Who spends more money: bridesmaids or groomsmen?

Katherine Flemming (second from left) was maid of honour at her friend Natalina's wedding in April. She spent well above the Canadian average for bridesmaids, but apparently, she's in the minority — because it turns out, groomsmen spend more. Laura May

There’s no doubt that the wedding industrial complex costs everyone a lot of money. But oftentimes, it’s the bridesmaids and groomsmen who are most blindsided by how much they’re expected to shell out just to partake in what is pitched to them as an honour.

According to an Ipsos poll commissioned by Global News, Canadians on average spend $366 to be part of a wedding party, while 19 per cent spend up to $999, and 11 per cent say it has cost them between $1,000 and $1,999.

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Katherine Flemming, a magazine editor in Toronto, says she spent roughly $1,700 to be her friend’s maid of honour.

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“It was so much money,” she says. “Between [the wedding expenses], taxes and my mom’s 60th birthday, it was such a brutal month for me.”

Her costs included the dress, alterations, the bachelorette party, hair and makeup for the wedding day and gifts. Although she put her foot down when it came to shoes.

“She wanted us to wear black pumps but I asked if I could wear a pair of sparkly pewter flats that I already have because they’re so comfortable,” she says. “I just didn’t want to add that cost.”

Flemming (pictured with her son, Gavin) estimates that she spent $1,700 to be her friend’s maid of honour. Katherine Flemming
Her hair and makeup for the day of the event cost $250. Katherine Flemming

While Flemming’s experience was a costly one, apparently, bridesmaids don’t get the financial shaft when it comes to wedding costs.

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According to a U.S. survey conducted by interest rate website, groomsmen outspend bridesmaids on nearly every aspect of a wedding. The men spent an average of $245.50 on their suits versus the $214.58 that bridesmaids spent on their dresses.

Not surprisingly, in this era of bachelor parties taking place in far-flung locales like Las Vegas and Miami, the groomsmen also spent an average of $244 more on pre-wedding festivities ($681.13 to $437.31 for bachelorette functions), and men who served as best man reported spending an average of $998.78 on the bachelor party compared to the maid of honours’ $552.33. 

Arthur K., a wedding planner and owner of Fusion Events in Toronto, attributes some of these rising costs to aesthetically conscious grooms.

“Men are upping their game in terms of fashion, especially for weddings,” he says. “There are a lot more made-to-measure services available and they make getting a custom suit more affordable — they can cost from $500 to $1,000.”

But it’s not just vanity that convinces the groomsmen to go this route, the reality is, unlike their female counterparts in their frilly, full-length dresses, they’ll very likely wear their suit again.

“The guys are more inclined to spend the money because they know they’ll get wear out of a custom suit that’s perfectly tailored to them, whereas the bridesmaids usually don’t wear their dress again,” he says.

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The primping doesn’t end there, either. With the rise of the barbershop, a lot of grooms are going to these stylized spots for a haircut or a professional shave on the big day, which K. says is “something fun” for all the guys to participate in.

And while the bachelor party is undoubtedly the bulk of the groomsmen’s costs, it doesn’t end at booking the flight and hotel.

“Most of the time, all the guys pitch in to get a suite and arrange custom experiences for the groom like driving luxury cars or racing,” he says. “Plus, they cover some of his food and drink costs.”

All this might come across as a deterrent for anyone who’s been asked to be in a wedding party, but Rebecca Chan, owner and lead planner of Rebecca Chan Weddings & Events, says a lot of these big costs can be mitigated.

“Bridesmaids and groomsmen are the ones who plan the parties, so there are always ways to organize something fun while not being too fancy,” she says. “There’s no need to take a trip to Las Vegas when you can plan something equally fun in town.”

She also advises groomsmen and bridesmaids alike to discuss any budgeting issues with the couple ahead of time, and ask for a reasonable estimate of how many events they’ll be required to attend and how much they will cost. If that conversation reveals unrealistic expectations, it doesn’t hurt to ask (politely) if the couple would be willing to cover some costs.

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That’s not to say it still won’t play on your psyche to watch your bank account deplete over the course of the wedding preparations.

“You evaluate your friendship over the course of all this and yourself as a person,” Flemming says. “You end up asking yourself: ‘Am I generous enough? Should I add an extra $50 to make it a round number?’ Even though you feel financially strapped, you do it because you’d rather be generous.”

In the end, she says, it’s always worth it.

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