Not all brides are like New Orleans brides. I was struck by this notion recently while second-lining on a blissfully cool evening en route to a friend’s wedding reception. The happy couple had just declared their “I Dos” and along with the rest of the bridal party, family and friends, I shimmied to the sounds […]
It’s happened. You’ve been asked that exciting little question. Not “will you be my wife?” But “will you be my bridesmaid?” By saying yes, you’re entering into a world of tulle and Twitter hashtags from the moment you say “I Do” until she says her “I Do’s.” Since you’re promising to be involved from the bachelorette party to bouquet toss, one approach for ensuring that you’re the best bridesmaid ever is to let the traditional vows be your guide...
For Better, for Worse
From reading her countless texts about the gold Chivari wedding chairs looking more matte gold than gold-gold to the meltdown she has when her dream venue only allows a preferred list of vendors, you’re there to be the bride’s sounding board, her lady in waiting, her human Xanax. To keep her steady, be a mantra reminder, says Belinda Belk, owner of Blue Gardenia Events.
“Brides often get ‘bride brain’ where everything is highly emotional and amplified,” says Belk. “Your role is to focus the attention back on her and to dazzle and deflect to get her through. Whether it’s an issue with a signature drink or drama with a family member, remind her that she has you and that you’re there to help.”
For Richer, for Poorer
You’ve got your monthly Excel spreadsheet mapped out — rent, electric, groceries, clothing, Sazeracs — but no box reserved for “bridesmaid expenditures.” When you agree to join Team Wedding, the costs can start to multiply quickly and the fear of breaking your bank account can be enough to send you running from your lifelong best friend. Robyn Sedgebeer, lead planner for Blue Skies Events Nola, says a common misstep is not calculating or addressing costs up front.
“When your friend asks you to be part of their special day, it is a huge responsibility,” says Sedgebeer, who has been in the event planning industry for eight years. “Most people say yes with excitement and don’t realize it also comes with the cost of a dress, shoes, showers, bachelorette party, gifts, etc.”
She encourages you to have an honest dialogue with yourself and a frank conversation with the bride. “You have to really look at your financials and ask yourself if you can do this without stressing yourself and, or the bride out.”
In Sickness and Health
This is less about you faking the flu to get out of attending one of the bride’s seven showers and more about keeping her mental state in check. To keep your beloved friend from going off the deep end, newlywed Carli Gertler says to keep the bride’s blinders on. Married in May 2014 at City Park, Gertler’s bridal party consisted of seven bridesmaids, including both a maid and matron of honor. She took a laidback approach to her planning process, allowing the girls to pick their own dresses and not fretting over those who couldn’t make it to her bachelorette party which was held in Manhattan, but even a woman with a demeanor as relaxed as hers could have become tense when her wedding planner got a kidney stone and didn’t make it to the wedding. Thanks to her helpful and assertive bridal party, Gertler never even found out about the no-show until the night was over.
“One of my ‘take charge personality’ bridesmaids found out she wouldn’t make it and made all the decisions without even asking me what to do because she knew it could stress me out.”
To Love and to Cherish
In many cases the bridal attendants won’t know each other. To put your best foot forward as a bridesmaid, the initial bonding process can set a great tone says the recently wed Diana Chauvin, owner of La Thai Uptown. Her original bridal party (it shifted day of the wedding due to an illness) included her step-sister as the maid of honor and four bridesmaids, two of whom were from high school and the others later-in-life friends.
“They didn’t want me to worry about them bonding, so the first meeting planned was trying on their dresses and just having fun with it,” said Chauvin. “We had a luncheon to hang out and from there they went ahead with coordinating their plans which was a stress reliever for me.”
Chauvin’s maid of honor also took the lead on many of the conversations between the women, steering the planning process regarding the shower and bachelorette party and keeping the lines of communication open. “I thought the fact that they didn’t know each other and that they all have different personalities might be an issue, but they seemed to all work together well. I could tell they all wanted to do it for me and they
did it with grace.”
‘Till Death Us Do Part
In Chauvin’s case, the bridal party bonding was relatively seamless, but not every group is that fortunate. Alphas and omegas collide and individual feelings can get in the way of the bigger picture. According to Peggy Post, great granddaughter-in-law of Emily Post, if personalities conflict, letting the bride in on the contention is on a case-by-case basis.
“If a disagreement between two attendants is regarding paying to throw a party for the bride, this is not a time to get the bride involved because she’d feel terrible about the money issue,” says Post. “However, if you disagree on something seemingly minor like shoe color, which is really the bride’s decision and not a topic so loaded with emotion, that’s okay to take up with her.”
Additionally, your role as bridesmaid isn’t finished at the first sight of the open bar at the wedding. Post reminds that getting your bride through the planning process is only part of the commitment.
“For the rehearsal dinner and day of duties, remember to pitch in. Look out for and greet the other guests, be aware of how the timing is going and help round up people for photos. Always be available to help out and lend a hand when you see the opportunity.”
You’ve already received a sparkly ring on your finger and have been asked to be the matron of honor. Depending upon the rest of the group, this could put you in a position of being the only married woman in the mix, and potentially the only one with children. If you find yourself in the minority, instead of feeling like the outsider, Peggy Post suggests you take a different approach. “I recommend that the matron of honor try to bend as much as she can to find some common ground with the other maids.” She suggests finding an ally in the group with whom to bond to make the meshing of personalities flow more easily. “If she can identify with even one girl and recruit her to be her right hand, she’ll have an ‘in’ with the other girls.”
*This article was originally published in New Orleans Bride Magazine 2015