How to be an offbeat bridesmaid for a traditional bride

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Can you spot the Offbeat Bride editor in this photo?
Can you spot the Offbeat Bride editor in this photo?
I know this is a space for Offbeat Brides, and not so long ago I was one! But is there any advice to be had for those of us who are offbeat bridesmaids for more traditional brides?

When my recently engaged friend asked me to be a part of her day as a bridesmaid I was thrilled! But now… some things are making my uncomfortable.

I don't want to get mani/pedis, go tanning, get my vag waxed, shave my legs, destroy my hair for a ‘do, or wear make-up: these things go against my beliefs about beauty, and I have never done any of those things. My friend the bride wants us all to wear loads of make-up courtesy of a make-up artists, have super heavy duty sprayed, curled hair-do, and possibly get a brazilian. I feel uncomfortable doing all of these things.

I'm trying to meet half-way — I'm already taking a huge leap with the dress she picked, I'm helping with loads of DIY, and even going to the bachelorette party when I didn't even have one.

How do I explain to my bride that I want to be a part of her day, but don't want to compromise myself in the process? -BurningWillow

I may be able to be of some assistance here. I was asked to be bridesmaid in my best friend's fairly traditional wedding. The first speed bump was that I always thought I'd be a groomsman, seeing as how my best friend was the groom. Then I found myself, a total tomboy, surrounded by a group of the girliest girls that ever girled, being asked to pick out my own dress and shoes, get manicured and pedicured, and throw a bachelorette party.

I handled this situation in the most Offbeat Bride way possible:

Honesty is the best policy

I told the bride that I was beyond touched to be asked to be in the wedding party, but I felt I was ill-prepared to be a bridesmaid. Being so upfront and honest from the beginning totally set up her expectations of me, and mine from her. And everything went smoother than I thought it ever could! (Except for the manicure part — that was rough.)

Don't want to compromise yourself to fit in to your buddy's wedding schemes? Then let them know, and set your boundaries in the most loving way possible….

[Bride], I love you and I'm super-excited to be a part of your wedding day. But I really don't want to [wax my vag]. Would it be okay with you if I don't do that?
I totally understand if this is a deal-breaker, and we will still be awesome friends if you have to “fire” me, but I'm not comfortable [wearing make-up] on the day of your wedding. Can we work out a compromise?
[Groom], you'll always be my best friend, but I have to be honest and say I don't feel like I'm the best fit to be in your wedding party. I feel like [other friend] may be better suited for this duty. It's totally not because I don't love you, it's just that I'm super-uncomfortable with [throwing you a party].

Set expectations and discuss boundaries

I was totally willing to bridesmaid it up, as long as the bride was okay with both coaching me through all the girly activities, while understanding that I wanted to attend the bachelor party, and come wedding day, I wanted to spend most of that day with my best friend, the groom.

Sure enough, she not only found “the dress” for herself, she also found one for me as well (plus the shoes)! She also was fine with the fact that I ditched her bachelorette party to throw the bachelor party. She charged a fellow bridesmaid with the task of dragging me to get a manicure. And wasn't miffed when I hurriedly threw on my bridesmaid dress and spent the rest of the morning drinking whiskey with the boys. Because we had discussed all of it beforehand.

Be prepared to not be part of the wedding

Finally, be prepared for your buddy to ask you to step away from being in their bridal party. It's a sticky situation fraught with emotional land mines, but being “fired” from the bridal party doesn't always have to end in drama. If you think about it, sometimes the best way for you to be their best friend is to just show up as a guest and party with them, instead of making yourself uncomfortable by trying to contort yourself to fit into their wedding mold.

We think honesty + setting expectations + staying calm = the key to being an offbeat bridesmaid in a traditional wedding. What about you?

Comments on How to be an offbeat bridesmaid for a traditional bride

  1. No one–NO ONE–should be making demands involving your genitals. Why is waxing required? How on earth does pubic grooming factor into being a bridesmaid?

    (Also, labia =/= vagina. If your vagina is growing hair, you have a serious medical problem.)

    • I have yet to see a bridesmaid dress that doesn’t cover the genitals, so I am equally confused about that part!

    • I think that the Brazillian is a ridiculous demand to make of your bridesmaids, but possibly OP is a bridesmaid at a destination wedding somewhere beachy and tropical and the bride doesn’t want (gasp!) pubic hair in any swimsuit shots? Which is still a silly demand, but that’s the only thing I could think of.

    • Maybe she wants the whole bridal party to go together as some sort of ~bonding experience~?

      • I think I missed the part of her post where the bride was REQUIRING or DEMANDING a Brazilian wax?? The words, “and possibly get a Brazilian,” don’t mean the same thing to me as, “you must or else!”

