Choosing the perfect bridesmaid dress is often tough – but it doesn’t have to be! I’ve collected the top tips on how to make bridesmaid dress shopping a breeze. Read the tips below and no matter the size of your bridal party or the style of your wedding, you’ll be finding the perfect second dress easily!
Welcome back to my “You’re Engaged – Now What?” series! This is part 6 of the ongoing guide. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out all other parts of the guide and continue on for help, advice, and free printables!
Related Content: “You’re Engaged – Now What?” Series
1: So You’re Engaged – Now What?
2: The First Questions to Ask Your Partner When Planning a Wedding
3: What You Need to Ask Your Ceremony Venue
4: Questions to Ask Your Reception Venue
5: Top Tips for Wedding Dress Shopping
6: Finding The Perfect Bridesmaids Dress
Tip #1: Discuss Budget and Style with Your Party
While the bride does have the ultimate say in the style and colour of the bridesmaid dress, it is nice to hear and be considerate of what the party has in mind. Discuss your wedding theme and colours with your bridal party to get some general suggestions about the dress style. Don’t be surprised if your party is not too keen on wearing a long-sleeve dress for your beach wedding!
As for the budget, if your bridesmaids are paying for their own dress, knowing what your party members can afford is crucial to keeping them in your party. It can be easy to assume your girls have an open budget but don’t forget they have their own life too. They may not be paying for a wedding right now but I assure you, their money isn’t going to the trash. So, get together or start a group chat and discuss what everyone is comfortable with paying for a dress.
Try to be upfront with your party. A lot of times brides can’t cover the cost of the bridesmaid dresses, but a nice add-on is taking care of the accessories, hair or makeup for the big day. If a friend is unable to participate in your wedding due to not being able to afford the gown, you can opt to buy it for her or even thank her for being considerate. At least she isn’t trying to forcing you to change the dress that you picked.
Tip #2: Don’t Forget the Hidden Cost
When discussing the budget with your bridal party, don’t forget to include the hidden cost of ordering a dress. These can include a rush fee, alteration cost, and the price of shoes, jewelry, and second-pieces such as shawls or belts. All of which can add up to close to an extra 100-200 dollars.
Before you get your heart set on a particular dress, try to examine how much the true cost will be in the end when factoring in all these extra components. Does the dress you want actually fit your girls’ budget or will it bring their total way over with all the add-ons?
Tip #3: Consider the Time of Year
It’s easy to get so busy with planning the wedding that you forget to consider what the weather will be like at the time of year of your big day. You may fall in love with a photo of a bridal party each wearing long-sleeve dresses, but that might not be appropriate for your mid-summer wedding. You don’t want to reach your wedding day only to realize that your party is overheating or freezing.
Long dresses are definitely easier for winter weddings while short dresses work better for summer, but that doesn’t have to be the box you’re stuck in. Long dresses can be great for summer weddings if the fabric is light enough, while short dresses can work great for indoor winter weddings or with an additional covering for the moments you’re outdoors (ie. a shawl or a fur coat).
Tip #4: Leave PLENTY Of Time to Order
The biggest mistake I made when shopping for bridesmaid dresses was leaving it to the last minute. We went for our first bridesmaid dress shopping appointment at a large chain store in August – just three months before the big day! I hoped that because it was a chain store we were going to, that we would be safe for ordering. However, we were quickly told that only a few select styles would be available to order within enough time and that we would even be required to pay a rush fee. This fee put most of the dresses over the budget.
If you want to enjoy the largest amount of choices, leave plenty of time. Don’t wait until the last minute to get your bridal party look together. It is recommended to get the bridal party attire sorted between 6-8 months prior to the wedding. This way, there is lots of time for ordering, shipping, and alterations. This is even more important with big wedding parties. Many designers tend to not ship out the dresses until the entire order is completed.
