Good Bride/Bad Bride


After years of being a quiet observer of the bridal industry, I had ideas about the type of bride I wanted to be when the time came. I wouldn’t separate the wedding party from their dates at the reception. And I was totally going to write thank you notes right away. Above all, I would never make my bridesmaids wear matching dresses that they hated. I was going to be gracious, laid-back, elegant, and calm—the complete opposite of a “Bad Bride.” As I read message boards on that wedding-site-that-must-not-be-named, I smugly basked in my superiority of knowing that I would never ask my best friends to cover a tattoo or dye their hair for our wedding.

Then people started asking about our wedding plans, and I said that I was (gasp!) letting my bridesmaids wear different dresses. My bridesmaids don’t need to be clones, because I am not. A. Bad. Bride. And one of my bridesmaids would actually be my brother, and my fiancé’s sister would stand on the groom’s side. We weren’t trying to be different or shocking. It’s just what we wanted. Why should my sister get to stand with me, but not my brother? But other people seemed to have a hard time with it. There were multiple times when, in the same breath, I was told, “Well, it’s just not DONE that way. WHAT ABOUT THE PICTURES?!? DEAR GOD, THINK OF THE PICTURES!!!” and, “Remember, it’s YOUR day. Do what you want.”

So I defended my plans. I defended the shit out of them, for weeks. It became my giant act of rebellion against the wedding industry and anyone who even had the audacity to try telling me what my wedding should be. It’s my day, right? None of these ideas are new or groundbreaking, yet I still felt like I had to justify them to every single person who saw the diamond on my finger and felt that it was okay to question and criticize my choices.

I asked my two siblings and three close friends to stand by my side on my wedding day, and told them they could wear whatever they wanted; the only guideline was that it had to be peacock colors. I sent them peacock feathers and some paint swatches that had colors I liked, but left everything else up to them. I thought that would leave room for all kinds of interesting options, and no one would get stuck with something they didn’t like. I made a shared board on Pinterest, and we had a very fun time pinning lots of cute dresses. Since we were spread across the country, and everyone hadn’t met each other, I scheduled a group video chat for us to talk about everything.

I opened the chat with, “OMG! I’m so excited about this! Easiest bridesmaid gig ever! I don’t want a shower or bachelorette party, and you get to wear whatever you want! WOOH! Let’s drink champagne all day for the wedding!” Even as I was saying it, I felt like the cool mom from Mean Girls (“I’m a cool bride! There are NO RULES at this wedding! Want some alcohol?”). Unfortunately, that’s pretty much how I came across to the bridal party.

Then they asked me what I wanted them to wear. I responded something along the lines of, “Um…But…pick your own… I don’t know…. peacock? You’re the ones wearing it. Not me.” And they all looked at me uncomfortably. No one seemed to want to share any opinions, other than that they should all be similar lengths and fabrics. And maybe the same color, but, you know, different styles. And what about shoes? Those should all be the same, right? And how are we wearing our hair? What about accessories? We should all get our makeup done professionally so it looks good in the pictures, right?

I was completely floored. This was not at all how I had expected the conversation to go. If this were a work project, I would have no problem creating a game plan and giving clear direction so we could accomplish the task at hand. But these are my closest friends and siblings. I love them. I was scared that if I made a decision they didn’t like, they’d all hate it and resent me for it, and I’d be just another Bad Bride. My relationships with them are much more important to me than a dress, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was so worried about giving them freedom that I didn’t even consider that they might not want it.

As much as everyone keeps telling me that it’s my day (and some of the more thoughtful people add, “Well…and Andy’s”), I know that’s not true. Everyone else’s October 13 doesn’t cease to exist just because Andy and I are getting married. They all have feelings and opinions too. They all have to wake up, shower, put on a dress or suit, and mentally prepare for a very long, emotionally draining (in a good way) day. And I’m really grateful that they will.

At the end of the video chat, I knew we needed to figure something out, so I asked if it would be okay if I just picked a few specific colors from a popular dress website, and let them pick out a style from one of those. Later, Andy told me I should just assign a specific color to each person, or we’d end up with a weird mix of colors and more confusion. If anyone had a problem with it, too bad, because they had already had a chance to pick a color. (I didn’t like this idea at first, but he was totally right.) I also conceded on the length and fabric and gave them guidelines for that too, mainly because I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.

Because I felt bad. I felt bad that I had worked so hard to defend my idea of not being a controlling bride, but in the end, I was still basically telling them what to wear and conforming to The Way Weddings Are Done. Despite how smug I had been about not being a typical bride, I now felt inadequate as a practical, modern, feminist bride. Why couldn’t I pull off a casual wedding free of everything the wedding industry tells me I have to have? Why is it so hard to be the “right” kind of bride (whatever that is)?

In the end, while I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of telling them what to wear (bridesmaids are people, not props!) I think everyone was relieved that I had narrowed down the options and given some direction. And I was thrilled that we had still accomplished the ultimate goal of having a happy bridal party that wasn’t going to resent me over clothing. And even if we did eventually go with The Way Weddings Are Done, doing so didn’t make me a Bad Bride. Or a good bride. And it certainly did make me a happy bride, and it made everyone else comfortable. So there’s always that.

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  • Oh this is so hard to navigate sometimes. I witnessed it with my sister’s wedding. She was also going for the laid-back, vague color scheme instructions. Pretty much everyone (that means me, her sister, the close family of the groom, my sister in law, and some close friends of my sis) knew that the wedding would follow a Monsters Inc + Rapunzel theme (that is turquoise + lilac).
    Because my sister in law and I are quite close we ended up choosing dresses in the same fabric, but different styles from the same online shop (we live in different countries). A couple of the cousins of the groom had their dresses done¡ of a matching fabric as well (a different one, me + sister in law were turquoise-greenish, and the cousins’ dresses were bluish). Up til then everything fine. I found some turquoise ties for the best men (my brother, the brother’s of the groom and some close friends) to wear and that was pretty much it.
    There was no real “bridal party” , no designated roles just some people that knew the basic guidelines and chose to dress accordingly. It all went smoothly, until the day of the wedding when a cousin, who had distanced herself a bit from my sister, and therefore did not hung out that much together, felt left out that some people looked matchy matchy (not that matchy but you get the idea) and she had not been asked / informed. She felt that she should have been a bridesmaid, etc… (she was there at the bachelorette and other activities) but there was no such thing. It’s just that the cousins of the groom (they are 16-18 years old, 3 girls) looked like they were because they had matching dresses (same as me and my sister in law).
    Relationships are complicated….
    I guess communication is the best, as always, but when there are so many preestablished rules, and you don’t want to follow them it gets hard to pave your own way without hurting someone’s feelings among the path.

    • HOPE

      Thought I’d offer some perspective from the other end of the equation, since I was recently a bridesmaid for a spectacular bride who also attempted the perfect mix-and-match bridal party attire theme. Here’s the problem- you either have to let it go entirely in the “really, wear whatever you want, it doesn’t have to match in the slightest” vein, or you’ll end up with everyone feeling like there is some secret “right” answer and now it’s your responsibility to make everything look effortlessly put together and unique. It can also breed a bit of competition among the bridesmaids, for instance in my case the bride had picked two color options and then when we all went shopping together, everyone magically wanted the same color. We all felt bad because we knew she wanted us to look unique and eclectic, but then again, if some of us got to wear a dress in a color we liked, why should others of us have to suck it up and wear the less flattering color? These dresses weren’t cheap! All this is to say that while I completely understand how difficult it can feel to ask your closest friends to parade around in something you pick out for them for an entire day (really, I get it, it’s bizarre), in the end all a bridesmaid really wants is to know they’ve made their friend happy on their wedding day, and the best way to guarantee that is to just pick a damn dress (or very limited selection of dresses) that they know you love.

      • carrie

        What an interesting perspective. Thanks so much for this.

      • My poor sister has now dealt with both ends of the ‘maid dress stick. For her best friend’s wedding she ended up in an ill-fitting, kind of expensive dress she will never wear again because that was the style/color/shape the bride wanted everyone in. For my wedding she was my only attendant, and she really struggled with “just pick whatever you want. In any color you want.” We got into a gchat “fight” about three choices at one point, where I kept insisting “I don’t care, whichever one you like best” and she kept coming back with “What I want doesn’t matter!! Which one do YOU like??” It was too much pressure because, as you said, all she wanted was for me to be happy. When neither party particularly cares either way, I think decision-making should fall on the person who’s getting married.

      • Jaya

        This is why I want my bridesmaids, if I even have any, to seriously wear whatever they want!

        (Also OMG I accidentally reported your comment instead of clicking Reply the first time and I AM SO SORRY)

      • sfw

        I think you are right on with this. I tried to be the wear-whatever-you-want (that’s purple) bride and eventually realized that my vagueness (even though it was genuinely coming from my wish to honor their individuality) was stressing my bridesmaids out! So in the end I chose a dress on a popular website and they all got the same color and length in slightly different styles. It wasn’t the eclectic but somehow totally awesome ensemble of bridesmaids I had envisioned for my wedding, but it was still lovely and everyone felt good about it (my bridesmaids because they hadn’t inadvertently ended up in something I hated and me because they weren’t spending their energy agonizing over dresses I didn’t really care about) so there’s that.

      • DKTX

        Yes, exactly. I completely agree with the post–brides can’t win either way, and really, bridesmaids can’t either. In my recent experience as a bridesmaid too, the bride gave us a color range and a length and a fabric, and told us to buy something that we liked. Oh, and it was a short engagement, so there wasn’t time to order from bridal stores. She thought she was making it easy on us and saving us money, and for a few of the ‘maids, it was/did. They were able to find something off the rack that fit her guidelines, but me and another girl really struggled to find something. I would have been much happier if she’d picked one dress or, given the time constraint, let us have free reign. I ended up feeling like the bad bridesmaid who couldn’t follow instructions and was still looking for a dress two weeks before the wedding.

      • Amanda E

        @Hope, I *think* I’m being the girl who is letting it go in the “really, really, it doesn’t have to match. In fact, it SHOULDN’T” kind of way. I hope. I guess I’ll never really know since it’s not like my girls will tell me. But truly, the only thing I really care about is that each lady wear one of my five colors, and that they wear deep dark saturated versions of the colors, not watered down pastels. I actually don’t even mind if they double up one color and leave another out, though I have certain colors I’d rather see doubled than others. But so far, it’s working out that each lady has picked a different color — and it seems like they’re all happy! (Yay!) I hope they’re not just telling me it’s OK and secretly stressing. But I’ve done a ton of online shopping and sent like 5-10 dress ideas to each girl, and pinned them all to a Pinterest board so they can all see the kinds of styles I like.
        Here’s my board in case anyone’s interested:

      • Denzi

        Yes. As a bride who had a very, very eclectic mix of dresses and suits and such amongst her bridesninjas, it took a while for me to realize that my lovely friends were frustrated because they were thinking “green” in a specific range and not wanting to clash too badly, and I was thinking, “If it has the slightest hint of green and you like it, TAKE IT! Yellow is close enough to green! Blue is close enough! Grey is close enough!” And the feminine-leaning persons ended up in all sorts of different dresses, and the masculine-leaning persons all coincidentally picked the exact same tux vest, and both of those things were totally okay.

        But I do wish I had communicated this better sooner, and saved my friends some stress.

  • Teresa

    This is so hard! I started with the same intentions and told my bridesmaids to just pick a navy dress and boy did that fall flat! They asked me to be more specific–they thought it should be from the same store, so the shade of navy matched. They thought it should be the same fabric, so it didn’t look weird in pictures. So, I looked at the J.Crew website, found which bridesmaid dresses come in the most styles, eliminated taffeta b/c it makes me sad, and asked them to choose any navy dress in silk chiffon. I think it felt like too much pressure on all of them to pick something that they thought I would like, even though I was trying to make it easy on them by letting them wear something they were comfortable in. That much freedom made them panic–they honestly just wanted me to make the decision for them! In the end, each of my ladies chose a different style navy silk chiffon dress that fit their body type well and they felt comfortable in and I loved them all. They look beautiful and comfortable in the photos and I think that’s the best we could all hope for!

