2/24 Real Bride Elissa: The Bridesmaid Conundrums

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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 didn’t want anyone to feel left out if they weren’t a bridesmaid. I briefly considered just asking all of them, but a double-digit wedding party just didn’t fit my smallish garden wedding, not to mention the additional budget for bouquets, gifts, etc. And knowing my own tight budget, I definitely didn’t want to stretch anyone else thin on my behalf. I decided pretty definitively that I wasn’t going to have bridesmaids, and therefore avoid myriad potentially awkward situations. (We’ve all seen the movie.)

As things got rolling with wedding planning, though, I realized that a few of my friends were already performing wedding party duties, unasked: researching vendors, sending me recommendations, offering to go shop for supplies, even starting to plan my bachelorette! I had been part of two of their weddings already, as bridesmaid and coordinator, and had been talking mutual bridesmaid duties for years with the third, so I knew that official or not, they were already going to be there for me – why not recognize them?

When I actually asked them to be bridesmaids, I was weirdly nervous. I knew they wouldn’t say no, but kept thinking about how nerve-wracking it must have been for my fiancé to propose, if I was feeling the jitters even for this! Seeing their excitement made all of that disappear though, and I knew I’d made the right choice to honor our friendships in this way. They all even said some version of “I wondered when you were going to get around to it!” followed by “I’ve actually already started dress shopping!” Friends: They know you better than you know yourself …

That left me finding ways to incorporate my other awesome ladyfriends into the day. I had heard the term Bridal Brigade somewhere along the way and decided to just run with that concept; while my most involved friends are designated bridesmaids, another dear friend will do a reading, one will help coordinate, others can help me craft, bake and decorate, but in the end, they’ll all be part of my Bridal Brigade. I’m also going to invite them to come finish getting ready with me at the venue, so they’ll be a part of my pre-ceremony photos, and of course we’re all planning the biggest bachelorette brunch buffet there ever was (no matter what other plans we make, THERE WILL BE BRUNCH).

As good as I feel about this plan though, I’m still feeling pretty guilty about making my bridesmaids buy dresses. Granted, they’ve all expressed their excitement at an excuse to buy a pretty new dress, but I’m trying to figure out the best way to go about offering flexibility in style and budget, but still having the overall look be cohesive. On top of that, between crazy work schedules and with one on the East Coast, we won’t be able to go shopping together.  Since my girls are three totally different heights and styles, we’re definitely doing the “similar color, different dress” route. Beyond that though, I’m kind of at a loss at where to start.

I’d prefer not to go the bridal shop route, since I’d like for them to get dresses that can ostensibly be worn again. Some of the dresses I’m liking at places like Nordstrom, Ann Taylor, and even ModCloth are still upwards of $200, and I’d like to keep costs as reasonable as possible. My wedding has a vintage aesthetic, too, which rules out a lot of the trendier (re: cheaper) dress options. Before sending everyone out into their respective cities to scour the sale racks for some sort of blue-ish, knee-length concoction that we hope looks good together, we’re considering ordering from a site like eShakti or Azazie. Both of these sites lets you order a dress customized to your measurements, for basically the price of an off-the-rack dress at a department store. And this way, we know they’re all literally cut from the same cloth, so they’ll be the same color, and the girls can all choose the style that is most flattering to their body type. Sounds awesome, right? But, since none of us have ever tried something like this before, we’re all a little anxious about putting our bridesmaid budgets into the great unknown. eShakti has awesome reviews and the most flexibility in style, but Azazie is a newer site, geared more toward the bridal party, with styles and colors that we especially love.

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The Ingrid from Azazie, $109

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The Allison from eShakti, $59

I’d love to know if anyone has tried one of these sites before! If so, how was your experience? Are there any similar sites we should check into?

Elissa Stooker
Elissa is currently trying to figure out what possessed her to go back to grad school, all while working full-time as a college advisor and planning her totally awesome garden wedding. Blogging for The Broke-Ass Bride is her much-needed break from writing papers about communication theory! A Southern transplant to the West Coast, her favorite things in life include Mexican food, useless trivia, and her snaggle-toothed rescue dog, Pickles. If you like pictures of flowers and puppies, follow her on Instagram at @socalliss, and on Pinterest at socalliss for all things wedding.