Not that long ago, all bridesmaid dresses were the same. You stood at the altar with your gal pals beside you, all in matching dresses. The maid of honor was the only exception—sometimes. Her dress might have extra embellishments, or be a slightly different color to make it stand out. But overall, the wedding party was uniform. Rarely did bridesmaids choose their dress.
Now fast forward to present day, where it’s uncommon to not let your bridesmaid choose their dress. We have bridesmaids wearing different shades of the same color. And even groups with different styles, colors, and textures! So how do you choose for your special day? With so many other details to plan, browsing for the perfect (bridesmaid!) dress might not be your top priority. On the other hand, you want everything to match—these pictures will be hanging on your wall for a long time. Consider all the pros and cons before letting your bridesmaids choose their dress (or skirt or pants).
Letting your gal pals choose doesn’t mean they get a free-for-all in David’s Bridal. Just like any other part of your wedding—you’re in control. When you share your bridal party vision, you can be as open-ended as you want. But you can also be more uniform—while still letting them choose on their own. For example, you can choose a specific skirt for everyone to wear, and tell the ‘maids to find a cute maroon shirt they’ll be comfortable in. Or, you can simply give them a color or length requirement and set them free. At the end of the day, though, you still maintain control—along with these other three convincing pros of letting everyone choose their dress.
They’ll Wear it Again
As Katherine Heigl so kindly repeated over and over in the cheery rom-com 27 Dresses, you can always shorten your bridesmaid dress and wear it again. But you don’t want your BFFs to sacrifice valuable closet space in their homes:
Few bridesmaids ever re-wear their dresses, because they didn’t choose them in the first place. When bridesmaids choose their dress, they can select something they like—and will hopefully wear again! This makes your wedding a little bit greener. And while it might not save them money, it does help them spend their money a little better.
Customize Your Wedding Look
Bridesmaid dresses have evolved to match current fashion trends and styles. But there’s only so much you can do with a row of the same dress. By letting your bridesmaids choose their dress, you can completely customize your bridal party.
Maybe you want your gold-and-navy color scheme reflected in wedding party. Ask your gal pals to mix-and-match by choosing a dress in either gold or navy blue. Or have the group wear skirts in different shades of green for your spring wedding—all with white tops. You can even incorporate leather, extra tulle, and pant suits for a really unique look!
Flexible Buying Options
For weddings less than six months away, buying non-traditional bridesmaid dresses can save lots of time. When you buy through a boutique or more traditional dress store, your ‘maids will need to order their dresses three months ahead of time. That way, they can receive the dress, get it altered, and try it on with shoes before the big day.
But for a wedding less than six months away, that only gives your gal pals a few months to come up with the money and secure their dresses. On the flip side, sending them off with “black maxi skirt and white top” instructions won’t take as long. Chances are they’ll be able to buy right off the rack.
Of course, even with careful instructions, it’s risky to let your friends shop on their own. Because you’re not choosing the dress (or skirt or pants), you’ll have to review every one to make sure they’ll all match. And for out-of-town friends, you probably won’t see it in person until the wedding weekend. For some brides, that’s too stressful! (It’s totally OK if that’s you—that’s why you weigh the pros and cons, and choose what’s best for you.) Plus, there are other practical reasons to choose a uniform bridesmaid look.
No Group Shopping Trip
Let’s face it—dress shopping isn’t always fun. But a big trip with your closest confidants definitely is! When you let your bridesmaid choose their dress, everyone goes to different stores on their own. You may tag along with a ‘maid or two, but it’s usually a solo activity.
Bonus Tip: If you have a lot of out-town-bridesmaids, this can be a pro. Not all stores are in every state or country!
If you have a group of friends who don’t know each other that well, a group shopping trip is a great way to bond. And without it, some gal pals won’t meet until the Big Day.
Mismatched Final Look
If you’ve ever tried wearing black pants with a black shirt, you know that coloring matching can be a nightmare. And fabric is a big reason for that. Black silk isn’t the same as black tulle or lace. If you’re not careful, you could end up with bridesmaids in mismatching shades of the same color—especially next to each other. To avoid this, you can specify certain materials, or choose a specific color from a chain store. But at some point, you’re giving so much direction that you may as well pick the dress!
Extra Work for Bridesmaids
Being a bridesmaid can be a lot of work, especially for the maid of honor. And while your besties certainly want to help out—you don’t want to overextend them, either. Shopping for shoes, accessories, and semi-specific dresses (or skirts or pants!) often takes more time to find the perfect piece.
On the other hand, when you tell your bridesmaid, “Buy this dress,” all it takes is an hour in-store to find the right size and swipe the credit card. The key is to know your ‘maids. Do they have the time and patience for a little shopping? Or would they rather the decision be made for them? You, of course, can’t please everyone. But sometimes giving too many options isn’t helpful!
Before making your decision, know your priorities. If you’re planning a quirky, unique wedding, then slightly mismatched dresses will fit right in! But if you envision a formal celebration, matching floor-length dresses may be a better option. Then, consider your bridesmaids. If they don’t care about fashion, it’s probably easier to pick their dress out yourself. Or, if you don’t care about fashion—let them do all the work!
Have you ever been a bridesmaid? Who picked out your dress? Have you worn it since?