Ask Team Practical: Bridesmaids

Oh, hi. So it’s Friday, which means it’s Ask Team Practical with Alyssa. Except this week was about bridesmaids (something I have an opinion or two about), so it turned into a bit of a collaboration. You knew it was going to happen sooner or later. So today it’s Ask Team Practical with Alyssa (& Meg). Which is a fancy way of saying, blame all the tough love stuff you don’t want to hear on me, and all the kill ’em with kindness on our own favorite Texan, Alyssa. So without further ado, bridesmaids, non-bridesmaids, ladies around the bride.

Last week we talked about being a lonely bride.  Knowing that it would garner a lot of comments about bridesmaids, having them and being one, we decided to follow that up with a post on that tricky, tricky position of honor.  We’ve received more than a few emails since we started Ask Team Practical regarding bridesmaids- both on being one and having them.

Bridesmaids As a Bride:

Anonymous says:

I got married a few weeks ago and my one bridesmaid was great; my other bridesmaid didn’t do much at all besides show up.

On the surface, I tried to not let this bother me, as I had told her I didn’t necessarily expect a lot of fuss or financial obligation, but her lack of interest was disappointing.  She did attend the bridal shower, but she didn’t offer to help, sulked the whole time and left early, and  she missed the bachelorette dinner. I tried not to let this bother me. I asked for her assistance on a couple of things, and she avoided communication until I would later respond I had derived another solution.  I was more upset with her attitude than anything, but I let it go because I didn’t want to seem like a Demanding Bride.

However, it came to a head three days before the wedding.  She informed me, after an exhaustive back-and-forth, that her boyfriend wasn’t attending after all because “something big came up.”  I later found out that he just didn’t really want to come, and instead chose to go out-of-town for a football game. She then decided she wanted to go to, and left my reception an hour early.  My husband is downright furious with her.  Me?  I’m just very disappointed.  I know that no one cares as much about your wedding as you do, but I was deeply hurt that she was so careless.

I got an email from her a few days later “apologizing.” Sort of.  Part of me thinks I should say something, but the other part of me is worried that I will come off as this b*tch for telling my best friend that she really let me down when it counted the most. How do I handle this?

So here is the rub – one, your husband is kind of right on this one, and two, you really do have to be honest with your former attendant.  You need to set aside the fact that “you were a bride, so if you act like you care you’re silly.” This was a huge life event, and she wasn’t there for you (or she was, but in a super half-*ss way). That was painful. You need to talk. Now.  This is like any other problem with a friend; if you don’t deal with it head-on, it’s going to continue to drive a wedge between the two of you until there’s not much left of your friendship.

But keep this in mind: Some people are crap at weddings, but brillant at other things. And then some people are fun to get manicures with, and crap at anything that really matters.You may need to figure out which is which with this lady of yours. One of the things about weddings is they have a way telling you which friends there for you in a pinch and which ones are not, and sometimes you really wish you never found out.

Brides as a Bridesmaid:

On the flip side, we have this this question.

I’m splitting duties as maid of honor with a matron of honor. However, the matron will have no part in it unless she does it all herself. It seems she wants to relive her bridal shower and bachelorette party through her best friend’s. I was wondering if you had any advice?

What do you do here? Keep your eyes on the bride (and the Matron of Honor in your peripheral vision at all times). Talk to the bride and see what you can do in to keep things close to her plans as possible.  The last thing the bride needs is a fight among her attendants, but she might need someone to fight for her. Because here is the thing: the real job of bridesmaids is not to lift things, or even to go to dress fittings. It’s to listen to the bride-to-be while she b*tches, and it’s to run interference between the bride and people acting a fool.

So gently but firmly tell the matron of honor there will be no penis parties. And then nudge her to be there for the bride as much as possible (and listen to the bride b*tch if that doesn’t pan out).

Bridesmaids – The Avoiding Problems Before It Starts Edition:

For anyone else still planning their wedding, let’s talk about trying to avoid this problem in the first place.  (And I will be saying, “bridesmaid” a lot.  That’s because it’s easier than being gender neutral in this instance.  If you call me sexist, I will have my man of honor come and beat you up.)

Here’s the thing.  Miss Manners says that, “The original point of having bridesmaids was that the bride would wish, at this momentous occasion in her life, to be surrounded by her closest friends.”

That’s it.

No, seriously, that’s really it. Everything else is cake.

They are there on the day of your wedding to support you, listen to you b*tch if you need to b*tch, look hawt, help you if asked and tell you your bra strap is showing.   Most bridesmaid duties – shower planning, bachelorette parties, the help with wedding-related projects – those are all optional and completely voluntary.  I know y’all know this, but you need to really KNOW it.  It’s amazing if it happens without asking and just as good if you ask them for help and they deliver, but it shouldn’t be expected.  And if it is expected, you really need to let them know ahead of time.

The root of all these problems is expectation.  Just as you have had to battle your expectation of how you should have to behave as a bride, you have to battle our expectations on how your bridesmaids *should* behave.  (I’m SERIOUSLY starting to hate that word.)  Not only that, but bridesmaids have to battle their own expectations.  We all know weddings do weird things to people.  And one of those things is that, occasionally, your friends will go from being friends to being Your Bridesmaid.  The same friend that will listen to your problems and respond with sage advice will say, “But you’re getting MARRIED!!  You should be HAPPY all of the TIME!!!” when you go to her with a wedding-related issue.  Or the girl that you could always count on will suddenly not be there for you when a bridal crisis occurs.

Being an attendant can be overwhelming, whether you’re married or not.  As a single bridesmaid, they probably have no idea what’s going on.  Participating in wedding planning is very different than reading about it on Martha Stewart Weddings.  (I am not the only one who did that while single, DO NOT EVEN LIE…)  It’s like being in a kitchen and watching someone rush around planning and cooking a meal.  They’re standing there, ready to help, but have no real idea of what’s being made.  They keep offering to do something, ANYTHING, and then suddenly they’re handed a bowl and are supposed to know what the hell to do with it.

And if you have a married bridesmaid, they may not be able to help themselves from projecting their own experience onto the whole process, whether they voice it or not.

Either way, people aren’t always really sure how to be your bridesmaid without guidance. Some friends behave in the way they think they should, even if it’s not how they’d behave as a friend.  Or they shut down, become resentful because they have their own issues to deal with and now they have this major event to help with and it’s adding more stress.

The key is to make sure your girls/guys know what they can do to help and what’s expected of them. And to also keep those things in mind when you choose your bridal party.  And keep in mind what life altering changes they may have in the works during your wedding planning.  Their life changes need to be celebrated just as much as your wedding does.  Just because you’re planning a wedding doesn’t mean you stop being a friend.

And just so you don’t think I’m talkin’ out the side of my neck, this issue is near to my heart.  I had a really rough time during my wedding planning when a friend I’d asked to be a bridesmaid eventually backed out.  It hurt.  I mean, HURT.  But she explained that she just wasn’t into wedding planning, even her own.  And it was true, she wasn’t.  She listened to me during the process, but she didn’t help with the planning and she just wasn’t at my side during the ceremony.  And even though it hurt, it eventually was fine.  Because this woman had been there for me through bad break-up’s, cross-country moves, family crisis and just when I needed a good margarita and some chicken enchiladas.  Her not being up there with me didn’t erase all those years of friendship, nor did it eliminate any future friendship. (And seriously, her chicken enchiladas will make you give up state secrets.)  And if she had been my bridesmaid, but been absent or unenthusiastic during the process, that would have been much more hurtful in the end.

If someone isn’t able to do your shower, for whatever reason, it’s not because they don’t love you.  If they are unable to attend, for whatever reason (and even if you think it’s a lame reason), they are still your friend.  Your friendship is not defined by their participation in your wedding.  It is defined by the years you’ve known them, the adventures you have taken together, the laughs you’ve shared.  It is utterly disappointing when a friend does not live up to your expectations.  But if they have been there for you in other instances, then why hold this one against them?  And if they haven’t been there for you before…well, honestly, you should have known better.  There is a big difference between a crappy bridesmaid and just a plain ol’ crappy friend.

A wedding can and will transform your relationship with your partner.  It will not transform your friendship with your bridesmaids*. Meg said it best when she said, “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.’”

And still, this isn’t to let bad bridesmaids off the hook.  If you’re up front about what you need and they are falling down on the job, let them know.  This is an important event and if they can contribute that’s amazing.  But you’re counting on them and if they bail on you or become controlling, call them out on it.  And it doesn’t have to be a come-to-Jesus meeting, just a gentle reminder that they’re being a douche and you’d like them to go back to being your friend, thank you very much.

