How much should bridesmaids be expected to chip in?
May 29, 2007 12:02 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I have agreed to be in a third friend's wedding this fall. Lately the bride-to-be has been suggesting some potentially expensive pre-wedding activities. My friend and I are concerned with what we're expected to pay for as bridesmaids. My questions are: Is footing the bill for the bachelorette party or bridal shower the responsibility of the bridal party if the bride (or her sorta wealthy future mother-in-law) plans it? Is it gauche for us to approach the bride and ask her what her expectations are after agreeing to be in the wedding?
posted by redbed to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Have you seen this thread? Consensus there was that you'd be at least sharing the bill.
posted by meerkatty at 12:13 PM on May 29, 2007

Frankly, as someone who is planning her own wedding and currently on the "please be in my wedding party" list for 4 friends, all 5 weddings (including my own) to take place in the next 12 months, I don't think it is ever gauche to (respectfully, politely and showing the love and mutual courtesy that marks the importance of the relationship between you and bride-to-be that led her to invite you to share in her wedding with her) clarify the expectations because so doing helps her to avoid problems down the line and ensure the activities are appropriate for all who've been asked to include themselves. Having said that, I would not use the sorta-wealthy-future-mother-in-law as one of the persuasive points of your argument, because I can promise you THAT won't go well, and you might also reasonably foresee that by asking to exert some influence over the choice of activities you do incur a bit of responsibility to actively aid in the sometimes lengthy and complicated planning and preparation of those activities, rather than risking looking like a sideline nitpicker. But again having said that, I think if you show the proper putting-the-bride-in-all-her-glory first attitude and some delicacy/careful manners, you really ought not to have problems.
posted by bunnycup at 12:18 PM on May 29, 2007

Bridal showers are traditionally paid for and organized by the maid of honor and the bridesmaids. There is no tradition prohibiting the bride's family from pitching in financially, however, family is not supposed to host the shower (though that's changing in the US as more families host showers). Additional showers may be hosted and paid by the bride's non-bridal party friends (such as coworkers), however the bridesmaids are only on the hook for one party.

It would be a very good idea to meet with your friend (the one getting married) and have an honest discussion about expectations, finances, and responsibilities. For the shower, the bride isn't suppose to dictate squat: it's a party being thrown on her behalf, not a party she is hosting. Her only contribution should be to show up and to be profoundly grateful about being the guest of honor.
posted by jamaro at 12:21 PM on May 29, 2007

Generally, bridesmaids plan the shower and/or bachlorette party, and do foot at least some of the bill. Perhaps the bride is planning it herself because it doesn't seem like you're doing anything. You should call her up and say, Hey, the wedding is coming up, and so is your bachlorette party! What do you want to do for your wild night? Leave all the details to Friend 2 and I! Then plan accordingly, in a way that will make your friend happy and not dent your wallet too too badly (keeping in mind that shelling out cash is a big part of being in weddings, so grin and bear it).
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 12:22 PM on May 29, 2007 [1 favorite]

Looking at the previous thread, it's clear that the ideal arrangement should be one where the bride isn't paying at all, but also isn't setting the agenda. But if you're not organising the shower and/or party, then it's better to be clear early on how far your personal budgets stretch.

I'd suggest organising a confab of bridesmaids, working out collectively what sort of personal expense you'd consider reasonable, then telling the bride and her future m-i-l what your collective budget is, and either to plan something to fit that budget or, better still, to concentrate on planning the actual wedding. (Bring the m-i-l into the discussion if she's been one of those making 'helpful' suggestions that will empty your bank accounts. If she hasn't, don't.)

You're presumably already making contributions: dresses, presents, organisation time. The bridal party is not a cash cow to be milked, even if some people now consider it a useful source of money and labour in the depressing combination of moral blackmail and social oneupmanship found in modern wedding ceremonials.
posted by holgate at 12:34 PM on May 29, 2007

The bridal party is supposed to plan & pay for the shower and bachelorette party. Because they are throwing it & paying for it, it's pretty tacky for the bride to ask for lavish events unless she is asked for ideas of what she would like to do. If her mother-in-law-to-be wants to plan it, then she can throw it and pay for it herself. Anyone who wants to throw the bride a shower can do so, and pay for it themselves - and you can throw your own shower if you want in addition.

