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.
A shorter dress, knee-length with a full skirt would be even more versatile…
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.]]>
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.
As for travel, well, prices have gone way up, but I’m betting that travel to the wedding did wind up averaging close to the $300 in the infographic, because while I had two bridesmaids living in the same town with me and my junior bridesmaid lived about an hour’s drive away… I did have two bridesmaids who lived on the opposite coast from mine and who brought their husbands with them. Hey, one of them was also in the wedding party.
But just as I have to adjust for nearly twenty years, hence changes over time in both prices and custom (the bachelorette party was a pretty rare beast when I was getting married), it’s important to remember geography and culture when looking at the numbers in the infographic. With the cost of the average wedding in New York City hovering close to seventy grand, you can assume that bridesmaids will also probably wind up spending more there than, say, in Yuma, AZ. And it’s always important to keep in mind that when these averages are calculated, there are always plenty of outliers whose wedding costs were either astonishingly huge or amazingly tiny. Averages tell us about everyone and nobody in particular.
So when you choose the dress your bridesmaids will wear, remember that while the average bridesmaid today spends $150 on a dress, $50 on alterations for that dress, $50 for lingerie, $60 for jewelry, and $100 for hair and make up… it’s best to talk frankly with your proposed attendants about their specific budgets before assuming they’ll shell out $410 to look good in your wedding album. I’m just saying. And seriously, I did not ever consider for one moment making my bridesmaids get new undies for my wedding. I figured what they wore under those outfits was between them and their gods, and therefore very firmly Not My Business.
As for the price tags of the gifts the bridesmaids give you for your engagement and wedding… it’s really best not to think too hard about that. They’re already giving you support, possibly DIY as well as emotional, and they’re letting you tell them what to wear. If they choose to give more, that’s a lovely gesture, whether it’s a potato peeler or that big screen TV you’ve been hankering after.
In short, there are averages in the world of bridesmaids, and you may or may not hit some of them firmly on the head. But your bridesmaids are individual people, your relationships with them will be unique, and anyway, why would you want to aim for average? Aim for what will make you – and hopefully your bridesmaids, too – happy.
So, next week there will be a theme to all posts on this blog. And that theme is….
(image via Kelly Pratt Photography)
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.]]>
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?
I’ve been a bridesmaid three times… four, if you count the time I got nabbed on two minute’s notice at a Highland Games where some friends of mine decided to have an impromptu vow reaffirmation. Yeah, a pair of Renaissance Scots were attended by a Victorian housemaid (I was demonstrating bobbin lace making in a turn of the century mansion) and there was much rejoicing. And you know what? I would gladly be a bridesmaid again.
Sure, there are brides out there who inflict horrible dresses on their attendants and expect too much. I wore dusty rose taffeta with matching nylon lace once. I saw an episode of Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids where the bride informed her friends that anyone who wanted to be a bridesmaid had to be ready to pony up $1,200 just for the dress and the five-inch Loubouton heels to go with. At least my taffeta horror only set me back $35.00 and an afternoon of wearing a color I detest. And that rainbow squeezebox illustrating the article? Will probably haunt my nightmares.
And yet, I honestly believe that most brides want to do right by their attendants. I’ve been asked to help scout sites, pick fabrics, tie bouquets, address invitations, and hand hold brides through emotional crises without once feeling put upon or used. I’ve thrown a wedding shower without going into massive debt.
In fact, the single worst thing ever to happen to me as a bridesmaid was the time my ankle started itching insistently just after I started up the aisle, right when I couldn’t do anything about it. It itched like crazy for the entire forty-five minute ceremony (the bride was Catholic, the groom Baptist, and both traditions were being observed), and stopped just three steps before I got to the place where I could have finally scratched to my heart’s content.
Weighed against one really ugly (but incredibly inexpensive!) dress, a nasty itch I couldn’t do anything about, and having to grin and bear it when the groom’s brother at one wedding told a fifteen minute version of the moose turd pie joke as his toast to the happy couple, there was an awful lot in the plus column.
There was the knowledge that women I loved and trusted chose me to represent the community they hoped would support their marriages. There was the opportunity to use my skills in crafts and hand-holding to make their weddings better. There were parties. There were even presents. Those dinosaur scatter pins one bride gave me still get a lot of use, as they have since 1987!
The costs beyond the dresses were all pretty much of my own choosing. Even that shower I held was basically the cost of the food served, the invitations, and a present for the bride. It was held at my parents’ house and we served tea and nibbles on my mother’s good china. Everybody had fun.
Yes, there are bridesmaids with horror stories to tell. Yes, there are brides who are completely unreasonable in their demands. But I think it’s worth noting that these are, frankly, exceptions to the rule.
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.