    • Moe

      Taffeta makes me sad too.

      • It is such a hard material. And so many wedding dresses (at least where I am) were made of it, with sparkles on top.

        • Moe

          Perhaps it’s my age, but taffeta makes me think of 1989 prom season.

    • Jessica

      I asked my 2 bridesmaids to pick out navy dresses at knee length. The guidelines I gave them were that they needed to feel beautiful in the dresses, and they could spend whatever they wanted on them (which included the caveat: if you want to splurge a little out of your price range, you can totally blame it on me). Thus far one bridesmaid has sent me 2 options for herself, and they were both gorgeous. I told her to choose the one she would wear more often after the wedding–she seemed happy with that statement, but may ask me for more direction closer to the wedding.

      I chose to do this because I currently have a bridesmaids dress that is Sunshine Yellow with Tangelo trim hanging in the bad of my closet that fits me like a glove, but because of the colors I will never wear it again. This Sunshine Yellow dress ended up costing me $300, which is more than I plan on spending on my own wedding dress.

      Taffeta makes me happy in theory, but only because of Young Frankenstein. Taffeta darling!

    • Katie

      THIS, exactly! I didn’t think I’d cause the kind of stress/pressure when I told my pals to wear a black cocktail dress. At the same time, I was surprised that they wanted more structure than that, IE what material? What shade of black (real question)? They each independently wanted to run the dress by me too, and decided as a group to purchase matching shoes! It all worked out in the in, but I did have some pangs of bad feeling-ness about the lack of preference on my part!

      • Huh, “black, approximately around the knee length, not a strapless dress” worked relatively well for me….but it was just for 2 people, so that probably helped a ton. :) One even got to wear a dress she already had…perfect!

      • MDBethann

        A good friend of mine recently went through this when she was in another friend’s wedding. Having been in my wedding a few months earlier, she said she found the total freedom of “black, jersey dress with sleeves” from anywhere a lot more stressful than my guidance of “Alfred Angelo, X shade of blue, any of the knee-length chiffon dresses except dress Y because that’s the one my MOH is wearing.” I found that giving my bridesmaids, all of different heights and body types, specific store, shade, length, and material guidance was helpful to them. I was just careful to pick a store that had a range of options in my chosen material and color to increase the likelihood that they’d find something comfortable for them. I don’t know if they all loved the color, but it was one of the few shades that worked with their different complexions.

        I think if you can give guidance on everything but the cut of the dress, it helps. The cut of the dress is where comfort comes in. And just be considerate when picking the color(s).

    • Stacey

      I thought I was being laid back, considerate of them as indivduals and even slightly chuffed at myself being creative….me at the beginning of planning ‘hey girls can the four of you find a dress in the colour blue, or blue as the main colour ‘.
      I outlined I didn’t want matchy matchy…..said to each ‘I want you to be yourself’, ‘wear dress again’, ‘spend what your comfortable with’ even ‘beg, borrow steal a dress’ blah blah.
      My only stipilation was not formal\cocktail dress please as garden wedding …..OMG, you would of thought I asked for their left kidney :p…i was meet with……’what type of blue, shade, tone, strapless, straps, cut, fabric, length’???!! Ahaaaaaa!!!
      ‘.we cannot buy it from different shops!!! …blah blah blah!!!
      I really didn’t mind but it did seem too stress them out!!! so I narrowed down a tone range….using paint swatches as well, sent them each individual ideas and encouragment……they now have a dress too wear next month….but …still has been a mission!!!
      Majority of the four (MOHgot it) still seemed so worried that it will “just not look right”…..and when I told each other what dress the other had they freak out cas theirs is not the same!!!! I just tell them to chill and it will be perfect :)
      In hindsight I would maybe choose two or three tones, a length, cut and fabric and say go find!!!

  • Like it or not–the hard, cold reality is that most people don’t like unlimited choices. They simply don’t know where to start and they get overwhelmed. Heck, I’ve felt that way in the shampoo aisle at Rite-Aid! It can be so frustrating for those among us who want people to have a say–take things and run with it, so to speak. Yeah, right. Not happenin’.

    Throw in the fact that it’s their friend/family’s wedding (a.k.a. “THE most important day of their lives”) and people get paralyzed with the fear of choosing the “wrong” thing and spoiling such a momentous occasion.

    Not sure what the solution is, other than to do what you did and offer limited choices (an old parenting trick from way back!).

  • Oh my gosh, so much this. I only ended up having two tearful wedding freakouts–one of which was about the bridesmaid dresses and trying to make everyone happy. Or at least, I thought I was trying to make everyone happy by letting them pick something they’d all love and want to wear again and again. (Ha!) In the end, my bridesmaids were more than happy to let me pick something. I think being the “cool bride” ends up being a lot more work and pressure for everyone. Sometimes people just want a particular answer, like “Here’s a moderately priced dress that people will look nice in.”

  • JC

    I was recently a bridesmaid (well, groomsmaid) in a Laid Back Pick Everything Yourself wedding, and I found it extremely stressful! I can’t tell you how many times I went back and forth with the bride “Can’t you just pick it for me? I really want it to be what you want, not what I want” “No, I want you to be happy in what you’re wearing!” “But I’ll be happy if you get the look YOU want for YOUR wedding!”

    In the end, I picked a bunch of grey dresses online and emailed them to her, she narrowed that list down to three and then I picked my favorite of the three. I think that was a pretty good compromise – I got her approval before picking a dress, and she still felt like I was picking my own.

  • Well, I found the best way to go about this issue is to give your brides examples. I’m the same way — “Wear whatever you want!” — but people get confused when you do that. So, I picked a neutral color for my bridesmaids (grey) and then started finding dresses online — not just “bridesmaids” dresses. I was on Macy’s, Modcloth, even Forever 21 finding ‘example’ dresses that they could pick. It’s not about being the “cool” bride, these bridesmaids are doing this to make you happy, so it’s important to give them SOME guidance. I’m not going to do the whole “It’s YOUR DAY” thing, because, well, I don’t feel that way. Sure, it’s your day, but it’s also your fiance’s day. And your parents’ day. And his parents’ day. But, what it boils down to is it’s YOUR PARTY TO PLAN. So, maybe we should start saying that rather than “It’s YOUR day” when we’re really just trying to say, “Hey, you’re throwing this great party and because of that, you’re probably going to want things to look a certain way.”

    My main concern with bridesmaids dresses, and why I ultimately went the mismatched route is because a) I didn’t want to force anyone to break the bank buying things for my wedding. I’m trying to do this on the cheap, so why should I force them to dole out $200 on a dress? (MY dress was only $200) and b) I wanted my bridesmaids to be able to look the way they wanted to look at my wedding. I think it’s almost as important to a bridesmaid to look “OMG AMAZING” at your wedding as it is for you.

    • Ah, yes. I made a one page collage of dresses that wear the types of stuff I had in mind scanned it and emailed it to everyone. (You know, printed images I glued on a page then scanned, in the days before Pinterist….) But I am a very visual person, so I did it for me as much as for them. (I did that for other parts of the wedding too, to figure out the visual look of what we were going for…)

  • Can I exactly this whole post? No?

    At the outset of planning I wanted to do the bridesmaids in white thing bc I think it looks SO COOL to have everyone in white. When I told this to some of my bridesmaids, I could tell they were WAY uncomfortable with the idea (don’t wear white to a wedding is ingrained hard in people’s heads). Although I still think it would have been awesome, there was no reason I couldn’t choose another color that they would all be more comfortable wearing. I ended up choosing a convertible/infinity dress from Only one BM has ordered so far, but she loves the dress and my other bridesmaids say they browse the site all the time thinking about which style they are going to wear (and as of now they think it could totally be a rewearable special occasion dress, fingers crossed). We went with online shopping bc all the bridesmaids are spread across the NE, and I’m in another country, so yeah. Traditional shopping: not an option.

    • I just went to check out that website and those dresses are super pretty. I kind of want one just for fun, so versatile. (Except you pay taxes for whatever comes in from outside the EU…. so I might have to send it to someone in the US)

  • Lauren

    I straight-up could not find flattering bridesmaids dressed in the color I want(ed) (hunter or sage, thanks!) AND I have a bridal party where everyone has a challenging body type (plus, short, skinny, tall, busty… You name it!) AND a mix of skin tones so dark green wouldn’t look good on some and sage wouldn’t look good on others. So I went with two colors in about 12 dresses on a well-known site that lets your party pick from a list, rank favorites and then you choose out of their faves.

    Well, everyone ended up picking the same color (the one I actually don’t like too much) except my MOH. But I think that will look cool. I’m honestly more concerned with the guys’ suits? I don’t want it to look like a frat party. Any tips on how to do cool-kinda-mismatchy dudewear?

    • Teresa

      We asked all of the groomsmen to get a medium-grey suit and to wear a white shirt underneath and black dress shoes (we figured most dudes have a white button up and black dress shoes already, so that’d be easy). We purchased matching ties as part of their gift. I think having a white shirt, which there really isn’t much shade variation in white, having the matching ties, as well as matching boutonnieres really pulled everything together. I don’t think anyone noticed that the greys weren’t exactly matching and I think the guys looked especially great b/c their suits fit them well, as opposed to renting a cheap tux, which never quite fits the way you want it to!

      • I gave our guys basically the same guidelines, grey suits white shirts. They aren’t American though, and are really excited to be groomsmen. They responded to my simple request “But what if we WANT to match??” So they are getting matching suits custom made (with a Groupon/group discount) (4 of the 5 wear suits everyday for work, so I think they were actually happy to have an excuse to shop/get a custom suit. File under: perks of having metrosexual groomsmen)

        • Hahahaa. Mark was super happy to get a fancy slim suit for our wedding. He uses it every chance he gets (not really to work though). It was like finally, I can splurge on something that fits really good and I get to reuse.

        • All the groomsmen, save one, at our wedding are British (as is my fiance). It’s so funny to see tradition at work – they just naturally assumed that they’d be wearing morning coats, and I’m like, “but it’s a simple wedding in the woods!”

          But you know what? Morning suits are AWESOME and they’ll look totally cool in them!

      • Teresa

        Also, I found to be seriously awesome (and my husband says they are GQ approved, which means he was happy!). Ties can be pricey and it can be hard to find a bunch of the same tie in one place. Tie Bar is very reasonably priced (we paid $15 per tie) and they had loads of different styles (skinny, super skinny, wide, bow tie) and you can search by color and pattern! And, for being so reasonably priced, they looked expensive and all of our groomsmen/bridesman really liked that, and I think that’s saying something for a magenta and navy striped tie! So, if you’re going with matching ties, I’d really recommend them!

    • Dudeswear is easier to do kinda-mismatchy, because (unless you do rentals) no two suits are going to be exactly the same. Even if you tell them grey or navy (two easy colors that a lot of guys already have in their closets), you get differences — different shades of grey/navy, different subtle patterns, different lapels, etc.

      One other option to throw in the ring–give them a tie color, and let them pick their own tie. (For the record — I wanted to do this, my groom thought it’d be “weird”. So we ended up picking/buying ties for the groomsmen. Which, honestly, I think OUR groomsmen appreciated — picking their own ties would have been too much pressure. But if YOUR dudes are up for it, it could be cool!).

    • Moe

      I asked all the guys to get a black suit and white dress shirt. I have one guy who is super thin of average height, and a cousin who is 6’4 and the size of a linebacker. There was no way to dress all those dudes in one suit and have them look decent.

      I picked out their ties, same grey color family with various patterns. The groom in a skinny black tie.

      The coolest ring boy ever is wearing a Star Wars bowtie. I have it at home and I’m tempted to wear it myself just once.

  • Coco

    I wish I had read this a month ago! I wasn’t keen on dictating what our small wedding party wore (other than my niece flower girl — she’s wearing MY fantasy dress –gold sequins! tulle!). I said it was because I wanted to be “good bride”, but mostly it was because I was suffering from decision fatigue and really wanted to push it off on others. But maybe that wasn’t being “good bride”.