And as SO many people said last week, people will surprise you.  It may not be your bridesmaids, it may be someone else that will step up and say, “Here, honey.  You look like you could use some help.  What do you need?” And often, that turns out to be what you really needed all along.

*Oh, it may. I’m sure someone will comment with a story on how a crappy friendship turned into BFF’s because of their participation in a wedding.  And that’s really awesome.  But it’s not typical.  And it should NEVER be a factor in your choice of wedding party.

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  • Anon

    Note – I am normally not anonymous. I’m actually a quite frequent commenter. However, my situation is one of the ones featured above. It’s still somewhat transparent BECAUSE I am a regular commenter, but take that for what you will.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about the situation since submitting this question, and I’ve come up with this rule of thumb:
    – Would you be disappointed with this person’s behavior if she wasn’t your bridesmaid? Say you didn’t have bridesmaids, or you hadn’t asked this person, or whatever, and it’s completely out of the equation. Does that change how that person’s actions make you feel?

    If the answer is yes, then you need to sit down and evaluate your expectations and go from there (and they may not necessarily be wrong, but it may mean that your friend is not suited for the role you expect her to play).

    However, I have to say, I’d be pretty upset if a close friend of mine who was not in the wedding came to my shower and sulked the whole time. In hindsight, it might have been better to tell her she didn’t need to attend if she didn’t want to, but I’m still not so sure that would have made me feel better, either.

    The part I left out was, she somehow managed to not only leave early, but convince the entire table of mutual friends to leave early along with her. The exodus from the wedding did not go unnoticed by anyone, and while only my husband dared to make a comment about it to me, apparently quite a few people went up to HIM to make sure I was OK.

    I also left this part out: a mutual friend got married recently as well, and purposely did not ask this woman to be in her wedding because she didn’t think she could depend on her to be emotionally available in the ways she needed, and she didn’t want to harm the friendship. And this bridesmaid of mine? Was ANGRY, and expressed as much to me (though, actually, not to our mutual friend). In hindsight I should have taken some time to think about what my husband and I wanted/needed in a wedding before inviting anyone to be my attendant, but this was not a case of her accepting my invitation and then feeling overwhelmed. If I hadn’t asked her, there would have been an issue.

    Anyway. Sorry to invade this. It’s just, since asking the question I’ve done a lot of reflecting, and you’re right Alyssa. I do need to tackle this head-on, and I’ve still been avoiding it. Maybe this isn’t a bad thing because my anger has subsided and I’ve been able to reflect and really think about why I was so deeply wounded by her actions.

  • abby_wan_kenobi

    After 4 cycles in the bridal party, I decided to have only one attendant. Obviously there’s no way of knowing what would have happened, but I couldn’t stand the idea of my friends acting the way I’ve seen some bridesmaids act, feel like they’re being put out the way bridesmaids sometimes do, or generally making life harder for the bride as is wont to happen at some point.

    I was lucky enough to have parties hosted (or “sponsered”) by my own auntie brigade with my MOH as the brain behind the scenes. She knew what I liked and wanted and my “aunties” were in a better position to host and finance events than my recently graduated, underemployed friends.

    That worked really well for me, I can’t recommend it enough if you have a lot of women a generation up who can’t help but do nice things for you.

    • I initially didn’t want a shower or fuss, but like you I had an auntie brigade (on BOTH sides!) who wanted to throw me a party. I didn’t want my bridesmaids to worry about financing anything, and they didn’t have to. Neither event was over-the-top (which I wouldn’t have wanted even if money was no object), and they were events that people did because they WANTED to, not because I asked for it, which made it more special.


      “Auntie Brigade”! I have one of these and have been struggling to find the right phrase to communicate what this group of lovely older ladies mean to me, love it!

  • I think one of the keys to dealing with bridesmaids is to choose wisely. Yes, you want to be surrounded by the people who are closest to you – but you want people who, for starters, believe in marriage, and secondly, want to be bridesmaids. I had two good friends from college who wanted to be bridesmaids, and a friend from law school who didn’t. I didn’t ask the friend from law school, because she wouldn’t have enjoyed the process or herself. Don’t try to make your friends something they aren’t. Also, do not pick people from elementary school or high school if you are not close to them. My husband picked a friend from high school as a groomsman, and he just…didn’t step up, but my husband felt like he should pick a friends from different stages in his life and the reason that doesn’t work out as much is that if you’ve fallen out of touch with somebody, they aren’t going to be a better attendant than they are a friend.
    Most of the problems I see on boards and stuff come from people saying, “I didn’t really want to ask so-and-so to be a bridesmaid, but I did and now we’re having x problem.” If you have reservations about asking somebody, don’t ask them.

    • Evelyn

      I agree and am having reservations about asking a friend. The problem is that over the years we’ve talked about being in each other’s wedding, etc. I just don’t feel like we are as close, she comes with a lot of drama and she isn’t exactly in a positive place when it comes to relationships (she is 13 years older than me and single and having a hard time finding someone due mainly to her *itchyness and perspective). So I don’t want to ask her, but feel it is necessary to tell her that I’m not asking her. Help!

    • Ugh

      Things aren’t always so black and white. A few years ago, one of my closest friends started dating my oldest brother. As a result of geography and awkwardness, our friendship basically disappeared. I had to ask her to be a bridesmaid(they’re now engaged) and she was absolutely awful. I honestly didn’t have a choice unless I wanted a crappy relationship with my brother for the rest of my life.

  • Sometimes, you really do just need some margarhitas and chicken enchiladas, I am 100% with you on that one.

    After earlier comments and this post, I am realizing that my experience so far has been pretty much easy with my ladies, and I am going to remind myself of this anytime is starts to get a bit rocky. It is a sensitive thing, dealing with all your bffs at once, and toss a sister or two in that mix (or his sister or two) and there’s going to be some drama I suppose.

    I am just feeling pretty good too I suppose because the 2 bridesmaids’ dresses I mailed to chicago in an (unpaid for, oops) envelope with no return address actually made it there!

    Big hugs to everyone out there dealing with wedding party drama, whether bride, bridesmaid, groom or groomsman.

  • It’s really hard, isn’t it?

    I’ve chosen my bestie, her sister (like a bestie jr.), and a newer friend. Oh and my niece.

    I’m working really hard on expecting nothing from them.

    I have, however, known people choose bridesmaids out of guilt/obligation which always seems to be a recipe for resentment.

    • abby_wan_kenobi

      Cutting down to one bridesmaid was *really* out there for me (though I didn’t feel bad about it, in the end) since I’d been MOH in two weddings within a year of my own wedding. Neither of those brides was my true bestie either. I ended up with just my sister and none of those three other fabulous ladies.

      The expectations were difficult to manage, but after the initial surprise everyone was cool with it (and none of my friends really minded). My bestie was still there when I bought my wedding dress, my whole group came to my bachelorette party and they were still pretty involved in the planning. But! there were no bridesmaid demands/expectations so when a friend couldn’t make it to an event or dropped off the radar for a few weeks, it wasn’t a big deal. Plus, nobody had to buy matching dresses. Win-win.

      • Fab

        Thank you for saying this. In life I’m surrounded by multiple groups of women, so it’s going to be a shock when I make the same decision. You’ve given me some hope that my girls won’t need the title to still be a part of the whole thing.

        • Kee

          I didn’t have any “bridesmaids” at all, and some of my friends were a bit disappointed at the beginning.

          But after a while they got it. Instead of choosing a few, they were all with me through out the whole experience. They all took care of me, told me to stop drinking at 1am on the night before the wedding, helped me with the dress, fed me champagne at the hairdressers, tried to get me to the ceremony on time (failed! But they tried their best) and hugged me and laughed with me throughout the wedding planning. They were not bridesmaids, they were my friends and while they all laughed judgmentally at me when I accidentally got back from IKEA with candles for $500, they helped me place them all around the terrace of the restaurant where the dinner was held and admitted afterwards that it looked absolutely bitching and that I was a wedding-planner-goddess.

          They didn’t need to be chosen, they didn’t need a matching dress or to be included in a ceremony programme. When there wasn’t a formal title, they didn’t feel the need to carry out specific tasks. Instead they could focus on what I like them for, having fun and making me laugh until my make-up is ruined (which was the reason for the failure to get me to church on time which lead to a revoking of my newly awarded title “wedding-planner-goddess”).

