Bridesmaids Dresses: Short or Long?

As a bride-to-be, your responsibility for styling hair, makeup, wedding accessories, and clothing goes beyond your own look. You may have to find the perfect little flower girl dress and even help your groom choose his and his groomsmen’s suits. And of course, if you’re like most brides, you’ll be choosing the bridesmaids dresses your besties wear when they precede you down the aisle. This can be, how should I put this… awful, terrible, and stressful? You want your girls to look good. No, great! But they’re all different body types, the wedding is at a weird time of day, the venue you’ve chosen doesn’t clearly dictate what level of formal wear you should be aiming for, and of course, your maid of honor is knocked up.

I know, right?

But let me tell you that sometimes the easiest way to make any decision is to start small. You don’t need to choose a bridesmaids dress designer right this second. Or even a color or a cut. Start by simply choosing between long bridesmaids dresses and short bridesmaids dresses.

LR140XXThere are, of course, (for lack of a better word) benefits to both.

Short bridesmaids dresses may be easier to move in and more comfortable in the summer and late spring. They’re also fun and sweet and if the cut is right, just a little bit sassy.

Short bridesmaids dresses at a formal(ish) affair? It has been done and it can be a lot of fun!

Of course, beware the short bridesmaids dress on the short bridesmaids – many a ‘maid has complained in secret about having to wear a frock that makes her look like a munchkin. If you go short, let your bridal party control how they hem so they get the most flattering look out of the length.

2834Long dresses will (ahem) dress up your wedding – they’re generally perceived as more formal by guests. They may also be warmer if you’re having a fall or winter wedding.

And depending on the cut, a long gown can hide a multitude of sins for those who are worried about body image. Some bridesmaids may simply feel more comfortable in a dress that conceals more than it reveals.

The downside comes in the form of a price tag. For better or for worse, long dresses will be more expensive. Not to mention more difficult to find if you’re letter your ladies pick their own gowns.

And with all that simplification out of the way, I’m going to say that I don’t care what Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids’ Lori says – in the year 2014 it is perfectly acceptable to mix and match lengths the same way it is perfectly okay to mix and match dresses. This is not prehistory. Your ‘maids are not there to confuse demons into snatching one of them instead of you. If you love how mismatched bridesmaids look, then mismatch to your heart’s content!


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Can I Really Choose ANY Bridesmaids Dresses?

Sometimes the utterly overwhelming range of options can put brides-to-be into a tailspin. Not only are their potentially hundreds of ceremony and reception venues to choose from, thousands of styles of crystal and pearl wedding jewelry, millions of wedding gowns, and an infinite number of cake flavor combinations, there are also the things brides need to pick for others. Even your wedding colors will impact your wedding VIPs!

One of the biggest for others picks a bride-to-be will make is the bridesmaids’ dresses because the bride is choosing clothing for other people – and clothing can be a pretty personal thing. The bridesmaid who feels less than body confident may prefer a very different dress than the bridesmaid who is a fitness instructor, for instance. The color that looks smashing on one washes another out. One finds strapless bridesmaids’ dresses flattering. Another thinks they’re immodest.

Film Title: Bridesmaids

And so on and so forth.

Of course, the bride-to-be has final say over what the bridesmaids will wear just like she has final say over almost everything else. That doesn’t mean that she can’t do the kind thing and take her bridesmaids’ sizes, preferences, and personalities into account when choosing bridesmaids dresses. There is something to be said for good manners and there’s almost nothing more mannerly than making sure that the people who will celebrate your big day with you will be comfortable and happy and look their best.

alfred sung bridesmaids dresses

If your bridesmaids are all very different people, this gets more difficult. Your options include simply making a final choice after taking everyone’s opinions and preferences into account, letting bridesmaids choose their own dresses in one color or color family, or choosing a designer and letting bridesmaids pick frocks from a particular collection in one specific color.

You may be surprised at how grateful your bridesmaids are that you’ve either given them even the chance to offer up some input or the full freedom to choose their own dresses. Never forget that letting someone else dress you can be a pretty scary thing.


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How NOT to Go Broke as a Bridesmaid

white bridesmaids dresses II

So last week we talked about the cost of being a bridesmaid and for those who haven’t read the post I’ll just sum up by saying cha-ching! Standing with the bride while she says her “I dos” can get pretty pricey. The good news is that you don’t have to go broke without a fight – and by fight I mean a little creative thinking and maybe a heart to heart with the bride-to-be. Here’s how to (maybe) save money while being a bridesmaid:

1. Know the deal. When you’re hanging with your bestie and she pops the question, don’t beat around the bush when it comes to finding out what you’re in for. Is the bride expecting a Vegas weekend bachelorette bash? Does she have a dress in mind – or is she considering letting the maids choose? How many pre-wedding soirees will there be? Will you be expected to be at them all?

