So you’re going to be a bridesmaid - now what? Whether you’re a worried bestie who’s not sure how to help their friend have the best overall wedding experience ever, or a concerned bride who isn’t sure what to expect, it’s good to know what’s normal and what’s not. Here are some top tips from the Bride Tribe team on common bridesmaid duties, the 'whys' and 'whens', and 'what not to do' in the coveted role as the bride or bridesmaid. Here’s to a smooth wedding and a bonding experience like no other!
It Shouldn’t Become A Second Job
Once you say yes to the bridesmaid dress, it can soon seem like your princess bride is expecting you to take on a second, unpaid job. Of course, shouldering some of the work, planning, and expectations for the wedding comes with the title, but it is important to keep it grounded and manage the expectations of what you can manage. We all have busy lives to lead, and sometimes other priorities, like little ones and work schedules, to consider.
So, as a bride, it’s great to be honest and transparent from the start. If you need your maids to pay for certain items, or are going to be crazy upset if someone dyes their hair pink, put that on the table from the get-go. This allows people to understand exactly what they’re committing to. We’ve looked at sweet ways to do this graciously and gently before, if you need some tips.
The Must-Do Bridesmaid Obligations
That said, there’s a few things that every bridesmaid should expect to be on the table. Unless your bride specifically says no, don’t be surprised at these, and don’t tell her you’ll be there for her if you don’t intend to meet at least these obligations:
1. The Dress
Some brides are able to chip in for items like shoes, makeup, or hair, and others may expect you to self-fund it all. Hopefully, you’re all on the same page about these items, too. But saying yes to being a bridesmaid comes with the implication you’ll be buying your own dress. On the bride’s side, it’s important to make sure your expectation is reasonable. At the very least, let your potential bridesmaids know the ballpark you’re expecting them to spend on this item.
2. The Party
Traditionally, it’s down to the Matron/Maid of Honour to plan the bridal shower, and the bridesmaids to help it bring it to life. This includes collecting the funds from the rest of the squad, organising the location, making bookings, decorating, giving feedback, and offering ideas. Obviously, not everyone’s on the same sort of budget, so it’s good to be honest about this from the start, too. Remember, it’s not the only thing you're splashing cash on! Brides, remember not to get upset if it's not what you wanted, unless you were explicit about your expectations for your pre-wedding events. They’re bridesmaids, not mind readers!
3. The Rehearsals
Aside from the bridal shower, there are some other key pre-wedding events you will be expected to attend. These can vary slightly by culture and area, but expect to be a key part of the bridal shower and bachelorette (if she’s having both), wedding rehearsal, and rehearsal dinner at the very least. We know that work-life schedules can get hectic, but do everything in your power to be present for these. While a brand-new baby (and we mean brand-new, not just a little one, you can strap on some dancing shoes for a bit even with young ones at home), a sporting event you’ve been training months for, or a critical work function may have to take priority, do whatever you can to be part of all the fun, and party-pooper excuses are not acceptable.
4. The Logistics
You’re there to support your bride, so expect there to be more obligations than just the dress. You will likely need to make a plan for your accommodation, food, and so on the night before the wedding if it’s heading out of town. If you can’t make an out-of-town or destination wedding, be honest from the start and don’t take the role. Otherwise, expect to take care of yourself for at least that critical pre-wedding night.
5. The Day
Yes, you have to be at the wedding. And yes, that means from getting the bride into her dress before the ceremony right through to dancing it up at the reception. The bridal party will be a key mood-setter for the whole day, and remember point 3? No party-pooping allowed! It’s a long day, we know, but that’s why your special bride asked you to be with her.
6. The Support
Planning a wedding is hard work and your bride is going to need to let off steam now and again. Obviously, you don’t want to listen to a 24/7 rant-fest, but it’s critical you allow her some kind of safe space to get it off her chest. Being supported by the bridal party is more important than you may realize. It's possibly one of the most important roles you have.
7. The Photos
We hope this goes without saying, but yes, you will be in the wedding photos. Yes, this could take a while, and mean standing through some entertainment or snacks for the other guests. Yes, you will need to take direction, and no, you won’t be the star of the show, no one cares what your best angles are. If you’re nursing or have little ones at the reception, hand them to your partner or a willing helper. Let your bride have this moment to shine bright like the diamond that she is - the photos will provide the single most lasting memory she has of her time. Be a good sport, and don’t steal the limelight from your leading lady.
What’s On The Maybe List?
So those are the key expectations every bridesmaid should be prepared for. In a world where the term ‘Bridezilla’ gets thrown around a lot, however, what’s a reasonable extra ask and what’s taking things a step too far? Let’s take a closer look.
