I was a bridesmaid for the first time in November. I was actually the only one at the wedding and that, coupled with probably the most laid-back bride in existence, meant the whole experience was a breeze. Carly’s only stipulation was that I wore grey. Easy. We went to one place and ordered my dress then and there.
Now it’s my second time around, this time for my sister Rachel, who’s getting hitched in July. Now don’t get me wrong, Rachel is pretty laid-back too, but there are FIVE bridesmaids which, despite everyone’s best intentions, automatically ups the ante and the stress!
Funnily enough, the hard part hasn’t been finding a dress to suit all our different body shapes (Rachel was happy for us all to be in a different style if we wanted, ironically though, we’ve all picked the same one!) or picking a colour that we all agree on (she wanted us all in different shades of blue and green). No, the really tricky part has been getting five dresses without spending a complete fortune. My £200 bridesmaid dress felt like a bit of a splurge for Carly’s wedding, but it was manageable within their budget. However when you have five bridesmaids that £200 indulgence automatically becomes a £1000 impossibility!
If you too have a large bridal party, or you just want to save as much money as you can on your bridesmaid dresses, here’s my advice:
Do your homework first
In the flushes of newly engaged excitement, I think a lot of brides make the mistake of asking lots of their friends and relatives to be bridesmaids, without first factoring in the costs. Sure, it might be lovely to have your ten oldest friends up there with you, but ten bridesmaids means ten dresses… ten pairs of shoes… ten bouquets… It can all add up very quickly. Ideally you should do your research on how much things actually cost, before you decide who to ask to be in your wedding party.
“Setting a budget and doing your homework are the first steps when shopping for your bridesmaid dresses,” Karen of Bridal Wardrobe writes in this handy saving for your wedding guide. “Knowing the base prices of the range you like can help you stick to your budget and avoid overspending.”
Visit the high street
There’s no doubt in my mind that the British high street is the best in the world. Especially as we get into Spring, all the shops will start to fill up with bridesmaid appropriate options at very reasonable prices. The only reason we didn’t get ours from a high street store was that Rachel wanted us all in maxi dresses that were in different, but complimenting colours. This is basically impossible to find unless you go to someone who makes dresses specifically for bridesmaids. Most fashion stores will only offer a dress in one, or maybe two, different colours.
If you venture online, that opens up your options even further. ASOS, ChiChi London, Monsoon, BHLDN, Vivien of Holloway and Lindybop all do bridesmaid appropriate ranges, although you might not get the colour variety that you would with a bridesmaid-specific retailer. However if you’re more flexible on your colour palette, they are all fantastic places to look.
Bulk buy discounts
In the end, we bought our dresses from a website that specialises in bridesmaid dresses which meant we could all get the same dress in our individual choice of colour. However the real clincher was that they offered larger discounts the more dresses you bought. So the dresses were one price on their own, but if you bought 2-3 of them you got some money off, 4-5 you got even more off and so on and so forth. This meant that having a large bridal party actually worked in our favour because the more we bought, the more we saved!
Even if you buy from a place that doesn’t advertise that they do this, there is no harm in asking if they can offer a price break or discount if you buy all the dresses together, or pay in full upfront. “Make sure you have 50% of the money available, as you’ll need to pay a deposit when placing an order”, Karen of Bridal Wardrobe also advises. “Saving money well in advance, not just for bridesmaid dresses but your wedding day in general will help you to keep your numbers down.”
Leave it up to them!
If you are the ultimate laid-back bride, then why not just leave it completely up to your bridesmaids to decide what they wear? You could stipulate a colour or fabric type if you like, but be aware that if their outfits are completely their decision, then they probably won’t pick things that perfectly coordinate. However if that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, then its the easiest option going.
Shopping for bridesmaid dresses doesn’t have to be a horrific experience. If you ask the right people, plan well in advance and you’re realistic about what things actually cost, I promise that you can make the process relatively quick and stress-free!
- Photography: Michelle Roller Photography