Broke-Ass Category: Bridesmaid Dress Shopping

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Photo: Two Sparrows Photography

They said it couldn’t be done. They said it was a ridiculous idea. They said, frankly, I was nuts.

They were wrong.

I am talking, of course, about finding mismatched high-street bridesmaids dresses. And we did it!

Fellow brides, there is a LOT of pressure to buy bridesmaids dresses from bridal stores, and the mark up on those bad boys is RIDICULOUS. And why? Because people feel they have to have a certain look, or make their maids all look the same, or it’s just (*sigh*) easier.


But I am here to tell you, if you wanna broke-ass it properly, you can and should look elsewhere.

Here’s what you need to find your Broke-Ass Bridesmaid Dresses…

1) Awesome Maids. Mine are all amazing women, but totally different style-wise. Forcing them all to wear the same type of dress would have made at least two of them feel less than their best, no matter the combination. All the same, I think a couple of mine were skeptical to the idea of finding mismatched stuff on the high street BUT they all went for it on the day, and were completely brilliant and flexible with their choices. Their open-mindedness is Reason 1 why we managed to find such gorgeous gowns for all of them.

2) An open mind. I had pinned a few different ideas of mismatched bridesmaids dresses on my boards, but what we ended up with was totally different. And you know what? It was better. But if I had been trying to fit into a Pinterest version of a wedding, I’d never have found them.

Previous pins…


Joy Made Visible via Southbound Bride
Jose Villa via Magnolia Rouge 

3) To reevaluate what a bridesmaids dress should be. It doesn’t have to be boring, it doesn’t have to be staid, it doesn’t have to be anything at all, other than something your maids will be really excited to wear.

4) Someone who can see the potential in things (even if you can’t). I’m lucky to have a Maid of Honour who is more than a little handy stylewise. She was able to spot whether dresses could be altered to fit people better (crucial if you do what I did and buy stuff from sale racks, where there are limited sizes available). By buying sales items we ended up with all four dresses for approximately £200 — original price would have been over £700! They’ll need a little nip and tuck to fit my maids perfectly, but that’ll still cost an awful lot less than full price bridesmaid’s dresses.

5) A dash of luck! We were lucky that the entire sale rail in the first dress shop we found (Monsoon) was in the sort of tones and colours that I liked, and that suited the Maids. We were able to take about fifteen dresses into the changing rooms and then just have fun swapping them all around.


The iconic dressing room scene from “The Sweetest Thing.”

Other ideas for getting your Maids looking super-kick-ass for much less cash…

1) Do you know anyone who is handy with a needle and thread who could make dresses for you? That way you can get exactly what you like, and probably still spend less than if you bought them in a shop.

2) Have you seen a dress you like but can’t afford it? Try eBay! There’s loads of fantastic brand new dresses on there that are a fraction of the price of high street versions.

3) Ask your maids if they have dresses they already adore that they’d want to wear again. When I suggested my original colour scheme, Maid Lizzy was straight in there with “I’ve got loads in that colour, I’d happily wear one of them to your wedding.” Boom! Broke-Ass Bridesmaidery right there.

Good luck Brides, and remember — do it your way on your budget and you won’t go wrong.

Am dram Bride – out.

Emma Watkins
  • 4/1

    You guys. I recently read that the average bridesmaid spends $1,700 for your broke-ass wedding. Wait, what?!

    As it turns out, this number is pretty real. Check out this breakdown:

    •  Average cost of bridesmaid dress: $200 (without alterations!)
    •  Average cost for bacholerette party: $400/bridesmaid
    •  Average cost for wedding day hair and makeup: $100-180
    •  Average cost on gifts (engagement, shower, wedding): $200
    •  Average cost for traveling expenses (shower, bachelorette events): $600


    Photo courtesy of

    I think we can all admit that the average cost of being in your darling friend’s wedding is outrageous — totally unacceptable! While I wasn’t aware of this number until recently, I have been doing all I can to keep the costs down for my favorite girls — mainly by letting them choose what they want to spend on.

    My brigade’s adventures started with dress shopping … or lack thereof. My girls range in size, shape and color, so I always had the idea to mix and match their dresses. I had my eye on a few different styles pretty early on in the planning process, and had an even closer eye on when they would go on sale. At first, I thought about having 2-3 options for the 7 of them to choose from, but I quickly realized that there were a ton of pretty options out there! I was sure to alert them of any new styles I liked (especially when there was a sale!) and they ultimately all chose and ordered their own dress online. To pull it all together, I recruited my crafty mom to make some crystal belts. They looked amazing!

    Everyone benefits when you let your ‘maids chose their own dresses. They get to pick what they like, how they want to look and the price range that fits their budget. It was a bit of a headache for the bride as far as coordinating went, but in the end, I believe my girls will be that much happier when it comes to wearing their dresses. Worth it!


