One of the things I love about Joy is that we encourage every couple to design the wedding of their dreams. That isn’t defined by etiquette or tradition, though, some things are hard to avoid and it’s easier to rely on tradition when areas get grey.
I think modern tradition implies that accepting the invitation, bridesmaids should expect to pay for their dress, shoes and hair and makeup. They also typically pay for and organize the bachelorette party. Since your friends are newly married, they should have some idea of the cost incurred when they agree to be bridesmaids.
It’s great you’re being conscious and considerate to your friends’ wallets. I think you first have to reconcile what you want your wedding to look like and what you can afford. Will you be hiring one stylist to create uniformity in hairstyles? Will everyone be wearing the same dress?
Depending on how hands on you are about dresses and hair, you can attempt to create a budget for the bridesmaids early. If you know the price range of dresses and hair dresser you will use, you can create a ballpark estimate so the girls can begin to prepare on how they will budget in your wedding costs. A few phone calls to vendors can give you an idea. You don’t need to make final decisions right away but being able to provide a ballpark that your party should expect to pay will be helpful and avoid confusion or anger down the line at any last minute “surprises.”
As you will quickly come to realize, all of this planning is one big negotiation.
Remember, wedding planning is lengthy. Huffington Post reports that the far majority of engagements last over a year – which means that your wedding party will have time to budget and plan for your wedding costs but you should provide them with an estimate when you can. Also inform them of deadlines, e.g., if dresses need to be paid for by a certain date to ensure alterations can be made in time. The more information the better. If you’re feeling less traditional, allowing girls to choose their own dresses or do their own hair and makeup can greatly alleviate costs.
If you do feel like something would really complete your wedding day, like the perfect bridesmaid dress that’s priced a little above average, have a pow wow with the girls. If you acknowledge the burden, but explain why you think it’s special for your day, they may be all in. If it’s still out of their budget you can compromise on a smaller bachelor party or cheaper shoes. If it’s extraordinarily important to you, maybe you can find a little wiggle room in your own budget to offset the extra cost. As you will quickly come to realize, all of this planning is one big negotiation.