Non Matching Bridesmaid Dresses

by Meg Keene, CEO & Editor-In-Chief

While we are talking about wedding colors, lets talk about bridesmaid dresses.
Full disclosure: When I was 21 I wore a David’s Bridal ball gown bridesmaid dress, and I totally loved it. When do you get to wear a ball gown these days? I didn’t want to take it off! But, now that we are not 21 anymore, and the price of all things wedding related has gone through the roof, I tend to think bridesmaids dresses are the worlds biggest scam. The prices are insane, the fabric is awful, the construction is poor, and no matter what anyone says, you are not wearing it again. And why do people buy into this? Perfect color matching. That’s right. You can order your bridesmaids gowns in any of 100 colors, for the more perfect coordination of your day. (And if you are doing this, just remember, I loved my bridesmaid dress, so I am clearly a poor illustration of my own point. Go you!)
So I started looking around for dresses I liked, that were in jewel tones, and I found some dresses that I *loved.* Like the dress above. I want to wear that dress every day for a week. Sadly, it would cost me $250. But it made me think. Why the heck are bridesmaid dresses always solid colors? I know, I know. So they match. And don’t clash. But I have already proven I, um, a little unfocused in the matching department. So, I’m thinking just asking our attendants to get dresses they actually like, and would actually wear again in, jewel tones. I love all the dresses pictured here, but I’m not sure our wedding party would like them, or find them flattering, and who am I to make them wear them?

What are you thinking of doing on the female attendant clothing front? (We are, by the way, putting the cart before the horse here, since we haven’t really figured out the wedding party thing. But the dresses are so pretty….)

**Update: I forgot to mention, this gives people flexibility on price, with no pressure. I have friends that would prefer BCBG, and friends that are more into Target. So often weddings put people in awkward money situations, which sucks. If we can’t buy everyones flight, at least we can find small ways to help, right?**

Top picture via Nibs, Bottom picture via Nordstroms.
(Funny story, I went to write this post about these two dresses I loved and I discovered they are both by the same designer, Adrianna Papell. What can I say? I know what I like.)

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. She has written two best selling wedding books: A Practical Wedding and A Practical Wedding Planner. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in Oakland, CA with her husband and two children. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit #NASTY

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  • I love both of these dresses, but I’m kinda obsessed about the top one. I’m glad you have fantastic taste Meg–now when I”m in need of something I’ll just stop by your blog. Thanks for making my life easier!

  • Just let your friends be the fabulous people they are, whatever color they look best in, whatever style they look best in. Knowing you, I am sure you have many friends who would opt for jewel tones if you told them those were the general color scheme of the rest of the day (flowers, table, etc), but it leaves the option open for people who look terrible in “your” colors to look nice. And to show their personalities a little, too. The pictures will be gorgeous.

  • I’ve never been a big purple fan, but I stumbled on that eggplant dress a couple weeks ago while perusing one of the department store websites for cool/wearable “bridesmaid” dresses and I LOVE it. The color would be gorgeous on any skin tone, and it looks chic and modern, but not like it will be out of style next season. I’d be so excited if someone asked me to get that as a bridesmaid’s dress!

  • I think this is a great opportunity to carry out the color palette idea that was discussed in the previous post. Bridesmaids dresses have improved ten-fold over the years but they still seem to lack timelessness. I’m a huge fan of mixing and matching. Why not get a cute BCBG dress that you might wear this year or next? And if you have a color palette, it gives your maids the freedom search for something that makes them feel beautiful and expresses who they are.

    As much as a wedding is about the bride and groom, I think a wedding party is a reflection of the company they like to keep and letting those individual personalities come out is a great thing.

  • Anonymous

    We have non-matching groomsmen. Half of them own their own tuxes, so we’re going to have them wear whatever suits them best. Easier for everyone!

  • Aimee

    Oh my gosh! I am laughing, laughing, laughing, Meg. That top dress is one of my bridesmaid’s dresses! I told the girls that I want them to wear something that is comfortable, in their price range and that they love. I told them that anything, anything, anything in the “berry spectrum” (ie blueberry all the way to raspberry) would be great. BTW, that is how I deal with the “color scheme” question, too (previous post) the berry spectrum plus a little orange! People are a little confused at first, but they get over it. I love knowing that on my wedding day I will be surrounded by my favorite women, each wearing something that reflects her unique sense of style.

