On my wedding day, I did what most appreciative brides do. I thanked my bridesmaids for their support and help. At the time, I didn't realize just how much effort they had put into making my special day truly special - but I was soon to find out just how much work goes into being a great bridesmaid.
Since my own wedding, I've been part of a bridal party three times. Along the way, I learned what it takes to be a first-class bridesmaid, and what makes a terrible one.
When a girlfriend asks you to be part of her wedding party, consider the responsibility before you accept. Ask about the type of wedding she has in mind: Will it be an intimate backyard shindig or an upscale 350-guest soiree? Will you be expected to fly to Maui on your dime, or are the groom's parents footing the entire bill? Does the bride expect you to put in days of planning-time?
Duties, responsibilities, expenses
Traditionally, bridesmaids pay for their own dresses, shoes, makeup, hairstyling and manicure. You'll probably be expected to attend all pre-wedding parties. Offer to assist with planning the rehearsal dinner and decorating the venue and wedding vehicles. Bridesmaids may also be called upon to organize a wedding shower and stagette for the bride - or the couple.
Should you agree to be a bridesmaid, aspire to be a fabulous one. Here's how:
Before the wedding
• Offer assistance. Many anxious brides will want to control every detail in the early wedding-planning stages but, as the date looms, she's likely to turn to her bridesmaids for help. Be there with a smile when the bride starts calling.
• Be reliable. If you say you'll do something, do it. Don't add to the bride's pre-wedding-day stress by making commitments you can't keep. And if you promise something you can't deliver, find someone else who can.
On the wedding day
• Deal with the issues. When the caterer is late, you make the call. If the bar runs out of ice, send someone out to buy more. Take care of the little emergencies, preferably not to the bride's knowledge. Let her day be flawless - you can laugh about the dramas later.
• Wear whatever the bride chooses, without complaint. Be it teal taffeta or burnt sierra crinoline, it's only a dress - so zip it.
• Mingle and entertain. Ensure people are dancing, enjoying themselves and signing the guestbook.
• Check on the bride. Does she need water, a makeup touch-up or anything else?
After the wedding
• If there will be a gift-opening party, assist the host in preparing the food and decorating.
• Attend the gift-opening party and make a record of the gifts received and the gift-givers.
• Help the bride create, address and stamp the thank-you cards.
Finding common ground
Every bride has her own concept of what her bridesmaids' responsibilities will be - especially when it comes to money and time. Make sure you understand what the bride expects from you. She may be looking for more help than you can handle.
If your budget won't allow for the expenses or you don't have time to fulfill your responsibilities, talk to the bride candidly. You might be able to work something out so you can still participate in other ways. It's better to bow out early rather than shirk your responsibilities.
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