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What should my bridesmaids wear?

You have spent a lot of time reading magazines, looking at dresses and discussing what the bride is going to wear but you also need to think hard about dressing the bridesmaids. This is important for a couple of reasons: Firstly, they are going to be in your wedding photos and will be the “best supporting actresses” in your wedding album and video. Secondly, as the bridesmaids are also likely to be your best friends and/or sister, they won’t be happy if you make them look ridiculous or pick a completely unsuitable dress. Finally, if you expect your bridesmaids to pay for their dresses (which is fairly common) they will want an outfit that they can wear again.

Here are some suggestions for when choosing your bridesmaid dresses:

Style: Try to find a style and colour that is flattering to the different sizes and skin tones of your bridesmaids. Consider their individual body types - if one’s voluptuous, another's rail-thin and yet another is tiny, it is unlikely they will all look good in the skin-tight low v neck dress you always dreamed of. There is, however, one rule that applies in most instances: very few figures are flattered by large bows, puffy sleeves and hundreds of pleats. Simple and elegant designs are going to be the most flattering to all figures. The design of the bridesmaid dresses should also complement your wedding dress - for example, if your wedding dress is simple and classy, so should the bridesmaid dresses.

Price: It is often the price that causes the most conflict when choosing a bridesmaid dress. In most situations, the bridesmaids will be paying for their own dress and shoes. While you may be willing to spend a lot of money on a designer wedding dress, your bridesmaids may not be at a stage in their lives where they can afford to spend large amounts of money on a dress (they might in fact be saving for their own big day!). For this reason, when looking at dresses, you need to think price and then think price again. The aim is to keep the price of the bridesmaid dresses at a level that everyone can afford.

Let them choose: Consider letting your bridesmaids wear clothing of their own choice. What you lose in uniformity may be made up for in comfort and happiness, which will make for a better day for everyone. A variation on this is to let them wear dresses of their own choosing as long as they are a certain colour (such as your wedding colours). However, you should try to ensure that the colours you have chosen for your wedding are colours you would ask your friends to wear. Be careful about colours that rarely occur in nature and don’t suit all complexions.

Different Styles: Think beyond the obvious dress choices such as suits (jackets over dresses or jackets and skirts), slipdresses, and sheath dresses, all of which are extremely re-wearable, as well as fashionable.

Help them out: If the particular dress that you have always dreamed that your bridemaids will wear is expensive, you can always help them out by assisting them with the cost. For example, what many people will do is pay for the fabric and have the bridesmaid pay for the dress to be made. Another alternative is to offer to pay for their shoes (especially if you would like them to wear particular coloured shoes).

Get the dresses made: Finding off-the-shelf dresses that will fit everyone can be quite difficult. For this reason, it can be easier (and cheaper) to have the dresses made. Many dressmakers will let you buy your own fabric, which further reduces the costs.

What dress length suits? When deciding on the length of a bridesmaid dress, it is important to consider how formal/traditional the wedding is. The general rule is that, the more formal the wedding, the more appropriate it is to have the bridesmaid dress over the knee or longer. At an informal daytime wedding, bridesmaid dresses can be the same length as the bride's dress, short or long. However, if a bride is wearing a floor-length dress, bridesmaid dresses will look better at an equivalent length.

Above all, no matter what dress you choose, you want your bridesmaids to like you before, during, and after the ceremony. If the bridesmaids feel happy with what they are wearing, they will be relaxed and will look great in the photos - that will only make you look better! It is, however, not always the easiest task to find a flattering cut and colour, at a reasonable price, that your bridesmaids will be able to wear again - so just do your best. And to any bridesmaids that are out there reading this – just remember that it is one of the most important days of the bride’s life (as well as one of the most stressful!) so try to be as accommodating as possible and make sure that she has the best wedding day ever!