Make Sure Your Leading Ladies Look and Feel Amazing as They Help You Say, “I do.”

Stunning silhouettes, gorgeous fabrics, and head-turning accents: Today, these are the marks of not only wedding gowns, but also of the looks donned by your bridal party. Bridesmaid fashion continuously evolves and improves, and the options available for stylishly dressing your family and best friends are practically limitless. So how do you go about narrowing it down and selecting the best looks for your big day?

Start small and give yourself time.

If you’re looking to dress, say, five or more bridesmaids and you invite them all on your first style-hunting adventure, you’ll likely be dealing with a lot of opinions and that can get very overwhelming, very quickly. Sure, the idea of gathering your entire bridal party together for a fun day of shopping, sipping champagne, and playing dress-up sounds good in theory, but it’s probably better to start small. Invite one or two people to come with you on your first scouting trip so that you can more easily narrow down the options before involving anyone else.

This also means that you don’t have to worry about your entire crew getting their hearts set on a specific dress (or dresses) before you’ve had time to fully think it through. After all, it’s easy to get swept up in the excitement and opinions and make a premature decision that you may later realize isn’t quite right. You also may find that, after your first shopping trip, you actually want to go in a different direction than you initially thought. Looking at pictures of dresses is one thing, but actually seeing them in person and on a couple of your bridesmaids is another. Who knows? You could enter the store with your heart set on perfectly matching floor-length gowns and leave in lust with mismatched cocktail dresses.

That said, it’s important to start looking early so you don’t feel like you have to make the call right away if you’re not ready. Explore your options, sleep on it, and make the final decision once you’re sure it’s what you want.

“First and foremost, don’t shop for a dress that you think your party will wear again….trust me they won’t and they don’t, sorry. If you want your party to be excited about their dress, give them the option to select their own style. They know what looks best on them, so have them shop from a collection that offers a variety of styles in the same colour and/or fabric. It makes for a far more interesting and sophisticated photo!”– Caroline Shaw, The Wedding Dresser

Consider body types and budgets.

One of the great challenges of dressing a bridal party is selecting looks that flatter everyone. Unless you have a bridal party made up of girls who are the exact same shape and size as each other, you’ll likely run into a situation where, for example, one bridesmaid might favor a strapless look, while another insists on something a bit more supportive. Fortunately, there are plenty of options for convertible styles, like Jenny Yoo’s Annabelle, that allow your bridesmaids to customize their necklines while still wearing coordinating looks.

And if you’re just not sure what will look best on your friends, don’t be afraid to seek the help of a stylist. Make an appointment at a bridal (or bridesmaid-specific) store and let them know you’re looking for some active guidance while you’re there. You don’t need to come in with a clear idea of what you’re looking for. Stylists do this for a living and will be happy to provide input or advice if you ask for it.

Need to keep costs down? Many designers offer lower price points and ready-to- wear options, and you can even go the rental route through sites like Rent the Runway or Vow to Be Chic.

Coordinate the Men in the Mix.

Bridesmaids don’t have to be female. If one of your best friends is a man, why not include him? Your bridal party should be about gathering the most important people in your life to stand by you on your big day; not the most important people in your life…who also happen to be female. When it comes to dressing the guy(s), you can match their garb to the groomsmen’s, or choose a suit or accessory (like ties or pocket squares) in the same or complimenting color to the bridesmaid dresses.

Make the most of mixing and matching.

Gone are the days when brides felt the need to dress their ‘maids in identical dresses. Lately, we’re seeing more and more bridal parties dressed in prints, sequins, beads, and varied shades that all come together to make a stunning statement. That’s the cool thing about the mixing and matching trend: It can be manifested in so many ways. Your bridesmaids can don different colors, necklines, prints, and even more for a fresh look that allows each person to show of her unique personality. But, it also presents a challenge: Just how different can the dresses be and still look like they’re allpart of one group? The key is to make sure there is some sort of common thread throughout all of the looks. Perhaps all of the dresses are the same fabric and designer, but different silhouettes; or all the same color (or even have the same pop of color); or all the same length. If you have some element that clearly and cohesively ties the looks together, it’ll appear coordinated.

But how do you actually decide on those factors yourself? It does require some planning on your end. Again, start early and don’t include too many people when you’re just starting out. Enlist a trusted friend or two and a stylist to help you hone in on fabrics, patterns, and styles that will work together, and narrow it down to a few select choices. Once that’s set, invite your bridesmaids to customize their dresses from a predetermined set of options.

While it may seem easier to simply give your bridesmaids a color and length and send them out on their own to find dresses, that route can actually create more stress for everyone involved. Rather than simply being sent a link to a specific dress, or being told to choose from a handful of options, they now have the responsibility to go to a bunch of stores (or painstakingly browse through countless websites) to find something that they think fits your vision. And, since they likely want to please you without asking you too many questions, the whole process can easily get overwhelming. Help your bridal party out (and avoid having to awkwardly say “no” when they come to you with selections they totally thought you’d love) by doing some of that heavy lifting on your end.

Above all, keep in mind that this is a celebratory day for you and your loved ones. When things get a tad stressful, it always helps to take a step back and remember the positive, exciting purpose for this whole process.


Written by Emma Sarran Webster