B is for Bridesmaids (are their own people)

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B is for Bridesmaids (are their own people) by Anonymous

*Readers, there is another B is for Bridesmaids post coming up today at 3pm!*

I wanted to be a bridesmaid from childhood, from the minute I laid eyes on American wedding movies in the Nineties.  The lucky characters who were part of a gaggle of girls clad in identikit meringue dresses were completely idolised by me. They looked so cool! It looked so fun! Yes really…. Fast forward twenty years and the bridesmaid wish came true…although I have to say my views on wearing a sickly sweet blamange style dress had moved on somewhat!

So today, with both my bride and bridemaid hats (fascinators? headpieces?!) on, here are some of my ramblings on bridesmaids – a trickier subject than some people realise!

In my opinion it is ace to be someone’s bridesmaid- such an honour- and it is ace to have bridesmaids yourself- supporting you on your big day. BUT it’s not for everyone.

Some things to keep in mind:

Not every woman’s dream is to be a bridesmaid.  This might be you and you might know you don’t want to do it. This is completely acceptable. Have the confidence to politely decline explaining kindly that it’s not for you and you are happy to support in other ways.

Not every bride necessarily wants to have bridesmaids. This is perfectly reasonable too. Don’t feel coerced by society/family/friends – do what you know is right for you. I know brides who’ve gone against the grain on this and I love them for it.

And there is a more complex issue out there – there are brides who end up asking too many, or the wrong people, either out of excitement or obligation.  Take my newly engaged friend – she caught the bug of asking pals to be bridesmaids and ended up with seven of them! Too many can detract from you being supported and can create a large amount of work in trying to co-ordinate what is pretty much a military operation! Another friend impulsively asked her oldest childhood friend who she’d lost touch with – and unfortunately the friend was desperately unhelpful throughout the process and it seems rather like she didn’t want to take on the role and should never said yes in the first place.

I do think that some of the reasons above can lead to a rocky road further down the line, so if you have doubts as either bride or bridesmaid do think things through carefully before you take the plunge with the asking or accepting.

Once the asking and accepting is out if the way, and you’ve started out on the bridesmaid journey, there can be some tough navigating to be done ahead. It might sound pessimistic but preparing yourself for this is really sensible.  In my case, I thought it would be easy peasy to be a bridesmaid and completely plain sailing – it didn’t cross my mind that with potential demands on finances, time and energy that it’s not always as straightforward as just helping your friend and having a fun time. Like in those bloody Nineties movies.  You sometimes find that the most laid back of friends are different once they start planning their wedding, that their values about weddings are different from yours, and they potentially have expectations of you you might not have seen coming.

So let’s all get some perspective on what can reasonably be expected of bridesmaids! I’m going to be blunt! Read on!

Bridesmaids’ Roles

I’ll say it right away. Bridesmaids are not wedding planners. Anna K taught me this and I now take a firm line on it.  Unless bridesmaids are very keen to co-plan with you, I think you can’t reasonably ask them to work for or with you on wedding planning. Bridesmaids are there for moral support, a listening ear and advice where necessary. If you get stuck, though, of course you should ask your bridesmaids and other close friends – just make sure it’s a ‘would you mind…?’ rather than a ‘can you…?’ – so they can politely decline if they have too much going on in their own lives.

Who Pays for Bridesmaids?

Big issue this, and a frequently googled question. What do you do about the bill for bridesmaids dresses? Shoes? Hair and make up? Accommodation? I think it depends on individual cases. If you’re having a lavish expensive wedding it seems a bit tight not to extend some of that budget to the bridesmaids. Equally if you’re having a low cost day and you aren’t asking specifics from your bridesmaids eg particular pricey dresses then them paying seems to work as long as they can adapt what they buy to fit their budget. And splitting the costs seems fair in lots of instances. I just want to make the point that proceeding with caution is important- it’s wrong to expect bridesmaids to buy a particular dress out of their own money, and perfectly reasonable of bridesmaids to offer to buy as similar one as possible that they can afford. We rarely know the full extent of one another’s finances so it’s sensible to not make judgments as to whether someone can or can’t afford something.

