Having been a bridesmaid in three weddings before planning my own, I had very strong ideas about what I wanted for our bridal party. It was very important to me that our wedding party had a very clear understanding of what we were expecting from them, particularly my bridesmaids. Given my personal experience, there is typically one bridesmaid (or groomsman) who ends up being surprised at the financial obligations. (Full disclosure: during at least one wedding, that bridesmaid was me.) So let’s talk about how much it really costs to be a bridesmaid.
CNN released an article a few years back that announced that it costs about $1,695 to serve as a bridesmaid. This number is absolutely staggering! But for an engagement that lasts a year or more, it’s easy to spend a little here and a little there before it all adds up. For the purposes of this article, I calculated bridesmaid costs for the three wedding parties that I have participated in, as well as my own wedding party’s costs. Every wedding is going to have a unique breakdown of costs, but I found myself wondering how my wedding (and the other weddings I have participated in) compares to the national average. By my account, bridesmaids are expected to contribute both time and money for a variety of events and tasks throughout the planning process. This article will exclusively discuss the financial contribution.
Engagement Gifts: $30
It’s not necessary for every engagement, but it is typically expected if you’re invited to an engagement party. Across four weddings, this cost an average of $20. Being in a younger social circle, my recently engaged contemporaries only plan engagement parties about 50% of the time.
Wedding Planning Errands: $72
During the wedding planning period, expect to spend about $50-75 on errands. Trips across town (or across the state) to go dress shopping, find the perfect ecru paper stock, or attend cake tastings can easily add up to a tank full of gas in a heartbeat.
Bridal Shower (travel + décor + gift): $85
Next, if the bride is having a bridal shower, plan for about $75-$100. On average, I spent $25 for travel, $55 for a gift, and $5 for décor. Expect to spend a bit more if a member of the wedding party is hosting the event, as they may expect the others to chip in.
Bachelorette Party (festivities + travel): $200
For each bachelorette party attended, I spent about $125-150 on festivities (meals, drinks, décor, lodging, cover charges, etc.), and an average of $75 in travel costs. (Side note: these travels costs have been kept low by driving to the party while carpooling/ridesharing to save money on gas. If the bachelorette party requires a plane ticket, expect the cost of the bachelorette party to go up with it!)
The Bridesmaid Dress (dress + alterations): $227
And of course, we have the dress. Whether it’s a red organza monster or a smart-looking silk number, expect to pay upwards of $150 for a knee-length dress and upwards of $200 for a floor-length dress. I spent an average of $27 on alterations per dress. (Bridesmaid tip: As soon as I have my bridesmaid dress in hand, I store it in a garment bag to avoid having to have the gown steamed.)
I have worn dye-able heels and ballet flats and strappy sandals. Inevitably, I have needed to invest in something for the shoes per wedding, even if the bride didn’t have major requests. Major bonus points go to brides who request shoes in a neutral color palette so bridesmaids can continue to wear shoes of their choice long after the day of the wedding!
Are you asking your ladies to wear pearl earrings? Did you choose a bridesmaid dress with a plunging neckline? Did someone have to buy a new strapless bra and/or Spanx for under their bridesmaid dress? The “accessories” category does not simply include the items that you explicitly ask your ‘maids to wear, but also what you implicitly ask them to wear.
Hair and Makeup: $20
Some brides pay for their wedding party’s hair and makeup but this is typically part of the expected bridesmaid duties. (I have seen some awfully heated debates about who ought to pay for hair and makeup!)
Wedding Weekend Travel: $125
Whether you arrive by plane, train, or automobile, you’ll need a mode to transportation to attend all the wedding weekend events – welcome dinners, meet and greets, rehearsal, ceremony, reception, and any post-wedding events.
Wedding Gift: $85
Whether you bring a physical gift or ship a gift and bring a card, my mother always taught me it was appropriate to attend a wedding with a gift in hand. This becomes a bit more difficult when you’re a bridesmaid. My preferred solution is to snail-mail a gift and handwrite wedding-day wishes for the happy couple.
Wedding Weekend Lodging: $70
For all the weddings I have attended, the bride and her bridesmaids stay together the night before the wedding. It may not be for everyone, but I for one am looking forward to a girls’ night sleepover on the day before my wedding. Also, if you don’t live in town, you’ll probably want to book a hotel room for the night of the wedding.
When I was in college, I had wonderful roommates who would take care of this for me. Nowadays, I’ve replaced my roommates with two dogs and a handful of seedlings on my patio. Expect this estimate to climb if you have plants or animals who need special care.
GRAND TOTAL: $1,031
Your bridesmaids are (hopefully) all women who have known you and loved you for quite some time. They will likely attend to your requests, no matter how large or small!
It is important to note that special consideration of your bridesmaids will make a particularly large financial investment a bit more palatable. For example, letting bridesmaids choose a dress that they like goes a long way. (The most expensive bridesmaid dress I have purchased cost a good $100 more than the rest… that said, it’s a dress that I will actually wear again.) Additionally, think about offering your wedding party a few parameters (such as color or heel height) and then letting them choose their own shoes. I don’t mind buying silver flat shoes of my choice for a wedding, but there is a pair of fire-engine red, four inch peep toe pumps in the back of my closet that I despise.
Finally, there’s an element of graciousness that absolutely cannot go unattended. It may be a bridesmaid’s socially expected financial responsibility to pay for these items, but it is a bride’s duty to communicate her appreciation!
I want to end this post with a special shout out. This post was written with my dear friend, Amanda, in mind. She’ll be getting married on Saturday, and she has planned an impeccably detailed Southern wedding. Along the way, she has been a fabulously gracious bride to her guests and wedding party alike. Cheers to you, A!
Readers, have you been bridesmaids before? Did it cost more or less than the national average? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments below!
Lauren Miller is a northern born, southern bred girl planning a January wedding. She lives in Memphis with her fiancé, Mitch, and their two dogs, Bosco and Cassidy. She loves dogs, traveling, and fresh food. Check back for regular updates on her adventures in wedding planning, detailed how-to guides, and design inspiration! You can also follow her on Pinterest.