It should be as much fun to pick out bridesmaid dresses as it is to pick out a wedding gown. Although movies and everything Hollywood love to paint bridesmaid dresses as walking balls of hot pink taffeta, the truth of the matter is anything but.
In collaboration with Raashka Mannie from Auckland Weddings, we have put together a guide to help you.
Choosing a fitting bridesmaid dress for the entire bridal party can be quite the task. There’s the theme of the wedding to consider, the possibility of sudden weather changes, and individual styles that come into play. On top of that, you’ve got to take more practical matters into account, such as the budget and wearability of a dress. Some bridal parties embrace uniqueness, opting for mismatched bridesmaid dresses, whilst others prefer the traditional option of a matching set.
No matter what you end up choosing for your wedding, you’re undoubtedly going to be looking for bridesmaid dresses that make everyone happy. We’ve enlisted some help from the experts, Michelle from Baby’s Breath Bridesmaids, to guide us down the recommended path on how and when to select the perfect bridesmaid dress.
1. A stitch in time…
One of the most common questions that we at Baby’s Breath hear is: when do I order or buy my dress?
The first step is to factor in the time required to decide on dresses. This can include trying on different styles, colours, cuts and the like, as well as sitting through fittings and resizing by a professional seamstress if you’re going down the custom path.
Once you’ve identified the type of dress style you’re after, a good rule of thumb is to order the dress 4 to 6 months before the big day. This is so that you have the room to seek other options if the dress you’ve ordered (particularly if it’s from overseas) doesn’t end up being what you wanted. Ordering early will also allow a buffer if the customs clearance takes longer than usual if there’s a delay in manufacturing time, or shipping simply takes longer than expected. Having the dresses in advance also allows for final dress fittings and any alterations required to make certain that everything is picture-perfect.
Bonus tip: order the dresses together to avoid colour variation. What is colour variation and why does it matter? Well, due to the nature of clothing manufacturing, each roll of fabric will be slightly different due to the cloth dye process. Make sure the business knows that you’re ordering for the same wedding — especially if your bridesmaids are ordering individually.
2. Dress for the wedding you want
Is your wedding Jazz Age Gatsby, rustic romance, elegant century, romantic garden, boho-chic or a traditional setting? It’s important to find a style that matches your wedding theme. You probably wouldn’t want to have your bridesmaids in full-length lux feel/formal dresses for your boho-chic wedding, would you? Make sure your bridesmaids’ dresses align with the tone for the day, creating a linear sense of style that makes everyone comfortable.
If you’re lost for ideas or inspiration when it comes to your wedding theme, then we recommend checking out wedding posts online. Whether it’s blog articles, Pinterest, magazines or movies, you can find inspiration for your own theme at every corner. Collect snippets that excite you, create a mood board to help you visualise, and ask opinions from people that you trust and know you well. As soon as you know what direction you’re headed in with your wedding’s theme, you’re going to figure out bridesmaid styling in a snap.
Bonus tip: mismatched bridesmaid dresses are a pretty popular trend, but how do you make the asymmetry work? A main focal point, of course! The most important thing to do is set the conditions around choosing a dress and making sure your bridesmaids understand them. For example, have a preferred dress length, a particular colour of choice, or pick a specific place the bridesmaids can find their dresses at. With this pivotal point in place, it’ll be all the simpler for you to envision your bridesmaids’ dresses without ending up with a hotpot with all the wrong ingredients.
3. Penny for your thoughts
Determine a budget and stick to it. Find something that will suit you financially and align with your other commitments. You have options such as laybys, second-hand dresses, renting dresses, and reselling your dresses in the future to recoup some of the cost. You might also look into discussing cost-sharing with your bridesmaids, depending on the overall expenses, but do make sure to keep their budgets in mind as you do with yours.
Bonus tip: Be mindful of additional cost due to duty tax and/or GST. What’s My Duty estimator by Customs New Zealand (https://www.customs.govt.nz/personal/duty-and-gst/whats-my-duty-estimator/) is a very useful tool to keep yourself covered before ordering from overseas.