  • I was giving a great idea by one of the genius women in my family. I’m doing the whole – pick a dress in this color range that suits your style and your budget thing too and I’m hoping for really vibrant blue dresses. So my aunt suggested that I go to a Home Depot or a Loews and pick out one (or more!) of those paint swatch things, hand them out to my bridesmaids and tell them to get something along the lines of the colors in the swatch. That way they don’t spend hours looking for “peacock” blue and I’ll end up with a beautiful array of blue hues from cornflower to cerulean (or whatever crazy names those paint people come up with!)

    P.S. LOVE, Love, love that you’ve embraced jewel tones on your wedding day. So freakin’ pretty and they let your wonderful, helpful, beautiful bridesmaids stand out and shine, as well they should.

  • I’m having my bridesmaids pick out their dress. My only rules are it has to be black and it can’t be floor length or hoochie short. If I have to worry about her bending over it is out. I’m doing this because their flowers are going to be bright bold colors and I want them to pop.

  • I am only having one ‘bridesmaid’ (my little sister, whom I am referring to as my best woman) and I got her a midnight blue dress she’ll definitely wear again. My other sister is being MC and she’s wearing burnt orange. My mum had the idea to get all the ladies in jewel tones… most of them are a couple of months off making the purchase but I’m spreading the word in the hope this’ll spread because I think it’ll look gorgeous.

    I never wanted all matching bridesmaids (in fact I never wanted bridesmaids at all) so I don’t really get the whole thing. Your plan sounds like a good one to me.

  • I admit, before we got deep into wedding planning, I had been thinking of going the traditional, floor-length, matching bridesmaid dresses. Then my MOH pulled a dirty trick on me by getting married before me, making me her MOH, and letting us all get any little black dress we wanted. Well, that was last year and I swear I’ve worn that little black dress a dozen times by now. Given that, how could I ask her to drop a wad of cash for something shell never wear again? So, little black dresses it is. Well, for my side. My fiancĂŠs attendants are all wearing tuxes (regardless of gender, which I think is going to be adorable) because they all already owned them. I told my bridesmaids that they could all wear the little black dresses they already had, but they all insisted on getting new ones.

  • Anonymous

    We let the bridesmaids choose their own black dress (most already had one – yay!), and they are all wearing matching sashes and jewelry to tie it together. (my mom made 7 sashes for under $10 and I made all the jewelry for about $30).

    Most groomsmen already had suits because we just graduated from college and they all had to have them for interviews and such, so we just told them to wear their own suits and they’ll have ties that coordinate with the color of the bridesmaid sashes, but they are all a little different. Even if they had to buy a suit, it’s comparable to renting a tux (maybe even cheaper) and then they own it.

  • Jenna

    I can’t let go of the matching dresses, but I’ll be purchasing my maids’ dresses for them so I don’t have to feel guilty about making them wear something they didn’t choose.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    We’re having two bridesmaids and a best woman, and they’re wearing whatever they want. Yes, anything. Any length, colour, style, trousers if they want, we don’t care. I can’t tell people what to wear, I just can’t do it, not even a little bit! For me clothes are an expression of individuality and I could never impose my ideas on what other people wore. I just don’t understand brides wanting to stamp out individuality among their friends by putting them in identical dresses, it’s such a strange idea to me. Also my friends are young and broke and I want them to have the option to not have to buy a new outfit if they don’t want to.

    I love the idea of giving your wedding party a colour spectrum to choose from, it will look so pretty! At times I wish I could bring myself to do this but it’s just not me. I do think it’s the best way to go though, if you want some sort of cohesion to your wedding party.

  • This is a GREAT idea! I wish I could follow it…. my problem is that my future sister-in-law is extremely plus-sized. And her “style” is way different than all the others. So, in order to have a little cohesion, I chose 3 different dresses in the same color (I would have LOVED to have found a print) for them to choose from. My sisters both liked the same dress (their choice – they could have chosen a 4th dress to be added to the mix), and then my future SIL and friend each have their own style. The dresses all cost about $150 – which I think is good for a bridesmaid dress.
    It was hard to find attractive plus-sized dresses that didn’t look like tents, and all the regular non-bridesmaid dresses I saw were all around $200+. For me, this was the best option. As I said earlier though, I would have LOVED to find a print. My mother’s bridesmaid dresses were a print, and I think it looked so neat.

