I’m at “that point” in my life. You know, that point where it seems like the majority of people I know are engaged, married, and starting to having babies. (I think I started the trend for that last one, but there has been a huge increase in pregnant friends in the few months since we’ve been expecting!)
Now that I’ve been a bridesmaid in two weddings, been a bride, and have been a pianist or guest in dozens of others, I feel like I have a pretty good grasp of what goes into being a fantastic bridesmaid. Since I’m the queen of stalling, and I really don’t want to pack my suitcase quite yet for one of my best friend’s wedding this weekend, (YAY I AM SO EXCITED FOR YOU AND I SWEAR I WILL MAKE IT ON THAT PLANE IN TIME!!) I’ve been compiling a list in my head of “what advice I’d give to bridesmaids, based on what I’ve done and seen.”
I’m sure you’ve seen other blogs or posts that boast having similar advice, telling you to “Support the bride on her big day,” and “Here’s your checklist of the five-hundred things you’ll need,” or “Here’s a cute project gift for the bride that will guarantee to make her cry!” (Note: Don’t do that one, heaven hath no mercy for the bridesmaid who makes the bride’s makeup run before she gets down that aisle.)
I’m not saying that these posts are bad – in fact, there is usually a good piece or two of advice buried under all the sparkly fluff of Pinterest-worthy bridesmaid photos. But I’ve found that very often, when it comes down to the rehearsal and wedding day, these tips just aren’t practical. Life happens how it will happen, and as a bridesmaid, there is a lot of tasks that you might have to do, even if they aren’t wildly exciting or keep you by the bride’s side at every moment of her best day ever.
So without further ado, compiled from my personal experiences as bride, bridesmaid, and wedding musician/guest, here is my
Disney Housewife’s Practical Tips on How To Be the Best Bridesmaid Ever!
1. Ask what you can do to help, often.
It may seem like a no-brainer, but brides get stressed out. From having too many options of what flowers to carry, to struggling with a tight wedding budget, to having a meltdown when she realizes “His family has what crazy person they want to invite? And they’re related to him?!” brides go through a lot when planning a wedding. Offer to help! Even if you’re a long distance bridesmaid, there is a lot you can do. Think of your strengths. Good with editing and computers? Offer to work up the wedding programs. Good with crafty things? Offer to help make centerpieces. Or help balance the wedding budget, or look up florists, or musicians… You get the idea. Offer to help! It doesn’t have to be specific. Just ask “What can I do?” and the bride will appreciate the help! Don’t wait until the week of the wedding to ask. Start as soon as you know you’re going to be a bridesmaid.
2. Accept the dress without complaining (to anyone in the wedding)
Bridesmaid dresses have come a long way since the ’80s and ’90s, but they’re still not always pretty. And sometimes, even if the cut is flattering, the color can be atrocious. Dear brides, I don’t care how many times you call a dress “copper.” Unless it’s got shiny bits of real copper magically made into fabric flowing down the skirt, that thing is brown, bless your heart. And no designer tag saying “copper” will change any bridesmaid’s mind about the color.
Now bridesmaids, here is your number one rule about your dress:
You LOVE your dress.
You will not complain about the dress to the bride, other bridesmaids, or anyone involved in helping the bride with the wedding. Even if they complain to you, you will find something nice to say about the dress. “Yeah, the dress is _____” will be your go-to line. Examples of fill-ins for the blank: comfortable, cool, warm, has nice fabric, is so much nicer than that last bridesmaids dress I wore (to be used with caution, especially if your brides know each other!), is a nice color, is a nice cut.
You get the idea. You love this dress. You will not burn it after the wedding. You will keep it in a dark corner of your attic for many years, and you don’t have to wear it again, but you will keep it.
Exceptions to this rule:
-If you are helping the bride pick out bridesmaid dresses, and she is choosing something that is honestly hideous–and I mean hideous, I’m talking poop-brown feather boas and puffy sleeves. Sweetly show her an alternative, or offer to try it on to show how it might not look great on all her maids, or maybe a different color, or feathers will blow away on the beach, brown clashes with the church’s pews… You get the idea. If you have to intervene, do it, but with love and sweetness, not “Ugh, you can’t pick that!”
-If the dress is way out of the modesty zone. I don’t mean an inch of cleavage you don’t like, or strapless, or knee length. If it’s those, suck it up and wear the dang dress.* I’m talking your girls are falling out, the dress is falling down (or riding up) because it’s too tight, and so short that your panties start looking like board shorts. It’s time to speak up, put a foot down, and maybe get bride’s granny in on the conversation.
