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Ask Team Practical: I Don’t Want To Be a Demanding Bride


But I'm worried it might be contagious

by Liz Moorhead, Ask Team Practical

Ask Team Practical: I Dont Want To Be a Demanding Bride | A Practical Wedding
Q: I am in a wedding in less than three months, and I am so happy for the couple tying the knot. Sadly, the bride is not quite herself lately. She has acquired a sense of entitlement that surprises me and her other friends. I have been trying to ignore it because I’m afraid to address it with her and risk upsetting her, and have instead focused on doing my best for her—sense of entitlement or not, she does deserve to have her family and friends be excited for her. Nevertheless, we did have a blow up yesterday.

I am not the first person she has lashed out at and will probably not be the last. I am inclined to blame the bride’s changes in attitude and behavior on WIC-related pressure and stress, and to give her the benefit of the doubt, and to hope that in a few months things will get back to normal. But at the same time, knowing that she used to be so kind and gentle, and being so frustrated by the changes wrought upon her by the pressure and stress of planning a reality TV-worthy wedding, I have resolved as I start planning my own wedding to do everything in my power not to transform the way that she has. I don’t want to be demanding, I don’t want to be cruel, I don’t want to forget how to say thank you.

Before all of this happened, I had been intending to ask a total of four women and one man to be my bridespeople, but right now I think I would prefer just to have all but one of them as guests. So, the questions all this has been leading up to are: can I still ask those people to help, even if they aren’t bridesmaids and bridesman? Can my maid of honor and my mother hope to count on them? Or would that be rude and presumptuous? If we do go with just one and one, how do I handle it if someone (and by someone I mean the bride who is making me consider an elopement) is offended that I haven’t asked her to be in my wedding? Is there a way to tactfully explain to her that her wedding was, for me, a refresher course in how not to treat people?

—Anonymous

A: Dear Anonymous,

Depending on what you’re asking, it’s probably not presumptuous or rude to ask your friends to help with your wedding. To expect them to help, well, yeah that’s where presumption comes in. And there are certainly some limits to how much help you’ll want to request. But generally speaking, close friends are eager to help close friends—regardless of bridal parties or titles and how they play out.

But are you really avoiding any of the possibility of becoming demanding simply by avoiding titles? If you’re still asking them to help, but skipping over the honoring part, it seems to me like the possibly troublesome bits are still there, just without the formality and pretty outfits. Here is the real truth of the matter—the fact that your friend clearly has lost her mind doesn’t necessarily mean that you will. If one person handles the idea of “bridal party” really poorly, that doesn’t mean that bridal party in and of itself is the problem. It means your friend sucks at being stressed and turns into a sort of a jerk. I’m guessing she would’ve done that whether she had someone to call “bridesmaid” or not.

You’re looking at the wrong variable in this equation. It’s not an issue of bridal party titles being inherently bad, or even of asking someone for help being “presumptuous.” Those things can happen pleasantly just as easily as they can happen horribly. The variable here is your friend and how terribly she’s handling the pressure.

That sounded harsh, but I do get it. I’m completely that person who gets snappish and rude when I’m stressed out or anxious about something. It’s not that I don’t appreciate my friends or that I feel entitled to stomp around on feelings; it’s just emotion overload. Stress turns me into a jerk. I get, too, that you’re worried that it’s not just stress and anxiety, but some sort of wedding-brain mind control thing happening. I mean, that’s possible. We never really know how we’re going to respond to the big things until we’re right there in them. You really can’t know from this side of it what it’ll be like to plan a wedding and how that pressure will affect you.

But I’m assuming you do know how you respond to anxiety. I’m guessing you’ve dealt with deadlines and budgets and family politics. How do you typically handle those things? What’s likely to push you over the edge? Is there a way to avoid it in a wedding-planning situation? Self-awareness is maybe the best defense against wedding stress. You maybe can’t anticipate how you’ll behave while wedding planning, but you can try to eliminate some of the clear issues. You can decide in advance what’s important to you and make those things a priority. So sure, set limits on what you think will stress you out. Make the wedding smaller, maybe skip on the bridal party if you think that will help. But please don’t assume that because one friend handled her wedding poorly it means you will, too. If nothing else, you’ve already got an example of what not to do.

TEAM PRACTICAL: How have you kept your head in the face of WIC pressures? 

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question, please don’t be shy! You can email: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com. If you would prefer to not be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Though it really makes our day when you come up with a clever sign-off! 

Liz Moorhead

Liz is an illustrator and writer who paints custom stationery and types up impassioned opinions about weddings, etiquette, feminism and motherhood (usually while shaking a fist and mumbling expletives around mouthfuls of cheese fries). Her spare time is spent sipping bourbon with her husband and playing Don’t Throw That in the Toilet with her son.

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  • nikkiandringo

    ANONYMOUS,

    I can tell you that I had a *very* similar experience this year. Almost down to the time frame and everything. I also reacted *very* similarly. My wedding is in two weeks (oh god, two weeks!) and I also do not have bridespeople. I chose that for a lot of reasons, but a lot had to do with a lot of the experiences you’re going through now.

    I can only tell you how it’s going for me personally, although I trust that you have friends as wonderful as mine. The girls who *would have been* my bridesmaids have been BEYOND supportive, and are mostly thankful for not having the pressure of the title, but being able to help when they can. One friend felt like we were missing that day together… so she actually staged a full on girls day (with photographer and everything). Obviously that’s above and beyond – but my point is that friends will be there for you, regardless of their title. No one feels left out for not being MOH or in the wedding, so everyone steps up their game. It’s been an incredibly loving, and humbling experience.

    Plus, no dress shopping (easier on all), and tons of random pics of the cute stuff they all want to wear :) Which I think is fun. My friends have amazing personalities and I’m not about to NOT show those off :D

    I wish you all of the luck being a bridesmaid, and a bride!

    • Nope.

