Tips From The Royals: How To Dress Your Bridesmaids - Glitzy Secrets
Wedding Dresses With Trains: A Quick Guide

Tips From The Royals: How To Dress Your Bridesmaids

May 12, 2018

Planning a wedding? It's all too easy to get really caught up in picking the dress, or the favours, or the venue, but your bridesmaids need attention too! They're a huge part of the ceremony and making sure that they look and feel fantastic on the day can make all the difference.

With Harry & Meghan's wedding a week away, we thought this would be the perfect time to look at the bridal parties from past royal weddings.

If you're looking for tips, or just want to add a touch of sophistication to your bridesmaids attire, read on!

The wedding of HRH The Duke of York (King George VI) to Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon (Queen Elizabeth/Queen Mother)

Queen Mother's bridal party style

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Lady Elizabeth Bowes Lyon wore a long dress with a dropped hem typical of the time. The veil was lent to her from Queen Mary and was worn low over her brow, and she began a lasting tradition by leaving her bouquet at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior.

The bridesmaids to the Queen Mother were dressed, like the bride, in high fashion of the 1920s. All eight bridesmaids were carefully chosen and selected for a specific reason, either relations or friends of the couple and their families. Their dresses were a slightly less decorative version of the bride’s wedding dress, made with the same chiffon lace from Nottingham, but with less embroidery and beaded detailing. For their bouquets, the girls carried smaller versions of the bride’s posy and wore myrtle green leaves in their hair with a single white rose and a sprig of white heather.

If you’re planning a 1920s themed wedding, then the marriage of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth I should certainly be a source of inspiration for your big day. Take note of how the bridesmaids wore a similar hairstyle to the bride, however they were subtly different with flowers in a low band, rather than a veil like the bride. The bridesmaids also wore dresses similar to that of the bride, however since they were less decorative and shorter in length, the bride still shone as the star of the show. To emulate this look for your wedding day, create synergy by having bridesmaids outfits not too dissimilar to that of the bride. Try a slightly different colour or cut, but ensure the style remains similar for a coherent bridal party dress code.

The Marriage of Princess Elizabeth (Queen Elizabeth II) and Philip Mountbatten (Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh)

Queen Elizabeth's bridesmaids

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The wedding of our current reigning monarch occurred two years after the end of the second world war and was a momentous occasion that brought the country together. As rationing was still in operation at the time, people from all over the country sent ration tokens to the then Princess to ensure her dress would be made from the best materials. The dress itself was made from satin and was embroidered with thousands of crystal beads and seed pearls that formed shaped that represented each part of Britain; these motifs also decorated the skirts of the bridesmaids gowns. While the dress of the bride had long sleeves, the bridesmaid dresses had a silk tulle shawl covering their shoulders that matched with the veil of the bride and featured the same motifs as her dress, finishing with a large ivory bow.

To emulate this style for your bridal party, explore what motifs both the bride and bridesmaids can wear, consider embroidery, lace or simply the same material to help give some consistency to the bridal party as a whole. Much like her mother’s wedding, Queen Elizabeth II’s bridesmaids wore wreaths of flowers around their heads that featured the same flowers as the bouquets. Add a modern twist to this look by opting for flower crowns - large flowers are currently highly fashionable and would add an extra splash of colour to any photograph.

The wedding of Prince Charles and Diana Spencer

Princess Diana's bridesmaids

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Widely known as one of the most iconic of British royal wedding dresses, Lady Diana Spencer’s outfit for her marriage to Prince Charles featured the longest train a royal bride has ever had and bought large puffed sleeves back into fashion. Both the bride and bridesmaids dresses were made from ivory silk taffeta and hand-made lace. The yellow sash around their waste and bright, spring coloured flowers in their baskets and flower crowns extended the light colour scheme throughout the celebrations. The likeness between the bride’s iconic gown and the bridesmaids dresses are undeniable, slightly shorter in length, the bridesmaids outfits were designed to be mini replicas of Lady Diana’s dress.

This approach of bridesmaids wearing replicas of the bride’s dress is less fashionable now as it requires the bride’s gown to be immensely unique and eye catching even when stood next to the bridesmaids. While this was not difficult for Lady Diana, this can be more difficult to achieve in a less flamboyant wedding. Our top tip is to dress the bridesmaids in similar dresses, but shorten the length or change the colour to avoid looking like a group of brides rather than a bridal party.

The wedding of Prince Andrew, Duke of York and Sarah Ferguson (Duchess of York)

Sarah Ferguson

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With puffed sleeves, lace ruffles and a long bouquet, the Duchess of York’s wedding gown was highly fashionable and in keeping with trends of the time set five years earlier by Lady Diana’s iconic dress. The bridesmaids wore peach/champagne coloured dresses with capped sleeves and lace ruffles. The more keen-eyed may notice a similarity between these dresses and the ones worn by Kate Middleton’s bridesmaids, both the length and bottom trim of lace feature in the dresses worn by the bridesmaids of both weddings. The four pageboys - including a young Prince William - wore different sets of outfits. Two in pantaloons and dark tailcoats, the younger pair in miniature sailor outfits.

