Love Your Bridesmaids
How to Keep Your Faithful Friends Smiling from Start to Finish
Photo by Duval Photography and Video, Inc
The author (seated far left) at her best friend's wedding.
Brides, think you’re stressed out? Keep in mind that your bridesmaids—the ones who will plan your bridal shower, don your dress of choice, and help you through your pre-wedding jitters—are stressing, too. Here are some tips to keep your bridesmaids happy and ensure years of girls’ nights out to come.
I’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid six times. I’ve donned a green velvet long-sleeved, floor-length gown with matching pumps, a hot-pink sari handmade in India, and a cute Vera Wang number that cost less than my prom dress. I’ve created bridal shower centerpieces and ducked into Romantic Depot to stock up on bachelorette party essentials. I’ve read articles, learned the scientific names of umpteen flowers, and debated the merits of covered versus non-covered chairs. By my completely casual calculation, I’ve spent somewhere between $6,000 and $8,000. And while I don’t regret a single penny—or minute—of it, Jane Nichols from 27 Dresses I am not.
Truth is, being a bridesmaid can be stressful. Even though it’s the bride’s day, and the bridal party is there to support her, there are ways to keep the whole process smooth and (relatively) stress-free. Here are some tips from both brides and bridesmaids on how to keep everyone happy.
Maids and Money
With the average cost of a wedding somewhere in the $30,000 range—and that number undoubtedly higher in Westchester—a wedding is probably the most expensive party a couple will ever throw. While the bride might write off extra expenses to an “I’m only getting married once” mentality, bridesmaids (especially the “always a bridesmaid” variety) might be reticent to do the same. The costs—everything from the dress to the shower to travel expenses—can add up. “I understand and think it’s justified that with the honor of being a bridesmaid come additional costs,” explains Liz S., twice a bridesmaid and about to make her third trip down the petal-strewn aisle. “However, I think brides should try and figure out ways to keep costs down, or at least, acknowledge how much they’re asking their bridesmaids to spend.”
Take into consideration where and at what point each of the women is in her life. Is everyone fresh out of college? Single and living it up? Planning a wedding of her own? Knowing your friends’ situations might make the decision between, let’s say, a local bachelorette party and a destination fiesta a bit easier.
Offsetting costs is another way to ease the bridesmaids’ burden. Melissa Imberman, owner of The Event of a Lifetime, an event-planning company based in Millwood, has seen some brides pay for dresses, and others for professional hair and makeup application. If that’s not in the budget, Kristi Rachiele of Port Chester, who’s been a bridesmaid twice and a bride herself, suggests allowing bridesmaids to have their hair and makeup done wherever they choose. “Offer the services to them but also be explicit about the price and tell them it’s ok to go somewhere else,” she says.
A simple acknowledgement that lets your bridesmaids know that you are aware and appreciate that they’re shelling out big bucks for your special day is a nice touch. “I’ve seen brides have a day at the spa or a luncheon for their bridesmaids as a kind of thank you for their support,” Imberman says.
Dress to Impress
One of the biggest gripes bridesmaids have is that they’ll be forced to wear some frilly, mustard-yellow, taffeta, bow-covered concoction. Thankfully, bridesmaids’ dresses have come a long way in recent years, and brides should see and understand this. “I think this whole mentality of the bride putting the bridesmaids in ugly dresses so that she looks more beautiful needs to be kicked to the curb,” says Joyce Alencherril of White Plains. “Regardless of what the bridesmaids wear, the bride will be the star of the day. The dresses should be something that the bride would have no problem wearing herself.”
An easy way to ensure all the women feel comfortable in their dresses is to have them wear the same color and fabric, but a cut in which they feel comfortable. “Each woman wears a dress that suits her, rather than making a half-dozen women with different body types wear the same dress,” Imberman recommends. Another option is to have bridesmaids choose whatever dress they’d like, as long as it’s a certain color.
"The bride in the wedding I’m currently in is going to suggest a color range and send us some paint chips,” Liz S. reports. “We can choose any type of dress in that range.”
Cost is another consideration. Anna Maria D’Onofrio, who’s been a bridesmaid six times and a bride herself, suggests brides look beyond the typical bridal salons, as they can be pricey. Check out J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Loehmann’s, or any of the major department stores.
And sometimes, simply asking your bridesmaids can make all the difference. When Rachiele was a bride, she knew one of her bridesmaids was concerned about her weight, and two others were planning their own weddings. She and her mother picked out two moderately priced dresses and had the young women vote on which they liked best. “It took time and patience,” she says, “but it was worth it to make the bridesmaids comfortable.”
Communication Is Key
The majority of women interviewed had the same advice for brides: talk to your bridesmaids. "Brides should be straightforward in asking for what they want,” Alencherril of White Plains says. “If they absolutely want to have a destination bachelorette party, say so. If they want the bridesmaids to wear their hair a certain way at the wedding, say so. Brides can’t expect bridesmaids to just know what they want. I had a friend who was upset that we didn’t get a limo for her bachelorette party, but how were we supposed to know that’s what she wanted?”
One of the bridesmaids’ typical functions is to provide help and opinions. By all means, mine the wisdom of your closest friends. But do it with respect and appreciation. If you can’t decide which type of cake you like best, have the foodie among the bridesmaids go with you on a taste test. Is one of them especially creative? Ask if she’d like to help with invitations or visiting florists. It’s important to remember, though, that asking is different from expecting. A bride might be consumed with wedding planning, but bridesmaids are busy with lives of their own. Inviting them to partake in activities—not demanding that they do—helps them feel included without being forced. Most bridesmaids, though, are willing to participate. Says Sherry Thomas, who got married in April, “Ninety-nine percent of the time, your bridesmaids will be more than happy to help and they will save you a lot of headache.”
Beware the Bridezilla
Unfortunately, bridezillas are not a myth. The WE network wouldn’t have such a successful series on its hands if it were. When planning a wedding, it’s easy to get caught up and want everything to be so perfect you forget that people are not. While it’s okay to ask for certain things—such as all maids to show up at the bride’s house at a certain time—sometimes it can easily get out of hand. “I was in a friend’s wedding where the bridesmaids threw the bridal shower,” says D’Onofrio, who lives in Tuckahoe. “As her gift, she asked us to buy her the entire bedding and bathroom set. I’m talking bedspread, curtains—everything down to the toilet-seat covers. She even picked it all out. We bought that, plus had to pay for the restaurant, food, cake—everything. It was something like eight hundred or nine hundred dollars just for the shower alone. She basically had the attitude of ‘This is what I want, and that’s it, end of story.’”
Have realistic expectations of bridesmaids—they are primarily there to support you, not cater to you—and understand that just because it’s your wedding, that doesn’t mean you have a right to boss people around, talk down to them, or make outlandish or extravagent requests.
The Big Day
When all is said and done, your bridesmaids were chosen for a reason. “Keep in mind that you chose these women because they are closest to you and you can count on them,” Imberman from The Event of a Lifetime reminds. "Your bridesmaids have been part of your life for some time,” D’Onofrio says, “and you want them to keep being in your life. As a bride, you have a bond with them, and it is one that you’d like to continue long after your wedding day is over.”