Bridesmaid dress shopping is an opportunity to hang out with your girlfriends and drink champagne. It usually takes place early on in the wedding planning process, so stress levels are low. And if your ‘maids are all wearing different dress silhouettes, it’s a chance for the group to give feedback—and make sure no one picks the same style.
But before you go bridesmaid dress shopping, there are a few details you need to have planned that ensure your time out is both productive and fun. Productive so you can order the dresses in enough time, and fun so no one’s stressed looking for a dress. Your bridesmaids are here to support you on your special day, so some advanced planning helps them help you. Consider these seven essential steps before embarking on a bridesmaid dress shopping trip.
1. Pick Your Wedding Dress
Your wedding dress is the star of the show—bridesmaid dresses complement it, not compete with it. So before you can begin the bridesmaid dress shopping journey, you need to know what dress you’ll be wearing. For example, are you wearing a simple white dress with minimal frill? You won’t want sparkly or bright bridesmaid dresses. But if your wedding dress has beading and tulle, the ‘maids can get away with a more decorative dress.
You’ll also want to know what color wedding dress you’ll be wearing. Common colors are white, ivory, and champagne, and fortunately they match almost everything. But it’s still important to get the right shade for the bridesmaid dresses, so the group looks picture perfect.
2. Set the Budget
Early in the process, you should set a budget. This will determine where you go bridesmaid dress shopping, because you’ll visit places that fit within the general price range. Setting a budget should certainly include the dress costs, but also consider alterations and any accessories. While some bridal shops offer free alterations, others don’t, so keep in mind that the price on the tag might not be the final cost.
Accessories are less of an issue, unless you have a specific pair of shoes you want the gals to wear. But most often, the bridesmaids choose a pair of shoes on their own—so long as they match the right color or style. Because the ‘maids can price shop for shoes, this helps keep costs down. It also lets them personalize their outfit a little. After all, it’s your day, but you want them to be comfortable and confident, too.
3. Schedule an Appointment
Now you have the budget all set—it’s time to book appointments! If you’re buying off the rack, timing is less of an issue. But if you’re ordering from a designer, you want to order your dress six months before the wedding. It can take up to four months to receive the dress, and then you have time to get alterations before the big day.
Many bridal shops book appointment weeks ahead of schedule, so don’t wait until the six-month mark before calling. Call to schedule your visit 7-8 months before the wedding. Your ‘maids might not find the right dress at the first shop, so this gives you a little time to visit different spots.
4. Choose a Color Palette
You might have had a bridesmaid dress color chosen from the beginning. And that’s great! But you don’t need to make the decision right away—you don’t even have to choose before booking an appointment. Unless you want a very particular color, it’s rare that a designer wouldn’t have the color you want. Plus, if you wait until your bridesmaid dress shopping trip, you can get input from your BFFs. They can see the colors in person and even try them on.
Bonus Tip: If a shop has the right color, but not the right style, try on one of each—a dress in the right style, and a dress in the right color. It’s not ideal, but you’ll get a feel for both elements.
5. Determine a Style
As you’re considering the color palette, also consider the dress style. Not everyone looks flattering in the same type of dress, so you might ask your ‘maids to all try on a few different styles. Or you can keep your direction vague, and just ask the girls to all wear knee-length dresses. While it used to be tradition for each bridesmaid to be in the exact same style, present day wedding trends don’t follow that rule. Often, you’ll see every member of the bridal party in a different silhouette. So long as the color and fabric match, they all look great!
Bonus Tip: Consider the time of year and venue. Will your ‘maids be chilly or warm? Choose a dressing accordingly!
6. Choose Accessories
Once the dress style and color are chosen, you can give direction on accessories. While it’s easiest to wait until all the bridesmaid dresses have been selected—especially if everyone is wearing different styles—it’s not always necessary. The recurring theme here is that you can be as specific or generic as you want. You could ask your ‘maids to wear only gold jewelry, or no jewelry at all. But if there is a specific piece you want them to wear—or a specific pair of shoes, make sure you give them that explicit direction ahead of time. They may have to order it online or figure out sizing. So, like the dresses, give them a few months’ notice.
7. See the Finished Look
After all the pieces have arrived and been fitted, get a sneak peek of your gal pals before the big day. Visit them if you want (it’s a great way to get some quality time) or ask that they send pictures with the whole outfit on. This will ensure you don’t have any day-of panic when someone pulls out blue shoes instead of teal. Your BFFs will surely understand, and it will give them peace of mind, too. They don’t want to wear the wrong thing, either!