Love is not canceled, neither is your planning. Get advice on what's next for you.

How to Make Sure Your Bridesmaids Don't Hate Their Dresses

Bridesmaid dress drama happens. Here's how to avoid it.
shelley brown - the knot
by Shelley Brown
shelley brown - the knot
Shelley Brown
Senior Fashion & Beauty Editor
  • Shelley writes and edits articles for The Knot Worldwide, with a speciality in fashion, beauty, jewelry and accessories
  • Shelley writes and edits articles for The Knot magazine, as well as styles the magazine’s fashion and cover shoots
  • Prior to The Knot Worldwide, Shelley was a freelance Digital Editor at Conde Nast’s Lucky Magazine and freelanced for FLAUNT Magazine, Los Angeles Magazine, Backstage.com and Paste.com
Updated Mar 25, 2021

You've probably heard, "But you'll totally wear this again!" before shelling out for a bridesmaid dress in the past, only to have it collecting dust in your closet months later. Now that you're planning your own wedding, you might be wondering how to pick bridesmaid dresses that are budget friendly, universally flattering and work for your wedding style. Think that's impossible? We promise it's actually totally doable. Stick to these fashion rules to find on-trend bridesmaid dresses that won't cost a fortune, but will make your squad feel confident—without complaints. 

Keep Costs in Mind

If any of your friends have been in a bridal party before, they'll know bridesmaids traditionally pay for their own dresses. But a gentle reminder is never a bad idea. When it comes to price, try to be considerate of your friends' lifestyles—after all, a bridesmaid dress probably isn't the only thing they're paying for. And while the destination bachelorette you have in mind sounds like a blast, wedding party-related costs do add up. If you're concerned your wedding might be a financial burden for one or more of your bridesmaids, focus your search on dresses in a more affordable range, or select a specific color you like and let them pick their own style from off the rack. Another idea: Take a cue from the guys and consider renting your bridesmaid dresses. Rental sites like Rent the Runway let your girls choose dresses from high-end designers in a range of colors and styles for a fraction of the cost.

Shop Accordingly

Think about what kind of shopping experience will work best for your personality. If you tend to have strong opinions, it's probably better to shop alone (or with one friend or family member). If you prefer more input, take the whole gang and give them guidelines, like color or fabric. To make the bridesmaid dress shopping experience enjoyable for your crew, make a day of it. Start off with a leisurely brunch (read: mimosas) to ensure everyone is relaxed. And, when your girls give their opinions on the dresses they love—or don't love as much—take them into consideration. Even if you disagree with their suggestions, it never hurts to make your besties feel heard. After all, they're the ones wearing the dress.

Flatter Their Figures

Take your friends' various body shapes into consideration before selecting bridesmaid dress silhouettes (read: crop tops, minidresses and super-fitted styles should be off the table if your girls make a point of avoiding them IRL). If your bridesmaids have an array of different body types and you're having trouble finding one dress that will work for all of them, consider picking a color or range of colors and allowing them to choose their own dresses. If your heart is set on a specific silhouette, try to be flexible where custom alterations are concerned if they make your girls feel more comfortable. Small tweaks like adding cap sleeves to a sleeveless dress, bringing up a plunging neckline or toning down a high slit can make a world of difference but won't drastically change the overall look of your bridal party. And—while this may seem obvious—check the maximum size available of the dress you choose to make sure it will work for all of your bridesmaids. If one or more of your attendants is plus-size, don't expect them to purchase a too-small dress. There are lots of gorgeous size-inclusive options out there, too. Trust us, your squad will thank you for understanding. 

Go Mismatched 

Mismatched wedding parties aren't just one of the hottest wedding trends. When executed correctly, mismatched bridesmaids dresses will help your crew stand out. (Not sure where to begin? Find a complete guide to pulling this off flawlessly here.) We love this idea for a few reasons: It takes the pressure off of you to pick the perfect bridesmaid dress, it empowers each member of your wedding party to find a hue, cut and fabric that perfectly suits them, and your 'maids can pretty much set their own budget. If you go this route, be sure to provide guidelines like color and fabric, so your attendants have some direction. If all else fails, black dresses are always a safe bet: There's never a shortage of LBDs out there, and your friends will definitely be able to wear a black dress again after the celebrations are over—for real for real. 

Consider Your Venue 

The location of your wedding probably helped to dictate your wedding attire as well your decor, so it follows it should also influence how to pick bridesmaids dresses. Keep your venue in mind when choosing dress silhouettes, fabrics and accessories. For example, if you're tying the knot in a sunny seaside locale, opt for breathable bridesmaid dresses and skip the heavy frocks with sleeves. The opposite goes for a wedding in cooler temps. Don't opt for strapless silhouettes and expect your crew to shiver it out in the cold. If you're in love with strapless or sleeveless styles for a late fall or winter wedding, make sure to provide wraps or cover ups. Finally, if you're getting married on uneven terrain (like on the beach or grass) encourage your 'maids to wear block heels, wedges or flats that will give them added stability, or have heel protectors on hand if they're in heels. These may seem like minor details, but they can make a world of difference where your crew's comfort is concerned.

Do A Test Run

Here's the deal: Your bridesmaids don't want to steal the show, but they do want to look their best. They'll be heavily photographed and standing in front of a room full of people too. The best way to prove you respect their feelings is by trying on the bridesmaid dress before you ask them to take the plunge. Does it have an unflattering cut? Is the fabric itchy? Does the silhouette make moving around impossible? If you answer yes, move on. When you find one that you'd love to wear yourself, you'll have no problem convincing your friends to get on board. 

Don't Dictate the Footwear

Insisting bridesmaids purchase a particular pair of shoes may feel like the perfect finishing touch to you, but it also creates another expense—so think twice before you send photos of the red bottoms you're in love with to the group text. And, like the dress, it's unlikely they'll want to wear the shoes again, especially if they're an uncomfortable height. Most of your friends probably already have a pair of black or metallic shoes they'd be thrilled to reuse and can actually walk in. Another bonus: Sporting a pair of their own comfortable shoes means blister-free dancing.

Let Them Accessorize

It may be tempting to ask your girls to wear identical necklaces, earrings and bangles, but a mismatched approach to accessorizing will give your party a more modern vibe. By having each bridesmaid select her own jewelry, you're also encouraging her to express her unique personality (that's the reason you chose her in the first place, right?). Plus, the right jewelry will make any bridesmaid look and feel more like herself—and is one less detail you have to worry about. 

Up Next
  • Here's How to Measure Yourself for a Bridesmaid Dress at Home
    Here's How to Measure Yourself for a Bridesmaid Dress at Home