It’s just not a wedding without bridesmaids. Whether you have one or 10, they’re the ladies who are going to make sure you have an awesome bridal shower and a bachelorette party you, inadvertently, may not remember.
The bride/bridesmaid relationship is a tricky one, though. You already have a solid relationship with these women, yet you are asking a lot of their time and resources in order to be in your wedding.
We found and answered 10 of the biggest questions about bridesmaids. How many do you need? Who should even be one? Can you ask them to go tanning before the wedding? Everything you need to know is below.
1. Q. Who should I ask to be in my wedding?
Your wedding party should be made up of people who play an important role in your life: your sister, your old college roommate, etc. The party can be as big or as small as you like, just know you don’t have to ask your entire sorority pledge class, no matter what you promised 10 years ago.
2. Q. When should I ask people to be in my wedding?
You’ll first need to figure out the size of your event. If you’re having a small wedding, a large wedding party may seem off-balance. Once you have a date set, start asking people so they can block out the date.
Be sure to ask everyone around the same time, especially if the bridal party knows each other.
3. Q. I don’t really get along with my future sister-in-law. Do I have to ask her to be a bridesmaid?
Depends on the wedding you’re having. While it’s good form to include her, etiquette dictates that you’re not obligated. If you’re having a small wedding party — just a maid of honor and a best man, then you don’t have to. Most people don’t mind not being in the wedding party. It’s one less thing they have to worry about. There will be plenty of other family photos that they will be in. You’re the bride and can design the wedding party however you like — with or without unlikable in-laws.
4. Q. I have two best friends – how do I choose my maid of honor?
You don’t have to! If you have two close friends — or even two sisters — they can both me maids/matrons of honor. This may even be an advantage since it’s helpful to have an extra person when planning bachelorette parties, organizing the shower, etc.
5. Q. My bridesmaids are annoying me – can I demote them?!
Given that they are your bridesmaids, you had a strong relationship with them before you got engaged and hopefully will have one afterwards. That said, think about specifically what it is about the bridesmaids that is driving you crazy. Are they not buying the dress you asked them to? Are they slow to plan a shower? (Maybe it’s a surprise!) When you feel annoyed, single out what behavior is annoying you and then you can work on fixing that problem.
If you have frustrations, be sure to address them in person. Problem solving needs to happen over a conversation, not a barrage of e-mails and text messages.
Make sure you are not the problem. Are you making unrealistic demands, such as making everyone wear the same, expensive shoe or getting their hair done at a pricey salon? Check out our piece about how to get your bridesmaid not to hate you. Sometimes little things, like overtly asking them not to get you a wedding gift or easing up on the hair requirement, goes a long way.
Don’t they know they have to fan you while feeding you grapes? In all seriousness, there’s lots that they can help you do that is completely reasonable:
Pre-wedding tasks: Things like stuffing envelopes, welcome bags, putting together favors, folding programs, etc. Ply them with some booze and it becomes a bonding experience.
Pay for the bridesmaid ensemble: This includes the dress, its alterations and accessories. Sometimes brides like to make a gift of the jewelry, which is a nice gesture. Be upfront if bridesmaids will have to pay for their own hair appointments on the wedding day. If you can afford to pick up the tab, by all means do so.
Help plan or co-host the bridal shower and/or bachelorette party: This doesn’t necessarily mean they have to pay for theses events — sometimes the Mother of the Bride or another relative likes to pick up the tab for the shower — but they should offer to help in some way. Bachelorette parties are usually paid for by everyone who attends — both bridesmaids and other non-wedding party attendants.
Attend the rehearsal dinner and rehearsal ceremony: They should also attend at least one shower, unless they live far away.
Be social, act as a defacto hostess: If you know a shy cousin will be coming, ask a bridesmaid to chat him up and make him feel comfortable. Naturally they should all be polite to the other guests, be feel free to point out guests who may be coming alone, etc.
Run last-minute errands: Someone may have to go on a last minute run to Walgreen’s, and the bride is not that person. You can ask bridesmaids to do last minute chores, or even to greet vendors the day of if you don’t have a wedding planner.
Hold your dress while you pee: Someone has to. Ask the bridesmaid with the biggest sense of humor.
7. Q. My husband has more groomsmen than I have bridesmaids, what should I do?
The wedding party should be made up of your nearest and dearest — even if that is an uneven number. Don’t worry if there are more on one side than the other. It’s much better than asking a random person to be in it to even out the numbers. You can sort out how to get everyone up and down the aisle at the rehearsal.
8. Q. I think one of bridesmaids may not be able to afford the dress, etc.
No matter how well you think you know someone, never assume you know anything about their finances, no matter their lifestyle. Just because your grad student friends lives on Ramen noodles it doesn’t mean she can’t afford to be in your wedding. Maybe she just really likes Ramen?
Once you have your bridal party set, send an e-mail outlining the projected costs. ($200 for the dress, $50 for hair the day of, etc.) People appreciate understanding costs ahead of time. If they don’t think they can afford it, they will let you know. Encourage bridesmaids to share hotel rooms, etc. Be sure to add a note that if anyone needs help to let you know. The cost of a quietly paying for a bridesmaid dress for your grad student friend is tiny compared to everything else you’re paying for in the wedding.
9. Q. One of my friends has put on some weight. Can I ask her to lose it before the wedding?
Short answer? No. You can’t ask people to adopt different grooming or lifestyle habits such as losing weight, tanning or changing their hair for your wedding day. When you’re asking someone to be in your wedding party, you’re asking them the way they are. If your friend has let themselves go a little, perhaps being in someone’s wedding is exactly the motivation she needs to get back to her healthy, svelte self.
10. Q. I was in a friend’s wedding four years ago. We are not close anymore. Does she have to be in mine?
There is no quid pro quo when it comes to weddings. You don’t even have to invite someone to your wedding just because you went to theirs. Your friend is probably aware that you aren’t close anymore, either. Since she played an important part in your life before, be sure to invite her as a guest.