Amongst women in their twenties, the bridesmaid experience is a favorite conversation topic. Almost every young woman has a hilarious/cringe-worthy/unbelievable story to tell. Like war veterans swapping battle stories, veteran bridesmaids love to “one-up” one another with tales of bratty brides, budget-busting bachelorette weekends, and not-so-beautiful bridesmaid dresses.
So what’s a bridesmaid to do?
I don’t think your bridesmaid experience should leave you with a lingering case of PTSD, so allow me to offer a few words of advice, based on my extensive resume as a bridesmaid: there are times you can speak up to a difficult bride! I’ve listed a few of the most common sticky situations you may find yourself in as a bridesmaid, and given you a script to follow to address the situation—and I’ve let you know when it’s probably best to hold your tongue. Read on for my tips!
1. The Micromanaging Bride
How to spot her: This bride has a desire to control every aspect of her wedding festivities, even those that are not under her jurisdiction (for example, the bridal shower and bachelorette party). These events are for the bridesmaids and close family and friends to plan, not the bride. When the micromanaging bride begins texting her bridesmaid ideas for matching t-shirts, inquiring about how you plan to decorate at the bridal shower, and demanding certain menu items/party favors, etc., it’s time to speak up.
What to say: “I know you’re really looking forward to _______ (the bridal shower/bachelorette/etc.). The girls and I really want the details to be our gift and surprise to you. You already have so much on your plate with wedding planning, so let us handle all the details of this upcoming event. We’ve got this!” If you’re not yet married, you might also add something like, “I hope you’re saving these great ideas for my wedding one day!”
2. The Out-of-Touch-with-Reality Bride
How to spot her: This bride isn’t concerned about what her bridesmaids can afford. She may choose an outrageously expensive bridesmaid’s dress, request an over-the-top bachelorette weekend, expect bridesmaids to travel to and attend multiple showers, and assume that everyone is willing to pay for professional hair and makeup.
What to say: Before you decide to speak up, check your own expectations. Taking on the role of bridesmaid entails significant costs: your ensemble, a shower gift, a wedding gift, and travel to the wedding. Realistically, the financial bridesmaid burden is going to run somewhere between $500-$1,000. When you said, “yes,” to the bridesmaid proposal, you assumed these costs—for richer or for poorer.
Now, any costs beyond the list above are completely discretionary. You should be given the freedom to “opt out” of a bachelorette weekend, professional hair and makeup, and multiple showers. So what do you say when the financial demands are over-the-top?
Try saying/texting/emailing this: “I wish my budget didn’t have to be part of the conversation, as you know I think our friendship is priceless. However, I’m not able to afford a week in Mexico at an all-inclusive resort for your bachelorette party/$200 hair and makeup package/travel to Minnesota for your 3rd bridal shower (insert your bride’s ridiculously expensive demand here). I know you’ll understand.”
3. The Indecisive Bride
How to spot her: This bride involves her bridesmaids in every painstaking wedding-planning decision. You’re probably stuck in a never-ending group text about table linens, wedding favors, and the reception playlist. Your inbox is filled with emails from the bride with the subject line, “Urgent!!!! Opinion needed!!”
What to say: “Wow! You have so many decisions to make! Let’s plan a girls’ night (or Facetime date), open a bottle of wine, and go over all of these things at once instead of trying to email back and forth.”
4. The Bossy Bride
How to spot her: This bride sees herself as a master delegator. She’s probably really proud of herself for “handling stress” well. Her secret? She gives her bridesmaids “jobs” such as “stuff my wedding invitations,” “order candy for the candy bar,” “find wedding favors,” etc.
What to say: “I have a job—and it’s not as your wedding planner.” Just kidding. Don’t say that.
Here’s what you can say, in a 3-part formula:
First, repeat the request, in the hope that she’ll hear how crazy it sounds: “Got your summons text about addressing hundreds of your save-the-dates tonight…wish I could, but I’ve got a huge presentation tomorrow at work.” (If you don’t, then congratulations: now you do.)
Next, remind her that her future life partner might be the one to pitch in: “Hope your groom is available to help!”
Last, remind her of something you are doing for her upcoming wedding: “Looking forward to your shower next weekend! We’ve got so many fun details planned!”
5. The Tasteless Bride
How to spot her: She chooses hideous bridesmaid dresses, asks you to wear shoes you know will clash with the dress, and thinks her college colors are a gorgeous inspiration for the color palette.
What to say: NOTHING. Nothing at all. This is her day. If she thinks purple satin dresses with orange shoes are absolutely stunning, there is nothing you can or should do about it. When the pictures surface on social media, your ensemble will be a reflection of the bride’s taste, not yours. Best-case scenario: you have a like-minded bridesmaid you can exchange eye-rolls with throughout the process.
6. The Bride with the Crazy Family
How to spot her: Her mom is either overbearing/MIA, her sister is perpetually angry, and no one from the family RSVP’d to the bridal shower, but showed up anyway.
What to say: To the bride: nothing! This crazy behavior isn’t news to her, so there’s no need to burden her with your frustrations about her family. Put on a smile, get through the wedding, and vent to your boyfriend later.
Here’s the good news, bridesmaids: no matter how difficult the bride, how ugly the dress, or how crazy the family, I believe that when the wedding day finally arrives, and you see that “difficult” bride walk down the aisle toward the love of her life, those frustrations will melt away into feelings of love and joy.
Too optimistic? At the very least, you’re going to end up with a frighteningly fabulous story to share for the rest of your life.
For better or for worse,
P.S. Our team at RegistryFinder.com is all about making the wedding planning process easier for brides and their guests! Subscribe to the GiveIt blog for tons of tips on bridal showers, etiquette answers, fashion tips, wedding trends, and of course, lots of help in building the perfect registry!
–Written by Christina Peterson, who has been in 10 weddings but insists this post is entirely fictional.