The downsides of being a bridesmaid

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I recently received some questions from a journalist for an article she's writing about bridesmaids. I thought I'd share my answers here.

Q: What do you think are some of the (perceived or actual) down sides of being a bridesmaid, and how can a forward-thinking bride avoid putting her maids through those experiences?

In the process of researching my book, I spoke to one former bridesmaid who'd been chastised by the bride for getting her shoulder-length hair cut into a bob before the wedding. The bride fuh-REAKED out, because now this one bridesmaid wouldn't be able to have the pre-set bridemaid updo.

While this story is pretty fucked up, the thing it makes the most clear to me is that brides and bridesmaids need to be well matched! If, as a bride, things like pre-ordained matching up-dos are super insanely important to you, then pick bridesmaids who are into meticulous aesthetics.

I think it's really important to have a discussion up-front about what the expectations are. Just ask the bride straight out what she wants and expects from you. If it doesn't sound like your cup of tea, tell her you love her and would love to help with the wedding in some other way, but that you're just not in the right headspace to be the bridesmaid she needs. No one's to blame — it's no one's fault. You're better off having this discussion be a little awkward than dealing with months (or years!) of stress around a wedding you don't want to be in.

Q: What are some of the things that make a bridesmaid's experience a positive one?

I didn't have a traditional wedding party, but I did have loads of friends helping me with my wedding and part of how I made it fun for them was by praising and focusing on their skills. I have one friend who's a high powered corporate type, and she was the most awesome bridal bod guard EVER! I told her how much I always admired her ability to wrastle people when we worked together, and asked her if she would want to help protect me from the little day-of wedding organization questions on the day of the actual wedding.

… and since she LOVES doing that sort of thing, she was happy to help. It was a win/win for both of us … she felt appreciated and recognized for her skills, and I enjoyed her using them for me on my wedding day!

I think bridesmaids will get the most fun out of the wedding process by thinking of it as their wedding gift. This is the most amazing gift you can possibly give — your time and magical skills! If it feels like a burden, then you're not helping with the right parts of the wedding.

Q: What are some of the more creative themes, roles and/or outfits for bridesmaids that have been featured on your site?

I loved these bridesmaids in their black dresses and converse lowtops.

But my all-time favorite were these rollerderby bridesmaids.

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Comments on The downsides of being a bridesmaid

  1. I cut off my hair for my stint as a bridesmaid too… LOL I gave myself an at-home chop because I despise updo’s.

    For the most part, being a bridesmaid was fun, but I balked at the fact that we had to BUY our dresses while the groomsmen got to RENT tuxedos. At the last minute the bride’s mom took pity on all us poor recent college graduates and paid for the bulk of our gowns. It was a super traditional wedding, but at least we did get to pick the style of our gowns, even if not the color. All 5 of us ‘maids had completely different body types!

  2. I had one and we went dress shopping together. I had a color in mind, but that was it. After that…letting her pick her own hair, jewelry, shoes, makeup…whatever…just as long as she showed up. 🙂

  3. I think that the two main perceived downsides of being a bridesmaid are having to wear a dress you never would have picked out, and the cost involved in the whole thing (dress, hair, makeup, jewelry, and throwing showers and bachelortette parties all cost more than just going to the wedding.)

    To avoid these problems, you can let the bridesmaids pick out their own dresses (maybe in a specific color) and try to find dresses that they *really* will wear again. Also, don’t require the hair & makeup be done professionally unless you’re paying for it. Try to make budget-conscious choices for your bridesmaids when deciding on the dress, shoes, and jewelry, and let them choose their own as much as you can.

    Oh – and try to find out what alterations to the bridesmaid dress will cost ahead of time – depending on the type of material and the numbers of layers, it can get *really* expensive. I spent more on alterations for a bridesmaid dress than I had ever spent on buying a dress other than that bridesmaid dress and my wedding dress. Argh. I know the bride had no idea that the alterations would be that expensive.

  4. My dear friend’s (now) sister-in-law shaved her head, bald as a cue ball, the week before the wedding. My friend didn’t have pre-planned hairstyles for us, and she was upset, but she rolled with the punches. It seems (in hindsight) that the head-shaving was an attention-getter. That bridesmaid was asked all day if she had cancer and she basked in the attention.

  5. as a perpetual bridesmaid and a future bride i think the best advice i can give is really treat your bridesmaids with respect and tell them often how much their effort means to you.

    the times when i’ve had the worst attitude is when i fely like my presence didn’t truly matter and that was simply there to do the crappy jobs nobody else wanted to do.

    the times i was happy to do all of those crappy jobs were with the brides that really made clear how grateful they were and it felt like a real moment in our friendship not just in her life.

  6. The best was when I was the only bridesmaid and teh bride let me wear an old prom dress I had. She said that wanted red and since I already had a dress, we were all set!

  7. I was sort of frustrated that the bride didn’t demand more of me! It was my first bridesmaiding experience and everything I’d read warned me of scary demanding Bridezillas. She just wanted me to order my dress, find some strappy sandals, get my hair done however I wanted IF I wanted and… show up.

  8. As a bride, my goal is simple. This day means more to me than my bridesmaids. This is just a party for them.

    They are allowed to pick out their dresses, whatever they want. All I care is that it is a shade of blue, whatever shade they like.

    They can do their hair, nails, makeup, whatever however they like.

    They know I would like some assistance with decorating and clean up after the reception. But the whips won’t be drawn if they decide not to help.

  9. As the journalist in question who prompted this discussion, I wanted to weigh in and let any brides, bridesmaids or other interested parties know they can contact me directly to share their experiences — double bonus points for anyone who has connections to the upstate NY area! e-mail me at [email protected] if you want to share more!

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