Of the many things you and your future spouse love about the members of your wedding party, their distinctive personalities probably falls at the top of the list. Despite the fact that each person is unique in their own right—with their own style preferences and body types—traditional wedding etiquette has long dictated that the bridal party should wear matching attire: Bridesmaids typically don the very same dress—the same color, fabric, style, you name it—while groomsmen arrive in matching suits, tuxedos, or shirt and pants. “When this happens, more often than not, [your attendants] are not comfortable in what they’re wearing, since they weren’t given a choice,” says Julie Sabatino, bridal stylist and founder of The Stylish Bride.
With that being said, many of today’s couples are moving away from this age-old tradition and are now choosing to celebrate their bridal party’s differences through attire. In fact, Sabatino estimates that the majority of her couples encourage their attendants to choose outfits that speak to them. In the case of bridesmaids, she says that about 80 percent of the brides she works with give the members of their group the opportunity to pick variations on the same dress. “Bridesmaids' dress companies are great at doing this—they’ll have many options in the same color and same fabric,” she says. “Some brides even let their bridesmaids get a little more creative, asking them to choose different fabrics and styles within the same color scheme.”
But if you're the type of couple who really loves the idea of unified attire, there's no reason why you can't have the best of both worlds—there are plenty of ways to encourage individuality while still asking everyone to start with the same outfit. Here, Sabatino and other wedding experts share their best tips for empowering your entire wedding party to let their personal sense of style shine through on the big day, whether or not you’re asking them to choose their own attire.
Meet the Expert
Give Your Attendants a Curated Inspiration Board to Shop From
The easiest way to ensure that each member of your wedding party—whether bridesmaids or groomsmen—has the opportunity to wear something that speaks to their own sense of style, Sabatino says, is to let them choose their own big-day looks based on a concept that you and your future spouse have approved of. “This concept board should showcase the overall look that you’re trying to achieve with [your wedding party] and then, from there, you let them select their own from ready-to-wear [outfits],” she says.
Sabatino's company does this legwork for their clients, putting together a deck that highlights the overarching themes the couple feels are important, but it's something anyone can create on their own using a platform like Canva or Pinterest. For example, Sabatino says, “If the bride wants each of her bridesmaids in a different long floral dress but wants to make sure that none of them are strapless and that they all have some sort of shade of pink in them,” her team will pull a selection of looks that fit the bill. From there, bridesmaids can review the assortment and purchase whichever one speaks to them.
The same process can be adopted for groomsmen: If you know you want all of your attendants to wear some form of blue suit but don't have your hearts set on a specific style, put together an inspiration board with a variety of different options that your groomsmen can order on their own.
Let Everyone Pick Their Own Outfits Based on One Unifying Detail
An easy way to empower your wedding party to choose attire that's reflective of who they are is to select one unifying element—like fabric or color—and let everyone pick outfits that align with that direction. If budget allows, Toronto-based wedding planner Nicole-Natassha Goulding of Chic by Nicole loves the idea of having custom bridesmaids’ dresses made using the same fabric, but giving your attendants freedom to select a cut they love. “There are also great off-the-rack designer collections that allow each bridesmaid to pick the best style to suit their body type while remaining cohesive in the same fabric and color,” she says.
And don't be afraid to give direction that veers away from the traditional if you're open to it—jumpsuits, two-piece bridesmaids' sets, suits, and more are absolutely options for the women in your group.
Choose a Color Palette and Let the Group Get Creative
If you and your future spouse are open to being a hands-off in regards to attire, you might be pleasantly surprised by the beautiful end result that can happen when you give your attendants a color palette and let them go to town; this is particularly true when it comes to bridesmaids’ dresses. “Some of the prettiest bridesmaid photos have mismatched dresses, a variety of colors in the same palette, and a mixture of textures,” says Nora Sheils, co-founder of Rock Paper Coin and founder of Bridal Bliss. “Even mixing in prints adds a beautiful touch if done right—it all adds interest and personality!”
If you’re selecting a single color palette to share with your group, it’s important to be specific—for example, ask everyone to choose dresses in shades of pink such as blush, rose, and plum, as opposed to simply saying "pink." Similarly, rather than asking the groomsmen to choose any "gray suit" they like, request a dark or light tone. When in doubt, you can even give everyone color swatches to use when shopping. Additionally, Shauna Cooney, co-owner of Shauna and Jordon, suggests encouraging open communication between your wedding party so that they can share and collaborate in regards to their color and potential pattern choices.
Give the Group Free Rein Over Accessories
Asking your wedding party to pick their own shoes and accessories is a great way to let everyone express their personal style when they’re wearing matching attire, notes Goulding. It may seem simple, but having the opportunity to personalize their look in some fashion can go a long way when it comes to group morale. “I always suggest my brides be open to feedback from their bridesmaids as much as possible during the process—let them know you want them to all look like rockstars and want to compromise to find a look that works for everyone involved,” she adds.
What's more, consider options that give your attendants the freedom to shop their own closets. Asking everyone to wear any statement earring they already own or their favorite nude heels, for example, gives your group flexibility without always having to buy something brand-new. “I always suggest allowing the wedding party to mix and match from their own collections instead of having to buy everything brand new for the wedding, as this keeps costs lower and also brings a pop of their own personalities to their outfits,” Goulding adds.
Your groomsmen should be given the same opportunities for outfit personalization. Encourage them to choose ties that speak to their overarching style, unique pocket squares, or statement cuff links.
Gift Each Person a Wedding-Day Accessory That Speaks to Their Style
If you’re struggling to set guidelines around accessories for your bridesmaids and groomsmen, Sabatino suggests gifting everyone something that they can wear on your wedding day. “This is a great way to have a little bit of control over the look while still honoring who each [person] is as an individual,” she says. Maybe that means giving each bridesmaid a different pair of earrings made by the same designer or treating your groomsmen to fun pocket squares in each of their favorite colors. Ultimately, as long as the gift represents each person's unique style, the members of your wedding party will still have a chance to show off who they are without having to spend more money on additional accessories.