    In the end, instead of having the “coordinated dresses that still manage to reflect personalities of the 30-something bridesmaid (my sister) and the teen groomsmaid (SO’s teenage daughter)” –hah!, they are both happily wearing the same dang dress. With different shoes.

    Part of me is a little disappointed they are matching, because I didn’t want to look like the evil bride that forced everyone into the same dress. I wanted to be creative and different (like everyone else). But that feeling lasted all of 10 minutes and now I’m just relieved that the dresses are ordered and I don’t need to worry about it. Maybe insisting that they have to make the decisions for me made me the evil bride.

    • Moe

      There are just not enough occasions in life to wear tulle and gold sequins.

      Yes, there is a certain relief in making decisions and moving on!! I was so excited to get the damn invitations out the door!

  • My sister and I are going through something similar right now! We’re both getting married in the fall — five weeks apart, actually — and are doing double-duty shopping for a maid of honor dress for me and a matron of honor dress for her. My bridal party is small (just two people, including my sis), but hers is bigger: five people, including me. From the get-go, I’ve been wary of becoming a Bad Bride — and so has my sister. When corralling her bridal party recently for dress appointments, she said, “It’s totally up to you! Whatever you want! Just make sure it’s blue, and I’m good!”

    Until we all started trying on dresses.

    I was in chiffon. A friend was in jersey. Someone else was in satin. Yet another buddy chose a long style to our short ones . . . and the madness went on and on. Though at the end of the day, I know it doesn’t really matter what style/fabric/whatever we all choose, my sis eventually had to narrow down the choices so we could all have some direction. It really was overwhelming having no point of reference, and we all know her and love her; we understand she’s not being pushy or mean about the whole thing. It’s just . . . sometimes how it goes.

    So now we’re all in short dresses, chiffon or jersey, in one very specific shade of blue. Though I hear we can wear our hair however we like. :)

  • Jashshea

    I’m pretty sure all those pictures we see of delightfully mismatched dresses are a) photoshoots b) fashion industry people or c) the result of the bride picking out all of the dress so they look delightfully mismatched.

    I avoided this particular situation by not having a wedding party on either side. But…I did the same thing wrt to decor. I told my MIL (who LOVES decorations/parties/etc) that I wanted it to look “uh, like fall? In New England?” Nevermind that she’s from the South. She drove herself crazy trying to get into my head until I finally realized what I was doing to her and sent her some pictures to use as inspiration (I hate that word). Lesson learned for me: while I didn’t need to be super specific about every detail, I did need to provide a starting point to the people who were working with me.

  • Karen

    I think this discussion is interesting. In our places of work, if our bosses said to us “I don’t know, just do the work for this extremely important project but I’m not going to tell you what to do or how to do it” we’d freak out. People need direction. Without direction of some kind we have paralysis. Studies have shown (I believe I heard about this through Freakonomics) about how difficult it is to make choices when the choices are limitless. When employers offer their employees a huge number of possible mutual funds and 401ks to invest in, they get less participation then when they only offer a small number. It is a lot less stress on everyone.

    I think the bigger point is the difficulty women have about being direct and not feeling bad about it. Sometimes you want a specific thing – and it’s not bad to say that. It’s actually helpful to others involved. But the cultural narrative is that we’re a b*** if we’re direct. We need to find a way to get over it. If people call me a b*** fine, but I get the job done. This is the same issue women, and especially women bosses faced when they first came into the workforce and still face to some degree. We need to call bullsh*t on it.

    There is nothing wrong with having an opinion. It won’t make any of us a “bad bride”; it will make you a bride who knows what you want, even if all you want is for people to wear what’s comfortable and re-wearable.

  • Kristen

    I feel like I wrote this. The more I tried to be the “Good Bride” the more people wanted to stomp all over me. You’re not doing it right. Pick my dress for me. At the end of the day, if you’re an adult and someone tells you that you being there is all that matters and to wear whatever you want, pick something already. Only one of my three bridesmaids gleefully took my dictate and ran straight to the dressmaker with the perfect excuse to have a dream dress made. The other two made it feel like the worst sort of work as though EVERY OTHER DAY OF THEIR LIVES they don’t pick their own outfits.

    I also think it is potentially dishonest to wrap the issue of bridesmaids dresses in “Having too many choices.” While I’m sure there are brides who say to wear whatever you want, but actually care, some brides (like me!) seriously didn’t care. I just wanted my ladies to be happy and to not have to buy anything if they didn’t want to. When some pressured me to pick things or spend tons of time yaying or naying their choices, it became about them and no longer was about trying to make me happy.

    Unfortunately for me, wedding planning brought out the worst in almost every person I knew, with the thankful exception of my groom and one of my bridesmaids. It’s shocking how selfish people can be, but admittedly, people can only be as selfish as you allow them to be. I wish I had stopped worrying about wanting to be a “Good Bride” and instead focused on being a “Happy Person”. That’s why this post is I think seriously important and could have saved me some tears; you can’t be the “Good Bride” because it doesn’t exist. Do yourself a favor and be the “Best Bride You Can Be” and forgive yourself when you can’t.

    • I love your whole first paragraph. Having never been a bride or a bridesmaid, I can only take all these other lovely ladies at their word that this indecision happens. To me, I can’t imagine a bride asking me to pick whatever and being frozen in indecision. I LOVE picking out fancy outfits, and I’d have so much fun trying on everything in my wardrobe.

      Like you said, people pick out clothes to wear every single day! In fact, they pick mismatching dresses to wear every single wedding! But it seems not everyone follows that train of thought.

  • efletch

    Wow this post is really making me re think my strategy with my ladies. I really want for them to be happy and comfortable and I in my own laziness just really don’t care what they wear. I can see though how giving no direction just puts a lot of pressure on them which is the opposite of what I am trying to do. I guess I will just look for some comfortable and not expensive options. Any one have any good suggestions of nice but not expensive dresses that fit a range of body types?

    • Laurel

      Do you REALLY not care? Because you can just tell them to wear what they’d wear anyway. It’s not like you’re going to pick all your wedding guests outfits. It mostly gets complicated if you care about some details but not others.

    • Emily

      Have to give a shout-out to Little Borrowed Dress for this!

      Found it on APW of course, and they are wonderfully affordable $50 dress rentals. I loved that I could pick a color and tell my bridesmaids to pick any style they felt most comfortable in. All the dresses are in the same fabric, extra bonus. I tried them on in NYC and really great in person too!

      • Brytani

        I second this. My oldest and dearest friend is getting married and sent the whole bridal party swatches of light pink hues, asking us to pick any dress we want that’s floor length and somewhere in the neighborhood of those colors. I took one look at the varying shapes and sizes of our sisterhood of bride supporters and said, “how about we get some LBD action rolling?” They’re fantastic. Shades and styles that work for anyone plus great customer service. If any of your girls have questions about which would work best for them, they can call or email and get an honest recommendation.

        Now if I can just get my other bride-friend on the LBD bandwagon…

    • kyley

      Honestly, I’m having kind of the opposite experience of this post. So fear not, it can be done!

      Like you, I really just can’t be bothered to care what my ladies wear. Also, selecting a dress for everyone (with their different budgets, taste, and body shapes) seems, to me, like a very special kind of nightmare. So here’s what I said: pick a short dress that is a soft neutral–light grey, ivory, peach, lilac, etc. I specified that I did not care about the material, that it did not have to be a “bridesmaid” dress, and I was entirely unconcerned with the dresses matching each other. I sent them a picture of a bridal party in that color scheme, for general reference. And then I re-emphasized that I really do not care, beyond everyone finding something that they really love.

      And it’s going great. Everyone loves the plan! The key, though, is being very clear about what you do care about (for me, general color scheme and cocktail length) and also be very clear about what you do not care about (for me, basically everything else). I think in these situations people stress because they aren’t clear what matters and worry that some unspoken thing is actually important. So just be very clear in your communication and its a non-issue, in my experience.

      • kyley

        I should add that I’m maid of honor in another wedding this year, and she’s doing something similar to me, but with a little more structure: long, black chiffon dresses–and everything else is up to us. Super low stress, and everyone is happy.

        • soraya

          This is exactly what I’m doing. I sent a pic of a bridal party in my color scheme but all completely different dresses to give an idea what it would look like. I told them the color (shades of pink) and please not too short. It doesn’t need to be a bridesmaid dress. As long as they like their dresses and are looking good, comfortable and happy that’s all I really want, which I told them. We are doing our own makeup and I’m getting someone to do the hair (since mine is rather unmanageable), but they can do it however they want. And wear whatever shoes they want in my color scheme (pink,purple,yellow,ivory).

          Honestly I think it looks outdated for bridesmaids to be wearing the exact same thing with their hair the same and the same shoes, etc. I made it clear I didn’t like the way that looked and that I didn’t want to think about their dresses, since I’ll have enough going on. Its really just a big party, lets all be happy and comfortable!

          • rebeccajean

            Same. My wedding has come and gone, and as far as I could tell, my mismatched-but-vaguely-coordinated bridesmaids plan went off without a hitch. The only “critique” I ever got was second-hand through one of my bridesmaids — apparently her mother thought I should AT LEAST decide on a specific color for everyone to wear. But even she was won over in the end. ;) A few things I did that I think were probably helpful for my girls: I too created a Pinterest board for them to refer to. It includes a lot of samples of dresses I’d come across that I felt would work, as well as pictures of other bridal parties that had the overall look I was going for, which I think really helped everyone picture what it was that I was trying to do. And I sent them the following guidance in an email:
            Dresses should be super easy, I’m hoping. Everybody gets to pick their own, and they definitely do NOT have to be “official” bridesmaid dresses, and I’m totally cool with more casual fabrics. As long as it’s a shade of blue, it’s good. And if someone hates blues for some reason, certain shades of greens or purples could possibly be OK. Basically if it’s a color that makes you think of water, it’s a winner. If you have to ask yourself “Is this color blue or green?” or “Blue or purple?” then it’s probably perfectly acceptable. I would prefer NOT floor-length dresses, but there too, if anyone has an issue with that for some reason, I could probably be flexible. The overall goal is for everyone to end up with something that is LEGITIMATELY re-wearable. In fact, if anyone already owns something that they think would fit the bill, that is just awesome. :) Likewise, if anyone has anything in their closet that they think would work, but you don’t actually want to wear it yourself, feel free to offer it up as an option for someone else. Shoes, hair, and accessories are all whatever you want. And as far as anything else goes, you can pretty much be as involved (or not) as you want. My expectations are pretty darn laid-back. I just want you to hang out with me, because you’re all awesome. :)
            Most of the girls sent me links for dresses they were considering, some ultimately needed my help to track something down, and some worked completely on their own, and it all worked out great, if I do say so myself!

          • rebeccajean

            Oops — sorry, can’t seem to reply to my own comment. Anyway, just wanted to add that in addition to the guidelines I mentioned below, I sent the information out as a group email that I encouraged my ladies to “reply all” to whenever they made any progress in their dress search. It helped everyone get a clear idea of what exactly the look of the bridal party was shaping up to be, and I think helped avoid anyone ending up with something that gave the appearance of missing the mark, in terms of everyone else’s choices.

    • Diane

      Joielle (an APW advertiser) is a GREAT source of affordable dresses. I picked a color, fabric and length (so there was some structure) and had the women standing up with me choose a style. That left them with about 40 options, none more than about $150, that could fit a wide variety of body types. Everyone at least claims to be pleased, in general the dresses need little or no tailoring, and I think it will look lovely. For my group, I think it’s been the right balance of structure and flexibility.

      I did finally make a decision on shoe color because they all agreed that they wanted to wear shoes of the same color but they were all over the place about which of the three options that I suggested was the best one. I also sent a zillion Zappo links to some of them to help with ideas.

  • Sarah

    YES! YES! YES!

    I have found that not being specific often confuses family and friends – I think because they feel its a trap and want to fit into your vision, which they can’t see because you aren’t explaining it.

