– Ask a Real Bride – The Truth About Mismatched Bridesmaid Dresses

Wedding planning comes with lots of decisions and questions, and sometimes, finding an answer requires some crowdsourcing. That’s how the Ask a Real Bride Instagram account came to be, and this month’s question is the perfect example of women coming together to help each other in the wedding planning process!

A Real Bride asks:

“Hi! Would love everyone’s thoughts on mismatched bridesmaid’s dresses (different colors, fabrics, styles, prints, etc.) Is this just a trend? Is it too much work to make it all look good together?”

Our Real Brides came out in full force to answer! Within minutes of sharing this question, the AARB inbox was flooded with messages sharing the pros and cons of the mismatched bridesmaid dress trend. I’ve compiled and organized all of their messages below, and I hope it helps you decide how to dress your bridal party in a way that works best for your style and personality–and theirs!

Mismatched Myth #1: It’s Easy to Pull Off

Over and over, Real Brides warned me: achieving the right mix of colors, patterns, and fabrics is harder than it may appear!

The Truth: It Takes a Lot of Effort

Here’s how one Real Bride explained it:

“So this seems like a great idea! But I actually found after trying to do this- in order to get a social-media-worthy ‘mismatched but matched’ look, you need to select the mismatched dresses your friends get. I tried to just pick a light blue color palette and let my friends pick. But then, when all their dresses came together, it looked terrible bc no one cared to match each other! It’s a great idea in concept, but I found it hard to execute personally!”

floral dresses for bridesmaids
Mixing and matching florals creates a lovely effect but will require some effort. Consider selecting and assigning a particular dress to each bridesmaid. | Image Source: Carats and Cake

Mismatched Myth #2: It’s Perfect for Laid-Back Brides

At first, the idea of letting your girls pick their dresses seems like a great choice for brides who don’t want to expend a lot of time or energy on their bridal party’s attire. Yet, bride and after bride shared that the process of perfectly coordinating the bridesmaids can be more time-consuming and potentially uncomfortable than it is just to choose one dress!

To put it bluntly, one bride shared:

“It honestly has kind of turned into a nightmare for coordination.”

The Truth: You’ll Need to Manage, Coordinate, and Approve

Unless you’re going with a standard color like black or navy, any kind of mixing and matching is going to require more of the bride’s time and energy, not less. Get ready for lots of emailing and texting with your bridal party as you preview their selections and try to make them all work together.

“Giving free rein and just a color that isn’t as simple as “black dress” is really hard. Different sites have different shades of a color, and it made all of the bridesmaids way more stressed trying to figure it out.”

“I don’t think you can just give them a color and let everyone loose. The free rein deal won’t work for most and I think it’s best to get specific with your expectations.”

Yet even a hands-on approach isn’t guaranteed to eliminate drama:

“I’m doing light blue and white floral for my wedding next weekend. It was just a headache coordinating. Maybe I’m too particular, but I had a specific vision and showed them the Pinterest and options. I even searched the internet for them and provided links, but not everyone liked what I suggested. I’m afraid it’s going to look too mismatched, and I wish I had stuck with one color/one dress. My advice is to choose multiple colors or patterns, so you’re not so limited.”

Mismatched Myth #3: It’s Easier for the Bridesmaids

Every bridesmaid complains about having to wear a dress that isn’t flattering, and that won’t be worn again. So shouldn’t getting to choose her own dress be an ideal situation? Check out this feedback from Real Bridesmaids:

The Truth Part 1: Not Always…

The group texts, the approvals, and the back-and-forth can be headache-inducing and even hurtful for bridesmaids:

“I’ve been in 2 weddings where we did mismatched styles + fabrics (satin, chiffon, velvet) and I definitely feel like it created extra stress. In one case, too many girls wanted the same fabrics/styles, but then it wouldn’t look mismatched enough. So some girls ended up not being able to pick their top choices anyway. And then in another case, 1 bridesmaid went rogue and ordered her dress before getting approval, so then the bride had to rearrange things and ask other girls to change their fabrics/style choices. It just seemed like such a headache, even if the end results did look great!”

“It ended up costing more and caused hurt feelings because all bridesmaids weighed in on how each dress fit and comments were made about peoples’ bodies.”

“I was told to find a navy knee-length dress for a wedding, and that was almost impossible to find & I ended up buying and returning multiple dresses on Amazon before finding something (which I did end up loving and wearing multiple times!!), but it was super stressful!”

“We were given 2 colors but complete free rein on style, pattern, shade, etc. I bought 8 dresses total: most the bride didn’t like and some I didn’t like. I ended up losing way more money (some I couldn’t return, shipping costs, etc) and spent hours searching than if I was just given a link.”

bridesmaid dress mismatch
One way to make the mismatched trend easier for your bridesmaids? Direct them to the same website, like Birdy Grey!

