The title may imply a sad, sarcastic tone (which is not far from the truth) but honestly, even after being a bridesmaid in two weddings and about to partake in a third next summer, I actually enjoy being a bridesmaid, contrary to popular opinion. It’s sort of like you’re in a movie, only you’re not the leading lady, more like the funny friend with all the best lines—the Rhoda to the Mary if you will. Especially when it’s someone you love who is getting married and you’re thrilled for the couple—that’s when it’s the most fun! This is sort of my unofficial guide on what to expect when you’re expecting (to be a bridesmaid) and how you can navigate your way through the muddy waters of weddings.
The following is a short list of your duties (officially and unofficially).
Offer to help with pre-wedding tasks. Try to be specific when you volunteer. For example, say, “Would you like me to help you shop for bridesmaid dresses/stuff invitations/plan your bachelorette?” instead of just, “What can I do?”
Ok, see this was a hard one for me because I still really have no idea what the tasks actually are. Also it depends if your bride knows what she’s doing or doesn’t have a clue. Both have their pros and cons. I prefer to be told what to do so if I say specifically “tell me what you need” that usually helps.
Scout out bridesmaid dresses, shoes, jewelry, and other wedding accessories.
This is where most of us panic. The best case scenario is when everyone just needs to have the same color but you can choose the style that best fits your body type. I’ve had luck in this department and probably would never have a friend that wouldn’t understand the struggle of trying to look good in the same dress as my stick thin ballerina friend (you know who you are!)
Help to plan, cohost, and pay for the bridal shower and bachelorette party with other bridesmaids.
Be sure you keep in mind this is for someone else – what does the bride enjoy doing. Sure, is it my dream to go all out in Vegas catching the “Thunder Down Under” male revue show? Yes. But the bride might be a more casual Napa Valley wine tasting type. Do whatever she wants. You will have your moment in the sun (she says to herself with a glass of wine hoping she’s right)
If the maid/matron of honor isn’t already handling this task, keep a record of all the gifts received at various parties and bridal showers (so that the bride/couple can write thank-you notes); maintain RSVP lists.
The maid of honor is usually running around trying to help the bride so take initiative and help out—this is the easiest of all tasks (trust me even I couldn’t screw it up).
Attend the ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
Easy enough. Also if you are giving a speech (as I will be doing at the rehearsal dinner next year) make sure your speech is all about the bride, you can sprinkle in the groom and your friendship with the bride here and there. DO NOT under any circumstance take this as an opportunity to perform your one-woman show. Everyone, including the bride, will murder you.
Run last-minute errands. On the day of the wedding, be on hand to confirm flower delivery times, meet and greet the ceremony officiant, or satisfy junk food cravings.
This is a big one. You may have to rifle through a lavender patch filled with bees to fluff the train of the dress, or make a funny face while the bride awkwardly stands there taking ten zillion photos. She may forget her favorite lip gloss or look shiny in a photo—none of this is acceptable—and you must be on hand to tell her the truth and help her look and feel her very best.
Serve as auxiliary hostess at the reception by introducing guests, making sure they know where the bar is located, and inviting them to sign the guest book.
Much like security detail is with regards to emergency exits, I always know where the bar is located.
Hit the dance floor when the music kicks in. Dance with groomsmen during the formal first-dance sequence. Also, be on the lookout for toe-tapping guests who might need encouragement and/or a dance partner.
I knock this one out of the park every time.
Give the matron/maid of honor a break by helping to carry the bride’s wedding gown train whenever necessary. Bustle the train before dancing begins, and be ready to help fix it if it comes unhooked. Accompany the bride on visits to the restroom, if asked.
This is not particularly my strong suit, find the bridesmaid who is the most OCD and maybe into numbers and perfection—she will be the most exact when it comes to bustling the train.
Purchase a wedding present perhaps with one or several of the other bridesmaids. This provides more buying power, and two heads are better than one when it comes to wedding gift ideas. Sometimes the entire bridesmaid troupe pitches in for one knock-her-socks-off wedding gift.
I know it’s hard to spend all this money but I have found that the best gifts are the ones that are thoughtful and made with love. For example we knew the groom loved Moscow Mules so we got copper mugs and all the ingredients for that drink and wrapped it in a beautiful basket. I believe she cried when she opened it—nailed it.
Provide plenty of emotional support during the planning and on the wedding day.
The other bridesmaids are your lifeline on this day and you might need to lean on each other to complain or cry or laugh or just have a big old drink. Keep reminding yourself, no matter how stressful the ordeal becomes, that you are helping your dear friend have her dream wedding and a day she will never forget. Be a trooper, be gracious, tactful and most of all have fun!
Tanya Schwied graduated from New York University, studied abroad in Israel, and currently works for the CEO and President of Jewish Federation & Family Services.