“I’ve been a bridesmaid a lot,” my friend, let’s call her Jane, confesses to me over text, asking I keep her identity anonymous before she spills the details on bridesmaid faux pas. She’s still a little worried about rocking the boat.
She has a lot to say, and I’m learning that a lot of men and women who have been a part of a wedding party are the same way. Most seem to have had good experiences, but there are a few with major complaints to share. There are stories of getting stuck with endless expenses, brides losing their cool on their bridesmaids, or bride and grooms simply asking for too much. Weddings are filled with enough emotion without the added stress of a tense relationship between the couple and their crew.
Don’t be the couple who asks for unreasonable things from their wedding party. This day is all about you, of course, but you can’t fail to remember that being a bridesmaid can be a whole lot of work and cost a whole lot of money. Take a deep breath and then take a few minutes to consider just how much you’re asking of your wedding party. Here are six things that could really rock the boat at your wedding.
Give us a clue.
It’s important to keep expectations realistic from the get go. Whether you’re the bride or the groom, you should never ask your wedding party to read your mind. Before they commit to the role, please be upfront about what kind of expectations you have in mind.
“I wish going in that there would been some explanation of the financial expectation,” shares Jane. “It’s rude to ask, and I felt it was rude to turn a friend down.”
She explains further that if there had been some clear understanding of what was expected from the get go, things would have been different. She would have either said no from the start or had the time to plan ahead for the unexpected expenses. However, since there was not warning that this was going to be a pricey endeavor, each new expense felt like a rude surprise. This made the entire wedding a tense experience.
It isn’t just about money, either. If being a part of your wedding party is going to require a ton of time, make sure you’re honest from the start.
Whether it’s a weekend away for a long distance shower or bachelorette party or weekday activities leading up the wedding, it’s fair to let your wedding party know before they commit. For instance, if they’re going to miss work to be a part of the big day, tell them exactly when so they can plan ahead.
And hey, it’s a good idea to check your expectations. Devoting a weekend to a bridal shower? No big deal! Taking off during the week for cake tastings, however, is asking a little much.
It’s not about the money, money, money…
Of course, telling your wedding party upfront that you’re expecting them to shell out a lot of cash for your wedding and the events leading up to it isn’t always appropriate, either. The truth is, if you’re a bride or a groom, it’s never okay to ask your wedding party to spend more than they can afford.
“I think it’s vitally important for brides and grooms to recognize that while this is their day, their bridal party is likely on a budget,” shares Allie Essig, wedding planner and co-owner of One Sweet Day. “I’ve known more than my fair share of bridal party members (particularly women) who’ve had to shell out into the thousands while participating in the weddings of their friends. Ouch!”
There is not a hard and fast rule for what you should or shouldn’t ask your wedding party to spend, so it really depends on the financial circumstances of those involved. If your expectations for your wedding are high, you may have to consider covering part of the expense so that you don’t burden the wedding party with high expenses.
And don’t even try to tell yourself that line about picking a dress they’ll wear again. It isn’t enough to justify a four figure price tag on a bridesmaid dress, we promise.
“I’m not sure I feel comfortable…”
Weddings bring people from all walks of life together. This often means one person involved in the wedding might have different values than everyone else or that someone just won’t feel comfortable with certain tasks. It’s important to be mindful of this. If you’re a bride or a groom, never ask your wedding party to do something that makes them uncomfortable.
This might come up because you’re planning a wild weekend away from the bachelor party. Sometimes, asking a bridesmaid to wear a certain dress that makes her feel uncomfortable could wind up being a real deal-breaker.
“I think it’s important that the bride ensures her girls feel beautiful in their dresses,” shares Essig as an example. “I was in a wedding once, and the first dresses we had to buy were super short. I felt so insecure in them because I don’t like my legs and felt extremely vulnerable in this particular dress.”
If someone really feels freaked out about something you’ve asked them to do, find a different way to approach it. At the very least, find a way to compromise. Find a middle ground.
Let us help!
Your bridal party doesn’t just want to stand around looking pretty. They love you, and they’re happy to be a part of your wedding.
Don’t become so set on controlling every detail of your day that you ask them to stay uninvolved or to let you do all of the work. Instead, honor them by trusting them enough to handle some wedding day tasks.
Photographer Jeanne Sager has shot a lot of weddings and has a few pieces of advice for helping your wedding party feel like a useful part of the big day.
“I always ask couples to assign one member of the wedding party to ‘help’ identify people who will be needed for the portrait session,” she shares. “I do not know these people personally, nor can I be taking photos while running around, rounding them up. Typically, a bridesmaid or groomsmen does, and their help grabbing folks makes things go much more smoothly.”
In addition to helping with pictures, Sager has noticed couples assigning other tasks to the bridal party that make the whole wedding day run a lot more smoothly. They do things like putting someone in charge of telling the DJ where to set up or act as the point person when the cake or flowers arrive.
These tasks can be a big burden for the bride and groom, why not hand them over to your wedding party—they need to fill the time on your wedding day and you’re way too busy!
Take us as we are.
Creating a beautiful wedding is important; it’s all about the way each element works together. Your wedding party is there to support you, but there is a point when you take your desire for a picture-perfect wedding much too far. Don’t ask your bridal party to change who they are just because they’re in your wedding.
“I think it’s appropriate to ask for makeup and accessories and how you’d like their hair to be styled (for how it is already cut),” says Essig. “Definitely not okay to ask them to make ‘permanent’ changes … weight loss, cut or dyed hair, etc. Allow your bridal party to be themselves. You want each person to feel beautiful in their skin!”
Never ask your wedding party to change their appearance for your wedding. If you love them enough to ask them to be in your wedding, you should accept them as they are for the big day. Of course, there are certain things it’s okay to ask, like makeup and accessories.
“I would add that I think it’s okay to ask a groomsmen to clean up facial hair if it’s too unruly—not cut drastically, but just polish it if needed,” adds Essig.
Save Your Drama
Family is complicated. Really complicated. Planning a wedding when there are tense or broken relationships in play isn’t easy. Please spare your wedding party the burden of dealing with your family drama.
“I was a bridesmaid for an aunt,” shares one anonymous friend (let’s call her Becky). “My aunt would put me in the tough position of engaging with my grandmother, who I was estranged from at the time, at bridal events, saying ‘Oh, just go say hi, it’s no big deal.’’’
For Becky, this tense relationship (and being expected to engage with this person) created so much awkwardness. She couldn’t wait until the wedding was over and her duties as a bridesmaid were done. Remember, your wedding party is there for you and your wedding. It’s not their job to patch things up with others or referee disagreements between family members.
It may be true that weddings are all about the two people getting married, but that shouldn’t warrant boundless narcissism. When you look back on your wedding pictures, you’ll be grateful that you had a beautiful wedding, of course, but having the people you love there with you is what really matters the most.