7 Tips for Dressing Your Bridesmaids

When are patterns permitted? How do I know what colors go well together? Does everyone have to match? Enlist these seven golden rules when choosing attire for your attendants.

1. Don't Go Changing
Women are having more fun with fashion in general-they're aware of trends and open to taking risks-and they're bringing that spirit to their weddings. You don't have to become someone else (read: more traditional than you are) for that one day. You don't even have to wear white!

2. Please Yourself
It may be tempting to try to make your entire wedding party happy with their bridesmaid dress, but it's your day, and it's important to draw the line somewhere. If you want to take into account different body types, you can choose a gown color and fabric that you'd like your ladies to wear, but let them each choose the neckline they like most. Don't abandon a dress just because one of the girls doesn't like your color scheme. Also, beware of allowing bridesmaids to wear any dress they want as long as it's in your chosen color. There are so many different interpretations of navy, brown, and burgundy that you can quickly lose control of how the group will look overall-so it's best to pass out a fabric swatch for them to match.

3. Turn the Lights On (or Off)
View dresses or fabrics under the same kind of lighting that your wedding will have. Something that appears bright in the store might look the same at a daytime event in the Caribbean, but not at a candlelit ceremony.
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4. Accessorize Wisely
The simplest way to add color to your dress or a bridesmaid's ensemble is with a sash. Hairpins or shoes in a soft shade also work, as long as they don't compete with the gown. Beware of bright shoes for the bridal party-watching those come down the aisle is distracting.

5. Be Sensitive to the Season
You don't want your colors to contradict the feeling of the environment. If you're having an October wedding in Connecticut, hot pink might not make sense outdoors. You have a little more leeway indoors-you could use summery colors more easily in a ballroom in December than winter hues in a tent in mid-July.
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6. Remember: Prints Have Their Limits
There's a place for a madras bow tie on a groomsman-and that's at a summer ceremony in Nantucket. In general, it's best to reserve patterns for warm-weather events (and stick to cotton fabrics that don't have a sheen to them).

7. Consult Mother Nature
If you don't have an eye for color, it can be tricky to tell which hues go together. That's when you should look at flowers-what different colors show up within a single pansy? What's the gradation of shades in a hydrangea? If it occurs in nature, it looks good.

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