What bridesmaid dresses go with what bridal gown?

Bar none, the most common questions I get for Reader Requests are about bridal color schemes, bridesmaid dresses, affordable wedding shower looks, engagement picture styling, etc. There’s a lot of you all with a lot of questions about wedding stuff.

Out of all of the things I named above, bridesmaid dresses definitely cause people the most angst. They’re hard to find at a certain price point, and it’s difficult to get a style that matches both the bride’s aesthetic and what her outspoken friends may say they’d prefer. (Not to mention all the drama that can come with fittings, returns, etc.)

When I was looking for bridesmaid dresses in 2008, I was irritated by the lack of choices within a certain budget. It was nearly impossible to find a stylish, modern dress in an array of sizes and available in a certain time frame and color under $400—and I certainly didn’t want my friends and family paying more than that! I got extremely lucky with the final selection, but oh man. The process was, for lack of a better word, a complete bitch.

If you’re struggling right now to choose a dress for your bridesmaids and you don’t even know where to start, here’s a tip: start with YOUR wedding dress. The style of your dress, the fabric of your dress, the embellishments on your dress are all things that should play into your bridesmaid dress decision. Contrary to the beliefs of some, a bridesmaid dress shouldn’t be a hideous, blinding scrap of satin that just so happens to match your place settings so, okay, you go with it. No! Your bridesmaids should have the benefit of wearing a flattering, stylish dress (even if they won’t wear it again) during your wedding and you should have the good fortune to have chosen a bridesmaid dress that compliments your own.

Here’s a few tips to get you on the right path. NOTE: Please ignore colors for the sake of argument. This is to give you a general idea of fabric and silhouette. (In fact, I recommend not even choosing your wedding color scheme until you have a gown you love and bridesmaid dresses you’re happy with. But, that’s totally my opinion and you should do what makes you happy and comfortable!)

If Your Dress Is Modern:

  • Look for classic silhouettes in non-trendy fabrics. No lace, no satin and definitely no chiffon! 
  • Pairing a slightly retro bridesmaid dress style (like the one above) with a modern bridal gown feels fresh and keeps things balanced across the board—not costumey.
  • Don’t mimic the details in the bridal gown that make it memorable. In this example, the one-shoulder detail takes the dress from plain to gorgeous. Don’t have the bridesmaid dresses be one-shouldered cookie cutters.
  • Remember that a modern, clean bridal gown can pair with any colors and any prints, so don’t be afraid to mix it up. With that being said, I love a white-on-white or black-and-white pairing. 

Bridal Gown: Renee by Renee

Bridesmaid Dress: Moschino “Michelle” Peplum Dress, $300 (retails for $2,195)

If Your Dress Is A-Line And Embellished or Beaded:

  • The trick with an embellished bridal is to mimic the embellishment with directly copying it. What adjectives would you use to describe the dress above? The first things that come to my mind are “soft” and “ethereal.” Look for bridesmaid dresses that echo those same sentiments. 
  • Harsh colors or edges will distract from an embellished or beaded gown. The beauty of a-line gowns is that they are so flattering and beautiful in the simplicity of their shape: you don’t want a bridesmaid dress that detracts from that simplicity.
  • Don’t forget the rule of necklines: never have the bride and bridesmaids in the same neckline. Most a-line bridal gowns are strapless, so cross that bridesmaid style off your list if you can and look for alternatives. A boat neck, sleeves or a modified sleeveless gown (like the one above) are all gorgeous paired with a strapless a-line bridal gown. 
  • Try to find complimentary fabrics instead of being matchy-matchy. If your gown uses chiffon, don’t get chiffon bridesmaid dresses.

Bridal Gown: Desiree by Rivini

Bridesmaid Dress: Alberta Ferreti Dusty Rose Dress, $300 (retails for $2,295)

If Your Dress Is A Satin Ballgown:

  • Oh, girl. This is a lot of bridal gown, so don’t skimp on those bridesmaids. There’s so much formal gown happening that to dress your bridesmaids in knee-length/cocktail dresses would seem mismatched. Go for full-length bridesmaid dresses here. 
  • This is one instance where fabrics can match. There’s no risk of a few bridesmaids in satin overwhelming a bride in a gown like this, and the matching fabric lends a formal air to the overall party that certain brides (who want black tie affairs, for example) may find appealing.
  • With that being said, keep the satin looking classy! I love this deep green. It’s a beautiful, expensive-looking dress that accents the bridal gown well. Satin has a tendency to read cheap, so be cautious about what color and style of gown you select. 
  • Don’t forget the rule of necklines! Still applies. 

Bridal Gown: Pnina Tornai

Bridesmaid Dress: Yigal Azrouel Green Satin Charm Gown, $250 (retails for $1,695)

If You’re Wearing A Lace Gown:

  • Lace gowns have surged in popularity in recent years. The problem is that lace gowns, of all of the ones shown thus far in this post, are the most difficult to match color schemes and bridesmaid dress styles to. A lace gown is delicate and complicated at the same time and makes finding complimentary styles tricky.
  • But, although they may be tricky, don’t be afraid of making bold bridesmaid dress decisions! Because lace can read twee or precious, I like the juxtaposition of a really stand-out print bridesmaid dress. The styles are complimentary and the print almost looks like a lace pattern without being a “lace dress.” This is one of my favorite looks in this post. It’s modern and memoriable, but still classic.
  • With lace gowns, the rule of necklines is more flimsy—especially if you are going in a bolder direction with the bridesmaid dresses. I would suggest taking one or two major elements from the bridal gown (neckline, length, fabric, embellishments, etc.) and making sure those appear in the bridesmaid gown so that everyone looks like they are going to the same wedding. Here, the similar necklines and bodices give some uniformity to the overall appearance.

Bridal Gown: Monique Lhuillier

Bridesmaid Dress: Milly “Southern Charmer” Dress, $50 (retails for $367)

If You’re Wearing A Short Gown:

  • The bridesmaid dress should also be short, but not necessarily the same length.
  • Keep the bridesmaid dress simple, so as not to look like a twin of your own dress. If you can, try and find a bridesmaid dress that’s a few inches shorter than the bridal gown so there is a more distinct difference between the two.
  • Don’t match the style of the gown to the bridesmaid dress. If you’re wearing a flared skirt, keep the bridesmaid dress a-line. If you’re wearing a-line, try a sheath or circle skirt style on the bridesmaids. 
  • Short bridal gowns are sometimes chosen because they are more casual and reflect a fun, casual wedding. Don’t let finding a bridesmaid dress trip you up in this endeavor! Try find a bridesmaid dress from an alternative source (i.e., Shabby Apple) or have them wear something they already own. Some of the best weddings I’ve seen had bridesmaids in complimentary (but different) casual, fun sundresses. 

Bridal Gown: Oleg Cassini for David’s Bridal

Bridesmaid Dress: Milly Lace Illusion Flutter Dress, $60 (retails for $345)

Do you have any bridesmaid dress advice?

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29 Notes

  1. morninggloryblu reblogged this from jaclynday
  2. myheartgoespitterpatter said: i’m giving each of my three ‘maids a different color and the offer to shop together if it’s too stressful to find the “right” one without my input, but i really just want them to be comfortable and feel pretty. they’re all for it so far.
  3. jaclynday posted this