    My fiancee’s family is much more religious then we are and while I want shoulders covered for the ceremony, I did not want my bridesmaids (who are not that religious) to feel like they needed to follow somebody else’s rules. Especially when I fell in love with a dress that did not fit the rules exactly. We found a dress that required a cover-up but I let my bridesmaids pick the cover (they all picked the same one . . . I think because it was the cheapest and I really did not care). My fiancee’s family has a tradition of wearing dresses within the color scheme (I think part of it is that it is not traditional to have a bridal party) and they are so anxious about being the right color, long vs short since they prefer long but my bridesmaids are wearing short and even if its okay to be in the wedding color scheme because I have a wedding party. Somehow, “I want you to be comfortable and have fun” is not enough guidance.

    I’ve discovered, if you pick you wedding party/family/support group right, everybody just wants to help you have that “perfect” day and be there to support you through a wonderful, yet stressful, time. And as long as you support them in those efforts then you are a good bride.

    • Jen

      my mother-in-law really felt that her outfit should match or at least be in the same colour theme as the bridesmaids dresses, and she kept asking me what my mom was going to wear (whatever she wants! she’s the mother of the bride!!) because she also felt like maybe they should be co-ordinating their outfits…while it was something I wasn’t really expecting (just pick something you love!!), it wasn’t such a big deal. The thing that I DID feel was a bit strange, is that she just assumed that her husband, my father-in-law, would be wearing the same thing as the groomsmen. For her it was totally normal, but for me it was TOTALLY OUT OF LEFT FIELD! I still can’t really get past the fact that it was just such a natural assumption for her – I don’t think I’ve ever seen the father of the groom or father of the bride completely matching the guys in the wedding party! Anyhow…it all worked out, he wore something very similar so he fit in but wasn’t exactly the same and it was lovely and REALLY DIDN’T MATTER on the wedding day! :)

  • Anya

    I totally agree! I had this same issue when we got married, and I let my sister and bestie choose the color (nude), which I was totally cool about. My issue was that I hadn’t really been clear about the level of formality I wanted, and despite a strong desire to not have to really involve myself in every dress, I went dress shopping and did the “okaying” for most of the dresses, despite coming to the realization that I don’t really care about other people’s dress choices / I want more formality than originally outlined / I will not say a bad word. I didn’t say a bad word, and despite some head drama pre-wedding, I couldn’t care less at my actual wedding. As outlined above, if you choose to do this, be very, very clear. That being said, everyone seemed genuinely grateful to get to choose their own dresses.

  • Writer of this post here –
    Thanks for all the kind words! It’s crazy how many of us have gone through the exact same thing. The bridesmaids ended up looking fantastic in their different dresses, and everything was exactly how I wanted it to be.

    I was thinking about this the other day, and for those of you still figuring out the dresses and want to go the mismatched route – I think I figured out a formula.

    1. Length
    2. Color
    3. Fabric
    4. Style

    Pick two and give criteria for those. You’re golden.

    • KC

      I entirely agree! The only qualifier is that I think the bridesmaids should be given some sort of method to discuss or share pictures amongst themselves ahead of time so that you don’t end up with everyone-except-one-person looking mostly matchy and that one person looking like they didn’t get the memo (or didn’t follow apparent, but non-existent, instructions, thereby disappointing the family FOREVER).

    • Moe


      If you give your bridesmaid the freedom to choose, they need some boundaries or parameters to stay within.

    • KateM

      I think that is great comment. I have been a bridesmaid 9 times and I have a closet full of hideous dresses.
      I was all about them picking whatever they wanted, just in grey. That bombed. We worked through it, but I refused that have someone have to spend $200-$500 on a dress unless they picked it out and wanted it. They are still paying for parties, showers, shoes, hair, jewelry, alterations, and then typically a gift on op of that. Even if you don’t specify any of the above most people end up spending it. I would have hated to put financial stress on a friend or worse, have them back out because they didn’t have the money to spend.

  • Amy

    I did this with my bridesmaids too, and while I gave them pretty specific guidelines: knee-length, summery-yellow, please for the love of God pick something you’ll wear again, I don’t care, they still all ran their dress choices by me first. And while they were all pretty different: cotton, satin, jersey, silk, strapless, spaghetti straps, v-necks, etc, they each looked beautiful in their dresses and as a group looked like a gorgeaous bouquet of flowers. Perfect for a high-summer wedding. And I know for a fact that at least two of them have worn their dress since! It couldn’t have turned out better.

  • sandyliz

    I’ve decided to avoid this dilemma by assigning someone in the wedding brigade to help everyone choose outfits. One of my ladies is super fashionable and knowledgeable, so I know she can help everyone make choices and narrow down options based on “I want you to be very comfortable, feel like a million bucks, and wear something colorful”. And she gets to help by doing something she already does well- give people advice on what to wear.

    I think I’m going to have a bigger issue with the gentlemen in the group. I don’t like the look of all neutral suits with matching ties, but I haven’t seen anything I do like. Plus one of the guys gave me a five minute talking to about how great he looks in a suit (which was adorable).

    Does anyone else have a good idea for getting the guys to wear a lot of color without wearing just tshirts?

    • I mean, you can put them in neutral suits and instead of adding the color on the tie, you could do colored dress shirts (and maybe using that color to contrast/accent the bridesmaids dresses). Of course it depends on your crowd and how often they wear clothes that formal, and I think this would be easier with a darker suit color… navy or charcoal grey or black.

      • sandyliz

        I would ideally like to avoid suits. The wedding is on a farm, and involves miles of walking up and down hills. But I’ll definitely add this to the list of possibilities for the fashion coordinator. Thanks!

        • I saw one wedding (one time, ever, on the internet) and the guys were kind of mismatchy- but they all wore suspenders which really brought it all together. (I believe they also wore newsboy hats, but thats a pretty specific style that not everyone loves)

        • rebeccajean

          Our vibe was fairly casual — lakeside on Labor Day weekend — and since we didn’t want to worry about the guys sweating to death we ended up having them all just get black vests, charcoal pants, and a shirt somewhere in the range of our color scheme. Funnily enough, every single one of them picked basically the exact same shade — including the groom!

    • kyley

      I’ve seen some nice weddings where everyone is wearing dress pants, shirt, and vest. That can look very dapper!

      • LIZ (SINCE 1982)

        YES. I’m also fond of dress pants, shirt, and suspenders! (Caveat: this really, really only works if the guys in your wedding are going to be comfortable in them – a vibe of “these old things? This is just my everyday dashing look, nbd” is infinitely preferable to “what is this hipster horsepuckey, somebody please save me from this outfit.”)

  • This reminds me very much of when I got married – I wanted things to be casual and laid back and honestly I didn’t care about a lot of the details, but… everyone else seemed to. I thought I was being the perfect bride by not being picky and being open to different ideas and letting people do their own thing, so I was surprised when I’d often get the deer in headlights stare from people when I wouldn’t have a specific choice or answer. I think a lot of people actually want to be told what to do – they want a color scheme and they want to be told exactly what their role is, and if in our case you’re doing the decorating yourself and have helpers – have a specific plan. I only had a few things in my mind that I wanted, and figured I could trust my crafty cohorts to just take care of – I wasn’t picky where lanterns or lights were hung, but I really made it more difficult on my helpers, I think by not having a specific plan, so I was constantly being asked one thing after another on the wedding day and my head was spinning and people were so worried about doing something wrong – even though I wasn’t worried about that.

  • Jae

    Dear me, this was my wedding through and through. There were SO MANY choices I constantly felt the need to defend. I didn’t want a shower, but my mother thought the WORLD WOULD END AND MY MARRIAGE WOULD BE RUINED if I didn’t have one, and after months of trench warfare that both my fiance and our entire bridal party were involved in, I gave in.

    My husband’s four attendants were all women, which, like your own experiences, were met with shock, amazement, and varying degrees of “he doesn’t have ANY male friends?” Which, he does, but the four women who stood up for him are the PEOPLE he wanted to stand up for him on his wedding day. That’s all that should have mattered, but we were constantly defending the choice, or fielding dubious/pitying looks. People even asked me if I “minded” that by husband’s four closet friends were women. (Answer: we’ve been together five years and I met all these women within the first year–they are all fantastic, kick ass people whom I now count among my own friends, separate from their identity as my husband’s friends. If I had a problem with four of the most important people in his life, I doubt we’d’ve been getting married at all)

    We picked royal blue for his side and a mauve-y purple for mine, and sent pantone swatches with these instructions: “Match this as best you can without making yourself crazy. Don’t spend a ton of money, get something you will wear again, and for the love of God do NOT go to a bridal shop — this should NOT be a “bridesmaid” dress.” We also told them knee to tea length, based on their height and comfort level, mostly because it was an outdoor, end of summer, late afternoon. wedding. I thought that instruction would be enough, but I still got texts and emails galore from women on both sides of the aisle, asking for my approval. I always responded with “do you like it? Will you wear it again?” I don’t think they found this particularly helpful.

    Then came the shoes. “What shoes should we wear?” “Um…not heels, it’s on grass.” “Can I wear wedges?” Sure. “What about flip flops?” Sure. “Can they be strappy?” Sure. “What color?” Don’t care.

    “Don’t care,” it seems, is not an answer people want, even if they know you and have heard ad nauseum that you are trying to make your wedding no muss no fuss no hassle. Finally, I told everyone silver. “I already have silver sandals, do I have to buy new ones?” Only if you want two pair of silver sandals…

    And so on. It was very interesting to me that everyone, once they had the title “Bride” or “Groomsmaid” placed on their shoulders, felt the need to be given direction, as though trusting their own choices would somehow lessen the experience. They all said “well, we just want you to have what you want on your day, because we love you and it’s your wedding.” Thing is though, we’d already told them what we wanted. However progressive, forward thinking, non-conformist most of these women were, that they were standing up for us at our wedding seemed to immediately rob them of the ability to chose their own clothing. It was a study in how pervasive the WIC really is, that these capable, self-aware women needed more instruction than “blue/purple. not floor length.” just because it was a wedding.

  • And yet for me this didn’t happen at all. I said “jewel tones, any fabric, any length, any style, and I don’t give to rat’s asses if your shoes or whatever match. No pro makeup, no pro hair. Have fun.”

    And they did. They ran with it, got what they liked (mostly wore stuff they already had), and everyone was happy.

    So it doesn’t go this way for everyone.

  • I’m not a regular mom bride; I’m a cool mom bride!

    This. Was. Me. My (two!) bridesmaids wanted to rip my throat out. Meanwhile, I was stomping around, raving: I AM JUST TRYING TO BE EASY-GOING, DAMNIT.

    In the end I gave them a store, a color, and a fabric and let them pick the style. But not before some seriously hard-core eye-rolling and protests that I was being difficult and unreasonable. So, you know, precisely what I was trying to AVOID.

  • Brenda

    It amazes me how people (including me!) are perfectly capable of picking out their own outfits for whatever event they’re attending and looking awesome and appropriate, but as soon as you throw the word “bridesmaid” around everyone becomes completely incapable of making a decision.

    I’m seriously considering not having “bridesmaids” if it means they think they need a special dress. They’ll be “my best friends who might just happen to stand next to me during the ceremony if that’s what I decide to do.” And who will wear whatever the h*ll they want.

    • jess

      I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately too. I guess the flip side is that if I am buying a fancy dress or new shoes for a total non-wedding event, I’d probably send my friends some links or pictures to get their opinions anyway. But I’m in a similar boat of wanting to avoid titles if that means my friends (and I) won’t buy into the pressure. But my friends ARE really excited. We’re not a big wedding group, so the idea of doing something fun and pretty is really exciting to them. They’re sending me picture of pretty non-bridesmaid things all the time, just cause they feel like it. I should expect that their excitement and wanting to share will extend to what they end up wearing.

      Do you watch Grey’s Anatomy? Recent episode had a bride choosing her wedding party by, a few days before the wedding, telling some certain ladies to just not sit down when they get to the wedding. That they should just stand, near the front, and not ask questions. I laughed to myself about that one.

      • Kelly

        Haha, that Grey’s was hilarious – and while it’s imaginary life, the three “bridesmaids” looked amazing in various shades of red and different styles!

