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. Tough situation!
    I wonder if you could bring your own organic/vegan/hypoallergenic/ whatever you are comfortable with makeup and have the makeup artist use that instead?
    You could easily pin your hair up, without coating it in hairspray!

  2. The bride DOES have the right to make requirements for her own wedding, no matter how weird or against your beliefs they may be. However, any bride should make those expectations VERY clear in the beginning. If it were my friend I’d probably bend a little for anything that was temporary (dress/make-up) and draw the line at waxing/tanning my body or going over my financial limits. Find out what her expectations are, and let her know where your line is drawn so the two of you have an understanding. If her expectations make you feel less *you*, then unfortunately all you can do is opt out or offer to help her in another way.

    • I agree with this, within reason. I think I do have a ‘right’ to ask you to cover up a tat that might be controversial for certain venues, or to request you wear your hair in a certain way if you can.
      I was watching *gasp* Bridezillas, and the bride asked her sister to do a French mani in black instead of white for the wedding. The sister pitched such a fit it was ridiculous–it was NAIL POLISH, something that comes off at the end of the day. (The bride on that particular episode ended up not being a ‘bridezilla’–she really hadn’t made any unreasonable requests, and when she broke down in the requisite tears, it seemed to be because everyone was truly fighting her on every issue.) Don’t be that person. The wedding isn’t about YOU–it’s about ALL of our family and friends.

  3. I think that the heart of this problem is the question of what physical appearance / beauty / personal grooming actually mean. Are they simply aesthetic – in which case the bride has as much right to dictate them as she does the colour of the stationery? or are they outward markers of personal identity – in which case why would the bride even want to shoehorn people who are supposedly her friends into looks which are incompatible with their deep-seated identity.

    For people who feel that their external appearance is a fundamental part of who they are – and who may have carefully and thoughtfully modified it, from hair colour to tattoos to piercings, or who may simply have made a conscious choice to *not* modify it with makeup or hair removal – the idea of someone telling them what to do with their appearance is at the very least infuriating and at worst actually quite hurtful in its implications. But if you feel that external appearance is just an aesthetic then there’s no issue with changing it for the day at someone’s behest – after all, the spray tan and the make-up wash off.

    So maybe if the bride & bridesmaids are a bit clearer with one another on what their underlying assumptions on physical externals actually are, this dilemma could be explored more easily.

    • I know this is super old, but I think it’s one of the wisest things I’ve ever read.

  4. So, I frequent another wedding site (might rhyme with “da blot”), and while they’re usually not as offbeat-friendly as I’d like, one thing they’re SUPER serious about is: as a bridesmaid, your only responsibilities are to show up for the wedding, sober, in the correct dress picked based on budget. The gals over there might be ridiculously averse to community-supported weddings, friendors, and leaving titles off of invitations, but they are fiercely defensive of people in the wedding party. And that’s a good thing.

    First of all, these are all things that your friend the bride should have made clear from the get-go. I know that these days, we love the platonic-romance of asking people to be in the wedding party; hell, when I asked my maid of honor, we had one of those OMG CRYING moments and everything. But you have GOT to be clear about expectations. I told all my people up front: I do not want a bridal shower; I do not care about a bachelorette party but would happily be the guest of honor if they held one; I do not expect them to come with me to tastings and fittings and stuff; they can wear whatever dress they’d like; hair and make-up is completely up to them and they don’t have to pay to have it done; would they be comfortable giving a toast or doing a reading?

    All of my bridesmaids had questions. All of them wanted to make sure it was okay that they might not be available for stuff. There’s a chance that my maid of honor might only be available ON the wedding day (not the day before or after). One of my bridesmaids might miss the wedding entirely. The point is, you have to talk about expectations.

    Second of all, I think it’s reasonable that the couple should be able to pick out the outfits for the wedding party and ask the wedding party to purchase/rent their main outfits (dress, skirt, suit, tux) as long as the couple has checked with everyone about budget. If the couple wants the wedding party to wear certain shoes or have hair/make-up done a certain way, I think it needs to be on the couple’s dime. That goes for covering tattoos or wearing wigs/dyeing hair. Or having mani-pedis or, apparently, genital waxes.

    Finally, I’d like to say that couples should be okay if a member of the wedding party says no to something they’re not comfortable with. These folks are your beloved friends and family; they are not props. But I agree with the majority of advice: be prepared to either drop out or be asked to leave the wedding party.

    For this specific situation: Talk to your friend! Tell her what you’re comfortable with and not comfortable with. Could you have mani-pedis done with clear polish? Could you wear stockings instead of shaving your legs? Could you do your own make-up/go without? I’m not saying, “These are reasonable compromises you should make.” I’m saying, “For the sake of your friend, who is being kind of sort of pretty unreasonable, think of ways you could meet her halfway. These things might work for you.” But again–be prepared to have her kick you out of the wedding party (which, as I see it, is a friendship ending move, but hopefully you are a nicer person than I am).

    But you are not a prop, or an actor in a play; your job isn’t to look a certain way in photos or to give her the romantic comedy bridal experience.

    Finally, please do not wax your genitals, at least for this reason. Speaking from experience, you have to actually actively want to wax your nethers in order for it to be worth it.

    • Isn’t it weird that theknot and I agree on this issue? Obviously, I’m very pro-bride… but when it comes to attendants, things can get really weird really fast when it comes to expectations. It’s ALL about communication and appreciation, pretty much all the time.

