Where To Start, Wear To Start: Choosing Bridesmaid Dresses Part 1
Unless you’re going for a “unique” wedding, your bridesmaids probably need to wear some clothes, probably even a dress. In theory you can pick whatever you want, but you need to remember that a) these are supposed to be your friends and b) this will cost them money. There are movies made about brides who forget this. Hint: the movie is usually not very flattering towards the bride.
Again, in theory you can do whatever you want. You should have at least some kind of vision of your day before you try to tackle this, but that vision can range anywhere from “I want this color/shape/length” to “I’ve already picked out the color, fabric, length, shape, beading, liner color, and needle size that will be used to sew it.” What’s important is you know where to start looking. The less formed your idea, the more you may gain from asking your bridesmaids what they think. Not only may this give you some good ideas, but helps them to feel involved and important.
To avoid looking hodge-podgey, it is generally a good idea to have some similar elements between the bridesmaids’ dresses and yours. It can be anything from details like ruching or rosettes, shapes like all having an A-line, or material like them all being made of similarly heavy or light fabrics (if you go this route it doesn’t have to be identical fabric, but in the same family). There are two routes for the bridesmaid dresses, where you can either have everyone in the same dress (cohesive look, though potentially not so flattering on everyone), or give them some guidelines like a color and a fabric (or any other guidelines really such as length or shape) and have them choose their own dresses (this lets each girl’s personality shine through a bit, but can look a little less put-together).
My dress is on the flowier (is that even a word?) side, but not one of those full-blown Goddess style gowns (usually an empire waist sheath dress in something like chiffon). I wanted the bridesmaids dresses to match it a little, so I knew I wanted something that was flowy. I also knew I wanted their dresses to be almost a royal or sapphire blue. Beyond that I didn’t really have a vision. My approach was to tell my girls those few things I had figured out, and ask them if they had any ideas. I set up a group on Facebook for us to make it easier to share pictures, and everyone kept their eyes open for pictures of dresses they’d be interested in trying. If I found pictures I liked I’d post them to get their feedback. It was a great way to find a starting place when we actually started physically looking at dresses.
You’ll need to give some thought to the length of the dress as well. Longer dresses are typically considered more formal, but can be used in casual weddings. The reverse is not true however, and you can’t claim a short dress (above the knee) is formal. That is casual by default. If you want formal, but don’t want floor length for some reason (like it’s going to be July and it tends to be ridiculously hot out), tea-length is a good way to go. I don’t like the way short dresses look for weddings, but I wasn’t really feeling the floor length look, so I chose tea-length dresses for my girls. I figured that was a nice way to make everything look a little formal-ish without dooming them to sweat it out in June.
Some brides will want to choose a dress and just tell their bridesmaids “this is what you’re wearing, make sure you order it by such and such a date” (which if you do that, give them a date that’s a month earlier than what the salon recommended!), in which case you don’t really need to bring a bridesmaid with you when you go to look at dresses. However if you want their input or are concerned with how a dress may look on everyone, bring at least one with you who can keep a more objective eye on it. For you, this is your wedding, and every decision is an emotional one. It can sometimes be easy to overlook details you’d otherwise notice if you’re too caught up in how perfect the color is or how much the rosettes will match your dress. If you go out solo, ask your bridesmaids about their budget. Check to see what they’re comfortable spending on a dress, and DO NOT go above that unless you are willing to cover the difference yourself. Obviously that rule still applies even if you don’t go out solo, but it’s harder to stick to it when they’re not there to remind you.
The next post will deal with choosing colors and ordering the dresses. If you want a refresher on what some of the dress terms mean, you can check out some of my previous posts below. These were aimed at wedding dresses, but the same info applies: