Your Ultimate Bridesmaid Dress Buying Guide

Avoid dress stress with our easy how-tos for choosing the perfect bridesmaid attire.
by The Knot
photo by Bellagala Photography

The date is set, the reception space is booked and now you're starting to focus on the details that will really make your wedding day unique. Standing next to you will be the best support group you could ask for: your bridal party. But between coordinating shopping trips, finding the dresses and scheduling alterations, you and your girls may be feeling a little overwhelmed. We've devised a step-by-step guide to help you keep you and your bridesmaids happy all the way to your "I dos.”

Set the Budget

Between the dress, shoes, jewelry and other expenses, being a bridesmaid can really start to add up. When it comes to the price of the dress you choose for your attendants, be mindful of their lifestyles. A pricier option may be a financial burden for one or more of your bridesmaids so consider some cost-effective options like buying a dress off-the-rack, cutting the cost of alterations or deciding on the color and letting your girls choose the dress that fits their budget. Rental sites like Vow to be Chic and Rent the Runway are also great alternatives for your bridesmaids to wear designer dresses without paying designer prices.

Time It Well

Whether your bridesmaids are buying designer or off-the-rack, or renting their dresses, you should set and stick to a timeline to ensure no one is scrambling at the last minute. For a designer gown, it will take two to three months for the order to arrive, and then another four to six weeks for any alterations, so six months is an ideal time frame. Because off-the-rack dresses may sell out quicker, as soon as you find a style you love, you should have your attendants purchase it. Renting a gown can take at least two weeks to receive, so make sure they plan accordingly.

Start the Search

Pick your own wedding gown before beginning the search for the bridesmaid attire. Your gown and their dresses should coordinate but don't have to be an exact match. For example, if yours is strapless, don't put the bridesmaids in long sleeves, or if your dress is ultra romantic, you might not want your bridesmaids in more modern silhouettes. Then you can either just start saving dresses that appeal to you or you can focus on a specific style or color.

Take Shape

Think about the body types and individual styles of your bridesmaids. If you'd like them all to don the same dress, choose one that will look great on almost everyone or one that can be altered to either be let in or let out, without much issue.

Or, get on the mismatched bridesmaid trendand allow each attendant to choose a different dress style in the same color scheme or fabric to tie the look together. This option will give your girls more freedom to express their individual styles while ensuring they’ll feel beautiful and confident in what they’re wearing.

Hone In on Hues

If color is key, there are a few ways to approach choosing the right one. First, keep in mind the color schemes at your ceremony and reception sites, as well as your palette. (If your wedding will be at a rustic inn that has burgundy and dark green décor, you should probably rule out fuchsia bridesmaid dresses.) Second, decide if you'd like everyone in your bridal party to wear the same color, or if you'd rather choose a color scheme. Don't be afraid to experiment with different shades of the same hue to add some variety.

Finally, let the season be your guide. Rich, saturated colors—such as deep plum and chocolate—work well in the fall and winter months, while lighter shades such as celadon and iris are perfect for spring and summer.

Pro tip: If opting for prints instead of solids, keep the rest of the look simple—think: monochromatic bouquets paired with sweet and simple hairstyles and jewelry.

Decide on a Dress

Once you've found your favorites, finalize the dress with your bridal party. Email photos to the group for their opinions. And don't feel you have to bring everyone to the store with you. Your girls will appreciate that you want their input, but they might be happy to skip the chaos of all of them cramming into a small shop, and you can skip the hassle of trying to coordinate everyone’s schedule for a shopping trip (not to mention everyone’s clashing opinions).

Size It Up

If possible, ask everyone in your bridal party to get measured by a professional seamstress or tailor at a department store if they can't make it to the store where you're ordering the dresses. Warn them that bridesmaid dresses sizes are not the same as traditional clothing ones, so chances are their usual size won’t apply (read: they’ll go up a size or two). Remember: It’s always easier to take in a bigger dress than it is to let out a gown that’s too small.

Place Your Order

Follow this simple checklist to make sure you don't miss any of the important details when ordering their gowns:

  • Order all the dresses at the same time so they’re from the same dye lot.

  • If many of the bridesmaids live out of town, collect all the measurements and money and coordinate with the dress shop yourself, or enlist your maid of honor's help.

  • Allow about two to three months for the dresses to come in, and an additional four to six weeks for alterations. Alterations typically take only two weeks, but a second fitting (if necessary) will add a few weeks. Also, don't assume that every girl will be able to get to the tailor the day the dress arrives—be considerate of their busy schedules.

  • After the dresses are ordered, send a quick email or letter to everyone in your bridal party with info about the timeline and their responsibilities in regards to the dresses. Follow up with them about a week before the dresses are due to arrive so they can plan their arrangements accordingly.

Find the Shoes

Even if you fall in love with the perfect pair of four-inch stilettos, don't subject your girls to torture. If you're choosing the shoes for them, comfort should be the top priority. Then find a color that will complement the dress—metallic hues are a great option. Another (and more preferred) option is to tell your bridesmaids the specifics (color, open- or close-toe, for instance) and let them find the perfect pair—some might already have it in their closets.

Do Everything Else

A few little extras can go a long way. Use pins, scarves, belts and jewelry to dress up simple ensembles or to give each dress an individual flair. But all these extra details will add up, so if it's not in your budget to spring for them, don't ask your girls to do so either. If you’re really set on a little piece of flair, consider gifting it as a bridesmaid gift.


Find your bridesmaid dresses here

Up Next
Gold Bridesmaid Dresses to Shop Now
From full-glam sequins to airy metallic tulle, you can't go wrong with ultra-luxe gold bridesmaid dresses.
by The Knot