    An early draft of my attempt at coordinating mixing and matching while meeting everyone’s needs using dresses from BHLDN and Loft

    To piggyback off of the dress situation, I also gave my girls the option to have their hair and makeup professionally done the day of the wedding, and they can buy whatever shoes they’ll feel comfortable in. As far as hair and makeup goes, they have lots of options (including airbrushed makeup!), and I’m not requiring them to wear their hair any which way. I gave them a variety of colors for shoe preferences, and I’m trusting them to chose whatever they want. They ought to be able to pick if they’re going to spend hundreds of dollars on it all!

    I don’t have too many requests for my favorite gals, but there is one thing I do require — no gifts, please! Between their bridesmaid duties, dresses, hair and makeup, and all of the party planning, it is absolutely unnecessary for them to then buy me a gift when all is said and done. What kind of BAB would I be if I accepted their gifts?!

    Now, I’ve given my brigade some guidelines for the day-of attire, but as far as the shower and bachelorette party goes, I’m 100% hands off! The good thing about having 7 bridesmaids is that there are more gals to the share the costs of planning these things. I’m excited to see what they come up with!

    With all that said, one of the best parts of having your 7 best friends join you on your wedding day is having 7 extra pairs of hands to assist you leading up to it! Your ‘maids will (hopefully) be thrilled if you ask for their help on something that doesn’t require a monetary cost. I recently had 6/7 of my girls over for a DIY day, and it was so productive! I feel 10 times better about my to do list thanks to their willingness to help. Next on the list– recruiting my favorite shoppers to help me pick out outfits for the shower, bachelorette party and rehearsal dinner. No purchase necessary.


    I made my ‘maids work!

    Not the DIY bride? Here are some other ways you can help keep their costs down:

    • Don’t shop for bridesmaids dresses at a bridal store. Anything with the “wedding” label will definitely cost you more
    • If you have something specific you want them to accessorize with, give it to them as their “thank you” gift
    • Have a ‘maid who always looks amazing? Assign her to hair and makeup duty the day of the wedding
    • Chances are your girls don’t all live close to each other, so cut down on party planning and travel costs by having your shower and bachelorette party a 2-for-1 deal

    So, when it comes to assigning duties and having requirements, be mindful of how much your bridesmaids are spending on you, and not just how much you’re spending on your wedding. When all is said and done, it’s who you chose to have stand by your side when you marry your prince charming that counts!

  • 2/25

    Credit: We Are The Parsons Shopping for bridesmaids dresses nearly killed me, you guys. Well, okay, that might be a slight exaggeration. But still, that was some hard work! I wasn't too worried about getting the girls something they would wear again (which is a noble goal, but one I feel is difficult to hit even with the best intentions), but I had a particular vision in mind.…

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    Photo: Clane Gessel Photography One of the first questions I kept getting asked after “When’s the big day?” and “Where’s the big day?” was “And how many bridesmaids are you going to have?” I increasingly felt like the number of close female friends I could force to buy a dress was somehow crucial to my marriage’s success; I have only a few close ladyfriends, and I…

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    How about a schmancy Valentine's date in? Every Last Detail has some great inspiration on having a romantic dinner in your back yard with your love. For bridesmaid dresses on a budget and in every color of the rainbow, head over to Kiss My Tulle. Potted succulents are a wonderful wedding favor -- especially for those friends of yours stricken with brown thumb syndrome. Brenda's…

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    Credit: Powell Pictures So, I’ve been checking in with my 2015 couples a lot this week. March’s backyard wedding was relocated to another backyard. May wants a photo booth.  I’m looking at venues with July #2 this weekend. June #1 is in way better shape than she thinks she is. And, actually, so are you. Remember that the next time you start to wonder. What’s been…

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    BAB reader Beth was having a little trouble pulling together all the color elements of her kelly green and charcoal grey with daisy yellow accents, so, of course, like good little bloggers do ... we came in and totally took the reins on this biatch. And let me tell you -- it's no easy feat finding a charcoal grey dress that either isn't a sweater…

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    Navy is a great, classic color that isn't so well, dark, as black but has a holy buttload of versatility as far as other colors you can pair with it. BAB Denise hollered at us on Facebook for some help with her navy blue and flamingo pink color scheme -- and added that all of her centerpieces would be vintage milk girl, it sounds to…

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    Oh, it's been a minute since we've had a giveaway, hasn't it? Well, TopWedding is here to change that. In honor of their beautiful new arrivals of bridesmaids gowns, TopWedding is giving away one of the sleek silhouettes, perfect for a formal affair or wintry bash. With a huge range of colors and styles available, and since they're manufactured overseas, TopWedding has dresses to complement…

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