Recently I did hair for a bridal event and was asked this question ("Am I supposed to pay for the bridesmaid's hair and makeup?"). I specified that it depended on the budget that was designated for hair and makeup cost. Usually when it comes to hair and makeup, a bride can negotiate a package if she is paying for the whole bridal party. Even if she isn't necessarily paying for everyone as long as its 4 or more being serviced you can usually get a group rate.
Back to the question at hand, should the bride cover this expense?
I personally feel as though the bride should factor hair and makeup cost into her budget. She can gift it to the bridesmaids as a token of appreciation for participating in her special day. However if she doesn't cover the entire cost, she should at least subside the cost.
Most people that participate in a wedding party, usually don't realize initially how costly it's going to be for them especially if they've never been in a wedding prior.
It can easily be upwards of $1,000 or more if you have to incorporate travel expenses. Often times the bride doesn't always take that into account when she's preparing for her Big day.
Brides have it in their mind who they want to be in their wedding and some cordially ask certain people financially prepared to take on that type of commitment. Some people save regularly and others don't, you usually have a pretty good idea of the people who do and don't.
It's best to save yourself the headache of asking people to participate that you know are going to give you a hard time throughout the whole journey. The last thing as a bride you want to worry about is somebody complaining about their finances because they are really saying "If I didn't have to dish out all this money for your wedding, maybe I can pay for ____ (whatever "it" is )!"
When in fact they still would be having financial issues whether it was your wedding or something else. It all boils down to, they really don't want to be in your wedding but they don't want to hurt your feelings.
It's best to select a few gems to be in your party and "Ask" them if they are willing to be in the wedding party and explain to them "ALL" of your expectations. You could even give them an estimate of what they will spend to be apart of it, so there aren't any misunderstandings.
You'd be surprised how when you give a little something how appreciated a person can feel. What better way to say I appreciate you participating in my wedding then by taking a few dollars and paying for manicures/pedicures for your bridesmaids, or hair and makeup?
They won't look back at all the money they've shelled out and think negatively. They will feel like it was all worth it because although they spent $1,000 or more at least you paid for their hair or makeup, or both.
I've said all of this to say "Yes" I think it's proper etiquette to pay for your bridal parties hair and makeup. If you don't pay for both at least pay for one or the other.
Tress tip: Create a budget for hair and makeup. If you don't have a hairstylist prior to your wedding then call around and ask about group rates /packages. You'd be surprised what type of deals you can work out.