I’ve been a bridesmaid three times. Four, if you count the time I was nabbed at literally a minutes’ notice to attend the bride in a spur-of-the-moment vow reaffirmation in the middle of an historical re-enactment.
Back when I was doing this, the job was pretty easy. Basically, it consisted of: showing up on time to wedding-related functions, paying for and wearing the outfit the bride chose without complaint, smiling on the big day, and reassuring the bride after her return from the honeymoon that the wedding had been lovely whether it was or not. If the bride had any little projects that needed doing, she might or might not ask for help with them, but you were free to say you hadn’t the time or really stank at what she’d asked, but would be willing to help out with another aspect. The MOH had the additional requirements of holding any shower or bachelorette bash (usually one or the other, and usually pretty low-key), and witnessing the marriage license.
These days, one keeps hearing more and more about brides who expect more and more of their bridesmaids. So I decided to use my Google Fu and see what’s expected of a bridesmaid these days.
Apparently, these days popping the question is a huge deal. No, I haven’t changed subjects to marriage proposals. I’m talking about the bride popping the question to her prospective bridesmaids. There are now entire lines of specialized…doohickies to let your bridesmaids know that being asked is an Important Honor. Once upon a time, the question was enough to make it clear, but now there are special greeting cards; cookies; and even little chocolate headless, armless bridesmaids in tissue ‘gowns’ to help get the point across. I don’t know. The cards and cookies…maybe if the bride runs to being tongue-tied or nervous for some reason or is Madeline Bassett, but those chocolate mannequin ones disturb me.
And now that the job takes so much effort, there are websites designed to teach you what’s expected of you and how to be the bestest ever bridesmaid in the world.
According to Bridesmaid 101, your duties include not just showing up sober and zipping your lip about being stuffed into a lime green strapless sausage casing with dyed-to-match shoes, but also: driving the bride around to potential sites; helping her order decorations and somehow using your special powers to make them arrive on time; herding other, more unruly bridesmaids to be where they belong; and even helping the bride register because after all, most grooms have no interest in that. Oh, and you should also act as an usher, apparently. And sign the marriage license as a witness. My particular favorite piece of advice on what a bridesmaid should be doing during the wedding, though, has to be this one:
Make sure to take lots of pictures at the reception, wedding procession and aftarwards. Many forget to take pictures and the bride and groom will appreciate them!
Because there’s nothing like a procession of six women in matching gowns marching down the aisle snapping cameras as they go to make the event extra klassy.
The site tells us on another page (one of expenses a bridesmaid can expect to incur) that the bridesmaids must divvy up the price of the bride getting her hair done. I have no clue where this is the case, but it’s making me think I could have strongarmed five women into giving me money and then lied about having a pro in to do my locks. I am now kicking my own backside at missing this fundraising opportunity. Then again, knowing the fierce band I had attending me, I probably would have gotten said backside kicked a lot harder by them. One was wearing boots.
Bridesmaids are also (according to this site) responsible for things like airfare to the bachelorette party. Airfare? Whose airfare? Where is this party being held? I can see a rare circumstance where that might be an issue, but it seems like it would hardly be common enough to be mentioned so casually.
Of course, the MOH has all these duties and more. She must: attend all tastings, act as go-between for the bride and groom on the big day before the ceremony, inspect the sites to see all is in order, give a toast, sign the license (along, apparently, with all the other bridesmaids), and hold the money bag after (shudder) the money dance to make sure nobody steals it.
I felt much better after I headed over to BridesmaidAid. They have a sassy FAQ that’s a lot more down to earth in its expectations of a bridesmaid. Here’s their full list of the typical costs a bridesmaid should budget for:
1. Gifts: engagement, shower, wedding.
2. All of your travel expenses.
3. The bridesmaid dress and any alterations.
4. Shoes and having them dyed to match the dress.
5. Stockings, underwear, bras, etc. . . .
6. Having your hair and nails done.
They do tell you it can get mighty pricey, but I don’t see the bride’s hair on that list, and that makes it infinitely better in my not so humble opinion. In general, I found it to be far the superior site. Not only does it have much better, more practical advice much more in keeping with honest to goodness etiquette and real world circumstances (no bridesmaids acting as photographers down the aisle, for instance), it also delivers the advice in a sassy, snarky tone that kept me laughing along the way.
They even have a section for bridesmaid horror stories. If you find yourself feeling put upon or mistreated by your bride, read a few of these. You may find your woes are not as great as those faced by others…or you may find that you can top some of the stories and now have somewhere to share your tale of misery. Oh, and every fifty stories they give the author a free BridesmaidAid kit filled with useful emergency items that come in handy at many a wedding.
In general, though, you don’t really need a book or a website to tell you what to do. Just show up on time to the functions required, buy the outfit the bride wants you to wear (and that includes shutting up and getting something on your own if she tells you she doesn’t want a matching chorus line behind her), make yourself as available as you reasonably can to help out with small tasks like addressing envelopes or acting as a sounding board, and smile a lot at the wedding. Let your friend know you’re happy for her. If you do that, you’re covering your duties not only adequately, but well.