Here are the most important things to remember when it's time to start bridesmaid dress shopping.

By Maggie Seaver
Updated April 30, 2019
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Finding dresses both you and your bridal party love makes bridesmaid dress shopping a delicate dance. It’s your wedding, so you technically get the final say, but your friends’ tastes, budgets, and comfort levels should factor into the decision too. And beyond the wedding day, the dream is to find bridesmaid dresses they’ll actually wear again (although don’t worry about making this your number-one priority.) Once it’s time to get the ball rolling—typically three to six months prior to the wedding—take these bridesmaid dress shopping and etiquette tips into account.

1. Choose Bridesmaid Dresses They Feel Comfortable in

Whether your wedding party is three people or 15 people, remember that everyone has a different body type and style preference. It’s impossible to cater to absolutely everyone’s preferences while bridesmaid dress shopping, but it’s important to be mindful of this. It doesn’t need to be their dream look (it’s their job to go with the flow as much as possible too, by the way), but choose a bridesmaid dress style everyone can get behind. Want to go the extra mile? Ask your friends to send you one or two dress details they’d feel completely uncomfortable in (and make it clear that “I don’t like purple” doesn’t count). Then find a brand or designer that lets your crew customize their look by silhouette, neckline, length, and so on.

2. Make Sure They Complement Your Wedding Dress

Think about your own wedding dress. Is it classic, boho, vintage, or modern? No need to be matchy-matchy, but you’ll be posing for photos together and standing near each other at the ceremony, so the bridesmaid dresses should fit the vibe. If you’re wearing a breezy, bohemian wedding dress, your bridesmaids will look and feel out of place in structured black taffeta gowns.

3. Think About Color

What color dresses to choose is probably one of top questions you’ll have while bridesmaid dress shopping. Should you go classic (blush or dusty blue, for example), or try something a little riskier and trendier (like, say, taupe or mustard yellow)? Consider a hue that'll fit your wedding colors and overall aesthetic, suit the season, and flatter your friends’ skin tones. And don’t be afraid to pick a print like floral or color block. You could also choose a general color scheme and let your bridesmaids find a dress they love within those parameters.

4. Mind Their Budgets

Bridesmaid dresses are one of those wedding party expenses your friends are expected to cover. That’s why there can be some contention throughout the dress shopping process if you’re not careful. Be open about your expectations from the beginning and ask them to do the same about what they can and can’t afford. Then keep your bridesmaid dresses within a reasonable price range.

5. Consider the Venue, Season, Formality, and Time of Day

Your wedding date and time can help steer your bridesmaid dress choice in the right direction. Fall and winter call for richer fabrics, more length, and deeper jewel tones, while spring and summer welcome airy fabrics, loose silhouettes, and lighter shades. The time of day and formality of the wedding matters, too. You’re not not allowed to dress your bridal party in metallic sequins for a midday wedding, but something so glam might work better for a formal evening affair. The same goes for your venue. Metallic sequins in a ballroom? Absolutely. Metallic sequins on the beach in June? Maybe not.

6. Strike a Good Balance Between Flexibility and Direction

No bridal party wants to be micromanaged, but they also don’t want to be left high and dry. Even if you’re a super hands-off bride, offer your input to nudge them along—without breathing down their necks. For example, look for bridesmaid dress brands that let you can pick the color and fabric, then have each bridesmaid pick their preferred silhouette and neckline.