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Bridesmaiding on a Budget

Unless you’re prepared to sacrifice many of the traditions that make American weddings so unique, keeping wedding costs at a reasonable level is hard work. Most of the stuff you find out there is either of poor quality, or poor style.

Take, for example, the bridesmaid dress. It’s an item of clothing that may, depending on the desires of the bride, may be made of an unusual color, or unflattering cut, and may most likely never be worn again. And yet, it can be a very costly thing, costing hundreds, or sometimes even thousands of dollars.

That’s why I’m always on the lookout for places that sell decent-looking bridesmaids’ dresses at decent prices. And why I usually recommend to brides that they at least consider allowing their attendants to have dresses that can be worn again, in other social contexts.

A >strapless chiffon dress with a beaded, sequin belt like this one (selling for around $100) is neither too expensive, nor too outré to be worn again.

Long, Strapless Chiffon Dress

A shorter dress, knee-length with a full skirt would be even more versatile…

Polka Dots

The average bridesmaid would be very happy to have a dress like this hanging in her closet after the wedding was done.(Both dresses above are from Jessica’s Fashion.)

So, the secret to saving money (and bridesmaids’ feelings) to spend the time searching for the right dress at the right price, and to be flexible in what you’re willing to allow your bridesmaids to wear.

How Average Are Your Bridesmaids?


Americans tend to have a fascination with the average. We keep seeking out the information that will tell us whether or not we fall in the ‘normal’ range of nearly everything. Weddings, of course, are no exception.

So when I ran across a fun and informative infographic on averages concerning bridesmaids over on Visual.ly, I had to take a closer look and share the contents with all of you.

Seems I got a couple of things in the average range when I got married. Five bridesmaids is apparently the average, and that’s exactly what I had. Oh, that includes the junior bridesmaid who, at twelve, slotted nicely into the national average of being aged nine to fourteen. I had a matron rather than maid of honor, though, unlike some 97% of brides.

I’m not sure where to put myself in the question of the 64% of brides who have their maids wear identical outfits. See, they all wore the same skirt and blouse made from the same patterns and the same fabric… but then I asked them to trim and accessorize according to personal whim rather than a specific blueprint. So there were trims ranging from pink pearl piping to a grand fall of lace over the bosom to an added Batterburg lace collar with little blue ribbon roses, an equally broad range of jewelry styles, and flat shoes that ran the gamut from ballet flats to low, slouchy boots. So they all started in the same place with the same stuff, but they weren’t identical when they got done.
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Announcing Theme Week!

It’s been a while since we’ve done a theme week here at Manolo for the Brides, and I think it’s high time we did one.

So, next week there will be a theme to all posts on this blog. And that theme is….


(image via Kelly Pratt Photography)

Kiddie Week!

Yes, we’ll be talking about children and weddings. Everything from how to include them in your wedding party to how to exclude them from your guest list, plus tips on care, feeding, dressing, and general wrangling of wee folk at your shindig.

So if you’ve got a question you’d like to see covered, leave it in the comments and I’ll get to as many as I can starting sunday.

How Miserable Is It to Be a Bridesmaid?


(Illustration via MamaMia)

The sad lament of the bridesmaid is well known in song and story, and urban legend, and bridal reality shows, and popular movies… and the list goes on ad nauseum. Nearly every woman I’ve ever known has had a horror story in her back pocket about being a bridesmaid – whether her own experience or one a friend of a friend read about in a magazine once upon a time – to tell anyone who announces her engagement or that she’s about to attend a bride. There are websites devoted to ridiculing horrible bridesmaid’s dresses past. There’s currently an article up on MSNBC about how rotten – and incredibly expensive – it is to be a bridesmaid.

But how bad is it really?
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Treat Your Bridesmaids Well


(Image via WedLoft where you can see some great photos of and thoughtful advice for dressing pregnant bridesmaids)

I’ve spent a lot of time over the past couple weeks catching up with a bridal reality show I’d managed to miss for a long, long time. Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids is yet another spinoff of the original Say Yes about shopping for wedding gowns at Kleinfeld in New York City. This one, though, is a spinoff of a spinoff and takes place at Bridals By Lori, featured in Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta.

