I got demoted from being maid of honor the first wedding I was in. Awkward! I had never been in a wedding before and it was a good life lesson. The bride and I were family friends. Our grandmothers were best friends, and our mothers had grown up together. In elementary school, we sent each other snail mail and kept in touch through college. My ignorance as a bridesmaid no doubt caused her difficulty and stress. She didn’t feel supported and I wasn’t adequately performing my duties. Honestly, I was relieved to give up the title (and responsibilities of being) of maid of honor; I had no idea what I was supposed to be doing. I definitely could have done things better.
With the recent boom of engagements in our single’s ministry, I thought it would be helpful to give some practical advice on how to help upcoming couples say “I do”. I asked a couple of wedding coordinators for advice on how to be a good bridesmaid. Here are some of their tips.
Your long-term relationship is more important than whether or not you can be in the wedding. It is a sweet honor to be asked, but you should consider what is involved and the bride’s expectations for the wedding before you accept. Things like location, time of the event, traveling, expenses for your dress, shoes and jewelry, her expectations for your hair, makeup, nails, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner are important to know. Will your boyfriend or fiance be invited? (It would be nice, but the bride is not obligated to invite him.) You need to honestly assess whether you can afford the money and time commitment. Graciously asking her the right questions will help you decide if you can commit to the role.
If you can joyfully accept the invitation to be a bridesmaid, here are ways you can support the bride. Cheer her on and communicate with her regularly to see how she is doing. Pray for her as the details of wedding planning inevitably cause stress. Only give her advice if you are asked and be careful to keep critical comments and attitudes to yourself. Be positive and encouraging. It’s challenging to manage all the details regarding the dresses, the decorations, the ceremony, the reception, etc. She will already feel the additional pressure to make sure everyone is happy.
Strong or critical opinions can cause discouragement. If you don’t prefer to wear the style of dress she selects, find one positive thing to say about it, for example, “That’s a great length!” Instead of thinking, “My ____ will look so fat or ugly in that,” try thinking, “It will be sweet to see how happy she is when it all comes together. What a joy it will be to stand beside her on one of the best moments of her life!” Typically, bridesmaids are in charge of organizing her bridal shower. Others may want to give her one as well. Make a big effort to attend all the showers and events connected with the wedding. It’s wonderful if you can afford a small gift for each shower, but you are not obligated to do so. Your support and presence at each shower is a blessing. The maid of honor can find a detailed list of responsibilities at The Knot. Make sure you know what she wants before you accept so you don’t get demoted like I did.
Here are practical ways to help with the wedding.
If she asks you, go with her to try on wedding dresses and be available to try on bridesmaids dresses. Make sure to order and alter the dress within her time frame. Don’t put it off until the last minute. Help her assemble and mail invitations or offer to help make decorations and complete any crafts at least one week before the wedding. Ask her what’s on her “to do” list and volunteer to run any errands the last month of the wedding – picking up programs, delivering decorations, etc. Pay careful attention to the details of the wedding and related events to make sure you are on time and in the right place for each activity.
Every wedding has unexpected glitches, so budget extra time and be prepared for last minute errands or tasks. (My darling bridesmaids stayed up the whole night before my big day ironing out wrinkles in 10 layers of wedding dress tulle – it was my fault for not getting it professionally pressed and thinking I could save money doing it myself. ) Block out time after the wedding to help with cleaning up and picking up her personal items.
Even the most organized of brides feels stressed at some point. Being a gracious cheerleader, when that stress begins to affect her, is a great blessing to the bride. Here is a detailed list of ways you can be a supportive bridesmaid by professional wedding coordinator, Carolyn Shepherd: Bridesmaids Check List. You can also contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
What do you think is helpful to know about being a bridesmaid?