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It’s time for another guest blog post but this time, by my Assistant, Sarah!  Sarah is a beautiful writer, and is involved in some of the back end aspects of my blog- so it seemed like a natural fit for her to do a guest blogger series! In addition, she has content very relevant to one of my main audiences (brides!)…because she JUST was one a couple months ago (see her BEAUTIFUL wedding here). We are titling this series “Wedding Planning for the Modern Bride” because Sarah made many decisions about her wedding that are applicable to the now and that are newer ideas. That being said, she accomplished them with a huge sense of class and tradition, and without really having anything overly “trendy”- it was still timeless and completely classic- and I think this is hard to do! The first thing she is sharing about was one of my favorite aspects of her wedding- so without further adieu, here she is!

Hey, it’s Sarah! After working for the lovely Jill Gum for the last 8 months behind-the-scenes, I am so VERY excited about being able to share a few of my own wedding tips on her blog!!  I have had the pleasure of learning from Jill (an amazing, thoughtful teacher who has encouraged and inspired me in every way!!) about the ins-and-outs of her business and the photography experience she provides her clients!  As some of her followers might not know (before her intro!) — while working with her I during that time, I also planned a wedding of my own.

During the 11 months my wonderful (and very patient!) husband and I were engaged, I went through major phases of off-and-on planning in which I’d spend countless days and hours obsessing over Pinterest and photography blogs (which I think every bride does!) in order to dream up the perfect wedding look.  Unfortunately, I was a VERY indecisive bride, couldn’t put my vision into words, and was often worried that my Pinterest dreams wouldn’t work out (I’m not artistically talented nor have had any success with attempted Pinterest projects in the past!!).

One thing I ADORED on Pinterest and JGP’s blog, were the mix-matched but still highly coordinating bridesmaid dresses.  Realistically and stylistically–it would be PERFECT!!!  Each bridesmaid could buy a dress in whatever price range she felt comfortable, she could pick the style & length she wanted, and she could pick a shade of blush she liked best (because, of course, you can always wear your bridesmaids dress again…if you actually love it!!). In theory, this was the most accommodating and stress-free way of tackling yet another thing on my overwhelming wedding to-do list.  However, once we started looking around, my mom (who graciously planned so much of my wedding for me) and I realized—there are about 10,000 shades of blush.  HOW do we actually go about coordinating and achieving the effortless Pinterest coordinating bridesmaid dress look?!?!  Here are few suggestions from a recent wedding-planning survivor on how to make the coordinating bridesmaids dress shopping a lot LESS stressful:

Pick a Color Palette

Yes, this sounds like common sense.  But I mean literally, go to Menards or a fabric store and buy swatches!  At first I brushed off this genius idea of my mom’s, but it worked perfectly.  I went through the Shades of Blush paint palette we got from Menards and crossed out all colors I felt were too dark and not the look I wanted.  Each bridesmaid got a paint swatch packet to take shopping and she’d let me know which color she chose from the swatch!  This was so helpful– I could visualize how many dresses we’d have of each color, what they’d look like next to each other, and if anyone would need to steer toward a different shade!

Check-In Before Buying

Due to living in different cities and crazy schedules, each bridesmaid went shopping for her own dress rather than having a big outing to shop for them all at once.  Just so I could keep track of styles, lengths, and colors (I was really concerned things would look uneven if more girls had a lighter blush rather than a dustier shade), each bridesmaid snapped a picture of her dress to me for my approval.  This was essential toward the end of the shopping process—unfortunately for the girls who didn’t have their dress, it made their shopping trip a little more selective. This “approval” process really allows the bride to coordinate the “effortless” mix-matched bridesmaid dresses!

Lengths & Styles

I wasn’t super picky about the lengths of each bridesmaid’s dress, since I am extremely familiar with the plight of being tall and never being able to find a dress long enough!!  As a bride, I wanted my bridesmaids to look beautiful and cohesive—but more importantly, I just wanted them to be there by my side on one of the most important days of my life!  I didn’t want one of my friends to feel overwhelmed in a floor-length dress when she’d rather be in a knee-length.  I didn’t want one of my bridesmaids not to have fun and dance at my reception because her strapless dress felt insecure (we all know how that is!!).   Those were my practical reasons for letting each girl pick their own length and style of dress…but, as Jill and I discussed many times, it adds so so much detail and interest to bridal party photos! I adore seeing pictures of my bridesmaids in such a variety of dresses—strapless, halter, over one shoulder…!  This made such a difference in the look and ‘feel’ of our wedding photos!

Florals, Textures, and Patterns!

I truly believe that if you want to stray from the traditional matching bridesmaid dresses (a tradition I do love!), adding a little flair goes a long way and achieves the “Pinterest look!!”  I wanted my Matron of Honor (my amazing big sister!) to stand out from the rest of the bridesmaids—I mean, she has put up with me for the last 22 years, so I figured I could give her a “Pippa Middleton” moment!!  We had her try on beaded gowns, stripes, lace, and florals to see which we thought would be best for her and what would coordinate with the rest of the dresses. Referring back to our paint swatches, one floral dress from BHLDN tied each bridesmaid dress together and made the mix-match-look appear to be so “effortless”!! The floral achieved the romantic, whimsical theme I had in mind!!

I am SO happy with how the dresses added extra flair to our photos from JGP!  Hopefully these tips will help some brides in the midst of their bridesmaid dress shopping and make the mix-match-look less daunting!  Remember, brides—ENJOY the planning process and your special day!!



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  1. Sara O'Hara says:

    These are so great! I love the mix of patterns and lengths!

  2. Misty says:

    These tips are spot on! I love that your bridesmaids dresses were just different enough to add some depth!

  3. I love when bridesmaids coordinate but don’t match, it adds so much dimension to the photos!

  4. Joanna M says:

    Love all the different dresses!

  5. Julie Klebe says:

    What was a nice coincidence, those related to Sarah all ended up in long dresses, including her adorable flower girl!

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I'm Jill, a wedding and portrait photographer based out of Chicago and Central Illinois, and available world wide! I'm also a photography educator, wife to my favorite person on the planet, mama to 3 amazing kids and an energetic Aussie, and obsessed with statement jewelry and all desserts (especially fruit pies!). 

As a past high school teacher, I have a major heart for education. After going full time in my business, I have built a business I love that gives me an almost 6 figure salary and allows me to be home part time with my kids.  I dream for you to run a business that enhances your life and lights you up, and I believe I can help you learn how to do it with a little hustle and a lot of heart!

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