The old school instructions for filling your bridesmaid role are pretty simple. According to Emily Post, you just have to do the following.
Attend the bridesmaids’ luncheon, if there is one.
Supervise flower girl(s) and ring bearer(s) if asked.
Assist the bride at the reception as requested.
Participate in activities such as a receiving line and a bouquet toss.
Contribute to the bridesmaids’ gift to the bride.
She says this is “Nice, but optional:”
Host a shower, bridesmaids’ luncheon, bachelorette, or other pre-wedding party or get-together.
Now, those are your specific duties. But you know what?
You can do all those things and still be such a bad bridesmaid that you get cut out of the wedding photo that’s hung on the bride’s living room wall.
I’m not saying this because I had terrible bridesmaids.
I’m saying this because after the last 12 years of being in weddings and decorating weddings and planning and attending weddings- I think I’ve made just about every mistake there is to make.
I just thought it might be nice to give you all a heads up about what not to do.
So you don’t do what I did.
And what I didn’t.
Here’s my list of 7 Commandments to help you be the perfect bridesmaid. Ha.
Number Uno. Don’t be prettier than the bride.
Okay, none of the ettiquete guides talk about this. But while you’re thinking about tanning and updos and manicures, and whether you’re going to meet a handsome groomsman, remember that the bride wants to feel more beautiful to her groom than anyone else.
Don’t upstage her!
It really stinks for her! It doesn’t mean you can’t be pretty and presentable, but if your french tips, spray tan, hair extensions and false lashes get you to the point where you could be mistaken for Miss South Alabama Glitter Queen, you might be over-doing it. Tone it down.
I know you love looking pretty. We all do. But at the end of the day, no one will care if the third bridesmaid had perfect navy nails to match her navy sash. Sorry.
Instead, try to find ways to make her shine! Hopefully on your day, she’ll do the same for you.
Two. Don’t gossip. – be a peacemaker instead!
Ugh. This one I learned the hard way. Listen. You’re not going to like everyone.
There’s inevitably one person in the wedding party or family that is hard to deal with- and it’s easy to try to buddy up to others by commiserating about how lousy that other person is! DON’T DO IT!
I’m begging you!!
No matter howwww good it feels to vent, believe me:
Gossip and complaining only leads to strife and drama and stress for everyone- especially the bride.
As far as you are able, be a voice of peace and draw attention to things that are full of joy and life and fun!
This also applies to listening to gossip. It might feel easy and helpful to be a listening ear- but it will do the other person WAY more good if you’d change the subject to something good.
Please, please, learn from my stupid mistakes.
It’s way better to overlook the annoying things one person does, and not let it ruin the joy of the season, than to spend evenings re-hashing every little thing you don’t like.
Not only will it be nicer for the bride, you’ll find you’re having a better time, too!
Three. Keep your drama at home.
I know, I know. The wedding is not your entire life. I know.
But right now, it is the bride’s.
You just can’t add to her stress by heaping your problems on her right now. I understand- the problems you’re facing might actually be more serious than whether the ring bearer’s tux is the right shade of grey. But there’s not much I can do about that. This is a hard one.
Your friend- probably one of your closest friends- can seem selfish and, well, a lousy friend to you right now.
Wedding Brain Syndrome is a serious disease that affects millions of brides.
She’ll come back to normal in a few months. I promise. The best thing you can do is to have patience and pray for her, and seek out other sources of strength for your own things right now. I’m very sorry.
But believe me, you will be happier in the long run if you can just let it rooooll off your back for now.
Four. Be proactively helpful.
Okay. Let’s talk about actual wedding prep.
Remember that a bridesmaid is not just supposed to show up and look nice.
You should be actively involved- as much as the bride wants- with wedding activities.
This might include planning- and paying for- a shower, helping to tie fifteen hundred birdseed packets that will get forgotten at the groom’s apartment, sitting in a fitting room listening to the bride’s mother haggle over alteration costs, or listening to the bride cry because the groom wants to go to his hunting cabin for their honeymoon because it’s opening day.
Just be there.
