I'm a bridesmaid – is it normal for me to buy my own dress?

As we approach wedding season, Metro.co.uk has roped in Alison Rios McCrone, venue owner and planner, to help solve your dilemmas in a weekly agony aunt column…

Dear Alison,

My best friend is getting married and I am thrilled for her. It’s also an honour to be one of her beautiful bridesmaids.

However, the bride has asked all the bridesmaids to buy their own dresses. She has told us which ones to buy – fortunately they’re not too expensive to wear once.

But on top of that, she’s also told us to plan our own travel and book our own accommodation! I’ve been to my other friends’ weddings and most of the bridesmaids expenses have always been covered by the bride.

I understand the budget might be a bit tight as she is currently unemployed, but wouldn’t it be better to wait when they are financially stable to plan the wedding? Is it rude to ask the bride to cover some of the expenses?

What do you think?


Do you have a wedding problem you need some advice on?

Weddings are joyful occasions – but they’re also incredibly stressful. Whether you’re a bride or groom, best woman or man, family member or friend of the couple, the run up to the big day can be very tense.

If you need a bit of help with your quandary, Alison, who has run a venue for 10 years and helps couples plan weddings, is here to offer a helping hand.

Email [email protected] to share your issue anonymously with Alison and get it solved.

Dear Jasmine,

Congratulations to your best friend on her forthcoming wedding – and to you. Being a bridesmaid is a special honour… but it can also be expensive.

I can understand your frustration, but while it’s customary for the bride to cover some expenses, it’s not required.

Unless you have seen the couple’s budget spreadsheet, you likely do not know whether they have changed their plans to cut costs. For example, the dress she has chosen for you may not have been her first choice, but she knew it would be more affordable for her bridesmaids.

The couple may have opted for a cheaper venue during off-season to keep down accommodation expenses for their loved ones.

While you may feel it is a surprise that you are having to pay more than expected, do consider that the bride may have tried to make this as cheap for you as possible.

Though the couple are due to get married while the bride is unemployed, every couple makes their own personal choice about when they wed – even if the situation isn’t perfect. There may be other factors around their decision to get married and you should honour their choice of date.

While your friend’s employment status could be the reason she’s asking you to pay, it could very well be the case that even if she had a job she’d expect you to chip in on dresses, travel and accommodation.

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to who pays for what at weddings. Some brides may cover dresses and nothing else; others may only stretch for accommodation.

When I was a bridesmaid, I paid for everything: my dress, hair, make-up, travel and accommodation. The bride was particular about where she wanted me to stay, and it was costly. However, having the means, I agreed to everything she wanted, and she had the most beautiful day.

When it was my turn to be the bride, I paid for all the bridesmaids’ dresses, shoes, hair, makeup and provided accommodation. I did not expect to pay for travel for everyone to attend the wedding – sometimes there has to be a limit.

If you can afford it, I would say these costs are something that you should expect to absorb as a bridesmaid. However, if you are struggling to pay for everything, it would be worth having an honest conversation with the bride and discussing options with the other bridesmaids.

Explain your concerns and ask if there are any money-saving tips they could give you. It’s important to remember that you are all in this together and supporting each other can make the experience even more special.

I would advise booking your travel and accommodation well in advance to secure better deals, or consider sharing accommodation with other bridesmaids. You could speak to the bride to see if she’s block booking a hotel, as they often offer discounts for wedding guests if a large portion of their rooms are being reserved by one party.

Rather than spending lots of money on train and taxi fares, see if there’s anyone you can car share with.

If you discuss the matter with your best friend, it’s important to approach the conversation with sensitivity and understanding. The worst thing you could do is place any undue burden on the bride or point fingers.

Being a bridesmaid is an honour and a privilege. It can be costly but respecting the bride’s wishes and financial situation is essential.

Above all, remember that the most important thing is to support and celebrate your friend on her special day.

When should you discuss money?

Regardless of if you’re a bride or bridesmaid, groom or usher, discussing money shouldn’t be off the table.

In fact, I would recommend that a bride and groom communicate their expectations with the bridal party as early as possible in the planning process, so that everyone knows who is responsible for what expenses.

That way someone who has less disposable income can be upfront about their concerns before agreeing to be in the wedding party, avoiding nasty shocks down the line.

The bride or groom can then either offer to help with the costs if they are in the position, or perhaps discuss that person having another role – such as Master of Ceremonies – which requires less commitment.

Find out more about Alison here: alisonriosmccrone.com; and find details of her wedding venue here: altskeith.com.

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