I would really talk to your bride friend - if you are close enough friends to be in her bridal party, you should be able to politely talk about how what she seems to want is kind of cost prohibitive, and come prepared with some alternate ideas.

Case in point, a friend who is getting married soon originally said she wanted to go to Vegas or South Beach for her bachelorette. Considering that 1 bridesmaid just had a child, 1 is a student, 1 just lost her job, and 1 just bought a freakin' house, this was pretty unrealistic, and most of us were pretty much taken aback. However, having a talk about how it was cost prohibitive for most of us, we talked with the bride and compromised by spending a night on the town in NYC (which is more local and thus saved on the cost of airfare, etc).

The other things you will have to pay for most likely are your dress/accessories, hair, wedding gift, shower gift, accomodations.

Being in a wedding is #%@# expensive!
posted by tastybrains at 12:52 PM on May 29, 2007

As for the bridal shower, neither the bride or the mother-in-law should have anything to do with it (unless asked by the official planners for input) if one is following traditional etiquette. I would probably let the mother-in-law planning it slide, but it seems pretty tacky for a bride to plan a gift-giving party for herself.

I would say the general rule of thumb is that financial contribution should be directly proportional to say in party planning (though some may opt to forfeit their say). Thus if the MIL is planning and choosing everything then she should pay for everything. If the bridesmaids contribute financially they should have a say in the planning proportional to their financial contributions. So let's say one bridesmaid is having a rough time financially at the moment and can only contribute $25...she should get to maybe pick out the party favors or whatever the equivalent of $25 would be and if the MIL is contributing $500 she gets to say what food is served, etc. Of course this should all be worked out in the most gracious, non-petty manner possible. Bottom line: nobody should be put into a hard spot financially.

Bachelorette parties seem to have a little more etiquette leeway. There aren't any gifts involved so I don't think there'd be anything wrong with the bride choosing the night's activities (though it would be supremely kind for her to check if they're affordable to her attendants first). In this case, everyone would pay for herself (the guests will probably end up treating the bride, though she shouldn't expect it). Or alternatively the bridesmaids could plan something affordable for all and then foot the bill for the bride's costs.

Of course none of this matters if the parties involved are already planning away. The best you can do is to be honest about what you can afford. If they are decent people they will understand and not want to make things hard for you. The function of a bridesmaid is to be a loving and supportive friend not an ATM machine.
posted by Jess the Mess at 12:55 PM on May 29, 2007

The bride shouldn't have any involvement in the shower besides showing up; it would be pretty tacky of her otherwise. The MIL really isn't supposed to be involved but that's getting relaxed these days. The maid of honor along with bridal party usually throws it for the bride, and they throw what they can afford. If the MIL is up to her elbows in the planning then she needs to be consulting with you all over what you can afford and what you plan to/are able to contribute; and if she wants a big splashy party that you all can't afford, then she needs to pay for it. Should she insist on the big splashy party, you can (gently) tell her that you all will throw your own thing and leave her to it (it's perfectly okay for the bride to be given more than one shower, after all). It's not fair of her to treat you all like cash on hand to do it her way, so don't let her.

As for the bachelorette, of course you'd want to give the bride something she'd like, but it's not her place to dictate to you all what you're going to do for her - you are throwing the party for her. You can ask her for some ideas on what she'd like to do, and (again gently) let her know if anything she has her heart set on is out of your wallet range; obviously you try to reach a compromise so she'll have fun, but if she's going to sulk because you all can't pull out the credit cards for a weekend in Vegas or something equally spendy, then she's being beyond impolite, and extremely selfish.

It is not gauche of you to discuss these things with the bride and MIL; since, really, you all should be left to your own devices for these parties and they shouldn't be in the mix a bit. It is gauche of them if they have expectations of planning parties for you that you all should be giving of your own desire/free will and then expecting you to pony up for their choices: it's greedy, and it's rude.
posted by Melinika at 1:47 PM on May 29, 2007

Either you pay and host it (ie plan it, or at the very least set the budget), OR they host it and pay. They don't get to dictate an amount of money for you to spend. No. A tactful but firm discussion is in order, along the lines of "We're so glad that you have so many ideas, and we'll see how many of them we can accommodate on the budget that we have worked out." Or possibly, depending on your relationship, "We can't afford to pay for the kind of event that you want. We need to have a talk about this and decide whether we're going to host or someone else is going to host."
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:57 PM on May 29, 2007

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