I’m pretty sure that 9 out of 10 bridesmaids hate their bridesmaid dress. That’s right, they hate it and say terrible things about it, but grin and go with it to appease the Bride. (I totally made that statistic up, but I’m pretty sure it’s legit.) Everyone has a different style. Everyone has a different body type. And everyone likes different colors. It’s not anyone’s fault, it’s just the way it is. Luckily there are a few things every bride can do to be considerate of their bridesmaids’ wishes. And the good news is, I hear more and more brides talking about how they want to let their bridesmaids select their own style or color within a few options!
It can be a tall order to find a bridesmaid dress that is both affordable and universally flattering. You want your bridesmaids to look and feel beautiful as well as fit within the vision you have for your wedding day. There are several ways to go about selecting bridesmaids’ dresses and a multitude of places to buy them. See below for some suggestions on both topics.
First and foremost, decide how much input you want from others on the dress selection. There is a continuum of positions you can take, all the way from taking total control to giving your bridesmaids total freedom. You’ll probably want to be somewhere between these two. If you get input from others make sure they consider your event as a whole instead of just the dress. Share event design pins and describe the venue and vibe so they can make educated suggestions. It can also be helpful to narrow your search to a few options then ask for input. Know that a consensus may be difficult to reach when you get the input of your bridesmaids.
Be practical and rational as you narrow your search. Your bridesmaids’ dresses should go with the look and feel of the rest of your event. Refer to your event color palette, flower selections and venue details for inspiration. Consider the activities, weather, venue/setting, schedule and event vibe as you decide of the length, color, fabric and style of the dress. For example, if you’re have a summer wedding choose light-weight, airy fabrics and a short length dress. As another example, have your bridesmaids wear wedges or flats and a short dress if you will be in the grass, walking on uneven surfaces or climbing stairs much. You want your bridesmaids to be comfortable and their dress to be hassle-free.
The bride who knows what she wants
Some brides know exactly what they want their bridesmaids to wear, and that is totally fine. It actually makes it easier for those of us who are indecisive and aim to please, but just aren’t sure how. For your wedding day you will want to make choices based on what you want to see in your wedding pictures for years to come, but please don’t make your favorite girls in the world pay for or wear something you wouldn’t want to pay for and wear yourself. So ask yourself:
- Would I wear this dress?
- Would I wear this dress more than once?
- Is this dress style and color going to look good on each of my bridesmaids?
- Would I mind spending this much money on a dress if I were a bridesmaid?
- Would I be comfortable in this dress throughout this event?
The bride who wants to give her bridesmaids some freedom
If you want to give your bridesmaids some freedom with their dress selection you can let them select the color/pattern, cut/style, fabric, sleeve length and/or skirt length of their dress. You can give them complete freedom or give them some parameters.
Same Color – Different Styles
This is a great option if you have a lot of different body types among your bridal party. Everyone can find a flattering style that they feel good in. Be sure to be as specific as you can in order to get the color that you want. There are a million shades of pink and saying light pink, for example, may not be enough detail. Companies like J. Crew, David’s Bridal, The Dessy Group and Two Birds offer lots of options to mix styles with the same color. Ordering through one of these companies will ensure everyone matches.
Same Style – Different Colors
For a more eclectic look, you can go with the same style dress for all of your bridesmaids only in different colors. You can let them choose what color from your color palette they prefer or you can assign colors. It is usually best to have all different colors or a balance of a few colors. For example, two two red and two blue or alternating colors in the processional line. This provides balance to your photos. I have also seen brides choose to have their bridesmaids all wear the same color expect for the maid of honor.
Different Styles – Different Colors
To give your bridesmaids a little more creative authority, you can ask them to wear a dress of their choosing in a particular color or color palette. This will give an eclectic look, but allows for each of your bridesmaids to choose something within their price range in a style and cut they like. Chic Vintage Brides provides some addition inspiration and Brides.com gives some rules for pulling off a mismatch look.
No matter what you decide on for bridesmaid dresses consider these final reminders.
- Many bridesmaid dresses will require alterations. These can be pricey so factor in an additional $50 on top of the dress purchase price for the cost of alterations.
- Bridesmaids will also need jewelry and shoes. Since expenses add up for bridesmaids, think about giving your bridesmaids jewelry to wear if you have something specific in mind. As for shoes, let them wear what works for them. Matching shoes can look great, but be very uncomfortable for some people. Blistered or swollen feet could keep a bridesmaid from dancing the night away with you.
- If price is your main concern you could consider renting dresses. This Oprah article discusses several dress rental vendors. In particular, we like Union Station, Rent the Runway and Vow to be Chic because they offer variety and convenience. Union Station and Vow to be Chic even offer the option to try the dress before you rent it.
- Don’t forget to consider undergarments. When considering dress options think about what undergarments would be needed to make a dress look good and whether that will work with your bridesmaids’ body types. Make sure all of your bridesmaids have what they need. It sounds trivial, but no one wants to see bra straps or striped underwear.
- Order your bridesmaid dresses at least 6 months before your wedding. This allows for shipping and alterations. It also leaves time for shoe and jewelry shopping.
- If you don’t give directions on an element of the bridesmaids’ look, don’t be surprised or event upset when something doesn’t look as you had anticipated. Encourage your maids to run their final look by you before the big day.
Ultimately, you want your bridesmaids to be comfortable, feel beautifully themselves and create a cohesive look with your event.