It’s meant to be a super fun bonding moment for you and your girls — you go to a shop, try on dresses, laugh, have fun, and find the perfect styles for your big day! However, the stress of pleasing all of your ‘maids, potentially ordering the wrong sizes, not knowing what styles to even look at, or dealing with multiple personalities, can quickly turn the fun of dress shopping into an overwhelming and stressful ordeal. So rather than dealing with bickering bridesmaids and stressful appointments, we have eleven tips that will make your shopping experience WAY more enjoyable.
Kennedy Blue lace and chiffon bridesmaid gowns in blush pink | Monica Ganter Photography
1. Talk about a budget. Let's face it: being a bridesmaid is expensive. You obviously care about your bride, but that doesn't mean you have to break the bank and spend more than you are comfortable with. If you are reading this and are a bridesmaid: take some time and set a budget! And make sure this includes all those extra costs that will sneak up on you such as alterations, shoes, travel, gifts, etc. Having a budget in mind will help you when talking to your bride. And if you are a bride: make sure you have "the budget talk" with your 'maids. And it doesn't have to be scary! It can actually come quite naturally. Talking to your girls about a realistic price range, and getting their honest opinions, will help you when looking at bridesmaid dresses for them.
Perhaps the $250 dress is out-of-the-question, but the $180 dress is reasonably priced! Maybe the best option will be to buy dresses that are in-stock and at a reduced rate. Either way, you’ll quickly learn what is and is not feasible for your girls. Also, don’t forget about the cost of alterations. They can run anywhere from $20-$100 for your ‘maids. (Looking for more info about dress alterations? Check out our blog dedicated totally to this subject here!)
2. Do your research. Before going into an appointment, take some time to get an idea of what you’re looking for. Dress shops have hundreds of options on their racks so filtering through them can be quite a challenge (and very overwhelming). Look on Pinterest, Google, or our Real Weddings pages and find a general style you’re interested in.
Short or long? Strapless or sleeves? Chiffon or satin? Chances are, you’ll probably change your mind once you see the styles in person, but it will save you a ton of time if you have a general idea of what you’re looking for.
3. Consider the style of your bridal gown. This goes along with the above section, but it is still super important to consider! Will long chiffon bridesmaid dresses look better next to your gown than short lace bridesmaid dresses? If your dress has a high-neckline, do you want your bridesmaids to wear strapless or high-necklines, too? You can even bring along pictures of your wedding dress to get additional advice from a consultant.
4. Shop early! Ahhh, I cannot stress to you enough the importance of this point! With services such as Amazon Prime, many online shoppers have been conditioned to expect their shipments within a matter of days. That is NOT the case for wedding attire.
Expect to start shopping around 7-8 months in advance. I know, I know, that seems SO early, but there is a lot to keep in mind. Shipping times alone usually take 12-16 weeks once they’ve been ordered. (That may seem like a long time, but dresses are usually made to order.) You also have to get all of your girls measured, have them order, and leave plenty of time for alterations or necessary exchanges. Not to mention that you have to pick out the dresses, which in some cases can take longer than you expect! There is nothing worse than getting your dress a few days before the wedding and having to pay super mega rush shipping, so shop early!
5. Have your ‘maids measured! This is also another one of those super important notes to remember. Having worked in multiple bridal shops and seeing both the consultant-side and order-processing side, I cannot tell you how common it is for bridesmaids to order the incorrect size. Bridesmaid dresses normally do not run the same as what you would buy at Macy’s or your favorite retail stores. In fact, they can be quite different. It is SO important to have your measurements professionally taken and then look at the designer's size chart and order based on your largest measurement. (See Kennedy Blue's measurement guide here.)
It’s also important to order based on your current size. I don’t know how many times bridesmaids have said that they plan to lose weight before the wedding (I’m 100% guilty of this!) and order a smaller dress, thinking that they’ll fit into it. Usually, that’s not the case. Get measured, look at size charts, and order correctly! You’ll thank me later. (Plus, it's always easier to take in the dress to make it smaller then having to order extra fabric to make it larger).
For pregnant bridesmaids we recommend ordering two sizes up from your traditional size. Every woman and every pregnancy is different, so be aware that this method does not work for everyone. Choosing an A-line bridesmaid dress with a loose stomach will help! We especially like Violet, Olivia, or Anna.
6. Keep an eye out for sales. It’s true! Bridesmaid dresses do go on sale! The sale dates are usually pretty common, such as Black Friday, Labor Day, Memorial Day, etc. but other sales are also offered randomly throughout the year. Sign-up for email updates or follow your favorite brands on social media to stay up-to-date with their latest sales and offers!
7. Shop Online! Imagine yourself walking into a dress shop. It’s crowded with people, you’re forced to try on samples in only size 6’s and 8’s in the wrong color, and to top it all off, you have a crabby consultant who clearly has had a bad day. Not really the experience you were hoping for, right?