2. Tell it like it is. If you’re concerned about the cost of being a bridesmaid, know that the bride-to-be is probably more interested in your support than in having you spend a gajilliondollars. Probably. As we all know from reality TV there are plenty of so-not-cool brides out there. Let your friend know you’ll be working with a budget so she can help you save money.

lela rose bridesmaid dresses

3. Suggest mismatched maids. Besides being cool, mixed up bridesmaids dresses are also economical – especially when bridesmaids can pick their own frocks. If the bride-to-be is just not into that, then do her a solid and help her shop so you can steer her toward lower priced options.

4. Suggest combining pre-wedding parties. Co-ed bashes are pretty awesome and most brides I know have plenty of guy friends anyway, so why not combine the engagement party and shower? Or have a joint shower and bachelorette party if you think the bride’s family can handle things getting a little crazy.

5. Don’t complain; get creative. If you accept the position of bridesmaid, you kind of do have to go with what the bride wants when it comes to your dress and bridesmaid accessories. Act negative about it all and you may just get fired. Better: speak up when it comes to your budget and availability, suggest less expensive alternatives, and consider that you might not be the only bridesmaid freaking out about the big bill.

6. It’s okay to say no. When you’re really, really, really concerned about the cost of being a bridesmaid – as in, it’s the wedding or tuition – do the right thing and tell your bestie that you’d love to but you just can swing it right now. She’ll either pony up on your behalf if she’s in a position to do so or you two can commiserate together over margarita shooters. Win win for honesty!

Have you ever had to say no when a bride-to-be asked you to be her maid? Or are you a bride who’s worried about how much your wedding is going to cost your friends?


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When Choosing Bridesmaids Dresses Is a Chore

Paloma wrote in to ask:

I’m so sick of thinking about my bridesmaids’ dresses! I’ve been dreading having to make a decision about anything. I can’t even decide on a color! Can you help?

I get it.

Choosing bridesmaids dresses can mean the best day out with your girls ever… or a nightmare of scrolling through pages and pages of dresses because you have no idea how you’re going to choose between the kerjillions of gowns out there. Seriously, today’s brides-to-be have a ton of options, and that many choices doesn’t always make deciding on a color scheme or style easy.

Once upon a time, it was easier. Every bridesmaid wore the same satin dress with dyed to match shoes in a shade determined by the bride’s bouquet of silk roses. Matchy-matchy was IN and it was so simple once you had your wedding colors. But now? Plenty of brides are still opting for matching gowns on their ‘maids (without the dyed shoes, thank goodness), but there are lots of other ways to dress a bridal party.

For instance, you could:

  • Pick a color or even a palette of colors, and let bridesmaids choose any bridesmaids dresses in that palette from a designer like Dessy bridesmaids dresses. Some brides will give ground rules, like no strapless dresses or full length, but some let their ‘maids take the lead.
  • Put together a set of guidelines, like cocktail length… jewel tones or pastels… strapless… polka dots… Grecian… whatever. Then let bridesmaids shop for bridesmaids dresses they love that fit into your criteria.
  • Pick a pattern. When letting bridesmaids pick their own dresses, this option is for only the most laid back brides, since ‘florals’ might mean different things to different people. But brides can also choose a series of patterned dresses and ask their ‘maids to decide who will wear which dress.
  • Really consider what gowns will look best on what brides and create a palette of not just colors, but also girlfriends. You pick not only colors, but also dresses – and then assign those dresses to individual bridesmaids. This works best for laid back bridesmaids.

Is it any wonder brides-to-be can get frazzled over frocks for the bridal party?

The best advice I can give you if you’re starting to consider just go matchy-matchy even though you’ve never loved that look is to browse tons and tons of pics. The more bridesmaids dresses you look at – and I mean just look at, no pressure because this should be fun – the more confident you’ll be when it comes to actually making a choice. And loving that choice! Don’t rush it, think creatively, and remember that whatever you pick, your besties will adore it.


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Brides and Bridesmaids, Lovely in Lace

When I was poring over the spring 2014 wedding gowns and bridesmaid dresses, trend hunting my tush off, one thing I saw over and over was lace. Let me tell you, I love lace. But is lace a trend? Can a lace wedding dress be trendy? I’m not ready to go there. This flimsy fabric has been found on wedding dresses for so long that who knows when it first found its way onto a train or bodice.

What was surprising that I was seeing lace on bridesmaids. Wouldn’t you know it, what was once the sole territory of the bride herself has trickled down into bridesmaid fashion – and how!