4. Fit like a glove
Talk to your bridesmaids about what they’re comfortable wearing, as well as what they like and dislike (both are equally important, trust us). Consider their body shapes and heights, as this will have an effect on each style. Being considerate is key.
If you’re shopping online, it’s highly advised you get all the measurements done by a professional. This will allow you to compare the measurements against the size chart for the dresses. Be mindful that there are different size charts out there and therefore the measurements are totally different. For example, a UK size 10 is a US size 6. Be vigilant when it comes to the size chart details!
With modern life being so busy, and with your loved ones spread out across every inch of the country (and even the globe), it’s tough to meet in person to shop. However, group dates for shopping and fittings are still the most ideal way to work out bridesmaid dresses. It really helps with getting a big picture for the feel and look of different dresses on your bridesmaids, with space for open communication and the chance to spend time with one another. Luckily for us, we live in an age of technology, with high-speed WiFi and Facetime to make up for the miles and miles between us all, so don’t hesitate to take advantage of it.
Bonus tip: a question which often gets asked is what size a bridesmaid should get if they’re expecting. If one of your bridesmaids has a baby not long before the wedding day, we advise getting their dress 2 to 3 sizes above their usual size, as this will allow enough fabric for alteration if required. If they’re still pregnant during the wedding, look for styles with elastic waistbands or a lace-up choice, as these features will allow more flexibility for the growing tummy whilst ensuring your bridesmaid is nice and comfortable.
5. Put colour in your cheeks
Think of the colours you adore. Think of the colours your bridesmaids adore. Think of the season you’re getting married in, as nature can help you to theme your wedding as much as your own likes/dislikes can. For instance, rich/jewel colours are so fitting when it comes to winter, whereas summer suits softer hues. At Baby’s Breath, we discovered that emerald, burgundy and burnt orange were all extremely popular this winter. As the trends naturally develop, sage and dusty rose are looking to be the hot choices for summer 2019/20.
When the colour theme is decided, you will also have narrow down the selections of shades for your bridesmaid dresses Remember to order colour swatches to ensure it’s the colour you’re after. While you’re at it, you should consider getting a few extra swatches so that you can carry one or two around for colour matching when you’re hunting for other wedding items.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget about the groomsmen. Giving them a heads up on your colour choice will provide them with the opportunity to match their tie, pocket square or suit. This will enhance the overall look of your wedding.
6. Fashions fade, style is eternal
The wedding theme will form the overarching boundary when selecting the bridesmaid dress styles. However, there are also other factors which will help to narrow down the finer details.
What type of wedding venue do you have? Inside a hall, backyard, beach, winery, a rustic setting, garden, island resort, or a quaint church? The key is to think about the suitability of the styles for the environment. As an example, if it’s a beach wedding, you might settle on a flowy midi dress for a casual, relaxed feeling to match your surroundings. On the other hand, if it’s a luxe winery, then a maxi dress would be more suited for an elegant and formal look.
As seasons can help you refine your colour choice, they can also be your compass in picking out the dress styles. The weather may encourage a preference towards certain material type, dress length or dress features. For example, if it’s a winter wedding, satin and velvet fabrics with long sleeves would be the wiser choices — but if sleeveless is the way to go, make sure the girls have another layer to keep warm, such as a faux fur shawl. On the contrary, a summer wedding would call for a material such as light chiffon or jersey, with short sleeves (or none at all), so as to keep your bridesmaid as cool as cucumbers in the heat.
Bonus tip: your wedding gown can also help you refine the style choice for bridesmaid dresses. Think about the style of your wedding gown and select bridesmaid dresses that complement it. For example, if you have a mermaid-style wedding gown, you can pick bridesmaid dresses with a more graceful feeling to underline the theme.
To find out more about choosing gorgeous bridesmaid dresses, check out Baby’s Breath here.