You've been a good friend to the bride, so being a good bridesmaid should be easy, right? It absolutely can be. But you'd be surprised how many ladies in the bridal party often miss the mark. Careless comments or whacked out priorities or perspective can mess with a bride's head or darken an otherwise joyous moment. In fact, too many wind up making their friend's wedding about themselves or failing to support the bride in the ways she needs.
But this won't be you.
After all, you're well intentioned (or you wouldn't be reading this) and you've got our 10 clear-cut rules to help you navigate this special role. You're going to rock it! The bride is sure to appreciate your love and support throughout the exciting (and sometimes stressful) wedding planning process. Stick to these 10 tips and you can't go wrong. How could you? They all come down to tangibly demonstrating support and selflessness.
Too often we assume we know what others want. Sure, we're right sometimes. But sometimes we're way off. So just ask the bride how you can help her. And don't wait until a week before the big day. After you've been invited to be in the wedding and you do a celebratory happy dance, have this conversation. It will help you both get clear on your expectations of each other.
Maybe she'd like help with the seating arrangement at the reception or look to you to throw a bridal shower. You'll never know unless you ask. Asking how you can help is an easy way to start off on the right note.
Emotional reinforcement is just as important as on-the-ground, tactile support like setting up chairs or mailing out invitations. Think of yourself as a psychological security blanket for your friend. For example, reflect on what she says (and doesn't say) before firing off your opinion. Empathize with her point of view and give thoughtful feedback when asked for input. Focus on what she feels and wants, as opposed to what you think she should feel or want. Approach delicate topics with sensitivity, and above all else, keep a positive attitude.
Remember, there are probably numerous points of stress for the bride, from travel logistics for guests to appeasing a volatile mother-in-law. She's got a lot on her mind: getting gown alterations done on time, tracking down the videographer who's late or worrying about the weather report. Be her rock by staying calm, patient and upbeat.
Traditionally, the bride and groom register for gifts together. But it's not uncommon for the guy to opt out of this shopping extravaganza. If he doesn't go (or want to go), offer to accompany the bride instead. She might want to tackle the task alone, but chances are she'd enjoy the company. If you’re a type-A, take-charge kind of gal, keep yourself in check. Remember, this is your friend’s wedding, not yours. Let her pick out what she likes. If you don’t like the modern tableware she just squealed over, for example, keep your opinion to yourself. Don’t let your disapproval leak out through body language -- an eye roll here, a half-hearted shrug and frown there. Your preferences don’t matter, so enthusiastically point out things in her style
If you’re a type-A, take-charge kind of gal, keep yourself in check. Remember, this is your friend’s wedding, not yours. Let her pick out what she likes. If you don’t like the modern tableware she just squealed over, for example, keep your opinion to yourself. Don’t let your disapproval leak out through body language -- an eye roll here, a half-hearted shrug and frown there. Your preferences don’t matter, so enthusiastically point out things in her style.
The bachelorette party -- more than any other night out you've had with the girls -- is THE time to rip it up together. So go for it! Dance, drink, laugh and celebrate the bride-to-be. Just know when to cut yourself off. No one wants to play baby-sitter for the sloppy drunk girl.
Also, take your cues from the bride. If her idea of a good time is a five-star brunch, wine- tasting and then home in bed by 9:30, honor that vision. Or if she's more the dancing-on-tables-until-closing-time type -- rage it up. Whatever tone the event takes, don't fight the vibe the bride is after. Have fun and enjoy the party!
If you're lucky, the bride will ask you for input on choosing a bridesmaid dress. Feel free to comment on things like color, pattern, fabric, price or hemline length. Instead of saying you adore or despise a dress, without constructively explaining why, try framing your feedback in a way that's based on objective factors: dress availability, affordability, how flattering it is to your figures, or whether the color compliments everyone's skin tone (marigold yellow doesn't look good on everyone)
Ask her what she thinks before sharing your thoughts. Don't slaughter a dress under consideration; instead, keep your assessment "soft," because she might select it.
