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So, he finally popped the question. Yet, it’s only been a few weeks and you’re already in full wedding planning mode. For those of you who aren’t married or are unfamiliar with the wedding world, wedding planning is almost a full-time job. It can be extremely overwhelming when you consider: this will probably be the biggest party you’ll ever throw and everyone has their opinion as to how it should happen, where it should happen, how much money should or shouldn’t be spent.

Now, I should mention that though I am single, I have been a bridesmaid 15 times have been a wedding photographer for six years. It’s safe to say that I have been around the block and have gleaned some pearls of wisdom in the process.

If you’re overwhelmed by the wedding process and want curl up in a corner and cry, please don’t do that. Be encouraged by this: it is 2015 and this is your wedding! You get to create a wedding that, first and foremost, reflects the love of you and your partner. Let yourself off the hook in regards to trying to please everyone, because it’s simply not possible. The quicker you can do that, the quicker you can enjoy this process.

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Next, there are a lot of things we could talk about, but let’s focus on bridesmaid dresses. I cannot tell you how many of my brides have spent endless hours looking for that perfect shade in that perfect silhouette that will look good on eight (or more) different women.

Here’s the secret: there typically is not one color or one silhouette that will look good on everyone. Let go of the old tradition and embrace the new one of choosing a color palette and allowing your bridesmaids to select a dress that best suits their bodies.

BRIDES: Why is this a good idea?

It will save so much time. 
It can be hard to let go of control with your wedding because every detail can seem like such a huge one. As someone who has photographed hundreds of weddings, I can promise you that no one really remembers what the bridesmaids wear, let alone what color their fingernails were or whether or not they had matching shoes.

Getting stuck on details like this can really steal the joy from the process of wedding planning. It is ok to let go and trust your closest friends to choose dresses that not only flatter their figures, but that you will love as well. There are even multiple gown designers that offer beautiful dresses in the same color palette with different silhouettes.

A few favorites are: Adrianna Papell and Amsale.

It will be so appreciated. 
Gone are the days when you wear a purse to match your shoes. Who does that anymore? Now you can actually create an effortlessly cohesive look with different styles of gowns. Take for example the wedding below.  My best friend recently got married and she sent the bridesmaids paint swatches with a color palette, asking us to pick a floor-length gown in the ‘Champagne’ color family.

Though all of our dresses were different, they came together flawlessly; at the end of the day most of us were able to recycle and wear the dress again for another event.

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It will honor a budget.
Let’s face it, as amazing as it is to be asked to be in your best friends wedding, it also can be very expensive. (A few years ago I spent over $2,500 just being in weddings!) As friends, it is our joy to throw showers and give the bride the experience she desires and deserves. However, it can be difficult to spend several hundred dollars on a dress that you don’t look good in, will never re-wear and that you probably couldn’t resell. One of the wonderful things about giving a color palette to your bridesmaids is that they are much more likely to find a dress that they really love and will really want to wear again!

BRIDESMAIDS: Now that you’ve got the color palette, here’s how to choose your dress:

Set your price. 
This tidbit came from a manager at the world famous wedding gown salon, Kleinfeld: Whether it’s $75 or $250, stick with your price range and don’t allow yourself to try on dresses above it. You’ll try on the $500 dress that you can’t afford, so then anything else you try on in your price range will feel second rate. Your overall experience will be disappointing.

Kleinfeld’s employees will not allow you to try on a dress outside of your price range for this very reason!

Know your body. 
This may take some research. If you are well endowed, stay away from strapless dresses (the last thing you want is to be pulling up your dress all night). A great alternative is a halter or one strap dress. For athletic figures, A-line and empire waists. For an hourglass shape, a wrap dress accentuates your curves. Most importantly and simply, make sure that you feel beautiful in the dress. No matter how many people say it looks great, if you don’t feel great in the dress it doesn’t matter.

PS. Nordstrom has a great online resource for body types HERE

Try, try, try again.
Make an appointment at a store and ask for a personal shopper. Stores like JCrewNordstrom, and even Anthropologie will set aside dresses in your color palette if you call ahead. They’ll even help you accessorize your look. Often times the dress we like best on the rack isn’t what we end up going with; it can be that unexpected one that we didn’t really care for that ends up being the winner! Be open minded and try on lots of styles. In the process you’ll discover what styles look best on you so you’ll be better prepared the next time around.

All in all, it’s ok to let go of some traditions. Figure out what is important to you and your fiancé, and be flexible with other aspects of your wedding. You asked your bridesmaids to be there with you for a reason. Trust them and they will look amazing on your special day!

What’s been your favorite (or least favorite) bridesmaid dress? Why?

Images via  Kayla Adams; Dresses featured are Adrianna Papell

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