Some tips for avoiding bridesmaid dress snags

Sometimes the best plans go awry and feelings are hurt when choosing the bride's attendants and what they will wear.

"Picking the bridesmaid dresses unfortunately often becomes a very big problem," said Beverly Clark, author of "Planning a Wedding to Remember." "Before the bride even asks her friends, she should let them know what she expects, especially in the area of cost. Be sensitive to them and their feelings. Give them the opportunity to turn you down right from the beginning."

Attendant attire can be pricey, but there are ways to have beautiful dresses and keep the expense reasonable. And if the dress and accessories still end up costing a little more than the bridesmaids anticipated, there is something the bride can do to help.

Because the bride usually gives a gift to her attendants for participating in the wedding, she can consider paying for a portion of the dress in lieu of a gift.

If a friend still declines being part of the wedding party but wants to participate in the event, the bride should make every effort to find something for her to do.

"Having a person to take care of the guest book or cut the cake are special things that need to be taken care of. This way they can still feel special," said Clark.

When choosing a gown, it is the bride's privilege to select the color and type of fabric of the bridesmaids' dresses. It should complement the bride's gown, but it should also be comfortable and attractive for the attendants.

Attire etiquette is more flexible than in the past. Gone are the days when every woman in the bridal party had an identical dress. But it is best to keep them in similar style and color.

"The girls you choose for your attendants will differ in weight and coloring," Clark said. "Not everyone may look good in the same dress, but there are things you can do to try to please everyone. You want your attendants to feel comfortable and attractive too. It is also a good idea to try to find something they can wear in the future to other events."

Bridesmaids' dresses are usually ordered through a bridal salon. Check into having dresses made because sometimes that can be less costly and the dress can be patterned to suit each individual.

"Style of a dress is a big consideration because one girl may look good in a sleeveless dress while another may need to have a sleeve. The same goes for the collar."

The trend right now in wedding attire is to go with a two-piece gown. Such outfits are more likely to be worn again.

Other ways to keep the cost down are shopping for sales, checking out several bridal boutiques and shopping at stores that buy dresses back after being worn only once.

"If there's enough time before the wedding, another good idea is to wait until prom season or right after," Clark said. "This is a time to find some really good buys."

The dress is generally the most expensive part of the bridesmaid's attire, but shoes can be costly, too. Shoes can be dyed to match the dress. If that's the case, all the shoes should be done in the same shop to make sure they match. It's cheaper and easier to have bridesmaids wear white, ivory, gold or silver shoes.

"The important thing is to keep the lines of communication open between the bride and her attendants," said Clark. "This way there will be less stress and it will be an enjoyable time for everyone."