While wedding parties today are a bit more ornamental, the coveted role of bridesmaid was originally conceptualized to fulfill important wedding-day responsibilities. Historically, ‘maids wore white, to confuse vengeful spirits (or actual jealous ex-suitors) who planned to attend the wedding looking to cause the newlyweds harm. British weddings typically include a more youthful entourage, since children are said to symbolize a fruitful union. In the age of corsetry, a bridesmaid’s purpose was far more practical–back then (and even nowadays) it was physically impossible for a bride to dress herself, and those in the upper echelons of society wouldn’t ever dare to try; case in point: Downtown Abbey.
Nowadays, brides have a slightly different approach; some abide by the ‘more the merrier’ social creed, inviting everyone they’ve ever met to be in their bridal party. Others opt for a small, curated selection of friends and family. Whether you’ve chosen three or thirty of your closest friends to walk down your aisle before you make your entrance, there are less exciting aspects of bridesmaid-dom that your friends are masking with far too many emojis. As a 12-time bridesmaid (and counting), I’m happy to demystify the allure for anyone longing to join in on the shower planning and create a safe space for emotionally, financially and, in some cases, physically scarred bridesmaids everywhere. Here, the 8 things your bridesmaids aren’t telling you (but are likely hashing out at happy hour).
Bottom line: sometimes, no. I don’t want to be your bridesmaid. But, I am more than happy to help you with seating charts, come to your gown fittings and be (gently yet) brutally honest and assist in keeping your mother and future mother-in-law or both as far away from you as possible. Sometimes, it’s because I don’t really know you. We were either once close and are no longer (and that’s ok!), are distant cousins or are somehow six degrees socially from one another–but that does not make us best friends, or sisters, or long-lost soulmates. Saying no requires a slightly awkward conversation of thanking the bride for the kind invitation, explaining that while you are on board for all of the helping, support, cheerleading and stylistic help she may need along the way, you lack the time and the means to support her in the way she needs right now. Translation: spare me the financial burden, social anxiety of making nice with your long-term friends and the potential deep-seated hatred I will feel when you show me the dress you’re insisting will look amazing on all of our figures. Our friendship might not survive the next few months if you put me through the peony-filled, blush poly-chiffon, Swarovski crystal-encrusted ringer.
2. The dress.
Let me cut to the point: conventional bridesmaids dresses are terrible. And it’s highly likely that the one you’ve chosen is something I would never wear—let alone something you would want to wear. Brides who couldn’t get ready for their first dates, first day of high school or anyone else’s wedding without asking my opinion of their ensemble somehow think they’ve managed to discover the perfect dress for me–and five of their other friends–in the most putrid shade of coral, blush or beige the world has ever seen. Help me help you; let me choose what I feel best wearing in the color of your choosing. On the day of, you won’t care what I’m wearing, but in that synthetic, paper-thin, poorly made gown that truly cuts me in all the wrong places, I’ll feel worse about myself than you’d ever want me to. Reformation offers a great selection of slip dresses, printed boho looks and overall super-chic options for those looking for something more traditional—but a reminder to brides, the brand doesn’t flatter all figures. At the end of the day, nothing makes a bridal party more interesting and dynamic than letting your girls choose their own dresses. Stress that they can buy it from anywhere as long as it’s seasonally appropriate and falls into an overall color scheme. Try handing out a cute card with a small gift that outlines your cheat sheet: give each bridesmaid a swatch of your gown, paint chips of your desired colors and a request to wear shoes in 2-4 color variations. Putting the ball in your bridesmaids court and being open minded to their personal styles within your wedding-day palette will relieve extra ounces of bridal stress–#squad goals.
3. Hair and Makeup.
While offering your bridesmaids the chance to get their hair and makeup done is a lovely gesture, don’t make it mandatory. Hair and skin are personal choices; do not, unless you’ve been asked for your preference, tell me (or anyone else you love) how to wear my hair or dole out makeup requirements. Don’t make us have to go off into a corner with a few bottles of Champagne to vent about your antics, you’re better than that.
4. Your registry.
What I’d really like to do is buy you something you will use forever that your fiancé, who means well, missed as he was getting scanner gun-happy in the home furnishings department. Instead, I have to buy you this dish rack that you claim to need but will likely never use. Each time you choose to hand wash dishes rather than using your dishwasher, hopefully you’ll think of me.
5. Yes, you’re overreacting.
…but I’d never let on that I feel that way, and I’d never say it to your face mid-meltdown. It’s my job to navigate how to best translate the broken sentences and gestures you’re using to explain your emotional cocktail to your florist, caterer and month-of planner, but if you cry we will get nowhere. The reason you think your gown looks different in your first fitting than it did when you purchased it is because it does. Wedding gowns are made to order, not made to measure, and you are at the crux of the relationship between the bridal salon and the designer, who didn’t exactly replicate the gown sample you tried on to start. You’ve also lost or gained weight that your seamstress clearly did not account for. We will fix everything if you keep calm and cool. With that said, the centerpieces you are freaking out over were the exact thing you claimed you wanted from the start. Calm down. It’s all going to be okay.
6. Transportation and accommodation.
How am I getting everywhere?! Where am I staying?! Your bachelorette party upstate, welcome dinner, rehearsal dinner, morning hair and makeup sessions, after party and next-day brunch all sound awesome, but since your venue isn’t a residence or a hotel and the closest B&B is 20 minutes away, how would you like me to make it to and from your numerous affairs without a DUI? Think about the logistics of your wedding as though you were me–how would you get from your palatial bridal estate to my scary inn and back again? Odds are, if you have to ask, you should be providing transportation for your guests–or making sure Uber services the area—and booking an affordable room block for your guests at a hotel you would consider spending the night in and shuttles are the best way around this. Booking a separate shuttle and reserving rooms for your bridal party is the right thing to do; don’t let your maid of honor be the one forced to stay at an Airbnb 45 minutes away because she was late to book.
7. I am not a millionaire.
I cannot afford to be your friend right now. Between your engagement and wedding gifts, the aforementioned horrific dress you’ve forced me to purchase, the shoes I had to buy in the perfect shade of nude, my flights, hotel rooms, Bachelorette weekend accommodations, bottles of Champagne, the sex toy your other bridesmaids were too shy to purchase for you and a dozen dinners, spa treatments, manicures and blowouts in between, I am stretched thin. In fact, there is a slight chance you are driving me towards personal bankruptcy. Thank you so much for the invite, but I don’t think that last minute pre-wedding trip to St. Barths is going to work for me. Respect that your wedding is something I would have loved to splurge on, but have spent too much on, and tailor extra requests, added purchases and “just because” trips with that in mind.
8. You might regret this.
Not your wedding! Your photos. All of us lined up beside your designer gown in our heavily coiffed, overly made up, bridesmaid dress-clad glory will (hopefully) have you regretting some of your style decisions. Let your bridesmaids who know how to self-style choose their own hair and make up, and generously guide those who don’t with compliments and encouraging suggestions (i.e. I loved your hair at that wedding! That style would look amazing with your dress). Opt for candid photos and sentimental moments that aren’t staged and keep in mind, you are who you associate with, and if we look cheesy then it doesn’t say much about your taste level. Some of us are single–we were actually hoping to socialize at your wedding!–and this is not our best look. If I saw myself on a dating app right now, I would make a hard swipe left. It’s in your best interest that we look our best. Trust us, you want to be a bride with a chic squad.