The subject of who should pay for bridal party (and groom’s party) expenses comes up a lot. It’s like the old cash-bar discussion — considered acceptable and even normal in some circles, but in poor taste and unheard of in others.  Pay if you can

My personal opinion is that being in a wedding party (especially as a bridesmaid) can be very expensive once you add up all that your loyal girlfriends will need to spend during your “year in the sun.” There are engagement-party gifts, bridal-shower gifts (in some cases, the expense of hosting the shower itself), stagette costs, wedding-day hair and makeup, the dress of course, and sometimes even a wedding present. I have a “popular” friend who has been a bridesmaid about eight times and figures she’s spent over $6,000 being a dutiful “lady in waiting” over the years. My thinking is that if you are financially able to pay for your bridal party’s dresses, hair and makeup, please do. It’s certainly the most polite and thoughtful way to go if you can manage it.

Minimize the costs

In the event that you simply can’t afford to cover these costs, then do the next best thing and keep expenses to a minimum. Choose a dress under $200, including alterations (or offer to pay a portion to keep the price near that amount). Or better yet, consider allowing your bridesmaids to choose their own off-the-rack dresses providing some specific colour and/or style parameters to keep the look unified and complementary.

You might even plan a shopping day with each bridesmaid separately, which can be fun — not to mention a savvy plan of action for damage control, since not everyone’s version of medium pink or soft green will be the same. Another fabulous possibility, if it fits the environment and your wedding style, is a black cocktail dress. Who doesn’t need an excuse to go out and buy a fabulous new LBD?

The same rule applies to hair and makeup, and any jewellery or shoes you specifically ask your bridesmaids to purchase. Just be considerate and either cover the costs or keep required wedding party purchases to a minimum.

Skip the bridal party!

A last option to consider is simply deciding not to have an official wedding party at all. Just allow your closest friends to be VIP guests — wearing what they want and having a ball! They can still be involved in the photos and pre-celebratory festivities, but they won’t need to walk down the aisle. I have actually heard from several women over the years how relieved they were not to have to be an official bridesmaid. So keep that in mind: not everyone really wants the job . . . some just want to support you as a friend.

What about tuxes?

For guys, the same rule applies — if you can afford it, pay for the tux/suit rental. If not, keep costs as reasonable as possible without resorting to the $99 hot and stiff polyester “may burst into flames at any second” option.

Sharp-dressed groomsmen

As a side note, please don’t allow the groomsmen to rent their own suits/tuxedos or wear one out of their closet. This is a sure way to create a dishevelled-looking wedding party! For example, navy comes in many different shades and suits/tuxedos come in many different styles, sheens and textures. If one groomsman has a two-button navy suit with a thinner lapel, the other a three-button lighter navy suit with a longer body, and the third a more modern body-hugging, almost-black navy suit, you will have one messy-looking lineup — a sure way to ruin your wedding photos! Renting (regardless of who is paying) is often the most sensible way to go to guarantee a unified and elegant overall look. Genève McNally, principal planner at DreamGroup Productions Inc. Wedding & Event Planners, began her career as catering manager for one of Vancouver’s most sought-after wedding venues. In 2004 she joined forces with good friend Sarah Shore to found one of Vancouver’s longest-running and most-trusted wedding planning companies, DreamGroup Productions. With her in-depth knowledge of the industry and candid communication style, Genève enjoys giving back to the industry with several ongoing blog features and through the professional wedding planning classes offered through DreamGroup’s dg Academy.