        As the Rolling Stones say, “You can’t always get what you want” – and it seems to me that simply suggesting a compromise along the lines of I’ll do x but not y should be easy for the bride to accept…

        Best of luck to you!! And to your friend the bride.

        • lol, right? I would CERTAINLY not be asking if it was okay with the bride if I didn’t get a brazillian. I would politely and firmly be like, “Nope, I’m not allowing hot wax upon my genitals for any reason.” Because really, what business is it of anyone else whether my lady bits are furry or not? I mean, come on, WHAT. THE. HECK. NOPE NOPE NOPE, I am the nopetopus! (haha sorry for the weird unintentional pun.) 😀

    • Technically, it’s both the vulva and labia that’s getting waxed, not the vagina (which is inside your vulva). Correct terminology aside, who the hell is going to be seeing the bridesmaids’ lady parts? In that case, I think BurningWillow should stand up for herself in a calm but firm manner.

    • Side tangent here, but I’ve been fascinated by the progression towards “vag” = vulva. You’ll notice the OP didn’t use vagina — she used vag. It’s become extremely common use, and if the common use of the word “literally” has taught me anything (where the definition now includes a secondary use meaning “figuratively”), it’s that common usage starts to trump all.

      That said, I’m on a personal mission to get the word “labia” used more frequently. For instance, the female equivalent of free ballin’ should definitely be free labin’.

      • I endeavor to do all I can to promote the usage of the phrase “free labin'”

      • I’m so glad you brought this up.

        I am a lady who is into the difference between ‘vagina’ and ‘vulva’, but I’ve also heard myself say ‘vag’ as a catch-all for my lower bits. I actually originally wrote vag in my comment above and then replaced it with ‘genitals’. It’s definitely a thing.

      • I’m also a fan of the “jam out with your clam out” alternative to “hang out with your wang out”. I have no idea if my friends and I are the only ones who use this, but it should become more mainstream.

        • Where I’m from the male-centric phrase is “Rock out with your Cock out” but we’d come up with “Jam out with your clam out” too. And the number of boys I shocked the shit out of with it was priceless!

        • Jam out with your clam out is the motto of my group to the extent that our girls’ nights (adult boozy sleepovers) are called clam jam. Can’t guarantee we are good company, but company at least!

    • I really want to see the string bikinis the bridesmaids will, obviously, be wearing to the wedding.

  2. I’m a makeup/hair-loving offbeat bride-to-be…and even I would be turned off at the thought of group vag waxing.

    If I were having bridesmaids, I’d be one of those “be yourself/you’re my friend, not a prop” types…but I understand that’s not exactly par for the course.

    I agree: just be honest. I’d say “hey, I’m pumped you asked me to be a BM, but I’m not sure I’m gonna be the best fit for what you and ‘the girls’ have planned. Ill see you the big day!”

  3. For my wedding, I told my bridesmaids directly that their body hair was their business (uh, although I was thinking more of armpits and legs, pubes really aren’t shown publicly at weddings) and that they could make their own decisions about whether or not they wanted to wear makeup and hairstyles.

    But as a bridesmaid myself, I’m looking forward to participate a group activities too as long as those things don’t feel like a violation. Personally, I’m comfortable wearing makeup or getting my nails done for a friend (because those are things that I occasionally do), but asking me to remove body hair or to go tanning would be SUPER uncomfortable.

    Some of my strategies for beauty industrial complex stuff:

    – French manicures are way more comfortable for me to have on my hands than all over coloured polish. If the mani-pedi thing is more about bonding than it is about image, then you might be able to go to a spa and accepted the things that come with a manicure (in my experience this is soaking plus moisturizer and a little bit of a massage plus someone else removing hangnails for me) but asked them to do no polish on your nails or clear polish only.

    – If you’re open to wearing makeup at all, you can ask for a more natural look from a makeup artist, or even bring a photo of a makeup “look” that you’re more comfortable with

    – My hair won’t hold a curl for more than an hour or so no matter what, so curling irons are useless on me. I dislike updos or even really having my hair up at all, but when I want to compromise with family or a friend (or the wind) and wear it up, I go with low side-swept buns. This kind of style makes me look more like myself, because my hair is still somewhat draping down the sides of my face. Another compromise style is to go half-up instead of an updo.

    Then again, these are TOTALLY personal strategies for me because I am comfortable with some makeup and hair styling stuff! If [wearing any makeup] at all makes you cringe, you have a right to say no to it.

  4. I think it is perfectly okay for the bride to make reasonable requests (your vagina involvement never being reasonable). If she would like all her bridesmaids to have their hair, makeup and/or nails done then I think she has that right. She should be making this request upfront and setting reasonable expectations for you all including the option to do all those things yourself if you cannot afford to pay to have it done. You are the bridesmaid so you should “suck it up” and do what she wants within reason but it’s also you’re right to decline being a bridesmaid if you don’t want to do what will make her happy.