        • People may actually *appreciate* that they aren’t in the wedding. Being chosen to be a bridesmaid is a huge honor and really neat, but it also costs a lot of money and can be tricky. This way they can be available for what they can be around for, they can sip champagne with you the morning of, and they can pick a dress that they can a: afford, and b: feel FABULOUS in, no questions asked. So, maybe not a horrible thing. :)

          • Class of 1980

            Yes, yes, yes. More people should seriously consider doing this.

            I have to confess, I have never understood the allure of bridesmaids. It adds expense and drama to your life and theirs. I’m not sure if this makes me a curmudgeon or just practical.

            Friends volunteering to help with various aspects of your wedding could be wonderful. You can assume they wouldn’t volunteer unless they knew they could handle it. And their spirits are probably in a better place to begin with.

            I know a wonderful young woman who recently got engaged. I am secretly hoping that she will decide to get married in our location in the mountains, because her aunt (a designer), myself (artistically inclined), and the bride (great taste) would be able to create some serious enchantment. It would be too much fun.

      • Yes. We had our sisters “stand up” with us. And for the most part all they had to do was stand up. And it was great because it was all that I expected and more importantly WANTED them to do. We have a lot of friends that wanted to be a part of the wedding and they were, just without titles. I don’t think that anyone was upset.

        • FM

          I love the term “stand up” for the bride and groom. I love thinking of the wedding party as standing up for the bride and groom, their relationship, their future – as a back bone, a support, a witness. As more than a guest, a participant, in the wedding ceremony itself.

      • Lauren

        its absolutely settled. no bridesmaids for me. nope. none.

  • Julie

    And now I’m going to show my age. The purpose of having a maid/matron of honor and bridesmaids is s simply to be surrounded by your closest friends as they witness the commitment you are making. I’m not sure when, in the last 25 years, brides have gone from honoring their friends, by having them witness their vows, to expecting them to do everything I have seen on this website and others.

    If you have a friend who wants to throw you a party or help you do whatever, terrific! But I have a hard time understanding the expectations brides are now requiring of their friends.

    • Anna

      I really appreciate this comment. I’m in the very early stages of wedding planning and I certainly don’t think I’ve taken the time to step back and wonder why I’ve had certain expectations of my bridal party. But what you say is true, we shouldn’t have all of these expectations. Thank you media for that one I suppose and thank you for giving me a bit of an “ah ha” moment.

    • Liz

      i think that’s exactly what alyssa/meg/lauren are saying here! almost word for word, even.

      i think the disappointment comes in when you’ve planned and plotted all the things you’re going to do together in wedding planning, and then that friend is… less than enthusiastic… about being apart of the whole process. that’s what hurt me. i planned to do everything myself, but it got… lonely. like a previous post suggests.

      • Liz

        i mean planned and plotted TOGETHER. like those late-night girly talks about how we were going to plan our weddings together. and then it comes down to it, and your friend is MIA.

    • meg

      And that was Alyssa’s point with this post. (Though being a buffer zone between crazy and the bride on the wedding day is also key.)

      The bridesmaid does, however, have to show up for the wedding and stay the whole time. That’s non-negotiable, unless and ambulance is involved.

      • LISA

        All 3 of my bridesmaids are married (two are my sisters), all 3 of them left within an hour of dinner. Apparently they are unfamiliar with the stay for the day rule, but then again, their behaviors before the wedding were less than stellar. Wish I had the guts to bring this up to them, but I honestly don’t know what it would accomplish at this point.

      • Class of 1980

        Yes, staying for the event is the minimum requirement.

      • Anon

        I was recently a bridesmaid and didn’t stay for the whole reception, because I’d been up since 8am getting ready, had worked 14 hours straight the day before setting up the venue (and had to practically stage a revolt to get a meal break, which still irks me), and was driving home early the next morning. I stayed for dinner, stayed for dancing, and left when people started focusing on getting drunk. I know the bride was disappointed, but at that point taking care of myself took precedence over taking care of her.

      • Michelle

        As a bridesmaid, I never would’ve left my college roommate’s wedding dance early. I would’ve stayed ’til the final farewell. Except my date (and now husband) stepped on my toe and I bled all over my new heels. Then we practiced dancing before our own wedding.

    • Aine

      I have been utterly baffled with every post I’ve seen on various blogs about bridesmaids’ “duties” too. I always had a vague notion that the maid of honor was expected to help you plan and come along when you shopped for the dress, but mostly I thought it was a way to honor and recognize those friends.

    • Class of 1980

      Julie, I have to echo you.

      I’ve noticed an increase in expectations too. You bet it’s showing our age. There seems to be this idea floating around of a bride being a queen that must be served and that bridesmaids are there to do a “job”. I don’t know exactly when or how this happened, because my generation was really low-key in that regard. But weddings have become more complicated in every way possible.

      DISCLAIMER: I don’t think most APW readers are entitled little beasts. This is the Land of Enlightenment. ;)

      • I think that’s part of it though… I would venture to guess that very few, if any, APW brides are sitting here thinking, “I can’t wait to put my bridesmaids to work during my engagement.” It’s easy to either change your expectations or tell someone they’re falling down on the job if the job involves just a task to be checked off the wedding to-do list, but it’s a lot harder to tell a close woman friend that she is falling down on supporting you emotionally when that is all you are asking her to do…

  • Carbon Girl

    Expectations are key. I had zero expectations for my bridesmaids except that they hang out with me the day of while we got ready and wear the dress we picked out. I had four bridesmaids–one was my new sister-in-law. The other three were my best childhood friend, best college friend, and best grad school friend. None of them knew each other, and they lived all over the country. I definitely needed their support the day of and definitely called them during planning when I needed someone to bounce things off of. They did not plan any parties because none of them lived near me. Instead, three of them made it out to my shower and the other made it to my bachelorette party. I did not expect this from them as it involved long drives for them. But I was thrilled they were present.

    I think that is the important thing: that they be PRESENT for you, whether in spirit while planning or at the actual wedding. All they have to do is be there and stand with you so you have their collective love and wisdom at your side on your wedding day. I think expecting anything else of them is setting yourself up for disappointment. And if they do want to stuff envelopes for you or arrange flowers? Well, that is just icing on the cake.

    One more note, while all my bridesmaids were present, two had to leave early. One had class 8 hours way the next day and the other was undergoing treatment for Hep C and was very weak. I was just grateful that they made it for as long as they could.

  • amelia

    In what seems like a bizarre twist, I feel like my bridesmaids & bridesman keep expecting more from me. They don’t believe that all I really want is for them to come to the wedding, rock out with me before hand, maybe have some wine and help me not burst from excitement before my mister and i get hitched. It makes me sometimes feel like I’m missing some big part of the wedding obligations and don’t even realize it.

    • KA

      I’m getting this too. I’m not having a bridal party, but my closest friends are all chomping at the bit to get planning, and I’m cool with procrastinating some more. It makes me afraid though, that if I don’t take advantage of their enthusiasm now, it will have waned by the time I need them, haha!

      • suzanna

        I’m sure you’ve thought of this already, but just be sure to not give your folks too much to do last-minute. Like an above commenter noted, she left the reception early because she was exhausted from all the work she’d done in the previous 2 days. Be kind to those willing to work for you!

        • ka

          Aw, thanks for your concern Suzanna, but I was kidding. When my wedding rolls around in 10 months, much like Amelia said, all I want of my friends is to show up, drink some wine, eat some food, and dance their butts off. If they’re dying to bake cupcakes (which some of them apparently are), they’re welcome to, but no one’s “working for me” in this wedding!

    • Nope. You are fine and not missing anything.

  • anonymous

    Actually, if you look into the historic origins of bridesmaids, they were there to confuse bad spirits and demons who might try to give bad luck to or otherwise harm the bride. If there was a group of girls all dressed up in fancy clothes (since white wasn’t the norm until the mid-19th century) the spirits couldn’t tell who was who and would fly away confused, unable to identify their target. I’m not sure if the same is true of the origin of groomsmen, though. Either way, it has nothing to do with helping the bride do things: historically her family did that. Often they did everything from choosing her dress to organizing the ceremony time to planning a reception if there was one to, err, paying the dowry (until that ceased to exist) and filling her trousseau. All the bridesmaids had to do was show up and dress similarly to the bride, and walk with her to the church.

