It’s not every day that you are asked to be part of a wedding where you know every detail will be Pinterest-worthy.
Now, I’ll be the first one to say it out loud: as a fashion conscious friend, being a bridesmaid – although flattering – does tend to strike up a certain fear in us all. A small little selfish voice inside our head whispers, “Oh yes. Someone else will be dressing me for the day as well as making all my hair and beauty decisions. Yes, this is love… and, well, this is trust.”
That’s why it is so exciting when the friend that asks you just happens to be one with a very keen sense of style, a coordinating home to match and an equally well-edited closet. You know the friend I’m talking about, the one whose living room is so well curated it could easily be mistaken for a page pulled from Rue Magazine or The Coveteur.
Meet my friend Masha. Successful. Smart. Beautiful. Russian. And a woman of exceptional taste.
Masha had a clear image of what she wanted for her summertime backyard wedding, which I gladly discussed over red wine and hand-crafted cheese plates at the aforementioned home. However, the one detail that stood out to me was the fact that she would be the first of my friends to try the mismatching bridesmaid dress trend …..in-real-life. It’s great in theory, yes, and in the glossy editorials of Modern Bride but in-real-life it is a bit more of a risk.
“I love it!” I practically shouted as she described her vision of “champagne, rose and beige dresses with texture, beads and draping.” She wanted each of us – all 12 of us – to look and feel like ourselves on her big day. “This is going to be brilliant, everyone just picks a dress,” I thought. Until I remembered that there were going to be twelve of us ladies standing besides her.
Well, in typical Masha fashion, it was no surprise that come wedding day the bridal party’s look was impeccably executed. We did, however, learn a thing or two about this mismatched trend along the way.
- Neutral is not a specific enough description. We know by now that everyone defines color differently. Some people think blue grey is a neutral, some think rose means pink and falls into a similar category. It’s much better to give more direction up front than less. Trust me, your maids will thank you and you will not come across like a freshman year pledge handbook, I promise.
- Choose a palette early and remember that with large groups less is more. The fewer colors, the easier it is to keep everything feeling cohesive. Our palette started with 4 to 5 color choices and we quickly learned that 3 colors would suffice. Our final selection was a simple palette of beige, champagne and rose.
- Choose a theme. Don’t forget texture and to vary the designs. If you wanted mismatching but everyone shows up in simple Grecian floor length gowns in slightly varying shades of blue it will look poorly matched rather than eclectically chic. Our theme was vintage, Grecian, clean lines, hints of chiffon and an overarching feminine feeling. Is one of your girls in copywriting or marketing? I’m sure she can come up with some descriptive words.
- Decide on a ratio. Yes, a ratio. One that includes color, textures and materials. Our ratio was 12 girls in 3 rose, 3 champagne, 2 beige, 2 floral and 2 fully beaded gowns. We told them that beaded embellishments were always welcome and kept track of our over-all numbers as the ladies each purchased their dress.
- Get organized. Even if you feel crazy doing it, it really is the only way to make it work. With a large bridal party of 8-12 women, it can be hard to keep track of who is wearing what. Start a shared Google document or Pinterest board where the girls can save links to the dresses they are considering and so that you can keep track of how many of each color have already been accounted for.
- Offer suggestions. Remember that Pinterest board you started? Upload dress options in multiple price points and styles that you know would work with your theme. This a great way to get that dress you love into the roster. Trust me, someone in your bridal party hates shopping and really wishes you made the decision for her.
- Try them on. When in doubt, it’s always safe to do a test run. Only five of our bridesmaids were local so we set up a time to go to a bridal salon** and try on various dresses as a group. This way we could see what worked together, what didn’t and whether or not the bride even liked the over-all vision.
- Purchase an extra dress or two- just in case. You never know when they will come in handy or, in our case, when a maid finds out she will be pregnant at the wedding. We had an extra few dresses lying around on our end, one of which was beautiful on our glowing gal. Worried about strict return policies? Ask around in your group of girl friends to borrow dresses from weddings past that fall into your palette or theme. You can offer them as back-up dresses to your girls. I guarantee that we are all happy to get a second or third wear out of bridesmaid dresses gathering dust in the back of our closet.
- It doesn’t hurt to use a stylist. At the end of the day, someone needs to make the final call, even if it just ends up being your most fashionable friend. That someone, professional or not, is quite helpful to have around when the bride is focused on everything else. They can offer insights, suggestions, reassurance and replacements if dresses are just slightly off theme.
- Trust your vision. It does start to feel like visual chaos before you see everything laid out next to each other and a bit of panic may set in. Don’t let it; trust yourself. Once the hair and makeup is set and your ladies are all lined up beside you, it will look like a cohesive collection.
Love this bridal look? Stay tuned for Part II where I show you a sampling of the dresses we chose for the big day and how you can recreate them.
Photographer: Kara Brodesell / Wedding Planner: Spreading Lovely / Venue: Private Residence / Beauty: Aille Beauty / Catering: Weir Catering / Florals:Bell and Trunk / Band: Hip Service / Videography: Patrick Ang
**Big thanks to Bella Bridesmaid and Nordstrom Bridal Shop in San Francisco for all their help in finding these looks.