-If you know a certain style dress won’t look good on the other bridesmaids. For example, two of my bridesmaids are really, really tall. So even though I liked some shorter bridesmaid dresses, I had to make sure I was going with a nice knee-length, not short cocktail skirts, since knee-length often is already cocktail-length on tall girls! If you know that something definitely is too short for someone, or know that it doesn’t come in a size large/small enough for one of the bridesmaids, remind the bride. And if her heart is set on it, help her figure out if alterations can be made.
*Sidenote: I don’t believe in making someone wear something they believe goes against their faith. If you are 100% sure that the bridesmaid dress goes against what your religion tells you is appropriate to wear, especially if the wedding is a religious ceremony, have an honest, kind heart-to-heart with the bride and tell her about your concerns. Remember, she is your friend! And very likely to make a compromise, whether it’s different lengths of dresses, or shawls, shoulder straps, etc. A true friend will understand where you are coming from, and take your concerns to heart.
2.1. Order the size dress that you measure for.
Newsflash: bridesmaid dresses are made a lot smaller than their number sizes read. So you may usually be a size 8, but the bridal shop puts you at a size 12. You know what? That’s the size that you measure for in that brand and style of dress. Suck up whatever hurt feelings you may have, because the dress maker does know best. And more importantly, your bride does NOT want to hear that your dress is too small when she told you to get measured. Because you know what? She had to do the exact same thing for her wedding gown. (Hi, I’m a size 10 and had to order a size 14 gown. Ouch. I haven’t been that size in years.)
And if you think you are going to lose weight, don’t order to the smaller weight size. Get the size you measure for now, and you can always get it altered once the order comes in. Which brings us to our next topic…
2.2. Get your dress altered.
Or at least go to an alterations appointment, even if you end up not needing anything done. (This does sometimes happen, and if the bride is happy with how your dress fits you, leave it alone!) Bridesmaid dresses are made to one standard body shape, and it probably isn’t yours. I have seen only one bridesmaid who never needed work done on her dress, and it was miraculous. Even so, sometimes the alterations person will see things to make your dress look red-carpet ready that you might not see, like making the straps lay just a little more flat, or they have a way so the bodice doesn’t wrinkle and you look thinner (huzzah!). Good tailors know what they are doing, and 99% of the time you will look, and feel, so much better about the dress and yourself if you just get it done!
And once that dress is altered, send your bride a selfie. Trust me, she is in a state of sheer panic until she has visual proof that the bridesmaid dresses aren’t falling off or aren’t being held up with safety pins because you can’t get the zipper’s sides within an inch of each other.
Okay, I’ve spent enough time on the “lovely” bridesmaid dresses, but it is a huge part of being a bridesmaid. And I have confirmation from all other brides I know, that these points are a huge area of stress for them. So did you get it? Got it? Good. On to the rest.
3. Wrap a tissue around your bouquet. If you are the Maid of Honor, wrap two: one for you, and one for the bride. No one will see them because your hands cover the wrapped tissue!
Normal Kleenex tissues work, but the best are those cute designer tissues, the ones that are made of a bit thicker tissue/paper materials and have adorable designs on them. When I’ve shown this trick to other bridesmaids, the response has always been a huge sigh of relief, accompanied by “I know I’m going to cry, and I had no idea how to get my tissue down there!”
4. Learn how to bustle a wedding dress.
There are several different ways to bustle a dress, but they aren’t too difficult to learn a day or two before a wedding. When is it hard to learn how to bustle a dress? Try right after the ceremony, when the bride is in a rush trying to get to her reception. Check with your bride to see if she has a particular person she wants to help her bustle, like her mom, a sister, or the Maid of Honor, but let her know that you can be the back-up bustler if anything goes wrong. Because guess what? Mothers of the bride tend to get pulled in a dozen directions right after a wedding, or the Maid of Honor could suddenly not feel well and have to bail… Things happen! It’s just better to know how to do this. (Hey brides: a week or two before your wedding, assign someone to learn how to bustle your dress–better yet, assign two or three, because there are a LOT of layers to work with, and you never know if your original assigned someone can’t be there right that moment when you need your bustle bustled!)
5. If something suddenly needs doing, DO IT.
The morning of the last wedding I was in, the bride realized that she had been shorted one bouquet for her junior bridesmaid. With two hours until the ceremony started, we did have some leftover flowers from homemade centerpieces. I looked at the flowers, asked the bride for some ribbon, pins, and a rubber band, and managed to throw together a decent-looking ribbon-wrapped bouquet in about 45 minutes– not too shabby for just watching the ladies do it at Hobby Lobby and perusing Pinterest! Of course, it wasn’t what the original bouquet would have looked like, but the wedding guests didn’t know it wasn’t planned. More importantly, the bride didn’t have to worry about a bridesmaid not having flowers.
