Real Married: How To Have The World’s Best Bridesmaids

You loved Esme’s last column where she talked about her outdoor ceremony.  She’s back again, this time giving you the benefit of her wisdom with the issue of bridesmaids – rarely an easy thing to navigate.  Esme’s were incredible, looked beautiful, and made Esme’s day better for being there.  


Here’s how.  


Over to Esme:

So, bridesmaids. I didn’t want to write a long, rambling, boring post about choosing their dresses, what make-up they wore or how they had their hair. Instead, I want to focus on why I had the four girls I did with me on my day. I’m not an expert on this subject, but what I am is a girl who had the most fantastic bridesmaids on my wedding day. So here is a good ol’ list for of how to have the best darn bridesmaids ever, based on what I did and, more importantly – what they did for me:

For heaven’s sake, put them in dresses that they like. I could have killed my sister, Amy, after she said for the four millionth time ‘I’ll wear whatever you want me to. But not that’. But we persevered and she wore a dress for the first time in years and absolutely loved it.


In my opinion, bridesmaids that are all different shapes, sizes and ages look a bit weird wearing the exact same dress. I remember my Mum saying that guests wouldn’t know who the bridesmaids were if they were wearing different dresses. My response was that I didn’t care, because I would know who they were! (Also, they’d be the ones with the bouquets and walking with me down the aisle. Plus two of them were my sisters, so I’d hope most of the guests would know them too.)


Purple, yellow and turquoise are my favourite colours for bridesmaid dresses because they all stand out really well in photographs. We couldn’t have yellow because I look dead even standing next to a yellow dress, but purple is really flattering on most skin tones. Long flowing, chiffon-y dresses will make your bridesmaids feel special and, as you can see from our pictures, you can get long dresses in lots of different shapes to suit everyone.

It’s their day too. There are so many things I want to say on this point, so here is a nice little sub-list:

If you’re having your make-up done, chances are they’d like theirs done too.
 

Get your photographer to take loads of beautiful shots of them so that they can have them afterwards.

Take into account what they want and think. The best example of this is that one of my sisters wanted to stand to the side of us during the ceremony (mainly to show off her dress as much as possible!) and although I wasn’t keen at first, I loved it on the day.


My youngest bridesmaid, Hannah, is my husband’s God parents’ daughter, who he has known since before she was born and I have watched grow up. It was her first time being a bridesmaid and I wanted her to really enjoy the experience so I made sure I included her in all the plans and took her shoe shopping.


You’ve all heard it, but it really is important to choose the girls you would like to spend the morning getting ready with. And this is your one opportunity to boss them around and tell them exactly how you want things to go! I was pretty laid back getting ready for my wedding, but the one thing I did do was tell everyone to get out so that I could put my dress on just with my Mum. They didn’t like it, but they did it!


So, hand in hand with this are the girls I didn’t choose to be my bridesmaids. I chose my bridesmaids very quickly because I already knew who I wanted (two sisters, someone from Tom’s side and my best friend), but I had a huge list of people I would have loved to have included more in our special day.
Amongst them were my six university housemates, with whom I am still very close. I suppose my reasoning was that I didn’t want to single any of them out and having 10 bridesmaids would be a bit extreme. I made sure I spent a lot of time with them on the day, but the honest answer is that they weren’t as included as I would have liked but that I couldn’t see any way round this. Perhaps what future brides can take from this is that sometimes you just have to bite the bullet and realise that the choices you make for your wedding are not going to please everybody. There’s probably going to be at least one person you kind of have to pick. For me, I didn’t think twice about asking my sisters, which instantly reduced my options for the other slots. I don’t regret asking them, but I do think each bride should think long and hard about whether they really want their cousin who is always late and slags off your hair just because you were bridesmaids together when you were both 6.
 

