The Bridesmaid’s tale: tips for picking bridesmaid dresses and your bridesmaids

May 6, 2016

“Bridesmaid.” When I hear that word, I immediately flash back to 27 Dresses when James Marsden’s character spots a closet filled to the brim with—let’s face it—some of the most godawful dresses you have ever seen. Katherine Heigl then proceeds to parade around her apartment, showing them off. We are privy to some incredibly stereotypical things: puffy sleeves, Southern belle, ’80s throwback, short, long, extra crinolines—the list just goes on. And in one of the most ridiculous scenes at the end of the movie (spoilers), each friend wears one of these for the big day of Heigl’s character.

In real life, the word “bridesmaid” gets mixed reactions: from excitement (who wouldn’t be honoured to take part in someone’s special day) to mild annoyance (this is not a task for everyone), mild shock (it’s easy to find an article about the average cost of a bridesmaid dress), jealousy (the age-old “always the bridesmaid, never the bride”) or even hurt feelings (because you were not asked to be a bridesmaid).

So, what do I think about? The clothes. Beautiful colours, clean lines and modern silhouettes—dresses that complement the bride and her vision, not detract from it. From yellow to purple to red, I have seen them all and have had the distinct honour and pleasure to wear some of them.

I also think of the evolving role of the bridesmaid. We no longer choose, as per tradition, sisters and cousins—today, best friends (male or female), children and even pets are fair game. All that to say, the rules followed by your parents no longer apply. Instead, people are designing their weddings to fit their needs and preferences.

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Continuing the FAJO Wedding Series from our last piece, Wedding dress preparation: 10 Tips for your Big Day, here are a few tips for the brides, from picking the right members for a bridal party to choosing the perfect bridesmaid dress.

1. Choose your bridal party wisely. I can’t stress this enough. These people are going to be there to calm your nerves when you may be at your worst and your best. You want people who know you, love you and support you no matter what—may they be family, friends or friends who are family!

2. Be very clear about what you need your bridal party to do. Being a bridesmaid is a role. Yes, they are guests at your wedding, and they are there to have fun, but their role is also to ensure that your day goes without a hitch. To make it easy on yourself and your bridal party, assign tasks before the big day.

3. Beware of the bridesmaid who thinks she is the star of the show. We have seen them in movies or heard the stories. They think only of their appearance and needs, and “forget” to put the bride first. Be prepared to stand your ground on some issues, but be open to new ideas. Your friends know you best, and they may come up with something great that you didn’t even think about!

4. Money, money, money! Yes, you are spending lots of money on your wedding—but remember that the members of your bridal party are as well. If you can work it into the budget, consider paying half the price of the dress or paying for their hair and make-up—your bridesmaids will appreciate it. Between the dress, shoes, travel, bridal showers, bachelorettes and stag and does, the costs can creep up. Also, set a budget for the dresses and stick to it, especially if the bridal party members are paying for them themselves.

5. Have a vision. Tensions may run high when shopping for bridesmaid dresses. You may have a vision for the dress, but it may be unavailable, too expensive, or not actually be what you thought once you see it in-person. Go in with an open mind but have a clear sense of what you want with regards to fabric, silhouette, and look and feel.

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6. Research. There are many styles out there. Just like when you shop for your wedding dress, get a sense of your options. You can even send these ideas to your bridesmaids to see if they like them and would feel comfortable wearing them. Reviews of dresses can also be helpful, especially if you’re buying online.

7. Not everyone is built the same. When picking the dress, keep your bridesmaids’ body types in mind. You may want everyone to wear the same dress, but it may not sit right on everyone. They will be standing up there with you, so make them feel special too. You also want them to complement the overall picture, not take away from it.

8. Dress for the venue. Just like picking your wedding dress, you want the bridesmaid dresses to complement the venue. The wedding is taking place in a ballroom? “Long” may be the way to go. It’s taking place on a beach? A lightweight fabric and high-low hem might be something to think about.

9. Think of the pictures. Your wedding pictures are going to be with you for the rest of your life. Make sure the dresses are something you will enjoy looking at over the next 20 years and more.

10. It’s a long day. When thinking of your wedding dress, we suggested you think of comfort. You will be moving, dancing, taking pictures. And who is going to be doing that with you? Your bridal party! Keep that in mind—they are going to have a long day, just like you.

P.S. And one last tip for all of the bridesmaids and bridesmaids-to-be: know what you are getting into. Being a bridesmaid can be fun, exciting and a lot of responsibility. Make sure you can commit financially, emotionally and physically when accepting to be part of someone’s big day. And—enjoy every minute of it!

Katherine Ellis will be getting married in April 2017.

By Katherine Ellis
Photography by / courtesy of Shutterstock


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