Dress bridesmaids, moms and flower girls in styles that suit your vision and their unique personalities.
The Sept. 1, 2012 wedding of Kia and Darrell Hazel Jr. felt positively royal, thanks in part to purple gowns from David's Bridal worn by the five bridesmaids.
Bridesmaids have worried for years about the dreaded, stereotypical dress they’d wear once and banish to the back of the closet. But bridal fashion stylists say times have changed for the better. Maids—as well as mothers of the bride and groom and other attendants—have ample options these days. And they just might want to take those dresses for a spin around the dance floor again someday.
Brides can start by involving the bridesmaids in the selection process. It’s an easy way to find a dress everyone can feel good about. Even when a bride has a particular look in mind, input from bridesmaids can end up improving her initial plan.
Some brides allow their bridesmaids to choose dresses in two or three silhouettes, all made from the same fabric. More companies are creating dresses in the same material but different styles. These offer a coordinated look throughout the bridal party, but let each bridesmaid express herself and find something that works for her shape. And there are some brides who allow their maids almost complete freedom by simply telling them which color to buy and not specifying a fabric or specific store.
Emily Sturcchio married her husband, Jeremy, on Dec. 10, 2011, and she recalls it was challenging at first to select bridesmaids gowns because the women were all in different locations. “I had to find a place available all across the country, and I wanted to keep prices low,” she says. The only stipulations she made were color and length; bridesmaids could choose a style they felt most comfortable wearing. Sturcchio says her thought throughout the process was the less the bridesmaids spent on their dresses, the happier they would be. She suggests giving a wrap as a bridesmaid gift to tie the look together if everyone is wearing something different.
Popular bridesmaid dress colors include fuchsia and green. “A lot of girls are having fun with color,” says Terry Misener of Universal Bridal. “They aren’t afraid to venture out and do bold colors,” but she adds that black always appears in cycles as a classic option for attendants. It’s also becoming popular for bridesmaids to wear a sash that is a different shade than their dress or an entirely different color. David’s Bridal features colors with whimsical names like bluebird, begonia, meadow and poppy.
Misener says tea-length dresses are trending for bridesmaid dresses this season. “We’re seeing dresses for different body types. Designers are keeping in mind that wedding parties are all different sizes and not all bodies are going to work in all dresses,” she says.
Kathy Kruse of Trumpington Bridal House says strapless isn’t the only option for dresses anymore. “Companies are coming up with dresses that look less like typical bridesmaid dresses and more like something you could wear again,” she says, adding that silk is a popular fabric for dresses this season. Abby Winland of Girls in White Dresses is seeing a softer, more ethereal look for bridesmaids right now. “Brides are opting for a light color palette using blush, candlelight and lavender.”
A popular debate in any wedding is whether attendants’ gowns should be long or short. Winland says that longer bridesmaids dresses are becoming increasingly popular to compliment the romantic look brides are seeking this season. But Christopher Widdoes of Henri’s Cloud Nine says that while bridesmaid dress trends differ from year to year, he has seen shorter, cocktail-style dresses as opposed to longer styles.
One important thing to remember is that you don’t want to pick just the best dresses for your maids—you want to create an overall look and feel. “I like to think colors are based upon what the bride likes. We like to make sure the maids’ gowns are complimentary to the bride’s gown,” Widdoes says.
Next to the bride and groom, the bride and groom’s mothers are the most important members of the event. Some stylists even say the mothers’ gowns should get nearly as much consideration as the bride’s own.
Long gone are the days of matronly attire for the mothers; they’re looking for dresses that make them look the age they feel, and there are plenty of options to keep moms looking stylish.
Many mothers opt for lighter-weight fabrics such as chiffon and organza and choose soft, flowing dresses that can be worn in the future. And many moms shop in the bridesmaid section of the bridal boutique. With the increase in short dresses for bridesmaids, moms also are gravitating toward higher hemlines.
Although they’re looking for younger styles, many moms still want to be covered up a bit. They choose bolero jackets, shawls or wraps, often with beading or another kind of embellishment, so they aren’t baring as much skin as the bride and bridesmaids but still look stylish.
The coordination of the mothers’ dresses with the color scheme and formality of the wedding party should be taken into consideration, but not to the extent that the mothers are indistinguishable from other attendants. Rather than try to match the bridesmaids, mothers should pick complementary hues. For example, if the bridesmaids are in lilac, the mother of the bride could wear a deep plum. Bridesmaids in hunter green would be well matched by a mother in celadon.
Earth tones are popular choices for mothers, as are pewter shades and basic black. Some mothers think black isn’t appropriate or festive enough for such a celebration, while others see only timeless—and slimming—elegance in a black gown. Not only can a black dress be worn again, it’s a hue that won’t clash with the wedding colors and will look great next to the men’s black tuxedos.
According to wedding professionals, moms should begin their shopping early—four to six months ahead isn’t out of line when a dress must be special-ordered. As long as the bride has an idea of her dress and the overall feel of the wedding—whether it’s going to be formal, or a little more casual—moms can start looking as early as the bride does.
Aside from the bride’s entrance, few moments during the ceremony will garner more attention than the entrance of the flower girl, all dressed up and strewing petals along the aisle.
With second marriages and children from previous relationships becoming the norm, it’s common for bridal parties today to include multiple flower girls, as well as junior bridesmaids. Asking younger family members to play a role in the wedding makes them feel special and adds an undeniable cuteness and charm to the event. The age of the attendants makes a huge difference in the appropriate attire. Stylists say the average age of flower girls is 4 or 5—an age that gives brides a lot of versatility in selecting the little girls’ outfits because they likely can carry off many different styles.
While mimicking the bride’s dress in color and silhouette is an option, many brides see the flower girl’s attire as a place to display the wedding palette. The child could wear a colored dress or a white dress with a colored sash. Bridal shops offer dozens of color options to coordinate with any plan a bride may devise.
The littlest gowns most often are sleeved, modest numbers in taffeta, satin or organza. Some still have full skirts, but many are becoming sleeker. They may feature bubble hems and 3D flowers or sophisticated touches such as structured satin and tea-length skirts.
More and more toddlers also are being incorporated into wedding parties. These littlest ones can walk down the aisle and stand at the altar or be pushed in wagons and then sit in the pews. Either way, their outfits will need to coordinate with the rest of the party.
For the tweens of the wedding, following the look of the bridesmaids’ dresses is the trend. However, styles will need to be adjusted to ensure the younger girls are dressed in something age-appropriate. If the regular bridesmaids are wearing sleek strapless numbers, a junior bridesmaid might wear the same fabric with straps and an A-line cut.
Many designers make junior versions of their bridesmaids’ dresses, so let consultants know early if you plan to have junior maids in your wedding party.
If alternate versions of the bridesmaids’ gowns aren’t available, you could outfit the junior bridesmaids in colors that complement but aren’t identical to your overall wedding scheme, such as light pink for a fuchsia theme. Flowers are another way to tie everything together—the junior bridesmaids could carry the same bouquets as the bridesmaids or wear corsages made from similar blooms.
To complete the look of all the ladies in the wedding party—the bridesmaids, mothers, junior bridesmaids and flower girls—you may want to give matching jewelry as the attendants’ gifts at the rehearsal dinner. Pins reflective of each woman’s taste also could be purchased as gifts from the bride. It’s a nice gesture, and you can rest easy knowing the bridal party’s accessories will coordinate as well as their dresses do.