I’m a bridesmaid, now what?!

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The bride has honored you with a request to be a member of her wedding party, and while the invitation is flattering and fun, it can also be overwhelming. As traditions change and expectations evolve, it can be difficult to know what to do (and what NOT to do). The truth is, modern wedding planning requires sophisticated planning to ensure everything runs smoothly on the big day. That means a bridesmaid is more than just a companion or shoulder to lean on, they usually end up taking on important event planning tasks, including maintaining a calendar with important deadlines, facilitating communication between the other members of the bridal party, as well as parents and vendors, and helping with other tasks like budgeting, travel, and more.

These added responsibilities can be stressful, but there’s no need to panic. With just a little bit of planning and strategy, you can navigate your bridesmaid sting with ease, and maybe even turn it into a career.

To clear up some of the confusion and get you started on the path to bridesmaid superstar, here are some tips to being the perfect bridesmaid.

Start Early

One universal truth of planning a wedding is that there is never enough time to get everything done, so the moment you say “I do” to your bride, begin your bridesmaid plan. One method that really helps is to start at the end and work backward – that way you know just how many weeks you have and can plan for deadlines, showers/parties, and other important activities. If the wedding date is six months out, for example, then make sure everyone knows when certain tasks – like booking the DJ, ordering the flowers, even reserving rooms for out-of-town guests – must be completed.

There are plenty of free tools that can help you set up a timeline leading up to the wedding day (and even honeymoon, first anniversary, and beyond). Google Calendar, for example, allows you to set appointments, meetings, and deadlines quickly and easily. Even better, you can invite others to see your calendar and schedule alerts to keep everyone on track. If you operate better with to-do lists, then a tool like Todist can simplify your life by letting you create a list of tasks, set deadlines and email reminders, and even invite others to your list. If you need to schedule events, like a bachelorette party planning meeting or bridesmaid happy hour, Doodle lets you connect with a group and allow them to pick the dates and times that work best.

There are plenty of organizational tools available, from Slack to Evernote to Trello. In a pinch, even your cellphone calendar, a day planner or notebook, or even a set of notecards can help keep you organized and on-track. The trick is to find the system that’s the easiest and most convenient for you and then take the initial time to set up all your dates, make sure you include important contacts, and review everything with the bride to make sure nothing falls through the cracks.

Talk, Talk, Talk

One of the biggest frustrations brides and their bridal party experience when planning a wedding is a lack of communication. That’s why it’s essential to establish a means of communication from the get-go – whether it’s a website, group email, text chain, Slack or another platform. Keeping everyone informed and on the same page will help eliminate confusion and anger, and help everything run smoothly.

As mentioned above, a platform like Slack can help you keep all your wedding planning conversations in one place. Even better, systems like Slack, or even a group email chain or chat, let you save all communication. That means you can have a reference to return to if you need a question answered or just need to double-check that everyone had the information they need.

Know When to Stay Quiet

The truth is, the bride will be stressed and overwhelmed, and sometimes that will manifest as complaints or rants about other members of the bridal party. Let the bride vent, but be sure not to get stuck in the middle. Same goes for your fellow bridesmaids – be the shoulder to cry on, but don’t take sides. It can help to start out with a clear idea of everyone’s role in the lead up to the wedding day. Who, besides the bride, is empowered to make decisions? What are the ultimate goals of each activity (including any parties, mixers, pre-wedding meetings)? How can you divide chores in a way that ensures nobody does too much and that others contribute in whatever way they can?

If you find yourself in the middle of a firestorm or can see a problem brewing between members of the bridal party, there are a few actions you can take to forestall issues and nip any conflict in the bud. Start with a gut check: are you letting your own emotions – including fear, anxiety, stress – cloud your judgment or are you seeing the situation clearly? Next, take a moment to imagine the other person’s (or persons) point of view: what might be making them feel scared, anxious, angry, etc? Getting the right perspective can go a long way towards calming nerves and letting everyone feel heard and validated. If you’ve already set the stage to facilitate communication between everyone involved, it will be easy to stop problems before they start and keep everyone calm, cool, and collected.

Stay on Budget

Weddings can be demanding and expensive. That’s why it’s important to take a look at your finances and create a realistic budget. Let the bride know early what you can and cannot afford and make sure all the bridesmaids are on the same page. This can be no small task! On average the cost of being in a wedding is over $700, and the bride will be facing an even larger expense: the average cost of a wedding can be anywhere from $18,000 to $50,000 or more.

Some of the typical costs a bridesmaid faces include:

  • Bridesmaid Dresses and Alterations
  • Accessories and Jewelry
  • Makeup
  • Bridal Shower
  • Bachelorette Party
  • Travel and Accommodations
  • Gifts

One of the best ways to manage how much you spend as a bridesmaid is to set expectations early. As soon as you are asked to be a member of the bridal party, ask the bride what she expects from her attendants. If you believe her demands are too expensive for you or other members of the bridal party, let her know about your concerns immediately. Offer lower-cost alternatives if possible, or ask if others can help supplement expenses (parents, extended family, the groom) so that no-one is forced to miss an event or bow-out of the proceedings altogether.

It’s also a good idea to gauge what the bride expects in terms of gifts and tokens throughout the leadup to her wedding. Some brides only require that their attendants buy a dress and show up for the parties, rehearsal, and main event, but others may want more: including a gift from the bridal party or groomsmen, a wedding survival kit, a shower/bachelorette gift and more. Again, make sure the bride understands what the bridal party can and cannot afford to avoid resentment or hurt feelings down the line.

An Honor, a Privilege, and an Opportunity

Congratulations! Being asked to be a bridesmaid or a maid of honor is extremely special. It means the bride trusts you and values your friendship. Being a bridesmaid will be one of the most gratifying experiences you can have, but it also requires work, patience, and communication. Thankfully, if you do it right, your bridesmaid experience can be fun, exciting and even inspiring. In fact, many bridesmaids discover a passion for event planning – a passion with lots of career opportunities. So, as you tap into your organizational, communication, and budgeting skills, remember that everything you learn can be parlayed into an opportunity somewhere down the line – maybe even as a professional event planner!

Ready to take the leap from one-time bridesmaid to fulltime wedding planner? Think you’ve got what it takes to go from bridesmaid to professional?

Have you ever thought about event planning?

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