Happy Friday! Today I’m taking a brief detour from the typical work style posts, to share some more wedding planning tips. If you missed my post a few weeks ago on how to find the right wedding dress, and are wondering what’s going on, Memorandum is growing a bit! To be clear, Memorandum will always be geared towards working women and the sartorial challenges faced when dressing for professional environments. However, at the request of many of you, I’m going to be adding additional content from time to time. Although I started the site focusing largely on conservative workplace attire, I gradually made the conscious decision to add in creative and also casual office attire as well. In large part, this was at the repeated request of readers whose work environments run the gamut of formality—from teachers, to advertisers, to tech engineers, to lawyers.
The inclusion of all three outfit types also has mirrored the progression of my own professional life. The content expansion has been a natural fit for me because, since moving from NYC to San Francisco, my office attire now encompasses everything from casual business attire to creative ensembles to conservative suits depending on the day and types of meetings I have; whether I’m meeting with an associate in fashion or meeting with investors.
Regardless of whether each specific post is perfectly suited for your particular work environment, I hope that at least some aspect of it can be applicable and relevant to your life. If, for example, Wednesday’s post is too casual for your more conservative workplace, then the skirt and sandals are likely not a good fit for you. However, they may be something that you could wear on the weekends, or alternatively, you might draw general inspiration from the color palette and look to simply replace those two elements with an ivory pencil skirt and brown pump instead.
Ok, so what do Bridesmaid dresses have to do with any of this? Get to the point, lady. More recently, as you may have read here, I’ve chosen to respond to further reader requests to occasionally include pieces that are beyond the narrow scope of office style, and speak to other aspects of the working girl’s lifestyle. Since I’m getting married in August, I’ve received countless emails requesting wedding planning advice and tips on different aspects of the process. As we know, working women can, in fact, get married, and luckily no one is required to hand in their #girlboss status at the altar ; ) . As working women, we still have to find the time to plan a wedding, and navigate the often tumultuous journey. As always, thank you so much for following along as Memorandum continues to grow and a huge thanks to so many of you who have sent emails as well. As you can see, I read every single one, and am always trying to adapt accordingly!
With that, today I’m excited to share more wedding planning tips by tackling questions about finding the right Bridesmaid dresses…
Photography by Melanie Riccardi
HOW TO FIND THE RIGHT BRIDESMAID DRESSES
This particular part of the wedding process is super tricky, because unless you’re cool with allowing your bridesmaids to choose whatever dress they want in whatever color they want, odds are you’re going to be faced with the uphill battle of trying to choose something for someone else that ideally does not make them want to light themselves on fire. To me, the task of finding bridesmaid dresses seemed only slightly less painful than being waterboarded. Nevertheless, I survived the process, and none of my bridesmaids have burned me at the stake (or maybe they just haven’t succeeded yet?), so in no particular order, I give you my top seven tips for finding the right bridesmaid dresses…
(1) MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: MAKING EVERYONE HAPPY
Most of the advice I received at the outset was along the lines of, It’s YOUR day! Pick whatever you want and don’t worry about whether your bridesmaids like it or not! I think this advice is fine (certainly well-intentioned), and might be appealing in its simplicity (and justified selfishness?), but I’m not sure it’s totally the right way to approach the process… especially if you don’t want your bridesmaids to have zero fun at your wedding. Having gone through the process and chosen the dresses, I’d personally recommend a more tempered approach. Of course, it is “your” day, so you should move in the direction of bridesmaid dresses that do fit within the scope of both your taste and the aesthetic you’ve chosen for your wedding (more on that below). However, it’s also important to carefully consider all body types and the general tastes of your bridesmaids. Although it is your wedding, if you force someone else to wear a dress in which they are wildly uncomfortable, they’re likely not going to thoroughly enjoy the day. Ipso facto, the wedding day vibe of your nearest and dearest that are stuffed into the chartreuse and purple sheaths that you chose because “it’s your day and you can do what you want” might not be ideal.
On the other end of the spectrum, you’ll never please everyone. With this in mind, I think it’s a big mistake to involve all of your bridesmaids in selecting the dress—unless perhaps you only have one or two. The chances that everyone agrees on a color, style (or even selection of styles) is unlikely, and prone to produce disappointment and conflict (I feel like that’s something Dr. Phil would say… sorry). So, my advice is to think long and hard about each individual skin tone and body type yourself. When I was evaluating different colors and dresses, I actually made a list and took notes thinking, ok how would this color and style look on Annie? Now what about Hanna? … and down the line. I chose to only involve my maid of honor (who is the beauty depicted in the pictures today!), and my Mom, who was the perfect neutral third party—someone who, like me, will not be wearing the dresses and can objectively opine on how the dresses would work for each girl.
