Bridesmaid 101

kate-moss-sept-vogue-bridesmaids

This may seem trivial and self-centred, but I’ve always wanted to be a bridesmaid. As a child I didn’t once dream about my own wedding day, but I coveted the pretty, flouncy dresses that bridesmaids got to wear and the beautiful bouquets they got the carry. I wanted to do that so badly. “One day”, I thought, “one day it will be my turn”.

But it never was.

I have never been a bridesmaid. I’ve never planned a hen do, held the bouquet for a friend while she said her vows, or had to make a speech. And I’m not going to lie, I was starting to feel a little left out.

So you can imagine my extreme elation when my best friend from University, Carly, asked me to be her one and only bridesmaid when she came to visit last week. In fact I was so excited that the very next morning I was on the phone to a local bridal boutique to see if we could get an appointment to start dress shopping! I am taking my role very seriously as you can see.

I am a massive research nerd, so the next thing I did was to Google “bridesmaid duties” and “things to remember when you’re a bridesmaid.” Sure I might work in the wedding industry, but I want to make sure I do this thing right!

However I was disappointed to discover that nearly all the bridesmaid advice style articles I found on my internet travels came with a heavy dose of snark. What to do if you hate your dress, how to deal with a feuding bridal party, just how much it’s going to cost you… ugh, how depressing. This is not what I wanted to read at all!

So as the antithesis for all those awful articles, here are the real things you need to know if someone has asked you to be a part of one of the most important days of their lives.

Realise that it’s not about you

Your main duty is to help the couple in the lead up to their wedding; it’s not just about wearing a fancy dress and looking pretty! There are lots of little things you can do to assist, so be proactive. Offer to be the one to make the appointments, run errands, stay up late addressing invitations, organise a craft party to make these 100 metres of bunting that she has her heart set on…

Making the process easier and less stressful for your girl is your main prerogative. She’ll have a million things to do throughout the planning so anything you can take off her list will be massively appreciated.

Start with the fun stuff

I don’t know if it’s just me, but I always want to do the fun stuff first! And by fun stuff I of course mean dress shopping! It was the first thing I did when I got engaged and so it was the first thing I suggested Carly and I tackle too.

When it comes to finding that dream dress, all girls are different. She might be a super-eager forward planning type, or a more reluctant, slightly clueless babe. The key to being an awesome bridesmaid is knowing what kind of help your girl needs from you.

I don’t think Carly will mind me saying that she was crapping it about the whole dress shopping thing. She’s gorgeous, but she was stressing about not liking any of them and looking totally ridiculous. Now, I knew as soon as she tried some on she’d a) realise that they’re not as terrifying as she thought and b) that she’d look beautiful in them all. So, my first plan of action was to get her into something big and white so she would realise just how fun this whole wedding planning thing can be.

And it worked! After our appointment last week she turned to me and said “Well that wasn’t too bad, I actually liked a couple of them. I can’t wait to do it again!” RESULT!

By starting with some tasks that you know the bride will enjoy, you’ll help to elevate the “holy-shit-I’ve-got-to-plan-a-whole-wedding” pressure. If you have a nervous bride on your hands, start with the fun stuff – the dresses, the cake, the food tasting! Who cares about doing things in the ‘right’ order? Start with whatever you think she’ll most enjoy and take it from there.

kat carly

Don’t be a dress diva!

By all means, if she asks, explain to the bride what your preferences in dress style and colour are. If she’s a good friend she’s hopefully going to do her best to get you in something you love anyway.

However do not lay out a list of demands. Remember, this is not all about you! If you’re lucky enough that the bride is letting your pick your own dress, then by all means have some fun, but if you’re given some constraints on the colour or style, work with it and for goodness sakes be gracious. Bridesmaidzillas can be even more terrifying than bridezillas you know!

I’m not going to lie, I also started looking at dress options for me pretty much straight away as well (hey, it’s good to know what’s out there!) and although I’m convinced I’ll probably opt for something off the high street, this bridesmaid’s dress from Review actually caught my eye. I love the colour (that blue with my pink hair? Oh yes!), it looks flattering and easy to personalise.

Start thinking about the hen do

Organising the hen do (bachelorette party for my American readers) will probably be one of your biggest tasks as a bridesmaid, so start thinking about what you might do early. It’s important to consider who the bride might want there (her mother? old school friends? work colleagues?) as well as the kind of budget people might be able to spend.

I’m not going to lie, I started to whisper “Las Vegas” in Carly’s ear pretty much as she told me she was engaged. The soundtrack to our University years was Britney’s Toxic, so going over there to see her show might just be the most perfect idea ever.

Be emotionally supportive

No matter how organised a couple might be, wedding planning is a massively stressful undertaking. They face so much crazy stuff that things can escalate very quickly. Soon enough they’ll be fighting over seating plans and bickering over the choice of band.

As a bridesmaid your biggest job is as an emotional support system. You should be available for midnight phone calls, constantly ready to dole out that advice, and help the bride see some perspective when it all gets too much. Keep on checking in with her. She might need a laugh, or a cry, or a night out on the town! It’s your job to call and ask her how the wedding planning is going and to see if you can help in any way.

If you are also a bridesmaid this or next year then I am so excited for you too! As a rookie, I’d also love to hear some advice from anyone with more bridesmaid experience than me. Is there anything I really need to consider next?