What’s so exciting about the lace bridesmaid dress trend – yes, I said it – is that it gives brides-to-be and brides yet another option. Bridesmaids dresses have, not by design but sometimes by default, been rather dull. The same old A-line frocks in jewel tones that virtually guarantee said dress will never, ever, ever be worn again.

But a lace bridesmaid dress? This isn’t just femme, it’s femme fatale! I’m picturing a draped back panel. An illusion neckline. A lace overskirt in any color you can imagine.

Now are you excited?!


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Anything But Boring: Gray Bridesmaids Dresses

Going gray isn’t something to be ashamed of… when you’re choosing wedding colors, that is. Nor is it something to worry about when it comes to hair, but I’m here to talk about bridesmaids dresses, not aging gracefully. And hey, I don’t judge.

What makes gray great? I say it’s a neutral that has some flair. Think gunmetal or silver or the palest gray that’s the exact color of a sky after a storm. Soft or dramatic. These are the sophisticated shades that make a bride’s white dress pop. Black can do the same, but we all know it feels a little prom-esque. Gray is elegant without inviting comparisons to funerals… galas… or yes, proms.

Sorry. I love black bridesmaid dresses. I really do. But sometimes they can feel like a little much.

Gray, on the other hand, can be coordinated with almost every bouquet color because it’s a neutral. And it practically doubles the chances that the dress will be worn again, which is apparently today’s gold standard for any gown designed for ‘maids. It’s particularly wonderful when what you’re going for is a more formal, but also modern look. Think sheer asymmetrical straps or an updated Grecian look.

Finally, gray is – dare I say it? – a universally flattering color. Scratch that. What I mean to say is there are so many shades of gray that you can outfit ‘maids of all skin tones without leaving one poor girl looking sallow and drab. Such is the power of gray!


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Illusion Necklines: No Necklace Necessary

Shopping for a wedding jewelry set? Are you sure? Sometimes separates are de rigueur and sometimes they’re absolutely, positively necessary. I nearly keeled over delightfully dead when I saw all those illusion necklines walking down the most recent bridal runway models.

On one hand, there’s nothing like finding the perfect bridal necklace to chase the pre-wedding blues away. On the other, I adore how a single flirty piece of sheer fabric can take a wedding gown from ordinary to extraordinary. I mean very few gown details can make the kind of impact that a barely there neckline can – whether it’s spectacularly embellished or simply sheer.

High drama, in either variation.

Now of course, choosing a gown with an illusion neckline does make for some interesting wedding jewelry shopping. Obviously, I hope, no necklace is necessary. If it isn’t obviously a no-no in your book, then let me just say that you should never, ever layer a necklace over an illusion neckline. If you’re desperate for the look of a bridal necklace, there are scads of illusion necklines with necklace-like adornments that are to die for.

As for the wedding jewelry you ought to be shopping for, your neckline will be your guide. Illusion necklines with gorgeous beadwork or floral embroidery should be treated as focal points in and of themselves. The same rules apply as with any style of wedding dress… your accessories should be in harmony with your gown’s embellishments.

I recommend thinking in terms of opposition. A plain illusion neckline calls for very striking wedding jewelry, while an opulent neckline is like jewelry unto itself. Stick with simple pieces in that case and let your neckline (or your bridesmaids’ necklines) do the talking.

How much do you love these gowns?


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What to Do About Unhelpful Bridesmaids

You chose your bridesmaids. You proposed, and they said yes. You bought each of them the bridesmaid jewelry you thought they’d love best. Now you’re relying on them to be your Gal Fridays in the months and weeks leading up to the wedding. Most of your bridesmaids have really risen to the challenge of gown shopping, assembling wedding favors, and helping you pick out the perfect flowers for your bridal bouquet. But one bridesmaid? Well, she’s slacking.

Not that you have ridiculously high expectations. You went into wedding planning knowing you didn’t want to be a bridezilla, and reading this very blog has taught you that bridesmaids can’t be forced to put in a hard day’s work. Still, you’re wondering what’s up since your bestie seemed super psyched when she accepted your invitation to be in your wedding party and opened the pretty little bag with her bridesmaid jewelry and bridesmaid gift.

We can’t explain what’s going on in her head, of course, but we can help you figure out what she’s thinking.

First, ask yourself if this particular bridesmaid is just extra busy and you’ve been so wrapped up in wedding planning that you haven’t noticed. Maybe she’s in med school. Maybe she’s finishing up a jewelry making course. Could be that she’s been taking care of a sick loved one or is swamped at work. Consider tactfully asking your absentee bridesmaid why she hasn’t been able to make it to your group wedding planning activities.

Then, consider whether you’ve been asking too much of your bridesmaids. Bridesmaid jewelry isn’t a payment for services rendered, and bridesmaids-to-be need their weekends, too. It’s easy to let your own enthusiasm for stuff like cake tasting overwhelm your good sense when it comes to overworking your best girlfriends. Be sensitive to the fact that they have lives, too, and to-dos they need to take care of.

