Alison: Here’s the thing about being a bridesmaid. You are signing up to wear (and, in most cases, buy) a dress that someone else has picked out for you. This is weird. No one has, most likely, picked out your clothes for you since you were five, unless you’re an actress or model. In that case, shut up, nobody feels sorry for you, because that’s awesome.
Some brides will ask you for your input in choosing your dress. Some brides will just give you a call, or send you an email with the dress they want you to wear, and you have to buy it, possibly without even trying it on. It’s not ideal, but you can always get it tailored! I’m fairly certain it is impossible to find a dress that looks good on everyone, unless you are in the sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, but eh, that’s life.
Jessica: In the early stages of planning my wedding, I totally wanted to be the cool bride. I hoped to pick a fabric and color from J. Crew and let my bridesmaids choose the style of dress. I really wanted everyone to have a dress they loved. I also wanted each of my bridesmaids to be able to pick the style of dress. Each has a very different body shape, and obviously what is appropriate for a 17 year old might not be something that a 27 year old would want to re-wear.
After going through several sites that are good for bridesmaids dresses, I realized a couple of things:
a) the dresses at J. Crew were just as expensive as buying a dress from a “wedding store”, if not more expensive
b) the fabrics and colors weren’t what I was hoping for
c) in order to get dresses from a retail store and make sure that they were tailored in time for the wedding, we wouldn’t be able to wait to see what J Crew had to offer
So I decided just to pick a dress (a wrap dress) that would work for all the girls. And because I felt super guilty asking my bridesmaids to pay $200 for a dress I chose, I gifted them with $150 towards their dresses (and paid for my sister’s dress entirely because she was 17). Honestly, don’t expect your bride to do that. It was a lot of money that I actually contributed out of my own pocket, but I felt that it was worth it to not ask my friends/sisters to pay $200ish for a dress that I chose. I also didn’t ask them to buy a certain type of shoe or jewelry either.
*Note about this photo: My sister was sent the wrong size dress (ughhhhh) with no time to return or alter it, so she’s wearing a different dress than the other girls. That’s another tip: THE MINUTE you get your dress, try it on to make sure it’s the right size/close to the right size. That way you have plenty of time to return/alter the dress before the event.
Alison: It seems to be the standard that the bridesmaids foot the bill for the dresses and shoes. According to Emily Post, this is something that you should expect. It can be upwards of $200 just for your outfit when it is all said and done, and that doesn’t include the potential costs of a gift, bridal shower, bachelorette party, and any travel expenses you may have!
For one of the weddings I’m in, my bride asked me to buy a specific dress from J Crew. I actually really like the style, but at J Crew I am 3 different sizes depending on where you are on my body. That’s why I’m getting it tailored – it will fit me perfectly, and I’ll feel confident, because I won’t be wearing a dress that pulls or gapes open.
Don’t be sad if you weren’t included in the bridesmaid dress decision. Let’s get real here: This is not your event. It’s not really about you, and even if you have the sweetest bride in the world, you still need to respect the fact that this is her wedding. In fact, Emily Post also says that it’s traditionally only the maid of honor’s job to assist in picking out bridesmaid dresses. That was a surprise to me, and although I think most weddings are much more relaxed now, it’s something to keep in mind.
If you are lucky enough to be included in the bridesmaid dress hunt, we have a few tips to make sure everything goes smoothly:
Once you are out of the dressing room, you and your body are fair game for comments. These comments may not be coming from people you even know, and they may not be very nice. When I started to feel a little sensitive (I found myself wanting to shout ‘let’s just write wide load across my butt and call it a day!’) I found it helpful to remember that while I was asked to be in the wedding because my individual relationship to the bride, when I am in a wedding party I’m contributing to a larger ‘look’ that is her vision for her wedding. So if she doesn’t like a dress, it’s not my fault, and if someone else says something about how I look in a dress, they are probably so wrapped up in their own wedding planning that they aren’t even thinking about my feelings. Unless they said I looked great – then they are obviously really smart and observant.
Jessica: Hopefully your bride is being kind and is looking out for you – she wants you to look your best. If you’re the one bridesmaid trying on dresses, keep in mind that she is (probably) mentally trying to picture what it would look like on the other bridesmaids. So if something is pulling on your hips, it might look really bad on another bridesmaid.
Alison: Bridal and bridesmaids dresses tend to be sized a little less generously than normal clothes. If you’re normally a 4, you might be a 6 at David’s Bridal. Even if you think you’re above clothes sizing.. it can be a real blow to the ego to be struggling to pull up a dress that’s already a size bigger than what you normally wear. Just… be prepared for that.
Jessica: My bridesmaids were shocked when they were given their sizes based on their measurements (one who is normally a 0 or 2 had to order a 6 in the dress).
Alison: You may fall in love with a dress, but it’s really your bride’s opinion that matters. Try not to get too attached until you are walking down the aisle in that dress. Also, if you can tell she doesn’t like it, don’t keep pushing it. This is actually a decision a lot of brides agonize over. You don’t want to make their decision any harder.
Jessica: It is a really hard decision for brides! I really wanted to make sure my bridesmaids felt beautiful during the wedding, but that their dresses worked with my “vision”, which included the groomsmen’s outfits and the entire look of the wedding (I might have been obsessive).
Alison: In the end, I have learned that the more you can set aside your own feelings and opinions during dress shopping, the more fun it will be. You get to try on all kinds of different beautiful dresses, and it is illuminating to try on dresses that you may not have picked out for yourself. You can expand your style horizons, and play dress up! Embrace the fact that you are helping make someone else’s wedding dreams come true, and enjoy the ride.
Jessica and I went through the war together (otherwise known as studio). She moved far away to California after school, but we talk so much on g-chat that it’s like she never left. She is currently working as a senior designer, and lives in an adorable cottage with her husband and dog. She can see the ocean from her house, and I kind of hate her for that. If you like me, you’ll love her blog!