      I do want to add, though, that you shouldn’t expect the folks who “would have been your bridesmaids” to leap into full bridesmaid duties if you don’t actually ask them to be bridesmaids. I’m a close friend of a bride who indicated to about five of us that she wasn’t having attendants. We assumed that that meant that she didn’t want things like a girls day or crafting assistance – she portrayed it to us as wanting a “lowkey” wedding and “not wanting to be high maintenance.” After a few months, it became clear that she really DID want these things, and had been secretly hoping we would just organize ourselves to do that — like your would-have-been-bridesmaids did, nikkiandringo. In a way, the label “bridesmaids” can sometimes be helpful to people, because it comes with a set of expectations. We were (of course) happy to help and make her feel pampered, etc., and we immediately sprang into action, but feelings would have been preserved if she had been honest with her hopes for us. To the OP — if you want some of the benefits of having bridesmaids without giving them an official wedding role, please be clear about your expectations, including the hopes that you might be embarrassed about or that you may not have admitted to yourself yet.

      I’m sure that nikkiringo’s experience has been great, and it can often be fantastic not to have to deal with the dress-buying/carrying flowers around/processing down the aisle in front of people elements of bridesmaidship!

      • nikkiandringo

        Oh sorry – I should have clarified. I actually didn’t ask for any of this help. At the start of planning I asked them if they’d be willing to help if I needed it – they said yes but I never really needed it. They did most of these things on their own. So I think the real key is letting people help where they can, and not getting upset if they can’t (ie, two of the would have been maids couldn’t make it to the shower. It wasn’t a biggie, but I could see brides getting upset about that sort of thing). But absolutely important point – set expectations early, and often. Everyone will be happier because of that.

        • Nope.

          Oh absolutely! I hope I didn’t sound at all critical about how things are working out for you! It also seems like you had the wonderful plan of avoiding major expectations and being pleasantly surprised by the wonderful ways your girls made you feel loved!

          My worry for the OP is that if she wants these things (a shower, crafting help, someone to plan her bachelorette, or just lady friends to hang out with on the day of), she should make them explicitly clear. I just don’t want her to be so concerned about seeming high-maintenance that she pretends she doesn’t want those things, and then feels sad or resents her friends for not coming up with them on their own. Far better to make expectations clear at the beginning, or use the shortcut of giving someone a title that has expectations built in by society (“reader,” “day-of coordinator,” “bridesmaid”).

          • nikkiandringo

            No I think that’s good advice even if you do have bridesmaids. I’ve actually had to have some of those “expectations” conversations with *ahem* in laws regarding the wedding, so even when you don’t have maids, it’s still a skill to hone!

  • Candace Armstrong

    I’ve had 3 rules of thumb so far that have worked for me:
    1. Treat guests, friends and family the way I would want to be treated – it’s so damn simple, but so good to keep in mind when planning a wedding.
    2. Think back on the things I complained about with other people’s weddings and be mindful of doing something similar – now this is a tough one, because there will honestly ALWAYS be something to bitch about re weddings (even those of the people you love!) and some of those things are just unavoidable. But it’s important to keep those in mind and modify what you can.
    3. Just always remember that as a bride, no one cares about your wedding as much as you do. It’s blunt and it’s annoying to realize, but it has helped me (attempt to ) remain level-headed (that being said, it is so nice to have those friends that you can wedding vom all over and you both know it’s obnoxious but since they love you, they listen!)

    • SarahG

      #3 so agree — I tell myself this often, for many reasons. I am not the center of anyone else’s life but my own. And that’s actually pretty freeing, too — it’s kind of *nice* that people will just turn up, hopefully enjoy themselves, but not care quite as much about my wedding, because that means even if they don’t enjoy it, it won’t matter to them as much. I find it relaxing.

      • Candace Armstrong

        I completely agree with this!! It takes a lot of pressure off of yourself when you go “No one else will notice or care that your fucsia is too pink or too purple” NO ONE ELSE CARES!

        • Natalie

          I have said this to my mother over the phone at least once a week during my wedding planning.

    • KC

      Yes so much to #3 – their lives do not stop while you are wedding planning, their brains are not full of your wedding, remember they are human beings who you care about as more than wedding accessories/appliances, and act (as far as you can) in accordance with that.

      (but yes, people who have the headspace and energy and all that to listen to the “what will we do about cake forks???” debate or whatever are worth their weight in gold.)(related to this: spread the wedding brain-spewing around a little bit amongst interested parties, if you can, so no one person is getting buried, and have an eye for what people are more or less likely to be interested in and what they have time for. It’s an honor to help out… and a burden to haul the whole thing.)

  • SarahG

    Can I just say, one of the things I like the least about being “the bride” (opposite sex relationship so there is only one, and boy, does he get treated differently) is that sometimes I feel like people talk to me… a little gingerly? Like I’m about to turn into a raging lunatic who wants them to wear matching theme underwear and perform an underwater ballet for My Special Day? And then it makes me wonder if I AM going to go crazy. (I may have a little problem with anxiety.) And I end up second-guessing any requests I make (of friends, family, vendors), wondering if this seems B*****illa. I get that it’s on me to keep my own shit together, but the annoying extra layer of wondering if I’m suddenly turning into a terrible human being sucks.

    • nikkiandringo

      If you really do wonder if it’s you (versus them), you could always ask? I wish the bride of the wedding I was in earlier in the year would have done that. The problem with asking is that you need to deal with the real answer, but if you’re nervous that you’re going overboard, a good friend will honestly tell you, and you can really learn from those conversations.

      • SarahG

        Yes, excellent point. I generally do ask (so far this has mostly been people offering to help, me suggesting something they can help with, and then saying “is that OK or too much” or “really not necessary but if you can it would be great”). But I supposed I don’t ask if I’m just generally being demanding.

        • nikkiandringo

          Or even something as simple as “is this what you expected when you agreed to be a bridesmaid?” then it doesn’t put the negativity on anyone in particular. That’s a conversation that I wish the bride or myself would have been brave enough to have.

          Demanding is sometimes expected, and stress rage is also expected… so there really is a difference between those things and you know…. worse.

          • SarahG

            Oh, I don’t have any bridesmaids or any of that, but I totally hear what you’re saying. “Does this fit with your expectations?” Good question.