      • brenda

        Although that said, I do trust my two friends to be able to pick something themselves and not fuss too much. I was maid of honor for each of them, and they both gave me a color and let me choose, and I chose without too much hassle and everything was great. One of them was my witness for the civil ceremony two weeks ago and she asked me what I wanted her to wear. I said “um, clothes?” and she wore her own dress and looked fabulous.

        I’ve not seen that Grey’s Anatomy, but that’s fantastic.

    • In Quebec, they usually don’t do the bridal party and matching dresses thing. Instead, there are witnesses (one for each side), and they just wear whatever they want. At first I was surprised by this, but now I think it’s really practical. Though, the whole multiple bridesmaids in matching dresses is becoming more common.

  • Kristen

    I also feel like just the choruses here of, “I guess I should have given more direction” and “I didn’t realize what a burden picking a dress could be” are examples of folks trying to be the “Good Bride”. And to speak to the comparison to a work project from your boss with not enough direction, I’d say that if my boss told me, “Throw the holiday party. Don’t spend more than this. Invite everyone” and I needed more direction than that, I wouldn’t be looked at as very capable. So for a grown woman to state that, “Wear a dress. Whatever makes you feel good.” is not enough direction, frankly makes me question that person’s ability to function in the world without a babysitter. Just sayin.

    If I learned nothing else during wedding planning it was that blaming myself for other people’s confusion or stress is a fast track to crazy town. I promise, its them not you. I needed a cheerleader to say that to me throughout my planning and my fiance did a fine job of it. I think more bride’s need that cheerleader instead of judgy people making you feel bad about how and why you want to do things for your wedding.

    I think I’m going to start an etsy store where you pay me $5.00 and every week during your wedding planning, I’ll mail you a postcard with things you need to hear:
    “It’s NOT you, it’s them”
    “You aren’t crazy”
    “You don’t have to have a wedding cake. Even if your mom cries about it.”
    “People offer to help but want to do it their way, not yours. You’re allowed to hate them for this.”
    “I think you’re going to look beautiful. Even if you don’t find the perfect shoes.”

    • Kara

      Who needs shoes? My husband and I both wore shoes down the aisle but then once we got to where our parents were seated, we kicked our shoes off. We proceeded up the steps to our altar and were married barefoot. Our reasoning? In no particular order…..
      1.) My dress was floor length and you couldn’t tell if I had shoes on or not.
      2.) I fidget in heels of any height.
      3.) My husband and I are close enough in height that heels or no, it wouldn’t make much difference. Plus, tip toe kisses are cute. And our pictures rocked.
      4.) He grew up in Africa as a missionary kid and went barefoot every chance he got.
      5.) God told Moses to take off his shoes when approaching the burning bush as it was holy ground. We feel that marriage is holy ground.
      6.) It seriously pissed off my mom (and after much locking of horns, I think now I did it to piss her off even more) even though I bought and paid for my own shoes. :p

      • What is it about moms and shoes?

        My mom couldn’t believe my shoes had such high heels* and didn’t stop bugging me about it until the day after the wedding as she drove us to the airport, conceding “well, you wore them all night, so I guess you showed me.”

        My best friend’s mom was HORRIFIED she wanted red shoes. Like, had a borderline comical “my oh my I have the vapors!” episode in a David’s Bridal. She even whispered in my friend’s ear right before she walked down the aisle “It’s not too late to take them off, no one will see your feet under the dress.” Which, talk about feeling like a Bad Bride. What kind of bride stands her grounds on shoes to the point of making her mother cry several times through the planning process? Poor bff.

        *They were these killer 4″ peep toes. They were gorgeous, had squishy insoles, and yes, made me taller than my husband, but a) I actually get a bit of a thrill when I’m taller than him and b) it meant my dress didn’t need to be hemmed.

        • Kara

          I had kitten heel sandals from DB that were dyed red. I had no need for white shoes (which would only get dirty no matter what I did), plus I was moving to Oz so why not have my very own Dorothy shoes!? My lil princess (who carried the end of my veil because we are awesomely badass like that) and I had matching shoes. Both red. And I *have* worn them after I got married. They’re a lovely lil perk to a plainer outfit, especially when paired with one of my red bags.

        • I had red ones too, and I was actually surprised my mom was relaxed about it. She did, however, not think the ones I chose were pretty. (They were more spunky than “pretty.”) Oh well, I loved them and was comfortable and felt sassy…

    • Marie

      “People offer to help but want to do it their way, not yours. You’re allowed to hate them for this.”


      You have no idea how much I needed to hear that. I’ve got a grandmother trying to not-so-subtly force me into a very traditional wedding. This has been going on for some time, and she’s started to break out the big guns: every time she doesn’t get her way with our wedding, she calls me a control freak (with a bonus “bless your heart”).

      I’m going to make this quote my phone wallpaper. Write in on a sticky note and put it on the bathroom mirror. It’s something I need to be reminded of every day. THANK YOU for this!

      • Kristen

        My best friend/bridesmaid seemed to enjoy calling me a control freak at every turn. Being of sound mind, and a person with a healthy dose of self awareness, I know I like being in control. But I realized through wedding planning that whenever I didn’t want to do things her way I was a control freak. Seems like I should be in control of my own wedding, but “Bless their hearts”, too many folks around you will appear to have lost their damn minds. We forgive them of course. But feel free to hate them in the process! Ha ha!

        More Postcards for the Stressed Out Bride:

        “I’m not a control freak because I want to pick my own hair style”
        “If you’d do what I asked you to do, we wouldn’t be fighting about a seating chart”

        And for those brides who like me kept getting the insanity AFTER the wedding, let me present, Postcards for the Pissed off Wife:

        “Complaining to me about how offended you were at our seating arrangements only confirms why you didn’t sit with me at the wedding.”

        “Oh, you’re drinking too much because I was a bridezilla? And here I thought it was obvious you’re an alcoholic.”

        “Threatening your photographer with a bad report to the Better Business Bureau is what all the COOL brides have to do to get their pictures!”

    • KC

      In the “holiday party” vs. bridesmaid example, I think if you were a new employee and had never been to a Company X holiday party and were dimly aware that there were likely additional tradition/style/alcohol-to-rest-of-party-expense-ratio expectations hanging around that you hadn’t been told about… well, you would potentially try hunting down what those expectations were, at the very least. (food allergies everyone knows about, except you, because you’re new? any party-based ramifications of half the employees being Mormon? disappointed cries of “but where’s the pinata?” party scheduled during work hours vs. on an evening/weekend?) Yeah, of course you could just make executive decisions, plan the party, and just roll with any punches or disgruntled fellow-employees, but the fewer unpleasant surprises, the better, yes?

      Saying to someone who is nervous that they lack the information necessary to avoid potentially permanent offense (by “ruining” the wedding concept and/or wedding photos via clashing or having a too-casual or too-formal dress or scandalizing Great Aunt Louisa with an above-the-knee hemline) that an adult woman should know how to dress… I guess I don’t see how wanting more information on a topic that a lot of brides (and their families) tend to care a lot about, so as to dodge nasty surprises, means they need a babysitter. Not caring about catty comments from the local equivalent of Great Aunt Louisa is maybe something that it’d be great to grow into, I’ll grant. And ideally friends would always be on the same page, but they’re not always. Sometimes even perfectly sane people say “wear what you want” and think they mean it, whereas they actually mean “wear what you want as long as it’s basically the dress I have in my head which is perfect and obviously what you would choose” or “wear what you want within these bounds of formality which are outside your cultural knowledge”.

      (note: if we’re talking a single-bridesmaid wedding [so, no clashing with otherwise matchy bridesmaids] where the bride has no “theme” or “concept” going on and would not be disappointed even if none of the photos are frame-it-on-the-wall perfect – then I’d totally take the “wear whatever you want” without fear, although I’d probably still inquire about level of formality (are we talking sundresses or prom dresses here? don’t want to out-fancy the bride, but also don’t want to be wearing flip-flops if she’s wearing rhinestones). It’s mostly the unknown submarine expectations, that might be a *big deal* to the bride, that are daunting. Even if the bride recognizes and realizes that it’s not your fault and that you were trying your best to follow instructions, it’s still really hard to know you’ve severely disappointed someone you care a whole lot about.)

    • KC

      (that said, other people freaking out is still not “your fault” and does not make you a “Bad Bride” – you can sometimes minimize other peoples’ misery in various ways, but you can’t make everybody happy all the time, and should not feel guilty about that. I still think that giving people enough direction or context that they do not feel terror (which will depend on the people and the situation) is a nice thing to do, as it’s nice to have drinking water available when the bridesmaids are dressing and doing hair and makeup, and nice to not require a public toast from someone who gets really bad stage fright, etc.)

  • Mae

    I avoided this issue by not having bridesmaids. My best friend and his best friend are standing with us, and they are wearing things they picked out and sent to us for approval. I have friends who I wanted to be there with me and feel like they were a special part of my wedding, so we chose to have an intimate ceremony with immediate family and those close friends only. I know not everyone is able to do that, but not having to think about the bridal party has made the planning so much easier. We’ve ruffled a few feathers of some relatives, but that’s only solidified our decision: if Aunt Sue is upset because I only want those closest to us to hear us exchange very personal vows, she obviously doesn’t know me very well. I’m a very introverted and private person and don’t feel comfortable sharing that side of me with the Aunt Sues of the world (but am more than happy to gush with her at the reception!).

    • Karen

      I did something sort of similar in not having bridesmaids – my fiance and I are having a best man and maid of honor ONLY. Part of the reason for this decision was because I was having palpitations at having to pick a dress that all of my potential bridesmaids would be happy with. So doing it this way eliminates that problem!

      My MOH and I have very similar taste, so we both browsed online for styles that we liked. My requirements were that it be a dress that she feels great in and would wear again. Color was secondary. We then went shopping in person, tried a few of the styles we’d seen online, and both decided on a beautiful dress from Nordstrom. And hey, now that she has a dress, we have a color scheme!

      I told my fiance that as long as he and his best man look nice, I don’t really care what they wear. We’ll tie everything together with the flowers that we carry/they wear. To be honest, of all the decisions that we’ve made about our (sort of nontraditional) wedding, this is the one that I feel the most confident about – I’m so glad we chose to do it this way!

      By designating a few other people to be our “wedding entourage” (fiance’s words), we’re including those close friends that would have otherwise been in the wedding party, but are absolving them of responsibility and spending money on matching outfits. As I recently said to one of these people, “Your duties, should you choose to accept them, include things like ‘get your nails done’ and ‘hang out with Karen’ and ‘drink mimosas.'” (is it sad that now I want to be part of my own wedding entourage?!)

      • Amber

        We had no one but the officiant (a friend) standing with us. There were 30 people at our wedding, if we had 8 other people up there (which wouldn’t have fit) it would have looked ridiculous, plus I find it offensive to tell other people what to wear.

        My best girlfriends did come over while we were getting ready and had champagne and stuff, but that doesn’t require them buying matching shoes and dresses.

        I like being on the “inside” part of the wedding, but I hate the dress buying and any of the stress and standing in front of people and not getting to set with my husband during the ceremony. Why can’t that be a new tradition? Wedding entourage? You get the fun of being their before hand/partying, but avoid the stress of being a wedding party clone. I would be more than happy to help a friend set up whatever for their wedding and even help clean up and crap if I could be part of the fun and not have to stand up there.

  • THIS:

    “As much as everyone keeps telling me that it’s my day (and some of the more thoughtful people add, “Well…and Andy’s”), I know that’s not true. Everyone else’s October 13 doesn’t cease to exist just because Andy and I are getting married. They all have feelings and opinions too.”

    If there’s anything I’ve learned from this process, it’s that it’s NOT my day. It’s not my fiance’s day. It’s everyone’s day. It’s my parents’ day, who were forced into a wedding at a Holy Roller church because my grandparents refused to let their children just elope; it’s Pete’s parents’ day, who are graciously flying in all the way from England; it’s our friends and family’s day as well. Everyone’s sharing their November 16th with us, and that means that their wishes are entered into how November 16th goes.

