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Thinking of letting your bridesmaids wear whatever bridesmaid dress they want? Read this first.
Asking a friend to be your bridesmaid may seem innocent enough at first, but as the wedding planning progresses, both the bride and the maid will discover that there is much more to what is expected of the position than the bustle of a dress before the dance starts. Parties to organize, mothers to calm and melt to mediate on Gchat, for example. You may feel overwhelmed asking your friends to sign their lives for this level of learning. I know I did. So to prevent anyone from complaining right away, I decided to give them the option of wearing whatever bridesmaid dress they wanted. It felt like a great way to sidestep any dating accusation. And a cure for Pepto’s stereotypical pink dress that haunts maids’ worst nightmares. What could go wrong?
I gave my daughters a liberal color palette (“dusty pastels”), told them that whatever they chose should be along the floor, and let them loose. In turn, each maid would look and feel better, and most importantly, they would all love me for being so cold. But it didn’t work like that. My daughters were overwhelmed by the choice and stressed because I had passed over one of my huge planning responsibilities to them. Heavy anxiety, frantic emails, and a large number of purchases and returns ensued.
Thinking about trying the trend of picking your own style for your own outfit? This is not to say that they have no interest in it, or that it will never work. What I’m saying is that now that I’m on the other side, I would do things a little differently, so that my friends could enjoy their freedom, not freak out about it. Some advices:
Feel who wants more direction, and who wants less.
Some of your maids will love shopping. For others, it can be as pleasant as a trip to a gynecological igloo. Not to mention, buying formal wear is a very unique kind of hell. If this is truly a personal experience for each woman, treat it as such. Give shopaholics a looser strap and let ’em go wild at ASOS.com, but guide the fearful through a mimosa-filled afternoon at BHLDN, with your very own mild-mannered stylist called Something Next, just like Emma.
Start a Google Doc with inspiration.
Even if you are giving them all this freedom, it is a kind gesture (and in a way your job, sorry!) For them to start with some options, both to show them your vision and simply to help them if they feel stuck. My brilliant friend Sophia had this idea at the end of the game, as we were approaching my wedding day and half of my maids were naked due to my laissez-fail. Soph took it upon herself to round out the affordable dresses, separates them and the jump suits in all the correct colors, jotting them down with descriptions and compiling them into a group email. It helped everyone move in the right direction. My reco? Start one of these before asking your bridesmaids! The “Go your own way” crash will be less insane if they have a treasure trove of inspo links to peruse from the door.
Don’t say “I don’t care.”
It’s SO tempting to use these three words liberally as your bridechilla gets out of jail when the going gets tough. I told my maids a lot when they asked me for certain permissions to dress (“Is it too bright?” “Can I wear pants?”). I didn’t mean to say that in a mean way, but to say: “You have the maximum freedom because I love you!” Still, it definitely didn’t turn out that way. In all cases, “I don’t care” is said as if you don’t care. Your bridesmaids care enough to ask questions to make sure they’re doing what you want them to, and it’s your job to take care of them. This is your wedding, and it’s about you. You have to worry. That’s why no one’s doing any of this, girl.
Do not forget that your maidens have lives.
You wanted to unleash them to make them appear relaxed, right? So why is your wedding dress hunting turning into a second job for your friend Jess and giving her an ulcer? Remember: the great thing about the matching dresses you choose is that your bridesmaids don’t even have to think about them. Or spend weekend after weekend hunting one in the perfect shade of a grizzly. When asking your daughters to choose their own look, make sure you are available 24/7 to offer help, feedback, store recalls, and anything else that can streamline the process and make them come back to your lives. They care about what they’re wearing, but they want to please you more than anything. And in the shortest possible time.
Reject it if it doesn’t work.
Like so many parts of planning your big day, you had a great, wonderful, sunny idea of how this would all play out: Your maids would have so much fun choosing their outfits, they would be surprised at how cold you are, they would nominate you for the Nobel Prize for La Paz, they would coordinate flawlessly on your wedding day, your wedding day would be 75 degrees and sunny, and you’d be on every blog! But here’s something to remember during your planning trip: So many things won’t turn out as you planned. And if the thing of choosing your own fashion adventure implodes on the 14th, and it looks like it will be an uphill battle from then on, just…. get rid of her. That’s fine! You are the boss! That doesn’t mean that everyone has to dress up as Disney princesses. There are still plenty of options for the bridesmaids that coordinate very well, and everyone will breathe a sigh of relief once the dresses have been ordered and are one step closer to that sparkling promised land: Open Bar.
All the jokes aside – this can work, and it should work, because the results are beautiful! At my wedding, seeing the appearance of my bridesmaids gathered as a group for the first time was one of the most exciting moments. Everyone looked beautiful, and I felt safe knowing that they felt safe. My bridesmaid wore pants, and people keep talking about how awesome she looked. And in my photos, each woman shines in her own spectacular way.
So, do you want the takeout? Your bridesmaids are your friends. Your sisters. Cousins. Roommates in college. Forget the “You should never be a bride” obsession and make it a priority to treat your bridesmaids like the friends and family that they are. If you take it into account, you will not make any mistakes. And on your wedding day, everyone will look (and feel) absolutely perfect.