    • Lauren from NH

      Oof! I am sure that feeling sucks (perhaps it is coming my way once we are official) but on the other hand, from a certain perspective, it is super hilarious. In moments when it sucks less I would imagine it pretty liberating to embrace somewhat of a fuck it attitude. Silly ridiculous assumptions and awkward behavior, you can’t really control that. I am sure you are taking into consideration your loved ones finances, time and emotions when makes decisions/requests, that’s that best you can do.

      If it gets really out of hand, I might suggest you mentioning the matching underpants idea, just to give yourself a laugh watching everyone process that. And maybe it will jerk them out of it.

      • SarahG

        Ha! Well, a lot of times I get it from vendors, so I feel like talking about their underpants would put me into sexual harassment territory. But maybe for family and friends… :) I think it’s partly because my family is used to more traditional weddings with a shower and bridal party and jack and jill (the J&J is big where I came from) and proper bachelorette night and we’re not doing any of that (well, we are having a joint bachelor/bachelorette bowling party 2 nights before the wedding for anyone who can make it, but it’s literally lanes at a bowling alley and that’s it). So there’s a certain amount of them waiting for me to ask for more things, and thinking I will be all regretful and demanding at the last minute. And I don’t think I’m going to ask for those things. But they don’t really believe me. Anyway, we’ll see!

    • Nell

      I would also distinguish between requests to vendors (who are getting paid to be there), and requests to people who are also going to be enjoying your wedding as participants/guests. You’ve hired your vendors! As long as you are asking for services that they actually can provide, and doing so politely, there is no reason not to explicitly ask for things you want. Who cares if they think you’re demanding!

      • Daisy6564

        Werd, asking for what you want, from someone you are PAYING for their services is not being a bridezilla. Just like knowing what you want and asking for it is not being pushy.

        This is a skill that most women need to learn after lifetimes of being pressured to smile and go along with things. Bosses also pay their employees and are allowed to ask for what they want. When you are hiring vendors, you are the boss. As long as you are not rude or unreasonable in scale or timeline, and you are willing to pay more for more work, you are not being crazy you are being a boss.

    • Amanda

      I would even take this one step further and say that when you’re a bride some people will interpret anything you do that they don’t like or agree with as being a bridezilla and, boy, is that frustrating. (actually, it’s kind of similar to how anytime a woman is emotional, whether they have reason or not, they get accused of PMS-ing…) It’s this weird conundrum because you’re expected to have an opinion and make decisions about everything, ALL THE TIME (see: no one cares about your wedding as much as you do) but if you make a decision someone doesn’t like, heaven forbid! Then you are being a bridezilla. For me, I even had the fact that I didn’t really need a whole lot of help prior to the week of the wedding (besides general friend support — i.e. listen to me ramble about the weird meeting I had with a potential caterer) be turned into being accused of being SO STRESSED OUT I COULDN’T EVEN ASK FOR HELP — like I was some kind of weird, non-demanding bridezilla! Which, truly wasn’t true and caused way more drama than one could probably imagine. It’s odd.

      The other thing I realized when I was a bride, was that a LOT of other people can get weird about your wedding — friends, family, parents, completely random people. And all of a sudden, when you are in the middle of the most exciting, stressful, busy, loving time of your life, you are getting a crash course on the side’s of people’s personalities you didn’t realize existed. Making it even harder to make decisions you think will make everyone happy.

      Being a bride is awesome and fun and exciting…but it’s also really, really, really weird.

      • laddibugg

        You know, I was watching the show “Bridezillas” and there was one woman who was really the farthest thing from one. I know there is editing and whatnot, but it seemed like EVERYONE was working against her. For example she asked the bridesmaids to wear French manicures with black tips, and her own SISTER refused, claiming it was against her morals. -_- I felt terrible for her, and I’m sure that situation happens often.

        • Meg Keene

          That show is staged as shit. They get family to bring up drama, underfeed people (I’m just betting on that one, most reality producers do), and edit like crazy.

          • Alison O

            well, and potentially not just underfeed but are over-generous with alcohol! no idea about this show in particular

          • aflea

            I think underfeeding is universal in reality TV. I know someone who was on Naked and Afraid, and they took away the food he foraged/hunted because he gathered *too much*. I can’t picture a reality TV show further from Bridezillas than that…

        • Bethany

          I suspect if anyone ever tried to tell me that I needed to have a certain type of nail for a wedding that I’d just start laughing. Then calmly explain that, no, that’s a bit over the top for how I’ll show my friendship.

          • Amanda

            I would never require that my bridesmaids get matching nails, however, if my sister, best friend of even kind of friend asked me to do it for her wedding, I’d probably just do it. It’s a ridiculous ask but it’s a small one. I would probably laugh at the request but I don’t think it’s an above and beyond thing to do for someone if that is something they care abut. Now, I’m not naive to the fact that if someone cares that much about your nails, there are probably a whole bunch of other things you’ve had to do but, nails as a stand alone, that’s a pretty small thing.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        Definitely all kinds of damned if you do, damned if you don’t with wedding planning.

        Ours was flowers. Flowers are important and meaningful to me. My sister and I are named after flowers. I knew what I wanted. I know I asked my now-husband if he had an opinion, or if we needed to check with his parents, who were paying, but he still called me a bridezilla (well after the fact) for how I handled the florist appointments. I pushed, and he didn’t mean I was rude or anything, just that I very clearly knew what I wanted. But, of course, had I dragged my feet, I would have been “that disorganized bride who can’t make up her mind.”

      • Kristina

        Ugh. My mom’s been going on about how careful I should be not to turn into a Bridezilla, which is completely unwarranted, because M and I have been going out of our way to make sure our wedding isn’t an inconvenience for anyone. I’m pretty sure I even apologized when I asked my bridespeople to be my bridespeople.
        But then I told my friend that she was my pick for MOH if she wanted it, and she was super excited about throwing me a bachelorette party, which is something I never would have asked her to do. So hell if I know.

    • A.

