Dressing The Bridal Party

Carry your wedding style through to your bridal party's look. Tips on how to dress everyone from the groomsmen to the flower girls.

dressing the bridal partyFrom patterns to colors to accessories, your bridal party's attire should reflect your own style. While there are some traditional guidelines based on time of day and wedding formality, these are not hard and fast rules. Here are some ideas for getting the look you want for your bridal party.

The Bridesmaids

Since your bridesmaids will be seen right next to you throughout the ceremony, it's especially important that their outfits complement your gown. They could wear dresses similar to yours in style and formality. Or perhaps some element of your gown, such as a lace pattern or beading, might be incorporated into the bridesmaids dresses. Matching accessories are another way to create a unified look, such as gloves in the same style as yours.

Be sure to consider your bridemaids figure types and coloring when selecting dresses. For example, backless gowns can be uncomfortable for big-busted women who really need a bra, while strapless gowns are awkward for the small-busted; a cut thats dramatic on a voluptuous maid might overwhelm a petite one, and so on. Dress color can be another stumbling block: a redhead might feel miserable in pink, or an olive-skinned friend might rebel at yellow. If your—bridal party includes a range of sizes, shapes and coloring, consider letting them select different—but coordinating—gowns, which is an increasingly popular approach.

Two options that still provide a cohesive look:

  • Pick one manufacturer and color and let your bridesmaids choose their own gown styles within that collection. This is a great way to accommodate different figure types.
  • Pick one standard element, such as a black ballgown skirt, and let your bridesmaids select their own tops in a range of complementary shades. This is a good way to accommodate different complexions and hair colors.

Wearing matching accessories, such as jewelry or gloves, pushes differently dressed attendants a notch towards the identical effect; letting each one pick her own shoes and accessories adds to the individual effect. Both approaches are perfectly acceptable; as long as the overall styles and degree of formality generally reflect the brides" gown, unmatched outfits can provide visual interest—and lead to happier bridesmaids.

Bridesmaids are responsible for purchasing their gowns, accessories and shoes. However, if theres someone you want has your attendant who you know cannot afford the cost, you might offer to purchase her gown (keep that between the two of you). Another way to help defray expenses is to offer to pay the deposit (usually 50% of the purchase price) on all your bridesmaids" gowns as your gift to them. This is especially nice if they will incur travel expenses to get to your wedding.


  • Yes, you have final say on what the bridesmaids will wear, but don't torture them. Keep in mind their budgets, body types, and personal styles. Remember, happy maids will be helpful maids. 
  • Letting the bridesmaids choose the dress they'll all wear may not be as big a favor as you think, because then it becomes a decision by committee—often of people who don't know each other well enough to express their desires openly. Instead, consider having them narrow the field, then you make the final choice. 

Next: The Groomsmen ►