Tips on Shopping for Bridesmaid Dresses

Your wedding party will thank you

It’s a time-honored tradition that is thankfully going the way of the dinosaurs: Forcing your bridesmaids to buy a dress that flatters only one body type, and looks terrible on everyone else.

To keep your wedding party happy, and allow everyone to shine even though it’s your big day, here are expert tips on how to properly shop for a bridesmaid dress.

Tips on Shopping for Bridesmaid Dresses

What to consider when picking a dress

It’s essential to consider the personal style and comfort zone of each bridesmaid when you’re picking out a bridesmaid dress, said Anne Chertoff, editor of Twirl.

“This is not a punishment, you want your maids to feel as beautiful and confident on your day as you do. Gone are the days where every girl is in a uniform. Let them shine in something they will be comfortable enough to dance the night away. You might think you little sis looks great in a slim sheath, but if she normally only wears fit and flare, chances are she won't feel good in a sheath no matter if it fits well or not. If you are aware of your bridesmaids’ feelings, they will love you all the more,” Chertoff said.

Be mindful of your bridesmaids' body types, said Dorian Smith-Garcia, who manages The Anti Bridezilla website.

“Strapless plunging dresses with minimal support shouldn't be picked for a bridesmaid who's well endowed. Not only will she feel uncomfortable and pulling at her dress the whole day, there's also a chance that she'll take attention away from you since you've put her ‘assets’ so prominently on display,” Smith-Garcia said.

Tips on Shopping for Bridesmaid Dresses

Shopping plans

It’s good to take your bridesmaids with you when shopping for a dress, but only after you’ve done some advance footwork.

“Do a little due-diligence before it's time to shop with you girls. See what styles and shades you think will flatter your own gown and venue to narrow down the playing field before you all shop together. Websites such as are a great resource for different styles and allow you to easily share your favorites with your bridesmaids and vice-versa. A Pinterest board is another great way to communicate what you would like with them without anyone having to visit a single dressing room. Once you have done some serious work, plan a day for you and your girls to try a few things on so you can get their feedback too. Plan a fun lunch or spa day around it to keep the pressure off and everyone happy. And celebrate with Champagne at the end of the day while you joke about the shopping scene from ‘Bridesmaids’, Chertoff said.

Smith-Garcia said she thinks it’s okay to shop without your bridesmaids, unless you have a small wedding party of three bridesmaids or less. “Like the saying goes, too many cooks spoil the broth. With so many opinions, it's highly unlikely that everyone will love the same dress. Take your maid of honor and maybe one other person. Pull a variety of styles that you think have the most universal appeal and allow for the bridesmaids to either vote on one (if you want matching bridesmaids), or let them pick their favorite out of the group.”

Tips on Shopping for Bridesmaid Dresses

Colors and styles

It’s truly the prerogative of the bride whether everyone wears the same color and style. But Chertoff said it will go a long way toward pleasing everyone if the bride chooses a color palette and allows the women to choose individual looks based on their personal style and body type. “Not only are no two bridesmaids body types the same, neither are their tastes or personalities,” she said.

The best middle ground option is to pick one item and allow your bridesmaid to choose the rest, said Carla Sancho, owner of Wedding Collectibles.

“It works best if you pick out a skirt for all the girls to wear and then have them find and pick out their tops, accessories, or shoes. Other things you could do is pick out a cardigan, statement necklace, or matching shoes. Once you have sent out the piece you are requiring them to wear, they can then fill in the rest. It is, of course, usually best to give them a color palette to work from so that everyone coordinates with each other and your overall wedding look, but, other than that, let them decide. This gives you flexibility, but also allows you some more control,” Sancho said.

Price also matters if the bride isn’t paying for the dresses. If you dictate the exact dress your bridesmaids should wear, then it’s the ideal situation if the bride can afford to pay for the dresses as well. But this isn’t normally the case, so individual girls must pay for their own dresses. “Remember they will have many costs associated with your wedding from travel and hotel costs to shower and engagement gifts. We suggest you individually speak with your girls to discuss a spending range they would be comfortable with, and then if you decide to go over it the difference should be covered by you,” Chertoff said.

Whatever dress you decide, just remember to be respectful of your bridesmaids and their budgets and individual body types and you won’t go down in history as being a bridezilla.

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