      Yes, super frustrating in general. But one time when a florist looked at me, terrified and breathed out, “Is…is that okay? Are…are you sure?” to me when my FMIL requested a special flower for her corsage and I realized…this is what it feels like to be The Godfather, a la Francis Ford Coppola. So I just solemnly nodded and giggled inwardly at how being a bride is like being the patriarch of an organized crime family.

      I might have been getting a little loopy at that point…

      • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

        lol I love that so much. Stealing that for my future wedding.

    • Lauren

      Yes! My parents are being super gun-shy about the whole thing, which is… weird? I’m not someone who has a ton of very definite ideas about how things have to be (basically just that things should not be excessively expensive!) AND we’re celebrating twice (families in different countries), so it’s not even that there’s one single day to obsess about. But it feels like the bridezilla assumption came about automatically as soon as we announced our engagement…

    • Meg Keene

      UNDERWATER BALLET! I mean, I hope so.

      Yeah, that shit SUCKKKKKS. Sexism, ftw.

    • Megan

      Today I couldn’t decide whether to be appreciative or enraged at my boss, who warned me of a big long term project that’s starting soonish, and my wedding is in two months. He said he was including another colleague on all the email communication that’s starting because he knows that soon I “won’t be in a place to think about work.” It’s nice that he doesn’t want to stress me out, but now the colleague I compete with will co-manage the project just because I won’t be on email for about two weeks.

      It probably wouldn’t have bothered me if he also wasn’t the person who told me how lucky I was to be getting a tonsillectomy before the wedding so I could lose weight…

      • SarahG

        Um WOT. That is insane (tonsillectomy comment) and grounds for a harassment complaint. WTF.

        • Megan

          Yeah, it is. It’s sort of a weird situation. I think he just didn’t really know what to say to me about it, so he picked that. Many of our colleagues have been open about weight loss goals at work at times, myself and him included…but it’s still not really an appropriate thing to say unless it’s a conversation that I initiated, which I didn’t, in this instance.

          My boss is an openly gay man, and our other department director is also an openly gay man. We are a pretty close staff as we work in the arts, and our work culture is very far from corporate. (We don’t really have HR at all.) I think that at times, our two directors cross lines of what is appropriate or not because they feel they can “relate” more to me or my female coworkers as gay men–or maybe because their sexual preference isn’t “threatening” to us as women. I don’t know that they’re actually aware of this, but I see it happen a lot–I think they can get away with certain things, ie sexist comments, more so than any of our straight male directors could.

          I’m not sharing this to defend them–just sharing an observation that I see in my workplace. I am also not at all trying to make a judgment on or generalize all gay men or anything–I just see this happening in my situation and I think it’s an interesting thing to talk about.

  • Nell

    I have often asked myself, “How can I POSSIBLY ask anyone to help me with my wedding, when I have been so judgmental about how some of my friends have gone about asking for help for THEIR weddings?”

    I still haven’t resolved this feeling. I have tried to be gracious when I haven’t been asked to be a bridesmaid, but I DID feel heartbroken when other friends were asked to do readings, sign the ketubah, etc – and I was asked to do invisible, and/or labor intensive work.

    Before I started planning a wedding, I couldn’t understand why my friends hadn’t just named 10 of us bridesmaids, or avoided all the DIY stuff that kept us all doing ridiculous paper folding til the wee hours of the morning. I don’t want to say I was a bad friend. . . but I was an abysmal wedding helper.

    Now I can see that sometimes, you just want an intimate ceremony, or you just want those goddamn paper flowers, or whatever. And you want what you want, and you don’t know that someone is miserable about it unless they say “no.” So I’m promising myself (and my partner) that I will respect a “no” in whatever shape it takes.

    Other than that, I’m not sure how to purge all the bad energy that I brought to those interactions with my friends while they were in bride-mode. The friendships have all recovered, but I am still haunted by what a jerk I was back then.

  • MC

    Thank you Liz for sticking up for the stressed-out jerk bride! I am trying my hardest to not let the stress negatively affect my interactions with loved ones, but as someone getting married in a little over a month – many days I feel like if ONE MORE PERSON asks me for hotel information when it’s clearly on the website, tells me they still don’t know if they’re coming or not even though the RSVP deadline passed, makes a not-really-joking joke asking me if I’m trying to lose weight to fit into my dress, etc. then I might just snap. And I am normally a super nice, non-confrontational person who has loving, well-intentioned people surrounding me! But the WIC tends to create stressors, even if you’re trying to have as un-WICy of a wedding as possible.

    That being said… I did anticipate that I would be stressed in the month or two before the wedding, and I knew that I would hate having a bigger wedding party that I had to coordinate schedules with, confirm details with, etc. I have two Ladies of Honor – really, my two friends that I communicate regularly with anyway – and that part of wedding planning has been super laid-back and awesome. I think it helps that I picked people that have seen me as a Very Stressed Person and whose personalities compliment mine when I’m stressed. (For this reason, I really didn’t want my future SIL to be in my wedding party, because her personality, while great, tends to stress me out when I’m already stressed.)

    • KC

      Honestly, being the main point of contact/focus for that many people and having that many balls in the air is *hard*. I remember much twitchiness as I tried to continue to be nice to people who wanted me to have opinions on things I did not have opinions on; wanted me to be excited/apologetic/whatever on cue; wanted me to change things I did not readily have the power or inclination to change; had contradicting “but it *must* be done this way!” from other people-who-gave-input; it’s not easy. I’m pretty sure I accidentally blew off a few people, although I don’t think I bit anyone’s head off (for me, stress = head down, focus, generally). And there were definitely a lot of things I didn’t fully appreciate at the time which I now realize were a lot of effort from people! But… there’s so much going on. It’s hard to see everything at once.

    • http://rebeccaharmon.blogspot.com/ Rebecca Petersen

      This was so hard for me too! I created a website, a map. a Facebook group, and sent out emails with all the pertinent information, and there were STILL people asking me for directions to the church or what time the events started. I am normally a VERY calm person, but I was getting close to losing it! Two days before the wedding, I told my fiance that I wasn’t going to answer anymore questions. Whenever a family member would ask me questions about the wedding, my fiance would have to answer. This was my best solution to keep myself sane and not go crazy on people!

