The Bridesmaid's Dress: Your Survival Guide

I was a 36-year-old bridesmaid, and I lived to tell the tale. I'm telling it now, risking discovery of this article by the bride and the dissolution of our 30-year friendship. Shhhh. Quiet.

Anyone who has ever been in a wedding has horror stories to tell. Tyrannical brides, unexpected guests, terrible caterers, photographers who don't deliver the promised $3,000 worth of photos, mothers of the bride (or groom)...but this isn't a therapy session. This is an open plea to brides everywhere regarding one very specific, very expensive issue: the bridesmaid's dress.

PLUS! Tips to survive a bad one.

There is a reason that the phrase "bridesmaid's dress" conjures up hilarious images. The badness of bridesmaid's dresses has become its own zeitgeist, inspiring countless articles, slideshows and Web sites dedicated to the topic. Nordstrom has a page of instructions on how not to pick a shitty bridesmaid's dress. There's even a movie about it (kinda).

I have purchased seven bridesmaid dresses over the last 15 years, and every time the bride has uttered the words: "And I really did pick one you can wear again!"

I have never worn any of them again. Not even on Halloween.

The thing is, I know these wearable-again dresses are out there -- I see them all the time on nice girls' blogs; nice girls who let their bridesmaids buy pretty, simple, plain dresses from J. Crew and Nordstrom. I know what brides are thinking: "But this David's Bridal faux-satin gown is only $150! The J. Crew dresses are $200 or more!" At first glance this is excellent math -- cheaper is better. Except paying less for a gown you'll only wear once is less awesome than paying more for a dress you'll wear at least a few more times.

Are you a future bride? Be nice -- pick the expensive-but-wearable dresses.

I refuse to accept the commonly held belief that brides choose ugly dresses for their bridesmaids to ensure that they themselves look the prettiest. When I got married, I told my friends, "Just wear whatever black dress you want -- long, short, sleeveless...whatever." My reasoning was based largely on the fact that most women have a little black dress and if they don't, it's a good investment, AND my bridesmaids would be free to pick a dress that was both flattering and affordable within whatever budget they were on at the time.

Also, I'm lazy and hate making decisions. But still, it worked out.

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Christina Uticone