Tip #5: Match the Venue
I don’t mean your girls need to wear blue because the venue has blue walls. Instead, their dress style should be appropriate for the venue. If you’re getting married in a church, plunging necklines should probably be avoided. If you’re getting married on the beach, long fabrics can get damaged easily.
Keep in mind where you are getting married when searching for the bridal party attire!
Tip #6: The Dresses Don’t Have to be One Colour
Choosing the colour of the bridesmaid dress can be very difficult. Make this easier by going for shades of a colour or selecting a few different complementary colours! While one-colour bridal parties have been extremely trendy in the past, it’s no longer the norm. Now, it’s not uncommon to see bridal parties dressed in multiple colours! This route is great for allowing each bridesmaid to personalize their look by selecting a colour they feel confident in.
Remember that your bridesmaids and groomsmen will need to complement each other, so watch out for any colour clashes! You also want to make sure you choose colours that will distract from your own wedding gown in the photos.
Tip #7: Don’t Forget to Compliment Your Own Dress
Making sure your bridesmaids dresses compliment your own wedding gown is important. It can be the difference between decent wedding photos and great wedding photos. You don’t want your girls dressed in anything too close to your own gown, but having the two looks coordinate will do wonders.
So, if your gown is quite busy, it’s a good idea to keep the bridesmaids’ dresses on the simple side. If your dress is more simple, having a bridesmaid dress with lace or beading wouldn’t be too overpowering. Alternatively, tying in a single detail from your gown (strapless, low back, coloured belt, etc.) into your bridesmaids’ dresses can look beautiful!
Tip #8: Offer Up Options
When shopping for bridesmaid dresses, it is easy to get caught up in a particular aesthetic without considering how it would look on your party. While a dress may look great on one friend, it may not be so flattering on another. It may be hard to find a single dress style that flatters every body type in your party.
A lot of brides are choosing convertible bridesmaid dresses to work around this issue. It offers another way for the bridesmaid to personalize their look by wearing a style they can feel confident in. By keeping one aspect in common (the fabric, colour, or accessories), you can have multiple dress styles and still have a uniform looking party. This lets each party member have a dress that flatters their body while also matching the rest of the party members.
Having a collection of bridesmaid dresses can also nicely account for someone in a different stage of life – such as pregnancy! With a dress that flatters their growing body, a pregnant person would have an easier time staying in your wedding.
Tip #9: Try to Always Be Open
Having to plan one outfit for a wedding party can be very stressful for everyone involved. It can often lead to arguments or hurt feelings if people aren’t feeling heard or considered. That’s why I believe you should go into the process with an open mind. Be willing to hear someone say they don’t want to wear a certain colour or a certain style, or they don’t want to spend over a certain amount or order by a certain time.
Stay open to hearing these things so that you will be able to deal with them with a clear mind, and not in anger or demands. It is only natural that other people will have opinions and limits, so be considerate. The thing you need to decide is if you want to bend to the opinions and limits being presented, find a compromise, or politely let your friend know that you would appreciate if they were apart of your day as a guest.
Tip #10: Don’t Skip on the Local Stores
If it wasn’t for my local bridal store, I probably would have had a completely different looking wedding. One that screamed “rush fees” and “second-choices” if I had stuck to the large bridal chains only. However, because my town has a wonderful bridal store, I was able to get the wedding attire of my dreams! Not only did I find my own wedding dress there (which I was able to walk out with on the same day of purchase!), I also found the bridesmaid dresses there and my Mom’s mother-of-the-bride dress!
The large chains were telling me no to nearly every dress I tried on. Either the dresses couldn’t be ordered in time or would require a large rush fee. It’s not the chain’s fault, I am the one who waited to get the wedding attire sorted out. However, having a local bridal store tell me that everything was available was beyond helpful. I was able to make selections based on taste and not on availability! We did have to pay a rush fee for the bridesmaid dresses due to needing six, but even that fee was minimal compared to what the chain bridal store would have cost.
So don’t skip out on checking your local bridal store! You may be pleasantly surprised by what you will find.
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