The Proper Care and Feeding of Bridal Attendants

A great deal has been written about the duties and obligations of members of the bridal party. Less, however, seems to have been written about handling them so they are still your friends once the birdseed and rose petals have been swept up and life returns to normal. Here are a few tips to help you be remembered as the best bride ever by your nearest and dearest.

1: Consider your attendants’ pocketbooks in choosing the wedding party look. If your attendants have large bank accounts, high-paying jobs or trust funds, you can choose those $500 meringue gowns and the designer tuxes without a blink. But the rest of us do need to consider how to get the look we’d like without breaking anyone else’s budget. Remember, you’re within your rights as the bride to demand elaborate updos and matching makeup…but unless you’re willing to pay for it be prepared either for mass mutiny or someone dropping out because the price of being honored as one of your closest friends has gotten too high.

2: Be clear about what you expect of your wedding party. If you are planning on getting a lot of practical help, let them know. If all you expect is that they’ll show up at the wedding venue on time in the outfit you have chosen, let them know. Remember, if they are going to be helping ferry you to appointments or making decorations, they need to budget the time to do so. And if you expect nothing beyond them standing at your side, they need to know that so they aren’t panicking that they aren’t doing enough.

3: These are your nearest and dearest, not your galley slaves. Even if you’re having a completely DIY wedding, don’t simply expect your bridal party to spend their every free hour doing projects for your wedding. Ask for their help, certainly, but make sure they know it’s okay to say no. Nothing loses a friend more quickly than a long list of requirements delivered in a demanding tone. Chances are if you ask them, they’ll be happy to help out, anyway. After all, these people love you.

4: Be flexible where you can. If all the bridesmaids detest the dress you’ve chosen, consider an alternative. If you’ve got a vegetarian Best Man, think about not holding the rehearsal dinner at your favorite steak house where the only thing on the menu he can eat is a small green salad. If the ring bearer or flower girl gets the jitters at the last minute, have a plan b in place to cope. Yes, it’s your wedding, but others still have feelings, beliefs, and nerves.

5: Have some topic of conversation other than the wedding. Please. Yes, it’s your wedding and it’s all-consuming to you right now. But when it’s over, you have to come back to the workaday world. It’s easier to do that if you haven’t lost either perspective or all your friends while you’ve been wandering around in a wedding miasma. A lot of brides speak of feeling as though they’ve fallen off the edge of the world once the wedding is over. This happens a lot less to women who’ve talked to their friends about work, politics, favorite TV shows, and a host of things that have nothing whatsoever to do with centerpieces and orders of service.

6: Remember that extra parties are extras. Don’t complain because your MOH didn’t throw you a huge shower and an elaborate bachelorette party. These are optional extras that come out of her pocket. If she keeps them low-key or chooses to forego one or both, that is her choice based on her financial situation. You don’t get to plan these parties; they are thrown for you or not at the discretion of the potential hostess. Also, you may request that the bachelor party not be about strippers…but you don’t get to plan that one, either.

7: Thank your bridal party often. People are willing to put up with a lot more if they feel valued for it. Two little words aren’t difficult to say, and yet we all too often forget to make the effort. So when your bridesmaid with the perfect handwriting helps you address invitations or a groomsman goes out of his way to help you find the perfect flower girl’s basket, or the ring bearer makes it through the whole rehearsal without playing catch with the pillow, thank them. And when it’s all over but the honeymoon, take a moment to thank each member of your wedding party for their help and support.

That way you’ll come home to find your closest friends are still your closest friends.

bride and bridesmaid hugging

11 Responses to “The Proper Care and Feeding of Bridal Attendants”

  1. Melissa says:

    As a repeat bridesmaid, I have one more addition to #2 … tell your bridal party *exactly* what you expect them to pay for and *exactly* how much it will cost. Miscommunications over the price of the dresses or who’s paying for the professional makeup artist/bachelorette hotel rooms/other associated wedding things can lead to annoyance and bad feelings.

  2. Never teh Bride says:

    I would add “be forgiving.” Remote attendants may not be able to fulfill those roles typically taken on by ‘maids or ‘men. Some may have less money or time than others, so there will likely be times during which certain attendants are in the trenches folding programs while others are still on shift at second jobs. Don’t favor those that just happen to have more time or money to contribute.

  3. Have things changed a lot in the past 25 years? Or was I just lucky? I was a bridesmaid in several weddings in the mid and late 80s and all I was expected to do was to buy the dress and show up for the rehearsal and the wedding. Maybe my friends are all really low-key or maybe weddings weren’t such a production back then.

