The Wedding Series – Here Come The Bridesmaids

My best friend is marrying the love of her life.
I just got my hair and makeup done and I look incredible.
I figured out how to hide tissues in my bra. Maggie looks radiant.
The photographer just took the best picture ever of us
laughing and hugging.
I’ve never seen her look as happy as she does looking at Tim right now.
This is the best day ever.
~ The 25 Emotional Stages of Being A Bridesmaid ~ Cosmopolitan

Once the bride-to-be has chosen her honor attendant(s), she’ll decide whether she also wants to include bridesmaids in her wedding party. As stated in previous entries, the bride may choose to have any number of attendants or no attendants at all. If she wishes to have only one or two attendants she will usually designate both as honor attendants (maids/matrons of honor).

The guidelines for choosing an honor attendant apply as well to selecting bridesmaids, which normally are close siblings, relatives or good friends of either or both the bride and groom. For everyone’s comfort, those who are asked should be available, able to afford the expense of being a bridesmaid and be kind, easy-going and cooperative. You’ll want your attendants to get along like a circle of sisters, and that will take a bit of work.

Set the Tone 

Should you as the bride-to-be find yourself with a mix of bridesmaids who have different personalities, backgrounds, careers and social and financial situations, you will need to ensure that you get everyone and everything off on the right track by following these simple guidelines:

  • Gather everyone together: Invite your maid of honor (MOH) and bridesmaids for an informal, but official, kickoff gathering, just as you would in your professional life to kick off a project. This can be an afternoon tea at your home or the home of your honor attendant or, if everyone does not live in the same vicinity, a Skype get-together. Tell all how thrilled you are to have them on board with the most exciting and important project of your life so far, and thank them for their generosity of friendship and support. If not everyone is acquainted, start with introductions, put everyone at ease, then gently steer them into a conversation about your vision for the wedding. Set a tone of camaraderie and fun as well as calm, optimism and reassurance.
  • Establish roles rather than rules: From the start establish your MOH as the bridesmaids’ go-to person for guidance, and explain the importance of collaborating and cooperating with her, such as running ideas, suggestions and issues by her. In turn, your MOH can speak with the bridesmaids separately about their roles. And, of course, there will be certain items on the bridesmaids list of responsibilities — such as planning pre-wedding parties — that they will wish to discuss among themselves. In this manner, you allow your MOH to do her job and avoid sounding like you’re imposing rules.
  • Establish Communications: The combined approach of providing an infrastructure as well as a festive atmosphere will help to ensure that everyone is kept informed, up-to-date and happy. Set up with your MOH a communications routine whereby you will keep her informed and she, in turn, will keep the bridesmaids in the loop while providing you with appropriate feedback. That said, you should make yourself available to everyone when necessary and facilitate a two-way flow of information; you want organization without the feeling of a hierarchy in order to keep everyone happy and everything rolling merrily along until the Big Day. Pulling this off will be a measure of both your mettle as a good friend and your skills as a manager, and will be crucial to your and everyone else’s sanity and well-being!

A Bridesmaid’s Responsibilities

On the flip side, as a bridesmaid you have agreed to be an important part of a major milestone in your friend’s life. This encompasses more than merely preceding the bride down the aisle in a lovely dress. It’s standard operating procedure for bridesmaids to be involved in a number of events and tasks that lead up to the majesty of walking down the aisle. There will be fun, but also some work, deadlines to meet and bouts of emotions. To keep on track, you should be willing and able to devote a certain amount of time and effort to, as well as invest some funds into, your friend’s wedding; the benefits can include a great deal of fun and a closer bonding with the bride and your other friends, and possibly the making of new ones.

Being a bridesmaid should be a wonderful experience, so enjoy it by focusing on the bride and the big picture, avoid petty squabbles and overlook the small stuff. When the Big Day comes and goes, and the dust settles, you want to have friendships intact, bask in the glow of a fabulous accomplishment, and embrace a treasure trove of happy memories.

How do you get there? Following are the typical responsibilities of a bridesmaid:

