Did you know that the tradition of having a bridal party dates back to medieval times, when it was the job of members to protect the bride from kidnap in case of hostile families? Today, bridesmaids may have tons to do with the wedding-planning process, or they may merely be silent supporters at the altar. Either way, they’re a common part of the wedding-planning process.
Choosing bridesmaids was a relatively easy process for me. I have always tried to surround myself with relatively low-maintenance friends—the kind of people who don't start their own drama and who can help quell the drama I create for myself. As I was deciding who would precede me down the aisle, I had only to ask myself “Who will be able to quell the impending freakouts?” The answer was pretty simple.*
And so, the Bridal Posse was born. I find “Bridal Posse” to be a much more appropo name anyway, since “maiden” just seems like a weird term to apply to anyone over 12, and phrases like “matron of honor” make everyone sound 80. So, posse it is. Simple.
What was not simple, however, was choosing bridesmaid dresses.
As I mentioned in my last post, it seems that when you tell people that you're getting married, the first question (after “How did he propose?” and “When's the big day?”) is “What are your colors?” I can't pinpoint the exact moment I selected our wedding colors, but I'm pretty sure it subconsciously happened based on a delicious array of cupcakes one of my soon-to-be bridesmaids brought to our housewarming party.
It turns out that the problem with choosing your wedding colors off of cupcake frosting is that no company actually sells anything in that color. Instead, you spend hours combing through bridal shops and catalogs in search of an elusive color you invented in your head. Let me not recommend this method.
The only thing I had going for me was that I had purchased my dress early on, so at least I knew what style/level of formality I was trying to match. Yet, given that, my lovely satin monstrosity is probably inappropriate for a summer garden wedding. To make sense with my summery wedding colors (teal, lime green, and yellow), I needed compatible bridesmaid dresses (read: short, probably chiffon). This combination made no sense with my dress, which has enough satin in the train alone to make two more dresses. I was at a standstill.
I looked at dresses at several expensive specialty shops, but even those had nothing I really wanted—and they were often well over $200 each. I had been avoiding the obvious David’s Bridal because I had heard all kinds of horror stories about them not getting dresses in on time or generally screwing them up. Plus, I’d heard somewhere that approximately 1/3 of ALL wedding dresses sold come from David’s Bridal and was overwhelmed by the sheer corporate-ness of it all. Plus, I didn’t think they had the color I wanted.
Then, while I was in the store picking up my bridesmaid dress for a friend’s wedding, I saw it. The elusive color I’d been looking for. Well, slightly darker, but close enough that it made my finely honed turquoise-seeking internal radar go off. ☺ The DB also offered a variety of similar-yet-different dresses, which conveniently avoided the issue of needing a universal fit.
So eventually, I caved and decided on the DB. It actually ended up being pretty good. I was amazingly able to get all four members of the Posse together in one day to try on dresses. The process was surprisingly quick and hassle-free; I think we managed to find everyone a dress in less than an hour (reference previous comments about low-maintenance friends)!
So, if you plan to do a similar outing, I would suggest the following:
- Did I mention choosing people that won’t cause you drama? This is VERY IMPORTANT!
- Do your research ahead of time. You can do lot of this online, but you should see some dresses in stores, too. For example, the colors shown on the DB website are really off on my computer. You’ll definitely want to see them in person before making any big decisions.
- Choose some general parameters. Is there a particular fabric you want? Length? Are you very particular on color or shade, or will you allow anything within a color family? I sent out a list of style numbers (all satin, A-line, full-length) for everyone to choose from, which gave them 10 or 12 choices total.
- Be kind to your party. As much as you may love it, you should not select the most expensive dress you can find. You also need to involve them in the process, whether that be by allowing them to choose “the” dress if you’re having one or by giving them options that allow for what they’re most comfortable wearing. Remember, these are your friends!
- Lie to the shop about your wedding date. Seriously. There’s nothing wrong with having your dresses a bit early, and it’s a million times better than getting them late! This probably applies to large companies more so than independently owned shops.
- Keep in mind that dresses in stores seem to be focused on the opposite season. So if you’re looking for dresses for a summer wedding, you should probably consider looking around in the winter. This doesn’t apply everywhere, but shops that can only hold limited stock work just like department stores in this regard.
- My unique color selection and very formal dress didn’t allow me this option, but you should know that many brides today seem to be moving towards—or back to, as this trend was popular in the 40s—having their bridesmaids wear more everyday dresses in common fabrics like cotton and linen and in everyday colors like gray or black. The wedding colors, then, are infused from colorful accessories like belts, flowers, headbands, “fascinators,” and more. If you can pull this off, it is definitely the budget-savvy option—just think of all the choices on the clearance rack of your favorite department store!
And a fun tip if you’re working with David’s Bridal: There’s a pretty helpful (albeit semi-creepy) Dress Your Wedding “app” on their website that allows you to see what the whole wedding party will look like together. If you’re a visual person like me and are not sure if you’ll like the Posse wearing dresses in different colors, styles, lengths, etc., you can check it out through their handy-dandy builder. Turn your friends into creepy mannequins and mix and match away!
*Jon employs a similar tactic when selecting wedding guests. The question “who is fun and won't cause drama?” has been a very handy guide in the process. Finding people who are fun/funny seems to be Jon's primary guide in choosing friends in general, so this just makes sense.