And they lived happily ever after….

From colours to flowers to accessories to materials, the bridal party’s ensemble should very definitely reflect the bride. While there will be some ‘traditional’ guidelines, there are now NO hard and fast rules.

Let’s start with the smallest person in the wedding party; there is nothing more charming than a child dressed up in wedding attire. Their clothing should be in a style and colour that coordinates with the bridesmaids’ and groomsmen’s attire. I suggest that you avoid anything too sophisticated for a flower girl; the simpler the better and not too long for little feet, as you don’t want them to trip over. Any headpiece or bow should be lightweight and make sure to try it out so that you know it will stay exactly where it is supposed to. The pageboy should wear a little replica outfit of the groomsmen…how sweet!  Generally speaking, it is the flower girl or page boy (I hope that I’m not offending anyone so just in case, or flower boy or page girl who steals the show before the bride enters. They are supposed to and the ooh’s and aah’s from the wedding crowd set the tone for the arrival of the bride. 

Due to the fact that wedding venues have dramatically changed in recent times, the ‘little-est’ person in the wedding party is often not a person at all but a four-legged companion…enter the bride and groom’s dog. How lovely! I’ve seen some really cute little doggy wedding outfits but I’m sure that any dressmaker will oblige if you have an unusual size dog or have difficulty sourcing exactly what you want your dog to wear. Of course, a significant amount of training will have to be put in before the ‘Big Day’ if the privileged pooch is going to walk on his or her own and carry the rings to the groom. This is cuteness overload and mishaps can set the tone and have the entire group of onlookers in hysterics. A trail of their favourite dog biscuits works a treat every time! You didn’t think that I would miss an opportunity to write about dogs, did you?

Bridesmaid dresses need to complement the bride’s gown, as they surround the bride for most of the day and in the photos for infinity. Every bride has a particular favourite colour in mind when they start hunting for bridesmaid dresses so bear in mind that skin tone and hair colour can be accentuated and flattered by choosing different complementary shades of the same colour. Also, I think that it is a wonderful thing that we are all different shapes and heights so inevitably that has to be taken into account; a ‘one shape works for all’ idea has to be disregarded! Backless gowns can be quite uncomfortable for those lucky enough to have ‘more than a handful’ in their bra and all the boob tape in the world will not hold bigger boobs in place. On the other hand, strapless dresses are lost on someone with a small bust, the shape is just wrong. A cut that is dramatic on a voluptuous girl might overwhelm a petite bridesmaid. It works better all around if the bride spends time consulting with her bridesmaids, after all if everyone is comfortable and happy in what they are wearing, it will reflect on how they hold themselves and in the widest of smiles on their face. The photos will last a lifetime and it is the best policy to ask and listen first before any bridesmaid style is chosen. Always remember ‘Happy maids will be helpful maids’.

If you have your heart set on a very formal wedding then most likely the groomsmen will be renting their attire. Rounding them all up might be a challenge but make sure that they try on every last bit, down to the cuff links and bowtie before they leave the shop. You would be amazed at what can go wrong so ensure that everything fits exactly and looks exquisite – gone are the days when an ill-fitting suit or waistcoat is acceptable. The more relaxed the wedding, then the more ‘current’ the suit or, for weddings in a sunny climate, a beautiful shirt and tie/bowtie will suffice.  Obviously you need to lean towards lighter colours, lighter trouser shades and shoes in higher temperatures. Here is where having a good sense of humour can add braces, funny ones, maybe even of the bride’s favourite Disney character, as a surprise! Wacky socks and inscriptions on the soles of the shoes have been done, maybe overdone, but different and personal to each wedding couple, so will always get a giggle.

Traditionally speaking, the mother-of-the bride will choose her outfit before the groom’s mother. Then a phone call is made to inform of her choice of colour, even describing the outfit in detail so that there is no overlap. This is NOT set in stone, but it is certainly a good idea, especially for a more formal affair. If there are any additional stepmothers involved, it is thoughtful to also include them early on and inform them about what the other mothers are wearing…something that can be easily overlooked. The GOLDEN RULE is that the mother of the bride or groom should never wear white or cream or any shade close to whatever the bride has chosen for her own dress. While it is a lovely thing to be called a ‘yummy mummy’, and to look good as you age, it is the bride’s day so the bride is centre stage only. Try on every shape; try every shade of every colour, so that you just know when you try on THE outfit. This does take quite a bit of footwork but will be so very worth it.

The father-of-the-bride generally walks her down the aisle and for those brides whose fathers have passed on, there is such a gaping hole that hopefully a brother can slot into. Perhaps we should also encourage the mother of the bride to consider taking up this role. The father tends to wear something very similar to the groomsmen, especially when following the more traditional affair. When it comes to the father-of-the-groom, the rules are more pliable – it is completely up to him (or his other half)! Again, if there is a stepfather involved additionally on the bride’s side, if he is not involved in the wedding party, then he is free to dress as a guest. Our family structure has changed and now there are a variety of new types of families – let us embrace all of them and good communication in advance will ensure a wonderful day out.

The role of every one of the above is to make the bride and grooms day an absolute dream, not the other way around. Be proactive, offer help, even if it is just to collect something so that the bride or groom can focus on something else in the lead up to the big day. Remind them both how wonderful they are on a regular basis, especially in the days leading up to the big event, as nerves are at a pinnacle. Support is crucial in any team game and a wedding is a team effort, a thought to keep in your head all the way through so that the start of their ‘happily ever after’ is wonderful.

Louise O'Dwyer

Louise O'Dwyer is an Image consultant based in West Cork

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