The bad bridesmaid experience is a tale so common it borders on being a tradition at American weddings. And though it is far from a beloved one, Hollywood has spent decades documenting it on screen with classics of the genre like “27 Dresses,” “Bridesmaids” and “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” While the specific series of slapstick events vary, the basic contours on the story always involve a long, expensive and emotionally fraught journey that generally ends with the bridesmaid wearing a spectacularly ugly and ill-fitting dress on the big day.
But modern couples, according to Brideside Co-Founder Nicole Staple, aren’t quite as locked into wedding traditions as their forebears. Take any part of the ceremony, she noted in an interview, from the rings, to the cake-cutting, to the food options, to the outfits themselves — and there is a whole lot more variety at the dawn of the 2020s than there has ever been before.
“The wedding being a very traditional kind of occasion in the past, the big surprise in the industry over the last few years is that a lot of people just aren’t doing that anymore. They are focused on providing a fun experience for their guests,” she said, and they are comfortable thinking out of the box to get there.
And it is into the less traditional niche of wedding planning that Brideside fits, as it was founded to be a omnichannel concierge service for bridal parties that looks to bring a celebratory element into an experience that most people perceive as a fairly grim slog.
Because putting together a bridal party — particularly one which is spread far and wide around the nation as bridal parties often are — and getting everyone into coordinating outfits is no small task. Brides, she said, often start the process with a vision in their mind of a look they are trying to create, and a desire to bring their friends along with that vision. But given that people have different shapes, sizes and tastes, she observed, that is not always an easy endeavor, especially for a bride who is not interested in earning the nickname “Bridezilla” by twisting their bridesmaids’ arms.
To help avoid that fate, Staple said, Brideside immediately connects the bride with a trained stylist and “expert on all things bridesmaid dresses and wedding visions” who then works to corral the entire wedding party to better define and concretize that vision into actual outfits for the group.
And bridal parties, she noted, can work in store — in the startup’s boutiques in Chicago and various East Coast cities — or they can try on at home. Brideside sends boxes with three dresses apiece for bridesmaids to try before they buy — and some of their customers, she noted, will even have at-home try-on parties with the goods they order.
The element of choice — and being able to customize the buying experience to a variety of needs — is important, she said. Equally important, Brideside has found, is the introduction of a third party in the form of a stylist to keep things on track — and away from emotionally boiling over.
“We provide a stylist — but honestly, sometimes that person is also the bridal party therapist. They are also a middle man, so no one in the party has to get made at each other if they don’t like something,” she said.
Brideside also provides wine. Lots of it, generally in the form of Champagne or rosé, which the firm reportedly keeps flowing in its physical bridal shops. If the goal is to get a bridal party started, Staple said, then it helps tremendously to keep the atmosphere celebratory.
The end result, she noted, is also quite different. In measurable terms, though everyone in the bridal party is usually on-theme, 85 percent of the time they aren’t wearing matching dresses. Not everyone looks good in the same thing, and modern brides are killing the “matchy-matchy” tradition.
More ephemerally, she said, the bridal party is usually happier at the end of this process, and less likely to tell stories that sounds pulled from a Hollywood wedding movie. Weddings done right, Staple said, are fun. Shopping for them should be fun as well.
“Yes, we sell bridesmaid dresses, but also what we sell is more of an experience, specifically the experience of fun between a group of friends celebrating a life milestone,” she said. “We kept that in the forefront, and in that process buying a dress become almost an afterthought.”