Many a friendship has suffered some scrapes and bruises over bridesmaids dresses. Much like diamonds, dresses come with a handful of “C’s” to consider, too: color, cut, cost … you get it. I never felt too picky about what my ladies were wearing; I just wanted them to look good and feel good, and knowing the cash wasn’t exactly flowing for anyone, I wanted to cover the cost.
I’ve only stood beside one bride on her big day, and that was my sister. I did so in a custom-made boatneck frock with a mid-length flared skirt that cost me exactly $0 because my mom is a badass seamstress.
Thinking that was an excellent option because it A.) guaranteed a custom fit, B.) gave my mom a project, and C.) was a totally economical means of dressing my bridal party, my mom and I hit the pattern books and fabric bolts looking for something customizable since my three ‘maids represent three really different body types.
Uh, Dallas/Fort Worth, we have a problem.
We scoured every fabric store from the west side of Fort Worth to the Design District of Dallas and were coming up short on patterns that would fit the bill. And quality fabric? At as much as $45 a yard, this was looking less and less like something that would save money and more like a really expensive DIY that was going to cost my mother hours and hours of labor.
My future husband and I had to put our heads together and look at the budget vs. what bridesmaids dresses actually cost. Since the general consensus was that we needed long dresses that were relatively formal, those dollar signs started racking up. At first, I tried the whole, “Just send me pictures of stuff you like!” avenue. This doesn’t work well. Your bridal party gives a shit about what you want, so giving them minimal guidelines can leave them feeling pretty overwhelmed. All those concerns you have about other people’s opinions totally come into play for someone charged with choosing something for your day. After pouting for a while because I didn’t think I was getting any help, I realized I needed to narrow the field. We determined we could spend $500 total on three dresses and I wanted them to be the same length and made with a flowy chiffon rather than structured satin. Ok. Now we’re getting somewhere.
I found the site For Her and For Him. The dresses were reasonably priced and there was a sale (there are frequently sales) that included a bulk discount and $10 custom sizing. Their color selection was killer and there wouldn’t be any problem coming in under budget. There is also a feature where you can send email invites to view a style board so I pulled a few designs that I liked and thought would fit my girls’ individual needs and we were off to the races.
Then there was the color conundrum. The primary colors in my palette are sangria and navy. While my sister agreed that navy dresses would make the purplish flowers pop, my bestie looks really, really good in that reddish-purple. My future sister in law just smiled and said she’d literally wear whatever I told her to wear. When the dresses had been chosen, I decided to go with three different colors because I can (dark plum purple with the sangria and navy). Everyone has a color that complements their skin tone. Everyone has a cut that flatters their respective figures. Woody and I came in $60 under budget. Win-win-win.
Even though $440 plus about $600 for the groomsmen’s suits (which was as easy as asking for their measurements and ordering what Woody picked out) was a sizeable portion of our overall budget, there were still some Broke-Ass lessons in there.
Namely: Ordering in bulk offers discounts whether you’re footing the bill or each party member pays for their own. Logistically it’s great for matching colors because dye lots can have slight variations. We also made it clear to our attendants that this was our gift to them. I had dreams of getting custom etched Tiffany glassware or something else needlessly luxurious to say thank you, but picking up the tab for the biggest expense outside of travel (my girls are all local) was our way of saying “We love you,” through the whole process. It also evens the playing field if your party members have different finances. Your single sister with the killer job may have no problem dropping a couple hundred bucks on a dress that she probably won’t wear again, but your best friend who just had a baby might have to play budget volleyball to find an extra Benjamin.
Bottom line: you and your partner can handle it however it works best for you and your party, but they just might be Broke-Asses, too!