If you think picking out your wedding dress is going to be the toughest part of your wedding planning, think again. Finding the perfect bridesmaid dress for each of your girlfriends is never easy, and even more challenging if you have wedding party members from different geographic locations. However, as usual, the Internet is here to make all of our lives much easier. In many cases, buying bridesmaid dresses online saves on the hassle, drama, and time it takes to shop in person. Before you hop on your computer and make a purchase, though, consider these seven tips to help you make a well-informed decision when buying bridesmaid dresses online.
First, you need to determine if you or your bridesmaids are buying the dresses. There are a few things you may want to consider before making your decision. Mint.com estimates that it costs around $1,500 to be a bridesmaid, and an average of $150 of that cost goes towards the actual bridesmaid dress (before alterations). This is where online shopping can be extra valuable – you can find dresses for almost any budget. If your ladies are paying for their own dresses, be sensitive and talk to each one about how much they are willing to spend, and try to find a vendor that fits everyone’s budget.
Not all bridesmaids are made alike, especially when it comes to body size and shape. Therefore, try working with your bridesmaids to figure out a style that is both flattering and affordable. A popular trend nowadays is allowing for mix-and-match bridesmaid dresses that vary in style to suit different body types, but still follow the same color palette and are made of the same materials. This is popular because it allows your bridesmaids to have a bit of freedom and say in what dress they prefer. You set the guidelines and they find a dress that works — it’s a win-win situation, really. One big advantage of shopping online is the fact that your bridesmaids can order several dresses to try on in the comfort of their own homes and return the dresses that don’t make the cut.
One of the most crucial components of making your online bridesmaid dress shopping experience a success is to get your maids professionally measured by whomever they plan on using to do their alterations. (Unless somebody is very tall, they will likely at least need a long dress hemmed.) The most important measurements are: bust, natural waistline, hips, and height (with heels on). Use the sizing charts each vendor has on their website. Remind everybody that formal dresses typically run small, so someone who wears a size six may have to buy a size eight or larger. Order for the size a person is now, even if she plans on losing weight, because altering a dress that’s too big is much easier (and less expensive) than trying to make a too-tight dress easier to put on. Bigger is better, in this situation.
The actual shopping portion (not ordering) should occur anywhere between six to eight months out. Traditional wedding retailers may take up to three months to ship dresses, while other retailers like J. Crew or Ann Taylor may be able to ship instantly. But even then, don’t forget to factor in time for alterations and accessories shopping that will require additional time, too. Encourage your bridesmaids to start early so that no one is left hunting down a missing bridesmaid dress in the eleventh hour — because we all have that one friend (rolls eyes).
A big concern with shopping online, especially for bridesmaid dresses, is finding a reputable retailer that will deliver as promised. The best way to check if an online retailer is credible is to check their ratings and reviews left by past customers. If there’s a bad seed out there, then you better believe that brides and bridesmaids, alike, are going to forewarn others online. Likewise, if there’s a golden child amongst the bunch of online retailers, then you’ll find rave reviews and ratings. Do a bit of research and see which sites have the best reputation and selection.
6. BARGAIN SHOP
There’s a big difference between scoring a legitimate deal and getting terribly ripped off in the end. Be wary of retailers who have deals that seem too good to be true, because they usually are. Don’t take our word for it, see for yourself (here). Starting early is the best way to snag a deal because you’ll have time to shop around and price-compare without feeling rushed. Also, consider shopping for bridesmaid dresses on unconventional sites, like Etsy, eBay, or Rent the Runway, that offer high quality dresses and great deals. Again, always check the retailer’s reviews from past customers.
7. RETURN POLICY
Another key consideration when conducting your bridesmaid dress shopping online is to read the return policy and any terms and conditions that may apply. Some online retailers are tricky with their return policies and construct them in a way that favors their interests, not the buyer’s. Ensure that the return policy comes with some sort of money-back guarantee or the ability to return the dress if it doesn’t meet certain standards up on arrival. If the return policy seems shady and one-sided, then, chances are, the retailer is out to make a quick buck. Always read the fine print!
Shopping for bridesmaid dresses online can save time, money, and energy. Work with your bridesmaids during this time to ensure that no one is left in the dark and that everyone is on the same page, especially when it comes to budgets and timelines. Consider putting one or two of your bridesmaids in charge of managing all the details that come after all the dresses have been ordered (i.e. delivery times, alterations, accessories, etc.). This way, you have one less thing to worry about and you can focus on getting all the rest of your wedding day plans situated. That’s what friends are for, after all.