    • kireina

      The best man is an Anglo-Saxon tradition, actually, dating back to marriage by capture. The groom needed a wingman to fight off angry family and friends when he rode into a village to kidnap his bride. The best man also helped protect and hide the couple while they consummated the marriage, which made them ‘safe’ from her family and the couple legitimate in the eyes of the groom’s family.

      “The More You Know!”


      • Aine

        I remember reading about this – even with family approval, the “kidnapping” of the bride was a way to counter any possible bad luck from marrying out of the clan. I just find it hilarious that they were so worried about bad effects from marrying a non-relative. Ewwwww…..

      • OMG! I might have to have bridesmaids and groomsmen after all, just so I can be kidnapped and consumated by (with, from, to??) my honey. Quick, Wingman, bar the door! Stop the demons!

        It may sound like I’m being sarcastic (or maybe that’s just the little voice in my head that always is) but seriously, how romantic!

    • Thank you for this.

      A few months ago, my sister asked me, “if you get married, I don’t have to do anything, right? I mean, I show up and give you a red envelope, and we’re good, right?” I really wasn’t sure what to say. So, I just replied with “well, I don’t know exactly what you mean. Can this be a multiple choice question? Because I think there will be things I want from you than your presence and your money.”

      I think what I will crave during the wedding planning process is calm, affirmation, love, empathy, and kindness. And, I hope I will get this, in bits and pieces even, from everyone in my inner circle, brides(maid/person) or otherwise.

  • El

    I have a related question for APW-ers: have any of you declined to be bridesmaids? I can think of 2 people for whom I would feel comfortable filling that role, but maybe 4 others for whom I don’t think I could do it (or afford it) in the way they would expect me to (and I will be asked by them). Whether to gracefully bow out or not may depend on each friendship (ie: will there be less drama just doing it, or declining it)–but I’m curious to hear of anyone who’s declined the offer. How’d it go?

    • Liz

      yes. and i think people are usually understanding. it’s commonly understood that being a bridesmaid is an expense and a responsibility and a commitment. and sometimes- it’s just not feasible.

      • angela

        in my experience, i wish a few of my bridesmaids would’ve! it would’ve spared me the energy of trying to figure out whether they don’t care about weddings, or just don’t care about mine – i would’ve understood up front if they would’ve rather been guests. after the fact though, it just became indirectly hurtful.

        • tupelohoney

          I have a friend who has been a MOH 3 times (THREE!) and a bridesmaid 2 additional times (one of which was my wedding). I hesitated asking her because I’d heard he complaining abou the other weddings… but she’s a great friend, hence 5 weddings (and we’re only in our mid 20s). I told her recently, “You know, you can say no to people when they ask you be a bridesmaid”, but she said no, that’s not something she’d feel comfortable doing. I personally think that saying “no” to being a bridesmaid is perfectly reasonable. It is a huge time and financial (usually) commitment so if you’re not into it, don’t do it! That’s better than saying yes and then resenting your friend and her wedding.

          • Amber

            I really wish my MOH had simply declined too… I would not have been offended and considering our situation it would have been perfectly reasonable really. We live a good distance apart and she also had her own wedding to plan etc. (all of this was discussed when I asked but she still said yes) well now that her own wedding is looming with its own financial costs (of course) she has snapped at me regarding aspects my wedding but even more so she has hashed up resentment towards general aspects of my life such as family relations etc that are completely irrelevant to either wedding. She has started to compare what her wedding will be to what I am planning for my own and ultimately I had to free her of her commitment to be my MOH. The first comment made a very good point really. I had to evaluate if I would have felt differently about how she was treating me if their was no wedding of any kind involved. Ultimately I decided no, I would not feel differently. The resentment she had toward my wedding was one thing (minor really, recoverable) but to discover she had been harboring resentment towards basic aspects of my life for the ten years we have been friends was just too much to discover at this juncture. It was just too much, just too painful and it was toxic. I just had to step away for my own sanity. That in itself was painful too….

    • i haven’t declined, but once i probably should have. i felt uncomfortable with our friendship and the marriage taking place, and really didn’t have the time or financial resources to contribute much. looking back, i was probably a “bad” bridesmaid – though, i think, for good reasons which i was very up-front about – it never really occurred to me to simply decline.

    • peanut

      I sort of have before: one of my closest friends is now engaged, and while she was pre-engaged (love APW-coined terms!) I told her over cocktails that I would be there if she needed me, but if she could spare me the role of being an actual bridesmaid that would be awesome. She laughed and agreed.

    • m

      I haven’t declined personally, but made sure to tell my bridesmaids it was there choice and I would totally understand if they weren’t interested. They all said yes though, so maybe they didn’t believe me.

    • Alyssa

      My friend declining to be my bridesmaid was one of the best and most mature decisions that I’ve ever seen anyone make. It hurt at the time, but she ended up doing the best thing for the both of us and it was a great gift. Her being my friend is way more important than her being my bridesmaid.

    • Bee

      I’m actually a bit embarrassed to say that I’ve been a bridesmaid 14 times, and five of them I was the maid of honor. That shouldn’t be embarrassing, and I’m happy to have done it for the vast majority of those times. I feel like there’s still a bit of a stigma to being a bridesmaid though. Lots of times I get a knowing, sad smile and shake of the head while people tell me that I’ll “have my time.” Yuck! I don’t resent my friends’ happiness. In fact, I like to be a support system for the people around me. It’s one of the things that makes me quite good at my job as a high school teacher(if I do say so myself!). It’s one of the things that makes me quite a good friend. It’s also one of those things that makes me easily taken advantage of when adults are in the picture.
      The only times being a bridesmaid has been an overall negative experience for me were also the times that I seriously considered saying no to begin with. I think that if you have serious reservations from the go, you should probably bow out gracefully before making the commitment. I know I wish I had had the guts to do it. It probably would have saved one of my friendships. It might not have, but I do think the end would certainly have been less explosive if I had just said no.
      PS- No, 27 Dresses is not an accurate reflection of my life.

  • Liz

    that first letter was almost EXACTLY my experience, save a few details.(seriously- left the reception early at the last minute and everything)

    i think it was most disappointing for me because it actually revealed the truer nature of our friendship. we had grown apart, and i hadn’t realized it until the wedding. but that may not be the definite case for everyone. a big piece of it was knowing beforehand how she had “behaved” as a bridesmaid for others. it wasn’t just “maybe she sucks at weddings.” it was… almost intentional.

    • Leona

      Exactly to the realizing-you’ve-grown-apart part.

      I did something stupid and chose my maid of honor based on who would be most upset if I didn’t choose her. We were close friends for a long time but college had taken us in very separate directions and though we still talked, she’d hurt me a lot in the past by not being there for me.

      Sure enough, the wedding was no different. It’s a really long story that involves her disappearing with the best man for a couple hours on the night before the wedding and keeping everyone out late looking for them because they had the keys to the hotel rooms, followed by her getting downright nasty with another close friend of mine in such a way that I had to take time out of my wedding to deal with the situation. She never looked happy on my wedding day and didn’t give us anything in the form of kind words, or even a signed card. I wrote her a lengthy and probably too-fiesty email a couple weeks after the wedding to tell her I was beyond upset and really needed an apology and to this day she has never said another word to me.

      Needless to say, we are no longer friends and the moral of the story is: making someone a bridesmaid does not repair your relationship with them (as someone said much more gracefully last week). But yes, the part that hurts most is seeing how she has morphed into this abysmal human being and mourning the loss of a person that used to be a great friend of mine.

  • angela

    thanks alyssa and meg, i hear you girls loud and clear. as a lonely bride with only a small percentage of my bridesmaids actually functioning as either friend or bridesmaid, i’m at an impasse. when i asked the girls i’ve know the longest, and the one friend of mine that i’ve gotten closer to in the past few years, i figured, sure there’d be a little drama, but that they’d pull through. but i’m not seeing it that way anymore. i commented on the “lonely bride” post that i’ve put the wedding on everyone else’s back burner in order to be low-maintenance, and to preserve my friendships in lieu of causing heartache based in wedding drama — but now i’m wondering, if these girls knew they weren’t going to care enough to participate a little (i’m not talking handprinting invites, i’m talking just acknowledging that there is in fact a wedding going on, or was -we postponed it.), if they knew they weren’t interested, why not just say “i’ll pass on the matching dress, but i’ll be there to party!” ?

    so, the impasse. the fiance and i, amid a year-long mishmash of stress and life-happenings, have postponed the wedding. we haven’t set a new date. what do i do with the absentee bridesmaids when the time comes? sit them down, or phone them, to learn of their intentions/let them off the hook? i really have no intentions of replacing them, because like i said, they’ve known me longest – and if my oldest friends can’t scrap up the energy to appear interested, or at least give an ear to listen, who would?
    or is this the wrong train of thought? how do you tell someone you’ve known forever that it’s ok if they don’t give a shit that you’re getting married?

