Once upon a time, in a galaxy not so far away, bridesmaid dresses looked like this. There were a lot of bonnets, and taffeta, and sometimes if you were lucky, taffeta with bonnets. It was… a look. A highly coordinated, very matching, little bit scratchy-around-the-seams look. And like any trend our parents’ generation perpetuated, we’ve spent the last two decades running as far away from that look as possible. Which is why if you’ve been a bridesmaid in the last decade or so, you’ve likely been on the receiving end of these seemingly innocent five words: “Pick whatever dress you want.”
Letting your wedding party pick their own bridesmaid dresses should be simple enough. You want your best people to look and feel good when they’re standing up next to you on your wedding day, so they should get to choose what they wear, right? But in practice, it can be a bit more complicated than that.
Take, me, for example. When I got married, I assigned each of my bridesmaids a color. Then I said, “Pick whatever dress you want.” But when I started getting pictures sent to me from the dressing room of our local department store, it became painfully clear that what I actually meant was, “Pick whatever you want. But only full length. And definitely not jersey cotton. And when I said green, I meant more like an emerald green, and not that teal color in the last five dresses you sent me.”
Luckily Meg and I have spent the last few years living out our own personal versions of 27 Dresses. And after several missteps on our behalf and the behalf of our charmingly disorganized friends, we’ve learned the secrets of what it takes to coordinate a painless wedding party experience. So today we’re partnering up with David’s Bridal to share our best tips on ensuring that you and your bridesmaids end up with dresses you (both) actually like. When we were in David’s Bridal last month trying on wedding dresses (for, um, research), Meg and I were shocked by just how modern and stylish David’s Bridal bridesmaid dresses have gotten in the last few years. We saw velvet, we saw sequins, we saw cool ’70s vibe bridesmaid dresses, heck, we even saw a few jumpsuits.
So if you haven’t figured out your wedding party game plan yet, here’s how to make it out with as few frantic text messages as humanly possible:
Be Mindful of Budget
We’re lucky that weddings have progressed to the point where bridesmaids are no longer considered accessories to you and your partner. But let’s be real for a sec: most of the folks in your wedding party have agreed to participate knowing that they will likely be asked to wear an ensemble that a) you’ve picked and b) they probably won’t wear again. And that’s okay! Because there are other ways to be considerate about what they wear, like making sure the dress they end up with is one they can afford. In fact, David’s Bridal let us hop on the phone with one of their lead stylists last week to give us some of their best tips for bridesmaid dress shopping, and they said their number one piece of advice is to be as mindful of your bridesmaids’ wallets as possible. David’s Bridal has tons of bridesmaid dresses under $100 (and a bunch on sale right now for like $35 to $50), and the most expensive bridesmaid dress you’ll find in store tops out at just under $250. Which means that you can let your wedding party members choose dresses within their means, without singling anyone out as the person who can’t afford the four dollar signs dress (because we’ve all been that person, and nobody wants to be called out for it). And guys, when I say David’s Bridal has a ton of bridesmaid dresses under $100, what I mean is they have a ton of cute bridesmaid dresses under $100:
Meg and I are both guilty of procrastinating on buying our bridesmaid dresses. But largely, that’s because neither of us realized how long it takes to have bridesmaid dresses ordered when you have something very specific in mind. Whoops! (We also have some back-pocket industry connections to bail us out if it comes to that, so DO NOT DO THIS unless you have David’s Bridal corporate on speed dial). But my new BFFs at David’s Bridal let me know that if you give yourself some extra time (like four months before the wedding), you can decrease your stress levels tenfold. Why? Because four months in advance basically gives you the run of options (like, literally, your choices will increase tenfold). Did you want that super now mauve color? Are your bridesmaids going to need alterations? Do you just want to save your best people the headache of freaking out a month before the wedding because all their favorite dresses are no longer available? ’Zactly. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by having to make a choice now, David’s Bridal offers styling appointments where you can come in by yourself or with your wedding party, and they’ll help figure out exactly what you do want.
On the flip side, if you know your people are going to procrastinate no matter what, do them a solid and choose more traditional dress colors that are likely to be in stock (at David’s Bridal this would be their navy aka marine, blush pink aka petal, and wine aka wine.) And if you don’t care about super matchy-matchy dresses, you can also extend the selection to include evening wear, which is more likely to be available in store in a variety of sizes (and also, the David’s Bridal evening wear is 🔥🔥🔥). I mean, 10/10 would have worn this as my MOH dress in my sister’s wedding. How is it only $129?
Narrow your focus
If you’re letting your wedding party choose their own dresses, the best way to avoid decision fatigue on their part is by giving specific parameters that make it easy to narrow the dress pool, with enough flexibility that they can insert their preferences into their outfit. Here are some ways to make that happen:
- Pick a fabric, a length and a color: The upside to shopping at a place like David’s Bridal is that the colors all have names. So if you’ve got your heart set on a specific definition of the color blue (aka you want bright blue, not light blue), you can simply choose names from a swatch. That way your wedding party isn’t stuck guessing at whether or not the blush pink gown they picked is too light or too dark or just right. You can be as specific as you want (color: marine; length: floor; fabric: chiffon) or open (color: anything in the pink or purple family; length: floor; fabric: flowy).
- Pick a bunch of dresses you like, and let your people choose: If you know your wedding party hates shopping, one of the easiest ways to narrow down choices for them is to pick a handful of dresses, and let them choose their favorite from the bunch. Just make sure to include a variety of silhouettes if you have diverse body types in your crew. I’d recommend at least one with straps and one with sleeves for bustier folks. And one off-the-shoulder style if I’m in your wedding party, kthanks? For color, the lead stylist at David’s Bridal let me know that darker or more saturated colors (think: jewel tones) tend to be more flattering on all skin types, whereas super light colors can wash people out.
Step Outside the Category
I mentioned above that David’s Bridal has a ton of bridesmaid dresses that I fell in love with when we were in the store last month. But I never would have known about them if I hadn’t physically gone inside one of their showrooms. Why? Because technically those dresses are evening gowns. So if your visions for your wedding party are a little more high fashion, a little more embellished, or a lot more sequined, then step outside the bridesmaid category and explore the rest of what David’s Bridal has to offer. Pro-tip: When my sister got married, she wanted her bridesmaids in simple black bridesmaid dresses, and the co-maids of honor in something a little bit fancier. So the bridesmaids shopped the traditional bridesmaid dress rack, while my baby sister and I hit up the evening gowns. And if your wedding party dreams involve lots of mixed textures and patterns, this is the place to go. Here are a few of my favorite evening gowns that would make super hot bridesmaid dresses:
Bold Floral Satin Ball Gown (available in plus and straight sizes)
I’m glad we’ve made the bridesmaid dress shopping process less torturous for all of our BFFs. No one should have to spend a dance party futzing with an ill-fitting gown they spent $250 on. And no one should ever repeat the atrocities of ’70s and ’80s bridesmaid fashions. But that doesn’t mean we have to make up for complicated ensembles with a complicated buying process.
This post was sponsored by David’s Bridal. If you want a one-stop-shop for fashion-forward bridesmaids dresses that don’t cost a fortune, David’s Bridal has some of the best stuff around. So if you’ve got champagne wedding tastes on a microbrew budget, go make an appointment with your crew at your local David’s Bridal today.