Bits & Bites / Wedding Planning

Weekends are for Weddings: Bridesmaid Dresses

Weekends are for weddings!  If you’re like me, with 9 weddings each year, the weekends are, quite literally, for weddings (attending them, that is).  Also if you’re like me, the weekend is a time to think about planning your own wedding.  Lots of people carve out a certain time each week for wedding planning (Wedding Wednesday seems to be very popular).  It ensures the wedding doesn’t take over their whole lives; however, I find that confining wedding planning to a specific time is too pressure-filled and bicker-prone.   I planned my wedding when inspiration struck.  Weekends, in particular, offered the time to let my mind roam and plan my own wedding in a stress-free environment.  In this series, I’ll take you through some of my major planning steps – hopefully this will help you plan your own wedding!


You’ve heard it before: you can cut it off and wear it again!  That phrase rings in my ears every time wedding season rolls around.  True, I have actually cut off and worn a bridesmaid dress again, but that was when I was in college and had tons of date nights and formals to attend – the more cocktail dresses hanging in my closet, the better.  But as I get older, there are fewer formal occasions.  If I actually have the opportunity to wear a fancy dress, I’m not going to gravitate towards a very basic, solid colored chiffon number.  I want some sort of pattern or sparkle or unique cut.  Also, I hate when brides further rationalize these standard bridesmaid dresses by saying you would spend that much on a new dress anyway.  No.  I would not spend $250 on a new dress.  The last 6 dresses I bought for weddings were $60-$100 and – unlike bridesmaid dresses – required zero alterations.  It’s fine to want a typical bridesmaid dress for your bridesmaids, but don’t kid yourself into thinking it’s not a huge expense for your gals or that they’ll actually wear it again if you’re over the age of 25.

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I went the other way.  Since my bridesmaids ranged in age from 28 to 34, they would not likely be re-wearing anything I picked out.  Since I’m pretty much the last of my friends to get married, most of them wouldn’t have another wedding to re-wear the dress even if they wanted to.  They’re all slender but still have different body types and would be most comfortable in different styles.

Last week I mentioned that the boys’ look sets the tone for the wedding attire.  Since our guys were wearing [more casual] blue suits, I felt the girls should be in shorter dresses.  I told my bridesmaids they could wear whatever they wanted as long as it was gray.  Why gray?  I happen to love the color and like that it’s a neutral.  I didn’t want to have a wedding that looked like it had specific “wedding colors.”  I also thought it would be an easy color for them to find and works on all skin tones.  I didn’t care what the material was or how much they spent.  If they wanted to hit up the consignment store, great.  If they wanted to spend their paycheck on a designer frock, fab.  They could even wear a skirt/top combo.  Totally up to them.

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The “Rules” I Gave My Bridesmaids:

  1. I realized gray falls into two buckets: light gray and dark/charcoal gray.  It would be strange if six of them showed up in light and one in dark, or vice versa.  I decided a light/dove/silvery gray would look best with what the guys were wearing and be a bit more appropriate for the spring timing.
  2. Other than color, the only guidelines I tried to enforce were no maxi length dresses (midi was fine) and none of what I called “sex on a stick” dresses.  Our ceremony was in a house of worship so an Hervé Leger bandage dress wouldn’t be totally appropriate.
  3. They could wear any shoes they wanted.  Since I knew the dress shades and materials would vary, one might look best with black, another with silver, another with nude.  As long as they looked good, I didn’t care…what does something like that matter, anyway?  I highly doubt many people are scrutinizing the bridesmaids’ shoes.
  4. They could wear any jewelry they wanted.  If they wanted to jazz up a simple dress with a chunky, crystal statement necklace, I was ok with that.  If their dress had a lot of beading and they only wanted earrings, I was ok with that, too.  I let them know I wouldn’t be giving them jewelry as part of their bridesmaid gift so they could do whatever they liked.  I’d much rather have my gals feeling like their best and prettiest selves than dictate the look too much.  They all have good style so I wasn’t worried about how they’d choose to accessorize.

Hot Tip #1: If you are a bride who’s really into control  or you’ve got some unpredictable bridesmaids, this might not be the route for you.  I only had to push back on a bridesmaid once when she asked if she could wear a floor length black dress because…well…that should be obvious.  I could see it being stressful if I had a lot of back and forth with bridesmaids.  If you tell them they can buy whatever dress they want, you have to mean it.

To eliminate confusion and to cut people off from saying the color was too hard to find, I set up a secret Pinterest board that I shared with my bridesmaids.  When the time came, I directed them to the board, which contained about 80 dress options.  They weren’t necessarily meant to choose from that batch (if they did, fine); it was more to serve as inspiration for color and stores.  I should hope that 80+ dresses should be enough inspo  I even included a bunch from Rent The Runway.  Why buy a dress for $300 if they could rent one for $40?

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Hot Tip #2: The whole idea behind the mismatched trend is to make it easy on your bridesmaids (and their wallet).  So don’t make it more difficult!  Make sure to pick a color that’s easy to find and easy to match.  Black looks like black looks like black.  It’s also sold year round.  The same can not be said for green.  You tell your girls to show up in green dresses and you’ll have 6 different shades or a lot of complaining that, for example, mint green is only sold at a few stores for a few short months and they missed the window.  While varying shades could have a cool ombre effect, it could also stress you out if you want something more matchy and it will stress them out trying to find the right shade.  If they have to go to 25 stores to find the right dress, this is no longer an easy process.  And it’s best to choose a color that’s perennial.  When left to choose a dress on their own, they will wait til the last minute, I promise you.  If your wedding is at the beginning of a season, like mine was, a seasonal colors may not be stocked the month or two before the wedding.  Picking a color that’s available all year means they could search 9 months or 9 weeks in advance and find plenty of options.  I’ve found the best colors are black, navy, blush, red, and gray (note: for red and gray, you need to be ok with variations in shade).

Hot Tip #3: Be able to shrug it off when your bridesmaids complain.  I have learned that people just like to complain.  I gave my bridesmaids 10 months to find a dress and gave them tons of ideas as to where to find dresses, yet some of them probably definitely still complained.  If they wait til the last minute or don’t like to look online…that’s on them.  Don’t take it personally.  It’s a right of passage to complain about being a bridesmaid (while secretly loving being included).  They would likely complain about the dresses no matter what you chose so don’t let it stress you out.

Since my bridal party included a Man of Honor, I had Matt wear a light gray suit so he would still be in the same color scheme as the girls in the wedding party.  He matched the wedding without being confused for a groomsman, who were all wearing blue suits.

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Everyone looked gorgeous and totally comfortable.  The best part is that most of the girls only spent about $60 each on their dresses!  Even if they ended up with something they hated, I happen to think it looked positively fabulous and, at that price point, don’t feel guilty if the dresses ended up in the trash afterwards.  I loved the look; they could love the price.  It was a win/win.  I totally get why this has become such a popular option at weddings.

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