The series is on par both in production values and general sorts of message offered with the other shows in the franchise. The search for a dress is presented as a power struggle with a villain, a damsel in distress, and the heroic members of Lori’s team arriving to save the day… or at least the appointment. And most often, in the episodes I’ve seen, at least, one or more bridesmaids take on the role of villain.

This can happen. I have actually been in a wedding where one bridesmaid ran amok and tried to change the entire wedding to suit her rather than the bride.

But my experience has been that the vast majority of bridesmaids, like the vast majority of brides, mean well and honestly want everyone to be happy. It’s just that not everyone may have precisely the same priorities and needs. Taking a moment to really think about your bridesmaids’ needs and priorities might just avoid some awkward situations along the way.
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Lhuillier’s Lulu of a Bridesmaid’s Collection


At long last, it’s here! Monique Lhuillier’s much anticipated bridesmaid’s collection has been unveiled, and I have to say I’m liking a lot of what I see.

For instance, I love this crinkle chiffon one shoulder gown in eggplant. It’s perfectly on trend for today, but will look classy in a wedding album for decades to come.

Overall, there’s a lot of chiffon and a lot of taffeta in the collection, and a nice range of mostly rather deep or muted shades ranging from plum and eggplant to sage and leaf green to a very zen sky blue to a soft, warm yellow that makes my mouth water. Both short and long looks are shown, mostly either strapless or one shoulder looks, though there are a couple with two straps. No sleeves, alas, but at least it’s a line designed with spring in mind.

In fact, the lowest note I saw in the collection was a strapless, leaf green column dress that reminded me a bit too much of tossing on an oversized towel on leaving the shower. Still, even that one I believe could be saved with the right accessories.

Prices range from $275 to $395. Not chump change, but pretty sweet prices for such a big name designer. All in all… yeah, I think Monique did a pretty great job on these.

Quickie Question: What Do/Did You Expect of Your Attendants?


When this photograph was taken somewhere around WWI, the duties of everyone in the picture were pretty clearly known and generally not too onerous. They had to show up on time looking clean, wear what they were told, do a little hand-holding if necessary, and deport themselves with reasonable dignity. The MOH would – funds, time, and first-time bridal status permitting – be responsible for any bridal shower that might be held. The best man would hold some sort of stag party for the groom, which usually consisted in those days of giving him a nice dinner, providing some cigars and decent whiskey, and kidding him about his soon-to-begin sex life. Oh, and those flower girls? had to look cute and strew rose petals.

These days the rules aren’t quite so cut and dried. The duties of bridesmaids and groomsmen now range anywhere from ‘show up on this day and wear something in this general color range’ to spending a year being the bride’s personal slave and whipping girl. You may be told to wear whatever you like within a color/style range, or you may be informed that you’re getting matching shoes, jewelry, mani pedis, updos, make up, and Botox injections… at your own expense, natch.

What did I expect of my attendants? Well, I expected they would all show up on the big day wearing the skirts and blouses I gave them patterns and fabric for. I told them to trim the outfits any way they liked and to wear whatever flat shoes they preferred. I expected them to keep their naughty bits covered and have as good a time as they could at a party. One of the bridesmaids did sew my gown, and I expected she would get it done in time for me to wear it down the aisle… but when it nearly didn’t happen, I considered the friendship a lot more important than my wedding gown. My MOH held a lovely shower for me, helped address envelopes, and drove me on a couple errands, but these were voluntary things I appreciated, not orders from me.

As for the men, they were entirely Mr. Twistie’s bailiwick. I think all he expected was that they would show up on the day wearing what he wanted having read his mind. One of my brothers called me three weeks before the wedding asking what he was supposed to wear as a groomsman. He threatened that if he didn’t hear from Mr. Twistie soon, he was going to show up in a kimono and top hat. I told him that was more than fine by me, but I would have Mr. Twistie call him with any instructions he might have. It seems he just assumed that all his guys had some form of formalwear in their closets and would simply wear that. I told him to let them know that for certain. Drat. I kind of wanted to see the kimono and top hat combo.

So while the women all wore the same basic pattern in the same basic fabric with wildly divergent accessories, trims, and hairstyles, the men wore everything from kilts to tail coats.

Other than that… we really didn’t expect much.

But I’m curious. What did/do you expect? How much do you care about matching outfits, parties in your honor, and help with DIY projects?

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