I know from experience that female relationships can be as complicated and fraught with danger as diffusing a bomb. I realize that no outsider can know the exact dynamics of any relationship. Seriously, though…is it that hard to be a good bridesmaid? Sometimes getting maids to behave themselves during a bride’s wedding planning can be like pulling teeth.
We all know the drill: You have to deal with your friend, whose personality seemed to change the second the ring appeared on her finger. You may have to wear an ugly dress (although bridesmaids choices have gotten increasingly better in recent years). You feel like your wallet is constantly open, shelling out for bachelorette parties, showers and gifts. There are other girls in the bridal party whom you cannot stand. I get it. Still, being a bridesmaid is time to just suck it up, plaster a smile on your face, wear the ugly dress and practice saying “Yes”. If you can’t perform your duties without drama, you should step aside and let the bride choose someone who can.
Of course you are honored to be chosen as one of your friend’s bridesmaids. Perhaps you even have the coveted spot of Maid or Matron of Honor. Here are some tips to help you be the best bridesmaid you can be. The bride will thank you for it.
1. Be There.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but being a bridesmaid means being there physically AND emotionally. Many brides are hyper-organized. They will have the dates that they need you present mapped out so far in advance that it might seem silly. I assure you, it’s not silly to her. Add those dates to your calendar and do your damnedest to make sure you don’t have any conflicts. Have to attend a funeral? She’ll understand (maybe!). Making a hair appointment on the day she has earmarked for shoe shopping? I’m willing to wager that she won’t like that quite so much.
The emotional part is a little trickier. Weddings can be a powder keg of personalities and feelings. Your bride might be a little more touchy than usual. Think of it as a year-long case of PMS. You don’t want to provoke her! She may call you to tell you that she’s fighting with her mother over linen colors. Maybe her fiance just doesn’t get the importance of the bridal registry. These issues may seem trivial to you, but put yourself in her shoes. She is trying her best to make this a perfect wedding. You may know that going for a perfect anything is a fool’s errand at best, but perhaps she has lived her whole life dreaming of this day. Roll your eyes on the other end of the line if you must, but make sure she feels like she’s been heard. Offer helpful suggestions and if all else fails, take her out for a cocktail or three!
2. Don’t Be Jealous (or if you are, don’t let it show!).
Sometimes our friends have transitioned into a different phase of life than we have. You may still be the out-all-night party girl while your friend is home watching Dancing with the Stars with her betrothed. When it comes to life changes, someone’s got to be first. Most women are genuinely happy for their girlfriends when they enter a different stage of life. Others are blatantly obvious in their jealousy. Let’s say you’ve been with your significant other for 4 years and you’re still waiting on that proposal. Perhaps you have just ended a relationship and you’re still a bit bitter about the idea of “happily ever after”. Then, your best friend calls you ecstatic because she’s gotten engaged. And they’ve only been dating for a year! Are you able to put aside your own feelings and be truly happy for her? Sometimes it’s a hard pill to swallow. Even if you’re beyond jealous, you have to try to put that aside for now. Your own situation may make you angry or sad, but don’t use that as an excuse to rain on her parade. Besides, what if you decide to get married one day? Having it out with your friend now is one way to insure that you’ll have one less bridesmaid when your time comes.
3. Give Opinions, but Don’t be Opinionated.
Let’s say you are out shopping for bridesmaids dresses and there is one that the bride is clearly gaga over. It’s Big Bird yellow, it’s poufy and you hate it. There’s nothing wrong with being honest as long as you’re gentle. Saying something like “It’s not my favorite, but it’s your day so I’ll wear whatever you want” is key. This gives the bride the option to choose that dress without feeling like a bitch, but also clues her in to the fact that you don’t love it. A lot of brides really care about what their friends think and want them to be comfortable in their bridesmaids dresses. Your gentle acknowledgement of that particular dress’s drawbacks may be enough to give her pause. If not, you’ll probably be wearing an ugly dress. But you knew that was a possibility when you signed up for this, didn’t you?
4. Be Clear About Limitations Up Front.
Weddings can be a big drain emotionally, physically and financially. They require lots of time, patience, energy and money. If you are short on any of those things, tell the bride as soon as possible. Can’t get any vacation time from work? Tell her that you won’t be able to make it to the bachelorette party in Vegas unless it’s on a weekend. Are you short on cash because you’re out of work? Let her know exactly how much you can afford to spend on your dress and accessories. Unable to stand in stilettos because of a foot problem? Make sure you make her aware of that before she buys your sky-high Jimmy Choos. The more information you can give the bride, the better. If you are open and honest from the beginning, there will be less hurt feelings later.
5. Have Fun!
This is the most important part! Don’t be afraid to truly let go and have a good time. Consider yourself special. You have been asked to share in a very important day in your friend’s life. She chose you for a reason. This is something to celebrate. Maybe you paid too much for your ill-fitting dress, but that’s no reason not to take advantage of the open bar! At the very least, there’s probably a cute single wedding guest to meet. More importantly, you get to watch a treasured friend enjoy her day. Surely that’s worth a few headaches along the way.