The Truth Part 2: …But it Can Be if You Trust Them!

If your bridesmaids all have great taste, and you’re willing to be flexible with your vision,  letting them choose their own dress can be a win-win: you don’t have to do a lot of legwork, and they get to find a dress they truly love.

“I had girls in all stages of life/ motherhood and it was black tie, so I wanted everyone to feel good with what they were spending. At the end of the day, all the girls did run their dresses by me, but I didn’t veto any – I trusted my friends to have good taste and understand the assignment, and they did!”

“I wanted my bridesmaids to look and feel stunning. I didn’t mind all the different shades; I thought I would have to work hard to have the right blend, but it came together on its own – but I do trust my friends, and they all have great taste.”

“I did mismatched dresses and it was so pretty!! I actually just gave them a color and asked for floor length and let them roll with it. This was partially due to not having enough time to order an actual bridesmaids dress because we chose to do a short engagement. But I fully trusted them, and they kept me in the loop the entire time! And it turned out great!”

Mismatched Myth #4: More Freedom is Better

As you’ve probably figured out by now, bridesmaids crave some guidance. These Real Bridesmaid say it best:

“Sometimes when the bride tries to be “too chill” the nice gesture ends up putting all the effort on others. Giving a bit of direction does NOT make someone a bridezilla or difficult!”

pale blue bridesmaid dresses
All of these dresses are from the same website! Narrowing down your girls’ options to a particular shop and color palette can be easier than giving them free rein.

The Truth: More Guidance is Really Helpful

So how can you gently guide your girls, while sticking to your vision AND allowing them to choose a dress they love?

Here’s how our Real Brides (and a few bridesmaids and mothers of the bride) recommended approaching the process–it’s more hands-on than you might think!

“I genuinely just treat everything like a work project. Get things in writing, lay out expectations so there’s less drama later. It’s a special and emotional day, but planning and clearly communicating expectations helps to minimize the back-and-forth.”

“My advice to any bride wanting to do this idea: pick some options ahead of time instead of giving everyone free rein! This will allow you to curate the look you’re going for, without having to turn down bridesmaids requests or have awkward conversations, AND will present much less work as people choose their dress.”

“My daughter is doing mismatched dresses for her bridal party. She has 6 bridesmaids and 3 colors: 3 are wearing solids, 3 are wearing prints. She gave her girlfriends guidance, and pictures, she knew what everybody’s style was and what they were comfortable in. They understood her vision. Each one showed her what they had in mind, and she loved everything they chose. All the dresses work together well and everyone has a unique dress they like and can wear again.”

“I made a slide of the color palette and potential style and received positive feedback from everyone.”

“My friend went to the hardware store and picked paint swatches that were all in her approved color pallet. People think this is too much BUT colors don’t show up well on a screen. So all her girls had the exact colors and shades that were pre approved by the bride! And everyone was in the same family of colors because they had the color scheme to work with. Then they all just sent their dress options in a group text to make sure no clashing patterns or everyone but one girl picked the same color. It was a GORGEOUS mix and match with all ten of them at the ceremony. It turned out to be very cohesive!”

“I am doing mismatched dresses. The rules are no patterns or prints. Every bridesmaid selects a color, and no one can wear the same color. Everyone just called dibs and it seems to work out ok! I’m doing it this way because I want everyone to feel and look beautiful, and if they have a dress they already own, that’s cool, but everyone has their own unique style so I didn’t want to pick a dress for them. I do have to approve the dress, but it’s really not a lot of work.”

And if all of that coordination feels overwhelming (confession: it does to me!) take advantage of websites that offer different styles in the same fabric:

“A bride let us pick but provided a link and asked us to use that site, a specific color, and asked that they all be floor-length. THAT was easy and fun! Once someone picked a style, that specific style was off-limits to everyone else!”

Some of our Real Brides’ favorite sites for mixing and matching: Azazie, Birdy Gray, Show Me Your Mumu, and Jenny Yoo!

No matter how you choose to dress your bridal party, I hope you feel the love and joy of being surrounded by your best friends on your wedding day!

Have a Question for our Real Brides?

Let me know what topic you’d like us to tackle next! And if you’re interested in learning more about etiquette, gift-giving, and celebrating in style, be sure to subscribe to the RegistryFinder GiveIt blog for weekly posts on wedding etiquette, bridal showers, wedding trends, and, of course, wedding registry guidelines and tips! And as always, refer your guests to RegistryFinder.com, where they can conveniently locate all your registries in one place!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Stay Connected

Keep up with our latest news, tips and advice. Sign up today!
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.