Things I’ve Learnt From Ravelry . . . No. 3

12 February 2012

It would seem that American bridesmaids pay for their own dresses.  I’ve no idea what the system is in Australia (I’ve never been a bridesmaid here though I WAS a bride – but with no bridesmaids).  I’ve certainly never heard of that in the UK and would probably have declined the only invitation I’ve had to perform that role if I’d had to pay for the fairly awful dress I had to wear!

Maybe that’s universal now?  Or maybe it isn’t the ‘norm’ in the US – just among those people who were talking about it.  It’s quite a cost to be invited to a wedding but some people must live in fear of being asked to be a bridesmaid, particularly if the bride is choosing the dress.

Clarification please?




  1. I think bridesmaids are expected to pay for their own dresses – part of the reason I asked my bridesmaids to wear something they felt fabulous in! Consequently, I had one woman in Elvis drag, two men in kilts, one woman wearing her own wedding dress (in green) and a replica of the Empress Josephine’s coronation gown.

    • That sounds like a fun and excellent gathering…but that doesn’t surprise me of your wedding.

  2. I was bridesmaid once and I paid for the dress that the bride picked. It wasn’t overly expensive, but then she wanted us to pay for the hair and makeup and then also expected a gift. Really turned me off weddings.

    I didn’t have bridesmaids at my wedding either. Lars and I walked down the aisle together and there was no “giving away”.

    I think if you were to ask your bridesmaid to pay for their dress, then they should pick something they will wear again!

  3. My bridesmaids paid for their own dresses in 1977 (that meant mum paid for my sister’s and my MIL paid for my three SILs). My DD’s two bridesmaids paid for their own dresses in 2009. I just assumed it was normal because that’s what happened at my wedding – the privilege of being asked, I guess. One of the two bridesmaids has worn hers to several functions since – the other would have no occasion to do so.

  4. Well, this is interesting. Three Australians have said that it’s common practice here. I’ve lived here for 9 years but it’s not something I’ve ever had to be involved with. In the UK, the person who paid for the bride’s dress would normally pay for the bridesmaids’ dresses as well – or has that changed since I left??

  5. My bridesmaids paid for their dresses, but they chose them. I just asked them to have the same dress and for it to be fire engine red! We all went shopping together (there was only two of them). They’ve both worn their dresses several times since. I bought their jewellery and shoes as a present to them to thank them for their help with everything.

  6. My daughter made the outfits her bridesmaids wore – cream satin blouses and plain dark green skirts that they could wear afterward. I don’t know who paid for the fabric. She also made her own dress (cream satin), her veil setting and dark green waistcoats for the men. It was s beautiful wedding, very simple and sweet.

  7. Bridesmaids (who are adults, roughly the same age as the bride, not children like in the UK) pay for their own dresses in the U.S. They also pay for their shoes. Sometimes the bride gives them a piece of jewelry as her gift to them and they wear that in the wedding. In addition to paying for their own outfit, they are expected to go together and give a shower for the bride. Their usual gift to the bride at this shower is her wedding night gown and negligee.

    If the decision is made to have the dresses sewn, then the bridesmaids pay for the fabric and if the seamstress isn’t someone’s long-suffering mother, then pay to have the dress sewn. It’s an expensive proposition to be a bridesmaid.

    In the last several years I’ve been to weddings where the bridesmaids have bought their dresses from the Internet. That saved them a lot of money but there still needed to be a seamstress available in case they had to be altered.

    I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a bridesmaid dress worn again although some of the more recent weddings I’ve added had dresses which could easily have been worn again. However, the bridal parties were large and I guess the girls just didn’t want to show up somewhere in a dress that five or more other girls also had.

    • I wouldn’t say bridesmaid = child in the uk – its universal as a term, whatever age.
      I’ve been a bridesmaid twice, once aged six (who knows who paid, not me!) and once as an adult, and I did pay for my outfit but this was a salwar kameez in red and I was a lot better off than the bride. I’ve never worn it again but it was only about £20!

  8. I paid for my dress for each of the weddings I was in here in the US. I can’t think of any wedding where the bride/groom/responsible for the occasion people have paid for anything related to the bridesmaids dresses (dress and/or alterations)

  9. It’s pretty common in Australia now for the bridal party to pay for their dresses/suit hire and shoes. Makeup and hair varies more. Both my husband and I are in a wedding party in October PLUS we have 3 weddings that are out of town in September – so we’re actually going to start up a saving account just for weddings! :-S

    It’s also good form for the couple to give the wedding parties gifts.

  10. This is very interesting! In the UK, I’ve NEVER heard of the bridesmaids paying for their own dresses. As to being able to wear them again, there are so few formal events these days that the average young woman probably wouldn’t have a chance to, even if the dress was convertible for another occasion. One of your bloggers assumed that UK bridesmaids are always children – this isn’t the case at all. They range from toddlers (usually known as flower girls or boys) to adults of all ages. Now, don’t get me going on people who marry overseas…!

  11. As far as I know the Bridesmaids have always paid for their dresses here in the USA. I have been married almost 32 years and mine paid for their dresses. My daughter was maid of honor in her best friends wedding and she bought the dress, which she has worn several other times.
    If the brides family had to pay for all the dresses it would get prohibitive.

  12. It does appear that the “tradition” in the US is to have the bridesmaids pay for their own dresses. I paid for the bridesmaid dress for the wedding I was in a decade or so ago. (Hmmmm….have to go see if that dark blue halter-top formal is still in the back of my closet somewhere (yep, never worn again)).
    I would like to think the bride would carry the cost of the bridesmaid dresses in the “extravaganza” weddings of which we have all heard tell.
    My wedding was a very small, simple, and comfortable affair. My best friend (matron of honor) wore a very nice dress of her choosing – I believe from her existing wardrobe {grin, come to think of it, she was rather pregnant at the time}.

  13. When the royals got married last Spring in the UK, we were told on our TVs that bridesmaids in Britain are usually children. This is not the case in the US.

    Yes, the custom in the US is for bridesmaids to pay for their outfit. But the bride is supposed to give her attendants a gift.

    We have also had a custom that the bride’s family pays for everything but the rehearsal dinner the night before. I think this is changing now. Weddings have been just getting too expensive for the bride’s family to shoulder it all.

  14. When I was a bridesmaid I paid for dress, hair, manicure, and shoes. We did our own make up, but I know one of the girls paid to have hers done. And I also gave a gift to the couple. I was always floored by the expectation that I ran into first in NY where you are supposed to give a $$$ gift AND then also expected to give money at the wedding itself. I’m happy to give you a gift and among my friends it’s known that I’m the one who will clean out your registry for baking dishes (cookie sheets and such) but I wasn’t comfortable with people expecting both and have never done the card with money thing.

  15. I had always been in a position where the dresses were paid for (think early 90’s when most of my high school and uni friend’s got married) more recently I have noticed a move away from this.

    For the most part the majority of bridal parties in my earlier experience were family usually 5-6 of 6 or 8 with a best man and maid/matron of honour usually being the sole exceptions perhaps this is why.

    I opened the conversation in our work lunchroom this week and found that is was very much along cultural grounds – Europeans tended to pay for the bridal party, multi-generational anglo-Australians expected individuals to pay.

    It seemed the more recent expectations was for individuals to pay for their own dress, shoes, arrange and fund the hens/bucks party to cover the hen/buck and mother/mother in law/father/father in law and by a gift, often with travel and accomodation costs.

    I am really glad my more recent marrying friends have said come to our wedding in Mudgee and don’t buy us a gift your presence is enough.

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