Your bridesmaids are the perfect people to turn to when you are stressed or frazzled from the details of planning. Emotional support may also mean clearing some space for you – brides often ask their bridesmaids to host a relative or friend from out of town. Most importantly, as people who care about you, your bridesmaids want to help. Some say they feel left out when they aren’t consulted for support or guidance!
THE BRIDAL SHOWER
The bridal shower gained popularity in America early in the 20th century. Customarily a surprise party for society women, the bride was “showered” with presents to help her establish her new home. While most showers today don’t have the same pomp and circumstance, the purpose remains the same: gifts! The bridesmaids may consult you on the theme of the party and they will look to you for the guest list, so be prepared! A little tip: The guest list should also be marked after the shower with “gift received” next to the names so that you’ll know to whom and for what to send thank you notes. NOTE: If you’re worried about your planners’ competence, there are a host of instructional resources available at major bookstores and online for theme inspirations and how-to advice on getting organized and running a posh soiree.
THE BACHELORETTE PARTY
Once a quiet evening of word puzzles and hushed tales between demure ladies, some bachelorette parties now compete with the bar-hopping, raucous excitement of the notorious bachelor party. However, some brides simply want a tame evening of martinis with their closest friends (this is not to imply that bachelors wouldn’t want this too!). Another growing trend is a joint party for the couple to celebrate the end of their bachelor/ette status together. Whatever the style, location and gender of the stripper (shh!), the bridesmaids have the opportunity (read: financial responsibility) to make a memorable celebration! NOTE: Make sure you weigh in with your own ideas, though, or you may end up with strippers when you wanted martinis!
These can range from the drawn-out and complex (e.g., making origami favors, helping choose the bridesmaid dress) to the simple and rote (e.g., addressing envelopes, fluffing the bride’s train). You should be able to rely on your bridesmaids to reduce your stress by aiding in a wide range of detail work. This should be a consideration before you “pop the question” – especially for your maid of honor, with whom you may spend a significant amount of time. Friends or family members who like to help and are easy to work with are great for these types of tasks. It may also behoove you to rely on recently married bridesmaids, who may be able to help by going through the nitty-gritty details that are still fresh in their minds.
THE BRIDESMAID OUTFIT
Since bridesmaids foot the bill for their own dresses, shoes and other wedding apparel, many brides take one or all of them shopping. This may serve political ends for your bridesmaids – they get to send an ambassador of style – or it may be a matter of convenience for you – having someone to keep you company in what can be a long and complicated process. Since the dress can be a touchy issue for some bridesmaids, many brides prefer to involve them in the process as much as possible. We return to the dress, its politics and other bridesmaid accoutrements in later.
THE REHEARSAL DINNER
Your bridesmaids will be a central part of the wedding rehearsal as you go through the steps to ensure smooth sailing on your wedding day. Although they do not have any special responsibilities at the rehearsal dinner, it will be a good chance for them to mingle with the groomsmen so they will feel comfortable socializing with them at the wedding. It is also customary at the rehearsal dinner to present your bridesmaids with a token of your appreciation for all their help. As Lord Tennyson noted, “A happy bridesmaid makes a happy bride.” (hint, hint)
One of the main functions of the bridesmaids throughout the whole wedding process is to serve as your representatives and cheerleaders. As members of the receiving line, the bridesmaids have the difficult role of moving guests, friends and relatives along smoothly and making sure that everyone has a chance to speak briefly with the bride and groom. At the reception, hostessing may require introducing people (and introducing themselves) to make relatives and friends feel comfortable.
Part of the financial responsibility of being a bridesmaid, in addition to the dress and accessories, is paying for incidentals such as hair styling, makeup, pedicures and manicures. You can offer to help, but your bridesmaids should know up front that they will share some of these expenses. Also in this category are accommodations and transportation. To avoid any misunderstandings, many brides outline the costs early in the planning process and try to help wherever possible to alleviate financial strain.
DANCING UP A STORM
Many wedding customs date back to times of greater pageantry and pomp, like a formal opening dance number for bridesmaids and groomsmen. Even if there is no such thing planned, bridesmaids should serve as “starters” at the reception to get everyone on their feet and having fun when the band gets swinging. It may be the electric slide rather than a lovely waltz, but the bridesmaids should try to inspire guests to shake it up.