It's hard to please everyone. But no bride wants to ask her closest friends to spend $200+ on a dress that they're going to wear once. Luckily, the diversely dressed but still cohesive bridal party look is in, according to Joe Volpe of Cescaphe Events. "We are seeing mismatched gowns way more often than uniform looks," he says. This often means that brides will pick a small handful of dresses for their bridesmaids to choose from, or specify a color family and let their pals select their own wardrobes — with approval of course.
If you're leaning towards giving your girls a lot of freedom to pick their ensembles, Alex Chalk of Taylor'd Events suggests providing a few helpful guidelines beyond color. How short or how long you prefer the dresses to be, whether or not and what type of embellishment they can have, and what kinds of fabric you like area all good ideas for guidance. "Having them know what you don't want is always just as important as what you do want," she adds. A Pinterest board with some options is a great way to show them what you have in mind, while encouraging them to pin dresses they're considering. Chalk also says to urge your bridesmaids to buy early. "That way if something just isn't fitting in, you can work with them to find something else."
For brides who want a little more control (we don't blame you!), be more specific in your instructions. "What I always suggest to clients is pick a designer and color then have the bridesmaids select the dress they like," says Jennifer Taylor of Taylor'd Events. This ensures that you'll like the general aesthetic while giving your girls a bit of a say in what they wear.
These approaches are especially useful because what's flattering on one bridesmaid may not be on another, so body types should be a consideration. "Everyone comes in different shapes and sizes," says Araceli Vizcaino-S of Azazie, who thinks that women who have larger chests are more comfortable in gowns that are pleated at the top, versus draped. She also recommends avoiding low-cut or keyhole styles and opting to for an illusion neckline instead because not everyone wants to wear a strapless dress. When it comes to length, long gowns are good for elongating legs but knee-length can look really good when all the bridesmaids are different heights, Vizcaino-S says.
Your bridal party will also appreciate seasonally appropriate fabrics. "If it's summertime or if you're planning a destination wedding on the shores of a distant beach, opt for lighter fabrics that will provide air circulation like chiffon or organza. While winter weddings can certainly showcase heavier fabrics like satin or silk, the weight of these fabrics can be stifling in the heat," says Vizcaino-S.
Looking to narrow down the options to just one dress for everyone? Vizcaino-S says that a knee-length dress with a sweetheart neckline is universally flattering. "[It] is a winner every single time." And if you're going that route, Volpe thinks giving the bridal party a choice in their shoes, accessories, or hairstyle is a nice gesture. They are your nearest and dearest pals after all.