My husband and I didn’t have a big bridal party. In fact, my husband’s brother was the best man, my best girl friend was my maid of honor, and our niece was the flower girl.
Originally we planned on having a destination wedding in either Ireland or Napa Valley. Of course, there is no guarantee that any of the guests you invite will come to a destination wedding.
I decided that I didn’t want to put friends on the spot by asking them to be part of my destination wedding bridal party when I knew they had financial obligations – like kids and mortgages.
My husband and I ended up hosting our nuptials in our home city, and I felt bad that I had not included key people within the bridal party. A friend of a friend was in the same predicament and offered a solution: make the extra friends that are not in the bridal party your “something blue.”
Something Blue Idea
In her case, all the friends wore blue attire and walked down the aisle. A section of seats were reserved exclusively for as the “something blue section.” I thought this was such a cute idea. I ended up anointing my extra friends as wedding ushers, dressed in their Sunday best complete with boutonnieres and corsages. My best friends still got to feel special and had a key role in the wedding.
Bridal Party Attire
When it came to bridal party attire, I was fairly lax. I used Light In The Box to outfit my made of honor and flower girl. They offer a huge selection of every type dress you can think of: from bridal to bridesmaids, flower girls to special guests (and don’t forget the mothers).
I narrowed down my color scheme to cream, gold, and blushing pink. So I gave both my M.O.H and flower girl free reign to check the site out and a dress they liked best.
It was actually fun to scroll through all the dresses with my niece to find the one she loved. Although, having just watched that Modern Family episode, where Lilly picks the Disney’s yellow Princess Gown to wear as the Flower Girl during Cam and Mitch’s wedding ceremony, I had a moment of fear that she may do the same.
Both chose fitting dresses – my M.O.H looked stunning and my flower girl looked as cute as a button. Although they were wearing different dresses with different material, Light In The Box allows you to pick from the same color swatches. That meant the pearl pink belt from the flower girl dress was the same pearl pink color as the M.O.H gown.
My bridal party of two made things easy. If your bridal party is numerous, read on for my tips to a stress free bridesmaid gown shopping experience!
Bridesmaid Gown Shopping
You should have a good idea what your wedding color scheme is before you purchase bridesmaid dresses. A defined wedding color scheme allows you to use that exact color or a close shade/tone. Just like the shape of a dress, no single color is flatters on all body types.
Safe choices include black, navy and chocolate brown, which can be worn by most women. Try to stay away from yellow or anything with a strong yellow undertone. Finally, be careful around certain shades of green as they are not as versatile.
The end goal for choosing a bridesmaid dress is to make your bridal party feel comfortable and confident. That can be tricky if you have a sizeable group of women. Your best bet is to shop for the bridal party dresses with your M.O.H. and narrow down the selection to three different dresses. When dress shopping, more girls equals more opinions. Ultimately this can overwhelm you and make it harder to come to a decision. Solicit input from your bridal party on which of the three dresses they like the most, and decide from there.
Tip: If you group varies in height and sizes make sure that someone other than the 5’11 beach beauty tries on the dress in order to get a true representation of what it looks like on everyone.
Second option: let your bridal party choose their own dress. As we have seen in previous posts, some brides go for the mismatched look after receiving direction on color range and length from the bride. This approach works well too!
If you are not into the mismatched look, your best bet is to go with an A-line dress – a fit that is the most universal and flattering shape. A-Line dresses flare out at the hips and do a great job of hiding typical problem areas like the tummy.
Price is a determining factor, especially if you are making your bridal party pay for their dresses. Provide an idea of the budget before hand and then stick to that range. The average bridesmaids dress is around $150 before alterations and accessories. If you have your heart set on a certain bridesmaid dress that is rather expensive, consider subsidizing the cost as a courtesy.
Wedding Style and Season
When you go bridesmaid gown shopping, consider your wedding venue and its unique aspects. Perhaps you plan to have an informal backyard wedding where bridesmaids should wear a summer shift dress, or you have chosen a formal black tie affair downtown that requires floor length gowns.
Choose the style that will be most appropriate with the overall feel of the wedding. Besides the style of the venue, consider the time of year and the comfort of your bridesmaids. An outdoor summer wedding with a floor length, 3 layer crinoline gown, is not going to be forgiving in the heat. That dress would be more appropriate for the air conditioned banquet hall downtown.
Maid (or Matron) of Honor
Mismatched bridesmaids dresses are a popular trend, which makes it trickier to distinguish the M.O.H from the other bridesmaids.
