Who Decides? Bridesmaid Shopping Etiquette in 2021

Bride and two bridesmaidsPhoto: Bella Philly / LoweKey

Being a bridesmaid in someone’s wedding is a meaningful moment and an unforgettable experience.

But other than walk down the aisle looking smashing, what exactly are bridesmaids there to do? 

Bridesmaids usually assist in planning the bachelorette party and bridal shower. They attend the engagement party, the wedding rehearsal, and the rehearsal dinner. They give a wedding gift and help to get the party started on the dance floor at the wedding reception. 

They also buy and wear whatever bridesmaid dress the bride wants for her big day.

Which brings us to an important point:

Bridesmaid dress shopping is one of the most fun parts of wedding planning, but whose decision is it?

Is it up to the ‘maids to choose a dress? Should the bride make all of the decisions? 

Keep reading to learn what bridesmaid etiquette means in 2021. We’ve got tips for both brides and bridesmaids to help all of you gorgeous ladies navigate bridesmaid dress shopping in the best way!

First Things First: Who Pays For the Bridesmaids’ Dresses?

Bride and eight bridesmaidsPhoto: Bella Atlanta / Amanda Olivia

It’s customary for bridesmaids to cover the cost of their own dress, shoes, and dress alterations. But not everyone knows that, so you’ll want to have a conversation about budgets before you start shopping.

The best way to approach the topic of budgets is to have a private chat with each member of your wedding party before you start shopping for bridesmaid dresses. It’s important to do this in order to get a sense of how much each ‘maid is able to spend.

Knowing how much everyone is comfortable spending will make it easier to choose dresses. Plus, it gives you options.

Let’s say you have three bridesmaids willing to spend any amount of money on a dress and three that prefer to stick to the $200 price range. You can play this scenario in one of two ways:

Option A is to limit your choices to $200 dresses, of which there are hundreds of gorgeous options to choose from! Option B is to choose a $300 or $400 dress and make it clear that you’re willing to subsidize the difference yourself.

Wedding planning is about making your big day the way you want it to be. So before you say yes to a bridesmaid dress, decide for yourself if you want to cover some of the costs or if you’re relying solely on your bridesmaids to pick up this part of the wedding tab.

Shop our dress collections here:

How to Buy Bridesmaid Dresses [Tips for Brides]

As the bride, your wedding dress is surely going to be the star of the show! But how you dress your bridesmaids, groomsmen, and other members of your bridal party is just as important. Here’s how to approach bridesmaid dress shopping in a way that will make it one of the most fun and memorable parts of wedding planning!

Gather Inspo Online

Bride with seven bridesmaids and flower girlPhoto: Bella Jacksonville / Pompy Portraits

It’s always best to gather some inspiration online before heading to your local bridal shop or Bella boutique.

If you have a vision in your head of the look you’re going for, shopping will be much easier!

Start by Shopping With One or Two Bridesmaids

Bride with two bridesmaidsPhoto: Bella Indy / Stacey Harting

It’s best to start the process with a core group of decision-makers. Rather than bringing every bridesmaid with you on the first dress shopping experience, invite two or three whose opinions you respect and trust the most.

This can be your maid of honor, your matron of honor, your best friend, or close friends who know about weddings, fashion, and style.

Lean on your MOH and style-savvy friends to help you zero in on a look for the big day. Once you and your circle of trust have narrowed your choices down to a few options, present those options to the other bridesmaids to get their opinions.

Once You Pick Your Color and Fabric, Be Flexible With Silhouettes

Bride with eight bridesmaidsPhoto: Bella Tampa / Summer Simmons

Everyone has their own style that they feel comfortable in. As the bride, you should choose the color and fabric of your bridesmaid’s dresses, but you can allow them to choose their own dress silhouette.

If you’re going for an ethereal, whimsical, boho wedding ceremony, let your bridesmaids know you want all of them in full-length A-line gowns. Then, give them the option to choose the sleeve length or neckline they feel most comfortable in.

Planning a sleek, chic, modern wedding event? Let your bridesmaids know you’ve chosen burgundy crepe gowns for your big day, then allow them to choose the silhouette and shape that flatters them best. 

Remember, your bridesmaids are your squad! What they wear is ultimately up to you, but it’s good wedding etiquette to let them have some say in the decision.

Further reading: 5 Things to Consider When Picking Bridesmaid Dresses

Dress Shopping Tips for Bridesmaids

How excited are you that the bride just asked you to be a part of her wedding?

She wants you to stand at the altar with her when she says, “I do.” That’s amazing!

There’s almost nothing better than having good friends invite you to be an integral part of their wedding day, but before you accept the position, you should know what your bridesmaid duties will be.

Support the Bride’s Wishes

Bride with five bridesPhoto: Bella Raleigh / Tierney Riggs

There is one (and only one) rule of being an amazing bridesmaid:

Support the bride and do what she asks of you! 

A great bridesmaid is able to go with the flow throughout the wedding planning process.

Remember, it’s the bride’s big day, and she deserves to have the wedding she’s been dreaming of. So even if you’re not crazy about her fashion choices, wear the dress she wants you to wear. Buy the shoes she wants to go with the dress. Do your hair and makeup the way she prefers.

It’s perfectly fine to give your input and feedback along the way as long as you don’t try to override what the bride wants.

Stick to the Timeline

As a bridesmaid, you get to be a symbol of the support and friendship that goes into a wedding while also wearing a beautiful dress, and that requires that you have ample time to order your dress, get your alterations done, and have your shoes and undergarments ready well in advance.

Some brides are very particular with their timeline, while others are more relaxed. Follow your bride’s lead and schedule, whatever that may be.

When she tells you it’s time to order your dress and pick out your shoes, do so without delay.

Related: The Ultimate Bridesmaid Dress Timeline

Conclusion

Wedding etiquette is sort of like your Facebook status — it’s complicated.

But there’s one thing to keep in mind:

Whether you’re a bride or a bridesmaid, dress shopping for the big day should be fun!

As the bride, have those private convos about budgets. Search for inspiration online before you start shopping. Narrow down your choices with a core group of decision-makers.

And when it’s time to order dresses, let your bridesmaids have some input. Ultimately the decision is yours, but having confident and comfortable bridesmaids that love their dresses is always the best look!

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