Dressing the Wedding Party: Part 1

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wedded couple

It’s a new year and soon I will be totally immersed in the 2017 Wedding Season. I have written several articles over my years at anewscafe.com on wedding gowns: how to choose the right style; what kind of alterations are possible; and even ideas for repurposing vintage gowns.

But what about the rest of the wedding party? What about the bridesmaids, the maid of honor, mother-of-the-bride/groom, or grandmother-of-the-bride/groom? Not to mention the guys: groom, groomsmen, father of the bride, father of the groom.

Let’s tackle the most difficult subject first: BRIDESMAIDS! Most brides want to include their sisters, their best friend from college along with their sorority sisters, their best childhood friend, and possibly cousins and nieces on her special day. Before they know it, there are 10 women and girls in their bridal party, all different sizes, shapes, ages, and color. It’s up to the bride to find one style and color that will work for all.


So first, try paring down the party! This, too will depend on budget. Or in a perfect world, you would only choose one figure type… just kidding (sort of). Anyway, in some areas of the country and in some cultures, the bride’s parents are expected to buy the dresses for the entire bridal party. Do be respectful of your parents’ and your bridesmaids’ budgets. Even if you are lucky enough to have the budget to buy all the dresses, your gals will usually have to buy the shoes, undergarments, jewelry, make-up, hair, plane tickets, and hotels. And if they are taking time off work or school, that can be another cost for them.

Consider the theme of your wedding. Is it a casual back yard affair? Will it take place on a beach or a ranch, on a cliff overlooking a ravine? If so, you may want to go with a more casual style, short, flirty, fun. Try looking for a dress in a department store that’s not necessarily a traditional “bridesmaid” dress. Finding a dress that your gals can wear for other occasions will be a good investment for them. A more casual style will usually be less expensive than a formal gown.

Are you having a formal church wedding where the guys are wearing tuxedos? If that’s the case, you’ll want to go more formal with the style of dresses. Floor length is always safe but sometimes a little black dress can work, too, especially if it’s an afternoon or cocktail hour wedding. If that’s the case, again a department store can be a better place to look than a bridal shop… Also, if you decide on black, the styles don’t necessarily have to match, although, you may want to decide on a length: that helps to make a more uniform photograph.


And speaking of not matching, bridesmaid outlets (davidsbridal.com for instance) now offer the same style in coordinating colors or coordinating styles in different colors. Say, for instance, you have one bridesmaid who is petite and small busted and one who is an average height but busty. You may want to put one in a strapless dress and the other in something more supportive, like a one-shoulder or tank style. If some of your gals have different skin and hair color, you may want to choose the same style for everyone but let them choose a color that will work better for them.

I’ve also seen some gutsy brides tell their bridesmaids to just choose something blue…or black…or spring colors. That can be hard to pull off and it really would be better to at least choose a palette that your maids can choose from. Get swatches from a bridal store or go to a paint store and get paint swatches. That way, at least you’ll know the colors will coordinate.

Another piece of advice for the budget conscious bride: keep in mind that many of your bridesmaids will have alterations costs on top of the cost of the dress. If you have someone who is petite or if the gals are wearing flats (Tom’s were really popular last year), they will need hemming at the very least. Also, because the dresses have to be ordered far in advance, it’s difficult to predict weight loss, weight gain or pregnancy. All of these eventualities can be handled by a competent dressmaker but be sure you allow enough time and budget to handle these.

Remember brides that this is your wedding and it’s important that you have the look you want. Be creative, be colorful, be formal…whatever suits your personality and budget. The process will be more fun and that feeling will spread to your bridesmaids.

Next I’ll cover the mothers and grandmothers of the bride and groom, but I’ll save that for another article!

Barbara Stone
Barbara Stone is the owner of Barbara Stone Designs, a full-service tailoring and dressmaking business at 5200 Churn Creek Road, Suite P, Redding, CA, 96002. She can be reached at (530) 222-1340 or bstonedesigns@sbcglobal.net.
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