  • Because my colors are black and white (the easiest “palette” of all), I am going with black dresses. I picked about 8 different dresses I liked from David’s Bridal and told my maids to pick out whatever one they wanted. I went with David’s Bridal because it is national (and my ladies are all over the place) and if you check ebay, those dresses are constantly for sale. One of my bridesmaids bought her dress for $50 on ebay. And, if they want, they can all post them on ebay afterwards. Each bridesmaid is wearing a different black dress, but because I’ve already picked the dress selection, this way each one ‘coordinates.’ My bridesmaids seemed pretty happy with this arrangement and it caused me little to zero headache.

  • Roel

    I am standing and clapping. The though of forcing my nearest and dearest to cram their bodies into the same color and style just makes me cringe. If you want to narrow it down, pick a color, let them pick a shade (or pattern!) and style.

  • My bridesmaids run the range of sizes, so I chose two dresses in the same color for them. I somewhat regret making a hasty decision, though, because I would be fine if they each wore a dress that they chose as long as it was in the same color. As for wearing it again: even if they picked it out, I don’t think anyone to wear it again. I rarely wear dresses except for major events and if it’s an event with any of the people who attended the previous event, I’m not going to wear a dress that they know was my bridesmaid dress. But that’s probably just me.

  • I work at a resort in southeast Georgia and there are usually a couple of weddings each weekend, especially in the summer. Well last weekend, the bridesmaids of one wedding wore these gorgeous multicolored (think pink, orange, lime…but tastefully) patterned dresses, each with a different neckline. They were definitely dresses they could wear again! I wouldn’t have known they were bridesmaids if I hadn’t seen them all together!

  • Anonymous

    Having just spent over $600 on dresses for multiple weddings this summer…I would’ve gladly been in yours! Unfortunately, I wish brides would understand that it is NOT likely i’ll ever wear their $200 bridesmaids dress again. I just don’t know when they became so expensive/it became a habit to purchase a $200 dress for someone else’s event? I didn’t even spent that much on my own prom dress :)

    Love the jewel tones (like Charlotte’s wedding in SATC! They all wore jewel tones and it was beautiful!) and LOVE your flexibility.

  • I am not a fan of the matchy-matchy robot bridesmaids look. Why should everyone have to wear the exact same dress, shoes, jewelry and hairstyle? Yuck.

    My color pallete is charcoal grey with citrus tones (yellows & oranges). My mom, FMIL, and myself are making the maids’ dresses (4 girls). I took a couple of the girls to try on dresses in the bridal boutiques to get ideas. I picked out several pattern options for each girl and let them pick which one they liked best. So, they’ll each be wearing a charcoal grey dress, in the style of their choosing, which will be free to them (how can you ask someone to pay for fabric????). They’ll each have a different color of bouquet in a single type of flower (ranging from orange-red down to lemon yellow) that will really pop against the charcoal background.

    It’s win-win, really – I get the look I want, they get a dress they don’t hate.

  • Stephanie

    I am only having my younger sister as my maid of honor. Since she is in London until 3 weeks before the wedding, I think she is stressing about the dress more than me, but she could be a fit model since everything off the rack is amazing on her so we will just start looking in stores when the fall lines come out. Then she can find a dress she loves and will wear again and I can order it stateside for her.
    I’m hoping that anthropologie will come out with some lovely patterned pieces by then since that is her favorite store (and she is in London getting her Master’s in anthropology).

  • Gwynhyfar

    I’m doing this for my wedding I picked out a blue paint chip strip I liked (our colors are black, white, and blue) and handed it to my maids with these directions: cocktail length (knees to calf) and no plunging necklines or extreme cleavage. (Because of the church we’re getting married in it has to be somewhat modest). I also told them to wear their own black shoes and I’m making them black velvet boleros to go over to pull the look together. My MOH is wearing a dress she already has (but has never worn), and the rest are buying something they really will wear again. Lol so far the dresses all look beautiful together and actually are really close in color! But I can’t imagine telling them to spend $200 plus on a dress they don’t like just because I want a cohesive look!

  • when i was twenty i was a bridesmaid in a friend's wedding. my dress was a lavender ball gown and i thought it was so pretty. and i mistakenly thought i would find another occasion to wear it. of course, i didn't and ended up donating it later on. i suppose i am just as confused on you are. because if i were having attendants i wouldn't make them wear any particular dress, either.

    p.s. i also like adriana papell's dresses. i found inspiration in them when i was figuring out what kind of dress i wanted to wear.

  • Lana

    The purple dress on the cover of this website, where can I find it? I love it!