Beware: Hidden Bridesmaid Dress Expenses

Find out which expensive extras you may encounter when bridal attire shopping.

While you’re scouting for pretty, stylish, affordable bridesmaid dresses, you have to be extra careful about those hidden expenses that can tack on an extra $20 to $200 to the price tag! Keep in mind that you often can’t eliminate these charges, but you do need to factor them in to the prices of the dresses you’re looking at so that you know the real wallop to your wallet.

  1. Dress alterations. Getting your dress altered by a professional seamstress or tailor is often a must. It’s the best way to ensure the dress looks good on you, and that you look good in your dress! Your waist can be taken in, the back can be widened, and you can have straps added to a strapless dress (so you don't flash the guests when you reach up to catch the bouquet!). It’s a smart investment. After all, you’ll want to have a dress you can wear again, so by customizing it to your shape, you get those extra wearings that make your dress do double or triple duty. If you get your dresses at a bridal shop, ask if alterations are free. Some shops provide the service gratis.
  2. Fabrics that are expensive to alter. Seamstresses charge extra when you ask them to work on certain types of slippery fabrics that are more challenging to sew smoothly. The big offenders are chiffon and organza, more delicate fabrics that take extra work, and some seamstresses also add satin to this extra-charge list. So if your bridesmaid circle and the bride love that chiffon dress, be prepared to hand over a bit more money for the pro to fix it.
  3. Details that make dresses more expensive to alter. If the dress has a pretty beaded line at the hem or a beaded bodice that gives your seamstress a big challenge, it'll cost more. Instead of sewing an easy hem, he or she will need to disassemble the dress and take it up at the waist seam because he can't mess with the detailed hem. That’s a few hours extra, and extra labor equals extra cash!
  4. Shipping. If you order your dress from a web site or if you live far away from the gown shop, don’t forget to add in shipping charges. They could be $12 or they could be $25. Keep an eye out for companies or department store web sites that are offering free shipping—you may find a great deal!
  5. Having to order again. If you didn’t get your size professionally measured when you ordered your dress, you might get a dress that’s way too small or way too big. And if the seamstress can’t make it work, you may have to exchange your dress for a new one. At a department store or clothing store site, this is usually not a huge deal. You just pay $7.50 or so for the replacement shipping. But if the order was from a bridal gown shop, you’re probably going to need to order a whole new dress, as a rush order. And that’s going to cost a fortune! So be sure to get your measurements done and don’t sweat the number they assign to you. Some size-8 bridesmaids freak out when the designer’s cut of the dress is a 14. The only thing that matters is that you order a dress in your body’s measurements. And I suggest going one size larger to allow for any weight gain or bloating before the wedding. Seamstresses can handle a slightly big dress without extra charge.


Sharon Naylor is the best-selling author of over 35 wedding books, including The Ultimate Bridal Shower Idea Book, The Bridesmaid Handbook and the new Bridesmaid on a Budget. Visit for more bridesmaid tips and advice.