The short answer to “who buys the bridesmaid dresses?” is that bridesmaids are normally expected to pay for their own dresses, shoes, and accessories. This is traditional etiquette, but many couples choose to cover the cost of their bridesmaids' dresses. When it comes to figuring out what your bridesmaids should pay, it's important to consider what you would be able to afford if you were in their place. Renting dresses is an option at certain stores, and can be a more affordable option.
Standard etiquette dictates that bridesmaids must pay for their own dresses unless otherwise stated. If one of the bridesmaids is having trouble covering the cost of her dress, the bride should be willing to offer help. Hair and makeup costs may also be covered by the bride or asked to be paid for by the bridesmaids depending on the type of hairstyle and amount of makeup they want. If a member of the bridal party can't pay for their dress, the engaged couple should step in and include those expenses in the wedding budget if possible.
When it comes to bachelorette parties, planning is usually up to the bridesmaid, but can also include the rest of the bridesmaids. If a bridesmaid can't afford her dress, Jacqui had a great solution: “I told my bridesmaids that if they wanted to keep the dress they could buy it, if not, I would pay and sell it later.” Another option is to involve them in other ways such as giving a lecture at the ceremony or helping greet guests without having to splurge on an expensive dress. Overall, while some brides may offer to pay for what their bridesmaids wear, weddings are expensive so it's important to plan to pay for your own dress. Transportation costs such as plane tickets are likely to fall on you as a bridesmaid.