Of course, stick to what you can do. If you get stuck in my bouquet dilemma but have no creative bone in your body, you don’t have to suddenly start throwing flowers together in an effort to save the day when you know it won’t turn out well. You can always go grab Aunt Mathilda, hey, we know she can do flowers and crafty things! That’s still saving the day, being resourceful and thinking through the sudden stressful situations so the bride doesn’t have to.
Here’s the catch: Sometimes, when you volunteer to do a last minute thing the day of the wedding, whether it’s making a bouquet, or picking someone up who needs a ride, or running out to get mascara because no one brought their waterproof and you can’t not have waterproof mascara at a wedding, you will miss out on some things. You won’t spend all of that time giggling with the bride while the two of you get ready. You might be the last one applying lipstick before you all run out the door to get to the church on time. You might really have to pee but not get to before the ceremony starts.
But guess what? Your dear friend who is getting married thinks that your help, especially when unplanned and in a wedding emergency, is invaluable. Those are the moments the bride realizes she can’t do it without you, and feels really special and loved that her friends are willing to go the extra mile and fix anything they can for this wedding, because they love her and are there for her. That’s why you’re a bridesmaid.
6. Don’t be *that* bridesmaid.
If you’ve already been in a wedding, you know who I mean. Unless the wedding party is pretty small, there is usually that one bridesmaid who makes sure everyone knows what good friends she is with the bride, how long they’ve known each other, makes sure she sits right next to the bride every chance she gets, tells stories about her and the bride that honestly make you wonder if you’re even good friends with her, and overall just does her best to hog the bride’s attention. Don’t be her.
Now, if you are the Maid of Honor, you kind of *have* to be that person– you’re more in charge of everyone, you’re probably closest with the bride, and you have a lot more responsibilities that mean you have to stick close to her and talk with her a lot! But it’s also your job to make sure that every bridesmaid feels included. So if you realize you’re telling story after story about “that crazy time we had,” or that the other maids have started to go quiet and just give you and the bride space, just take a minute to make sure you’re not being a bride hog.
My advice is: Be a Charlotte, not a stepsister. See how Charlotte builds up Tiana, tells her how lovely she is, give her her own dress and tiara? Because they’re best friends. Charlotte is good at being the center of attention, but for her best friend, she puts aside her attention-loving ways and give whatever she can. (A good example of a southern lady!)
(My maids were awesome, and I’m pretty sure there wasn’t one of *those* among them. My Matron of Honor was especially fantastic. She definitely wasn’t a bride hog, made sure to include the other maids when we got together before the wedding and when they were getting ready that morning, took care of emergencies before I knew they popped up, and was just overall a lovely MoH. Oh, and yes, she helped bustle. So brides, some of this just depends on who you pick and their individual personalities!)
7. It’s not about you!
This is the bride’s day. Honestly, once people see what you’re wearing, what flowers you’re carrying, see how your hair is done and figure out how you know the bride, they’re done paying that much attention to you. It’s the bride and groom’s day, not yours!
I tell you this not only as a reminder to keep your inner diva wrapped up inside, but also to remind you to RELAX. One of your best friends is getting married! Help her, have fun, and remember that no one is staring at you, but at the bride. (I actually got a cold sweat walking down the aisle the first time I was a bridesmaid… and I don’t get nervous easily!)
So remember, she is the one who is ten times as nervous as you are! If you can catch her eye during the ceremony, give her a big smile… Or stick your tongue out and make a silly face to help her relax. There are perks to sitting in the front row, after all, and one of them is all the guests can see is your back!
8. Here’s a little list of things that are generally useful to have around, not only for you, but also for the bride or other bridesmaids to grab. ** Designates things that you probably can’t bring on a plane, if you’re flying into town for the wedding.
- Bobby pins
- Fashion tape
- Safety pins**
- Straight pins**
- Scissors/pocket knife**
- Eye drops
- Waterproof mascara
- Miniature sewing kit**
- Disposable razors**
- Gum and/or mints
- Shoe cushions
9. Bring a pair of pretty flats.
Your shoes are probably adorable. Most bridesmaid shoes nowadays are no longer ickily frumpy and dyed to match your dress, but the cuteness also means they are probably way too uncomfortable to wear for more than a few hours. Do yourself a favor, and bring flats that are formal, match your dress, and change into them once all of the formal pictures are done being taken.
I hope this helps some of you! Let me know if you have any special bridesmaid tips, or tips for the bride about her bridesmaids, in the comments!