Why letting your bridesmaids choose their own dress can work

When I got engaged, I knew that I didn’t want to choose one dress for all my bridesmaids to wear. The girls I chose were of different heights, skin tones and personalities. They had different budgets and body types. When your friends are so different, it only makes sense to let them choose their own dresses.

I was a laid back bride. I cared about the music, food and ceremony. I wanted the flowers to be pretty, but didn’t care if they were carnations or roses. That’s how I felt about the bridesmaids dresses. A dress is pretty, and since I trusted my girls to choose something appropriate, I wasn’t too worried.

Zina&Sam-208photo credit: Kelley Jordan Photography

If you want to do the same thing, here are some guidelines for letting your bridesmaids choose their own dress:

Be specific

If you do want some restrictions on color, material or brand name, tell them immediately. People can’t read your mind and most aren’t aware that burgundy and marsala are two different shades. If you don’t want maxi dresses, tell them. Just because you’re letting them choose their own dress doesn’t mean you don’t get an opinion.

I told my bridesmaids to choose something purple, but that was my only requirement. They asked about fabric, length and shade. I told them, if it’s purple, it works.

A few of the girls bought their dresses early and they all ended up being dark purple. After that, it seemed to make more sense for the rest to buy dark purple as well. Turns out, it’s a flattering shade for both fair-skinned and dark and blondes and brunettes alike.

Zina&Sam-30_1photo credit: Kelley Jordan Photography

Think about the cost

One of the main reasons I didn’t want to force a dress on anyone was financial. An average bridesmaid dress can range from $100-$250. That amount can be fine for some, but for others, it equals their month’s rent.

I didn’t want to make my wedding a financial difficulty for anyone, especially if they didn’t feel comfortable saying so. I’ve always preached frugality in my personal life and wanted to continue that theme through the wedding. Plus, my husband agreed that we didn’t need everyone to match perfectly. His groomsmen were told to buy a gray suit, any shade, any brand.

Two of my bridesmaids bought their dresses from Nordstrom, which has free shipping on any item and free returns. They also have a huge selection of cocktail and evening dresses. Another found hers at David’s Bridal, one on sale at Express, one at ASOS, and one at Nordstrom Rack. They ranged from around $50-$150.

If you do let your bridesmaids choose, but have some guidelines, consider the cost. If you want people to wear a beaded dress, know that it’ll probably be more expensive than chiffon. If you want everyone to buy a dress from David’s Bridal, be aware that it’ll be hard to find one for less than $100.

Zina&Sam-196

photo credit: Kelley Jordan Photography

Decide the accessories

Choosing your own dress is only part of the discussion. Many brides have their maids wear matching shoes and jewelry (some offer the jewelry as a gift). For me, I again told my friends that I didn’t care what accessories they wore.

Most ended up wearing nude shoes and gold jewelry, and I let them decide how to wear their hair. My husband told his groomsmen to wear purple ties, but patterns and hues were up to them.

I know when some people say they don’t care, they really do, but I honestly didn’t. I knew my girls would look beautiful (and they did) and I wanted them to feel comfortable. If they all wear their dress at least one more time, then I’ll have succeeded.

What about your bridesmaids’ dresses? Would you let them pick their own? Would you give them guidelines to follow or give them free reign?

mismatched purple bridesmaids dresses