One of the most unique aspect of the bridesmaid outfits from the Duchess of York’s wedding is the ring of flowers carried by each bridesmaid. The flowers on the ring matched their headpieces - a less popular, but certainly a beautifully unique way for your bridesmaids to carry flowers if you would like to avoid the traditional bouquet.

The Wedding of Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones (now Countess of Wessex)

Prince Edward and Miss Sophie Rhys-Jones' bridal party

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The Countess of Wessex wore a simple hand-dyed silk organza and silk crepe dress. While it lacked the embroidered embellishments of previous royal wedding gowns, the interesting long coat over a fitted dress was inspiration for a number of brides seeking an alternative to the more traditional wedding gown. The bridesmaids and pageboys were dressed in a Plantagenet style, with navy velvet tunics with gold braid trim over their individual outfits. Beneath their tunics, the pageboys wore navy velvet pantaloons and ivory taffeta shirts with velvet berets with a single white feather. The bridesmaids also wore the berets and tunics, however theirs were paired with ivory silk taffeta dresses; they carried small bouquets tied with ivory ribbon to complete their outfits.

While the bride and groom requested their guests to dress in evening wear to keep the occasion as informal as a royal wedding could be, the small additions of the Plantagenet style berets and tunics meant it stood out among all other previous royal weddings. If you are after a similar, toned down wedding but would still like your guests to remember the day, consider adding to the outfits of your bridesmaids and pageboys like the Countess of Wessex.

The Marriage of Peter Phillips (son of Princess Anne) and Autumn Kelly

Bridesmaids of Peter Phillips and Autumn Kelly

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Autumn Kelly reportedly asked Sassi Holford - the designer of her wedding gown - for her dress not to draw too much attention. The bridesmaids’ outfits were also designed to be relatively simple, with all five in pistachio strapless Vera Wang dresses. Miss Kelly took a more modern approach in dressing her bridesmaids as most previous brides chose for their bridesmaids to wear similar or mini replica gown based on the bride’s attire. While the dresses looked very different, there were a few similarities: all of the dresses worn by the bridal party were strapless, while a beaded Chantilly lace bolero added to the bride’s outfit to meet royal wedding dress dress-code, capped sleeves added to the two younger bridesmaids’ outfits. All of the dresses also featured a silk sash tied at the waist for an a-line silhouette.

This is a good source of inspiration for those wishing to put a modern twist on traditional approaches to bridal party attire. Take a leaf out of Autumn Kelly’s book and let the small subtle details tie the outfits together and add synergy to the bridal party; choose similar waistlines and design aspects/embellishments.

The Marriage of Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Catherine Middleton (now Duchess of Cambridge)

Prince William and Catherine Middleton's bridesmaids

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Another iconic wedding in British royal wedding history, the marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton was watched by over 35 million people worldwide. The Duchess of Cambridge’s dress set wedding dress trends that are still hugely popular to this day. With four young bridesmaids, two page boys and her sister as the maid of honour, Kate Middleton’s bridal party were dressed in outfits of simple elegance, much like the bride herself. The long floor-length fitted gown of Pippa Middleton was extremely flattering and proved very popular with the general public. The page boys wore 1820’s style foot guard officer uniforms that complemented the groom’s scarlet Irish Guard’s uniform. The four young bridesmaids wore ivory and white satin ballerina-length dresses with a pale gold sash and lace trim. The wreaths in their hair were composed of ivy and lily of the valley, the small posies they carried also comprised of similar flowers.

To adopt a similar style for your wedding, sleek and simple are the way forward. Both the maid of honour and bridesmaids dresses lacked any intricate embroidery or bold lace detailing, with the Duchess of Cambridge instead opting for ever so slightly puffed shoulders and structured pleats in the bridesmaids dresses and a form fitting dress for her beautiful maid of honour.

The Wedding of Zara Phillips (daughter of Princess Anne) and Mike Tindall

Zara Phillips' bridesmaids

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Possibly the most understated royal wedding of the twenty first century so far, the union of Zara Phillips and England rugby player Mike Tindall was held at a kirk in Edinburgh and the bride wore an off-the-peg gown. The bridesmaids and maid of honour wore dresses by a local dressmaker while Zara Phillips’ godson wore a traditional Balmoral kilt as page boy. Similar to the dresses worn by the bridesmaids at the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton just a few months earlier, the bridesmaids’ dresses had knee-length skirts with structured pleats and a grey sash about their middle in accordance with the colour scheme of the big day, matching the small bouquets. The dress of the maid of honour differed slightly, with a more tailored skirt and a grey structured bow in the centre, rather than at the back like the bridesmaids.

For a cooler colour scheme, opt for grey and white like Zara Phillips, the orchids and heather combination in the bouquets make for textured and interesting posies that would stand out from the more popular choices. Texture was a prominent theme throughout the Scottish wedding, the grey sash around the waists of the bridesmaids were folded in many places, breaking up the white silk of the rest of the dress. While sashes are usually used to break up colour and continue a colour scheme, copy Zara Phillips’ lead and use sashes to add texture or interest to an otherwise simple outfit.

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