 

Please, please remember to thank them. My girls absolutely blew me away with their support and generosity in so, so many ways. The way my sister stepped in and made the bouquets at the last minute, the way my other sister kept checking throughout the day whether I needed a glass of water, or my lipbalm, or my shrug or my flat shoes. Or the million things my Maid of Honour, Lucie, did to keep my calm and happy throughout the day, such as re-sewing Hannah’s dress sash about 40 minutes before we were due to leave and running after the mini-bus to get my brother so that he could be in family photographs. They were all so amazing and now I love them all that little bit more.
 
So that’s it. I suppose this whole column could be summed up in this one sentence – Bridesmaids: show them some love and they’ll return it ten-fold, but don’t assume that they’re going to be that different on your wedding day from how they are normally.

I’m so pleased I chose the girls I did and was very lucky that I didn’t have many issues to contend with. What were the problems you guys had, or what’s the worst bridesmaid story you’ve ever heard?

*All pictures by the very talented Martmari Photography

Categories: Real Married, Wedding Planning
11 interesting thoughts on this

11 Comments

  1. Becca
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    Right. Any idea what to dress a bridesmaid in who is an 'old 11' but who wants to wear the same as my 35 year old friends (no) and not the same (much cheaper) flowergirl dress.

    My older bridesmaids are all wearing the same as I prefer that look for only two or three bridesmaids. Two or three bridesmaids wearing different dresses looks like they didn't talk about what they were wearing. Four bridesmaids in different outfits looks deliberate.

  2. Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:52 am | Permalink

    I would either be sneaky and get your older bmaids to lavish praise on the flower girl wearing the dress you chose, so that 11 year old sees how pretty it is/wants the same praise – it would have worked on me! OR can you get 11 year olds mum onboard?

    Is there anything on the dress that can be modified so she feels more grown up? Like, taking off a sash, or adding a fab necklace jut for her?? V hard treading line of being accommodating but not cowtowing to every whim….

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  5. Posted December 19, 2011 at 8:54 am | Permalink

    Ps fab post Esme! Your bmaids looked stunning and thank you for the advice!

  6. Becca
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Bella, I've tried that! I offered the sash option and the bigger bouquet option (the other flowergirls are having circlets). If it was one of my relatives I'd tell them 'this is IT' but it's TMTMMO's sister and I think maybe I should pay the extra £150 (extra….extra £150) and have the dress maker make her something with a high two strap capped sleeve option. I just hate seeing children look like they are in their 30s.

    Esme is so wise. I was a bridesmaid for my best friend and the photographer took NO photos of us getting ready, with flowers….anything. I'm in about two photos and that's because I grabbed them and said 'can you take one of me and the Bride please'. They didn't even get us walking down the aisle. This is also the PAIR of £2,500 photographers who didn't take any pictures of the Groom's parents, the cake or signing the register. Saying that, my friend didn't even notice when they got their photos back.

  7. Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post Esme. I knew the second G proposed who I wanted my bridesmaids to be, simply they are the girls I would call in a crisis, at my worst, and they'd be there. I want them with me when I'm at my best, too because they help me to be my best. It has offended some people who wanted to be asked, but I've has to deal with that.

    Becca, I have a similar situation and have got my seamstress (who's adjusting my dress) to adapt my littler bridesmaid's dress slightly. But that was at very little extra cost, had it been going to cost hundreds I don't know if I'd have done it!

    K x

  8. Esme
    Posted December 19, 2011 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    Becca – I think you need to decide whether she's a bridesmaid or a flower girl. If she's your soon-to-be-sister-in-law then I would say she's a bridesmaid. In which case, she could have a similar dress to your older BMs. Are they all going to be wearing the exact same dress? I.e., not different sashes, accessories etc? If they are then you need to decide whether having 3 big BMs in one dress, 1 BM in a slightly different dress and then little flowergirls is that bad. I would say that it would look great.

    Making her happy is a priority. But £150? That sounds a bit much to me… Good luck!

