Brides across the United States and Great Britain have found themselves left without wedding gowns for their big day, thanks to the unannounced closing of major dress retailer Alfred Angelo Bridal last week. But they’re not the only ones affected, as plenty of bridesmaids and mothers of the bride are in the same dress-less boat, too.

Alfred Angelo Bridal’s unexpected shutdown may have affected the wedding plans of thousands of women, when you add it all up together.

If you’re the bride, you’re obviously in a panic to replace your wedding gown before your wedding. But what do you do about your bridesmaids who also lost their deposits, and in some cases balances, on the dresses for your wedding?

Can you ask them to buy another dress at this point? No, you can’t.

Good manners in most cases would indicate that the best practice would be for the bride to pick up the additional cost to the bridesmaids. Unfortunately, most brides don’t have extra room in the budget to finance wedding party attire, much less pay for a second wedding gown for themselves in the process. Moms are going to have to suck it up and buy themselves another dress. And if they have the money, many mothers are going to have to help their daughters purchase a second wedding gown.

One bride I heard from told me that three of her bridesmaids had picked up their dresses a week before, and that the store told her that if the dresses had arrived in the shop before the shutdown, they would be mailed to the brides and bridesmaids.

This is the policy that’s being shared by Alfred Angelo’s attorney Patricia Redmond, but many are questioning whether their dresses were liquidated in the chaos that occurred in the stores that were open on Thursday. Some were offering 80 percent discounts on everything in the store. If Alfred Angelo Bridal didn’t have a plan to handle the closure of their stores, do we believe they’ve really got a plan to distribute the dresses on order? Especially after hearing that all their staff have been unceremoniously fired.

Many Alfred Angelo bridal consultants have warned their clients not to count on that promise.

Another bride told me she knows for sure (based on her chat with the sales associate on Thursday) that two of her bridesmaids will definitely not be getting their dresses, leaving her in the unenviable position of having to decide whether to ask all the girls to get new dresses, so that they match, or to mix it up and assume most of her guests will have heard about the dress fiasco anyway.

Brides across the country have been offering to loan their own wedding gowns out to victims of Alfred Angelo, and it’s super sweet to read all their posts of support for the brides who’ve been affected.

Unfortunately, this fabulously generous, girly-goodwill won’t work for bridesmaid dresses, unless all you have is a maid of honor. The chance of finding another bride with multiple bridesmaids who happen to be the same size as your bridesmaids is highly improbable. And that’s assuming a bride is willing to totally toss whatever color scheme she’s planned out the window.

A number of major bridal retailers, as well as some small shops, have stepped forward to offer discounts to brides and bridesmaids who can show an original receipt from Alfred Angelo.

But that still doesn’t solve the problem for brides whose bridesmaids had already paid for part or all of their bridesmaid dresses but don’t have anything to wear. Some brides may have had wedding insurance, and be able to recoup the financial devastation that Alfred Angelo wrought. Bridesmaids won’t have the same advantage, despite the fact that they likely didn’t have much say in where they had to purchase their dresses.

And you absolutely, positively cannot ask your bridesmaids to pay for a second dress if they already bought an Alfred Angelo as you requested. If they hadn’t paid the balance for their dress yet, it would be okay to ask them to contribute the amount they had already planned to spend on the first dress towards the cost of the replacement dress. But the bride is going to have to pick up the tab for the anything else the new dresses will cost. To ask the bridal party to purchase their dresses twice would be an unacceptable imposition.

If your bridesmaids offer to buy new dresses, it’s perfectly acceptable to allow them to do it. But it’s also a good idea to try to reimburse them later on, or treat them to something equally as expensive as a thank you when you can afford it.

For brides who can’t afford to buy new dresses and wouldn’t think of asking their bridesmaids to suck up the cost, try one of the following five ideas:

  1. Go all black. Almost everybody has a black dress, and most women have a black knee-length dress. Ask all the girls to wear black dresses – the black and white theme was very trendy for several years. If you had colored shoes or accessories planned, you can still use them with the black dresses.

    David and Garrett asked their wedding party to wear all black and white

  2. Choose a palette of multiple colors for your bridesmaids to choose from – things that will match or blend well with your wedding colors. Designate a length, or a neckline, that you’d prefer – it will look more planned if there’s something uniform about the dresses, even if they’re different colors.

    Caroline asked her bridemaids to choose their own dresses to match her sea glass theme (Photo Credit: EP Anderson)

  3. Go with any monochromatic theme, but allow the girls to wear any shade of that color that they own. It may be a good idea to choose something different from your wedding colors so that nobody shows up in something that clashes terribly with the backdrop.
  4. Let your bridesmaids wear anything appropriate from their closets, but then have the wedding party sit down during the ceremony rather than stand in a line beside you. Multiple different looks can be distracting in the actual wedding photos.
  5. For brides who have a LOT of time before their wedding date, an online hunt for the dresses you need is in order. Especially if you’re only short a dress or two to complete your wedding party’s attire. Start immediately, and set a deadline for yourself.

The good news is that this is not the end of the world – even if it feels like it. You still have a healthy fiancé who wants to marry you, no matter what you or your bridesmaids are wearing on the big day. A wedding isn’t about the clothing we’re wearing – it’s about the vow we exchange with our chosen life partner. And no bridal shop doing bad business is going to take away anything from the significance of that moment. Go ahead and have a meltdown – you deserve it – and pull up your big girl panties and come up with a plan. You might find yourself more creative if you brainstorm with your besties and a few bottles of wine. And worry about what you’re going to wear first. Your bridesmaids are smart ladies – they’ll help you solve their dilemmas.

This, too, shall pass. And when it does, you’re going to live happily ever after as Mrs. Somebody, and someday this will make for an amazing story to tell your kids.

Until next time, good luck and happy wedding planning!