Bridesmaid Tips -> Pick the perfect bridesmaid dress

Bridesmaid. The word alone makes most women cringe, unless you are the bride. It's time to do your closest circle of friends a favor ó find them a dress they will want to wear on your big day, and again. Because unlike Katherine Heigl's character Jane in "27 Dresses," most of us don't want to collect a closetful of fearful frocks!

Bobbie Thomas, TODAY style editor and author of the Buzz Column for In Touch Weekly, offers a few things to keep in mind when thinking of your soul sisters ...

Make a plan
First consider the theme or venue for your magical moment, because both your wedding gown and the setting will help point you in the right direction. Remember: Along with the bouquets, your bridesmaids will be your most valuable accessories.

After the paying party has decided on a price range, plan a "pre-edit." This is where you pull together an assortment of dresses before you gather the girls for a fitting. If you are dealing with long-distance friends, you may want to consider a larger retailer with multiple locations and a Web site.

Ask yourself the following questions to help narrow down the possibilities: Formal or casual? Long or short? Soft or structured? It's OK if you donít know the answers (and may be better, leaving you open to a welcome surprise).

Consider the color
Unless you have your heart set on a specific color, let the dress dictate the shade. Trendy styles tend to look better in sophisticated tones, while classic cuts can hold a bold, vibrant hue. Decide whether the dye of the dress, or the details on it, is most important. Let one aspect take center stage. A general rule of thumb: Beware of brights ó dark tones will help less expensive fabrics look rich.

Select a style
Your wedding should be timeless, not time-stamped. While current fashion fads may feel fresh and tres chic, it's important to consider the future. Will you look back and cringe? (Just flash back to the princess sleeves and big hair of the í80s.)

This doesn't mean your only option is strapless and simple; just be sure to consider the "multiple factor." While an intricately designed dress can be stunning, three or more standing next to each other can be a fashion disaster. So choose wisely, because less may be more.

Pick the dress
It's important to like many before you fall in love, therefore I urge you to collect a rack of dresses. Yes, I said "a rack." Five to 10 favorites would be ideal, because your bridesmaids will bring each to life in their own way.

If you can arrange to have a group fitting, great; if not, ask everyone to try on your choices and e-mail you some photos with feedback. Itís important to listen and hear what your girlfriends think, but donít make your decision at the fitting or under pressure.

If possible, pull together a collage of all the visual elements to be blended on your big day. Hopefully more than one will fit into your fairy tale, so that you can then offer your group of girls a vote, and everyone will live happily ever after!