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

The Name Change Discussed

Last month I explored my feelings about the decision of married women to change their last names. It resulted in quite a lively discussion with many readers weighing in through comments and the survey. We heard from different cultures, different generations and of course, heard lots of differing opinions. As promised, I’m sharing the results of that survey among some of my favourite comments.

  • Of the women who responded to the poll, 63% changed or plan to change their name. Over half of those women said it didn’t even cross their minds to keep their names or they thought it was best for a family.
  • 10% of the women hyphenated their last names or were still undecided.
  • 27% of the women polled said they did not, or will not change their last names. Half of these women said they were keeping their last name because they were too attached to change it. One-quarter of the non-changers kept their names because they were “too lazy” or didn’t like the sounds of their partner’s name, and the remainders thought the practise was sexist.

The results of my informal survey actually fell in the same distribution as a much larger survey conducted in 2011. Generally, about two-thirds of North American women still prefer to change their names. A connection to the personal identity one feels with their name and the professional reasons for keeping one’s name were the most cited reasons for not changing to your partner’s name.

Some of my favourite comments from your responses to my post included:

“I took my husband’s last name but i added it to my three names because, the way I saw it, marrying him added something to my life and who I am. It didn’t replace who I was and it didn’t trump the me i had been for twenty-three years.”

“In my family it’s not a question of “will you change your name” but “WHY would you change your name?” I have always been very impressed by my mom who didn’t change her name in 1975, when it was still very much expected. And as for your children having a different last name, I can honestly say that it made absolutely no difference in my life, we don’t live in the 1800s, we introduce people by their first names now.”

“I was personally one of those who dreamed of getting married just so I COULD get rid of my last name. It’s not horrible, but I did get made fun of enough to scar me for life. Now I like to say that God was exercising his sense of humor when He matched me with someone with the most generic last name in the country. I love being Mrs. Smith.”

“I was honored to be able to take the hubs last name as my own because not only did it symbolize our union but it provided me with a connection to the hubs father who died two years before mine. That being said, it was just as important and meaningful to me to keep my last name so that I always have that link to my family and of course my dad. I made my maiden name my middle name and took my husbands last name as my last name.”

“I could not answer your poll because my answer was not an option! When we got married my husband decided to take my name. Where we’re from it is not that unusual though the norm would still be to have the woman change her name. For me that was never an option as my surname is unique, which is quite useful in these days of globalization and internet. As it is a very unusual surname it has also been an important part of me growing up and I identify very much with the name as you also did, very often people would just refer to me by my last name – so how could I change that? My husband is a progressive guy (I would not have married him otherwise) and he likes my name also so decided that he changes his surname.”

“There are many reasons pro and con to change your name. Unfortunately one of the biggest reasons people change is to have children that have the same name as you, which really takes a lot of the decision out of your hands. Some couples choose to both hyphenate thereby taking on two new “identities”. Whatever your choice is talk it out with your fiance/husband and come to a decision that you both are most comfortable with!”

“What’s the difference, my dad’s name or my husband’s name? Personally, I think it would be cool to make a new name when you get married, to represent your new oneness. What would you think of Duivtin? Or Marteyn?”

“Here in Switzerland, you have four options of name change when you get married, but keeping just your maiden name is NOT an option unless your husband takes your name, too. Made the decision very simple for me!”

“In the Netherlands, no citizen is allowed to lose or change their birth name, unless under very specific circumstances (of which marriage is not one).”

It was such a relief to realize that other women felt this was a big decision to make as well, not just a “given.” I feel more at peace with my decision to just add his name, without taking mine away. Thank you to all the readers and contributors on this topic, I think it will help many other young millennial women explore this decision.

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If you liked this post, you may also want to check out another naming issue in my marriage: What’s in a Name (or, the Tale of Three Howards)

Something Old, Something New

I have a nifty little talent.

I discovered this talent back when I was planning my wedding last summer and the $200+ price-tags of feather hairpieces in bridal stores shocked the Dutch be-jeezies out of me. How could a few feathers and faux crystals add up to that much? Well my friends, if you put the word “bridal” in front of any product name it immediately increases the cost by about 300%. But I’m no sucker; I too, can buy feathers and faux crystals. And so, based on the pure principle of the matter, I decided I would make my own feather hairpiece.

