When I picked my bridesmaids, it took relatively little debate. I had a core group of ladies who surrounded me with love, and while it was more difficult to lower it down to four (and then raise it to five when I told Mr. Library I wouldn’t leave out a friend just for symmetry’s sake), I knew I made good choices. My ladies were awesome, beautiful, and the best women I could have asked to stand up in front of friends and family with when told Mr. Library “I do.” Though they looked a lot less confused when I asked them to be there…
When Mrs. Sox asked me to be her bridesmaid, I was psyched. I had no idea what went into being a bridesmaid, but I did know that I was going to try my best to be a darn good one. I put a lot of time thinking about different details of her bridal shower and how to make her wedding day to Mr. Sox super special, and I think all of my hard work was appreciated.
When Ms. C got engaged, I was ready to be the best cheerleader around, title of bridesmaid or not. It doesn’t matter if you get to wear a coordinating dress and stand up in front of the crowd; when a friend gets married, you support that person. In my book, that’s the end of the story. It was just icing on the cake when she asked me to be her Maid of Honor (yes, I’m married, but I despise the word “matron,” so I pretend it doesn’t exist). I was happy, and I’m pretty sure she was happy that I had said yes. Everything was going great, right?
Well, maybe not. Other potential party members hadn’t answered her question yet. What took me 2.3 seconds and lots of jumping was taking them a few weeks. What gives?
A lot of different scenarios, actually. While not everyone shares my enthusiasm for all things wedding related, there are other reasons to think long and hard about taking on the role of a bridesmaid. Brides get lots of advice on how to select, ask, and work with their bridesmaids, but there aren’t that many guides for considering if you want to be a bridesmaid. It is, after all, a big responsibility with quite a few financial obligations. So what should bridesmaids think about?
1. Budget – Do you have the money to be able to give this your all? Before you read into putting budget first, hear me out. Money definitely isn’t the most important factor of life, and it certainly isn’t the most important factor in being a bridesmaid. Time is the most important (see #2), but for some people, time equals money. As a bridesmaid, you have certain roles you need to play. You need to be the lovely lady who stands up in front (or sits in the front pew) wearing the dress the bride has deemed appropriate and to her liking. With bridesmaids’ dresses going into the $300 category from some designers, it can be a hefty chunk of change for a dress. On top of that, you may have to pay for shoes, jewelry, makeup, and a hair stylist. Add to that the bridal shower costs, the bachelorette costs, shower and wedding gifts, and any other parties you decide to throw for the happy couple, and it adds up. Fast.
Some brides are amazing people and understand this whole money-suck concept. It has become more popular for brides to just give their ladies a color and length of a dress and tell them to run with it, find a dress that works within those boundaries and that fits into your budget. Others have opted to ask bridesmaids to wear black dresses, items they may already have so they don’t have to buy anything else, or shoes that generally fit a predetermined color scheme. When I was planning my wedding party’s outfits, I just told them I wanted the shoes to be silver. I didn’t care if they were flats or heels. They could be new, old, used, ruffly, textured… whatever.
Find a way to talk to your bridesmaids or bride and talk about money expectations. If you are a bridesmaid and you are clear that you definitely want to be a part but funds are short, it’s helpful to the bride. Being open from the beginning makes the experience better for everyone.
2. Time – Where did it all go?
Being a bridesmaid seems like it involves a medium amount of time. You have spend time picking out dresses, perhaps having a “get to know the bridal party” luncheon or party, planning and hosting the bridal shower and the bachelorette, and, of course, being in the wedding. But there is so much more to being a wedding party member than that. The bride is probably going to need help on certain projects, a shoulder to lean on and/or cry on when planning gets stressful (which it will), and more than one trip to pick out and order bridesmaids’ dresses. The planning of the shower could take multiple meetings, not to mention shopping trips and lots of “homework” time for picking the theme and venue. If you are the MOH, you should be available to go on different errands with the bride and groom if they ask, eating up more weekend time especially as the wedding gets closer. The wedding weekend (or week of, depending on the size of the extravaganza) includes rehearsal, rehearsal dinners, running around to vendors to pick up anything last minute, the wedding, and any after-parties or get-togethers. The medium amount of time just turned into a much larger endeavor.
This sounds cruel, but if you cannot put in the time to help out the bride and your fellow bridesmaids, don’t say that you will be one. It’s just not fair. Sure, you may love the bride, but it won’t be fun for anyone if you are constantly trying to duck out of your time responsibilities. I had a large problem with this with one of my bridal party ladies, and trust me, it was awful. Realize that sometimes wedding errands pop up and you need to be flexible about it. Not everything can be planned a month in advance.
At the same time, brides need to be democratic and realistic about their expected schedules. Not everyone is going to be able to drop whatever they are doing to scour racks of shoes for the “perfect wedding pair” with you. Sorry, it’s just not always possible. Make sure your ladies (and gentlemen if it suits you) are aware of the top time priorities so they can put them on their calendars. Also, give them lots of notice in advance if possible.
3. People People – Go team!
This one is short. If you don’t get along well with others, don’t be a bridesmaid. I’m not sure why you would be one if you didn’t (maybe it’s a family obligation?), but be open to communication and ideas. Be friendly. Realize that others have ideas, budgets, and feelings too. It takes a team to get the wedding to go off without a hitch; no one is trying to show up the others (if you are, seriously… knock it off!).
4. Boy/Girl Toys – You may have to drop the “+1”
Some weddings just don’t have room on the guest list to allow bridesmaids to bring a date. It sucks, but it happens. If this is a job killer, say no. Don’t whine and hint and make a spectacle because you can’t bring Jim Bob (wow, your boyfriend must be a red neck…). For brides, I would recommend seeing if you might be able to squeeze in those +1 invites for your bridal party just to make it more of a party for them. Think of it as a small “thanks” for all of their hard work.
5. People are watching
You will be up in front of the ceremony with the bride. Can you handle that? No, the spotlight won’t be on you personally, but if you don’t like attention, being a bridesmaid may not be for you. Perhaps you could ask to be a smaller helper instead, helping to hand out programs or arrange decorations before the ceremony or reception. No one likes to pass out in front of hundreds of people, so know your showcase limits.
There are, of course, hundreds of other thoughts a girl might have when it comes to making a bridesmaid decision. How well do you know the bride? Are within a reasonable distance to make it to the wedding? Can you afford to travel? Do you believe in marriage enough to be there (I haven’t run into many people in this camp, but they could be out there)? Are you even available to be at the wedding? The point is, you need to think through all of your options before honestly committing.
But please. For the love of Pete. Don’t make the bride wait three weeks for an answer!