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Everything you need to know about being a bridesmaid

Who pays for the dresses? What do bridesmaids actually do? We answer these common questions and more.

When a bride asks you to be a bridesmaid it's a real honour. It's also a serious responsibility that comes with traditions and rules that can be difficult to navigate. For many women who haven't been involved in a wedding before, there are probably a few traditions that seem unclear. So we've answered some of the most common questions that bridesmaids have to help demystify what it actually means to be a bridesmaid in the modern era.

Do bridesmaids pay for their own dresses?

There is no straightforward answer to this. Traditionally, and in the distant past, bridesmaids would not pay for their own dresses. But today it is far more common for bridesmaids to fork out for their wedding-day outfit. They are usually expected to pay for their own accessories and shoes too. Sometimes brides might also ask that the bridesmaids also pay for their own hair and makeup.

As a general rule, the bride should let you know about this before you accept the invitation to be a part of her bridal party. Not everyone can afford these expenses, especially on top of the hens night. If the bride has not made this clear, you should probably ask, just to avoid any awkwardness. Passively phrasing the question as something like, "Will we each be taking care of the costs of our dresses?" is a polite way to ask.

In the case that bridesmaids pay for their own dresses and accessories, they will generally have more of an input on the style and prices. It's usually not proper etiquette for brides to insist on very expensive dresses or dresses that the girls don't like when the bridesmaids are footing the bill.

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What are the bridesmaid duties?

Being chosen to be a bridesmaid is very exciting, but it does come with its own set responsibilities and roles to play. To be able to help the bride both in the planning process and on her special day, it's important to know what is expected of you.

Bridesmaid duties include:

  • Planning the hens night before the wedding
  • Helping the bride with her gown shopping
  • Helping the bride with the wedding preparations
  • Helping the bride with preparations on the wedding day (manicures, makeup, gown and veil and hair preparations)
  • Ensuring the younger ring bearers and flower girls are dressed and ready
  • Taking care of presents and gifts at the wedding
  • The maid-of-honour is responsible for giving a speech at the reception
  • Witnessing the signing of the registry

Bridesmaids wear many hats and play a vital role in being there for the bride and providing help in any way they can. Going out of your way for your bestie is all part of the fun!


How many bridesmaids is normal?

There is no normal number. These days, brides can have as many as they want. Three has traditionally been a popular number, but having just one or even more than 10 is becoming increasingly popular. Some will suggest that you follow the rule of one bridesmaid per 50 guests, which can be a good guide if you're confused. Really, brides should just make sure that they pick the people that they really want in their bridal party and not worry about the numbers.


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Can bridesmaids be married?

Of course! Anyone can be a bridesmaid as long as the bride wants them in her bridal party.

The confusion around this stems from the origin of the term "bridesmaid". The term "maid" implies virginity, so in the past, bridesmaids would have been young, unwed women of marrying age. But this is archaic. A bride can choose anyone she likes to be her bridesmaid.


Do bridesmaids give wedding gifts?

This is a tricky one and it really depends on your financial situation. Being a bridesmaid can be very expensive. Many brides will foot the bill for most things but it's very common these days for bridesmaids to be required to pay for the kitchen tea, the hens night, their own dresses, shoes and accessories. Then of course there's the engagement party present, the hair and makeup expenses and more.

Many brides will understand that you've already paid for so much and won't expect anything. But other brides might expect a gift if they've splashed out loads of cash on the wedding. At the end of the day it comes down to what you can afford. If getting your friend a cheese platter for her wedding is within your budget, it's a nice gesture. You can also always go in with the other bridesmaids and get a joint gift. But if you really can't afford it and you've already spent a lot of money on other wedding stuff, the bride shouldn't expect you to go beyond your means.


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Mia Steiber

Mia Steiber is the Editor of the Shopping section at finder. She has a serious shopping habit and an addiction to gold jewellery. Her talents include tracking down one-off or almost sold out pieces and knowing the sizing charts for just about every brand.

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