How to Be a Bridesmaid

While I may not be able to quite compare with Katherine Heigl’s ridiculously numerous bridesmaid appointments in 27 Dresses, it feels like I’m getting close. My tally is now at five, three of them being this year, and I don’t think it’s going to be quite over just yet. I know I am not alone because this is the stage in life where it seems everyone is getting married. If you aren’t in a wedding it seems like you are attending a wedding or shower or stagette practically every other weekend.

I love being a bridesmaid, I love being there for my sisters or friends. But I’m not going to lie, it can be stressful at times (both mentally and financially). But as any good, modern millennial gal will tell you, you do it because they would (or did) do it for you (or at least you hope they would).

grey bridesmaid dresses

With so many weddings and duties to juggle it can be hard to plan events that are special for each of your brides. It can also be intimidating because it seems like a lot of pre-wedding events are getting more and more extravagant these days from trips to Vegas to showers that are held in reception halls with full course meals. How much are these events supposed to cost? Where am I supposed to host them? Will the bride enjoy this idea? What am I expected to do?

As a part-time wedding planner and frequent bridesmaid I’ve learned a lot about bridal etiquette, expectations, and how to be there for your friends or family members on their big day. Sometimes these lessons were learned from positive experiences, other times I’ve learned them from discovering what not to do. Regardless, I’ve compiled a list of “dos and don’ts” when it comes to being a bridesmaid.

So now, for your nuptial education, the Modern Wife Guide to Being a Bridesamaid

1. Should you be a bridesmaid?

This may seem like a weird question, but it’s a very important question to ask yourself before accepting the honour. Contrary to popular belief, you do not need to say yes. I’ve talked with ladies who were absolutely stunned when they were asked to be in certain weddings. A co-worker who needs to match the number of ladies to her husband’s groomsmen being one for example. If the bride is not a close friend, family member or someone you do not spend a lot of time maintaining a relationship with, it is perfectly acceptable to decline the offer. Being a bridesmaid is not a walk in the park, it requires time commitment, finances, and emotional support. Don’t just say yes out of guilt or obligation because I guarantee if you are questioning why she asked you, you probably aren’t going to be a good bridesmaid. Alternatively, even if you are close to the bride, you need to ensure that you are in a position to accept. Personally, being a bridesmaid has cost me between $800 and $1200 depending on the wedding. If you cannot afford to be bridesmaid say so up front, it is not rude to say no.

2. Remember who it’s about (not you)

Keep the focus on every single pre-wedding event on the bride. Plan events that reflect her tastes and her preferences. If your bride tells you she does not want to go to a bar and have to do embarrassing tasks, do not take her to a bar and make her do embarrassing tasks. Some girls are fine with being the centre of attention, some girls are petrified. As a bridesmaid, she’s putting trust in you to have her back. When it comes to bridesmaid dresses, it’s the bride’s decision. You would be surprised at the number of times I’ve heard of bridesmaids who believe otherwise. Many brides are kind and considerate people and invite their maids to offer input, some even tell them to pick what they want within certain perimeters. That’s great, that’s very nice, but she’s in no way obligated to do so. As a bridesmaid, I would wear a potato sack if my friend wanted me too. Luckily, none of my friends are that cruel. The point is, when you agree to be a bridesmaid, you are agreeing to look the way your bride-friend envisioned. If you don’t like it, smile, and say it’s beautiful.


3. Don’t begin any sentences with “When I get married…”

When I was getting married there were a few times when well-meaning people told me that they were going to do something totally opposite to how I was doing it. I’m no saint and I probably did this myself, but when you are at an event supporting a soon-to-be bride it’s not the time or the place to tell her that you would do things a totally different way than she would. Intended or not, it comes off as a subtle insult to her plans or vision. I’ve was told by different people during my wedding planning that they would never want to get married in the summer, they would never have so many bridesmaids, they would never make their wedding party drive themselves, they would never do pictures before the ceremony, and they would never have a long veil. All of those things I did. When people make those kind of comments, it rattles a bride’s confidence in her own decisions. As a bridesmaid especially, save those comments for a better time and place.

4. Be a stress reliever, not inducer

You are there to relieve stress for the bride, not induce it. This involves checking family drama, romance drama, guest drama, and other drama you may be experiencing from the wedding party at the door when you are with the bride. Unless there is some extenuating circumstance, the bride should never be pulled into this. It can be very stressful for a bride if she thinks her wedding party isn’t  happy. Be a bridesmaid that carries good news, good times, and hides the drama so your bride can feel like a million bucks.



5. Be aware of expectations

I’m going to break it down real simple, the following is a list of things a bridesmaid is financially responsible for:

  • Her bridesmaid dress
  • A portion of shower-hosting costs (when it’s hosted by the bridesmaids)
  • A portion of the bride’s costs of the bachelorette (help pay for drinks, bride’s portion of the limo, etc) If the bride wants an elaborate trip like Vegas than the bridesmaids are not obligated to pay for the bride’s travel costs.
  • Her own costs of attending the bachelorette
  • A shower gift (if there are multiple showers a bridesmaid does not need to bring a gift to every shower)
  • Contribution to a Buck and Doe if there is one
  • Wedding gift
  • Her hair and make up for the wedding (if the bride is not paying for it, most brides allow their maids to do their own hair and make up)

It is expected that bridesmaids attend a shower they are hosting, try to attend other showers (though this is not an obligation), attend the bachelorette party, attend other pre-wedding events, attend the rehearsal dinner, and obviously attend the wedding. Obviously, in today’s hectic and globalized world it is usually impossible to attend every single event leading up to the wedding. Most brides are really understanding if you speak to them up front about attendance issues. Ultimately, however, it is important to be aware of these expectations when you accept the duties of the bridesmaid.

After reading this guide you may be thinking, “who would ever want to be a bridesmaid?” Legitimate question, and the answer is; because most of us want to be there and support our loved ones! Sure, it’s a lot of work, but when you truly care about someone, you’re pretty much willing to support them through think and thin. That is why it is so important to accept the responsibility with your eyes wide open about expectations, it’s not a job you want to do for someone you feel indifferent about.

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Enjoyed this post? Check out some other ones from the Wedding Reflections series:

In Between Moments
Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machine
Something Old, Something New


8 thoughts on “How to Be a Bridesmaid

  1. I had to tell a friend of mine recently that I just cant do it anymore. The last 3 weddings I was in were all destination weddings. That is EXPENSIVE. So this go around, I had to say I’m sorry and I’ll help you but I cant be an attendant. This seriously has saved my sanity.

  2. Actually, nobody ever invites me to their weddings… possibly because they think I’ll get drunk and say something wrong, and possibly because they weren’t invited to mine…

    Or possibly because most of my friends are single.

  3. I’m about to be a bridesmaid for the second time. The first time was hard, and cost a lot of money and I missed a few events which I’m sure my friend is still unhappy about. At the same time, I was also pregnant and was the only part of the wedding that lived out of town. I’m in a wedding again this summer and it’s much easier on me. The mother of the bride bought all the bridesmaids dresses, which helped out a ton. It’s no lie that it costs a lot though, but it’s all about being there for your friend/family.
    Great post. I still know next to nothing about weddings and what’s expected of me. I’m taking it as I go :p

  4. this is great- very pertinent to where I am right now. I was just a bridesmaid for the first time last month, and at 25 all of my friends are starting to get married. Love the pictures you included! Visiting from SITS 🙂

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