    • I agree with this. Friendship IS about sacrifice sometimes, and if you can’t suck it up for, what, 8 hours to make her day what she wants…well, I think you’re kind of a shitty friend. One day of heat+spray isn’t going to murder your hair, and at the end of the day, nobody in attendance gives a fuck about _your_ personal beauty beliefs.

      However, like people are saying – if you really can’t compromise, it’s totally within your right to un-accept her invitation to be her bridesmaid. And, you should definitely talk it out first, because if she isn’t willing to meet you at all…well, she’s kind of a shitty friend too.

      • It’s definitely worth discussing anything you aren’t comfortable with. I’ve been a bridesmaid five times, and even though four of those brides were wonderful, accommodating people (the fifth being a very scary sister-in-law), I ended up doing a lot of things I didn’t want to do (or couldn’t really afford) because I was afraid to be assertive.

        It’s hard if there’s a heckuva lot of ladies who are going with the status quo, though. In the last wedding, I was one of six bridesmaids. Another girl and I were not keen on doing all the girly stuff, but we bought the dress/shoes, got mani/pedis, got our hair done, etc. But she regularly skipped out on “girl time” to hang out with her boyfriend, who was one of the groomsmen. The other girls looked down on her for that, but I was just jealous. Definitely would’ve preferred to be drinking whiskey and telling dick jokes instead of listening to the bride’s friends chat about their college exploits. Snore.

      • I can honestly say that by the definition of “sucking it up” to be a non-shitty friend that I am a GREAT friend, and that I have almost limitless boundaries for making my friends happy on an important day. Almost.

        If something really goes against your core values, like in the OP’s case of wearing make up, it doesn’t make you a shitty friend to decline doing it. I don’t think it’s so black and white. YES, friends should compromise and meet each other halfway. YES, part of being a bridesmaid may involve uncomfortable activities, but it’s not shitty to have boundaries, even with your close friends. It’s healthy and sane.

      • This comment comes off as really confrontational and judgmental, and that’s not cool.

        Setting boundaries based on personal values doesn’t make someone a shitty friend. Healthy boundaries make healthy relationships. Its not cool to shame OP for sticking to the boundaries that they have set for themselves, or insinuate that they’re using their friend’s wedding as a soap box or something.

  5. THIS !!! When one of my bestest friends was getting married she immediately (obviously) asked me to be one of her bridesmaids. Of course, this was before she realized how traditional the groom’s family expected the event to be. Not only did I get the boot from the wedding party, she had to cover her own tattoos with makeup ! UGH — the nerve !

  6. Wow. All I can say is this girl sounds entitled. Why on earth does she need her bridesmaids to wax their hoo-haw?! OP, I wax, but if someone told me I HAD to for their big day, I would be seriously tempted to skip that particular grooming habit for a few weeks before hand. I’m sorry your friend is so demanding 🙁

  7. Mandatory Brazilians??
    Suddenly this wedding seems a whooooole lot more offbeat.
    Will the bridesmaids appear as dessert?

  8. As a bridesmaid, I think you should expect to adhere to a certain aesthetic at the bride and groom’s request. You can politely request that they exempt you from those guidelines, but if they say no, be prepared to conform or drop out of the wedding party. It’s their wedding, their pictures, their event, so they have the right to ask for temporary changes. If they’re saying, “Hey, get rid of the dreads and dye your hair brown,” that’s not really temporary. But make up, tanning lotion, and nail polish come off pretty easily and no one says you have to keep them beyond the reception.

    There was an awesome post on here a while back about what to do when you’re welcome at a wedding and your hair color isn’t. Don’t let it become a big thing (if you can avoid it). Megan listed some great ways to point out that you might not be the best person for the gig. Emphasize that you love them and want to be at their wedding. Be gracious and use I statements. No accusing, no judging, just love.

    As for the Brazilian thing, my first thought was, “Hey, what a great excuse to get that done!” I love Brazilians, but I can’t justify the expense regularly. Maybe that’s what the bride was thinking? I don’t know. But yeah, I don’t consider tanning or waxing temporary.

    • As a bridesmaid, I think you should expect to adhere to a certain aesthetic at the bride and groom’s request.

      I disagree with this assumption, but I think we can agree that the key here is that couples should clearly communicate their expectations when asking people to be attendants so that everyone is on the same page.

      More about my thoughts on the issue:
      http://offbeatbride.com/bridesmaid-henchwoman

      • It ultimately comes down to compromise and perspective!

