During my senior year of college, my best friend got engaged to her college sweetheart and asked me to be her Maid of Honor. I was, of course, thrilled to accept—hadn’t we been clandestinely planning her wedding for years anyway? Hadn’t I already rehearsed a tearful toast in my mirror? How hard could being a bridesmaid really be?
Turns out, even putting your fear of traditionally ugly dresses and Bridesmaids-worthy absurdities aside, a fair amount of responsibility goes along with being a bridesmaid. So, if bejeweled hands and save-the-dates are popping up everywhere among your friends, now’s the time to figure out what exactly you do (besides don a matching dress) when you’re in a wedding.
The Early Days
When your friend first gets engaged, she’s got all the fantasy and fun of the pending wedding—without the reality of tension and expenses. So, while she’s still perusing wedding magazines and Pinterest, start some planning of your own.
First things first: Set your own budget. Weddings can get very expensive very quickly. Consider that you’ll be buying a bridesmaid dress (possibly shoes and accessories, too) and that you’ll likely have the option (or be required) to pay a hair stylist or makeup artist on the wedding day. Add in wedding and shower gifts, the possibility of hosting a shower or a bachelorette party, and any travel expenses, and that can be a sizeable sum.
So make sure you know how much you want to spend, and make doubly sure you set that money aside in the coming months so you’re not shocked at your depleted bank account on the wedding day.
If you’ll be traveling to the wedding, book your flights far in advance to get the best deals, and schedule time off from work ahead of time.
A Few Months Before the Wedding
Some brides want to do everything themselves, and others love to have their bridesmaids there for visits to venues, music planning, and flower selection. Don’t be offended if your friend doesn’t ask for your help or opinion; but if she does, give it! And, remember that she may be overwhelmed with logistics and expenses, so don’t just blindly give the thumbs up when she’s genuinely asking for advice.
This same logic applies to the search for the bridesmaids’ dresses. When my best friend got married, she (bless her) agonized over finding the perfect dress—by style and by price—for her nine bridesmaids. She truly wanted her bridesmaids to like the dresses she chose and, possibly, to wear them again. Your friend will also probably want you to wear a dress that you actually like, so don’t be afraid to weigh in on the color, the cut, or the price.
That said, don’t be a bridesmaidzilla—when all is said and done, it’s the bride’s decision, not yours. There’s a difference between being practical and sharing your thoughts (“beige might not be the best color for all of us,”) and just being difficult (“if you pick a strapless dress, I’m not coming!”).
A Few Weeks to Go
A few weeks before the wedding, you’ll likely be coordinating with other bridesmaids to plan extra festivities for the bride. If you are one of a group of bridesmaids that knows the bride in a specific capacity—high school friends or family members, for example—consider joining together to throw a shower for the bride. (That said, if you don’t have the time or funds, you’re definitely not required to. You should, though, attend at least one of her showers.)
Even if you don’t plan a shower, you’ll definitely be involved in the bachelorette party. When planning your friend’s last “night out” as a single lady, keep her preferences in mind: If she’s not the type to go totally crazy, don’t arrange for a stripper to pop out of her cake. There are lots of other ideas, like a bar crawl, a spa day, or a fun girls’ weekend in the mountains or at the beach, that will make for a great event.
Finally, this is crunch time for wedding planning, so ask your friend is there’s anything you can do to help. If you’re local, you could assemble favors or help with seating; if you’re not, offer to put together a day-of emergency kit or call any guests who haven’t RSVP’d.
The Big Day
This is it. On the day of your friend’s wedding, you have one job: Be her friend. This is one of the happiest days of her life, and you should help her relieve stress and enjoy the celebration as much as possible.
First off, that means be on time. Show up when you’re supposed to—at the rehearsal dinner, at the dressing room, for pictures, and for the ceremony itself. If you’re getting ready together, be extra considerate by making sure she has plenty to eat and drink, offering to run any last-minute errands, and being within cell phone reach at all times.
Most of all, take a few minutes before she walks down the aisle to tell your friend how much she means to you, and how glad you are that you’re part of her wedding. At the end of that special day, whether you’re the bride, the groom, or the bridesmaid, it’s all about the love.
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