18 Jul 19
Hayley, Celeste and the rest of the bridal party, who all chose and paid for their own outfits (Picture: Hayley Jordan)
With wedding costs rising, brides are always looking for ways to cut back.
When it comes to dressing your bridesmaid, you might want to buy something beautiful for your whole crew but it can add up.
So is it ok to ask your bridal party to pay for their own dresses?
Traditionally brides in the UK would pay for their bridesmaids’ dresses so if you’ve been asked to be involved in your friend’s big day, you might not be expecting the cost – especially as you already have hair, makeup, a present, travel and of course, the hen party.
According to research by American Express, the average bridesmaid spends £1300 in the lead up to the big day.
Earlier this week, an Australian bride-to-be posted on the Wedding Bee forum about how her bridesmaids were refusing to pay £215 for their dresses and shoes.
If the bride can’t afford to pay for the dresses, it needs to be an open conversation to prevent any bad feelings in the lead up to the big day – weddings are stressful enough.
Julie Daukes, wedding expert at Ash Barton, advises having some flexibility around what the bridesmaids can wear,
She says: ‘Your bridesmaids should be people you know and trust, who are willing to help you make your big day as special as possible – even if that does mean paying for their own dress.
‘My best advice would be to give your bridal party plenty of notice. By doing this, you are being considerate about their financial situations too and allowing them time to save.’
Karen was a bridesmaid for a friend and admits she was shocked when she was asked to buy her own dress – but she did come round to the idea.
She tells us: ‘I’ve been a bridesmaid before and I’ve always had a dress provided. But after a while, I saw it as a way of helping my friend afford more things for her special day – and I assumed that I would be able to wear the dress again as it was a very 50s style dress, which is a style I often wear to other occasions.’
She ended up with a ChiChi London Tea dress in a dusky pink, which cost £80, so luckily not a hugely expensive one. High street dresses can help to keep costs down for the bridal party if the bride wants to choose.
She adds: ‘I think it can be a good idea – but it has to be gone about in the right way. Most people won’t be expecting to fork out for a dress and I suspect many wouldn’t be happy to pay for a dress if they had absolutely no say in what they got to wear.
Be flexible to prevent bad feelings (Picture: Getty)
‘There needs to be a conversation about what both the bride and the bridesmaids want/are willing to compromise on.
‘For example, if the dress is a style and colour that the bridesmaid would wear again, they will probably be more likely to be happy to pay for their dress.
‘I don’t think I’d have been happy to pay out £80 on a dress that I wore for one day and then never wore or intended to wear again.’
Julie from Ash Barton adds: ‘If you don’t have a particular dress in mind, perhaps pitch colour and design ideas to your bridal party but give them the responsibility to choose their own dresses.
‘That way they are in control of their own budgets and can choose multipurpose dresses that they can use on occasions other than your wedding.’
Although letting them choose their own dresses might lead to something very different to what the bride imagined, she needs to be willing to accept something they choose if they are paying.
Alisha got married last March and ended up having a quite last minute wedding. With a tight budget, she asked her four bridesmaids to pay for their own outfits.
One bridesmaid wore her old prom dress, one paid £50, another paid £26 for a dress from Missguided and one bridesmaid who wasn’t so keen on paying bought a jumpsuit costing £120.
She says: ‘All except one were very accepting as then they could wear them again, and I picked a colour/theme that meant the dress/jumpsuit could be worn at another event.
‘Everyone except the one that didn’t appreciate me asking them to pay asked me what they thought but I wasn’t too fussed.
‘They all looked beautiful and I loved how they all looked – even the one who bought the jumpsuit.
‘I think what was nice is that they could express their individuality through the style a lot more, and I felt lucky enough to have such a diverse group be there with me.’
Holly with her bridesmaids wearing the dresses they had made in the fabric she chose (Picture: Holly Winter Stevens)
Holly, who works as a bridal and prom dress designer, had a great solution to make sure her bridesmaids all matched, but each got something they liked.
She explains: ‘I told them the colour (green) but let them pick light or dark (they went for dark), I bought each of them five metres of the same fabric and just told them to get it made at their expense into something they’d want to wear again.
‘It worked brilliantly as they went for different styles which flattered their different bodies but were all the same fabric.
‘It would have been tough finding something that suited them all, plus one was in Yorkshire, one in Berkshire and the other in Montreal so coordinating shopping trips just wasn’t going to happen.’
Outside the UK, paying for your own bridesmaid dress is much more common and with the style of co-ordinated rather than matching bridesmaids, a simple hue as a theme can create a really beautiful look.
Hayley (far right) with the other bridesmaid, bride and bridesman (Picture: Hayley Jordan)
When Hayley was asked to be a bridesmaid for her friend in New Zealand, she was given complete freedom over what to choose. All she had to do was stick to a pale peachy tone.
She says: ‘I thought “Oh gosh, where am I going to find a nice bridesmaids dress?!” It didn’t bother me much, I understand that many brides do this nowadays – especially in my home country of New Zealand – it’s generally a less formal kinda culture.
‘I was a tiny bit worried about paying for a quality dress and the price that may end up being (on top of my return flights from NZ/UK!) but it certainly wasn’t a deal-breaker. I was excited to support one of my closest friends on her wedding day, whatever that entailed.’
Bride Celeste gave the five bridesmaids and one bridesman a colour palette – a baby pink/blush/peach type tone – and they were able to choose whatever they wanted within that tone.
Hayley adds: ‘That meant I could go for a classic/vintage style, and my brother, the bridesman, could go for a custom-made (sewn and designed by him!) 80s inspired pink suit.
‘The final look was lovely, we all matched up quite well despite the range in hues, and we all felt comfortable and confident in our individual styles.
‘I got a peachy-coloured 1920s inspired beaded dress and matching cape from Frock and Frill and cost me £113. Now I also have a beautiful dress that I can resell as a prom dress or keep for future events.’
Hayley (fourth from left), with the rest of the bridal party (Picture: Hayley Jordan)
Hayley adds that she was so happy to spend her own money because of the attitude Celeste had.
‘Celeste never told us we could or couldn’t have a certain hue or style, she let us run with it and didn’t mind what we chose.
‘If I had a bride who told me to buy my own dress and it was one specific dress and it was also £300 I would be very upset. Not only is that expensive but it’s also something I wouldn’t want as it probably wouldn’t be my personal style.
‘The key I think is letting the bridesmaids make the decision within a colour framework. Celeste was such a relaxed bride that it was a perfect mix.’
And if the bridal party is asked to foot the bill, there are other ways to show them how much they are appreciated.
Julie from Ash Barton adds: ‘Choose dresses that are reasonably priced and offer to pay for items like the bridesmaids’ makeup which are cheaper, and you can get group deals on.
‘You should feel comfortable informing your bridesmaids what their duties are and being open with your financial situation.
‘If a bridesmaid is hesitant about paying for her dress due to her finances, offer to set up a monthly payment plan between the two of you so she feels as though the costs are manageable.
‘Ultimately, both you and your bridesmaids want to have an open, honest and clear discussion about this to avoid monetary strains on either part. Flexibility and understanding needs to be there on both ends, remembering that your relationship with one another prevails.
‘If your bridesmaids do agree to pay for their own dresses, don’t forget to say thank you. Whether this be via a big homecooked meal or bridal gifts, a simple gesture of thanks can go a long way.’
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