Time Constraints

Bridesmaids have their own lives, jobs, families, worries. Even the most well-meaning bridesmaid can’t dedicate as much time to thinking about you and your wedding as you will! Just keep this in mind and try to give advance warning of anything you’d like them to be at (dress shopping etc) – this will be hugely appreciated especially if they live a long way away or have busy lives.

Opinions

Lastly I just wanted to highlight that a few friends of friends have taken offence to their bridesmaids expressing opinions on outfits. There’s one who was furious at the fact that her bridesmaid didn’t like the dress she wanted her to wear. Let’s all be grown up and reasonable about this. Life is life  whether there’s a wedding going on or not, and bridesmaids will have their own body issues and worries, and, frankly, opinions on whether they look ok in a certain dress or with a certain hairstyle. As long as both parties are willing to be kind when expressing their views, and willing to compromise, this should avoid any resentment….because resentment is the last thing you want!

I’ll get off my soapbox now. Here’s to being compassionate, considerate friends aware of what’s going on in each others lives and not imposing too much on one another whether we are the bride, bridesmaid or have another role in the wedding.

Categories: A-Z of Getting Married, Wedding Planning
6 interesting thoughts on this

6 Comments

  1. Zan
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    All fabulous advice I feel :) And def. things I’ve thought about as I’ve started planning a wedding!

    Re: bridesmaids roles, I’m already very conscious of not asking too much of mine. I’ve had friends treated as glorified wedding planners before and it’s not fun if it’s not something you want to do. That said, I do have Mahj: sister, Chief Bridesmaid and wedding sidekick extrordinaire (I’m considering getting her business cards!)

  2. Laura
    Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

    This is excellent, I think every bride-to-be should read this before recruiting, especially (easier said than done!) before the excitement takes over and you’ve asked every woman in your life!

  3. Posted August 30, 2012 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

    I echo what Laura said – every newly engaged bride-to-be needs to read this post! The origin of the tradition of bridesmaids was to outsmart evil spirts set on cursing the newly-wed couple, eeek! But that’s no reason to treat your girls as your own personal slaves. I’ve been lucky to be a bridesmaid twice for two wonderful friends who never once asked too much of me and I hope I will act the same when my time comes next year!

  4. Posted August 30, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Top advice, Zan, thank you!

    I’ve never been a bridesmaid (sob) but having been a bride I know I’d work my arse off for anyone who might choose me in future. Remembering they’re your friends first and foremost is the key for me. You wouldn’t make unreasonable demands of your friends, so why do that to your bridesmaids? Great advice!

  5. Peridot
    Posted August 31, 2012 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    I am constantly astounded by some of the assumptions wedding mags make about the bride imposing her will on her bridesmaids; for instance I read “consider allowing your bridesmaids to have their hair the way they want it”! It wouldn’t have OCCURRED to me to do otherwise!

    I’d love to be a bridesmaid but my friends are all married. Such a shame. (For me, that is!).

    Finally – eek! Hadn’t occurred to me to pay their accommodation. I bought the dresses and only bought ones they liked – none of this “this is what you’ll wear” – but am letting them wear whatever accessories they like.

  6. Lara Blue
    Posted September 4, 2012 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Great post, thank you. I’m with you on carefully choosing your bridesmaids- I managed to avoid that minefield by having both my sisters and my fiance’s two sisters who were all delighted to be asked. I think as long as you discuss it and tell them what’s expected and listen to what they’re saying, then you’ll be fine (eg. I paid for dresses, shoes, cardigans but gave them a budget; I let them choose dresses in a colour range as I wanted them to be happy/comfortable; one has been very involved with planning along with my mother-in-law as she has the most spare time and the rest don’t etc.). I also explained to my friends that whilst I would have loved to have them too, I would have had far too many bridesmaids, and they were all fine with it because I sat down and talked to them about it.

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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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