12 New Rules for Dressing Your Bridesmaids

kelsey joc wedding santa barbara california bridesmaids aadf2618
Photo: Jose Villa

Do you think your attendants all have to match? Think again.

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kelsey joc wedding santa barbara california bridesmaids aadf2618
Jose Villa

It's time for bridesmaids to stop dreading what they'll have to wear on the wedding day—seriously. Of course, no one wants to put on something they don't feel comfortable in, and no one wants to shell out on a gown they'll never use again, either. But luckily, bridesmaid outfit etiquette has changed a lot over the years. In turn, brides and their crews—once restrained by rigid rules—now have more opportunities than ever to enjoy planning the attendants' attire. So, what are the latest guidelines? Well, that's what we're here to explain.

Ahead, you'll find our top contemporary tips for outfitting your nearest and dearest—or, as is often the case recently, letting them choose their own attire! Nowadays, it's all about embracing individuality. That means letting the bride choose bridesmaid dresses and accessories that speak to her, but also letting the bridesmaids get in on the action. The advice we're about to provide will explain exactly what we mean.

Before we dive too deep into modern bridesmaid outfit rules, we'll give you a sneak peek at what's to come. First, prepare to spot colors and materials you might've previously written off. Second, prepare to see shapes and silhouettes that may just surprise you. Certain things—like white gowns and bridesmaid separates—were once practically unheard of. Now, however, they're totally acceptable. You'll also notice something else less "traditional" about the groups we've pictured: Many of them are wearing mismatched looks, rather than uniform outfits typically associated with bridesmaids. By the end of our slideshow, we'll prove that's perfect acceptable, too.

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Dare to Be Different

porsha terry wedding jamaica bridesmaids pink
Jillian Mitchell Photography

Despite what Aunt Suzy insists, your pals don't have to sport all one cut or color. Let each bridesmaid exude her own personal style: After all, you hand-picked each and every girl for a reason!

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Let Them Shine

lindsey william wedding dc bridesmaids
Abby Jiu Photography

Who says your entourage has to be understated? Sequins, beads, and studs can add sparkle and texture to your ceremony without being too flashy, as long as you keep dress shapes simple and necklines demure. Bonus: No major jewelry required.

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Go to Any Length

risa ross wedding brooklyn new york bridesmaids
Fiona Conrad

Mixing hemline heights lets everyone choose what works best on her body. Plus, it makes the gang look more interesting as a whole. Change it up within the group, or keep the 'maids in short frocks and let your maid of honor stand out in a longer number—or vice versa.

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Embrace Lace

ivana nevin wedding bridesmaids
Jenny McCann Photography

Yes, lace has traditionally been reserved for the bride, but we love the way it adds romantic texture to your girls' gowns, too. Make it fun—and not so bridal—by incorporating color: Bold tones get noticed at an outdoor fête, and subtler shades fit a formal affair. These barely-blue ones came from Lan Gui Yu.

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Play Doubles

Shannen Natasha Weddings

Create one exceptional outfit by joining two great pieces (in this case, Anthropologie tops and Alice + Olivia pants). Later, your attendants can for-real wear them again as separates—on date nights or to the office, depending on how they mix them up.

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Offer Up Options

katie andre wedding bridesmaids black dresses
Rebecca Yale Photography

Even if assigning one gown to all your closest friends isn't your thing, you'll still want to limit their choices. (Let them run free and your ceremony look becomes a guessing game.) Have attendants pick from a selection of gowns. Post them on a Pinterest board, e-mail the link, and have each pal claim a style by writing "mine!" in the comments to avoid any who-wore-it-best mishaps.

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Mix Your Fabrics

Love & Light Photographs

No need to be a one-material girl. A range of textures, from flowing tulle and sleek silk to boho chiffon, mingle nicely together if they're in the same shade(s).

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Make Some White Noise

momina jack wedding bridesmaids
Zosia Zacharia

Thank you, Pippa Middleton. Bridesmaids can now wear white—and appear insanely chic. Add personality with accessories in bright colors or gleaming gold.

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Coordinate the Details

If you're having a variety of dresses meet up at the altar, hair and makeup can tie the looks together. Give your girls the same loose waves, as shown here, or red lip.

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Put Them in Prints

julia mitchell wedding bridesmaids
Landon Jacob Photography

Once upon a time, bridesmaids wore only a single, solid head-to-toe hue. Not anymore. For a fresh feel, play with pattern. If you're not ready to commit to a parade of prints walking down your aisle, try one on just your MOH.

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Play with Prints in the Palette

kathryn ian wedding bridesmaids
Corbin Gurkin

Though only some are patterned, all these dresses look stunning together because they're in the same color scheme. Stick to a palette of no more than three shades to keep your lineup charming, not chaotic. It's also fun to gather similarly themed patterns.

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Gift Your Girls Early

christina matt wedding charleston sc bridesmaids
Corbin Gurkin

Turn coordinating their outfits into a gift opportunity, then ruin the surprise—please! Tell your posse now what you'll be giving them later, whether its the dresses themselves or trendy earrings like these Hart ones. That way, they can plan ahead and budget for the rest of their ensemble.

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