You’re not the only one with a budget. You may have a lavish budget for your wedding (it happens!), but one or more of your closest friends may be seriously sweating paying for that dress… and shoes… and jewelry… and transportation… and two shower gifts… and a wedding gift… and anything else coming along. Every extra expense may actually make the difference between having your friend stand with you at the alter with her rent paid and a decent meal to eat the next day or not. So if you want something extra like matching manicures or updos, consider paying for it yourself. And do be sure to let any strapped bridesmaids know (privately, of course!) that their presence is present enough.
The cost of being a bridesmaid can add up quickly. Do your best not to add to any potential debt disaster for your friends. Lori may have been scandalized by two bridesmaids worrying about an extra six dollars for the dress, but she doesn’t know how high their student loan payments are or what kind of rent they’re paying. It really could be that an extra six dollars on an evening gown they would never wear again meant an extra three days of living on beans and rice.
Comfort does matter. If you’ve got bridesmaids who have never worn high heels, this might not be the time to go with five inch stilettos. If you have a maid of honor who last wore a dress to her first high school formal, try to take a moment to talk with her about how she would feel wearing an evening gown. If you have someone in your wedding party who has difficulty standing for long periods, make sure you arrange for ways for her to sit down during the ceremony, especially if you’re having a long one.
Taking a few minutes to think about someone else’s comfort will not only be of practical use to your bridesmaids, but it also takes some of the focus off yourself, which can reduce bridal stress, oddly enough.
Don’t ask for opinions or ideas if you aren’t going to listen to them. I’m not saying turn the wedding planning into a free-for-all. In fact, you’re perfectly free not to ask any opinions of your bridesmaids at all… though I wouldn’t personally recommend it. All I’m saying is that if you ask for opinions, be prepared to really listen and consider what’s being suggested. Think about their ideas before simply rejecting them.
You never know. Your junior bridesmaid might just come up with a fantastic idea that really makes the reception.
Please and thank you are your friends. Most people who care about you truly do want to help out, but a little consideration keeps them feeling that way.
If your bridesmaids are getting stroppy, ask yourself when you last said thanks for the things they’re doing for you. It may be time to let them know how much you appreciate them wearing a color they hate or running bridal errands for you… though it could also be you’ve got a generally annoyed bridesmaid just acting out. Speaking of which:
Communication is important. Sometimes it’s not something specific you’ve done that is making someone act out. Sometimes it’s a general sense of not being taken seriously, or fear that your marriage will change your relationship with your friend, or jealousy… or goodness alone knows what.
If that’s the case, take that woman aside for a heart-to-heart and see if you can get to the root of the problem.
Then again, there’s communication and there’s not knowing when to stop beating a dead horse. Which leads me to:
Remember the buck stops with you. There are times when a really strong-minded person – even with the best possible motives – becomes a pain by trying to take over. Make it clear that you appreciate input and intend to do your best to find solutions to issues, but that you are the one getting married and that means you get the final say. If you’ve got five women on the same page with you and one fighting, it’s time to put your foot down. Not only will the question be done with, five other innocent bystanders won’t wind up wasting time waiting for the argument to be over.
Make time to just be friends. Planning a wedding has a way of taking over lives. Remember to take time to do the sorts of things you’ve always done with your sister, your friend, your niece, your brother, or whomever is attending you. It makes the transition time easier emotionally for everyone, including you.
Ideally, the people standing next to you at the altar ought to be the people who will support you and your new marriage over time. With a little consideration and a little thought, you can make sure they’ll still be there when you get back from the honeymoon.
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.]]>
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?]]>
First impressions, from my end: NOOOOOOO. Do not want. Maybe I’ll write a letter to Dessy letting them know that a huge bias ruffle trim at the neck – paired with what looks like a giant elastic belt, no less – isn’t going to flatter any bridesmaid ever. Look, maybe I’m just against this because I was a little kid in the 80s and the fashion of the day scared me. But I don’t think so. Hating the nouveau 80s bridesmaid dresses with a passion over here.
Would YOU wear it willingly? Or subject your bridesmaids to it?]]>
The bridesmaid luncheon… I’m very curious to know how many of y’all have hosted one as a bride or will host one, and whether you’ve attended one as a bridesmaid.
I have been a bridesmaid the average number of times, and I was honored each time a bride picked me when it came time to choose bridesmaids. So much so that I never noticed that none of them treated me to a fancy midday meal prior to the wedding! No, really. Up until a few years ago, I’d never even heard of a bridesmaid luncheon, and recent reading has led me to believe that the bridesmaid luncheon may be a regional tradition. Particularly the bridesmaid luncheon that involves a color palette, a theme, a venue other than one’s home or the local Mexican restaurant where they give out free sombreros, and more than one table’s worth of ‘maids.
P.S. – Worried about being a bridesmaid? Check out The Knot Bridesmaid Handbook: Help the Bride Shine Without Losing Your Mind for practical pointers!]]>
It even works on flower girls!