But make no mistake -- she is under no obligation to ask for your point of view. Don't expect to be asked. Accept her decision happily. If you love the dress, rave to the bride about her superb fashion acumen. If you're not so lucky, suck it up and be thankful you have to wear it only one day.
Here's the golden rule of being an awesome bridesmaid: If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say it at all.
That means no trashing the groom or other bridesmaids, friends or family. This rule is particularly important when wedding dress-shopping with the bride. If she's nuts about a gown and you abhor it, keep your critical thoughts to yourself and find something about it that you do like. Give positive feedback.
And don't fake it; your friend can probably tell if you're being authentic and honest. This rule applies to everything: her wedding colors, the cake flavor, the song played for the couple's first dance. Remember, the bride is putting her heart into planning this momentous event that will kick off a brand new chapter in her life. Her fingerprint is on everything, so any carping from you could easily feel like a disparaging remark about her personally.
You've had your speech written for years, but the bride didn't ask you to give one? Accept it, don't fight it. You may not understand her rationale, but she made her decision. If you feel strongly about one of her wedding choices, you can always ask her about it. Just be respectful, open-minded and accepting of her response.
On the other hand, maybe she asked you to say something and give a toast, but you'd rather have the flu than speak in public. Stretching outside your comfort zone can be tough. But it's her day, so go with it, follow her directives and do your best.
Keep in mind, though, that the bride doesn't get to steamroll over your personal boundaries, whether it's your budget, morals or time.
Getting ready together can be a blast. These hours of primping promise rich conversation (from silly to serious), sips of champagne and precious photos that preserve the final moments before the bride walks down the aisle to a new life with her partner. She probably will need help getting into her gown (or into a bathroom stall). This is a staple bridesmaid duty.
So is the responsibility of makeup. You may do her makeup for her and for yourself. Or both of you may be in professional hands. Either way, you're in charge of having her put her best face forward on the big day. The bride's nerves may be raw, so this is the ideal time for you to be encouraging, reassuring and steady-tempered.
Being a bridesmaid is an honor, but it's also a job. It's definitely work. Look for practical, hands-on ways to provide acts of service. For example, the bride probably will be busy enjoying herself and visiting with family at the rehearsal dinner. If a table is shy a seat and Uncle Larry is left standing, find an extra chair and help him get situated. Mingle, introduce guests to each other, keep the bride's and groom's glasses full.
Take loads of photos throughout the wedding-planning journey from the early days of dress shopping to the last hours at the reception where Nana hit the dance floor and learned the Macarena. When it's all over, the bride shouldn't be the one to call a taxi for her wasted younger brother and his date. That's all you. Taking over some of the grunt work will be much appreciated.
This one's a biggie. Nail this one, and you're halfway to being a fabulous bridesmaid. Being an active listener means paying attention to what the bride says she wants in different aspects of her wedding -- not zeroing in on what you think she should want. Ask yourself: How can I make this moment even more "her?" And pay attention to what she doesn't say, too.
For example, consider the bridal shower. If the bride is a girlie girl who loves dressing up and all things elegant, don't show up in your favorite T-shirt and flip-flops. As part of her bridal party, you should be an extension of her vision. Dress and act the part.
If the bride has mentioned her reception ending when the sun comes up the next morning and she's featuring an open bar, digest what her comments and actions mean: She wants the reception to be the party of her life. You may not be the one doing a keg stand, but whatever you do, don't say your goodbyes at 8 p.m. and call it a night!
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More Great Links
- Basics for Bridesmaids. (June 10, 2011) http://wedding.theknot.com/bridesmaids-mother-of-the-bride/bridesmaids.aspx.
- Bridesmaid.com. (June 10, 2011) http://www.bridesmaid.com/
- Italie, Leanne. “Tips on Bridesmaid Etiquette.” TheSunNews.com. May 29, 2011. (June 10, 2011) http://www.thesunnews.com/2011/05/29/2182248/tips-on-bridesmaid-etiquette.html