Selecting your bridesmaids and groomsmen is a big part of wedding planning for every couple, but it can also be a fraught process due to the costs involved. While some couples opt to cover all the associated costs for their bridal parties, others hope that those involved will be able to assist with the expenses that come with taking on a special role on their big day.
In order to avoid any awkward situations or uncertainty, take the time to have some honest discussions along the way to ensure you are all on the same page before moving ahead.
Before you ask them to be involved
In all the excitement of a new engagement and the early days of planning your wedding, it can be tempting to ask people to be in your bridal party as soon as possible – and there are often times when people in your life may be expecting to be involved without even being asked!
But before you offer a formal invitation to your nearest and dearest, it's important that you and your partner have covered off exactly what you're both expecting from your bridal parties, what you're willing to pay for as a couple, and a rough budget.
Ideally, you will have had some initial discussions around how much you expect to spend on some key wedding items, and how they will be funded. These discussions should also include things like how many people you would like in your respective bridal parties, and how much you are able to allocate to cover those expenses.
While most people will be honoured to be involved with your big day, do not be surprised if they also have questions around the financial extent of their involvement – will bridesmaids be expected to pay for their own dresses, hair and makeup, and will groomsmen be expected to wear and pay for matching suits? If you're working to a lean budget and cannot cover these costs, be clear on what you are willing to cover, and set a clear budget for bridal parties that you stick to.
Having the conversation
Many prospective bridal party members are so honoured to be asked to be involved that they are reluctant to bring up the financial side of things. Try to take responsibility by initiating the financial side of the conversation and being gracious if being involved is not within their means.
Before they feel obliged to ask, let them know what you are willing to cover, what you would like them to pay for themselves and a rough guide to how much you expect it to cost, and let them know it is ok if they are unable to participate. It is always best to be honest, and always stick to your word – if you are willing to pay for the dresses and suits, but will ask for bridal party members to cover their own hair and make-up expenses, you need to try and set a limit on how much they will have to fork out. If costs end up exceeding this, you should be willing to pick up any excess. Most weddings encounter unforeseen expenses, but it should not be up to the bridal parties to expend more than they expected if costs increase unexpectedly.
During the planning process
Beyond the outfits and other on-the-day expenses, such as hair and makeup, there are the events that many couples have in the lead up to their big day, such as kitchen teas, bachelor/bachelorette parties, and accommodation for those who are travelling (or don't wish to travel after a big day of celebrating!)
While tradition may dictate that bridal parties cover the costs of events like the bachelor and bachelorette parties, couples shouldn't assume that this will be the case. If you have a maid of honour and best man, they can serve as a good intermediary to help brides and grooms understand the sentiment of the bridal parties and raise any red flags regarding expenses, helping to set expectations on both sides so everyone can get on with the business of celebrating, rather than worrying about costs. Where possible, brides and grooms should always make an offer to contribute to cover the costs of these events, even partially, in order to recognise the time and effort your bridal parties have spent to make these occasions memorable.
Just before the big day
The big day is here, and your nearest and dearest have likely spent months working closely with you to help you realise your dream wedding day. While gifts are traditional, you have some latitude here to show your gratitude in a number of ways, but make sure you take some time to recognise the investment of time, energy and expense that your bridal parties have made.
Whether you choose to give them a gift, a celebratory brunch the day after, or even a heartfelt and personalised note recognising all their contributions, make sure you let them know how much you have appreciated all they have done – and promise to return the favour when it's their turn!
Still unsure of how to negotiate wedding expenses ahead of your big day? Check out our guide to who pays for what when it comes to weddings.