Using the lace flowers from my mother’s wedding dress circa 1982, I created a dramatic hairpiece that held a lot of personal significance. I had been trying to think of a way to carry a piece of my mom’s wedding day with me so being able to use parts of her dress for the centrepiece of the fascinator worked out amazingly well. For about $20, I purchased bleached peacock feathers, white coque feathers and a few boa-like white feathers from suppliers off Etsy. Then, I took two lace flowers from my mom’s dress and bunched them to form the petal-like centre of the headpiece. From there, I simply eye-balled the placement of the feathers to form the shape and antique look I was hoping for. To keep things easy, I used a hot glue gun and a small circle of felt to build the headpiece. A little antique blue earring my sister gave me for my birthday completed the look.

Sometimes it really does pay to think outside the box and add personal, meaningful touches to the details of your big day. That headpiece is something I will cherish, something I’m proud of, and something that holds meaning. You can’t buy that for $200.

wedding

Wearing the feather hairpiece on my wedding day.

What are some uniquely personal DIY projects that have or will add a meaningful touch to your special day?

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This post was brought to by the Wedding Reflections series, offering the benefit of hindsight to current brides and grooms. If you liked this post, you may also like:

Brown Wedding Flowers
Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machine

In Between Moments

Saturday will mark a very special day as my very best childhood friend is going to marry the love of her life in a beautiful, wintery wedding. This girl is totally calm, cool and collected. She rolls with the punches, planned a wedding in five months, and is simply ready to enjoy her wedding. As a bridesmaid I can’t wait to be at her side and enjoy every moment of her big day with her.

Anticipating this wedding got me thinking about moments in a wedding day. And no matter how much energy we brides put into organizing every detail of the day (Exhibit A), it’s the little, unplanned moments that make lasting memories. At some point, you have to throw your hands up in the air and just accept the day for what it is, imperfections and all.

Below I’ve shared some of my favourite candid photos from our wedding.

Exhibit A: My seven page wedding itinerary indicating Howie's hair instructions

My little cousin Kelsie watching me get ready

Popping champagne in the morning

Meeting my dad at the stairs

Seeing each other for the first time

Howie's little brother refusing to co-operate for photos. Hilarious.

My friend's baby in the receiving line

Howie's father Howard presenting me with a "lovely" gift

Saying my speech to Mom and Dad

Wedding cake falling into my chest. Howie's face is priceless!

 Calling on former brides and grooms: What candid moments made your day memorable?

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Photos curtesy of EBaker Photography

This post is part of the Wedding Reflections series, offering the benefit of hindsight to current brides and grooms!

You may also like Brown Wedding Flowers and Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machine

Oversized Novelty Popcorn Machines

This post is brought to you by the Wedding Reflections series: offering the benefit of hindsight to current brides and grooms.

One thing my mom told me that is entirely different about wedding planning from her day, is the commonality of wedding registries. Apparently in the 80s wedding registries were something that only the really well-off girls did, now, it’s weird NOT to have one.

The whole purpose of a registry is provide guests with gift options that the bride and groom truly desire. Here are some quick etiquette guidelines when it comes to wedding registries:

  • Never, under any circumstances, should you print where you are registered in the wedding invitations. It is up to the guests to find out via word of mouth (asking mothers, asking bridal party)
  • On shower invitations it is fine to print where the bride is registered
  • It is perfectly acceptable for guests to purchase a gift outside of the registry

But besides providing guests with gift options, I truly believe that the wedding registry process serves another important function, it allows the bride and groom to start visualizing  the everyday items that will soon make up their married lives. Unfortunately in mine and Howie’s case, it also opened the doors to the epic, Oversized-Novelty-Popcorn-Machine battle. Before reading further on, there are two additional things you need to know about Howie:

  1. He hates shopping
  2. He especially hates shopping if hockey sticks, Xbox games, or track pants aren’t involved.

And so the incident began, as we enter Home Outfitters to select our items:

Howie: Hey wait a minute Cheryl, you said I could hold the laser gun. That was my one condition when I agreed to be helpful…

Cheryl: It’s not that big of a deal Howie. Who cares who gets to hold it?

Howie: Ok well if you don’t care let me hold it.

(Pause)

Cheryl: Ok fine. But please don’t register for anything stupid.