    And I am laughing my butt off about this bridesmaid dress quandry. I just sent out a similar email to everyone – “choose whatever you like, just make it one of these three colors.” And I congratulate myself for being cool about it, but then I remember my friend’s wedding, where she gave similar guidelines, and the other bridesmaids basically ganged up on me and another girl and we all ended up wearing matching J Crew dresses that were 250 bucks and which looked AWFUL on me. I hope my good intentions don’t lead to that.

  • Margaret Thatcher

    I’ve been a bridesmaid in two of those “Just pick your own dress, as long as it’s ____” weddings, and every time I hear that, I nearly have a panic attack.

    I am always afraid that, since the bride never gets us all together or puts us on any sort of coordination Pinterest, email or facebook group, that I will be the only one in a long dress/short dress/silk/lace etc. and will stick out like a sore thumb. I always worry that the other four bridesmaids were in sorority together in college or went to the same high school, and all know one another well enough to say “Ok, ladies: David’s Bridal ‘Pool’, knee-length, swiss-dot overlay.” and when I show up in a long teal dress with lace everyone will think I am the maid of honor since I am the only different one and it will be awkward, awkward, awkward.

    If you have any bridesmaids with severe shyness or anxiety disorder and you love this person, please, PLEASE just tell us what to wear :D

  • Oh man, yes! This is the conversation that they don’t tell you about when you see gorgeous pictures of perfectly mismatched bridesmaids dresses. My cool bride intentions were also met with a cool reception, especially from the mothers, but also from the bridesmaids themselves. My girls are awesome, and because they love me wanted to make sure I was happy with their choices. I trusted them completely and thought “any little black dress you want” would have been easy. On the positive side, I got to spend some time with each bridesmaid kibbitzing about their outfits, sending each other links back and forth, etc.

    I was in two weddings since then. One of them, the bride chose a color. The other, the bride chose a specific dress and we all matched. Funnily enough, I’ve worn both of the dresses again (styled differently with cardigans, jewelry) – so it just goes to show that while freedom of choice seems like an awesomely cool idea, sometimes it works out better to have limited choices (e.g. Trader Joe’s limited inventory business model).

  • Krista

    Yup, tried this! Didn’t go over well, the bridesmaids all got together and picked the same thing. Which I’m not sure they all even liked! (and wasn’t what I would have picked either, for something for all of them to wear.) I guess I should have just told them what to get, but really…. it all worked out, no big deal, and la la la wedding is over.

    • KC

      Hooray for “la la la wedding is over”!

  • Brittany

    As someone who has been a bridesmaid A Lot, I’d like to say that if I agree to be in a wedding, I honestly don’t care what the dress looks like. I mean, would it have been nice if my friend had fallen in love with dresses that weren’t pepto bismol pink, sure, but even the most flattering bridesmaid dress I ever purchased I have NEVER worn again. No matter how laid back or cool the dresses are, for me, after the wedding they hang out in my closet, or they get donated to the Cinderella drive at the school I work at. I’d like to be asked about my budget, and dear God please give me the option to have straps added to a dress, but otherwise, I’m happy to wear what will make you happy. It’s one day of my life, and if I’m in your bridal party, I love you and want you to be happy, even if that means putting on a dress that I wouldn’t choose for myself. Bridesmaids are grown ass people, and should be capable of understanding that their role on that day is to support you, just like you hopefully support them on big, important days in their life. So, I guess my point is just, we can we (brides and bridesmaids) let each other off the hook on the bridesmaid dress thing? I promise to smile and be happy and to love and support you in whatever you want me to wear. Please don’t worry about whether or not I’ll wear it again (I won’t- and that doesn’t bother me) and please don’t worry that I will resent you picking a dress, or a dress color/length/style, etc (Again- see I love you and want your wedding to be about you and what you want!)
    And bridesmaids- with those lovely gowns you’ll never touch again, please consider looking into high schools or non profits that do Cinderella drives. I can’t tell you the number of girls that have been extremely grateful to get bridesmaids dresses donated to my school by friends for their proms. For lots of girls, getting that dress is what makes prom possible for them! (And what better second life for that floor length, hot pink, taffeta gown?)

  • Catherine

    I can really resonate with this post. The whole year I was planning my wedding, my montra to my bridesmaids was “I want you guys to be comfortable and beautiful, and buy a dress you can totally wear again.” My mother-in-law could not believe how un “Type-A” my type-A self was being to relinguish control of something like that. When we got to the store, I was surprised to find that no matter what styles my “most special” ladies tried on, the only person they asked for approval from was me. Not once did I hear, “I love this dress” or “I like this style/fabric better than that one.” Ultimately, I picked the fabric and length, we all picked the color that worked best for everyone, and they each picked a style they loved.

    Bottom line was that these women you have chosen to stand with you on your wedding day love you so unconditionally and are comapletely ellated by the honor of being chosen that they just want you, their best friend, to be happy. They are going to stand up proudly in that hot pink, tea-length tafida dress out of pure love if that’s what makes their best friend happy. Note: this contract of love ends after the wedding and you can’t be mad if one of them just so happens to conveniently leave said hot pink dress at the hotel…. and never go back for it.

  • Sara B

    I’m afraid that I was one of those brides. Partially, I wanted everyone to be able to choose their own budget for the dress, but more selfishly, I did not want the stress of choosing a dress that was flattering on the wide range of body types and that fit everyone’s budget. Having been in several weddings, I think this was spurred on because I was so over all the expensive dresses I had to buy (shiny teal with matching dyed shoes? Ugh.) I’m sure that there were many complaints that I didn’t hear about, but it turned out fine. And I would do the same thing again in a heartbeat. I like that our pictures aren’t completely uniform. There’s no way that all of these women would have chosen the same dress to wear in normal life, and I like that it represents personalities.

  • Moe

    I knew that unlimited choices wouldn’t work well going into it. My girls are all so different in their style choices anyways.

    I went with Little Borrowed Dress and assigned their color. I’ve been a bridesmaid 7 times in my life and one of the recent weddings really broke the bank for me with a $300 dress I never wore again. I was determined that I would never ask anyone to do that for me. I gave them the color and the freedom to choose their length and style. I also gave them freedom to choose their own hairstyle, and the option of using my make-up artist at a discounted price since she’s family. I made a document with Pinterest boards showing them what I was suggesting as far as accessories (anything you want as long as it’s gold). It’s all working out fine.

    My problem is All The Other Stuff. I can’t get a timely response from anyone when I send emails and leave voicemails. My MOH is planning a wedding shower for us and even though the bridesmaids were in agreement and offered their help they don’t return calls from the MOH. I really do want to get bridezilla, at the same time I don’t want to be ‘that bride’.

  • I spent a lot of time agonizing about this very thing–not just letting my sister down in the bridesmaid dress department, but in not being a Bad Bride. My husband and I really, truly, did not care about Wedding Things. We wanted to have our religious ceremony and be spiritually bonded to each other, and we wanted to use this as an excuse to treat our friends and family to some really good food.

    After a while, our nonchalant air of having a simple but nice day started to get fraught. After the 700th person came up to me to ask to see a picture of my dress, my shoes, and then asked what my bouquet was going to look like, my easy breezy “oh, we’re not having flowers” started to sound a lot like “WE’RE NOT HAVING FLOWERS, GET OFF MY BACK. GOD.” My out of town siblings were confused about where they were supposed to stay overnight, since I hadn’t reserved a hotel block (all the hotels that do blocks in the area are way out of their price range, even with a discount) and I ultimately snapped at my step mom to tell everyone that they’re friggin’ adults, they can figure it out!

    Curiosity started to sound like judgement to my ears and questions about logistics felt an awful lot like doubting my intentions. I so desperately wanted to be a Good Bride, and for everyone to know that my choices were out of the desire to be a Good Bride and to have a Nice Wedding, that I grew really unnecessarily defensive of our decisions.

    So my advice for current and future Good Brides is to just be secure in your thoughts and your choices, and to listen to the Good People in your lives. If they ask questions, they simply want to know. They’re not calling you a Bad Bride. All it really takes to be a Good Bride is to love and respect the people around you.

  • I went through a similar situation when I was a bridesmaid for a a friend’s wedding. She wanted us to wear different coloured sundresses, but that was the extent of her directions for us. After talking with the other bridesmaids, I just went online and found 6 dresses in different colours and assigned one to each girl. I told them to either get that specific dress, or something similar, and then if they wanted to trade colours, they could do so amongst themselves. Fortunately, everyone liked the colour they were assigned, and they all found or already owned similar dresses.

    I think having the visual really helped everyone understand what my friend wanted, and they all seemed much happier once they were given more of a guideline.

  • I am adding to the chorus of “I wanted to be the good bride, too!”

    I gave them plenty of notice, saying what the colour was going to be, and to go for a 50’s esque garden party feel. We went through a bajillion websites, non-bridal stores, but none of them wanted to commit to those dresses and buying online. I wanted to keep the price down for them, as some are still grad students or just started our their careers.

    Then one of the girls suggested we go into a salon, because her body type is finicky for online shopping, and she can get a dress done perfectly for her that way. It went really well. We ordered her dress, in the perfect colour.

    Then the next week three more wanted to do the same. Why hadn’t they thought of this when the other bridesmaid was saying let’s go to a salon, I have no idea. But those three now have dresses.

    Of the 4 of 6 girls who have dresses, only two have listened to my wishes for vintage garden party feel. The other two, well, one fed off the other’s hate of the colour and anything but chiffon and they both ended up with dresses I would never have picked in a million years. But they were happier with those dresses, and their price tags, even if they were modern dresses. And to say something would have been to forgo my “cool bride” aura.

    I ended up crying in a ball on my floor that night. The stress of trying to be calm and not a “bridezilla” was getting to me. I gave them plenty of options, and they asked my opinions, and they complained about the colour, they complained about the fabric choices and how lace is itchy, and how jersey is itchy, and how cotton is itchy, and only chiffon is soft enough. Then they complained again about the colour, and how they were going to look naked. My idea of a statement necklace to add something between their face and dress was met with scoffing “But Amie, you KNOW I don’t wear jewellery!” By the way, the “they” is really just one bridesmaid, who I thought was my second to my MOH. She is not showing all that much support, and is now telling me she is dreading co-MCing the reception with one of the groomsmen. But that’s another story.

    Apparently being a cool bride, a good bride also means being walked all over and your vision being ground into smithereens.

    Why is that when we give ourselves a little backbone and have a clear vision of what we want, the Bridezilla term gets thrown around? But when we don’t do that, people ask for direction, or walk all over us. Where is the middle?

    • sandyliz

      Aw, AMIE, that’s terrible :( I’m so sorry you have this situation.
      I was a bridesmaid for a friend who had a similar chorus of negativity thrown at her, so I offered to be a bit of a go-between and try to reduce the amount of stress she suffered. Maybe you could ask one of the other ladies to help with that?

      In the end I guess it just amounts to high stress situations sometimes bring out the worst in even the best people.

    • Oh! I have the perfect dress for a “50′s esque garden party feel!” I bought it at a vintage store because I loved it, but I have never worn it because where in my day-to-day life can I wear a 50’s garden party green dress with white polka dots? :) I would have JUMPED at the chance to have an amazing reason to wear it to a wedding!

      Anyhow, I am sure everything will come out okay in the end- good luck with it all!

  • Elizabeth

    For what it’s worth, black dresses worked well for me, or at least no dress-related angst came to my attention. Everyone probably has one, though most of my bridesmaids bought a new one (and why not?), and everyone probably could use a nice black dress at some point. Also shawls in the same color make everyone magically identical, if that’s important to you and/or the Pictures.

    Also, hurray for grouping attendants by relation and not gender. My husband’s good friend is a girl, and stood up for him. My brother wasn’t super pleased about standing up for me next to all girls, but like a supportive sibling he got over it. :)

    • Kara

      I’ve seen several “black, strappy/strapless, knee or tealength dress” weddings and they were stunning. The maids had dresses that fit them all, they had strikingly colorful bouquets or jewelry. One wedding was held on a mountaintop and all the maids had colored parasols instead of flowers. It. Was. Beautiful.

