The Wedding’s Off – Who Pays for the Bridesmaid Dresses?

by Claire Valenty on January 1, 2011

in Special Occasion - Weddings, Wedding Etiquette

wedding bridesmaids dresses etiquette

After reading “Who Pays for What – Wedding”, we all know that the bridesmaids are usually responsible for paying for their own dresses.  But, what happens if the wedding is canceled?   Who is responsible for the expense, then?

In order to accurately represent this situation, it needs to be examined from both sides.

On one side, you have the discarded bridesmaid.  She has probably spent somewhere around $200 on a bridesmaid’s dress (that she may or may not even like), $50 (if she is lucky) on shoes, $40 on matching jewelry and maybe even $50 for a deposit on her hair and make-up.  That is around $350 she is out of pocket for a wedding that will never take place.

On the other side, you have a bride who, for some reason or another, will not be getting her dream wedding day.   Maybe her fiancé left her; maybe she left him.  Maybe they eloped to save money or they simply decided to cut out the wedding party completely.  Regardless of the reason, her mind is probably constantly churning with the stress and the drama of it all.  Not only is there the emotional turmoil to deal with, but, she will have disappointed friends and family wanting to know the gory details, venues and catering companies not refunding her deposits and a wedding dress she will never wear taking up half of her closet.  And then her so-called closest friends start giving her flack about a few measly hundred dollars?  How dare they, when they helped pick out the dresses and shoes that they loved, when they weren’t the bride’s first choice, but she wanted her friends to be able to wear their dresses again (and not drown them in orange taffeta)?

After researching various forums, the common thread is this: no matter what the circumstances are surrounding a wedding cancellation, proper and expected etiquette is for the bride to offer to reimburse the bridesmaids for their costs if the wedding is not going to be rescheduled.  This should include all alteration and hidden costs.  And proper and expected etiquette for the bride’s dear friends is to politely decline.

As with most rules to do with etiquette, this is simply about being courteous to the other person.  Although it might be the bride’s fault the wedding is not taking place, to be a truly good friend is to have her back, no matter what.  And, you might even be able to return the unused items and get your money back, anyway, or, if you picked them out and love them, keep them for another event!

Further Reading: inventorspot.com

Photo: dreamstime/David Coleman

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Tiana Conner April 1, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Interesting post. I believe there needs to be an etiquette seminar on this kind of situation.

I was actually in the situation about 2 years ago. My cousin was supposed to get married sometime in November. She asked me to be a bridesmaid a mere 3 weeks before the wedding (trust me, this was the most unorganized wedding ever!). Unfortunately, I was told that the wedding was canceled but I the bride or groom did not tell me but a third-party source. Once I confronted my cousin about reimbursement for the dresses, I was given the cold shoulder for about 2 years. Lo and behold we finally had a conversation about the dress, and since I was short on money at the time (I’m a graduate student) I said I will need the $200 bucks. Needless to say the “chat” turned into an argument and my cousin has not spoken to me since. She feels as if it was a risk I took when I decided to be a part of her wedding. Now I’m outted $200 bucks and stuck with an ugly, green bridesmaid dress. Never again.

Brittany August 4, 2012 at 7:03 am

That’s okay, my so-called “best friend” had a wedding planned for August 18th of 2010 where I was supposed to be the made of honor. It was canceled about a month before and I’m not rich, I was 19 at the time and in college and had to eat half a pack a ramen a day to afford the dress. Needless to say the wedding was FINALLY rescheduled to occur on the same day this year. I was supposed to be maid of honor again in the original plans but behind my back her and her sister and two other friends changed the location and everything. I’m suddenly not the maid of honor anymore even though im her best friend. Im not even in the wedding. Though she still expects me to come to all the functions and have this stupid dress that I can never where… =( it really hurts my feelings and idk how to address it. I haven’t even approached her about why I was x’d out of the wedding since I know she’ll end up turning it around on me…

Jen October 9, 2012 at 9:36 am

I too was in this same situation. My friend asked me to be in her wedding and of course I said “yes”. She picked out horrible dresses that couldn’t be worn any other time. After buying the dress and shoes she decides two weeks before the wedding to drive three hours and get married in a cheesy chapel. She then expects me not only to take time off work and lose that money, but also shell out another $300 to stay in a hotel. Not including the expenses of gas and food while I’m there.
If her fiancé had canceled the wedding or even if she herself decided to call it off I would have been ok to take the loss, but I think her changing plans last minute entitles me to my money back.

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