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Buying Bridesmaid Dresses Online: 11 Tips for Success

Buying bridesmaid dresses online can be the greatest convenience of wedding planning. Or it could be the worst decision you ever made. Because if the dresses turn out to be disappointing, you’ll feel that sting every time you browse your wedding photos.

Is the convenience worth the risk? Yes, absolutely. Because you can sidestep most potential problems with a few simple buying strategies. Read on for 11 tips to help you find success in buying bridesmaid dresses online. I’ll use AW Bridal, a store I’ve featured before, to demonstrate several of these strategies.

Woman in bridal party outside to represent buying bridesmaid dresses online.
Source: AW Bridal.

1. Check the return policy

As a rule, always read the return policy before buying anything online. Especially bridesmaid dresses. Even if you’re shopping a store you’ve frequented before, it’s worth two minutes of your time to verify your purchase will be returnable.

Many online bridesmaid dresses are made-to-order. Keep that in mind as you shop. Don’t order six different styles with the intention of keeping only one. That’s wasteful and ultimately makes dresses cost more for everyone.

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AW Bridal accepts returns of unworn, non-custom dresses within 30 days of delivery.

2. Go with a reputable store

Do your homework before choosing an online bridal store. Find the store on TrustPilot and similar sites to see what former customers are saying. Also check reviews on the store’s website. Pay particular attention to reviews that include photos. Zoom in and inspect the dresses and the fit as closely as you can. 

3. Get your discounts

Don’t let your bridal party pay more than they should for bridesmaid dresses. Check for student discounts, nurses discounts, and, if you have a big social media following, programs for influencers.

Also considering signing up for emails and/or text messaging with the store. And check the store’s homepage and online coupon sites for codes that could earn you free swatches or discounts.

Right now, AW Bridal offers:

  • 12% discount to students
  • 12% discount to nurses
  • $100 dress credit to qualified influencers with more than 10,000 followers in at least one social media platform 
  • Five free swatches with code FREESWA
  • 5% off for new customers with code NEWTOAW5

4. Order swatches 

Speaking of swatches, they’re critical to the bridesmaid dress buying process. Colors and fabric weights don’t replicate well digitally. You can’t be confident in your decision without seeing that swatch first.

The going rate for swatches is $1 apiece, but they’re often available in limited quantities for free. As noted above, you can get five free swatches from AW Bridal with a code. Azazie and Birdy Grey offer three free swatches for new customers. And David’s Bridal gives you three free swatches when you make a bridal appointment in-store.

Top view of swatches in different colors, which are critical in the decision process when buying bridesmaid dresses online.
Source: AW Bridal.

Take advantage of those freebies. Use them to compare fabrics and colors and you’ll ultimately choose the right dresses for your wedding party.

5. Plan ahead

Made-to-order dresses can take several weeks to arrive. Ready-to-ship dresses will get to your bridesmaids faster, but they’ll likely need tailoring. You’ll also want extra time to implement a back-up plan, just in case the worst happens and you don’t like the dresses.

To account for those factors, order the bridesmaid dresses six months before the event.

6. Collaborate

Woman wearing dark green bridesmaid dress.
Edwina Dress. Source: AW Bridal.

Your bridesmaids have great taste. They also know what looks good on their bodies. Work closely with them to select dresses everyone loves. That may require different silhouettes or different colors for the folks in your bridal party. Be open to that approach.

If mismatched bridesmaid dresses sound horrible to you, remember this: Matchy matchy bridesmaid dresses lose their appeal if one bridesmaid is scowling all night because she hates the dress.

Your collaborative search will be easier if you’re shopping an online store that has extensive filtering and sorting capabilities. As an example, AW Bridal has categories for long bridesmaid dresses, short bridesmaid dresses, plus-size dresses, sequin dresses, and more. You can also filter by color, fabric, silhouette, hemline, neckline, etc. 

7. Measure and remeasure

Whether you’re ordering dresses custom or in standard sizes, you must get the measurements right. A misread of the tape measure ruins a custom dress or may compel you to order the wrong standard size.

Avoid that problem by hosting a measuring party with your bridesmaids. Together, the group of you can measure and remeasure everyone. This will minimize mistakes.

If your online bridesmaid store provides a measuring diagram, follow it to the letter.

Couple wearing bridal attire walks together outside.
Source: AW Bridal.

8. Go virtual

Many online bridal stores offer virtual services. Use them. With AW Bridal, you can meet with wedding style consultants virtually to discuss size, fit, and styling — for the whole group. Your stylist can verify your measurements and recommend dresses to suit everyone’s tastes and needs. 

9. Lock down local tailors

Plan on having the dresses tailored, even if they’re custom. Ask each of your bridesmaids to find reputable local tailors who can work on formal gowns. If it turns out later that the dresses fit perfectly, then great. That’s one less thing for your bridesmaids to do before your big day.

10. Place a group order

Ordering custom dresses all at once helps you avoid color inconsistencies across dye lots.

11. Have a group try-on

Once the dresses arrive, schedule a group try-on. This way, you get a preview of how your party will look. And, you can decide together whether any piece needs a nip or a tuck.

Success buying bridesmaid dresses online

Being open to buying bridesmaid dresses online gives you access to a massive selection of affordable pieces. Sure, there is some risk — but it’s risk you can mitigate. Order those swatches, read customer reviews, buy early, collaborate with your bridesmaids on styling and measurements, and take advantage of those virtual appointments.

With help from your bestie bridesmaids and a reputable online store, you can lock down the perfect attire for your wedding party.