I love this article! I am going to be a bridesmaid for the first time and i am so honored! I know a lot of craziness went down but we're all better off! ;) 83 days to go! Love you Marie!
The Surprising Truth About Being a Bridesmaid
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Your friend calls and says she has news. After a suspenseful pause, she screams “I’m getting married!” After telling her how happy you are for her (you are, right?), she says there’s more. “Would you be one of my bridesmaids?”
Your immediate response is yes, of course. But what are you really getting into? There’s more to being a bridesmaid than showing up for the big day in a peach taffeta monstrosity and walking down the aisle. It can be an extremely fun and memorable time for you and your engaged friend, but, before you commit, take the time to learn what it’s all about.
What exactly is a bridesmaid supposed to do?
“The basic principle behind being in a wedding party is general support and advice to the bride...calming her, helping with plans and sending her off into her new life and letting her know she’s loved (corny, but true),” says Catie Royal, 23, who has been a bridesmaid three times already and has two more stints on the way.
Most of the support you’ll be giving as a bridesmaid is emotional. Even the most organized brides might have a breakdown or two—and when she does, she’ll most likely call you to make her laugh and reassure her that the wedding will be perfect.
Aside from being a shoulder to cry on, another (potentially more fun) part of your duties is to plan the bridal shower and bachelorette party.
As a bridesmaid, you are also expected to provide some financial support by paying for your wedding day outfit (dress, shoes and jewelry) and travel expenses.
Wait, you mean I have to pay for things? Like what?
Weddings are expensive for everyone, including the bridesmaids. Christa Vagnocci, Senior Editor at TheKnot.com, says bridesmaids can expect to spend $1,000 to $1,500 on the wedding. Here’s a breakdown of what you’ll be shelling out for:
The dress: Vagnocci says the average price is $300
Shoes: Unless you convince the bride to let you wear ones you already own, you’ll need new ones.
Accessories: Sometimes the bride will give her girls the jewelry she wants them to wear as a gift. However, that’s not always the case, so set aside money for baubles, purses and/or wraps.
Travel: If you live far away from the wedding site, this can get pricey. You’ll need to pay for airfare, hotel and a rental car if necessary.
Gifts: You’ll need to get the happy couple engagement and wedding gifts and bring a gift for the bridal shower.
Bridal shower/bachelorette party: These fun events are your responsibility. While you can ask guests at the bachelorette party to pitch in (just make sure to do it before the party so they’re prepared), you can’t ask bridal shower guests to help pay.
Hair and makeup: Sometimes brides will foot the bill for this, so tactfully ask before the big day.
If you’re a cash-strapped bridesmaid, don’t start panicking just yet. Be honest with your friend and tell her what you can afford. She obviously wants you to be a part of this wedding, so you should be able to work out some compromises.
What happens on the wedding day? Do I become a beck-and-call girl?
In a sense, yes, but since it’s for your friend it won’t be so bad. Bridesmaids are expected to get themselves ready (on time) for the wedding and help the bride get ready and run any last minute errands she may have.
At the reception, you’re an unofficial host. This means it’s your job to get the party started (by hitting the dance floor) and keep it running smoothly (by mingling with guests, helping them find the restrooms, etc.). You’ll also want to keep an eye on the bride and groom. Many times they’ll be so busy they won’t have time to eat, drink or even sit down. Help them out whenever you can.
“Take a lot of pictures! Brides have a hard time capturing all the fun moments at the wedding because they are so busy, so being able to look at photos your bridesmaids took is really fun,” says recent bride Nikki Hanley.
Vagnocci says if you want to be a super-star bridesmaid, bring the following with you the day of the wedding to help the bride: face powder, oil-blotting papers, bottled water, mints, Band-Aids and tissues.
“My bridesmaids all made me feel so beautiful on my wedding day—they were all smiles and compliments and seemed like they were having fun—it made the whole ‘backstage’ part of the wedding so special,” Hanley says.
My friend asked me to be the maid of honor; does that mean I have a bigger job?
With the top honor comes more responsibility. Maids of honor generally are in charge of the bridesmaids (making sure they’ve all ordered their dresses and show up on time for the wedding). They also get the honor of acting as a witness when the couple signs their marriage license.
The task of planning the bridal shower and bachelorette party also falls on your shoulders. While you should certainly ask the other bridesmaids for help, it’s up to you to lead.
I love my friend, but I just can’t do this right now. How can I (nicely) turn down an offer to be a bridesmaid?
The most important thing is to be honest with your friend and tell her why you can’t do it. Sometimes the problem can be worked out. If it’s a money or time issue she may be able to help. If it’s because you don’t agree with whom she’s marrying or something serious, then realize that your friendship might be damaged if you say no, but you have to do what’s right for you.
Michael Lasky, who runs the site bridesmaid101.com, offers some advice for those embarking on the bridesmaid journey:
“Remember it’s the bride’s day, no matter what anyone else wants—ultimately it’s her day and you want to make it the best day possible for her,” Lasky says.
P.S. Ever wonder where those crazy traditions come from?
You know the phrase, “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue,” right? Well these objects are thought to bring the bride good luck if she carries them on her wedding day and they’re usually given to her by family and friends right before the wedding. This British tradition says that the old represents continuity, the new is for optimism, borrowed is for borrowed happiness and blue is for purity, love and fidelity.
Another tradition is the bridesmaids all dressing alike. In the past, bridesmaids dressed like the bride to confuse evil spirits that might wish to harm her. These days it’s more for aesthetic reasons. And catching the bouquet? Traditionally, the girl who catches it is the next one to marry—so if that’s your goal, good luck!
Photo by Jennifer Evans, Candy Apple Photography