Finally, if you’re getting a really unenthusiastic vibe from the bridesmaid in question, think about whether she might have accepted the position out of a sense of obligation rather than excitement. We’re not saying that she doesn’t want to be in your wedding but as hard as it is to believe, not everyone finds the experience of taking on the usual bridesmaid duties a laugh riot.

Here’s one last suggestion: cut your slacker bridesmaid some… well, slack. There are so many reasons that a bridesmaid might not make it to all the pre-wedding activities, and the vast majority of them have nothing to do with how said bridesmaid feels about the bride.


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What to Do About a Pregnant Bridesmaid

Life happens, and once you reach a certain age there is a good chance that someone in your social sphere will be pregnant or be thinking about getting pregnant. That means that unless you choose bridesmaids that are vocally child-free, you run the risk of having a pregnant bridesmaid in your wedding party. But is it really that big a deal? We – and most easygoing brides will hopefully agree with us – say no. Most wedding ceremonies are not so long that a pregnant bridesmaid can’t make it through. A little sparkling cider can stand in for champagne if your bridesmaid doesn’t feel comfortable having a glass of the real thing. And maternity bridesmaid dresses exist for a reason!

The four maternity bridesmaid dresses pictured above are from premier bridesmaid dress manufacturer Alfred Sung and come in every color featured in the brand’s more prominent collections. That means that if you have an already-pregnant bestie or one of your ‘maids falls unexpectedly pregnant, she can still look and feel like a million bucks when she stands up to support you on your big day.

Whether you need to make other concessions for a pregnant bridesmaid depends a lot on the bridesmaid herself. For instance, you may want to find out whether her due date and your wedding day will overlap or whether she feels well enough to play an active role in your ceremony and reception. Even if you’re totally comfortable knowing that she may not be able to make it to the wedding on time or at all because of labor or complications, she may not want to be another source of wedding planning stress. We recommend that you diplomatically offer a pregnant bridesmaid an out – don’t make her feel unwelcome, but let her know that you won’t be mad if she feels like taking on the duties of bridesmaid while pregnant is just too much.

That said, many, many pregnant friends, sisters, and cousins have stood at the altar alongside the brushing brides in their lives without incident so don’t make the mistake of selling your pregnant bridesmaid short. She may be every bit as excited about your wedding as you are – and looking forward to seeing what the world of wedding fashion has to offer!


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What Happens to All Those Bridesmaids Dresses, Anyway?

Here’s a question for the starry-eyed brides out there: How many people do you really think wear their bridesmaids dresses again? Our guess is the answer is ‘not many,’ even when there are more sweet brides-to-be picking out gorgeous gowns in wearable colors than ever before. Taffeta nightmares? Hardly. Try lovely Lela Rose bridesmaid dresses and others that make every bridesmaid look her best. It may just be that today’s busy bridesmaid just isn’t going to that many cocktail functions where a semi-formal dress or gown is the right wardrobe choice.

So what can you do with an old bridesmaids dress that’s gathering dust in a closet? Here are some creative ways to make the most of them:

Have fun in it. Events around the country, like Boston’s Running with the Bridesmaids, give former bridesmaids a chance to re-wear those old gowns… usually while jogging, playing touch football, or chowing down in cake eating contests… all for the purposes of raising money for worthy charitable organizations. Who cares if a dress you’ll never wear again gets grass stains?

Donate it. Stylish bridesmaids dresses make great prom dresses – and parents like them because they’re often more modest than the more modern prom dresses. There are organizations that facilitate this, like The Princess Project, but you probably have a secondhand shop in your area that hosts pre-prom events where girls and their moms can come and spend a few hours trying on gowns.

Get crafty with it. If yours is a bridesmaid dress to remember, just not one to wear again, consider turning it into pillow shams or using the fabric to spice up another wardrobe piece. This idea is only for the seamstresses among us, but as intro sewing projects go, these are easy ideas.

Sell it. You paid for it, more likely than not, so why not recoup some of the costs of being a bridesmaid by putting that old dress up for sale on sites like Craigslist or eBay? The unfortunate thing is that most bridesmaids dresses, even pricier ones, go for pennies on the dollar, but even if all you make back is a little martini money you’re better off than you were with an unwanted dress taking up space in your closet.

Exchange it at sites like NewlyMaid.com. Some shopping sites will give you credit in return for those old bridesmaid dresses, which they then donate to charity – for an awesome, fell good double whammy. You get that little black dress and the satisfaction of knowing that you did something nice for someone else.

What are your ‘maids plans for their bridesmaids dresses?


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