Being there, with a calm and encouraging smile and an occasional slushie, can make a bad situation into a happy memory.
(You don’t like slushies? You want a latte? Yeesh. What are you, a grown-up?)
And here’s a biggie:
Clear your schedule the whole day before the wedding.
And when I say clear your schedule- I mean it. Just show up and look around for what needs to be done.
Iron tablecloths, hang twinkle lights, run to the store for masking tape.
Be as helpful as you can be.
Encourage with your words, your attitude- and your elbow grease.
Don’t schedule a pedicure that day- Just BE THERE for her.
And after the wedding?
BE ON THE CLEANING CREW!
I’m serious! The room where the bride got dressed is going to be a mess. Pack up her stuff as well as yours! Load up the car with the wedding gifts! Stay till the end packing up vases and vacuuming the church floor. It’s one of the nicest things you can do. And even though you’ll probably never get thanked by the happy couple, who will be gone by then-
Come in real close, I have a secret:
Shh! The most fun party is the after party!
And about parties. Number Five. Be a hostess.
During the wedding? Girls, make the party fun. It’s easy to be focused on your dress, your dinner, your date, your updo that’s falling out. It’s easy to hate the music or feel tired or be self-conscious. I know.
But I also know, from experience as a wedding guest, that the attitude of the bridesmaids goes a long way to make the reception inviting and joyful and fun.
I’ve been to at least two weddings where the bridesmaids were beautiful, aloof, and seemed to spend their time hitching up their strapless gowns and standing in a circle with their backs to the rest of the guests. They succeeding in getting admired- and they also succeeded in earning reputations as snobs. Don’t be those girls!
(Okay, sigh, I was one of those girls.)
Instead, pretend that you’re a Junior Hostess- the party is too big for the Bride to Hostess herself. You go out there! Make guests feel comfortable! Be a servant! Be friendly!
You want everyone there to remember how gracious and lovely you were at the wedding? Don’t practice posing and looking perfect… Practice smiling and greeting people warmly. 🙂
I wish I had known about this years ago.
Six. Remember that you’re to support the marriage– not just the wedding.
Okay, this is the most, very seriously important one.
Yes, you’re there for the Big Day. But if you’re standing up for your friend’s wedding, you should also be committing yourself to stand up for her marriage.
Write them down in your prayer journal- and then be faithful to remember them in prayer, before the wedding- but also afterwards! Pray that the Lord will strengthen their marriage and give them unity.
When she comes to you in the future with problems and tears, be a voice that reminds her of her vows and commitment.
Remember their anniversary and encourage her in the Word and as a wife- be prepared to uphold her marriage and turn her heart toward her husband. Have the long term in mind- be a true friend by supporting her marriage the way you’d like your own marriage to be supported one day.
And Seven. Just chill!
While on the one hand, a wedding is a big event, a major life change for your friend, full of heightened emotions and bringing out the weirdest relationship dynamics you didn’t know were there… On the other hand, all the normal relationship rules still apply!
Be patient. Be forgiving. Be helpful… but also reasonable. No matter how grand the wedding is, you still have your own life and responsibilities to care for. You can set boundaries in your life and that’s perfectly acceptable. Just be sure to have a good attitude when you can be around.
So there it is! All the things I’ve learned from being in weddings the last 12 years. And now that I’ve written it all, I wonder if I should go back and write apology notes to the brides whose weddings I was in! Yeesh.
The truth is, even with all the good advice in the world, you’ll never be the perfect bridesmaid, because nobody’s perfect!
Just remember that you were chosen because your friend loves you. And the biggest thing is to love her back.
And by the way- you look lovely in your dress, even if it is chartreuse.
PS. Bonus Tip:
The closer you get to the wedding, the less you can offer advice….
The bride wants to give a live box of honeybees to each guest as a wedding favor? I’m so sorry. But you won’t be seen as the voice of reason if you say something after the bee deposit is already paid. Just fill your purse with epi-pens and take the boyscout motto as your own.
Get it? Bee Prepared.
Okay, that’s really all.