    • kireina

      I think I would say that postponing the wedding gives you an opportunity to sit them down and tell them how you’re feeling and that, on top of this, the wedding is postponed, and you don’t have the energy to do all the things you planned. Maybe talk to your MOH (who hopefully is one of the more involved people!) and see how she feels flying solo. There’s nothing that says your number of bridesmaids/men has to match the number of groomsmen. With no wedding date looming over you, take the time to talk to your friends and figure out what it is that they don’t want to deal with. Then, if it’s just not going to work, go down to one or two attendants you feel like are there for you. Hope it works out!

    • One of the things you might want to consider is that without a date set, it’s kind of hard for friends to know exactly what they are committing to and sustain excitement. I’d use this time to talk with them about what your expectations are, what their expectations are, and allow them to bow out if it’s too much for them. Then when a date is set, reask the women in your life with clear expectations in hand about what you’d like out of them. I bet once things solidify up a little and they know what’s ahead, you’ll find that your friends will pull together better.

      • angela

        thank you both – my suspected answer was yes, discuss it with them and let them know that stress is what caused the postponement in the first place, and the goal is the deep-six the stress for the second go-’round. thankfully, my sister and closest ally is the maid of honor, and we grew up to be (sometimes frightfully) independent multi-taskers. so i could probably just drop out and she’d be more than capable of handling everything! (which is why at first, i was ok with the fact that the other girls were absent – but it wasn’t fair to my sister who at the time was just starting life in a different city, and grad school. but i digress.)

        i guess my biggest fear is that a few of the girls are totally in denial that 1. there’s an issue and 2. that it’s impacting the way i see our friendship – their lack of support (general support, like please-let-me-vent-a-lil support) just really put a new perspective on how our relationship(s) have (not) progressed. like alyssa said, maybe they’re now manicure friends, but not wedding friends.

        • KA

          “like alyssa said, maybe they’re now manicure friends, but not wedding friends.”

          i love your distillation of alyssa’s wisdom! this is so true, and so hard. the people i always thought would be my wedding friends have gradually been becoming “manicure friends” over the past few years. (i had a total meltdown the day i realized that i could not in good faith ask my best friend to be my maid of honor like i’d always planned to.) but, i remind myself that friendships are fluid and that other people who had previously faded to the background are becoming more prominent in my life again. i think some people really are manicure friends, and others just have manicure phases…

          in your situation though, it sounds like communication is really necessary. and uh, can i blast some shame? you sound like a reasonable human being who isn’t asking her maids to gocco 500 invitations or anything, so yeah, barring any great emergencies in your friend’s lives, you shouldn’t have to put *your* wedding on the back-burner for them! you *deserve* to talk about it and be excited about it! pew pew!

          • I think I’d like to add that there’s a lot of grey areas too between manicure friends and wedding friends. Maybe we find out through our wedding experiences that some friends aren’t wedding friends, but they might pop back into our lives later on as homebuying friends or new-parent friends or late-nights-over-wine friends. That is to say… maybe when we let go of the idea that our weddings must create a moment in which ALL of our relationships are perfected, that opens up a bit more space for people to support us in the ways that they can?

  • Cody

    You know, another aspect that I think should be addressed (I guess by me… right now?) is the issue of not being asked to be a bridesmaid. Knowing that that careful planning has happened from the bride’s end, knowing you’re good friends with someone, that you’ve had those wonderful life adventures, and then not making the cut. Not getting asked.

    I’ve decided not to have any bridesmaids. We’re having a super tiny ceremony, 6 months before we throw the huge PARTY for all of our extended family and what not, and we feel like, hey, if we call you and invite you, consider yourself as important to us as any wedding party might be. But I know that that stung at least one of my friends. Most of my friends-close-enough-to-be-bridesmaids-if-I-wanted-to-have-bridesmaids have been more than supportive, which has been wonderful. But one of my closest friends was so upset, she basically said she doesn’t even know me anymore, and questioned not only me as a person, but my relationship with my fiance in this decision to not involve her more than we are.

    It was disturbing, to say the least. So yeah, I’ve been in her shoes before, where I’ve thought I might be a bridesmaid and then wasn’t. But it was always coupled with knowing the bride has her reasons, and trusting that. And so yeah… thoughts on how to handle that issue?

    • i would think that even if you aren’t having a bridal party, perhaps there is something she can be included in (if you wish to make her feel special or more of a part of the wedding) during the planning process. maybe it’s something as simple as helping you stuff invitations into envelopes, or going dress shopping (for your dress or for hers).

      something that really helped me was to understand the concept of a bridal brigade. that not everyone has to be IN the wedding to be a significant part of the wedding. that there is so much that happens along the way, that you can include many girlfriends/boyfriends in the process to help with your own sanity. all the while, communicating with her that while she doesn’t have a title in your wedding ceremony, she has a solid place in your heart, you know?

      • okay, but how about if you ARE having a typical-ish bridal party and someone’s not in it who probably expected to be? i keep being told to give her some other role, like doing a reading, but i’m not sure that’ll help.

        • Aine

          One of my closest and oldest friends got married a year and a half ago, and didn’t ask me to be in the bridal party at all; at first I was a little hurt, but I realized that 1. from her point of view, I’m kind of flaky (as in, i frequently don’t go for nights out when I had said I would, because I’ll wait for the call saying ‘we’re leaving now, meet you at ____” and when I get it, its 9 or later, and I can’t do that AND get to work the next day) and 2. people have relatives they have to ask, there are a lot of other concerns when choosing people.

          I did feel better when I realized she was confiding in me about wedding stress and things of that ilk, like asking me to come to wedding shows with her- it showed that she valued my friendship as much as ever, even if she didn’t give me an “official” role. Sometimes just making a point of ‘being friends’ will make up for it- the friend doesn’t feel rejected, which I think is a lot of the worry from that direction.

        • Nina

          I was in this situation – I had a fairly typical bridal party of 3 close friends. An old friend, who I had been incredibly close with when we were much younger but had drifted apart from since, was really really upset not to be included. From the get-go I suspected she might be (though I had no idea HOW upset she would be) so I asked her to be involved in other ways. She is not the type to want to do a reading, so I asked her to help with designing decorating and/or helping direct people on the day (just when guests were arriving, not for the whole wedding), but this suggestion actually upset her more I think. She saw that as a job, while being a bridesmaid was an honor. I honestly didn’t mean it as a job, but a fun way to be involved (I had actually done a similar thing at a friend’s wedding who couldn’t ask me to a bridesmaid and loved it). So tread cautiously if you’re trying to involve people in other ways! Sensitive people might not see it as it was intended. So approach it by saying “I really want you to be involved” and see what they say.

          • Tracy

            Another idea: I had a friend who asked me to be one of her “unofficial bridesmaids” along with several other friends. So, we didn’t stand up there at the wedding, but we came early and helped out with stuff and generally had a ball. I have a few friends who I think I’m going to ask to be “unofficial” bridesmaids as a way of telling them that I consider them important to me as part of the wedding, even if they don’t actually stand up there during the ceremony – which is the only real difference. I think the only time not being part of the bridal party has felt bad to me is because often weddings get this weird line between the “important people” with an official role, and the people who are just guests. For me, if I know that my role is appreciated that’s usually good enough for me.

    • memery

      I think I’d talk to her and focus on the fact that you’re not having ANY attendants. It’s not that she’s been excluded, it’s that you’ve opted to keep things simple, and that has nothing to do with your friendship.

    • Claire

      My oldest and closest girlfriend got married last year, and not only did she not have a bridal party, but she and her husband decided to only invite family and extended family to the wedding. When we were younger we always talked about being in each other’s weddings, and after she got engaged I was very excited at the prospect of the wedding and assumed I was going to be in the bridal party. It was very jarring for me to hear that I wasn’t even going to be invited. As it turned out, I was really not involved with her wedding at all, other than the gifts I sent her and the pictures she sent me after the fact.

