Is it Tacky to Ask Bridesmaids to Pay For Their Own Dresses?

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When you are planning a wedding, naturally you want to do things the proper way. There can be many questions of etiquette and good taste that arise along the way. One of the questions that all brides face is if it is tacky to ask their bridesmaids to pay for their own dresses.

The short answer is no. If you look up the bridesmaids’ responsibilities in an etiquette book, it will mention that they are expected to pay for their own attire. However, this does not give a bride free rein to go out and pick the most expensive designer bridesmaid dress she can find. It is important to be considerate of your attendants’ budgets when you go shopping.

There is a huge range of prices in which bridesmaid dresses are available. They can start at around $100 (or less on sale) and go up well into the $600 – $800 range. Probably the majority of styles will fall somewhere in the middle, coming in at between $200 and $400. When you are spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding a few hundred bucks might not sound like so much to ask someone to shell out, but when it is not your own wedding, it can be really painful to spend that kind of money on a dress not of your choosing (and possibly not to your liking).

Keep in mind, too, that the dress is only one of many expenses that your bridesmaids will face. There are shoes, accessories, undergarments (it once cost me $100 just for the appropriate undergarments for a tricky fitting bridesmaid dress!), hair, manicure and pedicure – and that is just for the bridesmaid outfit. Then your attendants will have to pay for travel and accommodations, a wedding gift, a shower gift, possibly the cost of hosting a bridal shower, and maybe even a bachelorette weekend. So yes, it does matter how much they spend on their dress, even if they are not particularly strapped for cash.

Most brides will have a reasonable sense of what their friends can afford, and a frequent dilemma is when there is one bridesmaid who would not be able to afford a dress that the others could. It is tacky to ask a graduate student or a friend in the Peace Corps, for instance, to drop $450 on a dress for one day. Yet you would never want to cut a friend from your bridal party because she does not have a lot of money. The solution is to discreetly approach her and let her know that you would like to cover the cost of her bridesmaid dress. None of the other bridesmaids need know, and if done with care, your friend will see how much more you value her friendship than material goods.

One way to help make the cost of their bridesmaid dresses more palatable is to allow your attendants to choose their own dress within certain parameters. Whether you are as specific as designating a fabric, color, and several shapes within a particular designer’s collection or a general as “pick your favorite pink dress”, each woman will feel happier with her purchase if she had a choice in what she is wearing. This is an easy way to make your bridesmaids happy without sacrificing the style of your wedding.

Finally, don’t forget that while you need not pay for their dresses, you should give special bridesmaid gifts to thank each member of your bridal party. Bridesmaid jewelry is one of the most popular gifts for several reasons. For one thing, you will save your attendants the expense of accessorizing their outfits, as well as ensuring that they all look fabulous at the wedding. Even more importantly, when you give your friends special bridesmaid gifts such as jewelry, you are giving them a lasting keepsake from your wedding and a token of your friendship that they can enjoy forever. And that is the furthest thing from tacky that one can imagine.

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