Howie: I am insulted! Why would you think I would register for something stupid?

Cheryl: Anyways, let’s start in the kitchen area. Do you like these plates?

Howie: Sure.

Cheryl: “Sure” isn’t a real opinion, do you actually like them?

Howie: Yah they’re fine, I think they’re…WHAT THE? $100 for four plates?! That is ridiculous! We could buy plates at the dollar store!

Cheryl: Howe! We are not the ones buying these plates, people will be buying them for us. And it’s not just four plates, it’s four place settings with bowls, mugs and little plates. And please don’t suggest we should buy our marital plates from a dollar store!

Howie: Well you asked for my opinion and I think they’re too expensive.

Cheryl: Just laser them.

(BEEP! Plates are registered)

(Several minutes pass as we register various kitchen supplies, until…)

Howie: OOOOO! Cheryl! Check this out!

Cheryl: What is that?

Howie: It’s a popcorn machine! It’s so cool!

Cheryl: Howie we don’t need a popcorn machine.

Howie: Come ON Cheryl this thing is sweet! It’s like one of those old-fashioned carts! It would look great in my man-cave!

Cheryl: Man-cave? Where are you planning on having a man-cave? We are moving into a two bedroom apartment. Man-caves are for older married men who who want to escape their wives! Why would you want that?

Howie: (Pause) I still have to have my man-cave! We need to register for this!

Cheryl: No Howie! It’s two hundred dollars! If people are going to buy us a big gift I’d rather they buy us things we need! Like plates! Plus, I know exactly what would happen with this. You would use it once, all the kernels and butter will be a huge pain to clean up, then you would keep it in a corner and never use it again.

Howie: Cheryl this is so unfair. This whole day we’ve been registering for things YOU want, and I just want this one awesome popcorn machine for my man-cave and you refuse!

Cheryl: I don’t understand where you think we have room for a man-cave let alone this ridiculous oversized popcorn machine. Plus, all these things we are registering for are not for me, it’s for us! How would we be able to eat and make food without plates, utensils, pots and pans? You think that stuff is for me?!

Howie: I see how this works Cheryl.

Cheryl: Howie, seriously. Look at this thing. It’s massive. If you really want a popcorn machine can’t you just register for this little one?

Howie: That’s not man-cave material Cheryl. Let’s move on. I can tell when my ideas don’t matter.

Cheryl: (Sigh)

(End scene)

Since that time, Howie has admitted to me that he never really wanted the oversized novelty popcorn machine, it was just a matter of principle. Also, I have since gone to the grocery store, bought a whole bunch of kernels intending to microwave them in a brown bag (the Dutch version of microwave popcorn) only to realize that our condo didn’t come with a microwave and I now could really use a popcorn machine.

Modern Wife Guide to Wedding Registries:

1. Ensure future hubby understands registries benefit BOTH of you.
2. Decide who gets to hold the laser gun before you get to the store.
3. Pick one stupid item to make him happy but make sure no one actually buys it.
4. Lose the guy. I went with my sister-in-law for round two and had much more fun.
5. Consider registering for an oversized-novelty-popcorn-machine. You never know when it may come in handy.
6. Double check your apartment has a microwave before buying microwave popcorn.

Any other registry-related “lessons learned” we can add to that list?

Brown Wedding Flowers

Even though our wedding was four months ago Howie and I still like to reminisce about it. We look through the photos every now and then and discuss how amazing all the speeches were (especially the one about throw pillows).

Even though my wedding is over I still have wedding fever. I’m pumped be a bridesmaid in my sister’s and two best friends’ weddings next year, I still stalk the wedding blogs, and (surprise) I’m even a certified wedding planner as of last month! Everything about weddings still gives me starry eyes and if I could I would want to do my whole wedding over again (a couple times) just so I could incorporate more and more unique ideas.

As a former bride who has recently gone through the whole wedding thing, I’ve decided to start a series of blogs that will offer soon-to-be-married couples advice on making it to (and through) the big day with your sanity intact. This blog series is called “Wedding Reflections” – I call this the benefit of hindsight.

Wedding Reflection #1: Appreciate your groom’s attempts to help (even if his ideas suck).

