Wedding Planning: dressing the bridal party

buy phenergan for babies This past August I married my best friend. During the process of planning the wedding, I didn’t want to post too much about it and give away all the fun details. Like any good newlywed, though, I’m excited to share how it all came together, photos of the process, and what I learned during the planning!

Style Garden Vintage Wedding

Deciding on the clothing for the bridal party was both the hardest part of wedding planning and my most favorite part. Favorite, because to me it really seemed like the epitome of wedding design decisions. Everyone would have their eyes on the bridal party from the minute they started filing into the church and I was so excited about styling them. Hardest, because I couldn’t have imagined how difficult it would be to achieve that carelessly pretty, Pinterest-y sort of look. Before I get into all the complications I ran into during my planning, let me describe exactly what I had in mind.

The Plan

For the bridesmaids, I wanted five vintage-y dresses in different styles and colors. I really, really, really didn’t want matching bridesmaids dresses and, to make things even more difficult, I didn’t want them to be from a normal bridal dress store either. No chiffon or shiny-satin fabrics. But if that is the look that you’re going for, then that’s completely up to you. Looking at wedding color swatches can make such a difference when it comes to choosing the dresses for this big day. For me, I wanted to break the only-the-bride-in-white rule by having several of my bridesmaids in cream, with the others in various shades of soft grays, cloudy blues or dusky pinks. I imagined a mixture of textures, with some of the dresses being lacy, some solid colored, and some softly patterned. Originally, we were thinking long dresses to keep them looking a bit more formal, but when long proved impossible to find, we looked for short instead. I wanted to avoid strapless, since I felt that would take away from the vintage feel. All the bridesmaids would wear nude colored heels and carry the same type of bouquet in order to give the overall look some unity. For the groomsmen, I envisioned something a bit more casual than the normal tux or flashy suit. No jackets {Vincas was incredibly excited by this, since our August reception was to be outdoors} and mismatching ties. I liked the idea of Vincas in a vest and bow tie to contrast against the groomsmen’s plain shirts and ties. I was thinking a light gray for their pants and hipster type shoes – something quirky. I liked the idea of patterned shirts, but wasn’t entirely sure if that would be too much.

In my mind, this didn’t sound like an impossible task. I immediately began drawing up a list of potential places to find dress for the bridesmaids: department stores like Macy’s, Nordstrom, Dillards always have gorgeous options; Asos, Shabby Apple, and Modcloth looked like a treasure trove of possibilities; BHLDN was already bombarding my inbox with lovely dresses…this was going to be easy, right? Cue the Pinterest board of ideas:

pinterest bridesmaids board

My sister and I put off looking until March, figuring that by then the spring lines would all be out. That was our first mistake. A week of looking and we realized there was still nothing – absolutely nada – out there. Especially in any color even vaguely light or neutral. I didn’t realize, either, that brands will purposefully mark up any light colored dresses, since many women will use them for casual wedding dresses. No seriously – don’t believe me? Check out Anthropologie dresses and how any cream or white dress jumps up to the four hundred dollar mark.

The obstacles to finding mismatching bridesmaids dresses

There were so many obstacles in finding mismatching, non-bridesmaid-y bridesmaid dresses. Many of them never even occurred to me prior to our search. Here are some of them:

  • Bridal stores exist for a reason. Unless all of your bridesmaids live in the same city, it’s incredibly difficult for you to “match” their unmatched dresses in person.
  • There’s a reason most bridesmaids dresses are past the knee and require some hemming. Most dresses from normal stores come in short and super-short lengths. If your bridesmaids are taller than average (or practically basketball-height-worthy, Baltic goddesses like mine) dresses will look scandalously short on them. Your mother will not be pleased.
  • Speaking of mothers not being pleased, my mom – although she originally supported my vision – was unimpressed by how informal many of the dresses we found looked. She didn’t like any dress that too closely resembled a dress that might be worn on a daily basis. Part of this was just clashing tastes, so ultimately my sister and I made the final choices.
  • Another perk of bridal stores is that they carry dresses for all the different seasons at all times.

All of this being said, I’m so glad I went through the work of finding dresses that were not from a bridal store. At one point – probably around the the beginning of April – I began despairing at ever finding five dresses that all looked good together. Desperate, I looked into dozens of bridal store possibilities. I found an endless number of websites that featured unique bridesmaids dresses, I toured JCrew’s options and even tried on half a dozen of their dresses to send photos to my sister, I stalked every. single. wedding/bridesmaid/dress related website I could find, but the reality was, unless I was willing to make my bridesmaids spend at least $300, the choices were fairly tame and predictable. Texture, I learned, is held at a premium and the few really neat dresses that had interesting fabric or designs were considered top of the line. And then they were still so bridesmaid-y.

How we found the dresses

Around that time, my sister flew to Chicago for my bridal shower. By this point, we had found several dresses that we liked, but none of which went together nicely. There was this gorgeous cream number I adored. This is-it-nice-or-just-weird possibility. We stumbled across some lovely long dresses that made us question long or short again. It felt like such a mishmash of ideas, with no cohesive design. The solution, we suddenly realized, was that we needed all the dresses to come from the same store. If the store had a certain “look”, then all of their dresses would inadvertently have the same feel. Since we were having trouble finding five dresses to begin with, to find five dresses from the same store seemed like an overwhelming task. Anthopologie, however, seemed to be our best bet. We both kept finding dresses we liked from there and, because their style was more vintage, the dresses were generally closer to tea-length and the quality was really nice.

