How to select dresses for your bridesmaids (Updated for 2021)
When it comes to dress selection for bridesmaids, there are generally two types of brides out there: the ones who require a very strict bridesmaid "dress code" (all the bridesmaids dresses must have the exact same style, shade and brand of lipstick, shoes, earrings, etc. - in fact, pretty much must be purchased at one place) and the ones who are open to a certain range and variety among bridesmaid dresses. Needless to say, the first type is generally much less popular with their bridesmaids :)
So how do you have your bridesmaids looking just perfect while keeping them happy (and smiling in all the photographs)? Below are a few tips from WeddingVenture.com.
Choose the color first
The very first thing to do is to choose the color. Remember that the color you choose for the bridesmaids' dresses will define your wedding color palette (read more in our related article "How to select the wedding color palette" ). That is, based on this color, you will need to coordinate the colors of the bridal bouquet, boutonnieres, wedding centerpieces, ceremony and reception decorations, etc. etc.
Therefore, a little word of advice for those on a budget: do not pick the colors for bridesmaids' dresses that would result inexpensive wedding flowers and wedding decor. Generally, it is far easier and less expensive to find decorations in primary natural colors (think red, beige, green) rather than some very unique shades that you would need to match (such as, pale "china rose" shade).
Choose the length
Choose the length for the bridesmaid dresses that would create contrast with your own wedding dress. That is, if you are wearing a long gown, ask your bridesmaids to shop for dresses that are knee-length, and vice versa.
Choose the style
While being chosen a bridesmaid often gives your wedding party member a great excuse for buying a new dress, we at WeddingVenture.com see too many people who complain about the prices and styles of dresses brides make them buy.
The simple rule here is that the style of the bridesmaids' dresses should be simple and should not distract from your own wedding dress. This does not mean that the dress should be ugly, of course. In fact, considering typical costs of bridesmaids dresses, your bridesmaids would not be too happy if they can only wear that dress once, at your wedding, or perhaps a second time to a Halloween party (because the style, color, and comfort of that dress would keep them from wearing it anywhere else).
A simple dress is just a dress without embroidery, designs or decorations. It's a dress with a regular, traditional cut. Go shopping with your bridesmaids and let them pick their dresses as long as they are of the same color and a similar shade of that color and comply with the length that you've chosen (more on this in our next point below). This will definitely make for far happier and eager bridesmaids!
Be open to a certain range in the style and color of bridesmaids dresses
Unless it is absolutely paramount to you that all the brides wear the same style of dress, be open to a certain variety. For instance, if you have chosen purple as the color for the bridesmaids dresses, let your bridesmaids choose their own style of dress as long as it is purple and of the length you specified (give or take a couple of inches).
The dresses your bridesmaids choose may not be the exact same shade, but you can actually use that fact to create a unique effect by lining up your bridesmaids in the procession starting with the one wearing the lightest purple and finishing the procession with the one wearing the darkest purple in the group.
Another interesting effect you can create is by choosing a theme and letting your bridesmaids actually wear dresses of different colors. That's right, different colors! For instance, we have seen brides who picked the American theme for their wedding color choices. The brides, in that case, wear white dresses and bridesmaids wear blue and red dresses for the colors of the American flag. A similar trick is often applied to other color combinations.
If, on the other hand, you feel that the bridesmaids' dresses must match in color and style exactly, remember to also ask the bridesmaids to have matching shoes and hairstyles - otherwise, you will miss out on the effect you are trying to create.
Finally, a note of practical wisdom from WeddingVenture.com - no matter if all of your bridesmaids are wearing the same style of dress or if there is some variety, make sure that the shade of lipstick and make-up they are wearing match their dresses - yellow lipstick will not go well with purple dresses ;-) ...yes, we've seen that too!
What about the fabric?
The choice of fabric rarely comes up when shopping for bridesmaid dresses, but it is a fairly important decision that we will mention here. First of all, when choosing the dress, keep the season in mind! You may be shopping for the dresses several months in advance and have a completely different clothing mindset at that time.
That is, if your wedding is in the summer, and you and your bridesmaids are shopping for the dresses in the winter, you may subconsciously and unknowingly choose warmer fabrics because at the time they will much more comfortable that would leave your bridesmaids sweating in the summer if you happen to be getting married during one of those heat waves.
Secondly, choose dresses that are not satin or are made of any other reflective fabric. These will simply not turn out well in wedding photos due to too much reflection they have when photographed with a flash! If you do not want to see large white spots on your photos from overexposure from lighting, choose something matte.
Finally, make sure that the dresses are not even partially transparent. Your wedding photographer will use high-intensity flashes. Weddings are different from any other kind of parties because professional photographers have to add a lot of artificial light. Powerful flashes used by some wedding photographers have virtually stripped bridesmaids naked before on photographs since undiffused intensive strobe light more easily passes through what usually seems like a non-transparent fabric to a naked (pardon the pun) eye in the regular lighting. And you definitely do not want excessive nudity in your wedding photographs!
When should you shop for the bridesmaid dresses?
While we are on the subject of common mistakes... a few of your "curvier" bridesmaids may tell you they want to "lose a few pounds" before your wedding, so they will insist on buying their dresses in the last minute. With all the bachelorette and other parties going on before the day of the wedding, our guess is that they probably won't.
Doing anything last minute can be risky. For one, the dresses that will be available last minute may not fit in style with the dresses that the other bridesmaids will wear. Secondly, until your bridesmaids actually purchase their dresses, they will not be fully committed to coming to the wedding and being your bridesmaids (sad, but true), so it is even possible for that one bridesmaid that decides to get the dress a couple of weeks before the big day to actually bail out last minute.
You may now assume that the sooner you shop for the dresses, like 6-7 months in advance, the better. Generally, yes, however, there is another potential "inconvenience" that a few brides ran into. It is called bridesmaid pregnancy :) Assuming this is your first wedding, your friends are also probably getting married right about now or in the next two-three years. It is very possible that one or more of them will get a bump (and go up a few dress sizes) over the next few months.
In either case, be prepared for these situations and have a plan B: either have a "back-up" bridesmaid in mind or try to convince your bridesmaids to get the dresses in well in advance and then alter them as necessary.
Do you have other tips you'd like to share? Or perhaps some horror stories to tell us? Share your experiences below with the other brides and bridesmaids visiting WeddingVenture.com!