Wedding Wednesday: Word to the Brides

Habesha Bridal Party

Being a bridesmaid is an honor, but it’s also a commitment. Just like the bride, the a bridesmaid is investing in adress, setting aside time for wedding activities and playing a pivotal role in the wedding ceremony. Some brides appreciate the effort, and some (who shall remain nameless) take it for granted. For all you brides-to-be, make sure you’re in the former category with these tips from bridesmaids who have walked the aisle so many times they could practically star in 27 Dresses.

No, your bridesmaids will NOT wear that dress again.

“Never pick a dress that’s a fortune and justify it by saying, ‘Oh, but you’ll wear it again’—she won’t,” says Melissa, 28, from Minneapolis, who has been in six weddings. Yes, it’s your wedding and your chance to make a fashion call for all your friends, but you should consider the three C’s: cost, color and cut. Ask your bridesmaids for their budgets and pick a dress you love at a price they all can afford. Another tip from Melissa: “Don’t choose a dress that has 75 layers. It’s an alternation nightmare and will end up costing more than the dress.”

Don’t make unreasonable demands of your bridesmaids.

There are legendary war stories of outrageous bride demands. At all costs, avoid becoming a cautionary tale. “I have one friend who told us that we could not be pregnant at her wedding,” says Melissa. For Erica, 27, another six-time bridesmaid, the request was painful. “We were not allowed to take our shoes off and change into flip-flops during the reception!” Instead of mandating that your friends highlight their hair, dance in stilettos or postpone pregnancy, make a list of the top three things you value most and then run it by a non-bridesmaid friend for a reality check.

Before you say “I do,” say “thank you” to your bridesmaids.

An unofficial estimate for the cost of being a bridesmaid? About $1,000. Before you walk down the aisle, take the time to thank your wedding party. They love you, they’re happy for you, and they’re thrilled to see you get married. But don’t forget to acknowledge the time and expense of attending your shower, bachelorette party and dress fittings, along with the countless phone calls, e-mails and errands that come with the territory. Five-time bridesmaid Nicole, 30, says, “Recognize that your bridesmaids are doing something for you by standing up in your wedding. It’s so touching to be asked to be a part of someone’s wedding, but by agreeing to stand up, I realize it’s committing to much more than just one day—it’s promising to play a big part throughout the entire year, and it’s nice for that to be acknowledged.”

Let your bridesmaids express themselves.

As the bride, you’re entitled to ask for an identical appearance. But if you don’t care about cloned bridesmaids, why not celebrate their differences? When it comes to hair, shoes or jewelry, talk to your wedding party and figure out how everyone can look—and feel—her best. For Mary, 29, it was letting every bridesmaid pick a different color shoe. “I think it’s really important to let your bridesmaids show their personality. My wedding party was from across the country and it was fun to let that uniqueness shine through.” Nicole adds, “If everything is so specifically dictated, it can feel more like you are a prop in the room than one of the bride’s best friends.”

Don’t ask for too much of your bridesmaids’ time.

Be aware of how much time you’re asking friends to devote to your big day, from wedding dress shopping to a four-day bachelorette weekend. If your bridesmaids have to sync their BlackBerrys to keep up, scale back on the number of events and ask them to attend only the most important ones. “I’ve been in weddings where I literally was booked solid every weekend leading up to the wedding. I was dying to just have time to do what I wanted to do,” says Kirby, 27, a five-time bridesmaid. And after standing up in six weddings this year, Brittany, 25, begs, “Don’t expect your bridesmaids to go to multiple showers. They can handle only so many tissue-paper games and spatula discussions.”

You don’t need an army of bridesmaids.

Bigger isn’t always better when it comes to your wedding party. You might feel obligated to include your best friend from preschool, your favorite coworker and your fiance’s cousin, but you shouldn’t pass the bridesmaid baton out of guilt. Instead, ask only the women in your life you truly consider your closest friends. “Be selective and ask only your very closest friends to stand in your wedding,” says Kirby. “There is nothing wrong with having only one or two attendants. More often than not, girls will be relieved not to be asked.”

Always give your bridesmaids a plus-one.

If you have single friends standing up in your wedding, be sensitive to their feelings and dating situation. Bridesmaid consultant and blogger Michelle advises, “As a bridesmaid, bringing a date should always be presented as an option.” Even if she’s unattached, it’s important to offer each wedding party member a choice. As the engaged friend, don’t forget to be sympathetic and see beyond the white dress to the friends holding your train along the way.

When it comes to bachelorette parties, keep your bridesmaids’ budgets in mind.

What started as one night of revelry can morph into a jam-packed weekend of activities, usually involving one or more of the following: lingerie gifts, multiple dinners, interactive classes, Jell-O shots, penis paraphernalia and a Sunday brunch. Needless to say, bachelorette parties also entail hours and hours of planning and hundreds of dollars. Ask most bridesmaids about bachelorette parties and they’ll admit it’s a double-edged sword. Raucous, raunchy and fun…but also stressful, time-consuming and expensive. “Know your bridesmaids,” says “Michelle. “If you have a really ritzy group of friends who love to party and have no problem dropping a couple grand going to Miami or Vegas, by all means let them spend their vacation time on something they’ll enjoy. On the other hand, if your friends are more low-key and budget-conscious, then you should keep that in mind as well.”

Feed your bridesmaids.

Even if you’re on a gluten-free vegan diet until you’re legally wed, keep in mind that well-fed bridesmaids are happy bridesmaids. “I almost passed out once from lack of food and water,” says Nicole. Sandwiches, snack trays and beverages are three must-haves, especially if getting ready is an all-day affair. For a celebratory touch, serve mimosas to lighten the mood—especially because at least one bridesmaid is guaranteed to hate her hair.

Remember what it feels like to be a bridesmaid.

Almost every bride was once a bridesmaid, so don’t forget what it felt like to stand in those pricey dyed-to-match shoes. Remember the weddings you enjoyed the most and how the bride treated everyone involved. As someone who has worn 10 bridesmaids dresses and once attended three weddings in eight days, I’ve seen bridal behavior run the gamut. My best advice is to cherish the friends in your life who were there before you met Mr. Right and the ones you want to be there after your big day. Make your wedding a priority—but not more than the people you’ve chosen to be in it.