1. (Some) Extra Costs
While the dress is a given, it’s not unreasonable for the bride to need you to commit to other parts of your look on the day. This includes shoes, hair, and makeup. That said, she can’t just assume you can bankroll a ton of expenses on her behalf. Hopefully, you have a great relationship with each other and you’ve already spoken about this honestly, including ballparks, but it’s not out there for the bride to ask you to cover these at a reasonable amount. If it’s out of your budget unexpectedly, keep it classy and let her know in a kind aside, don’t make it all about you or stir up the rest of the bridal party with a bitch fest behind her back.
2. Other Key Events
As we mentioned, what constitutes a vital pre-wedding event will vary by culture. There can be other important events than those we mentioned, including an engagement party, that matter a lot to the bride, and it’s natural she’d want you there to celebrate with her. These are more reasonable to turn down- after all, we only have limited hours in a day- but it’s perfectly acceptable to hope you’ll make it a priority.
3. Getting the Dress (and the Rest)
Yup, that dress. Finding her dream dress is going to be a very important part of the bride’s wedding experience, and she will want her besties there to help her. If she’s the sort of bride who’s going to burn through 10 boutiques in a day and still want to try number 11, it’s reasonable of you to sit a few out, but c’mon- this is a big, big part of her special day, so try and suck it up. And if there’s other key accessories to shop for, from shoes to veils, try and be a good sport. You’ll get extra bridesmaid points if you run interference on a mum or mother-in-law who’s getting stroppy about the experience, too.
4. And Your Dress
Your bride can, if she wants, just pick the bridesmaids’ dresses herself, and there’s nothing over the top about that. Every bride has a theme and a look in mind and it’s her big day. But it’s getting more and more common to ask her bridesmaids for input, knowing this is a cost for you. Be gracious about this. There’s likely more than just you in the bridal party, and you still have the bride to consider, too. Don’t take this as a chance to start listing off your dream dress and refuse to compromise, but do chip in with some guidance and thoughts if she’s seeking them.
5. Helping Out
As we mentioned above, this isn’t something that can become your second job (unless you’re game for that), but there’s nothing unreasonable about leaning on your bridesmaids a little. If the bride asks you to help out with a couple of tasks, try to be her support at this frantic time. And if it’s something you can’t do - you’ve a new baby at home or hard hours to work, or you’ve just reached your limits- be gracious and kind. She’s your friend, and she’s reaching out. Don’t be that person who said they were willing to do anything, then bitches through it all.
6. Give a Gift
Yes, we know, you’re throwing down a lot of dough already and it’s not even your wedding! But it is your friend's (hopefully) once-in-a-lifetime celebration of true love. A shower and a wedding gift don’t need to blow your annual budget, but it’s a nice touch and a sign of your well-wishes. One of the best ways to do this is to get together with a group gift. So chat with the other maids about the budget beforehand, and organise something extra special pooling all of the funds together.
7. Public Speaking
If the mere idea of this has you wetting your pants, then just let the bride know. While most of the speech duties fall on the Best Man and Matron/Maid of Honour, there might be a need for a bridesmaid speech or two, so if you’re comfortable, put your best foot forward and prepare something well ahead of time.
8. Sit Where You Are Sat
Weddings are super romantic, we know, but it’s still your bride's special day. Sit with the wedding party without fretting over your plus one, and even if he’s on the groom’s side, don’t canoodle and exclude the rest of the posse until it’s later in the reception and you’re free to enjoy.
9. Try Not To Make Big Changes
Life happens, we know, and you can’t turn down the job of your dreams, or skip over the birth of a baby, because of a friend’s wedding. However, understand that you signed up to be a key part of a very major life event for someone who’s probably very special to you, and try to keep that in mind. 2 months before the big day is not the best time to take your hair off the charts and try a vibrant pink or cut it ultra-short if you know she’s expecting brunette updos or adding a full new tattoo sleeve would not be a wise move. Also knowing that her wedding’s not the place for your big proposal or announcement, and if you’re trying for a baby, give her the heads up when you say yes. If something unexpected happens, let her know as a priority, and if she asks you to step out, try to take that graciously.
And there you have it! These are the most common asks a bride will have of her bride tribe throughout the wedding planning period and leading up to the big day, so be ready for them when you say yes to the honour of being a bridesmaid. And remember, if you have a problem- especially if it’s budget or schedule- be entirely open, honest. Open communication goes a long way to sorting out a problem and maintaining your friendship. Hopefully, your bride will be as honest and open when she asks you to join the party, too. Don’t assume your bride is going to be a Bridezilla right off the bat! Being a bridesmaid can be a big commitment, but it’s also a lovely way to be a cornerstone of a best friend’s special experience. The Bride Tribe team wishes you all a joyous happy bridal experience!