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The bridesmaid dress trend that'll earn you brownie points

Once upon a time, it was almost a given that a bride would choose exactly what her bridesmaids would be wearing on the big day – whether they liked it or not. 
Enter the montage from 27 Dresses where Katherine Heigl relives every single one of the frothy meringue dresses she'd been forced into over the years. Luckily for leading ladies everywhere, these days bridesmaids have more input into what they’ll be rocking than ever before. And in some cases, the bride is giving her besties total creative control over their outfit choice. Yep, the bride lets her bridesmaids wear whatever they want. It's a trend that's fresh, modern and sure to win your 'maids over. However, much like every other wedding trend, how to pull it off can be different for every bride. Keen to figure out if this trend is for you? You can find everything you need to know below, plus we've even chatted to brides who've been there, done that. 

How you can do it

Think of this trend like a wedding cake: there are different tiers, and each tier involves varying levels of involvement. The top-level tier is giving your gals a complete free-for-all. They can pick what they like, in whatever colour, style, silhouette, design or fabric takes their fancy. Your bridesmaids will also be able to choose where they shop and how much they want to spend. Giving her bridesmaids free rein is what Emilia did. “I wanted to make sure they felt comfortable and could move and dance," she explains. "I even said, 'Don’t worry if you want to wear white.' I had one of my friends wear white."

Next up, you have the guidelines tier/option. Like you might have guessed, this involves giving your bridesmaids a heads-up about the look you want but letting them have the final say. You might want your ladies to wear a neutral hue but don’t mind what style or length. On the flip side, you may want your bridesmaids to all wear below-the-knee styles but aren’t fussed about the colour. Kathie went with this option and says it was definitely the way to go. “My bridesmaid and I picked out a material together and then she had it made in a style she liked that suited her. We talked about having a matching halter-neck and that was it,” she shares. “I saw a picture of the pattern and then the dress a few days before the wedding."

The third option is like a hybrid, and means you have more say in what your ladies wear but don’t necessarily go on the dress hunt with them. You can take your pick from the first or second options above and just ask your bridesmaids to run any potential picks past you before they buy *cue changing room selfies*. How easy is that?!

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Why it can work

Fact: wearing something you love equals an instant confidence boost, whether it’s your wedding day or Saturday night out. So giving your leading ladies control over what they wear won’t just score you extra bride points, it will also guarantee your bridesmaids feel comfortable on the day. “My bridesmaids already had to travel and stay a week in Melbourne as well as having to take time off from their busy jobs, so the last thing I planned on doing was dictating what style or colour dress they had to wear. I also didn’t feel comfortable telling them what they had to wear to an event I wanted them to enjoy. There is nothing worse than having to wear something you really don’t love and probably will never wear again,” says Emilia. Having bridesmaids who feel like a million dollars will come across in your photography too. Forced, uncomfortable grins will be replaced with your ladies' best Hollywood-worthy smiles. 

And let’s not forget the perks it will have for you. You won’t have to play mediator if your ‘maids disagree about one dress and, in fact, there’s potential for no dress shopping excursions at all.

This trend can also benefit your bridesmaids’ budget, which can be an especially considerate move if you’re having a destination wedding and your ladies are already paying for flights and accommodation. After all, if you’re happy for your ladies to choose whatever they like or they already own something in a colour/style/length you want, it makes perfect (and practical) sense for them to wear it on the big day. "In this day and age where we live in such a disposable world, I would recommend letting a bridesmaid choose what to wear," bride Shae explains. "If they are close enough to you to be a bridesmaid then you most likely have a similar style or they know your style. People come in all shapes and sizes; it's not fair to make them conform to one style."

And let’s not forget the perks it will have for you. You won’t have to play mediator if your ‘maids disagree about one dress and, in fact, there’s potential for no dress shopping excursions at all. This will free up your weekends for other wedding planning or give you time to do things for you, like squeezing in another yoga class, going out for a lazy lunch or spending extra time with your partner. 

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Is there a downside?

We’ll be honest: this trend may not be the best way to go if you’re a control freak. You need to trust your bridesmaids' picks (which you probably already do if you're considering this option). It's also important to understand that this option can involve more work on your bridesmaids' behalf than if you were to choose the dresses. After all, just because you might get out of shopping trips doesn't mean your ladies can. To do them a solid, especially if you've given guidelines about colours or styles, it can help to be open and flexible with what you want them to wear. Shae explains that she had to swap her bridesmaids' colours around. "The original colour choice was neutral tones, but being summer there weren't many dresses to choose from. We kept finding lovely white dresses so we changed the colour tone to any variation of white."

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