      • JDrives

        YES to this. Delegate, delegate, delegate!!

  • laurasmash

    Anyone have some tips on how to involve or honor your friends without having them walk down the aisle in matching outfits? My dude does not want to have groomsmen, but I have my sister and 3 BFFs who I want to honor somehow. We can’t have 4 bridesmaids and 0 groomsmen, and I don’t want to make my friends buy new dresses on top of spending money to travel to my wedding, so I’m not sure what to do.

    • SarahG

      I am not doing attendants — we have folks doing readings and reading different parts of our ceremony. We also asked specific people to do toasts, and we have musician friends playing our song. I think of these folks as my wedding party. I guess the question is, what do you want out of a wedding party? people to stand up for you and be supportive? People to be in the planning trenches? I have had folks in the planning trenches with me; it’s not all of our readers/musicians/toasters. It’s just the ones who are more into wedding planning. Some of our folks are wonderful people standing up for us and being wonderful that way, but they have no interest in wedding planning stress, and that’s totally fine. I think it’s just about figuring out what you need and then approaching it that way.

    • KC

      Toasts, usher(ettes?), favor/cake/program-handing-out – there are options. :-) If you mark them off with a corsage (or similar) apiece, that can do the trick of identification without matching dresses or processionals. (also: do they all have a Little Black Dress or similar? that might do the trick, potentially?).

    • Cat

      Can they do readings, or sing/play the music for the ceremony? Lead the toasts? Interpretive dance down the aisle before you come down? OR just give them nice little boutonnieres for the day, to call them out as special in a quieter, but sweet way? :)

    • nikkiandringo

      I made my friends who went above and beyond all little gifts. One was just a succulent in a teacup, one was a picture frame of the photos we took together, one was an Etsy gift card. Not much, maybe $10 each but individually they loved and appreciated all of it.

      • JDrives

        Succulent in a teacup! I love it!

    • Alyssa

      also, honestly, I also think you totally *could* have 4 bridesmaids and 0 groomsmen. You two are just clearly a modern couple who does what you want! I think it would be fine, great even, since it’s exactly what you want and what he wants at the same time.

    • Lawyerette510

      I think SarahG did a great job of summarizing options and I love her point about what you’re looking for/ what it would mean to you to have them as bridesmaids. To build on that, we didn’t have a bridal party either, but I had 6 very close friends who were all doing different pieces of traditional bridal party things (helping me plan and execute stuff, planning celebrations in my honor, helping me on the day of etc). To honor them, I gave them thank you gifts and specifically thanked them (as well as some others who were similarly instrumental) when the hubs and I said our little piece of thanks. It also ends up that they all wore either shades of pink or green (and one had a print with both). Looking back on the pics, they look coordinated and it makes me smile. So what about asking them if there are any particular colors they want to wear and seeing if you can have some kind of color-posse etc? Also, the one thing that I didn’t do was get a picture of me with all of them because in the hub-bub of formal pics it was missed since they weren’t easily identifiable as “special” and while I hadn’t given my photographer a shot-list I probably should have given the specifics of the dynamics. I regret that miss, so I would just say, if you want a pic of you with all of them from that day, be sure to tell your photographer and all of the women before hand.

    • Erin

      You could also ask for their talents. We chose to honor our aunts by asking them to do the readings. But, I also asked a literary friend for recommendations for wedding readings, making clear that I had asked my aunt, but explaining that the aunt needed guidance. I think my friend felt honored that her role was included, even if she didn’t do the reading. Similarly, you could ask a musical friend for advice on ceremony/reception music; artistic friends about color combinations/backdrop ideas, etc. Best of luck!

    • Nell

      I agree with Alyssa, you don’t have to have them wear matching outfits OR walk down the aisle in order to be bridesmaids.

      I have two very close friends that my future wife does not yet know terribly well. They’re not “in” the wedding, but I am considering asking them to be a part of my pre-wedding day since (a) I don’t get to see them that often and (b) getting ready for parties together is how we bonded in college. I might even do some sort of AM bagels-and-meditation ritual thing before getting married. Not sure how that would work. Has anyone tried doing something similar?

      • Another Meg

        Sharing quiet time with a bride on her wedding day is the best part! (See my comment above.)

        • Lawyerette510

          Yes! You just hit the nail on the head! And as a bride, having someone share quiet time with you is one of the highlights as well! At least for me it was.

        • laurasmash

          YES. This is what I think of when I think of having bridesmaids. I want my people around me the morning of the wedding, you know, to just be there. And we can hang out and giggle and I can take in this huge thing is about to happen. The other stuff with the matching dresses and whatnot just doesn’t matter to me as much, and I don’t want them to stress out about that.

      • Lawyerette510

        At my wedding in May, I didn’t have bridesmaids, but we did have a woman’s lunch the day of the wedding where we had light sandwiches and a little sparkling wine and I just relaxed in a cocoon of love from the women important to my life. It was totally awesome, and so relaxing, and it meant I had eaten something decent before the hubbub got started. It was probably about an hour. Full disclosure, we didn’t have much set up and I had a very short prep, so it was nice to have that time in the middle of the day.

        For another friend’s wedding last year, where really she had wedding-day stuff starting around 9:30 am and no bridal party, the two of us who were closest to her got up early, made coffee, woke her up with coffee (she’d agreed ahead of time) and then the three of us went for a decent-length walk with our coffee and toast. This was great for her because she likes quiet time in nature.

        I say if you think bagels and meditation with your close friends would start your day off on the right foot, you should do it!

    • Erin E

      A shout out to the APW archives for what I did: asked my girlfriends be my “something blue” girls. We didn’t want to have a wedding party since so many people were coming from out of town… too hard to coordinate matching outfits, etc. But I wanted to honor the amazing women friends/family I have in my life, so I sent them a sappy e-mail telling them what they meant to me and I asked them all to bring one silly/crazy blue accessory to the wedding. During the reception, I rounded the girls up, they put on their “blue”, we had a private toast and took a ton of pictures. It was awesome, the photos were fantastic and quite a few of my girls thanked me for sparing them the whole “bridesmaid thing”.

