Fashion Etiquette For Bridesmaids

Written by    Last updated: June 17, 2014

Being asked to be a bridesmaid for a close friend or relative is an honour.  Being asked to publicly wear a dress you hate is not! Here’s how to decide on your bridesmaid dress and ensure everyone is happy on the big day!

Sarah & Simon's Real Wedding by Evolve PhotographyAbove: Sarah and Simon’s Real Wedding

Compromise is all about communication. Discussing the colours, styles, and costs in advance and then hitting the stores together goes a long way to making sure everything goes smoothly and both bride and bridesmaids are happy.

Safety in numbers

If  you are really unhappy with what the bride wants you to wear, try talking to the other bridesmaids to get their view. If they are all happy, then you will probably have to grin and bear it. If not, try to find a gentle way to talk to the bride, and have alternative suggestions ready. Present possible solutions, not just problems. If you do get together with the others, make sure that the bride doesn’t feel as if you are ganging up on her.

Problems can arise if one bridesmaid is being difficult about the dress. It’s then up to the others, particularly the chief bridesmaid, to find out what the problem is and use some diplomacy to get things back on track.

Something to suit everyone

Choosing outfits to suit you all can be tricky if there are lots of bridesmaids, or a large age range. Adults won’t want to be dressed the same as children, and hopefully your bride will also bear in mind that the outfit(s) she picks need to flatter people of different ages (and sizes!) If she doesn’t, you have the option of dropping a few helpful hints.

Alfred Angelo Bridesmaid DressesAbove: Bridesmaid Dresses by Alfred Angelo

It’s just one day…

While being a bridesmaid is a big deal, it is after all just one day. Before you risk falling out with the bride over her choice of outfit, you should ask yourself whether it is really worth upsetting her.

Friends help each other

Let’s face it, most brides want everybody to be happy on their special day, so it is unlikely that she will want you to wear something completely hideous. However, if you feel there is likely to be a clash then maybe you should think very carefully before you agree to be a bridesmaid in the first place.

On the other hand, if you think she is deliberately trying to make you look terrible, maybe she’s not quite the friend you thought she was…

While there are no hard-and-fast rules about bridesmaids’ outfits, the bottom line is that it is the bride’s day and it is likely that she will have some pretty clear ideas on the subject. So, how do you keep her happy and still get your point across?

Bridesmaid dresses by CoastAbove: A selection of bridesmaid dresses by Coast

Get involved

If you are worried that the bride might dress you like a meringue, get involved in the process from the outset. This doesn’t mean forcing your ideas on her, but why not suggest a girls’ night in with some wine and wedding magazines, and gently let her know what delights (and horrifies) you?

If there are to be several of you, arrange a shopping day early on (with the bride of course!) and try on a wide range of outfits. It will soon become clear what does and doesn’t work for you all. If one bridesmaid lives a long way away, email or text her pictures of different styles and get her opinion.

Another alternative you could suggest to the bride if you all live a long way apart is that she provides the material and you have dresses made in the same fabric, but different styles, which is actually the way bridesmaids’ outfits were traditionally made.

Be constructive

Think carefully about any objections before voicing them to the bride, and consider whether they are actually valid.

For example, a lifelong aversion to peach taffeta is really not a good enough reason to upset the bride. On the other hand, if you are allergic to a certain fabric it’s reasonable that you avoid an outfit that is going to cause you discomfort.

Equally, just because you live in trainers it doesn’t mean you should complain at having to sport stilettos for the day. However, if you really hate your legs but the bride wants you in a mini skirt, then it’s worth trying to reach some compromise.

Selection of bridesmaid dresses Sophia TolliAbove: Bridesmaid dresses by Sophia Tolli

Who’s paying?

Traditionally the bride doesn’t have to pay for bridesmaids’ dresses, but in practice many do. Whatever is the case, it still makes sense for choosing to be a collaborative process.

According to Pronuptia, what often happens is that the maid of honour will pay for her own dress, while the bride will pay for the younger bridesmaid’s outfits. Occasionally parents will pay for a younger attendant’s dress, but this is less common.

However, although the bride pays for the dresses, the bridesmaids usually get to keep them once the wedding is over. “It’s like a token – a thank you for helping the bride on the day,” Hannah of Pronuptia, Hendon, told Confetti. “If the bridesmaids love the dress, they usually keep it and can use it for other functions. That’s why most bridesmaids try to choose a dress that’s versatile. Normally, the bridesmaids and the bride make the choice together.”

For Her and For Him Bridesmaid DressesAbove: Bridesmaid dresses from For Her and For Him

 

You can find more bridesmaid dresses and accessories inspiration in our Bridesmaid fashion pages, up on the menu tabs under “Dresses and Style.”

To discuss this topic and more, and get ideas and advice from hundreds of brides, join us in the Confetti forums.

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