Monday, August 29, 2005
Bridesmaids 101
What would you do without your bridesmaids? These women, your closest friends and family members, have always been there for you, and now they’re going to stand up beside you on your wedding day. Sure, they’ll do their part by looking gorgeous in their gowns (ensuring that your wedding album will look lovely!), but they’ll also help you with wedding chores such as dealing with vendors, attending dress fittings and makeup run-throughs, and organizing gift bags and favors. And of course, most importantly, they’ll do everything they can to make sure you’re a beautiful, relaxed bride on your big day.

Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as assuming all of your friends are dying to give up lots of time and money to devote to your dream day. Some of them may have limited budgets, mixed feelings about losing your friendship, or simply an aversion to orchid organza. And you may have to deal with some bridesmaid issues as well, everything from hurt feelings as you decide which of your closest friends will be in your wedding party to unexpectedly jealous or resentful bridesmaids. What’s an already stressed-out bride-to-be to do?

Here are some tips and suggestions to help you solve some of the most common bridesmaid dilemmas.
  • Do I have to ask my fiancé’s sister to be a bridesmaid?
The short answer is no – it’s your day, and you are absolutely free to choose the bridal party you want. Every wedding etiquette book will tell you the same answer: ultimately it’s your decision, and you are under no obligation to include that cousin you never clicked with, your fiancé’s strange little sister, or the childhood friend you haven’t seen since high school.

This even means that you don’t have to ask someone who has included you in her own wedding. Of course, hearing that it’s technically acceptable to exclude these people doesn’t make it easier to handle the inevitable disappointment and hurt feelings your decision may cause. In some cases, depending on how many bridesmaids you want to have and the relationship you have and the relationship you have with the person in question, you may want to consider include her –after all, asking your fiancé’s sister will endear you to his family forever, and it will mean a lot to her. Who knows, maybe extending the olive branch will put an end to her bratty behavior? But ultimately it’s your choice – if you aren’t comfortable including someone for any reason, you shouldn’t, and you needn’t feel the least bit guilty.

After deciding that you don’t want to include someone who’s expecting an invitation to be in your wedding party, be prepared to talk to her about it directly – you don’t want her finding out the news from mutual friend or meddling relative. Let her know ( in a diplomatic way ) why you have decided not to include her in the wedding party. Realize that this may be an awkward conversation, and that she may be hurt. Of course, she may also respect you for your honesty, and even be secretly relieved about “getting out” of the expense and time commitment associated with being a bridesmaid. If it feels right, you may want to show her that you still want to be included in the big day by asking her to be involved in another way, such as being a reader at the ceremony.
  • How do I deal with bridesmaid who doesn’t have the money to be in the wedding?

Let’s face it –being a bridesmaid can be costly. Between the dress, shoes, hair and makeup, dress alterations, bridal shower, bachelorette party and wedding gift, the expenses quickly add up (and that’s assuming you’re an in-town bridesmaid, out-of-town attendants are also responsible for travel arrangements and hotels). For many women, these expenses can be prohibitively expensive.

To avoid an uncomfortable conversation with an attendant who admits she doesn’t have the cash for her gown a month before the wedding, have an honest chat about what sort of expenses will be associated with being a bridesmaid when you ask her to join the wedding party. Whether you’re planning on requiring bridesmaids to purchase high-end designer dresses or allowing them to select their own gowns in a certain color, be upfront about what you estimate the cost to be.

Some brides offer to pay for some or all of the gowns, and if that’s the case, you definitely want to make that known early on. Also, let your bridesmaids know your expectations for items such as matching shoes, bags, and professionally styled hair and makeup –not requiring your bridesmaids to pay for these extras keeps costs down, but if you’re expecting them to purchase these things, they need to know before they agree to be in your wedding.

If there’s one particular bridesmaid who simply doesn’t have the money to participate, you have a few options. You can give her some extra time to decide if she can handle the financial commitments associated with being in your wedding when you ask her – if she cannot afford to participate, you can afford to participate, you can offer her opportunity to be involved in another way, such as performing “honorary bridesmaid” task like mingling with guests at the reception or helping guests find their tables. You can also offer to cover her gown and other expenses (and promise not to share this information with the other bridesmaids) or simply scale back on the bridesmaid dresses or some of the extras.

  • What if my bridesmaids are all different shapes and sizes?

Choosing the bridesmaid dress is difficult because many times the bride already has her mind made up about what she wants. Unfortunately, the dress you love may not flatter the coloring, size or shape of all of your bridesmaids. The last thing you want to do is make your attendants feel uncomfortable, washed-out, or dumpy, but you also don’t want to abandon your wedding fantasy of burgundy bridesmaids all in a row. How do you keep everyone happy?

Luckily, you have many choices. You can pick the color, designer, and fabric you want and allow your attendants to choose the style that looks best on them. Or you could pick a universally flattering style, such as an A-line dress or empire waist gown, and allow your bridesmaids to select the shade of the color you’ve selected that best suits their coloring. You could also do the ‘everyone wears something black” route if you want to keep it really simple. Finally, you could also talk to your attendants before you decide on their dress and allow them to share which body parts they’d rather not showcase and then decide accordingly. But don’t stress about their preferences too much – most bridesmaids will just be happy that you’re considering their feelings at all. They know that ultimately it’s your day --- and it’s what you want that matters most. After all, you’re the one who’s going to be looking at the wedding photos for years to come, so you better love the dresses!

  • What can I do about slacker or bitter bridesmaids?

You may think you know your bridesmaids, but weddings can bring out some surprisingly intense and (not always pretty) emotions. Some of your bridesmaids may fret that your friendship will change when you become a married woman. Some single bridesmaids may become envious, as your impending nuptials remind them that they’re still single. Sisters and cousins may resent all of the family attention that’s being focused on you. These feelings may manifest themselves in different ways – some bridesmaids may “forget” to order their dresses despite your multiple friendly reminders, accuse you of being selfish or obsessed with the wedding, or simply avoid wedding-related chores and events.

When one of your bridesmaids begins exhibiting this sort of behavior, it’s best to address it right away. Often letting her know how important she is to you will encourage her to talk about what’s really bothering her. If a friend is worried that your friendship will suffer once you’re married, make plans now for a standing weekly or monthly date when just the two of you can hang out. If someone is unhappy about being single, give her the scoop on all the cute single groomsmen and wedding guests she’ll soon meet. You’re sensitivity to your bridesmaids’ feelings will go a long way to make them feel loved and understood. However, if someone is truly hostile or angry and talking doesn’t help, you should let this individual know that she doesn’t belong in your wedding party --- you should only be surrounded by those who are truly happy for you!

posted by Rainier & Katrina at 3:32 AM | Permalink |