Howie will admit that in the relationship I am considered the “creative one.” I had a lot of DIY projects planned for our day from the invitations, ceremony programs, my headpiece, centrepieces, and a whole lot of other things that involved a lot of birch stumps. For the most part I would come up with ideas, ask Howie what he thought, and he would reply, “Good job babe.” It was an ideal situation.

Our birch tree inspired cake

Roughly three months before the wedding my whole vision was coming together. I used shades of forest green and dark plum in all the details to fit the green, woodsy feel of our golf course wedding reception venue. Howie was finally back in town from school and we went for our meal tasting at the golf course. Then BAM!

Without warning, notification, or any “heads-up,” the once dark green, neutral, un-noticable carpet of the reception hall was now a psychedelic, swirly, bright, bold-pattered red, black, beige and grey carpet. I was HORRIFIED. After holding in my anger, shock and sadness throughout the tasting, I was ready to BLOW by the time we got back in the car.

Exhibit 1: Photo of the red carpet

Howie: What is wrong babe? You look like you’re going to cry!

Cheryl: Did you NOT SEE the carpet Howie?!

Howie: Carpet? Why? What’s wrong with the carpet?

Cheryl: Oh PLEASE tell me you are joking Howie! How could you NOT notice the carpet! It’s just awful! It’s RED! It’s hideous! It looks like a herd of cats threw up and then died and were smushed to form a carpet!

Howie: It can’t be that bad. I didn’t even notice the carpet.

Cheryl: My whole vision is ruined! RUINED! Purple and green with RED AND BEIGE AND BLACK?! That is the WORST colour combination I could possibly think of! Actually, it’s so hideous I don’t think I could even THINK UP that combination on my own. What were they thinking?! Don’t they realize that brides select decor based on the LOOK OF THE VENUE?

Howie: They do? Oh babe it’s not the end of the world. People won’t even notice!

Cheryl: BAAAHHHH! Yes they will. It’s impossible not to. It’s over Howie. It’s no use. Nothing can be done to correct this. Our wedding is going to be hideous. BAHHH!

Howie: It’s not going to be hideous. We can think of something to fix it. What if you just lay a big cloth over the whole floor?

Cheryl: A cloth Howie? (sniff sniff) That doesn’t even make sense.

Howie: Ok well maybe we can think of something that will bring the colours together. Have you definitely picked out the flowers yet? Do they have to be purple?

Cheryl: Howie! I don’ want to change the colour of my flowers!

Howie: Just hear me out – so the bridesmaids dresses and everything are purple, the carpet is red – red and purple make pink right? So just get pink flowers and then everything will go together.

Cheryl: (Tears were streaming down my face. I stared at him blankly) Howie… are you serious? Red and purple would make a gross brown.

Howie: Ok well get brown flowers then, it will bring all the colours together.

(A long pause, there were so many things wrong with what he just said that I didn’t know where to start, the following came out in a jumbled, crying, crazy rant).

Cheryl: Brown flowers Howie? BROWN flowers? Brown flowers are DEAD flowers. Are you actually saying we should have bouquets of dead flowers at our wedding?! How would that make it better?! BAHHH! You don’t understand me! You don’t get it! BAHHH!

Howie: Ok Cheryl I’ve had it! I’ve tried to help and you’re just being ridiculous. Listen to yourself! You are crying over a carpet. A CARPET!

Cheryl: BAHHH! You will never understand! I’m texting my friend! BAHHH!

(End scene).

In this situation Howie was genuinely concerned and trying to help me feel better about the red carpet. Unfortunately, I experienced a lapse in sanity and couldn’t see past the brown flowers comment to appreciate the fact that my fiance was only trying to help. The take-away lesson here is that it’s important to appreciate the gesture of a helping hand and comfort, even if it’s a bad idea. It wasn’t Howie’s fault that the venue’s carpets were red, and balling like a crazed maniac certainly didn’t diffuse or help the situation. So ladies, don’t freak out about uncontrollable situations to the guy who is trying to be there for you.

Birch stump centrepiece

In the end, we rented dark charcoal tablecloths to draw attention away from the carpet based on the genius suggestion of my dear friend (and wedding planner) Kate. No brown flowers were needed.

Despite the red carpet, we had a pretty amazing day

Purple bridesmaid dresses

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Photography credits (minus Exhibit #1) to EBakerPhotography.com
Cake by The Sweetest Thing