By Kaitlyn Murray
Let me start this off by saying that I’m no expert; I’ve got nothing on Katherine Heigl and her twenty-seven dresses, but I have been in my fair share of weddings (for reference, there are at least five gowns hanging in my closet right now). While some past brides-to-be have asked a lot of me, others were just happy that I showed up on time looking presentable. Fortunately, my (varied, to say the least) experiences with bridesmaid-dom have taught me a few things over the years, like how much I could actually expect to spend throughout the process, which necklines and silhouettes look best with my body type and how to still have a blast at the reception sans a date. But the greatest lesson I’ve learned — although uninspiring — is how to be an adequate bridesmaid. Because, let’s be honest, the ideal bridesmaid isn’t exactly quantifiable (spoiler alert: even Heigl opted for the struggle bus over the stretch limo at one point in the film). But if I had to come up with a loose description, I’d say being a “good bridesmaid” is just an extension of what being a “good friend” entails. Going above and beyond the call of duty will, of course, be much appreciated, but it’s best to get the basics down first. Not sure what those are? No problem, I’ve developed a crash course in Bridesmaid 101.
First, let the little things slide.
Even if you have never been married before, you are probably well aware that wedding planning is more akin to a trip to the dentist than a day at the spa. The process is stressful no matter the budget, guest list size or amount of time spent planning, so your friend/sister/cousin may not exactly be herself during this time. She may lash out, forget established plans, or even call you up in the middle of the night to weep over table linens — just keep in mind that one mini freak out does not a Bridezilla make. Cut the girl some slack.
Because you might be in her (totally gorgeous) shoes one day.
If she included you in her bridal party, chances are that when it’s your turn to say “I do,” she’ll be at your side. And believe me, you’re going to be so grateful to have her empathetic ear when you have your own inevitable diva moment. But if you are already married and she was one of your bridesmaids, consider this time around to be your penance for making her hold up the train of your dress every time you went to pee at
Next, accept that this is not about you.
Sure, it’s inconvenient that the bridesmaid dress isn’t exactly your style/you have to spend your precious time-off attending wedding-related events/you can’t sit with your date at the reception/insert other first world problem here, but these are small sacrifices. This is her day and your pride needs to take a back seat. This tip also extends to social media. Yes, your makeup and hair will probably be on point thanks to the fabulous professional gurus on hand that morning, but check in with the bride before you share that selfie. She may want to be the first one to post something that day, or she and her soon-to-be-spouse may have even decided that they want a phone/camera-free affair.
That being said, if you’re super uncomfortable with something, speak up!
I’m talking about the big stuff, like you can’t possibly walk in the heels she picked out, or you’ve been paired to walk down the aisle with the one groomsmen who also happens to be your ex. The bride handpicked you to be a part of her special day, so she more likely than not loves you and values your well-being. She can’t truly have the happiest day of her life if one of her nearest and dearest is completely miserable, so find a time to calmly explain your issue. Chances are, she’ll understand and want to resolve the matter however she can.
Remember to do non-bridal things together.
This might seem like a bit of an oxymoronic suggestion, but even the most organization-happy bride needs a break from wedding speak from time to time. Attend a paint and wine night, have Sunday brunch, spend a night-in binge watching the “Gilmore Girls” revival, or just do whatever you normally did together before that ring found its way to her finger. Such hangouts will give her a chance to unwind and also provide the uninterrupted friend/family time you both will need but probably won’t get come wedding day.
And offer to help in any way that you can.
This is where those hours spent falling down the YouTube tutorial hole will come in handy. Are you a bit of a beauty guru? Offer to do the bridal party’s hair and makeup on the big day. Do you have a green thumb? Help her plan and
arrange the centerpieces. Did you spend a good part of your childhood taking piano, guitar or singing lessons? Bestow your musical talents during the ceremony or their first dance. Even something as simple as saying “ooh” and “ahh” as she tries on her twenty-third dress or providing moral support as she formulates her guest list will
Finally, and probably most importantly, say yes only if you’re able.
You may laugh, but being a bridesmaid is a pretty big responsibility. As outlined by the above tips, quite a bit is expected of you. Two of the biggest challenges I’ve found are setting aside money and time. Potential costs may include, but are not limited to, a bridesmaid outfit, a bridal shower gift, a wedding gift, pitching in for the bridal shower venue and bachelorette festivities, personal hotel accommodations and travel expenses. Monetary costs aside, your free time will be consumed by the bridal shower, bachelorette shenanigans, the rehearsal dinner and, of course, the wedding day or weekend (you might even be asked to go to tastings or dress fittings in between). If you find that you are not in a position to take on all of these tasks, you should have a chat with the couple ASAP. Explain upfront that you would absolutely love to be a part of their big day, but you’re not sure if you’ll be able to meet expectations based on your current situation. The couple may be disappointed, but being honest from the get-go may open the discussion up to different options. Maybe the bride isn’t set on matching dresses, or even dresses from the same bridal boutique, and you’ll be able to go out and find a cheaper gown on your own (believe it or not I’ve seen some stunners from H&M and other similar chains). Maybe you can skip the bachelorette resort weekend and plan for another girls-only date sometime after the wedding. Or maybe you can work out an alternative role, where you do a reading at the ceremony or present a sweet photo collage at the reception. As with any relationship in life, communication and honesty is key.