      My mother -bless her heart- thinks black bridesmaids dresses are dull and dreary and dirge-like. Meh. I like the black and white idea. Everyone wears black except the bride in her white. Wowza!

  • Jessica

    I have to chime in here… I REALLY wanted to be an awesome bride and not turn into a jerk from the stress of wedding planning… and I didn’t want to make my bridesmaids purchase dresses that they will never ever wear again. So — I told them to wear their favorite little black dresses. The only “rules” were they needed to be about knee-length (ish) and strapless. I also sent them photos of possible dresses so they could really have an idea of what I wanted. They could totally wear something they already had, or they could go buy something, but I made it clear that my intention was for them to spend ONLY what they were comfortable with. I was so proud of myself for coming up with what I thought was an amazing idea! Well, turns out only one of my three girls had a dress they wanted to wear, and my other two ended up buying $100+ dresses. Womp womp.

    It’s hard to “win” in these situations, it seems. At one point, I felt like they would have honestly preferred I just say, “BUY THIS DRESS IN THIS COLOR AND THIS CUT AND GET IT HEMMED TO HERE” instead of what I did. However, everything turned out fine (of course) and I don’t think anyone hates me.

  • “Bridesmaids are people, not props!”

    YES. I think of this every time I’m at a wedding and staring at people in matching outfits posing for pictures. That’s why I love the “bridal brigade” concept.

  • Amber

    This is one of the many reasons we didn’t have a “bridal party.” I don’t want to be told what to wear or made to spend money on things I wouldn’t pick if I’m in other people’s weddings, so why would I make someone else do it for mine? Unfortunately the favor I thought I was doing will not be returned by any of my friends and it makes me pretty angry each time. For some women it also seems to be some sort of sick revenge or control maneuver. The concept of bridesmaids and having to make everything match really does baffle me. Let people have some personality, not be coordinating robots.

  • Carolyn

    It’s killing me how much we collectively want to be cool easygoing brides and add stress to ourselves and friends in doing so. There seem to be a few beacons where “wear what you want!” really worked, but mostly, no.

    So, quickly, my bubble was burst that everyone would find eclectic plum dresses on their own – and duh, there weren’t really any plum or burgundy dresses to be bought in the middle of summer anyway. I discussed with the girls their priorities and they were 1) making me happy 2) can wear a bra 3) price. Together we all settled on which met our collective criteria: plum, not strapless, and under $100.

    • rys

      “I discussed with the girls their priorities…” How lovely!

      All my friends know that I don’t buy bridesmaid dresses (policy formed after a disastrous situation with a good friend that ended with me (happily) relinquishing the bridesmaid title and taking on other, non-dress-specific duties). I think the situation could have been averted had she asked what I care about about; the answer would have been “not changing the dress manufacturer every 3 days” and “not assuming that I and other bridesmaid who are radically different in shape and weight could wear the same thing.” The only time I’ve “broken” my rule is for my sister who tried, very hard to make it easy, but she couldn’t fathom that I truly hated wearing a strapless dress because I’m constantly tugging at it.

      Basically I’m the one who will accept the bridesmaid title if and only if I choose what I wear. This might sound awful and stringent, but I’ve found it keeps all parties sane and friendships intact. It works because I’m happy and willing to do other things (readings, make chuppahs, make other crafty things, sign documents, set up chairs, clear tables, etc) that I find meaningful (or at least helpful) and they want or like or need. Win-win.

  • Adi

    I could have written this. I told my bridesmaids the same thing, and NO ONE wanted to pick. My older sister loved a dress and mooned over it for ages and when I encouraged her to buy it she said, “Oh no. I don’t love it for this. It’s not…BRIDESMAID-y.” When they finally made me choose one said, “I’ll wear it but I don’t like it.” I was shocked. Wasn’t I the one who said to wear whatever they wanted?! I made suggestions I took them shopping I gave them preferred guidelines but nothing set in stone, and I finally ended up ordering all the dresses myself and no one was happy. If I were to do it again I’d just pick a dress and be done with it, unfortunately.

  • Just wanted to counter all the “telling them to pick their own dress doesn’t really work!” comments, and say that I totally told all my bridesmaids to just do their own thing and it worked out great. I said “Get a purple cocktail dress and red shoes. Other than that, you’re on your own!” Maybe the key is giving at least semi-specific criteria (i.e. color and style/length)? It also probably just depends on your friends’ personalities, though.

    Hilariously, they all ended up with very similar shades of purple and red, so they looked way more coordinated than I could have anticipated.

    I remember having people do the whole “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE PICTURES?!?!?!” thing, claiming that having differing shades of purple (gasp!) would make our photos look awful. But, nope, it all worked out fine, the pictures look great, and all the ladies got to wear a dress they liked, felt good in, and could afford (we ranged from one girl getting a $10 dress on sale at Target to another one buying a $250 dress from JCrew… it let everybody spend whatever they felt was reasonable for their personal financial situation without forcing a “cheap” or “expensive” dress on any of the other girls).

    Also just want to say that my Mom was the biggest culprit of saying, “Well, it’s your day. It’s up to you,” right after acting horrified by some decision I was making. Hahaha. But it all worked out in the end. ;-)

  • This is what I struggled to navigate. I was going to let my bridesmaids pick a dress to wear, but more than half of them asked me to pick, so I did. I’ve been handling questions about shoes, which are harder. I’m going to be in stiletto heels, but, I told them to wear soemthing comfortable for them – even if it is chucks or combat boots (and I think chiffon plus combat boots would be awesome). ditto hair and makeup. Ikeep getting told it’s MY day, and it’s not. It’s OUR day. It’s OUR FAMILIES’ day. It is a day where we are all seeing all of the people we love and who love us and celebrating the creation of our new family as an us. For a half hour of that day, all eyes will be on us, but the rest of teh day? Is about togetherness.

    I have had to remind mysel of this many times during my planning process, many, many times.

  • kyley

    While I empathize with this post and the many comments, this could not be further from my experience. Honestly, I’m a little surprised!

    My bridesmaids are wearing non-matching, self-selected dresses and everyone is happy with the decision. I am stressed just *thinking* about trying to pick dresses for everyone to wear. My bridesmaids have very different budgets, styles, and body types, and I just don’t actually like things to match in general. Also, I just don’t really care what they wear; they are grown-ups.

    So I picked out a few key details: length (cocktail) and color (soft neutrals–light grey, champagne, ivory, peach, etc.) and then I made it very clear that I did not care beyond that. There was definitely a slew of questions that followed, but I just answered them honestly, “Beyond length and color, I don’t care. Do what makes you happy.”

    The key here is communication. (Isn’t it always?) People fear that you have secret expectations that you aren’t sharing, so console them that this isn’t the case. (Also, check in with yourself first and make sure it isn’t the case.)

    • Sara

      “The key here is communication. (Isn’t it always?) People fear that you have secret expectations that you aren’t sharing, so console them that this isn’t the case.”

      This exactly – I hate the feeling of ‘choosing wrong’ when there are supposedly unlimited options. Its never happened (that I’m aware of) but I tend to be a worrier.

  • Sara

    These are your words, but it’s like they’re my thoughts. EXACTLY.

  • Kelly

    While we decided to go without a wedding party (not even MOH or best man) for many reasons – the “dress controversy” being a big one – I will say that only brought on a different kind of issue…our parents making up their own reasons to explain why we weren’t having a wedding party to other people because they couldn’t really understand it themselves. Maybe I should just tell them my real reason…that I believe in the original purpose of having bridesmaids and can’t stand the idea of any of my friends getting attacked by evil spirits, ha!!

    But seriously, even without a wedding party, we’re still dealing with what the important men of our families should wear…might just go with the matching tie idea.

  • AnonForThis

    Oh MAN, yes. I’m recently engaged (woohoo!!) and already having a minor meltdown about not being a Bad Bride. It sucks. A close friend of mine has made it clear how stressful having several girls in our friend group get married around the same time has been for her. I know that she doesn’t mean anything by it, she’s happy for me/us, etc (she actually had one of the best reactions ever to the news)… But she often mentions things about her friend who is stressing her out with bridesmaid dresses and sends me jokes about being the single friend amidst engaged ladies… and I almost feel like I need to, I don’t know, make up for it somehow. I’m totally petrified of becoming That Girl in her eyes and it’s exhausting. Eventually I’ll probably have to be a grown up and let her know how I’m feeling but I don’t know how to without seeming like That Girl.

    Blah. Sorry for the rant. Lovely post!

  • Sara

    As someone who has been a bridesmaid five times, I have been on the opposite side of both dress situations.
    The first wedding I was in, the bride literally said “wear red. I don’t care at all what the dresses looked like.” It was like pulling teeth to try to get any information out of her about the wedding at all (weirdly, she was only specific about the shoes we should wear), and fortunately the two other girls and I were close, so we chose a shade of red and length on our end. The dresses ended up being really different, and the MOH had a different fabric – but people thought we did that on purpose and loved it, so no problem.
    One of the other chose three dresses and said ‘pick one’. Unfortunately, I am a little heavier on top and the other four girls weren’t – they all picked strapless dresses, while I went for straps. I felt very much out of place in some of the pictures but they ended up being great. I had a friend with this exact same issue in a wedding she was in – all the girls besides her chose a more expensive dress, but the bride didn’t really care and ‘let her’ wear the cheaper one.
    Three of my weddings were uniform dresses all around and fortunately, I was able to help pick details. I got a strapless (with corset) teal, a halter navy and one shoulder purple in my closet right now :)

    Basically, my point is, no matter what you do, everyone will end up in a dress and there at the wedding – while I appreciated the direction of a few of the weddings (there were seven girls to deal with in one instance, I was happy she just blanketed us in one dress. One of the girls did not get along well with others), I was happy enough shopping alone as well. I think a little direction is nice if the girls don’t know each other just because I think people tend to second guess themselves as part of an unknown crowd. ‘What if I clash, what if I’m the odd one out, what if everyone wears purple and I choose blue?’
    But regardless, your pictures will be beautiful whatever you do. Your friends will be happy, and if they’re upset about a dress (which they won’t be), they’ll get over it soon enough.

    This is a lot longer than I intended. Sorry!

    • Figured I’d piggyback on here with a bridesmaid’s perspective as well, since I already posted my bride perspective farther up. :-D

      I’ve been in three weddings as a bridesmaid. Two of them picked uniform dresses for all the girls, and one let us all pick our own with no requirements other than color options. Both times the bride chose the dress for us, the lady in question said she “chose one that we could wear again.” I was fine with both dresses, but I have never worn either of them again because a) they’re just not me, and b) they *look* like bridesmaid dresses.

      The third bride just told us to pick a dress that was either brown, yellow, red, or a combination of those colors. There was a brief bit of drama when the maid of honor tried to take over and insisted that I buy a red one because no one else had gotten red and we “needed” a red dress in the lineup (I have red hair, and most red dresses look weird on me), but I had a chat with the bride and she calmed it down so I could go ahead and buy a brown dress like I’d planned. I’ve worn that dress a ton of times since then.

      Do with that information what you will. Ha.

  • I attempted this at my wedding as well, and it went ok, with some hitches. I told the girls they can wear whatever dresses they wanted, and for a while, nothing was happening. It turns out, they were waiting for more directions from me. So I sent them a visual guide, pointing out examples of dresses of various “dressiness” level (which were too casual, which were just right, which were too dressy for our wedding), and that seemed to help somewhat. In the end, two of the three girls had a somewhat easy time picking out their dresses, but my sister (who hates shopping for anything) had a really hard time with it. But in the end, it all worked out and everyone wore what they wanted, and the photos were gorgeous. (I never understood that argument about the photos…)

  • ElisabethJoanne

    The dresses were the biggest area in which I was glad my only bridesmaids were my much-younger sisters, but there were many times in planning I was so happy to have made that choice early on.

