So, next on your wedding planning agenda is hand-picking your entourage, better known as your bridesmaids. Naturally, this will include those closest to you, be it your sisters, cousins, friends, co-workers, or that nice lady down the block who always bakes fresh cookies for your family. However, with this honor comes some fear on the honorees’ part: that damned bridesmaid’s dress.

As we’ve seen through the years (especially the 1980s and 1990s), bridesmaids dresses may come in the most ghastly of colors and silhouettes, thus creating tons of unflattering photographs and broken friendships across the globe. So, to keep your relationships intact, I offer a few suggestions on how to let your home-girls look fabulous on your big day.

Remember Who Will Be Taking the Blame: Keep in mind that what the girls will be wearing is ultimately a reflection on you. Since we all know that the bride usually dictates what the attendants will be wearing, chances are that people will question your judgement/sanity if you pick a fugly bridesmaids’ outfit. Either that, or it will suggest that you’re insecure and thus you felt the need to make your friends look awful in order to shine-not a good look for you, sister. Also, when you look back on your portraits, you and your maids will start fighting to the death. Keep that in mind when you have that poofy, seafoam green monstrosity in hand as an option for your maids.

Avoid Cookie-Cutter Syndrome (CCS): We’ve all seen it: some bride used her tall, model-esque friend’s body type as a standard in picking the dress, and now the shorter, more voluptuous one looks like a train wreck. Such happens when a bride gets CCS. Face it: not everyone can wear everything, so while a strapless frock may look fabulous on your modestly endowed sister, your Double-D sized cousin is struggling to keep her girls from making a surprise appearance at the altar (or, is suffocating). Lately, the option many brides have been going with is choosing a color or a set of colors within the same hue family and letting the girls go with that and maybe an instruction for a hemline limit. Ergo, the girls look uniform enough for cohesion, but has picked a dress that suits their body type and looks fantastic-they may even wear it long after the “I Do”. Just, keep an eye out for your less style-savvy buddies and assist them if need be.

Don’t “Clean Them Out”: So, you found dresses that are perfect for all the girls-but, they costs $500… each. Recession or not, $500 is still steep for the bridal party member who just so happens to be a single working mother of 4 kids. The aforementioned CCS tip will allow the bridesmaids to purchase dresses at price points they can afford, thus avoiding going bankrupt for your big day. If it’s in your budget, why not be giving and offset a fraction of the cost of the dresses for your girls of more humble means? Trust me, they will be more than elated and appreciative towards such a lovely gesture.

Stay True to the Atmosphere: So, you have your heart set on sleeveless cocktail dresses for your maids-but, the wedding is being held in the dead of winter. Sorry, but you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board. Keep your venue and the level of formality in mind while picking out bridesmaids’ dresses. A long evening gown doesn’t belong on the beach anymore than a sundress belongs at the Ritz-Carlton-I don’t care how gorgeous the dress is. Overall, it will keep the wedding streamlined and in harmony-and, it will make your girls quite happy.

With these tips in mind, I recommend the following retailers and designers for bridesmaids’ dresses:

Olivia Luca affords ultimate customization as it has a tool set up for designing the dress, including a choice in the silhouette, color, fabric, and details.

The Dessy Group features hundreds of designs from companies such as After Six, Alfred Sung, and Lela Rose.

Jenny Yoo has gained a massive following in the bridesmaids’ dress circuit (also, check out her collection of Wedding Alternatives if you’re looking for a chic, minimalist gown)

Thread Design offers fashionable frocks in many different materials, including seersucker and velvet.

Simple Silhouettes carries deliciously modern dresses inspired by flowers (my personal favorite is the Primrose)

I hope that this helps in the process of planning your (bridal) party. Now, get the girls and get shopping!

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