        I really want my bridesmaids to be in a sapphire blue gown. It’s my favorite color and my e-ring has a sapphire stone – it’s a sentimental choice as much as an aesthetic one. I’m being as accommodating about that as I can be (doing Little Borrowed Dress, letting them choose any style, being open to different options if they aren’t comfortable) but I’m very clear that the color is a non-negotiable. Most of them have been great about that, but my youngest bridesmaid (who has never been to an American wedding before) sort of…well, BALKED at the idea of not choosing her own dress since she’s in those young teenage years when fashion = ultimate self-expression (at least for her).

        So we had to have a long chat about it and I’m sure it’s not the last. What we agreed on was that she would wear the color and she’d go with the strapless option – but she can accessorize any way she damn well pleases.

        And while that might not have originally been part of my vision, it made me realize that even REMOTELY trying to make all of my bridesmaids look like they are carbon copies of each other is, frankly, laughable. One is an Italian beauty queen, the other is a tattooed-and-pierced Brooklynite, the other is a free spirited salsa dancer, and the fourth is (as mentioned) a fashionista teenager. Why would I even WANT them to look the same when clearly they’re all so awesome in their own right? It was a nice dose of perspective and, while I’m not budging on the dress color, that conversation helped me get excited about using my wedding as a venue to showcase my bridesmaids’ individual awesomeness, rather than turning them into monotonous photo props. Which should be such an obvious conclusion to reach, but wedding planning muddles the obvious sometimes.

        • I have mixed thoughts about this. I tried to be super-casual about what our accent color was when talking to the wedding party about it, stressing that it was to be like as much like forest green as possible but whatever. When my parents said they couldn’t find anything in that color and asked if they could wear navy instead, I said sure, wear whatever, I’m just glad you’re coming. And yes, I was super-happy they were there and we had a great time.

          And then we got the pictures back and you can see how mismatched they look next to my in-laws, the Best Woman, the Man of Honor, my nieces, my husband, and me, all of us wearing something with forest green or a similar deep green and my dad, mom, and sister in navy. Whenever I see a group photo of the entire wedding party, as wonderful it is to see everyone in the picture, it’s always going to bug me a little that everyone doesn’t match.

  9. I think the issue here is when “temporary aesthetic guidelines” become “hiding identity.” It sounded to me like the original poster didn’t want waxing or spray tans or whatever because they would make her feel *less like her,* and therefore really weird about being a bridesmaid. Almost as though the message were “We want another bridesmaid, but we don’t want her to look like you.”

    There’s a big difference between offering to have a professional do everyone’s makeup and REQUIRING it. The former says “I want to make sure you feel pretty and pampered,” while the latter says “I want you to look the way I imagine in my head.”

  10. Soooooo… I don’t know if this belongs here, but what if it’s the opposite?

    My girlfriend just got married in a very lavish, traditional ceremony and seems to be having issues with the ideas I am having as an offbeat bride. The latest thing she seemed bothered by and made her opinions known about, was that the girls on my fiancé’s side aren’t carrying the flowers. She seems put off by all the traditional things we’re not doing and about how laid back it is.

    Thoughts?

    • My bridesmaids are the same way. I think it comes from a place of love, like your friend can’t understand why you DON’T want this, and thinks that her imput is helpful (showing you the way to have a “correct” wedding). Remember, a lot of them have never seen pictures from a site like this, and can’t imagine a wedding that’s not 100% traditional. I’ve found so far what works is a) let them express their ideas “Blue roses to match the bridesmaid dresses? Sounds pretty ” b) Throw it back at them “The flower girl at your wedding was so cute! You did an excellent job” and, if they don’t drop it then, c) Explain your feelings and make yourself clear “While I think that’s a great idea, it’s really important to [Groom] and I that we keep this wedding personal to us. You’re a great friend & bridesmaid and I really hope you’ll support me on what my vision is for the day.” Once she sees how excited you are about your idea for a wedding and how much it means to you, a true friend will support your decisions.

    • Personally, I think the comments here still apply. I have a similar thing where a bridesmaid was in her sisters super formal, fancy, traditional wedding and she was surprised at the things I mentioned I was doing. But I talked to her and made sure that she was comfortable with everything.
      I think I said something like: “So you’ve expressed surprise at some of the wedding plans I’ve mentioned to you. I just wanted to let you know specifically what I’m asking of bridesmaids and make sure you feel comfortable with it.”
      If you approach her about her specific role in the wedding and ask about it, maybe it will help her feel included and consulted.

      In my case, my bridesmaid is only uncomfortable with picking her own dress so I sent her 5 dresses in the right color and general style I like and told her to pick one of those or I had a few more if she wanted a different price or length.

      • That’s really thoughtful of you!

        Similarly, I had my first chat with a BM about my expectations, or lack of them, for my bridal party and she was kinda dumbstruck that I thought it’d be nice to have the BMs pick out their dresses.

        It was very endearing, and her concern that I was happy with her choice emphasized that I had made a great choice asking her to be my BM.

        Nothing like a major life change to show you who are your true friends.

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