    It might not have been such a bad idea to have a stylist do our hair and makeup, though. I look back on those photos and shudder. I never have been able to dress myself.

  4. Never teh Bride says:

    Depends on who your friends are, class-factotum. My friends never asked me to do anything in particular, and I didn’t ask my maids to do anything other than show up with a dress early enough to make use of the stylist…but some people expect a lot from their attendants. You’d be surprised!

  5. Molly says:

    Yeah, things have changed a lot. I think the biggest change has to do with who finances the wedding and how much it costs. A lot of brides I’ve attended fall in love with the 40k weddings they see on TV and in magazines and then realize they can’t afford it all. If they are reasonable, they change their expectations. If they aren’t… some of the price tag rolls down hill. I actually had a MOH tell a bride I was attending that I should step down if I could afford the price tag. Mind you, this was after three occasions on which she stuck me with 1/2 or 2/3 of a big bill that was supposed to be smaller and a three way split between attendants. So I would add to expectations: make sure your honor attendants know very clearly what you expect from them and the other attendants so you don’t get surprised by your closest friends and family having huge cat fights at your reception. (No, I didn’t do that but it was such a close thing.)

  6. raincoaster says:

    Golly, I think I’ve discovered why my “Clean Slate” platform isn’t working in the long run.

  7. Anon to protect the not so innocent... says:

    Oh I wish my friend was reading this–actually I wish she’d read it a few months ago! I’m a bridesmaid in her wedding which will be happening very soon and I must admit I’m feeling more resentful than excited about any part of it. The costs have been totally out of control and the fact that I was never asked about any of it really makes me mad. I’m coming from out of town so I’m already paying several hundred dollars for a flight. She decided she wanted her shower (which I couldn’t attend) at a restaurant and the MOH informed me that we the attendants were throwing it. I was never asked if I wanted to split the costs. I was just sent an email by the MOH lining up my portion of the costs (significantly over $100). The dress was $200 before alterations and in my opinion is hideous. It’s sooo bridesmaidy that there’s no chance I’ll ever be able to wear it again. It’s floor length but we still had to get dyeable shoes (even though the color we’re dying them is an easy color to find shoes in and I even have leather shoes in that color) The part that’s really put me over the top though is that I was informed that I have an appointment for an updo and that it’s going to cost me $50. I’ve always been under the opinion that if you’re going to ask a bridesmaid to do something like that, you have to pay for it. I have thick curly hair that is very easy for me to put up so that it looks professionally done. I always do my own updo’s, but when I said this I was told that this wasn’t optional.

    Uggh…sorry to rant, but this is one of my pet peeves and I’m right in the middle of it now. It’s going to cost me well over $1000 (and that’s before the gift!) to participate in this wedding and as a grad student, that’s a real hardship and it doesn’t leave me with good feelings about the bride.

  8. La BellaDonna says:

    Anon, are you familiar with the saying, “Your presence is gift enough?” Well, if you weren’t before, now you are. NO bride who is imposing those expenses on her bridesmaids (especially a student!) should expect more than a smile (however forced), and a card of congratulations.

    I fear that otherwise, under the circumstances you’ve described, it might well be considered a “parting gift.”

    (Still choking over where the bride decided where SHE wanted her shower).

  9. Never teh Bride says:

    Sounds like you’re dealing with a bride with entitlement issues, Anon. Or at least a bride who is too wrapped up in her own wedding to see that she is imposing, however unintentionally, upon her loved ones. Have you tried gently voicing your concerns?

  10. Kit says:

    Fantastic list. Fortunately I’ve never been burned on the level of Anon (who should be nominated for sainthood!) but the first wedding I was in was a definite collision of me having no idea what I was responsible for and a MOB that was a bit out of control. It was a fairly standard case of hideous dresses and horrendously expensive designer shoes to match. I actually refused to buy the shoes – I was a college senior looking to grad school and every month was a challenge to keep my bank account from hitting negatives. Designer shoes just weren’t in the equasion. In the end my mom bought the shoes to keep peace with MOB (the bride was in total shock and just counting the moments until she got her life back) and I’ve never worn them again – the cheapest shoes from payless were more comfortable and (quite likely) more attractive.

    Seriously, a reading of this list (or one like it) should be required by all involved in the wedding (since it’s not always the brides themselves that run the show – MOBs can be quite territorial!) prior to all else. Life would be so much saner…