      I was really hurt and didn’t know how to discuss it with her because the last thing I wanted to do was make her feel bad about her wedding. I still haven’t discussed it with her because I don’t really know how to bring it up. When she initially told me she coached it in terms of “I wish you could be there, but FH and I decided it was easiest to keep it small if we only had family there.” I understand why she did it, but I wish she had made an effort to involve me in some way, even if it was just to acknowledge my desire to be there for one of the most important events of her life. I think if she had done that I would have felt less upset about it.

      On the other hand, now that I’m starting to think about my own wedding, I’m realizing that I also want something small and as uncomplicated as possible, and I’m actually leaning towards not having a bridal party.

      • Cody

        Thank you for this! My fiance and I, when we first decided on the whole two celebrations thing, thought the actual wedding was only going to be immediate family. We were like, okay, 10 people, if we invite one person who isn’t immediate family, we’ll have to invite everybody. But then, about a month after deciding that, I had a total meltdown in the car about how my best friends weren’t going to be there, and we decided to screw doing things the easiest way and just have the people we really want there.

        Which is when we actually started calling and inviting people, and I told the best friend that no, I wasn’t having bridesmaids.

        But yeah, thank you for really reminding me how important that decision to have my best friends there was, even if it isn’t as easy to explain to everyone else, instead of just making a line in the sand and forcing everyone who isn’t a blood relative to stand on the opposite side.

  • alexis

    So much drama with these bridesmaids…. I always struggled with the idea of having brideamaids, but decided ultimately that it would be ok, except that I wanted to keep it to just family and chose my 3 cousins, who are like sisters to me, just made sense. I have so many wonderful, fabulous friends, and if i made all of them bridesmaids, it would have been like 10 people. The idea of having 10 bridesmaids completely stressed me out. So I thought that keeping it to just family, I could have a small bridal party and not have to choose between friends. I did however talk to friends and tell them that while having just cousins, I was planning on including them in the festiveness of the wedding (i.e bach party, shower, getting ready day of) and also we are planning on having them be involved int he ceremony, readings, holding huppah etc… So I thought it would be ok, and for the most part the friends were ok with everything, but one good friend didnt speak to me for weeks b/c they had expectations of being the MOH (i was hers)… total disaster! We are talking now, but things are still off… So in efforts to avoid drama i created it for myself, really frustrating. Sorry for long rambling post…

  • Elizabeth

    What about the are you in or out conversation? When I was a bridesmaid in a college friend’s wedding, she’d asked a number of our circle to be with her on the wedding day. But the maid of honor didn’t seem all that into it. She seemed a little put out by the demands her role and griped to fellow bridesmaids about the cost at every possible point.

    So when it was my turn, I didn’t ask the maid of honor to be in my wedding. Our wedding parties (including the bride) overlapped, with the exception of her. I also asked my sister-in-law and a cousin. I felt awkward and unsure what the better way to play it was: to ignore the situation and she’d eventually figure out that she wasn’t in (what I eventually went with), or have a phone call that says “you weren’t selected. sorry!”

    • meg

      And that is one of the many reasons I didn’t have bridesmaids. The in-or-out thing was not something I felt comfortable with.

    • KA

      Based on my recent experience, I think communication is key: I’ve recently gotten close again to an old friend who is also getting married (our weddings are like a month apart), and it had crossed my mind that I might be on a bridesmaid shortlist as we’d been talking so much about the wedding, but nothing had been discussed. Well when I attended her engagement party her mom introduced me (I’ve known her mom forever so she wasn’t confusing me with someone else) and one of her best friends as two of “the bridesmaids” to another family member. She also assumed I was going dress shopping with them the next day, which I also hadn’t been asked to. Uhh, awkward!! I knew for a fact that the bestie was an MOH, but to this day am a bit unsure who else her bridal party actually consists of… I wouldn’t be upset either way, but clarity would be nice.

      If you’re not asking your BFF since age 3 she might want to discuss it, but in the case of casual to reasonably close friends where it’s not appropriate to have a “you’re out” conversation, please at least mention who is “in” your bridal party. And definitely make sure your mom knows.

    • Leona

      I think my situation was a little opposite. I’d asked all of my ladies to be bridesmaids and none of them seemed to believe me. They would call like, “am I still a bridesmaid?” “Yes, dear. You are.” So I finally sent them all cards packed full of details from the wedding and what I expected of them. That suddenly made it official for them. :)

  • ECA

    This is one reason why I choose to only have my brother as my man of honor/best dude/etc. I don’t want a bridal shower and my girl friends have offered to throw me a bachelorette, which is so sweet, but was not expected! I personally hate the idea of my friends shelling out loads of cash for matching dresses, etc., when to me, the wedding is about me marrying my fiance. Also, my mom is my best friend and she is the person I go to with all wedding-related discussions, questions, etc. My friends love hearing about the wedding planning, but not having bridesmaids is honestly a relief. As one commenter above mentioned, I feel they would want more from me and I just can’t give that to them. Great post!!! Love the Friday Q&As.

  • Let’s think of a wedding as a big party you’re throwing. Your friend promised to help out but then didn’t help at all, acted like a grump the whole time and then left the party early. That would be a pretty obnoxious thing to do, right? Just because it’s a wedding and might seem “silly’ if you care about it (which is not true anyway) doesn’t excuse bad behavior from a friend. You shouldn’t accept this behavior at a random cocktail party you throw and you shouldn’t accept it at your wedding. That doesn’t mean you have to have a huge fight about it, but definitely think hard about how much you want to have this person at future events.

  • I’m curious what anyone thinks is too many brideswomen?

    I have three good friends that I’m going to ask to be brideswomen that I feel confident about asking.

    But my partner has two sisters that I’d really like to be in our wedding party. He’s on the fence about mixing genders on his side (which is crap in my opinion but those are his own issues), so I want to ask them to stand up on my side. I’m not really close to either of them, but I’m an only child so excited that I will have sisters. Because of this I think it’s important to ask them to be in our wedding party. I don’t anticipate that either of them will cause any problems — one is very level-headed and fun and the other is a teenager who is a little silly, but otherwise very sweet and goes with the flow.

    But if I ask all three of my friends and my two future sister in laws, that means I’ll have five women on my side which seems like kind of a lot. Especially if my partner ends up asking 4 or 5 guys. I feel like that’s a giant wedding party considering we will only have 100-120 guests. What do you guys think? I just can’t imagine not asking any of these five women.

    • Liz

      it all depends, really. the whole “too many in a bridal party” thing is rooted in the drama that can be cause by, say, trying to get 8 girls to agree on a dress. or trying to throw a shower that fits 10 different social schedules.

      i had “too many” bridesmaids. as in, before planning a wedding, i would never have thought to have 6 girls. ever. whoa, lots of girls. but i had different reasons (and, as a result, expectations) for the different girls. there were a few that were bosom-buddies that i just wanted to be THERE during the process. but then there were others- like your to-be-sister-in-laws, i guess- that i wanted to ask just as a sort of invitation to become closer as we joined families. these few weren’t super involved in planning or “there for me” or whatever, and i was okay with it. it was less about “having them by my side” and more about just honoring our new relationship.

      • Yup, honoring the relationship is exactly what I want to do with my new sisters in law. I don’t expect them to be super involved, unless they want to be.

        • Carla

          I think honouring the new family relationship is a perfect reason to ask someone to be a low-expectation bridesmaid. I asked my husband’s sister to be one of my bridesmaids, but had pretty nearly no expectations of her. His entire family lives 2000 km away, and she has 4 (as of about 3 months before the wedding (!!)) kids. So the entirety of my expectations of her were “approve or decline this dress I think will look good on you and my sister before I buy it, and give me your measurements so I can order it to fit”.

    • Anna

      If you can’t imagine not asking them to be in your party then ask away. I think a bridal party can be as big or small as you want it to be and if these are the people you want at your side then they should be. Maybe for some 5 per side is too much because of aesthetics or whatever but ultimately it’s about having those 5 people stand up there with you and support you on this occasion.

      • Thank you for your support. I’m going to ask them all. I certainly am not worried about the aesthetics of my ladies.

    • Somebody in the Lonely Bride discussion mentioned having a “bridal party” grouping instead of two sides. I really liked this idea, and it would eliminate the problem of you having “his” people on “your” side. More of a team of supporters cheering you on. The comment the other day had ideas on how to place people for the ceremony and it sounded like a great idea! (And if you go the traditional route, I think 5 people on each side is the number I have most often seen in the weddings I have been to.)