    At first, I thought my 2 sisters could choose 1 matching dress. Mom said that would never happen. I needed to choose. I ended up emailing them 30-60 dresses to figure out what they liked. Their only comment was they didn’t like the 2-piece cocktail suits from the department stores. I put off further research. After all, that left dozens of dresses in our price range and their sizes. I hadn’t even seriously looked for my own dress. In the mean time, Mom found dresses for $30. One sister was on the other side of the world at the time, and when I visited to see the dresses, the other sister refused to try it on, but, everyone said they were content, and you can’t beat $30 without going crazy, so I left it. The only expressed concern was that they weren’t formal enough, but I have 0 regrets in that regard. And the world-traveling sister took her bridesmaid’s dress when she joined the Peace Corps, so I guess she likes it and will wear it again.

    We did a similar procedure with shoes. One sister didn’t care. The other sister wanted heels. Because going to stores would cause headaches in all 4 of us (me, 2 sisters, Mom), I shopped online. The first pairs were the wrong size (and a low heel), so I returned them. There were vague doubts about the second pairs, and they ended up needing lots of insoles added the morning of the wedding, but Mom said, “They’ll be fine,” so that was the end with the shoes. I think those joined the Peace Corps, too.

    And again for bouquets. I was totally ready to let them design their own bouquets. Their only requests were no feathers and no vegetables.

    Even the men, or especially the men, wanted to just be told. My husband delayed and delayed choosing his rental clothes. I finally had to go with him. Once there, even among 3 choices he was paralyzed. We left the groomsmen some choices (tie, shirt collar), and they too didn’t really consider them. They just asked to match the groom.

    Also in the background was I took everyone at their word and expected them to take me at my word. When they didn’t, I refused to be guilted. So, if they said they were content with my choices, I considered the matter closed and did not press for more opinions. When I told my parents what I wanted for my 3-step chuppah, and Mom didn’t like it, I told her she had to work out the alternative. She says “it almost killed her” with anxiety, but I shrug it off. She took the extra work and lack of direction on herself.

  • Teri

    i just have 1 bridesmaid, my sister. so i had it alot easier…

    all i said i was ‘pick a dress. knee length.’

    so she said me pictures she liked. and i liked them all, she said XX was her favourite, i said great fine. i like that too.

    then we went to the fabric shop, i said pick a colour that looks best on you. done. purple!

    wedding colours are navy and silver, and people give me funny looks when i say she’s in purple.
    shes my sister, i didnt want to colour coordinate her.

    it’s alllot easier just having the 1 bridesmaid though!

    • kyley

      “shes my sister, i didnt want to colour coordinate her.”


  • “Even as I was saying it, I felt like the cool mom from Mean Girls (‘I’m a cool bride! There are NO RULES at this wedding! Want some alcohol?’).” First of all, this is the best line EVER. I’m going to say that to myself every time I catch myself slipping into “Good Bride” mode.

    Like many commenters, this whole dress thing is part of why I didn’t want a bridal party, but my fiance did, so whateva — I’m cool with it. I hadn’t committed to a direction yet, but all these comments definitely give me some ideas. Meanwhile, one of my best friends/bridesmaids is also getting married and I’m one of her bridesmaids; she avoided some of this stress by just asking each of us: would you rather I picked something for you or gave you guidelines and let you choose? I love this as a starting point, because some people would love to do their own thing within guidelines (esp someone like me who is also planning so I’m well-versed in all the great ‘maids dresses out there) while others panic at the idea. She also started a group Pinterest board where she pinned potential dresses and we could add our own ideas too. It lets us tell her what we like (if we have strong opinions, that is) and then we can all see what other people like too and leave comments and such. She hasn’t decided yet (I think ultimately, getting mismatched dresses to “work” is stressful for any bride…do we coordinate only color? Brand? Rely on a few different materials?) but so far, I like how the process is working!

  • PS I just went to your blog…and then your wedding pics…and OMG IS YOUR DOG WEARING FRENCH CUFFS?! Because while your bridal party looks great (as do you — eff yeah brides in sleeves! — and your groom and his men) I kinda feel like the dog’s formal look is the hands-down best wardrobe choice you made for your wedding.

    • Aw, thanks! Yes, our dog was wearing French cuffs that we found on etsy. He totally stole the show!

  • Oh man. This is me RIGHT NOW. I am agonizing over bridesmaid dresses because I don’t like telling people what to wear and to buy a really expensive dress they will never wear again. And by people, I mean my partner’s cousins, who I know pretty well, but I still feel weird dressing them, you know? I can’t scrap attendants b/c my partner wants them, but if we have them, I want *some* visual cohesion. And in my efforts to be a “good” bride and spare others, I am driving myself crazy! Unfortunately, I think this is mostly a side-effect of being a “me” bride…

    • kyley

      Could you go with a color, length, and store, and then let everyone pick the style they like best? So everyone is in, say, short red taffeta dresses, but the cut is the one that best fits their bodies?

      No matter what you decide, remember that your wedding is not an imposition! People agree to be bridesmaids, knowing their are certain dress requirements that more than likely come along with that, so give yourself permission to just do what you want!

  • Rachel

    This good bride/bad bride thing is tough! I was so, so determined to be a good bride and to remember that “at the end of the day as long as we’re married, that’s all that matters” that the bridesmaid dresses definitely ended up being stressful. I wanted the girls to have something they liked and I honestly didn’t care a whole lot about specifics. I love the mismatched look and figured they should all wear something that suits their own personality. I also planned my wedding from Uganda and right after returning from the States…I was totally overwhelmed myself by the abundance of choices available in the US!

    I think there was a part of me that hoped I could just push my lack of decision making (i.e. stress at American culture) off on them and cover it up by being a ‘good bride’ and telling them to just choose something they liked. But, of course, they were stressed my my lack of direction and, like so many of you mentioned, I needed to give guidelines. I ended up picking several styles and a few colors and told them to have at it. Thankfully three of the four were my sisters and the other was a very good friend so coordinating it all worked out fine.

    Oh, and throw in a logical fiance/now husband who things that matching means wearing blue + blue or black + black and we had all kinds of crazy things going on. (Thankfully he is also super patient and knew how much I didn’t want matching everything and decided let us girls figure it out. :)) In the end, we did get married and that WAS all that mattered. But sometimes in the planning process it was hard to hold on to that!

  • Kat

    I haven’t even read the post yet, but just pointed out to my husband that any wedding website that references “It’s a trap!” has to be a good thing :)

    • Kat

      And back to say I had exactly the same problem. I thought I was hitting good middle ground with my two bridesmaids: we pick a fabric together, I buy it, they have it made into a dress they like, done. Turns out even that was full of opinions, expectations and people not wanting to give opinions. Eventually I picked the fabric with no input from the BMs and put some money towards having the dresses made. With hindsight I would either tell them to wear what they’d wear as a guest or collect opinions, make a decision myself and then pay for the dresses myself.

  • Elizabeth

    I had almost the EXACT same experience when I asked bridesmaids to coordinate different dresses in a similar color. (None of us live in the same state by the way). No-go. They felt uncomfortable, told me had no idea what shades to look for, and let me know they wanted more direction.

    My very good friend suggested that I do the legwork of finding these dresses and pinning them to a board for the bridesmaids. It’d be first-come, first-serve, and once a dress was ordered, it was out. They have responded really well to the new system. Only one ended up buying a dress she chose for herself, and I think having so many examples from me helped. I pinned dresses ranging from $40 – $200.

    (I know I just shared one of my pinterest boards on another post…hope I’m not overdoing it!)

  • Kristi Jean

    Well, you all know what’s pretty damn AWESOME? We’re all GOOD BRIDES, because we read APW. End. Of. Story.

    I’ll still share my little bridesmaid saga with you:

    I too, wanted to be the care free bride, pick your own, blah, blah, blah… I won’t bore you with everything that everyone else already so eloquently said. I even made these cute ‘Be My Maid?” boxes with inspirational pictures, color swatches, hair clips and heartfelt notes to my girls inside…

    Needless to say, they were like, hell NO. Your wedding. You and Eric pick. It makes it easier.

    Anywho, I still wanted to be cool, ya know? So I went to my fave website ( that I buy most of my clothes on, and picked out a bunch of summer dresses. I found 5 or 6 that I liked and sent them an email with the links. Within one night, they all emailed me back choosing the SAME ONE. All 5 of them! So I ordered them in two colors, in one fell swoop, so they didn’t have to pay for shipping. Best news? They only cost $45 each AND they all really wanted to wear them as soon as they came in the mail. I told them to go for it. Then they really looked at my like I was crazy. My reaction? “Well, just don’t spill anything you can’t get out down the front, ok?”

    The dresses are awesome and my girls love them. That’s all that matters. Either way you decide to do it, doesn’t mean you’re good or bad. Just do you.

  • Louise

    I know exactly how this goes!!! I tried to be SO easy going about the whole bridesmaid ensemble. It was a backyard wedding in August in Seattle, which means blackberry city, so I put blackberries on an olive green invitation, and sort of stuck with that as a color scheme. So, I said, “wear a summery dress in any berry color (pink, purple, navy) or olive green.” They said, “no, but what do you WANT us to wear?” and I said, “any berry color or olive green.” They got SO stressed out! Well, most of them. The only one of them who wasn’t married (read: the only one who’d never made me or anyone else buy a dress in her exactly selected color) said, “OK great I have this raspberry colored dress from Anthropologie I wore as a bridesmaid in another wedding. Will that work?” SHE got it! I eventually photoshopped a group picture with a bunch of different green and berry color dresses together to demonstrate to them that it would work, and most felt better about it then. And I just bought my cousin a dress for $20 at Target that would work so she could relax. Then we had to have the shoe conversation… and the hair conversation… and on and on and on… wow, I’m glad that’s over.

    It is so frustrating to honestly not care about a particular detail and have people not believe you. Get ready for that to happen A LOT, especially in the last few days. I really never figured out a good way to let people know that I’d already decided and taken care of all the details that I CARED about (so please stop asking!).

  • APWFan

    I had a similar idea (but within 4 colors) but have basically ended up assigning colors – people have asked for more guidance. Also, I was adamant that people should wear something they have if possible (= practical, saving money, not being a Bad Bride), but most of them are now saying that actually, they wouldn’t mind buying something new for the occasion! Still, I’d rather it go this way than be authoritarian and end up with people being annoyed/lacking choice. ;-) PS We’re a JC Lemon couple, too!

  • Elemem13

    Wow! This is exactly what happened to me, and it even involved peacock colors :).

  • Sarah

    My older sister asked for us all to wear short, black dresses, and it worked very well. My favourite thing about my BM dress is that it has become like the “traveling pants” in that it miraculously looks great on all the ladies in my family. I’ve worn it once since the wedding, but my older sister wears it most often! Weddings, holiday parties, etc.
    For my wedding, I’m not having a bridal party and told my sisters, who will be under the chuppa with me, to wear whatever they like. But for some reason they are desperate for instruction!

  • Karen B.

    You are not alone in this!!! Oh my goodness I thought I was going crazy. I told my girls I wanted either gold or grey dresses. They all loved the gold idea, but seemed confused at the idea of picking different styles. I thought It would be better, more affordable and easier for my maids (one of whom lives across the country) to each find a gold dress that they liked, no worries if they weren’t the exact same colour or length. As it turns out they felt like it was too much freedom? I still don’t really understand but finally had to just pick grey dresses, go to a website with set colours, and have them pick their styles. I’m totally fine with that but still a little confused haha… I was trying to be easy going buuuut… a little too easy going I guess. I finally had to determine that they be long as well, as even though I didn’t care (and prefer they pick what they were comfortable in), they were uncomfortable being the ones the say “ok two long two short! I get that now, but at the time it was a strange situation I didn’t think I would be faced with.

  • Sharon

    Too many choices = analysis paralysis. I’m eliminating most of the stress by only having one attendant, and she’s pretty good at picking out something that will fit her well.

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  • Delta

    Haha, this is quite amusing. People are so nice. Personally I loved picking what I wanted when the bride said I could do just that. Especially as I had gained a bit of weight and didn’t know this new body, so everything looked wrong on me until I finally found a flattering frock. I did ask quite a few times though what she wanted: colour, length, fabric – but she really didn’t care, so I just went with it – it was fun.

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