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BRIDE WARS: Who pays for the bridesmaids’ dresses?

We ask two writers to go head to head over a controversial wedding topic. This time we're talking about bridesmaid dresses - who pays? Are the couple obliged to buy their dresses, or is it ok to ask your bridesmaids to pay for their own? Here's what these serial bridesmaids think about it

Wedding etiquette is such a minefield. You’ve got your bridesmaids, and have your eye on the perfect gown – maybe a gorgeous grey bridesmaid dress or perhaps a beautiful dress with sleeves. But who pays for it? Will your girls be offended if you expect them to spend your own cash? Or is this a normal thing to do nowadays? We asked two writers, who have been bridesmaids many a time, how they would react if they were asked to pay for their dresses. Get ready, this is going to be controversial!

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“Asking your bridesmaids to cover the cost of their dresses isn’t exactly asking for the earth”

“Gone are the days when the bride’s parents had to finance every last thing,” says Rachel Avery, acting features writer at Y&YW. “Another nonsensical tradition that should get the boot is that couple have to pay for the bridesmaids’ outfits. Times are changing, and I really don’t think it should be a big thing for your besties to pay for their own dresses.

“Many high-street brands now have their own bridesmaid ranges and there’s a wealth of gorgeous dresses to be found there, so wedding-worthy frocks are more accessible than ever. This means that asking your bridesmaids to cover the cost of their dresses isn’t exactly asking for the earth.”

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“Being a bridesmaid now comes with a world of opportunity,” says Rachel. “Sequins, splits and even white gowns are totally acceptable forms of wedding attire for bridesmaids these days. So why wouldn’t your girls rather pay for their own outfits and get a say in what they wear? In fact, mismatched bridesmaids are increasingly popular, so you could even send them off to choose their own (goodbye, stressful shopping trips).

Read more: How to deal with a bad bridesmaid

“Your besties will know how much dedicated saving (and, most importantly, serious cocktail rationing) it has taken for you and your partner to be able to afford this epic wedding, so of course they’ll be understanding about their small contribution. And anyway, the other wedding guests aren’t asking you to cough up for their new Zara number for the big day, are they?” 

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“Now, if you’re considering asking your bridal party to foot the bill for a handmade silk dress adorned with real Swarovski crystals that they haven’t even seen before, I suggest that you rethink the payment issue,” says Rachel. “In that case, it would only be fair for you to fund their outfits. But if we’re talking a £50 ASOS beauty that they’ll probably wear again next year, then you should have no quibbles whatsoever.”  

Read more: 17 things you should never say to an engaged couple

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Are you hoping for happy bridesmaids on the day?

“Why is it OK to make your bridesmaids pay for their dresses?” 

“Remember that time your best friend invited you to a party, but then asked you to pay entry and for all your food and drink? No?” says Sarah Allard, editor of hitched. “That’s probably because it would be weird, and just a bit rude.”

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for pals contributing on social occasions – a bottle of wine here, a pudding there – but when it comes to a wedding you don’t ask your guests for handouts. So why is it OK to make your bridesmaids pay for their dresses? 

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Would your bridesmaids resent paying for their dresses?

“Being asked to be someone’s bridesmaid is one of the most exciting questions to be popped,” says Sarah. “What could be better than your friend basically saying, ‘On the most important day of my life, I consider you important enough to stand by my side’? So why tarnish that lovely gesture by asking them to fork out for a dress in return?

Read more: Bride Wars – should you change your surname?

“Yes, weddings can be expensive, and asking your girls to pay for their outfits could be seen as a clever way to save money. But what if one friend earns more than another and picks an expensive design? What if your bridesmaids choose dresses that you don’t like, or that don’t fit with the theme? If you’re asking them to pay, do you really have a say?” 

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“Most brides I’ve met know exactly what they want their wedding to be,” says Sarah. “Everything from the venue right down to the shade of lipstick they’ll wear has been planned for months and months (in some cases, even long before the proposal!). Do you really want to hand over the decision of what the bridesmaid dresses will look like – which, according to wedding etiquette, is exactly what you’d be doing by asking your maids to pay – and not have complete control?

Read more: Is it rude and unnecessary to have evening-only guests?

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“If you decide to get married, and you decide to have bridesmaids, then be ready to decide which dresses you’ll be paying to stick your best buddies in, too!” 

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