  5. I think compromise is the key. You don’t want to do the spray tans or waxing, fine. But perhaps give in on wearing makeup on the wedding day. Give a little, get a little. Decide which issues you feel most strongly about and go from there.

  6. I get super annoyed by the “bride has a right” to do x or y. The right? RIGHT? Ugh, no. They chose you, they have ideas and plans and requests, but in the end this is a relationship. I personally could physically not do the heavy makeup or nail polish (or tans or jebus, waxing my nethers) because I would have a break down. I have sensory issues a lot of people don’t know about. Nail polish feels like my hands are encased in plastic wrap and I feel like I can’t breathe. Heavy make up, especially foundation, makes me feel like a cushion is strapped to my face (and again, like I can’t breathe). I have issues, and they’re all my deal. But if my friend demanded all of this as her RIGHT? I probably wouldn’t be capable of being friends any longer, much less her bridesmaid. It’s a relationship, you work together to form the best compromise you can, or maybe there is something to re-evaluate.

    • The bride (or anyone else) has a right to ask. The other person has a right to either ask about alternatives or has the right to decline the invitation to be in the party.

  7. Here in Austria we do not have bridesmaids really, but I was my best friend’s wittness for her marriage (it has a legal background, but is a nice tradition as well). Luckily she was what I expected her to be in this situation, a perfect friend. She wanted ME to be her wittness, to sit beside her during the most important moment of her life and hold her hankerchief, not somebody else.
    And that included for her to accept my style and habits as well since that is who I am. She even let me wear a floral wreath to show how happy I was on that day – for her of course. although usually witnesses are dressed more formal (and I was the only one wearing one on that day :-)).
    But I made a compromise as well. I wanted to go all black since that is basically the only colour I have in my wardrobe, but I knew she would not be happy with black even though she wouldn’t have told me, so I handmade a colourfull flowerdress just for this occasion that I could wear and that I liked (I am very picky on dresses) and even bought new shoes (which as expected I stopped wearing immediately after the ceremony since they hurt soooo much, I remained barefoot for the rest of the day. Little happy hippie-girl). I am sure that I gained some nasty gazes from the rest of the crowd that day, but my friend was just perfectly happy about everything, which in the end is what counts on that day.

    I think that in this case both can make a compromise to show how much they care about each other on this emotional occasion. You don’t have to give up who you are for a wedding, but also as a friend, it should be important to you that this is your friend’s day, not yours.

  8. Don’t do anything that compromises the beliefs that are important to you or violates your sense of right and wrong, but I think you should just go with the flow and have fun with the things that push you out of your comfort zone. I’m planning a traditional wedding and have a offbeat bridesmaid. I’m not asking her to get a brazilian or anything extreme like that, but she has taken sort of an offbeat holier-than-thou attitude that puts a damper on things. Remember that even really mainstream bridesmaids aren’t always thrilled to get mani-pedis, sit around while the bride opens gifts at her shower, and delicately sip champagne and giggle or whatever, but they do it to be good sports.

    • Yeah, I have to agree with you here. I guess I am a traditional bride having a traditional wedding, and the bridesmaids’ need to be against almost everything for whatever personal reason is just tiring. I cannot tell you how many complaints I received for asking the girls to pick their own navy blue dress, gave them the option to have their hair done (paid for by me). I kind of feel like everyone WANTS me to be a bridezilla… I actually thought I was going out of my way to make it really easy, but I don’t think there’s a thing I could have done that would have pleased everyone.

      • I totally get this. One of my Bridesmaids is fighting me every step of the way, they get to pick their dresses, hairstyle, shoes. I’m not asking them to wear makeup…but yet I feel like I’m pulling teeth. I’m sorry you’re going through it. I’m just happy its over in less than 3 months!

        • I feel you. The offbeat philosophy isn’t just be about being confident in your own offbeat decisions, but also being supportive of other people.

  9. I don’t understand how going to the bachelorette party is a compromise, just because the OP didn’t themselves have one? It’s a wedding. Weddings usually entail these sorts of things. I mean, I’m not suggesting the OP has to go. By all means. But (just as an example) I would never call it a compromise to go to a friend’s birthday party, just because I didn’t have one this year, I would consider it a pleasure, as it’s a part of friendship, and a part of her celebration. Or I just wouldn’t go. Now, if the OP had full responsibility of organising and hosting the bachelorette party, I could understand the compromise in that. But by suggesting that it’s any way a compromise just by *attending* (unless the OP has social anxiety and it’s a big deal going to public gatherings), I don’t know, I just have the feeling of, does the OP even *want* to be bridesmaid?

    • This this this. You don’t sound like you want to do anything as a part of this wedding. It may make sense to bow out and just go as a guest.

  10. My personal feeling would be, if I was a close enough friend to be asked to be bridesmaid then a reasonable request that didn’t make a lasting change would be reasonable for the bride to request- tbh most offbeat brides expect their bridesmaids to accept their reasonable requests even if it may not be their norm. So for me hair do ok, hair cut into completely different style not ok. As for makeup it’s one day would it really be that awfully to be by your friends side as she wants. Having said that if you aren’t comfortable then I’d discuss it with her but think it should go with a happily offered resignation of shed prefer that option- just make sure you’re ok if she would rather not have you as bridesmaid if you opt for no make up or hair do

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