When Should You Shop for Bridesmaids' Dresses?

Your stress-free guide to choosing and purchasing big-day attire.

wedding bridesmaids
Photo: Bryan from For the Love of It

Shopping for bridesmaids' dresses isn't as simple as plucking something off the rack. Like a wedding dress, many designers require bridesmaids' attire to be ordered at least three months in advance of your wedding date, but this varies by retailer. Plus, it doesn't account for alterations. To ensure you don't have to rush the search process, it's important that you shop at the right time. Here's your complete guide on when to start looking for the perfect bridesmaids' dresses, so you and your 'maids don't get stressed out.

Make a timeline.

After selecting the dresses you love, your bridesmaids will need to place an order, which often take at least three months to arrive. Once the dresses arrive, your bridesmaids will need to make any necessary alterations, such as hemming or taking in the bust, which can take anywhere from one to two months depending on how much work needs to be done. When considering delivery and alterations, then, bridesmaids should order their gowns at least six months before the wedding, meaning they should start shopping at least seven months out. Don't forget that some designers require all bridesmaids in a party to order their dresses at once, which ensures everyone's dress in made from fabric in the same dye batch. So if there's someone who is lagging, she could be putting the whole group behind.

Explore off-the-rack options.

If your bridesmaids are choosing off-the-rack gowns, the estimated timeline is slightly different. You'll simply need to budget at least a month for shopping, then another one or two months for making necessary alterations. Keep in mind, however, that options for off-the-rack dresses are limited, and they sell out very quickly. You're better off looking at dresses as soon as possible to guarantee everyone finds an option they love.

Reserve rentals early.

If you're asking your bridal party to rent their bridesmaids' dress, they probably won't be allowed to make alterations. Choose your preferred style several months in advance and ask each woman to reserve her size so that you don't run into any conflicts with availability. If possible, ask each 'maids to schedule her dress to arrive at least a week before your wedding. You'll all be more relaxed knowing the dresses are ready early, and you have time to fix any last-minute size issues.

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