Tips for Bridesmaids (Part 2): Preparing for the Wedding
Previously, we posted tips for surviving the bouquet/garter toss as a bridesmaid. This week we are taking a step back to prepare you from the beginning of the preparation process. So here goes….
Congratulations! Your friend/relative/acquaintance has asked you to be in your wedding. Here are some tips for making this transition from everyday-person to Bridesmaid extraordinaire:
1. Look at your calendar. Hard. There is nothing worse than agreeing to be in a wedding and having to back out last-minute because you forgot it was your brother’s graduation day or your mom had a scheduled surgery, or you already paid a down-payment on a cabin in Michigan. Check your calendar and then write/type the wedding into the calendar so you don’t schedule anything else.
2. Be realistic about the finances. Weddings are expensive, but you may not have realized what type of financial commitment you just made so I want to break it down for you. The average bridesmaid’s dress is $150 unless your bride doesn’t care at all about committing your money and then you are in trouble. But plan to spend $100-$200 for a dress, and $30 for shoes. This is not usually included in the wedding budget since you get to keep your dress and shoes after the wedding, so you are on your own. Additionally, plan to be at the wedding at minimum two days before, the day of, and the day after the wedding. So that’s at least 4 days of doing nothing but helping out the bride. You have to be able to attend the rehearsal, typically the night before, and there may be a bachelorette party the night before that. This means you have to take vacation days from work, or go without pay if you don’t have any paid vacation time coming. Now add in travel. If you are lucky, the wedding is close to where you live, but if not, add in cost for flight/gas, hotel stays, car rental, meals etc. Finally, factor in the cost of gifts: engagement party, shower, bachelorette party, wedding gifts.
Feeling overwhelmed? You don’t have to be, you can do this on a budget, but you do need to be honest about expense vs. income and try to work with the bride and other bridesmaids if you need help. For instance, as a bridesmaid I have had many brides find me a place to stay when I was coming from out-of-town, frequently in their house with them up until the wedding night. Some brides will let you wear your own shoe selection, as long as it is the appropriate color, which means you can look for a cheaper version or use something you already own. Gifts can be made, rides can be shared, your boss may allow you to take on extra shifts if you plan ahead. But don’t take on more financial responsibility than you can fiscally chew.
3. Disclose early if you have special needs. As a bride, I chose all of my bridesmaids carefully and would not have wanted a single one to be left out, but some of them required special accommodations and lucky for me they told me in time for me to do something about it. I am not just talking about physical disabilities, although now is the time to disclose that your false leg doesn’t bend at the knee, but other needs you may not have thought of right away, such as:
– Modesty requirements for your religion or to cover up a scar, etc.
– Allergies (especially to specific types of flowers or metals)
– Stage fright/fear of public speaking
– Preferences (if you hate to show your arms and would rather have sleeves, think your knees are ugly and need a long gown, have a preference for a type of material or a type of dress cut, delicately bring these up. Most brides want you to love your bridesmaid dress and want to wear it again. If you don’t speak up now, you will have to forever hold your peace).
4. Offer to help. Often. In ways that are as specific as possible. Wedding planning is stressful and full of crazy little details so if you can take any of the work off the bride’s hands, she will be so grateful, but she may be so overwhelmed she doesn’t even know where to start. You don’t need prior experience to be super helpful: anybody can stuff invitation envelopes, seal them, put stamps on them, and mail them out. Someone slightly more organized can easily maintain the RSVP list on a spreadsheet. You don’t have to be craftsy to stuff doily cones full of flower petals, all you need are hands. I attended one wedding as the wife of a groomsman, and discovered that not one of the bride’s 8 bridesmaids who actually lived in the area took the day off work on the day before her wedding. Which meant that three of us spent all day decorating her backyard for the rehearsal dinner luau, cleaning up afterwards, stuffing rose petals into cones, and one of us WASN’T EVEN IN THE WEDDING PARTY. Be classy, help out. I am sure those ladies never even thought about the fact that she would need help, but 10 years later it still ruffles my feathers how insensitive they were to their friend’s needs.
5. Get contact info for all the bridesmaids distributed to each other ASAP. This is usually the maid of honor’s job, but you guys will want to be in on planning showers and bachelorette parties and it is nice to get to know each other before the big day.
6. Get the bride something small. The night I got engaged, my friends knew it was going to happen and my roommate left my first Bridal magazine on my pillow. It was the icing on the cake of one of the best nights of my life. One of the things many brides fear is losing all their friends after they get married. Let her know from the beginning that you support her and will be there for her, and then follow it up by actually being there.
Those 6 tips should get you started. On to the fun parts….