A few general questions to answer before you jump into bridesmaid dress shopping:
Have you said yes to your wedding dress?
If your answer to this is no, then move bridesmaid dress shopping further down your to-do list. Saying yes to your wedding dress is a big deal and you want to do have that style set as a number one priority. Plus wedding dresses can sometimes take a long to come in after you order them, plus potential time for alterations…etc so that dress needs to be first priority.
What style is your wedding dress?
Your bridesmaid’s dresses should in some way compliment the style of your dress for a pulled together look overall. This could mean that you share a similar style of neckline or a particular fabric detail. If your dress is a more formal style, then your bridesmaid dresses should follow suit. If you dress is more casual, then your bridesmaid dresses should be as well.
What do your bridesmaids look like?
Some of you may have bridesmaids who all have similar body types and skin colors, others of you (like me) may have all sizes, skin colors, heights…do not let this intimidate you! There are so many options for bridesmaid dresses you and your ladies will be able to find something beautiful for them to wear. You want your ladies to look good too, so make sure to consider what would be a flattering style before you set any guidelines for their looks.
For example, are a lot of your bridesmaids on the shorter side? Consider that they may need alterations if you go with a floor length style. Are a lot of your bridesmaids on the taller side? Consider that they may need alterations of fabric added if your dresses are a cocktail style. Do you have bridesmaids with larger chests? A strapless look might not be the most flattering. Just small things to keep in mind that can go a long way towards simplifying what you are looking for in a bridesmaid dress.
What is the color palate for your wedding?
Bridesmaid dresses come in EVERY color so having an idea of what color you are looking for will help with narrowing down the options.
When & where is your wedding?
Afternoon, evening, morning? Inside or outside? Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter? These questions can also help guide your bridesmaid dress shopping. If your wedding is outside in the winter that necessitates different accessories than an outside wedding in the summer…etc.
Okay, the questions above are all to help you start visualizing what needs to be thought through BIG picture – now to some practical questions:
How are the dresses being paid for? What is the budget?
Are you paying for them? Are you expecting your bridesmaids to pay? Are you helping cover a portion of the cost? Have a price point set before you/they go shopping. Again, this will help to narrow down what you are looking for which is always helpful because every style, color, and price of bridesmaid dress exists out there!
Where do your bridesmaids live?
You have 2 basic options of where bridesmaids dresses can be purchased – in store or online. Some places like a David’s Bridal offer both options, other places you will only be able to do one of the other. If your bridesmaids live spread out across the country, you may want to consider places that offer the online shopping option. If all of your bridesmaids live close by, that opens up the option to shop at local stores in person.
What do you want to match, if anything?
Below are the 4 basic combination options for your bridesmaid dress look. Depending on which of these options you pick, will also help you decided where you are going to shop for the dresses from. If you want all of the dresses to be the same style and color that requires a different shopping strategy than if you want them to be the same color but are set on a specific style.
- Dresses different colors/shades but uniform style
- Dresses different colors/shades and different styles
- Dresses uniform color/shade but different styles
- Dresses uniform color/shade and uniform style
All of this to say, you could also just wing it and be totally fine 😉 If this is a detail you are not all into planning, delegate it to your maid-of-honor or someone else that might love thinking through all these options and then cross if off your list!
Here are your 3 big shopping options: renting, shopping online or in-store.
If your ladies all live in town you could take a weekend and head to your closest department store to find dresses together. If everyone lives across the country, it can be harder to shop department stores for dresses because not every store will carry the same styles in stock and an online store or in-store/online store option might be better suited to your group.
For my wedding, my bridesmaids lived all over the place, including one out of the country, so my maid-of-honor flew in to where I lived for a weekend and we spent the weekend trying on every bridesmaid dress in town. Yes I tried on everything too so I would know it was a good fit/comfortable to wear…etc.
Eventually we narrowed it down to 2 dresses we liked and then brought another bridesmaid along for a second option. We all 3 naturally settled on the same dress. Each time that we all tried on the dress that we ultimately picked there was a noticeable change in mood. Similar to wedding dress shopping, once you have the right dress on, everyone didn’t want to take it off!
Ready? Set? Shop!
Here a few last tips to keep in mind:
- Make sure to read the policies on returns before making any decisions. For example, Target offers free returns in store but that is not always the case with online shopping, better to double check than to assume! The same goes for in-store shopping, make sure you know their policies on their products before you buy.
- You may be able to save money by buying your bridesmaid dresses from the same store where you purchased your wedding dress. My dress store offered 15% off of bridesmaid dresses bought through their store. Additionally, if shopping online, make sure to check for coupon codes or special sales. Most websites offer coupons for signing up for their mailing lists.
- Allow time for shipping, returns/exchanges, alterations…etc. Make sure that you have started the bridesmaid dress train in motion at least 3 months before your wedding day.
- Give specific direction to your bridesmaids – whatever it needs to be. You know your ladies – do they need deadlines? Give them one. Even if you are having the girls all pick out their own dress styles, they want to make sure that you are happy at the end of the day. Any direction you can give will help to take stress off of your favorite ladies! For example, if they are picking out their own dresses, consider giving everyone a paint chip of the color they should be looking for to use while they shop.
I have rounded up a collection of some great options for renting or buying bridesmaid dresses online – all of these offer options for beautiful dresses under $100. Happy shopping!!
- Target Bridesmaids
- Azazie Bridesmaid Dresses
- David’s Bridal Bridesmaids
- Weddington Way Bridesmaids
- ModCloth Bridesmaids