This post is a long time coming. If you know me personally, you know I hate bridesmaids and I despise the idea of them. Yep, I said it. You're here reading this so you should know now that this post is brutally honest! YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. Professionally, I feel a little differently. Great bridesmaids can make the day fun, energetic, well organized and stress free. However, the flipside of that is a freakin' nightmare. Bad bridesmaids make a wedding day (and the entire wedding planning process) miserable, grumpy, chaotic and stressful. When I arrive at a wedding I know almost immediately whether the bridesmaids will be wonderful and helpful or selfish and horrible. I can literally sense it in the air and when they say it only takes seven seconds to make an impression, it's the truth.
I've divided this post up into two sections: how to be the best bridesmaid + how to have the best bridesmaids!
Friendships get tested during the stressful wedding planning process and that shouldn't be the case. I've learned that so much of the tension comes from a lack of open communication and honesty. I've worked with some incredible bridesmaids and there are common themes that those bridal parties have in common. They love their bride above all else.
DEAR SWEET BRIDE...
You're engaged and you're picturing getting ready on your wedding day surrounded by the women who mean the most to you. There is champagne and laughter, hairspray and pretty robes. This is obviously the best case scenario and as a wedding photographer, I want to tell you that it takes work to create that calm, magical fun morning. I want to share with you some of my top tips for preventing selfish, unhelpful and grumpy bridesmaids on your wedding day and throughout your planning:
- Ok well first... really consider if you even want a wedding party! It's optional!!!!! Did you know that? YES. You really can NOT have bridesmaids.
- Ok, so you want those bridesmaids - think long and hard about who you want to have in your bridal party. Do these people make your days more joyful? Do you love them with your whole heart? Are they capable of putting you first and spending time making sure your day is absolutely perfect? Don't ask friends to be in your wedding party just because you're trying to hit a certain number, make things even or not offend anyone.
- Be wary of massive wedding parties. For the record, as a photographer, anything over 5 bridesmaids is a large wedding party to me. It works for some brides and it doesn't for others. The larger the group the more time and space you'll need on the morning of your wedding. Just be aware of that going forward!
- You've got your girls. Perfect. Throughout the planning process don't feel like you have to include them in every little thing. Remember that while it's important that your bridesmaids make you feel special, they have lives too. Be respectful of their time (basically... don't drag them to 12 bridal salons for 6 weekends in a row while you search for a dress).
- On the flip side of that, it's important to make them feel included + important as your wedding day approaches. The worst bridesmaids I have ever worked with behaved so poorly partially because they were not given tasks. They didn't feel important or needed. There's a delicate balance. Clue them in on your vendor choices, ask their opinions about dresses and florals (even if you don't want to hear them), make sure they know your timeline and make sure they meet each other before the wedding day (even if it's over email)! When your vendors ask simple wedding-day questions of a bridesmaid, they should know the answer. I rely on bridesmaids to point me in the right direction sometimes and it's extremely frustrating when I walk into a getting-ready suite on a wedding day and not a single bridesmaid can tell me where the wedding dress is hanging or what time the bouquets will be delivered. Inform your girls of these details! The less they know, the more your vendors have to bother you.
- Be conscientious of their financial situation. Not everyone is rolling in cash. Likely your bridesmaids are planning their own weddings, going to law school or medical school, raising children, saving for a home, trying to start a family, etc. and they may not have thousands of dollars to spend. Before you ask for that bachelorette trip to Cancun or those $550 bridesmaid dresses that require $200 alterations, take a second to stop and consider your maids. Between shoes, dresses, makeup, hair, gifts, trips, showers and more... it's expensive. Wait, you know this! You are planning a wedding! Pssssst - rental bridesmaid dresses are a thing. You're welcome.
- You need space. You cannot cram 10 people into a hotel suite and expect it to be peachy keen. More on that here in #2 and #1 but do yourself a favor on the wedding day and ensure that your bridesmaids aren't climbing over one another while getting ready. It is the fastest surefire way to turn a wonderful morning into a complete nightmare.
- COMMUNICATE. If you're upset with your girls, tell them. If you're thankful for them, tell them. Do not talk about them behind each others' backs. Send periodic email updates about what you're doing. They love you. Don't overwhelm them talking about your wedding 24/7 but seriously... if you booked a caterer, shoot your maids and email and tell them what's for dinner! Who doesn't love food? Ya know? This goes along with making your girls feel valued and needed.
DEAR BEAUTIFUL BRIDESMAID...
I'm going to preface everything you will read below with this: it is 100% OKAY to turn down the proposal to be someone's bridesmaid. I don't care if they're your sister, cousin, best friend since birth. If for any reason you do not want to, cannot afford to or cannot dedicate yourself to the bride, the best thing you can do is kindly, politely and lovingly decline the ask. Otherwise, the things below are what brides and photographers want you to know about being a bridesmaid. The do's and don'ts of walking her down the aisle:
- Take an interest. You've agreed to this and now you have obligations and expectations to uphold. Throughout the process you should routinely express interest in your bride's planning and her wedding day. She's dreamed of spending it with you by her side... don't make her regret that.
- Be honest about the big stuff. If you have to work on bachelorette weekend (I'm currently in this situation and it sucks so bad... I love you Emily and I'm sorry!), if you seriously cannot afford the dress she picked out, if you don't have time to help with a DIY project - just tell her. Don't keep things in because it will only make it worse in the long run. Be honest and make the bride aware of any conflicts very early on.
- Shut the hell up about the small stuff. You agreed to this. It's the bride's day, not yours. No one cares if you don't look good in yellow. If the bride told you that she wants everyone in updo's, don't you dare question her. Even on the wedding day I hear bridesmaids complain about stupid little petty things and I come so close to smacking people. Why make her day tense and miserable when you're just being selfish? Take a deep breath and deal with it.
- IT'S. NOT. ABOUT. YOU.
- You need to know the details. As a bridesmaid you should be familiar with the wedding day timeline, know the vendors, be the first person to pick up the phone if there's a problem, keep the day on track and be helpful. If a vendor asks you a question, you should know the answer. If the bride asks you to do something, you should be able to do it. The worst bridesmaid is an unhelpful one. This is my #1 pet peeve and it's the most common feedback I received from my brides about their bridesmaids.
- If you just want to get to cocktail hour and you're tired of pictures then STOP TALKING DURING PORTRAITS.
- Be kind, be helpful, be punctual and smile. I am always so inspired and motivated by girls who are kind to vendors, attentive and helpful to their bride, on time and paying attention and ones who smile and giggle all day long. Those are bridesmaids who are having a good time. Capturing those beautiful friendships is one of the best parts of the day and I completely adore it.
- Above all else, remember... it's her day. Make it magical.