      • JDrives

        Yeah!! Me too! All but one of my best friends are out of town/state/country, and I wanted them to be free of any pre-wedding expectations to attend parties and showers and whatnot. Ditto on the sappy email (I cried so many nostalgic/happy tears writing it) and they were all delighted to be honored in this way. I also plan to round them up at the wedding in their blue dresses and take a photo.
        Question – did you mention them at all on your program/website? I’m trying to figure out if I should do something like that as well.

    • Nell

      Oh one other thing. . . one person’s “honor” is another person’s “annoying job.” Some people hate speaking in front of people, or would hate standing around handing out programs when they could be schmoozing. So however you honor them is going to be really specific to your relationships.

    • Another Meg

      Yes to what Nell said!!

      So here’s my experience with this- I have a friend who got married last fall, almost halfway through med school on the other side of the country from our hometown, which is where the wedding was. She and her fiance wanted no part in parties, so they just didn’t have them. But they still needed help and when they asked we were happy to do anything they needed. We (her few female friends) from basically did exactly what we would have done if she’d asked us to be bridesmaids. I helped scout venues for her and recorded everything so she could look it over. Another friend threw her a small, low-key bachelorette one weekend when she was in town. And on the day of the wedding, she invited us out to lunch and gave us little gifts before joining her at the salon where she got her hair and makeup done and we all had champagne. The photographer came to that. But it was very specific to her and everyone’s relationship to her. I love organizing so I helped her do that. Another friend loves parties and threw one. The whole thing was kind of perfect. Bonus- I got to wear whatever I wanted.

      Being included when she got ready and getting to spend some time with her on such a big day is really the best part of being a bridesmaid anyway. No matching dresses or public speaking necessary.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        This is great. Just to follow up on my know-your-crowd advice…Know your crowd. There are certainly people who’d whine, “It’s fine I didn’t get to stand up with her, but couldn’t she at least have had me do a reading or give a toast?” or “I did all that for her, and I didn’t even get the honor of being a bridesmaid and getting to talk at the reception about how I helped.”

        Obviously, this wasn’t the case with this bride and these friends, but what makes it so hard is everyone’s different.

        • Another Meg

          I think that was a big part of why my friend’s scenario worked. I think she knew what to ask everyone to help with – those things that each of us felt were fun anyway.

  • Katie

    I’ve been a bridesmaid 11 times, and a MOH 4, and now I’m getting married in three weeks. I have been used and abused by bride-friends plenty of times, but ALSO by PLENTY of other members of the bridal party who wanted me to knock some sense into and bridezilla. I’ve had to run interference, throw many an expensive party, play maid, maintain a positive attitude, and NOT COMPLAIN. And every time, the bride has gone completely back to normal after the wedding. Not all the other friendships with other bridal party members have healed each time, but what can you do?

    When I got engaged, I swore to myself that I wanted no bridal party other than my fiance’s nieces who were OVER THE MOON about being in a wedding. They did happy dances over FaceTime about it, and immediately started discussing how they would wear their hair and how to toss rosepetals. And I realized that that’s the type of person I wanted to stand next to us and be in our pictures for all time.

    Two of my close friends expressed great sadness at being left out, though. Turns out that playing that role on my behalf was really really important to them. So now they are bridesmaids. And we get to be surrounded by people who will all be REALLY HAPPY. I kind of feel like that’s maybe the way to go on these things, especially after your age group goes through a ton of weddings. It would help so much to have people volunteer instead of feeling like you’re obliging someone.

    Other than that, I’ve tried to think of the wedding as a dinner party. What would I ask people coming to help with? Would I ask certain friends to help set the table? Yes. To help arrange flowers? Yes. To help me greet guests? Yes. To sit with me and drink wine and address envelopes for a couple hours? Yes. To spend $600 on a new outfit that requires special underwear? No. To stay up late three nights in a row tying perfect sailors knots and gluing them to placecards? No. It’s made figuring out the boundaries much easier. And also knowing your tribe: there are friends I wouldn’t ask to do anything for a dinner party other than to come and eat!

    • Erin

      I really like that – “I’ve tried to think of the wedding as a dinner party…” Obviously a wedding is sooooooooooooo much more than that. But come on, isn’t a wedding also kind of like a really awesome dinner party? Awesome metaphor for keeping some perspective. Your friends sound damn lucky to have you and I wish you biggest congratulations on your marriage.

    • Jess1216

      This idea of it really being a big dinner party also helped me. The ceremony was the big religiousy wedding thing, but the reception was….a party. I entertain a lot at home (in much less formal way), but I just kept trying to think of this like that only with more guests. This totally helped me keep my head straight as I made dinner selections, figured out centerpieces, etc. This part is just a big, fun dinner party

  • anon

    What kind of help do you want or expect to ask for? I’m the friend who would much rather help do things than stand up in a designated dress. To me, the latter doesn’t feel like an honor while the former honors my skills. It makes me really happy when my friends put me in the program by saying what I’ve done (whether a generic, “thanks to x, y, and z for all the assistance with [stuff].” Or thanks to m for making k, p for creating q, and r for building s.” That to me feels like an honor. But I’m cool with helping with stuff no matter what. Maybe I’m weird, which is fine.

    But if you want people who are going to throw showers and bachelorettes and those people want to wear a certain color dress and stand up for you, then just call them bridesmaids and be done with it.

    • KC

      (If you’re weird, I’m weird. Helping “build” the wedding over standing up front, any day.)

  • Aubry

    I just got married July 26 (yay!) and had a few friends compliment me on navigating such a emotionally charged time without any hurt feelings. I chose only my sister and one of by best friends as attendants. I chose the one friend because she is good at weddings. And I mean that in the best possible way – she loves them, loves crafting, will talk about it endlessly with you and will practically discuss the benefits of some trivial thing with all the seriousness that the bride feels about that trivial thing.

