Many brides are letting their bridesmaids choose their own dresses. The girls are usually thrilled — no more wedging yourself into something definitely not designed for your body type just to make your best friend happy about her wedding photos. Letting your bridesmaids choose something that flatters their own form and features can make you a very, very popular bride.
With that in mind, it's also important to remember the bride is supposed to be the central focus in all the wedding pictures, especially during the ceremony. There are some pitfalls to watch out for if you decide to go the variety of dresses route so that it doesn't look like a random collection of friends standing up on the altar. Brides can create unity in their wedding party's appearance by giving their bridesmaids matching jewelry to wear, and with special hair ornaments or flowers. Or even by gifting matching shoes. But if the bridesmaids are all choosing their own dresses, there are some parameters to consider and guidelines you might want to use:
1. Be specific about dress length — while they don't have to be exactly the same, it looks weird when you have a few girls in knee length dresses and one in floor length. Tell them a specific length range from which you want them to choose.
2. Some dress shops and bridal designers offer a variety of styles available in a palette of colors. You can choose a few specific styles — and pre-designate the exact color — and then let each bridesmaid choose what is most flattering on her.
3. It's popular to offer the girls a color palette to choose from that matches the wedding's color theme — "seaglass colors," for example. Even with that guidance, it's a good idea to give them some swatches to have as example of what you specifically have in mind. Otherwise, what you called "aqua" in your email could turn out to be a teal dress your girlfriend thought was aqua-enough.
4. Be specific about what kind of shoes you'd like your bridesmaids to wear with their dress selections. Especially if their feet will be visible. One bridesmaid in flat sandals standing next to another in platform stilettos with ankle straps just looks weird. And stands out.
*Owner of Weddings in Vieques, a destination-wedding planning company off the coast of Puerto Rico, Sandy Malone has helped countless couples plan their big day since 2007. *