That day, we hit Anthopologie with a grim determination and pulled every single dress we could find into the dressing rooms. All the sales clerks in the store helped in whatever way they could until our dressing room was packed with possibilities. At last! A light at the end of the tunnel! We were able to pull together three dresses that looked good together, with the fourth being the cream dress we really loved from earlier that spring. Because it was no longer in stock, we couldn’t place it next to the other dresses, but thankfully my bridesmaid (whoohoo, Monika!) had run out and purchased it while it was still in stock with the intent to return it if we changed our minds. Bonus point to Anthropologie: they don’t have a time limit on returns as long as the tags are still on the dress and the receipt handy. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find another cream or ivory dress at Anthro, but Urban Outfitters had a lacy dress that seemed like it would go with the other four perfectly. SCORE.

Bridesmaid lineup

I was nervous about never having seen any of the dresses on my bridesmaids in person (other than my sister’s) and I felt a little bad that the dresses were all so expensive (averaging about $180). Thankfully, Anthro came through again and all the dresses went on sale within the next month, meaning all the bridesmaids got back about fifty percent of the money they had originally paid. DOUBLE SCORE. Not even David’s Bridal could beat those prices. The one dress from Urban Outfitters did have to have the zipper replaced ( buy proscar for hair loss the original zipper wasn’t very good quality and its heaviness made the lace pucker in the back), but since it was less expensive than the Anthro dresses, the total with the alteration ended up making the price right in the same range with all the other dresses. I asked all of my bridesmaids to wear nude heels and bring along funky jewelry. I also asked for them to wear their hair up in a slightly more formal style. I hoped the heels and fancy updo’s would give the dresses a more polished and cohesive look. For one of the bridesmaids presents, I also purchased little clutches (fully stocked with some pre-gaming nips, of course!). Vincas got his groomsmen the cutest Starwars themed tie pins.

bridal shoe options

Bridesmaid Clutches

The guys

Choosing the attire for the groomsmen was both easier and harder. Easy, because I didn’t spend nearly as much time on the whole process as I did for the bridesmaids, but harder because I don’t consider myself very well versed in guys’ clothing. I assumed it would be easy to rent snazzy suits for the guys, but while casual suits, colored shirts, and cute hipster accessories are all the rage for groomsmen these days, the rental stores just don’t seem to want anything to do with it. Most major stores (such as Men’s Wearhouse) only carry one suit option (and I wasn’t a fan of the khaki color) and it’s almost as expensive to rent just the pants/shirt as it is to rent the entire pant/shirt/jacket combo. Speaking of which, there are almost no subtle colored or patterned shirt options for guys if you want to rent. Unless you’re looking for extremely bright colors or solid white or black, you’ll have to buy a shirt. Same for the shoes. The least expensive shoes for guys to rent are the plain and boring, shiny black, tux shoes. Want the cute, vintage brown shoes? You’ll have to buy those. I didn’t want the guys to spend more than two hundred for their outfits either, so we had to get creative. For the groomsmen, we rented the pants from a gray tux, as well as a plain white button down. I added in the vest for Vincas and found him a cute striped shirt at a department store. I also found mismatching ties in various neutral and soft colors as well as some neat suspenders at Nordstrom Rack. Vincas got a bow tie. That left the shoes. I was about to just text all the guys and ask them to wear brown dress shoes, when my mom (very wisely) pointed out that I probably should ask them to send me photos. GOOD CALL. It didn’t occur to me that there could be such a wide variety of guys’ dress shoes and I had to clarify several times what brown meant (Not tan. Not black. Dark brown, please), ask that those with loafers get themselves a pair of dress shoes that could be worn with socks, and also request that super scuffed up shoes be replaced. Vincas was the perfect groom and handled all these interactions and the groomsmen were all terrific and followed my instructions to a T.

Pastel ties groomsmen

Glory of all glories – we were suddenly done! After making the final decision, tried not to stress about the fact that I had never seen everything together. My bridesmaids were incredibly chill and sent photos of themselves wearing the dresses, but pictures can be so deceiving and unhelpful. My sister and I took turns reassuring each other that it would all look, if not fantastic, well then…at least interesting.

When the day finally came and all the bridesmaids were finally gathered together, the first thing we did was hang all the dresses next to each other. To our amazement we suddenly realized….IT LOOKED GOOD. I can’t even describe how relieved I felt. Not just relieved – excited!

Bridesmaids dresses

Our wedding day was absolutely amazing and would have been regardless of what the bridal party was wearing. I have to admit, though, I think we all looked pretty smashing together.

What do you think?





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North Carolina wedding party

Vintage Garden Wedding

If you liked this post, don’t forget to check out how we made the invitations, found the wedding dress, chose the wedding colors & style and venue, and planned the details & the flowers!

All the professional photographs were taken by Sarah Rominger

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