Do bridesmaids have to look the same?

Bridesmaid dresses have a poor reputation. The phrase conjures up visions of unflattering toile, puffy sleeves, and eye-watering colours. Perhaps back in the eighties and nineties, this had some foundation – but most modern brides want their favourite women to feel comfortable and stylish.

What’s the issue here?

Translating this thought into flattering bridesmaid outfits can be tricky. Unless you’re lucky enough to be best friends with identical triplets – chances are your bridesmaids will be different shapes, heights, and colourings. Finding a shade and a style to suit everyone can be difficult. Do you simply pick a dress you like and hope for the best? Or should you be a little more flexible in your approach? It’s a tough wedding decision and an important one. We’ve brought together the most important considerations below.

What does tradition say?

The tradition of bridesmaids wearing the same dress is an ancient one. The bride would also have worn exactly the same dress in a strange girl band approach to the wedding party. The logic behind this was that evil spirits are attracted to wedding days (obviously). The matching outfits would confuse tricky spirits disrupting the day, and give the bride and groom chance to finish their vows. If you are expecting an evil spirit to attend your wedding day, we suspect you have bigger problems than dress choice. This tradition might be one that’s worth forgetting.

How many bridesmaids do you have?

From a purely practical perspective: the more bridesmaids you have, the harder it is to go individual on the dresses. It can also cause confusion on the photos if the wedding party doesn’t look like, well, part of the wedding party. In this scenario, it might be useful to pick two styles that are linked thematically through colour or shape. Give your bridesmaids a choice between the dresses to help them pick the most flattering for them. Neutral creams and greys can also help avoid problems with colouring clashes.

What do your bridesmaids want?

It’s your day so this is absolutely your choice – but for most of us, we want our closest friends to feel comfortable with what they wear. Consider their personal style, be aware of any body hang-ups, and try to choose something that is sympathetic to their feelings. This could mean different dresses in the same colour, different colours in the same dress, or something completely out of the box. Try to choose something that you will love, but they will at least like.

What do you want?

This is the most important factor here and overrides all the above. You may want a completely traditional wedding with matching dresses and all. If this is your vision, stick to it. You may want to pick gorgeous evening gowns that are beautiful but not at all linked: think Carrie in Sex in the City. This can look amazing and completely unique. Take into account how your choice will impact the photos, staging, and mood of your day as a whole. As long as you feel comfortable there is really no overriding reason to stick to tradition or convention.

The answer to this question then is a big fat no. It’s conventional to link the theme of your wedding party’s outfits but it is by no means necessary. Go with your instincts and pick bridesmaids dresses you love.

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