    That being said, I wish i could have had more bridesmaids. Not because i need them to all stand in a line in a matching dress, but because i want to recognize my amazing friends who helped me so so much. the only reasons i didn’t add more is these two reasons: there really wasn’t room to add more people standing with us (we got married in a backyard), and because if I added my two more amazing friends i would also need to add 2-3 more to make it the whole “girl group” and not hurt feelings. I would love to have those other girls up there as well, but it adds a whole other level of complexity. So, i didn’t add those two more but i might just go put a big gushy post on facebook about how great they were. I felt bad for not recognizing all their efforts with a really public way at the wedding.

    Now, back to your question of should you have a bridal party – that is of course up to you! But know thyself! I react well to stress and don’t get bitchy most of the time, so that’s exactly how i acted around my wedding. I organize events for work, so i did most of my crafting in the year i was engaged and almost none in the last little stretch. and most of the stuff i left for that time didn’t get done – as was expected. I am also the person who goes ahead and addresses the hard conversations with my people, so i went ahead and talked to them! I said why i chose to have a small bridal party, that i still loved them, and please let me know what you want to do if anything. I ended up with a group of friends helping how they wanted to and no one hates me now (or so I’m told ;) ). I also have amazing friends who are not the type to get upset at me for this kind of thing, and it can definitely be surprising when people have unanticipated hurt feelings.

    Good luck! and follow your heart!

  • ElisabethJoanne

    It’s so hard, because everyone’s different. Even my 1950s etiquette books warn that weddings can bring up “Why didn’t they ask to do xyz?” / “Oh, we should have invited them to do xyz!” issues.

    You’ll have some people who are all “I’d offer to help, but I don’t want to be in the way” and others who are “I feel left out that I wasn’t asked to help” and still others who take the attitude “She shouldn’t expect [or ask for] help.” Even with my family, I couldn’t sort out the attitudes. I don’t have much advice, just the moral support of we’ve all been, and you’ll get through.

    I might take stock of what tasks were unpleasant for you as a bridesmaid, and why. Were they just expensive? Did you feel like you didn’t have enough direction? Were they tedious? messy? Then find a way of considering whether your friends have the same attitude. Example – There are lots of people who’d love collecting bridesmaid bouquet ideas. My bridesmaids were not among them. Then, of course, ask for help where your friends will enjoy it.

    • Natalie

      This. A thousand times this. Some people want to help so much that they are sad if they aren’t asked to help at each step along the way. Others feel slightly offended if they are asked to help at all, as if asking is the same as demanding. And it’s hard to know where each of your friends falls along this spectrum until you’ve asked them.

    • Eh

      My SIL was upset because we didn’t take her up on her offer to use decorations from her wedding. When the offer was made someone pointed out to her that the items were pink and turquoise (their wedding colours for their summer wedding) and that since we were having a fall wedding that it might not go with our décor. After our wedding she said she was very offended that we didn’t take her up on the offer (we actually weren’t talking to her leading up to our wedding due to a family feud and she didn’t attend our wedding).
      On the other hand for my BIL/SIL’s wedding my MIL was very upset that she was not asked to do more (actually my MIL was upset about a lot about their wedding). She was very excited that we asked her to help. She was elated when we asked her to host the rehearsal dinner, and even mentioned that it’s the groom’s family’s responsibility (I pointed out that we weren’t necessarily doing things by the “book”). She more or less said that my BIL/SIL didn’t have one because they didn’t ask and that she was pretty upset since it is the groom’s family’s responsibility. But then, to my BIL/SIL it looked like we were getting special treatment.

  • Jules

    To explain to ANYONE why they didn’t earn a spot in the bridal party tactfully, make it about you, not them. Not “You become a raging bitch under stress”, but “I’m worried I might not handle the added pressure of a bridal party very well, and I’ve opted to keep things really small while still involving people – it’s really important to me that you’ll be there”.

    That being said, I think the issue at hand is twofold: 1) what are your expectations of a bridal party? Has that really changed if you formally scrap it, but ask for help? You originally wanted one, so I encourage you to really examine this. 2) what is your relationship with said Bride now and later? Whether you end up including her or not, you should figure out your issues before they build into something worse.

  • Rachel

    So I had a similar situation as the asker, but with bridesmaids. I was a fellow bridesmaid in a wedding where one of the girls went nuts and caused a ton of drama. So with my wedding I had no bridesmaids, and friends offered tons of help anyway. You might be surprised by who will pitch in even without a title (though I made sure all of my helpers had thank-you gifts afterwards)

  • Nicole

    We almost didn’t have anyone aside from sisters in our party because we had some friends who wouldn’t be able to make it and we didn’t want to be a burden, and we weren’t sure what we would want a wedding party to do. But then we realized there were a few people we really wanted to hang out with the day before and day of the wedding. We wanted them to come to the rehearsal dinner and be with us when we were getting ready because we just valued the time together.

    That’s when we decided to ask them what they wanted to do, and both of these people said they wanted to be in the wedding party, so our wedding party grew to our sisters (one each) and one friend each. We stayed loyal to our desire to not have a lot of expectations for the group or needs, and tried to check in a lot. There were some people who basically just showed up (just what we wanted!) and some people, especially our sisters, who wanted to help out a lot more (yay! but also harder to balance to make sure they’re not helping too much to have fun!). But we made the expectations for the bridal party that it was people we wanted to spend time with, whether they wanted to stand up with us (they all did, but it would have been okay if they didn’t) and whether or not they wanted to be big helpers. I was really worried about being too demanding, but everyone actually really wanted to be involved. I think if you know what you’re trying for and you’re upfront with people about it, then it can work out lots of ways.

  • Amy March

    Liz, I think this is your best column yet. Gold star.

  • Penny7b

    In the lead up to my wedding I tried very hard not to be “that bride.” But you know what? I really shouldn’t have worried so much. Not just because I really wasn’t that demanding, just decisive, but because being indecisive and overly flexible and constantly going “do whatever you want” isn’t actually helpful for anyone.
    Unbeknownst to me both my bridesmaids stressed themselves silly trying to guess what I’d like them to wear because my “cool bride” request of “just whatever you like in black or grey” was spectacularly unhelpful. I wish I’d taken the time to go shopping with them to work out bridesmaid dresses. I wish I’d asked if they wanted to be more involved in planning and pre-wedding events. It was an important part of the experience for them that I think they were both sad to miss out on.

