When I started wedding planning I had never been a bridesmaid. Actually, I was once when I was 3 years old, but I cried the whole day as I had to wear a peach coloured meringue dress in the blazing summer heat. But I had never been an adult bridesmaid. So when I got engaged and excitedly asked my closest friends to be bridesmaids, it was my first real experience of the bridesmaids and bride relationship.
Earlier this year an email from a bride to her bridesmaids, setting out crazy list of demands and rules, went viral. The rules included weekly weighs ins (some bridesmaids were told to lose weight and others to gain weight, so as not to be skinnier than the bride), strict bedtimes and a moratorium on tattoos until after the wedding!
This email sparked a number of news article from disgruntled, anonymous bridesmaids detailing their horror stories. One bride apparently demanded that her bridesmaid compile a shortlist of wedding vendors by the following day, despite said bridesmaid working full time with small children. Others asked their bridesmaids to pay $550 for their dresses and then later demand that they “pitch in” $150 towards the bride’s over-budget wedding dress! One bridesmaid was even told to get a breast reduction!
These anecdotes highlight how weddings can send some brides into a different dimension of Bridezilla. I find it strange to treat the people in your life whom you are closest too in this way. I wondered if these brides have any friends left after their big day and I started to panic that I would morph into a nasty bride, demanding outrageous things and becoming someone my closest friends wanted to avoid.
My bridesmaids had made up my support network for many years. They sat with me when I was crying my eyes out over a breakup as a teenager, laughed till we cried over a bottle of wine and celebrated many major milestones in my life. Why, because of the bridesmaid title, would I suddenly start treating them like a wedding planning slave or piggy bank?
I took the wedding planning process as an opportunity to bring my closest friends together. Whilst they may have met at a birthday party or house warming, it is unlikely that my bridesmaids had interacted much, as my closest friends are from various different stages of my life. So I took this chance to make my dreams of a Sex and the City style group of friends a reality.
We organised a bridesmaid dress shopping trip in London, which kicked off, and finished, with cocktails. I invited them over for dinner parties and evenings, where we watched movies and chatted. It was brilliant, spending time with all my closet girlfriends all at the same time.
What seems to easily lost during the wedding planning process is that the friends and family you choose to be in your bridal party are people, with their own life. They are likely to work full time, have their own responsibilities, plans and stresses.
I found it so easy to talk about the wedding; I probably became a complete wedding bore! This probably worsened in the final few months and weeks. The wedding can become all encompassing, the limited moments during evenings and weekends are spent checking in with vendors and undertaking DIY projects. I found I could turn every conversation into one about the wedding and had actively to stop myself. I had to make sure that I asked my bridesmaids (and other friends) about how they were and aspects of their life. It is important to maintain those friendships, as you would if you were not getting married.
Your bridesmaids are likely to invest a large amount of time and cost into being a bridesmaid and they are a special part of your wedding, so try to make them feel special. This doesn’t mean you have to spend a fortune on lavish gifts, a thank you card and a thoughtful gift can go a long way. Why not mention them by name in the wedding program on your website?
I gave my bridesmaids some robes to get ready in on the day, a little bracelet with their initial on and a thank you card.
One of the most difficult aspects of the bridesmaid/bride relationship is who pays for what? Your bridesmaids may not have hundreds of pounds to spend on a dress, shoes and a lavish bridal shower, so think carefully about what you expect them to pay for and make this clear from the outset, so they can plan accordingly. Also, be flexible; if one or more bridesmaid expresses concern about your expectations then consider whether you should adjust them.
My husband and I decided that if we were choosing elements, such as bridesmaid dresses or groomsman shoes, we would pay for it and we budgeted accordingly. If the cost of bridesmaid dresses is not within your budget, consider whether to be flexible. You could choose a colour palate and length of dress, then give your bridesmaids freedom to choose a dress they love. This means they will at least be purchasing a dress that they can add to their wardrobe and they will wear again.
I also wanted my bridesmaids to have a specific hairstyle, so I paid for it. However I did not have strong opinions on elements such as shoes, make up or nail colour, therefore my bridesmaids paid for and organised those features of their outfit.
My bridesmaids planned an amazing hen party (or bachelorette for American readers), which was abroad in Spain. They kindly paid for me to travel there and for my accommodation, whilst I paid my expenses, such as food and drink, during the weekend. This seems to be a common and workable way to deal with costs of events such as these. However, relationships may become fraught if the bride demands an expensive location or an extended event. If your bridesmaids are paying, you should allow them to organise the event and decide amongst themselves what is affordable. If you are keen on a certain type of event or location, provide a shortlist of options, but don’t demand anything unless you are willing to pay for it.
I have also heard of situations where bridesmaids have been a complete nightmare, causing a lot of stress for a bride. There are anecdotes of bridesmaids disappearing on the morning of the wedding, drunkenly telling the groom they love them and just being downright difficult! So it is not always one sided.
So if you are a bridesmaid, spare a thought for your friend, the bride. She is likely to be saving every penny towards her big day, living off a rice cake whilst going to the gym 5 times a week and still working a full time job . It is an extremely stressful time and there is a huge amount of pressure on brides today to have the perfect wedding. So even if you hate your bridesmaid dress or the hairstyle doesn’t suit you, give her a little bit of slack. She is likely to be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Why not organise a night with a bottle of wine, a romcom and some treats once in a while and just let her vent!