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How to ace being in a bridal party

Josephine Walsh

Asked to be a bridesmaid or groomsman? Congratulations!

Whether you’re an old-hand or complete novice, here are some sure-fire ways to make sure you come out with first-class honours in your bridal party duties.

Honesty is the best policy

Being asked to be a member of the bridal party is an incredibly special and touching moment in a friendship. Whilst it’s a huge amount of fun, it can be quite a bit of work. Depending on how your friends are planning and funding their wedding, it can also end up being quite expensive.

Every wedding differs. Some couples opt to pay for all of the bridal party’s costs, whilst others ask their friends to make a contribution. Assume that you’ll need to pay your own way from the outset, and discuss with your friends what they anticipate your costs will be for travel, outfits, parties etc.

It’s also wise to get a sense of how big your role in the lead-up to the day will be. Are you working with a chilled bride who just needs your dress measurements, or a friend who expects you to spend every second weekend between now and December 2019 growing and hand-potting potting 250 succulent centrepieces?

Photographer and credit: Kelly Tunney.

Ultimately, it’s better to be transparent upfront about any financial or time constraints so that you and your friend can have an honest discussion about your involvement. It may be that you can both make some compromises, or if it’s prohibitive for you to be a bridesmaid, how you can provide your friend with other forms of valued support.

Graciousness looks good on everyone

Whilst reading wedding horror stories on Reddit is an embarrassing guilty pleasure of mine, most bridal couples want their guests and bridal party to have a wonderful time on their special day.

It’s lovely when a couple gives their bridal party a say on aspects of the celebration. But there’s a huge difference between gently giving your personal suggestions and being that demanding person who has a strong opinion on anything and everything. Don’t misinterpret being asked for your input as an invitation to lay down your own expectations, personal preferences and ultimatums for being involved in their special day.

Given a choice between a few different bridesmaids looks? Pick the one you actually want. The bride asks your opinion on her dress? Be honest, but also kind (“I like these aspects, but it might be worth comparing it to a different style”). Feeling offended that your daughter wasn’t made a flower girl? Let it go.

Whether you have to wear a dress that isn’t usually your style, swallow your pride that you aren’t giving a speech, or accept that a religious ceremony isn’t for everyone, be gracious that you’re playing a role in their wedding day. Your frustrations about how the couple are or aren’t running their day are going to be far more short-lived than dealing with the fall out if you kick up a stink.

Make an effort with the couple’s families, especially their parents

Weddings are an emotional time for not only the wedding couple but also their families. Whilst it’s usually a wonderful time of celebration, like Christmas, weddings can sometimes bring deeply-held beliefs or complex family dynamics to the fore.

For many parents, it’s fairly likely that they’ll be a bit jittery about delivering a cracker of a speech, hosting a successful event, and perhaps shouldering some of the financial costs of the day. Dig a little deeper, and there might be conflicting expectations about how religion or culture will be reflected in the day. Perhaps one or both sets of parents are divorced, widowed or remarried. Weddings are one of those occasions that make us reflect on where we’re at in our own lives and relationships, and for those close to the happy couple, this can be a bit of an intense time.

A great bridesmaid/groomsman is one that supports their friend when they have to deal with these sometimes challenging family conversations. It’s about showing respect to the couple’s parents and siblings and making sure they know how grateful you are to be involved in this special time for their family. If you’ve got family members coming to an event like a hen’s party, be proactive in making conversation and introduce them to guests they don’t know.

Photographer and credit: Kelly Tunney.

Come wedding day, most parents will be just as (or more) nervous than the couple. I distinctly remember mum not being able to do up my dress because her hands were shaking, and Dad having kittens because he’d left the wedding car ribbon back at the hotel. Be on-hand to answer any questions or concerns that they have (which also alleviates any unnecessary stress on the bride or groom), and have plenty of compliments and champagne at the ready to help them relax and enjoy themselves. A heartfelt thank you card after the event is always welcomed and appreciated.

Little actions leave a big mark  

It goes without saying that being considerate is a given if you’re invited to be in someone’s bridal party. It’s probably not the best idea to get totally sloshed before your official duties are over, to give an inappropriate speech (especially if you weren’t asked to speak in the first place!), or endlessly pester the photographer to snap you and your bestie posing with your champers. I had one friend tell me that for her own wedding, one of her friends and the MC booked the honeymoon suite before she had the chance to! Luckily, they can laugh about it now.

That time when my girlfriends and I took the bride into an air-conditioned bathroom in Darwin, brought her an icy Coke and unbuttoned her dress for a while so she could actually breathe. Photographer and copyright: Nicole Taylor.

What will go down well with your dearly beloved bestie are the small yet thoughtful gestures. Checking in without being asked gives your friend the opportunity to seek help if they need it, or download to you about details they’re worrying about. Be prompt in replying to messages, especially if the bride or groom needs information like dietary requirements or suit measurements. It always helps to have last-minute essentials up your sleeve – think pens for amendments to speeches, a sewing kit in case of emergency sartorial situations, gel cushions for sore dancing feet, and tissues for the inevitable happy sob.

Photographer and credit: Kelly Tunney

My bridesmaids organised for all of the women in my life to write me a letter which they then collated and gave to me in a book the night before our wedding. It’s honestly one of the most thoughtful and heartfelt gifts I’ve ever received, and I’m so grateful to have such a special keepsake.

A word to the wise, groomsmen

Alright, gents. Here’s the thing. We bridesmaids know that you’ve not sat idly by in the lead-up to this special day. You’ve probably forked out for that dapper suit that makes you look like an extra from the latest Kingsman movie. Well done on pulling off a hilarious bucks event where you made the groom do shots with women celebrating a 60th birthday bash whilst dressed as a drunken lobster. We do appreciate that in the past last 24 hours, you’ve attentively taken part in the rehearsal, helped with the final set up, and made a mental note if you’re walking the blonde or brunette down the aisle.

However, all this pales in the light that come wedding day, we bridesmaids will feel we have been awake since the dawn of time. In the months leading up to this day, we’ll have exchanged dozens of text messages discussing dresses, nail colour, hairstyles, bouquet arrangements, dress measurements, flats vs wedges vs heels, fake tan trials, whether we need to buy white or ivory coloured spanx that will condense 32% of our total body mass into a flesh-coloured stocking.

We will have scoped, budgeted, booked, risk-assessed, and event managed a hens party which simultaneously caters to the bride’s cheekiness whilst not offending her conservative 92-year-old nana. We will repeat most of the above if the bride also wants a kitchen tea.

Then there is the approximately 5 hours it takes for us to be sufficiently tanned, coiffed, made-up, deal with some inevitable outfit malfunction and dressed before you see us walking serenely down the aisle.

That twinkle of a tear in our eye is equal parts joy in standing beside our friends as they say I do and the inevitable fear that we may need to be tucked into bed at 5 pm with a Gatorade and a dinner roll.

Is it inappropriate to have a nap in the bridal suite? Probably.

In a nutshell, if you look after us by checking if we need a glass of champagne or canapé, help us navigate spongy grass in towering heels during the wedding photos, and offer your jacket if it gets a bit nippy, we’ll be grateful forevermore and definitely hook you up with the single cousin eyeing you off on table nine.

You can read more of Jose’s musings on her blog, mapleandmabel.com

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Josephine Walsh

Jose Walsh is a digital communications specialist who also runs her own blog, mapleandmabel.com. She has a passion for museums and the arts, a deep love of travel and more shoes than sense. Having worked in museums for the past seven years, she loves finding new ways to connect people with their cultural institutions. She loves meeting new people, hunting for a decent espresso, and planning her next adventure. More about the Author