    The big lesson I learned is that our people love us. They want to show that love by being involved and helping us and giving us the gift of a wonderful day. And if they don’t want to show their love that way, they are adults who are capable of saying no when you ask them for something. So long as we’re asking and not just expecting or demanding contributions, I think it’s okay.

    • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

      “they are adults who are capable of saying no when you ask them for something”

      YES.

  • Eh

    My husband and I got married ten months ago and my BIL/SIL got married two years ago. Whenever weddings come up my in-laws ask how the bride is/was (i.e., is she being a “bridezilla”?). My sister was married two weeks ago and my husband’s friend was married last week and my husband’s uncle is getting married in two months so there are lots of discussions of weddings. When my MIL asked how my sister was I said that she was a bit stressed and that some things got blown out of proportion (we were banned from talking about shoes after the “shoe debacle”). After I said that, my MIL said, “so she wasn’t an organized and laid back bride like you were” (I pointed out that we have very different personalities). And then she continued on her reminiscing about how my SIL was a bridezilla and ripped people apart on her wedding day. In the last year my SIL has drastically changed her behaviour and I don’t think it’s fair for our MIL to constantly bring up her behaviour at her wedding. Then again, my BIL and SIL have tried to improve their relationship with different family members and my in-laws refuse to acknowledge that they are part of the problem.

  • Tamara

    Lots of good advice in the comments, and dealing with stress and expectations on a wedding day is — ooof. so much there. but my quick $0.02 on ONE WAY to avoid “burdening” your friends in the fashion and financial department is to realize that you don’t have to PICK OUT a dress for bridesmaids. you can just say “Wear whatever you want!” — that’s what i did and while not for everyone aesthetically, it worked out wonderfully for us: our photos are still easily identifiable as “bridal party photos,” but everyone is wearing a dress that they picked out entirely on their own, so they came to the party feeling comfortable and beautiful; we have a range of colors (most;y jewel tone, just a coincidence), but had a little pattern too. We told our groomsmen to wear please wear black pants (as all working professionals, we knew they’d have those in their closet, happily) but any color shirt they wanted. Folks were empowered, we didn’t have to go through the “find a dress for all body types” — go this rental tux shop yaddayadda drama……… done and done! we got LOADS of thanks from the bridal party members, and actually a lot of compliments from the guests about how it set a relaxed and personal tone. :)

    • Brittany

      Your picture is great! :) I would ask the group what they prefer, though. I’ve been told both by brides whose wedding parties I was a member of, and I find the “wear whatever” thing WAY more stressful than having a bride tell me what to wear. I think my favorite weddings, as far as bridesmaids’ outfits are concerned, have been ones where the bride picks a store and a color and says get a dress you like from here in this color, so I have some choice, but also some parameters, so I know I’m not going to stick out or look funny at the wedding.

  • http://www.aprilbooth.com/ April

    So far I’ve been a bridesmaid twice and both times the brides were great. Stressed, sure, but never mean or demanding or any behavior to complain about at all.

    I think what confuses me about this, is why you would want to change your bridal party plans based on the way somebody else was managing theirs. You have your actions and behavior are fully within your control, I’m having a hard time understanding what really changes if all the expectations of help are there, and you are still there, the only thing different would be the title “bridesmaid”. Usually it seems like the expectations of help (and money I guess) are what causes most bridal party issues, so it might be a good idea to spend some time thinking about what those are. People like helping people they care about, but things can get tricky is expectations are unclear on either side, title or no.

    Tiny sidebar (sort of): I read about so many women being worried about being an overbearing “Bridezilla” while planning their weddings. I feel like that idea gets thrown around a lot to keep women in their place and even the fear of people thinking it affects decision making. If someone doesn’t handle stress very well and takes it out on people, that’s a personality trait that is probably there all the time, not a “bride thing” that happens when you become a bride. Wedding planning is stressful and brings those traits out but I don’t see a cultural narrative about “Groomzillas” terrorizing their wedding party because they asked for help unloading tables and asking the guys to pick up their tuxes on time. It should be okay for women to be assertive and it should be okay to ask for help.

    • Eh

      “If someone doesn’t handle stress very well and takes it out on people, that’s a personality trait that is probably there all the time, not a “bride thing” that happens when you become a bride.” – EXACTLY
      Just like your friends don’t magically change (e.g., a disorganized person becoming organized, a late person becoming punctual, introverts becoming extroverts) when you ask them to be in your wedding party; people don’t magically handle stress better (or worse) because they are engaged. I didn’t really understand how offensive the term bridezilla was until I was engaged. As I said below, when my MIL asks how the bride was I try to point out that everyone is different. I was organized and laid-back because that it the type of person I am. My SIL had severe anxiety and her stress reaction was to lash out (so she was labeled a bridezilla). My sister is not organized and not punctual but tried to work on those skills for her wedding (one of her goals for the day was to be on time for the ceremony and we managed that).

  • L R

    I originally wanted a small ceremony and reception with no wedding party partially because I didn’t want to burden anyone and partially because I was afraid of turning into a Bridezilla. I spent years as a professional event manager and am slightly A Type, so the likelihood was high. My family (and my fiancé) weren’t having it. In fact, my family told me I was selfish for even suggesting it. We are instead having 200 guests and 7 (!) attendants on each side. And you know what? I was upset, but in the end decided it wasn’t worth fighting over. As Meg says, people are the most important thing. I am at the age (32) where the majority of my friends are married or will be soon. They are kind of over weddings, which I get. But they are still so excited for us. And if I have friends and family who are excited for me and want to be involved, who am I to tell them no? Either way, I will still be married to the love of my life.

    On another note, I have a couple of friends who are in the middle of planning their own nuptials -we got engaged within two weeks of each other- and we have agreed to be each other’s venting buddies. I have found that those friends get it because they’re going through it, too, and are less likely to think you are a Bridezilla. Just something to consider if you are concerned about annoying your FI or your ‘normal’ friends.