  • Connects with the honor attendant (maid or matron of honor): It’s important to establish a good working relationship with the MOH, who is the chief aide to the bride. Etiquette requires that the bridesmaids run questions, ideas, concerns and feedback by the MOH to help her coordinate all the tasks for which she is responsible. This does not mean that you cannot speak with the bride directly; after all, she is your friend. But, the bride is usually under a bit of stress and can become overwhelmed with pre-wedding events and tasks, especially as the big day draws closer; things tend to run more smoothly when the bridesmaids work closely with the MOH.
  • Attends scheduled pre-wedding parties: If possible, it’s helpful if the bridesmaids attend such events — which usually include, but are not necessarily required or limited to — the bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
  • Assists in organizing the bridal shower: The MOH and bridesmaids should all be in agreement to co-host and contribute time, resources and either a group gift or individual gifts. However, if it’s not possible for all the bridesmaids to be available or contribute, the MOH may opt to host on her own with the help of the bridesmaids who can participate, or she may ask the parents of the bride and groom to assist her. While a bridal shower is not a requirement, it is a well-established custom, a lovely gesture for the bride and fun for everyone; as such, a bridesmaid should try to assist and participate as much as is practical and possible.
  • Assists in organizing the bachelorette party: Like the bridal shower, this is optional and should be agreed upon by the MOH and bridesmaids. The bachelorette party, which is held a few weeks prior to the wedding date, has been trending in recent years as a major pre-wedding event, so if there is agreement to host one commit fully to its planning and execution on the day, evening or weekend. If not everyone can contribute the necessary time or resources, the others may wish to go ahead on their own. If that’s the case, the bridesmaid(s) who cannot attend should try to participate in some way, if possible.
  • Helps with pre-wedding tasks: These might include helping to pick out the bridesmaids’ dresses, or even the MOH’s and bride’s dresses, as well as other tasks for which the bride or MOH might request assistance.
  • Stands in Receiving Line: Bridesmaids may be asked to stand in the receiving line at the wedding reception, or the bride may prefer that the bridesmaids circulate among the guests to greet them and provide assistance where needed.
  • Assists at the wedding reception: At the request of the bride, groom, honor attendants or parents, bridesmaids should assist wherever necessary. This often includes trouble shooting or helping the MOH with certain tasks that she may need to delegate, such as directing guests to the gift table, escorting an elderly guest to the powder room or looking after a small child for a few minutes while her parents take a turn on the dance floor.
  • Dances with groomsman: Bridesmaids usually dance with the groomsmen during the formal second-dance order. If there is not an equal match-up, you may dance with your spouse or date, and then take turns dancing with the best man, groom, groomsman, etc., after the requisite dances have been completed. If you wish to learn or brush up on some basic ballroom steps to give yourself more confidence on the dance floor, check with the bride or MOH for their suggestions. Many ballroom dance studios offer wedding dance lessons, or you might find some online sites helpful. If you learn or refresh yourself on basic waltz or rumba box steps you should be fine. But also keep in mind that group dances such as the Hustle and La Macarena are popular at wedding receptions, and it looks great if the wedding party participates in them. If you are a dancer, feel free to keep on dancing but don’t hog the floor; as a member of the wedding party you want to make sure other guests have a good time as well!
  • Assists / supervises children who are in the wedding party: The reason for this is two-fold: first, as a bridesmaid you will know best what is happening up to the last minute before the procession starts and are in an optimal position to help and direct the youngsters in their roles, and, two, children often are more cooperative with an adult who is not their parent. But, even with parental involvement at the wedding ceremony, bridesmaids can offer help and guidance to the flower girl, ring bearer or sign carrier(s) by providing, preparing and positioning the flower basket, ring pillow, signs and other necessary paraphernalia. In addition, a bridesmaid’s assistance might be needed to attach the faux rings to the pillow, fix hair bows, tie shoelaces, straighten ties, pin boutonnieres, dry tears, provide encouragement and so on.
  • Assists Bride and MOH with pre-wedding and wedding day tasks: During the lead-up to the wedding day and especially on the day itself, there will be much to do and it is the considerate and reliable bridesmaid who offers to help lighten the load. On the wedding day, especially, there are endless details to address. It’s very much appreciated when a bridesmaid arrives on time or early and doesn’t necessarily have to be asked but sees things to do. And, don’t forget the emotional support.
  • Offers a wedding gift: Like any other custom, gift-giving is entirely optional for everyone. But, as it’s part of the wedding tradition, you will likely want to select a gift on your own or participate in a bridesmaids’ group gift. The same holds true for the shower gift.

Financial Responsibilities

A bridesmaid’s financial obligations are essentially the same as those of the MOH. They include wedding attire, shoes, accessories, hairstyling, makeup, manicures, etc., but not the wedding bouquet, which is the bride’s responsibility. Bridesmaids are expected to pay for their transportation and other travel expenses. As well, there may be expenses associated with pre-wedding events, such as the shower and bachelorette party, although as stated these expenses are optional.

The Junior Bridesmaid

If there is a special girl in your life who is too young to be a bridesmaid but too old to be a flower girl (generally between the ages of eight to 16), depending on her maturity and availability you might consider asking her to be a junior bridesmaid. There are slightly separate guidelines for this role. They are:

  • Junior bridesmaid’s dress: It should be a scaled back to an age-appropriate version of the adult bridesmaid’s dress. If this is not possible, a different dress that coordinates with the adult dresses can work. While the adult bridesmaid’s dress may highlight womanly attributes, the junior bridesmaid’s dress should be demure.
  • Bachelorette party – not: While a junior bridesmaid may certainly attend the bridal shower and most likely the rehearsal dinner (with or without her parents), unless the bachelorette party is going to be limited to a one-day affair and involve something like an afternoon tea and appropriate theatre or concert selection or a day at an amusement park, the youngster should skip this event. An under-age girl should not be exposed to an adult party or weekend event. This might be okay, with parental approval, on another occasion; but in the overall context of a wedding certain decorum should be observed.
  • Gift-giving: She may give separate wedding and shower gifts, participate in a bridesmaids’ group gift or be included with her parents’ gifts.

Aside from the above, participating in the ceremony and helping out at the reception, such as standing in the reception line and assisting at the reception with simple tasks, a junior bridesmaid has no other responsibilities. Her parents, however, are responsible for the costs of her dress, accessories and transportation.

As a prospective bridesmaid, the main consideration when deciding to accept the bride’s invitation — other than the depth of your friendship — is your availability in time, ability and financial resources. Participating in a wedding can be a drain on all. Be straightforward with the bride if you have any reservations. Often something can be worked out so that you can participate; but if you must decline keep the door open for a smaller commitment and other ways in which you can help. If you accept the bride’s invitation, make her glad she did, and have a great time doing so!

Until next time,



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