Another trick that I used (though possibly a little creepy because it involves facebook stalking…) was to actually scroll through each bridesmaid’s facebook and/or instagram pictures and take note of what necklines, silhouettes and colors they wore and gravitated towards. This allowed me to actually see different dress types on them which further informed my decision. Also, luckily, I’m very close to my bridesmaids, so I already knew that my friend Cara, if given the option to wear anything yellow or face a firing squad, would unflinchingly choose the firing squad all day everyday. So needless to say, yellow was out of the running early. Luckily, I wasn’t particularly interested in yellow, but if there are any major red flags like that, better to eliminate them early on.
With the breadth of dress options out there, make a special effort to take everyone’s budget into consideration. My understanding is that the general price range is $100 to $300, so if you have your heart set on a dress beyond that, you really should offer to pay the difference. As illustrated in the pictures today which were taken in Nordstrom’s amazing Wedding Suite, they offer a huge range of bridesmaid dresses, both in terms of style and price. However, I know a lot of people who haven’t gone with a dress that is technically intended to be a bridesmaid dress. You might find something in the regular women’s dress department that is just what you’re looking for and is possibly a better fit for everyone’s budget.
Pay special attention to the time it takes for the dresses to arrive. While some off-the-rack bridesmaid dresses take very little time to order, most bridesmaid dresses and certainly those that are made-to-order can take months. Since you want to allow at least one month for alterations after each bridesmaid has received her dress, make sure you know exactly how long the dresses will take to arrive so you can plan accordingly.
(4) LENGTH + SHOES:
You might have found the perfect floor-length dress, but be sure to consider the dress length on all of your bridesmaids. In my case, several of my bridesmaids are quite tall, so it was mission critical to find a dress that came in long lengths (spoiler alert, the dresses I chose are floor length, but that’s all I’m divulging before the big day ;). If you’re interested in short dresses, take similar care to make sure they’re not too short for the taller girls, and on the other end of the spectrum, can be easily shortened for bridesmaids that are extra petite.
Additionally, be sure to think about what shoes you’d like the bridesmaids to wear before purchasing dresses. If the floor-length dress is long enough when they’re barefoot in a changing room, but too short once they put on the heels that you’ve selected, you’re teeing up your weird uncle to be making “flood” jokes all evening. Don’t let that happen.
For a chick who knows her fashion, I quickly realized that I had MUCH to learn about bridal fashion—both in finding a wedding dress and finding bridesmaid dresses. Lots of things are different, most notably the sizing. Thus, make sure that each bridesmaid is individually measured by a professional seamstress before ordering anything. If someone blindly orders a Size 4 because their typical dress size is a 4, they’re likely to have huge problems when the dress actually arrives.
This one is pretty obvious, but often can be forgotten when brides fall in love with a particular bridesmaid dress before they’ve thought through the rest of the wedding. In addition to making sure you consider whether the dresses will look nice on each individual bridesmaid in color and style, make sure it’s a good aesthetic fit for your overall wedding. If your own wedding dress is a very formal ballgown, a flowy boho bridesmaid dress might look disjointed. Think also about what the groom and groomsmen are wearing, and whether the style and color palettes will compliment each other. Finally, make sure you factor in venue, geographical location, time of year, and time of day. Black bridesmaid dresses may seem out of place at a garden wedding on a summer morning. Similarly, mint green might seem out of place at a winter wedding in a cold climate.
Similar to my advice offered here in the post about finding the right wedding dress, it’s important that you consider the overall comfort of the bridesmaid dresses as well. If the dresses are too fitted, your bridesmaids may not only feel self conscious, but may also feel less capable of dancing at the reception if their movement is restricted. A lot of off-the-shoulder dresses inhibit arm movement, which can make hugging and dancing difficult as well. If your wedding will be held in a particularly warm setting, think also about how breathable the fabric is because (a) you don’t want anyone overheating and potentially fainting at the altar and (b) you don’t want bridesmaids walking up the aisle with embarrassing sweat stains. On the subject of fabric, also be careful about some stiffer fabrics that wrinkle easily. Some (not all!) versions of dupioni, shantung, peau de soie and others can become completely wrinkled after sitting briefly which doesn’t look great in general, and certainly makes for less than ideal wedding photos.
Ok what did I miss? If you’ve gone through this process as either a bride or a bridesmaid and have any additional tips, please let me know in the comments!
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This post was produced in partnership with Nordstrom.