      • I like the idea of just one wedding party too. Ideally that’s what we want to have. But logistically, if they are going to stand up there with us, they have stand either to the right of me or to the left of him. Which some people might take as my side and my partner’s side.

        This seems silly and really I don’t care about the aesthetics of how they stand, but I just can’t think of any other configuration besides us and the officiant in the middle flanked by our wedding party, half on one side and half on the other. Does anyone have another configuration?

        • Here are some ideas and please forgive me for the theatre terminoloy, but the terms seem to work well…

          Modified traditional “proscenium” arrangement (audience facing the “stage” as in a traditional wedding):
          What about you guys in the middle, your bridal party on one side and the officiant on the other? You could put the officiant slightly closer to the guests than you guys, and facing you at an angle, and then when you are facing him/her, you would actually be opening yourselves out to the guests. Now….as a guest, I would LOVE this because I would be able to see the couple. And as a couple, it would be nice to see the community. But I will say I was glad that at our wedding, we were facing away from the guests for most of the time because it helped me to focus on just my husband and what we were doing. Everything else faded away. But I think it is possible, whichever way you face, if you just stare into your spouse-to-be’s eyes and focus on the one you love. :) (And, now that I think about it, when we signed our marriage contract, etc, during the ceremony, we were facing the guests, and I was completely unaware of them, even though I was facing them. I only was aware of the guests during the community vow time of our ceremony when we made a specific effort to look around at everyone there vowing to support us.)

          Thrust stage, arena, or theatre in the round:

          You could arrange your guest seating in a semi circle set-up (or three sided square set up), with the bridal party standing to complete the “missing” part of the circle/square, you guys and your officiant could be in the middle. And at some point between things, you could always rotate orientation of the couple and the officiant, so your guests have a different perspective of you during the ceremony. I know that would have been great for us, because my mother-in-law expressed sadness after the wedding at having been at an angle where she couldn’t see my husband/her son’s face during the ceremony and it was the same for my parents too, I guess. (We were in a traditional set up and standing on the same side as our family’s seating. Not sure if we did that right, cause it doesn’t really make sense as far as sight lines go…? Though if the first rows were further back that would have helped, I guess?)

          Anyhow…this is some brainstorming from this theatre director. :)

        • we wanted to avoid the my-side his-side thing since our whole bridal brigade is comprised of OUR friends making commitments to US, so we are likely going to arrange them in girl-guy-girl-guy order on either side, since that is more visually unifying than a gender breakdown. another idea we’ve had is to have them in those rows standing perpendicular to us, but that is kinda hard to explain without a picture of our ceremony location.

          • Oh I love boy girl boy girl! That would be perfect for us!!!!!

        • Ariel

          We’re not doing the traditional “bridesmaids” and “groomsmen” thing, but instead are asking our families to (figuratively) stand up with us during the ceremony. Because of our particular outdoor location, we’re going to have everything arranged in concentric circles, with us in the center of all the guests. Our families will be in the circles closest to us.
          This arrangement works with our location, but you might have to think creatively if you’re getting married in a place with physical constraints.

          • Class of 1980


            I LOVE IT. :)

          • That might work perfectly for us. We’ll be marrying in a courtyard that has a raised platform in the middle. Originally I was thinking we would only put seats on one side of the platform and the other half would just be empty. But maybe we’ll have the chairs completely encircling us.

    • JT

      My sister’s wedding was about that size, as was her wedding party and (although I’m totally biased) I thought it was the perfect size! More importantly, though, her husband had a bigger wedding party to begin with and initially wasn’t going to ask our brother to be a groomsman. Even though he ended up being part of the wedding party, my brother was really hurt that his future brother-in-law and our sister didn’t seem to feel like it was important to include him from the start. As Liz mentioned, I think it’s important to honor the new relationship. So if you’d like to have them in the wedding party, and they’d like to be in the wedding party, forget the numbers and just do it!

      • Good call. I’ll forget the numbers and just focus on who I want up there with me.

    • I had 9 – NINE!!! – bridesmaids, and easily could have had 11-13. I was self-conscious about our huge bridal party (even though large bridal parties are more common in the south, I’m from the west coast), but I am glad I asked all of them. Each one was a long-distance bridesmaid, and offered support an encouragement during our engagement in different ways. The only downside was that on the day-of, I think some friends felt like they had less ownership of their role, or don’t need to help as much, since there are so many of them.

      • All of mine will be long distance too. It kind of sucks living so far from family and friends, but I think on the day of all will work out fine.

    • I think that this again can be whittled down to expectations. It’s going to be complicated if there are going to be lots of group activities that require everyone to be at a certain place at a certain time. But if all your asking is for them to wear a pretty dress and stand next to you, then your number won’t be a burden to anybody.

      • There won’t be a lot of group activities. One shower on a weekend in May and a bachelorette party two days before the wedding will be it most likely. If they can’t come to those, I won’t be hurt as long as a few other people can come.

    • kyley

      Here’s the question to ask yourself: Will you be sad if you don’t invite those 5 women to stand up there with you? It sounds like you will, so there’s your answer. The rest of it is inconsequential.

      • The answer is yes. Thanks everyone for your comments. Sometimes it’s just helpful to have other sane people validate your choices when you start overthinking things.

    • Nicole

      A slightly different perspective on this:

      1, He doesn’t have to ask the same number that you do. No rule that says that both sides have to match. No one will notice.

      2, My fiance has a brother and a sister. When we were first talking about wedding parties, he mentioned his brother and his 2 best friends. I said, “what about your sister?” and he said, “oh, you don’t need to ask her if you don’t want to.” Me: “No, why don’t you ask her to stand up with YOU?” Him: “I can DO that?!?!” Me: “You can do whatever the hell you want. It’s your wedding!”

      So, our sides will be mismatched and not gender-aligned, and we are so happy about it! People have questioned it a bit; one friend in particular was grilling me about how the recessional will work– will women walk together? Will three walk together?– To which I replied “I will be married! I won’t care. They can all find their ways down the aisle like the grownups they are.”

      If he wants his sisters involved, they should stand up with him. If not, you shouldn’t feel pressured to have them on your side unless you want to.

      • Liz

        (psst. they don’t need to walk in pairs. they can go alternating, one from each side at a time.)

        • Irene

          Alternating is awesome! Our “aisle” was too narrow for pairs anyway so we all daisy-chained away for the recessional. My husband’s sister was a groomsmaid and she put the boutonniere flowers in her hair. It was very sweet.

    • Denzi

      I was one of TWELVE bridesmaids in a good friend’s wedding a few years back. Now, this worked out great for us, because what she meant by “bridesmaid” was “my close girlfriends whom I want to come a few days early, have a giant slumber party, be around me to help me be low stress, maybe help with a few last minute wedding projects, and then get front row seats for the ceremony.” (It was a Jewish wedding, and they didn’t have people standing up front with them other than their four chuppah-bearers/groomsmen.) It also worked because this friend is a low-stress/low-drama/high-love person, and she surrounds herself with the same sort of people, so we all got along wonderfully. And it worked because she asked us to wear pastel dresses of any kind (most ended up being knee-length), so there was no matching, but you could tell we were all bridesmaids because we had wrist corsages and matching jewelry and bare feet (the bride went barefoot, so so did we!)–and because we followed the bride around like a gaggle of loving, kick-ass ducklings. :D

      I am kind of hoping to do the same thing with my wedding. The opposite route from “no one is a bridesmaid!” is “EVERYONE is a bridesmaid!” and with my group of friends, I think that just might work. Although I will probably call them a “bridal brigade” and include my brother and two close guy friends as well as all my close girlfriends. (And, although I am nowhere near ceremony-writing point yet–I am “complicatedly pre-engaged”–my church is in the round and I kind of hope to write a ceremony where EVERYONE variously comes and stands up for/with us, because I want to make space to be surrounded by the love of my family and friends. But we’ll see how that works out later.)

    • Alexandra

      Oh, girl. For that many guests, five each side is SO not too many, IMHO!

      We’re only having 60-70 guests & my man is having six guys–and originally wanted more!!–and I may have four or five people.

      If they are important to you, who cares that some people think that’s too many? You are rich in friendship and family! ;-)

  • Ruth

    I’m glad this is being discussed on APW, a place where no one is going to say you’re silly for caring!

    – dealt with a lot of bridesmaid challenges but also had supportive friends who I had not asked to be a bridesmaid that came out of the woodwork, listened to me vent and helped tremendously. Just because they weren’t carrying a bouquet at the wedding didn’t change that they were so very helpful and generous during a stressful time. My relationship with THOSE friends actually grew closer during the planning process, rather than my relationship with my bridesmaids.