If your bridesmaids are all wearing the same gown then a slightly different style or color can be a good way to separate the maid of honor from the crowd.
Alternatively, add a different color trim or sash belt to the maid of honor’s attire.
Finally, the made of honor could stand out by carrying a different bouquet than the rest of the ladies.
We all lead busy lives these days and it can be difficult to schedule shopping time for you and your bridesmaids. Virtual bridesmaid gown shopping from the comfort of your own home can be just as handy. Some ways to organize this:
- Sites (like Light In The Box) allow you to save your favorite dresses in a folder on your profile. Your bridesmaids can log into this profile and click on the favorite folder to see what you have selected for them.
- Save your favorite dresses via Pinterest, or scan photos from bridal magazine and email them to your bridesmaids.
- Jump on a Skype video call and peruse the web together discussing everyone’s thoughts and opinions.
The cost of altering a dress depends on the fabric and amount of work. The price can range from $30-$150. It is smart to have alterations done at the store the dress was purchased at, in case of any mistakes.
It is the bridesmaid’s responsibility to get alterations done. Remind your bridesmaids to try on their dress after any alterations. You do not want anyone showing up the day of the wedding with a dress that fits improperly because they didn’t take the simple precaution of trying it on after it was altered.
All alterations should be finished 1 to 2 weeks before the wedding day.
My bridesmaid dress was made to order by Light in the Box. I actually took my M.O.H measurements and sent them in along with the dress order. They did a great job making the dress from scratch to fit her body type. A huge bonus: no alterations needed!
Flower girl dresses have a chart to follow that includes measurements for bust, waist, hips, hollow to floor. My niece was between sizes, and needed a few alterations in the arm area because the arm opening was too high and it was rubbing into her arm pit. Overall, I was very satisfied with the quality and look of the dresses.
Accessories can be a nice detail for some outfits. However, many bridesmaids dresses come with embellishments, ruffles, or sashes – not to mention bouquets that bridesmaids will carry. Don’t waist time and money adding accessories that will take away from the natural look of the dress.
Sometimes brides will gift a piece of jewelry to their bridesmaids to wear during the ceremony, or as a thank you present. If you decide to leave the accessories decision up to the bridesmaids, make sure you put some stipulations on what to wear. I imagine you don’t envision a whole gaggle of chandelier earrings and jingling bangles!
Give bridesmaids a break and let them wear their own shoes. Not all women can strut their stuff in 4″ stilettos like a Victoria Secret model – nor should they have to. Consider a black or metallic shoe that they may already own, can buy for an inexpensive price, and will wear again in the future.
If you want a more uniform look then give your bridal party guidelines on the color and material (e.g., leather or satin). Let them know what kind of surface they will be walking on because aerating the lawn in 4″ stilettos for a lawn wedding ceremony isn’t in the bridesmaid’s job description!
Usually the bride will choose the flower girl dress. You can leave this duty to the mother of the flower girl and provide guidance on fabric type, length, and color. Or, just give her an idea of what the bridal party is wearing and leave it to her discretion.
The flower girl’s dress should match the formality of the bridal party. If you are not paying for the dress then keep price in mind. Unlike bridesmaids dresses that can be worn again, a flower girl dress will most likely only be worn once. Many brides pay for the flower girl attire, but that is entirely up to you.
As you can tell, my wedding was an outdoor summer wedding in a formal venue. My Maid of Honor wore a Sheath/Column Bateau Chiffon and Lace Dress. Although the dress appears light and flowing, the day was hot and she got a little uncomfortable – it looked gorgeous for the ceremony! The dress is a simple elegant dress with the lace pattern on top and scoop neck in the back.
She looked absolutely stunning, but didn’t steal the show. Since the dress was made to order there were no alterations needed.
My flower girl wore an A-line V-neck Floor-length Satin Dress also from Light In The Box. As I stated above, the dress was a perfect fit except for the small alteration in the arm hole opening. She looked so adorable! The great thing was even though they were completely different dresses and materials, I was able to match the colors.
I must say, only having to select one bridesmaid gown decreased my stress level.
Let’s face it: if you have a larger bridal party there will be somebody that doesn’t like the dress you choose for them.
I am sure we have all been to weddings or been part of a wedding that you have to spend $250 on a hideous bridesmaid dress never to be worn again!
One thing I love about Light In The Box is that most of their dresses come in the same color. So if you do let your bridesmaids choose the style and cut of dress they want you can always get it in the same color swatch so that everyone looks cohesive.
I hope you and your bridal party have a stress free bridesmaid gown shopping experience!