Judge Not


Something I edited out of yesterday’s post [Lower your eyebrows! I edit my crazy blog screeds. Some.] was the notion that the trend toward having bridal attendants select their own formalwear is, I suspect, not entirely motivated by convenience, respect, or even aesthetics.  I think a really good reason to let your attendants pick their own clothes that no one cops to is covering your own ass.  If you didn’t pick the dress, you can’t be judged if it is—gasp!—tacky.  And I think we’re all looking for one less reason to be judged.

Sarah wrote a great post [all of Sarah's posts are great] about wedding insecurity, about those scary concerns that we’re ruining our own weddings, making choices which confuse our guests or executing these choices in less-than-perfect ways which will disappoint our guests.

I think we all worry about this sort of thing, especially because of the common narrative in wedding culture that our guests are not so much our family and friends as they are a mass of Professional Wedding Critics.  The Knot’s newsletter this week leads off with “What are your guests really thinking? Are they judging your dress? Do they hate the food?” [This is a direct quotation, people.]

In reality, I think most wedding guests’ thoughts go something like, “Oh, this is nice, they look so happy. Where is the bar?”

But according to the Knot, wedding guests have common complaints, most of which start with the word “You.”  Meaning “the bride.”  Your guests aren’t just here to judge the wedding, they’re here to judge YOU.  Because everything in the wedding is a reflection of the bride, right?  [What is this "groom" of which you speak?]

In the narrative where wedding guests are an army of Waldorfs and Statlers, bridesmaid dresses are a common target:  “I can’t believe she picked that color.” “That fabric looks so cheap.”  “She obviously was trying to make her friends look dumpy so she would look better in comparison.”

These comments all sound so familiar, even though I’m not sure I’ve ever heard them in real life.  I mean, on the one hand, I get it: stiff polyester satin isn’t most lovely fabric, strapless dresses present bra challenges not every woman can handle, and then there are those mythical bridesmaid frocks that give dresses a bad name:

[via Unique Vintage]

[Although, truthfully, my dream is to be in the wedding of someone who wants to put her bridesmaids in a dress like that hot pink number.  I desperately want the excuse to wear something like that and look effin' hot in it.]

In real life, bridesmaids dresses are rarely if ever that offensive, but they still have this reputation as a cruel punishment brides inflict on their friends.  Maybe this is just because haters gonna hate [t-shirt HT to Lexi].  But it also adds fuel to the raging fire of bridal insecurity, insecurity which retailers and advertisers are here to remind us can only be quelled by dollah dollah bills.


  1. I agree, it would be fantastic to be put in a crazy ass dress without having to take responsibility for picking it! Especially if I didn’t pay for it, I’m sure it would make for a really good time!

  2. I’ll be honest, bridesmaids dressed are the only part of a wedding that I’ve been known to have a little bit of judgement on. Not that I am a fashion cop, but I’ve seen some unflattering choices. I never think the bride did it on purpose, but sometimes I wonder why one specific dress was chosen when it seems so unflattering on all the girls in a wedding party. But I would never say such things out loud.

    So if my women get to choose something that flatters them specifically, I am indeed hoping to avoid thoughts like some of those I’ve had.

  3. I was in a wedding once where the bride went out of her way to choose a non-bridesmaid dress that everyone would surely “want to wear again.” I’m fairly certain that the dress was really flattering on the bride when she tried it on, which is why she picked it. Some of the bridesmaids loved the dress and looked great in it, but those of us who had hourglass figures looked awful.

    It was a weird color. It had pleats everywhere and a dropped waist so that all of my lumps looked to be in the wrong place, and it was a dress designed to look good on stick-figure women with no hips or chest. Also, it was ridiculously expensive.

    On the plus side, the dress photographed well because you don’t really notice the individual figures in group shots.

    I still think giving bridesmaids a general color family and general style guidelines (hem length, poofy skirt or not) and letting them choose the dress is most likely to result in happier bridesmaids. If you’re going to choose the dress for them out right, I don’t think it’s fair to ask them to pay for it. But that’s coming from someone who is so cheap I bought a wedding dress that I can re-wear.

    (P.S. Thank you for the link love.)

  4. I only have two bridesmaids, so this helps things a lot. They can both buy a knee length purple dress, in whatever shade and shape is most flattering, and done. I picked purple because they both like it, both already have purple dresses (if they want to buy a new dress that’s their call), and I couldn’t possibly hope find something flattering for both of them. Even with just two bridesmaids, they have completely different body types, skin tones, and hair.

    If I had a ton of bridesmaids though, I understand how uniformity of color and material might help things feel more coherent. (For me, I don’t care and I mostly care that they’re both flying out from NY and staying in hotels and I don’t want them to pay a cent more.) But that’s why I grudgingly approve of Jcrew and similar options: you can pick a material and color and they can pick a flattering cut. Also, it all ends up affordable (ish.)

    • I love the “same fabric, same color, different dresses” look, but it pretty much requires use of a “bridesmaid” line, and I understand why people want to avoid that, even though I think there are nice, reasonably-priced lines out there.

  5. If I were told to wear any of those dresses pictured I can guarantee I would look horrified and complain, but secretly hope to be smokin’ and thoroughly enjoy every minute of it!

    • I am worried I will push someone to pick crazy because I want an excuse to wear a dress like that, and then the Mean Critical Guests will judge the bride for it. Friends: take this as a cue to leave me out of your bridal party.

  6. I’m one of two bridesmaids in my friend Jody’s wedding next fall. Her instructions to us were to get a black dress (her colors are black & white with chartreuse) that was sleeveless or strapless and tea length (T-length?). I found a perfect dress that I will DEFINITELY wear again (I’m actually tempted to wear it before the wedding, yikes)!

  7. please buy that hot pink dress. if only to celebrate in, post wedding, that you no longer have to plan a wedding. also, I feel like people are not as jerky as the knot makes them sound. truth is they want good food & alcohol & hopefully to sit with people they know. thats it. I feel like people that are jerks went out of their way to respond to the knot’s survey, which colors all of the responses.

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