K.
“I brought some fun gifts to bach weekend and a few bottles of wine to share over the weekend!” –Real Bride Gina F.
I love how these Real Brides looked for ways to contribute to the weekend!
Optional Expense #2: Bridal Shower
While bridesmaids sometimes host the bridal shower, this event can also be hosted by aunts, friends of the bride’s mother, or other friends and relatives. No matter what, though, brides should never ask anyone to host this event, as it’s meant to be held in her honor and is all about gifts!
How Brides Can Help:
If your bridesmaids have offered to host the shower, stay out of the planning process. Don’t send ideas or make specific requests. Simply attend and enjoy whatever they plan!
Optional Expense #3: Professional Hair and Makeup
Years ago, bridesmaids would get ready on their own and arrive in time to see the bride step into her dress. But over time, “getting ready” photos have become more and more popular, along with the airbrushed, flawless effect of professional hair and makeup! But that flawless look comes at a price. Check out these poll results on the cost of getting glam:
How Brides Can Help:
If you’d really like your girls to have updos and professional makeup, you could give one or both of these services as a gift.
“I’m covering hair and makeup for my girls!” –Real Bride Alex D.
If you can’t afford to treat them to hair and makeup, these services must truly be optional. Send a group text to the effect of, “We will have a hair and makeup team available for anyone who would like to book these services! Prices are X.” After that, don’t exert any pressure to book! Simply share the information and wait for them to decide.
No matter who opts in or out, if you’re asking your girls to gather with you for the wedding morning, remember to provide plenty of refreshments so everyone stays full and hydrated throughout the day. Another sweet touch: providing a comfy outfit for your bridesmaids to wear while they get ready with you. We’ve got lots of ideas for you here!
3 More Ways to Relieve the Financial Pressure:
Our real brides were full of ideas on how to honor and appreciate their best girls!
- Release them from giving a wedding gift: If bridesmaids have been spending on lots of pre-wedding events, buying a wedding gift on top of it all can feel overwhelming. Consider sending your girls a message like, “You’ve done so much for me in the lead-up to my wedding, and having you by my side is the only wedding gift I need.” Some will still want to give you a gift, while others will feel relieved to know it’s not expected.
- Host a Bridesmaids’ Luncheon: This time, your girls are the guests of honor! Plan a relaxing lunch out or host at home as a way to say “thank you” for all they’ve done for you! This is a great time to give them their bridesmaids’ gifts!
- Give a heartfelt note of appreciation: Take the time to write each girl a note that expresses your love and gratitude. If you decide to give them their letters on the wedding morning, make sure to do it before hair and makeup–I can guarantee there will be tears!
While being a bridesmaid is an expensive endeavor, with a little love and thoughtfulness, you can make it into a priceless memory for your best friends!
Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift-giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and, of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all of your registries in one place!