Once you have chosen your own wedding dress, it’s time to start thinking about what your bridesmaids will wear. Since you want to keep your friends, you probably want to stay away from the seafoam green, Scarlett O’Hara-style hoop skirts, but beyond knowing exactly what you don’t want, choosing the right dresses can be tricky. Finding something that flatters a variety of body types, fits the theme and style of your wedding, and that your bridesmaids will feel great in can feel like an impossible task.
But don’t despair. Check out our guide to choosing bridesmaid dresses below to find a dress that will make everyone happy. Best of all, every dress from JJ’s House is made to order, so your girls can count dresses that fits perfectly and make them feel beautiful.
Start With the Budget
As you know, wedding expenses can add up quickly, and it’s no different for a bridesmaid. Before you begin looking at dresses, consider all the costs, including the dress (and alterations if needed), shoes, jewelry, and hair and makeup. Be mindful of your bridesmaids’ lifestyles and budgets, and consider cost-effective options that won’t break the bank. One option to meet every budget is to choose the color of the dress, and allow your bridesmaids to each choose a dress that fits their taste and budget.
The Shape of You
One common complaint among those who have been bridesmaids is that they were forced to wear a dress that wasn’t flattering. A dress that looks great on your size 2 best friend might not look as good on your size 16 sister, so look for a dress that is flattering to many body types. When you are trying to find a universally flattering dress, stick to dresses made from sturdier fabrics that have a good deal of structure and shape to them. Gauzy, floaty dresses can overwhelm petite frames while making plus-size women appear larger. Some good options to look for include:
- ¾ length sleeves. This sleeve length looks great on every age, height, and body shape, and eliminates some of the discomfort that can come with strapless or sleeveless styles.
- A-line silhouettes. The A-line silhouette is the most universally flattering for bridesmaid dresses, followed by empire waist styles. If any of your bridesmaids are expecting, an empire is a comfortable and flattering choice. A classic sheath is also flattering on most people. Simple and streamlined is usually a flattering style.
- Subtle design details. Ruching or darts at the waist, well-placed slits in the skirt, and other details can draw attention to her best features and enhance the fit of the dress.
- Avoid ball gowns and lots of fabric for plus-size bridesmaids. Adding layers of fabric can only make one appear heavier. Look for dresses that are designed to conceal “problem” areas and highlight her favorite features.
- Matte fabric. Shiny or iridescent fabric reflects light, and make even the best-fitting gown look somehow “off.”
Again, if your bridesmaids are a wide range of sizes and shapes, you might consider choosing a dress color and allowing each bridesmaid to select the dress style that is most flattering to her shape.
The Rainbow Connection
Bridesmaid dresses typically coordinate with the color scheme of the wedding. When choosing a color for the gowns, remember the following:
Venue color schemes. If your reception is being held in a beautiful garden in full bloom, a bright fuchsia or turquoise dress will fit right in. If you will be partying in a rustic barn decorated in shades of deep red and yellow? Those shades will look out of place. Consider the overall theme and feeling you want for your wedding, and coordinate the dress color to that.
Season. Fall and winter weddings call for deeper richer hues than spring and summer nuptials. Think navy, chocolate, or eggplant shades for the color months, with brighter pinks, greens, and blues for the summer.
Variety is okay. Many brides are opting for their bridesmaids to wear the same dress in a variety of hues from the same color family; for example, several shades of blue. Another trend is the “rainbow” bridal party, with each bridesmaid wearing the same dress in a different shade of the rainbow.
Don’t overlook pattern. Patterned and printed dresses are another bridesmaid dress trend. If you opt for a patterned dress, keep everything else simple — monochromatic flowers, simple hair, etc. — so it doesn’t look too busy.
Location, Location, Location
The venue of your wedding celebration is also a factor in selecting a bridesmaid gown. A dress that’s perfect for formal cathedral wedding followed by a ballroom reception is going to look out of place at a more bohemian beachside wedding. Consider some of these options for common wedding venues:
Ballroom. Formal, floor length gown with details in lace, sequins, or beads. Pair with formal shoes and hair.
Barn/Country. Empire waist maxi dresses, knee length dresses, less formal and structured looks. Consider pairing them with boots, denim jackets, or cardigans to up the country/informal feeling.
Beach. Maxi dresses, empire waist dresses, short dresses. Beach weddings tend to be less formal than others, so you want to avoid dresses that have lots of beading or details, and stick to simpler designs.
Outdoor Garden. Here you have some flexibility depending on how formal your wedding will be. High-low hems and tea length dresses are a good option, as well as A-line and empire waist gowns in various lengths.
Don’t forget to consider the weather and temperature of your location as well, especially if you will be taking photos or doing any wedding activities outdoors. If you opt for sleeveless or strapless dress during cooler months, for instance, be sure to add a wrap or jacket so no one freezes.
What Are You Wearing?
As the bride, you are the star of the show, so your bridesmaid’s dresses should coordinate with yours. As you look through photos of bridesmaid dress options, place them side-by-side with photos of your dress to see how they look together. Generally speaking, the more elaborate your dress, the simpler your bridesmaid dresses should be. If your dress has lots of beading, lace, or other details, look for a bridesmaid gown that is simpler.
Some brides like to coordinate the necklines or general style of the bridesmaid dresses with their gowns; for example, if you are wearing a strapless A-line dress, a tank-style or boat neck A-line dress will coordinate nicely. Or, if you are wearing a wedding gown with an illusion lace neckline, choose a bridesmaid dress with a similar style.
Finally, don’t be afraid to show some of your personality and be unique with your bridal party gowns. Take a cue from Kate Middleton, for instance, and dress your entire wedding party in white. Or, opt for mix-and-match separates. Don’t lock yourself into a “traditional” style just because you think you have to. It’s your day, and you can create exactly the look and feel you want.
Just, whatever you do, don’t promise your bridesmaids that they can wear their dresses again. Or make them wear hoop skirts. They will hate you forever. To find the perfect dress that won’t end your friendships, browse our bridesmaid dress styles here.
To make it easier to determine the best bridesmaid dress styles for you while looking at JJ’s House dresses, download our bridesmaid dress buying guide: