Making Sure Your Bridesmaids Are Still Your Friends After the Big Day
Congratulations! We know you’ve always dreamed of your wedding day, and part of that dream is having your best friends stand by your side as you marry the love of your life! I’m here to make sure that those best friends remain your best friends—and leave your wedding without a horror story straight out of Bridesmaids.
Where do these tips come from? Some come from traditional wedding etiquette, but most come from real life: I’ve been a bridesmaid TEN times (and counting), and my own wedding was four years ago. So know that I get what it’s like to be in either spot, and I’ve pretty much seen and heard it all.
So without further ado, here are the tips. Your friends adore you—let’s make sure they always do!
1. Choose wisely:
The first step in making sure your bridesmaids are still your friends after the wedding is making sure they’re your true friends before the wedding. I know this is a tough choice, and often full of pressure.
To make this decision, I want you to imagine the morning of your wedding. Picture yourself getting ready, being zipped into your dress, and now imagine looking around: whose faces do you want to see? Who will make you laugh when your nerves kick in? Who will help you go to the bathroom once your dress is on? Who would you trust to step in to solve a last-minute problem?
These are the women you should ask to be in your bridal party: the women who know you the best. Asking ladies you’re no longer close to, simply out of obligation, can lead to misunderstandings and unnecessary drama in the months leading up to your wedding.
One exception: I would encourage you to include your sister(s) and your groom’s sister(s) in your bridal party. While not mandatory, these women will most definitely play an ongoing role in your life and in the life of your family. Inviting them to be a part of your wedding creates a special bond that is often your first major family memory with the in-laws. Don’t miss the opportunity to make your new sister(s) feel like family!
2. Manage your expectations:
There is a lot of confusion regarding the duties of a bridesmaid, so let me clear things up: the only requirements are paying for travel to the wedding and purchasing their bridesmaid dresses and accessories. In recent years, there’s been a troubling trend to emphasize the “maid,” syllable in “bridesmaid.” There’s pressure to throw showers, attend dress fittings, plan elaborate bachelorette weekends, and help with wedding planning—and that’s an unfair burden. While it’s never wrong for a bridesmaid to help out and be involved, it is wrong for a bride to require those things.
Your bridesmaids are your closest friends, so they will most likely offer to plan events and pitch in with the details out of love. Allow these gestures to flow from the heart. Don’t send your bridesmaids elaborate “to-do” lists and overwhelming calendar requests—leave room for thoughtfulness and generosity.
3. Respect their budgets:
Be mindful of your girls and their budgets. If most are still in college or beginning their careers, try to choose an affordable dress (read: under $200) that they might possibly get to wear again. If you’re asking them to splurge on the dress, consider giving them freedom to choose their own shoes (you can guide them in terms of color). So who pays for all of the “extras?” It depends. Do you want them to wear matching floral robes the morning of the wedding? Then that should be a gift from you to them. Considering professional hair and makeup? You can’t require your girls to foot the bill: it MUST be your treat or optional.
Did your maid of honor plan a bachelorette weekend in a far-away city? Fabulous, but attendance is optional. No bridesmaid should feel pressured in any way to assume those expenses. When it comes to the “extras,” be crystal clear in reassuring your girls that they are optional expenses (practice saying it in the mirror if you have to): “I understand if it’s not possible for you at this time.”
Also, if you’re having multiple showers, no need to invite your bridesmaids to all of them—your girls may feel obligated to give a gift each time. Two exceptions: your sisters/future sisters-in-law may be invited to more than one shower, and all bridesmaids may be invited to a traditional bridal shower and a lingerie shower.
4. Release control:
So your bridesmaids are throwing you a shower and bachelorette party? Yay! The only items you need to approve for these events are the date and the guest list. That’s it. Really.
I know what you’re thinking: what about my Pinterest boards? Warning: those Pinterest possibilities can lead to disappointment when your bridesmaids aren’t as crafty or creative as you would like.
Are you finding incredible ideas for bridal showers and bachelorette parties? Cute party favors and ways to set up a mimosa bar? Adorable matching tank tops? Save those ideas for when your BFF is the bride. Don’t overwhelm the girls hosting your bridal shower and planning your bachelorette unless they ask for your input—it will only lead to them feeling pressured and you feeling disappointed.
Allow your bridal shower and bachelorette party to be gifts from your friends—meaning they are sweet surprises, not custom orders.
5. Give a meaningful gift:
So we’ve made it clear that the financial obligations of your bridesmaids are limited to travel and their ensemble. Some brides may be tempted to treat their girls to “extras” like professional hair and makeup for the wedding day, and tell the bridesmaids that is their “gift.” That’s like saying, “Girls, I’d like my wedding pictures to be perfect, and that’s going to require you to be airbrushed. Consider my helping you look better a gift to you.” If they can wash it off at the end of the day, that can’t be the only gift. Your bridesmaids should receive something that they can cherish beyond your big day.
A popular choice is often jewelry; earrings or a bracelet that your girls wear on the wedding day, and can continue to enjoy afterward. But not all meaningful gifts have to be expensive—I’ve received beautiful picture frames, gorgeous stationery, and monogrammed coffee cups as bridesmaid gifts. All were small but incredibly thoughtful, and whenever I see them, I recall my sweet friends and what fun it was to share in their special days. Be sure to include a heartfelt handwritten note with each gift.
6. It’s only ONE day:
Sweet bride, I know that your wedding day consumes your every waking thought. But for your bridesmaids, “normal life” is moving right along. So in those months leading up to your wedding, try to move the conversation beyond your guest list, photographer search, and the latest family drama. Ask questions and show interest in your friends’ current life situations: their jobs, families, and relationships. If all you talk about is your wedding, your friendship will only survive that event.
The bottom line: while your wedding is definitely all about you, remember that life will go on after that day ends. Considering your bridesmaids’ schedules, budgets, and feelings will ensure that you stay close after you’re a Mrs., and that you even get asked to stand by their sides as they say “I do,” one day.
Wishing you every happiness,
by Christina Peterson, writer, RegistryFinder.com blogger, and 10-time bridesmaid