16 comments

  1. Gem

    Most important thing I learned in my experience as a BM was to appear unflappable, even if inside you are having a massive panic. also that toner (as in cleanse, tone and moisturise) gets both mascara and liquid eyeliner out of the whitest of veils. That is all ;-)

  2. Rachel Graham

    I’m just trying to remember what was hard for me at my wedding and offer any helpful advice. Most brides just want a happy smooth day and that takes organization. I learned that it is possible to keep everyone reasonably happy as a bride and my goal now is to help my friend have a great day like I did :)

  3. I find bridesmaids can be at their most helpful during the day when it comes to photos, helping round up family members and positioning the brides dress/hair for official portraits, and generally being on hand. (groomsmen are usually worse than hopeless as they see their duties as over once they’ve given out the order of service to guests!) As a wedding photographer I always try to get on the good side of bridesmaids as they are super helpful and tend to be more on hand for the bride throughout the day. ‘Mon the girls!!

  4. Fairy_Marlene

    I will be a Bridesmaid for the 5th time in March. My advice is give the Hen Do all the personal touches you can and get a budget before you set your heart on something. On the day, don’t start drinking until after the meal when you are finally off the hook for sorting out any emergencies!
    But most importantly enjoy sharing every tear, every smile and every moment with your best friend. It really is the most special time for her and getting to be a part of the journey is wonderful.

  5. Aw thanks for this Kat. I was starting to wonder if being a bridesmaid is an awful ordeal, thanks to the amount of bad feeling there seems to be on the tinternet. Buzzfeed’s recent list, for example, made me really sad. I hope my bridesmaids are happy and looking forward to my wedding, not dreading it!

  6. Carly

    Dear bridesmaid. Only just seen this and wanted to say….
    1. I’m so lucky to have you
    2. Please don’t stress over your ‘duties’ I just want you there!
    3. That dress is fit. You know I don’t care what you wear as long as you’re happy. But I also know you will see at least 10 more you want before the day :)
    4. Vegas 2015.

  7. ashley crikelair

    I’ve been a bridesmaid, maid of honor, and bride, and i think that the biggest thing is being excited for her. she is dealing with countless decisions and potentially relationship/family drama over the whole thing, and sometimes it just stops being fun. it can make all the difference to have someone on her side who reminds her that she is fabulous, her choices are perfect, and that you are excited to be part of her day. she’s likely going to have a ton of people question her decisions (esp if she is a rock and roll bride!), and it’s nice to have at least one friend who doesn’t rain on the parade at every turn. and by the way, if you’re looking to become a bridesmaid, it helps to start by being happy for your newly engaged friends. it’s the best feeling when someone responds with matched enthusiasm to something so important to you.

    oh, and try not to be a brat about trying on a million dresses or what she makes you wear. the first thing i always say is that i’ll try on whatever and wear whatever, and you can just see stress melt away knowing that there will be one less difficult bridesmaid.

    have fun!

  8. My favourite thing to do for a bride is a memory book: all the hens bring old photos and write a short message/letter to the bride and then you put it all together and give it to her on the morning of the wedding. Means all her favourite ladies get to be there, even when they can’t actually be there.

  9. Vicky Prodrick

    Definitely be unflappable on the day. When I was recently bridesmaid we went to get the bride changed into her evening dress and unzipped the dress bag to reveal a bunny rabbit onesie (we did a onsie shot inspired by one on here). Calmly one bridesmaid gave the underwear clad bride more wine will I went to track down her dress with the mother of the groom who was mortified she had given us the wrong one. After much rummaging in the car by the flash light ap it was found and all was well and no one was any the wiser. Making lady gaga bacon hairbands was also one of my duties! Have fun and go with the crazy!

  10. Lo

    I think you meant to say “alleviate,” not “elevate” the stress levels. ;) love this blog!

  11. Mark

    You are SO right about that blue with your hair. For our wedding we chose a fabric and then let each of the BMs chose their own dress design. The wonderful dress designer/maker (Naomi Gibbs, Portsmouth, England) who brought my wife’s wildest imaginings to life for the bride’s dress, then did the same for the BMs.

  12. Mim

    Love this blog! I have been a bridesmaid 3 times (not sure if that will mean never the bride??!!!) As and adult bridesmaid twice I think I learnt it was important to be the rock to your bride, especially when the brides have a lot of bridesmaids! I think you have to learn to be very diblomatic in some areas and kind of be piggy in the middle between the bride and her maids. Another thing I thought was imnportant was to be honest with your bride, sometimes companies can be very pushy and you can get very overwhelmed. I felt it was imnportant to be on hand, support my brides and make sure everything most importantly was love and fun and everything will turn out great one way or another, as long as you have your nearest and dearest with you, everything else will be fine! Loved and honoured to carry out my bridesmaid duties!

  13. Bex

    Something to note as well is ask her what she wants out of you. I have no desire to have a hen party, won’t be having flowers and I’ve know what dress I want for years so it’s all about being there and helping out with hair and makeup which I have no clue about.

  14. Sara

    I want to second what Bex has said! I had a bad experience as a bridesmaid where some ideas that I had months and months in advance of the hen party didn’t materialise. The problem was that the bride was adamant that she was the most laid-back bride ever and just wanted everyone together, so I thought that she wasn’t that bothered about having organised fun and went with something a little more go-with-the-flow. Turns out she did want the organised fun, and I was then resented for not delivering. Our friendship didn’t survive. So my biggest piece of advice is ask your bride what she wants and tell her you want her to have exactly what she wants, but that you’re not a mind-reader. You can only do what the bride wants when you know what the bride wants! Great article. I’m going to be Maid of Honour for someone in the next year or so, and I’m determined that she have everything just as she wants it!

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