You've graciously accepted the invitation to be a bridesmaid, an active and willing participant in the wedding ritual. You're overcome with sentiment, you're filled with joy, you're positively BRIMMING with anticipation ... you're CLUELESS as to what the hell you're actually supposed to do.
Pledging to be a bridesmaid is not the equivalent of signing up for an afternoon of wearing white gloves and sipping mint juleps at a sorority shindig. It is a formidable responsibility and an implicit social contract that must be upheld. There's a lot of grunt work that goes along with the title; in order to maintain a sense of dignity, you'll need to know, long before the rehearsal dinner, what is expected of you.
Superstitions: It is considered good luck for the bride if her bridesmaids are shorter than she is.
Once you've joined the ranks of bridal attendants, it's important you accept that for the duration of the engagement your life will take a back seat to The Wedding. Oh sure, the bride will feel sorry for you when you cry to her about your boyfriend of three years getting transferred across the country, but it had better not interfere with your showing up for your fitting. Like any service for which you enlist, once you accept the mantle of the bridesmaid, you are bound to all duties and functions of the position for the time period set by those in positions of authority—-in this case, the bride. It could be three months, it could be two years. For however long the engagement lasts, you are the bride's attendant until the moment you close the door on the limo and wave bon voyage to the newlyweds.
Now that you've signed on the proverbial dotted line, you need to prepare yourself for the skirmishes that may lie ahead. Information is your best weapon in the trenches, and it's important that you realize it's not enough just to purchase the designated gear and show up. A loved one has invited you to take an active role in her wedding—W-Day, the most important 24 hours in her life. Boy, do you have your work cut out for you.
RESPONSIBILITIES AND DUTIES OF THE BRIDESMAID
The primary function of a bridesmaid is to' help smooth the passage from singlehood to marriage for the bride. This purpose, throughout the ages, has remained unchanged. However, with the elaboration and formalization of weddings over the centuries, the responsibilities have become somewhat more complicated. In every wedding there are the customary duties of the attendants and then there are the bride's interpretations and preferences, which can be anything but customary. A bride should not assume that her bridesmaids know what is expected of them, and her bridesmaids should not hesitate to ask. However, there are the right questions to ask, such as "What color will the bridesmaid dresses be?" and "Will accommodations be provided?" and then there are the questions to which the savvy attendant should already know the answers. If you're asking "Do I pay for my dress?" "Who throws the bridal shower?" and "Can I drink while standing in the receiving line?" and these questions don't seem inappropriate to you, then you need this blog.
Customarily, the Bridesmaid:
- Offers to run errands and generally assist the bride in any reasonable way with wedding plans.
- Helps the maid or matron of honor plan the bridal shower and provides equitable financial contribution. See "The Bridal Shower."
- Records all gifts and their respective givers at the bridal shower. We all know that in the heat of the moment, gifts get ripped open and cards get separated. Keeping a record of who gave what will ensure that the bride can properly thank all of her guests after she gets the loot home.
- Helps address wedding invitations. You may not be asked to do this, since many people use a calligrapher to address their invitations. However, it is part of your job. The outside envelope is hand-addressed in black ink and hand-stamped,. Choose flower or bird stamps and refrain from affixing images of dead movie stars. or pop musicians to the tasteful, heavy-stock envelope. The sender's return address is written in the upper left-hand corner of the front of the envelope. Keep in mind that in today's high-tech age, there are calligraphy programs available for your computer that are ideal for this purpose. If you get called upon to help with this tedious duty and your handwriting isn't very good, you may want to suggest to the bride that she consider this alternative. If you and the bride don't have access to a computer, contact a local computer center.
- Attends all pre-wedding parties and related events.
- Functions as a co-hostess at the wedding and pre-wedding festivities. This does not mean that you have to go around to every guest at the wedding, introducing yourself and offering to freshen drinks. What this does mean is that if anyone is expected to participate actively in the wedding, it's a member of the bridal party. You are on the front line at the wedding and at all pre-wedding events. Think of yourself as part of the "in crowd," one of the "popular" people—at least with regard to the wedding functions. You have a responsibility to be friendly to the other guests and dance. Basically, if the guests see you having fun, they'll want to play too.
- Pays for her own bridesmaid dress and bridesmaid accessories.
- Pays for her own hair styling and makeup. Sure, you want to look beautiful for your friend or sister's big day. If you don't just wake up that way, you may need professional help. If you live in the town where the wedding is taking place, you probably already have someone you trust to call on. If you live out of town, talk to the bride and get some recommendations. Be clear on one thing, though—-unless the bride specifically offers to pay your primping costs, this expense will come out of your own pocket.
- Arranges for her own transportation to and from the ceremony and the reception. Unless the bride has made specific arrangements for the attendants ahead of time, you are responsible for getting yourself to and from the ceremony and the reception. It's often helpful to carpool with the other bridesmaids.
- Pays for her own accommodations. If you are traveling from afar, it is the bride's responsibility to make arrangements for your accommodations during the wedding. Typically, your options will include staying with a nearby relative or lodging at a local hotel where the bride has reserved a block of rooms for wedding guests. If you opt to stay with the relative, your stay is complimentary, except for the obligatory chit-chat. If a quiet hotel room is more to your liking, expect to pay the bill yourself. Ask if the hotel is offering a discount; many provide special rates for wedding guests. Precedes the bride in the processional. See "At the Wedding."
- Helps the maid of honor with the bride's bustle. If the maid of honor is all thumbs, it is likely that this duty will fall on your shoulders. Find out ahead of time if the maid of honor needs your assistance so that you can attend one of the bride's dress fittings and have a saleswoman at the salon show you how to do it.
- Greets guests in the receiving line. If there are more than 50 guests at the wedding, the bridal party will be expected to form a receiving line to meet and greet them. The maid of honor stands after the groom, and the bridesmaids beside her. After the first half hour, bridesmaids may disperse while the bride and groom and their mothers continue to stand in the line. (See "At the Wedding.")
- Sits with ushers at the head table. If there is a head table, tradition states that the bridesmaids and ushers should sit alternately. If attendants have spouses or live-ins, they can sometimes sit at the head table also. The only real rule is that you should sit boy, girl, boy, girl. Also, if the attendants aren't seated with the bride and groom, make sure that you are seated close enough to the bride so you can reach her conveniently should she need you (such as if her cake falls into her decolletage and she doesn't notice it), and that you are available to participate in the toasts.
- Dances with her designated usher during the newlyweds' first dance. So what if the usher who escorted you down the aisle is 5'4" and you're six feet tall? When the music begins and the bandleader calls you to the floor, you are there with a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
- Participates in the bouquet toss. This is, of course, the most demeaning of all the wedding rituals. It implies that single women will do just about anything to catch a man—and, well, that's just not a very modern perspective. However, should the bride want to toss her bouquet in traditional fashion to a grouping of maidens, so be it. It's your job to be there, with your hands in the air.