Bridesmaids 101

Friday, April 2, 2010 | by Newlywed | Labels: , , , |

We've all heard bridesmaid horror stories. Just head over to Wedding Bee's rant and vent board and you can entertain yourself with them. But I so understand how stressful being the bride can be, and your bridesmaids can be your lifesavers. But what happens when they don't exactly fulfill your expectations? What happens when they don't seem to know what everyone in the bridal world knows they're supposed to know?

Trust me, I feel the pain. But, in all fairness unless your bridesmaids have taken part in quite a few weddings, this might be new territory for them. There really isn't a bridesmaid manual we're all supposed to read, and
this isn't exactly stuff your mama told you growing up. So how are we supposed to know what being a bridesmaid really entails?

I have a confession. I was a bad Maid of Honor for my sister's wedding several years back. I was honored when my sister asked, but I was so clueless. I hadn't been a part of any weddings before then, except if you count the time when I was a 4, walking petrified down the aisle as the flower girl for my aunt's wedding. I wanted to help out, but being away in college, it was tough. I'm not making excuses, but honestly, no one really said anything or told me what I was supposed to do. Now, as I'm planning my own wedding, I wanna kick myself for not being much of a help.

So how can you avoid the drama of unmet expectations? Simply put, communication. When you ask your ladies to be in your court, make sure they know what you expect of them. Perhaps take them out for a cup of coffee after they've agreed to be your bridesmaid and talk about their responsibilities. When you do, make sure you cover these basics:

1) How involved do you want them to be in planning process? Be specific with the roles or tasks. If you want them to plan the shower and you want nothing to do with the planning, tell them. If you want them there for the cake tasting, food tasting, dress shopping, tell them. Make sure they know important dates and information. If you want them to take control over certain tasks or areas of the planning process with little direction from you, let them know. And if they can't fulfill your expectations, they need to tell you. I've heard of brides making a notebook of responsibilities for their bridesmaids. I send them periodic emails to keep them posted. But true, even when you tell them once, you may have to keep reminding them. Even though your mind may be racing with invite fonts, flowers, first dance songs and chicken or fish, doesn't mean their's is.

2) Straighten out budget issues early. As bridesmaids, they're probably going to have to shell out some money, whether it's for their dress, shoes, jewelry, bridal shower, bachelorette party, etc. Make sure they know what you expect them to pay for and what you are covering, if anything. Make sure they're ok with the amount of money they'll be asked to spend. Talk to them about their budget as well. With the economy being the way it is, I knew I couldn't ask my ladies to purchase a $300 dress on top of hair and makeup, among other things.

3) Establish attire details with them. I've never been a fan of making my bridesmaids wear a dress without hearing any type of input from. But if you are doing so, make sure they know that's what you plan on doing and they're OK with it. It's just not cool to surprise them with a dress you they're not willing to wear. If you tell them, "Wear anything you want," make sure that's what you really mean. If you plan on letting them choose their own gown, let them know of any specific requirements you might have (sillouhette, color, fabric, etc) before they surprise you with a gown you loathe.

4) Talk about wedding day tasks. Lay out in specifics what you want them to do, where you need them to be and when. It will be helpful to fill them in on the overall schedule and details of the day, so when it comes time, you can relax!

5) Be honest with them. If you're uncomfortable with a suggestion or the way they're handling a situation, talk to them about it. I read about a bride who was stressing big time when her MOH took over the wedding decor and colors into a look entirely different from the bride and groom's initial vision. Sure, it's nuts, but it doesn't help just to stew over it. Remember whose wedding this is and no one should make you feel pressured into something you don't want. Chances are, she doesn't even know it's bothering you that much. Make sure you tell her you appreciate her help, but you'd like to do things differently.

6) Hear them out. I know it's your day and it's your wedding, but you should listen to your bridesmaids' needs as well. When one of my bridesmaids hadn't picked out or ordered her dress yet, I panicked. I thought perhaps her interest in being a bridesmaid was waning and it hurt my feelings. After talking to her, I realized it wasn't lack of interest...she had been suffering through major morning sickness in her first trimester and was stressing out with board exams! In that case, I was able to be more understanding of her situation and offered to help her out as much as possible.

7) Show your appreciation. I'm not just talking about bridesmaid gifts (and I don't think the more money you spend on them always equates to how much you appreciate them). But remember, you asked them to be your bridesmaid. They are doing a lot for your day--whether it's expense-wise, or helping you plan and prepare leading up to the wedding and/or on the day of. Sometimes a little gesture here and there and a word of encouragement can go a long way. Chances are, your bridesmaids might not all know each other. It would be nice to take them all out for a little treat (coffee, dinner, lunch, maybe a spa day?) during the planning process for a little bonding time. This can help relieve tension and/or drama that might occur down the road.

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