Avoid the hassle of crowded salons and start shopping online. Designers such as Kennedy Blue offer an At Home Try-On program that allows you to bring the fun of a dress appointment to the comfort of your living room! Request to have sample dresses sent to your home so that you and your girls can try on the dresses you want, in a totally comfortable environment. You can actually try on the dress you want in your color and size! At your house! What is better than that?
Shopping online is awesome, but you should be aware of the "too good to be true" situations. Shop smart and read our blog on how to avoid being scammed online.
8. Be selective with who you bring. If you don’t already have a clear idea of what you’re looking for, it might not be best to bring all six bridesmaids to the try-on appointment. Can you imagine all of those different opinions? Yikes. For your first appointment, it might be best to just bring your maid of honor or a couple of your girls. Once you have a good idea of what you want, you can bring all the other girls to try on your favorite style(s) and get measured!
9. If you're doing mix-and-match, be specific! If you’re a pretty lenient bride and are letting your girls choose their own styles, PLEASE be specific with what you want from them. If you honestly can admit to yourself that you 100% don’t care what your girls show up in - short, long, low cut, mini skirt, etc., then by all means, give them that freedom. BUT, if there’s any hesitation in the back of your mind, please voice your requirements.
Should everyone wear knee-length bridesmaid dresses? Do you want them all in the same shade of purple? Are you okay with a variety of fabrics or would you prefer something light and flowy? If you don’t set some requirements, I guarantee you’ll end up with a hodge-podge of different styles that might not look too great together.
Giving your girls guidelines will also take a lot of stress off their shoulders. The mismatched style gives them a lot more freedom to find a dress they will truly love, but they still want to make you happy. Giving them a few simple guidelines will take away a lot of confusion and uncertainty. Maybe pick a certain designer, specific shade, or length of dress. We see a lot of brides pick out four or five styles of bridesmaid dresses they like, then let their 'maids make the final decision on which they like best.
Read more about mismatched bridal parties here!
These bridesmaids in blush pink and coral totally nailed the mismatched look | Tandem Tree Photography
10. Communicate! The last thing you want is an unwelcome surprise on the morning of your wedding. If you are the bride, make sure to be specific about exactly what dress you want your 'maids to order and when they need to order by. (And like we said before, if you are doing the mismatched theme make sure to provide some guidelines.) Keep your bridesmaids in the loop if you know of a good seamstress, or have any other tips for them!
11. Keep an open mind. This is your wedding and you want it to be perfect (obviously). Unfortunately, things don't always go as pictured. Keeping an open mind about the whole dress shopping process will help if you hit any bumps in the road. Alterations might cost more than you expected, the store may be out of your dress, or a bridesmaid might order late, which understandably can cause some stress. So take a deep breath, understand that things happen, and know that in the end everything will work out!
If you’re a bridesmaid reading this blog, you go girl! That means that you have taken an extra initiative to learn more about the buying process than probably all of the other girls in the party. Please, I beg of you, enlighten them with all of your fabulous knowledge!
Now, my greatest piece of advice to you is this: Go with the flow. Don’t be that girl who insists on fighting the bride about every decision. It’s HER day, so if you voice your opinion and the bride goes a different route, it’s okay! At least she heard what you had to say, and really, that’s all you can do.
As a bridesmaid, one of your ever-so-important duties is to be there, constantly supporting her, because trust me, when she’s throwing out this much cash and making this many decisions, it’s BOUND to wear on her sanity. Keep her calm, help her when needed, and just remember, she’s one of your best friends — don’t lose sight of that!
Have you been bridesmaid dress shopping before? What advice would you give to other girls who are heading out to do the same thing? Leave a comment below and tell us a little bit about your experience!
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Taking Your Measurements
For the most accurate measurements, do not measure over your clothing. Your measurements should be taken while wearing undergarments similar to the ones you will wear with your dress. The measuring tape shouldn't be pulled too tight or have too much slack, and should always be parallel with the floor.
**Wedding apparel is typically sized differently than retail clothing, so keep in mind that it's not uncommon to find yourself requiring alterations.
Bust size: Wrap the tape around your back and under your arms at the fullest part of your bust (not underneath the bust).
Waist size: While standing up straight, bend at the waist to one side. Take the measurement where the natural crease happens in your side. This should be a few inches above your belly button.
Hip size: Standing with your feet together, wrap the tape around the fullest part of your hips and butt to get this measurement.
Choosing your correct size
Compare these three measurements to the Kennedy Blue size chart above. It is very important that you order the largest size that corresponds to your measurements. For example, if your bust measures 40.5" (size 12), your waist measures 31" (size 10) and your hips measure 41.5" (size 8), we advise that you order a size 12, and get your dress altered down to custom fit your body. Ordering anything smaller than a size 12 would not fit in the bust area. Please note: Our bridal gown size chart is different than the bridesmaids sizing and is listed below.