    And yes, my BMs did look fab!

    xx

  9. Posted December 19, 2011 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

    Esme, your bridesmaids look sensational. I didn't even notice at first that their dresses were different, just that they all looked great.

    Becca, I was a bridesmaid when I was 11 (almost 12) and I actually remember it very vividly, so here's my 'two-cents' on your dilemma:

    I think with her age and relation to you, you want to make it clear that regardless of which dress she wears, you think of her more as a bridesmaid than as a flower girl. When I was a bridesmaid the bride had two older bridesmaids (in their 20s) and two younger girls (age 4 and 7). Frankly, I thought the girls in their 20s were just old, but I REALLY did not want to be seen as another one of the "little girls".

    My dress ended up being a mix of the older and younger versions. I had a rounded neckline like the younger girls (the older bridesmaids had v-necks) but I didn't have the lace hem or hoop that the young girls had (this was 1994, and the dresses were floral monstrosities). I also carried a bouquet and didn't wear a sash.

    Other things that I remember being kind of 'cool': I got to wear heels like the older girls (obviously, they were very small heels, but heels nevertheless!), I got my hair done and even a tiny bit of make up. I also got given a necklace as the bridesmaid gift (the younger girls got dolls, which I actually still have!

  10. Samantha
    Posted March 10, 2012 at 6:44 am | Permalink

    I have asked my 3 best mates from university. I am sure my sisters expect me to ask them because I was BM for their wedding, but I don’t necessarily think one has to return the favour. My girls have seen me through bad times, good times, breakdowns over bad essay grades, the mental week before the dissertations were handed in. They have seen me through bad boys and good boys and finally meeting the ONE. I don’t have that kind of relationship with my sisters, so I felt it was more important to pick my best mates.

    However, I know my sisters also want their children to be flower girls / page boys / young BMs, but I don’t want them. Partly because (and I know I am being bah humbug here) I actually don’t like the cutsie kids walking down the aisle throwing petals and looking lost because they cannot see their mummy look!! (I have to stress here, I love my nieces and nephews, I really do, I just don’t want them in the bridal party).

    Also partly because I have 5 of them altogether and the hubbie has 4. I’d feel like I ought to ask some from his side, but how would I choose?

    We also don’t have a huge amount of money to spend on dresses and outfits…. one of my sisters has an extremely tight budget and there’s no way I could ask her to buy outfits for her children, they just cannot afford it.

    Any suggestions for a compromise?

    • Esme
      Posted March 10, 2012 at 11:59 am | Permalink

      Hi Samantha,

      A tricky one, but I think you should follow your heart. Don’t ask anyone to be a bridesmaid who you don’t want getting ready with you on your wedding morning. It will stress you out if you’re not happy with the decision and that’s the last thing you need. I would include your sisters in the ‘wedding party’ by giving them a button hole to wear/tie onto their handbag etc. I also wouldn’t really mention bridesmaids to them and if they bring it up, play it down a little bit. They may be a bit annoyed on the run-up to the wedding, but I bet on the day they’ll completely forget.

      Before my wedding I felt a bit bad that the only person in my immediate family who didn’t have a role was my brother, but on the day that made no difference. He was included in pictures and really enjoyed himself. I hope that helps a bit.

      As for the little bridesmaids, I think you know that you don’t want to include them, so don’t! Suggest to your sisters that they buy dresses/outfits in the same range of colours as your BMs and say that you don’t want to give them the pressure of walking down the aisle. My sister really wanted my niece to be a flower girl but I just ignored her! It wouldn’t have worked and she stole the show anyway, as cute toddlers always do!

      I hope that helps a bit. Good luck!

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Hello! We're Clare, Aisling and Anna and welcome to a corner of the world where smart, flawed, real women talk about the bigger picture; about their experiences, stories and opinions on all aspects of being a woman today, from marriage to feminism to pretty, too.

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image by Lucy Stendall Photography

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