    One thing that stood out to me, was that as a younger bride with most friends not even thinking about marriage, I often felt that they didn’t understand the magnitude of the event or realize just how important it was. They were excited for me most of the time but didn’t seem to “get it”. I wish I had done more to help them understand that getting married is a big freaking deal and that I really needed their support. You think because they’re your best friends they should know, but that is just not always the case with weddings!

    • Oh, man, a giant, whopping DITTO about friends not knowing what to expect. I don’t think I’m a particularly young bride (I’m 26), but only a couple of our friends have gotten married. Most of our friends simply haven’t experienced it– haven’t been to too many weddings of friends, haven’t been in relationships that serious, etc. A lot of our friends don’t understand the magnitude of getting married, or the stress of planning a wedding (hence us tracking down friends for RSVPs). Being the first was HARD. But when we’re going to THEIR weddings, I know I’ll be glad that I can help them, support them (bridesmaid or not), and understand what they’re going through.

  • Formerly Bad Bridesmaid

    As someone who wasn’t the best bride’s maid in the past, I want to offer some insight in how you can be a crappy bride’s maid, but totally love your friend and are excited for their wedding.

    I had a really good friend get married a few years ago, and she asked me to be a bride’s maid. I was honored, and scared. At the time I had been to only 2 or 3 weddings. I didn’t really understand weddings, what bride’s maids actually do, or the subtle emotional landmines that exist for a bride. I am just not a big wedding person (even now while I am planning a wedding).

    The thing that freaked me out the most was the bridal shower. I had no idea what a bridal shower actually is, so I did some online research. That didn’t help. I called my friend a couple times, ask a bunch of dumb questions, and even tried to weasel my way out. Finally on the phone I tell that I was stressing her out a little. That is the last thing I wanted. So I went, but I didn’t know anyone and felt incredibly awkward the whole time. But after that I vowed to myself to be the best bride’s maid I could be.

    So this is all to say, you can be a horrible bride’s maid, and still love the heck out of your friend and still be excited for your friend. Even though I am not a wedding person, I am glad I got to be there and be a bride’s maid.

  • Mrs. Anon

    Ladies, I need your opinion on this one:

    I was married last year. I had a maid of honor and two bridesmaids. My maid of honor and bridesmaid #1 were awesome. They supported me, planned my shower and bachelorette party, and even used their spare set of keys to decorate our apartment as a surprise upon return from our honeymoon. They also gave us thoughtful (not expensive) gifts for my shower and wedding with lovely cards.

    Now, bridesmaid #2 was, just, eh. She was supposed to be part of the apartment decorating but never showed up (FYI – she lives across the street from me!).

    The big one is this: she didn’t get me anything for my shower or for the wedding. Not even a card. I understand that being a bridesmaid can get a little pricey (dress, shower, bachelorette) and that a big expensive gift is usually over people’s budget. But not even a card?! Come on. It hurt my feelings.

    would your feelings be hurt too? anyone else have a similar experience?

    • tupelohoney

      Yes, I’ve been there. I had 6 bridesmaids and 3 didn’t give a gift or a card. I’m in the same boat… being a bridesmaid can be expensive and I totally get that (been a bridesmaid) and honestly, I wasn’t hurt that I wasn’t given monetary gifts by them. I was very surprised (and yes, hurt also) to not even get a card. Seriously, a card. I began to wonder if they didn’t give cards because it would be more obvious that there was no gift (hello, empty card), but um, I noticed that there wasn’t a card.

      Now the flip is, that they did give the gift of friendship and being by my side all day. That was nice, but I also don’t think that being a bridesmaid gives you a free pass from giving at the least, a card.

    • My bridesmaids all gave me small gifts or cards, which was wonderful. Our groomsmen? Yeah, nothing. One gave us a note scrawled on lined paper and $100 (generous, if adorably under-thought), and the rest of them?? Nothing. Nada. Not a card, not anything. I’m not surprised; most of them are pretty broke and haven’t been to too many weddings, so this is still new to them. It doesn’t HURT, per se, but it just really puts into very sharp focus some of their more immature qualities. We’ve realized which of our friends are still figuring out adult life out of college, and which are actually adults.

      • Chloe

        Ouch. A little harsh no? Are these friends the card-writing types? Christmas cards, birthday cards, etc? If not, I’m not sure you should expect them to communicate their affection and could wishes in card form. Card writing is a gracious gesture, but no longer an etiquette norm. There are innumerable other ways that our generation communicates love and affection, so I’d think back on whether your friends were trying to communicate those sentiments in other ways that were more “them.”

        • Yeah, I agree, it sounds a little harsh, but this isn’t my 27th birthday or yet another holiday. It’s a significant life event, that we invited them not only to attend, but to be a big part of. It’s a little old fashioned of me, and this argument has been hashed out a LOT here on APW (let’s remember that memorable discussion about thank you notes), but I believe that significant occasions deserve the honor of a written note. And yes, I do think it’s a sign of maturity. It may be specific to our groomsmen, but I think that it’s important to respect such a significant occasion with even just a card from CVS.

          As for our groomsmen, they did show their affection and love in their own ways; one gave the only toast that moved me to tears (even my Dad’s didn’t do that!), one gave a performance of spinning fire in the backyard of the barn after dark, and our twenty-three year old ring bearer was the very first person to call me by my married name. They’re all amazing guys and I feel lucky to have them in my life.

          • meg

            Sarah – You like me right? I’m mostly mature, right? I never gave a card when I was a bridesmaid. None of our attendants gave us a card or a gift, none of them (and we were mostly 30). I did other heartfelt things as a bridesmaid, our attendants rocked it out, but no cards. Seriously, that toast is worth a million cards if it was any thing like David’s Best Mans toast, so think about letting them off the hook. Swear.

          • Yes, of course you’re mature and pretty damn fabulous. I wasn’t passing judgment on other people’s choices of giving cards or not; I was saying that to me, it showed the maturity level of some of our groomsmen. There is no “hook” to be on; it’s just an expression of their personalities. I think that taking the time to stop and grab a card is just a mature and nice thing to do. I just think it’s a shame that handwritten notes have become passe. As for the toast the groomsmen gave, it was quite possibly the greatest gift that he could have ever given us, and it was absolutely amazing; I wouldn’t trade it for a thousand cards.

            One interesting thing that’s come up in other comments is the idea of the “Language of Love” and how people appreciate gestures. Some prefer actions, words, written, gestures, gifts, etc. Unless I know for sure that the person truly HATES cards, I would try and show them my affection and excitement in as many ways as possible. If I were a bridesmaid, I would think that I would have more to say than simply scrawling my name, and a heartfelt card makes sure my support and affection is known. It’s covering all my bases– for a big occasion like getting married, I want to make sure my friends know just how I feel about it, and that I’m celebrating with them.

          • Sigh. This one is to Meg, way up in the comments. Meg, your “Reply” button got lost, and I thought I’d figured out a back-end way to reply to you, but it got bumped, I guess. :)

          • meg

            I know my dear, but not everyone is like you (or is going to get you right). And you know what we said about some people being crap at weddings and good at other things? That goes for cards too… and for timing of handwritten notes. I actually love writing people notes, but I don’t always write my heartfelt letter at a big life event. Sometimes I’m too overwhelmed, but maybe I’ll do it at Christmas. You never know when my heart is going to be in exactly that place, and my heart being in exactly that place is what makes it a heartfelt note. So, my point is, wedding cards are not like Thank You notes. They are not manditory under any formalized set of rules (though notes are encouraged). So sometimes you get them, and sometimes you don’t, and that’s just how it is.

            I’m sorry it meant a lot to you and you didn’t get them. I, however, would KILL for the story of a groomsman giving us $100 cash and a note scrawled on lined paper. That would have made the wedding for David, he would have loved it so much.

          • I hear what you’re saying, but sometimes, it’s not about OUR timing. Your mileage may vary, though, but that’s just my opinion. I’m not hung up over it, but it’s just something that caught my attention.

            It was pretty funny. It was a ripped corner of notebook paper with something along the lines of “Congratulations, love you guys”, stuffed with five twenties into a plain white envelope. And it was SO like that particular groomsman, too. Adorable. :)

          • Ara

            I think heartfelt can be very brief and spontaneous. This little note sounds just wonderful to me.

          • Ara

            meant to be a reply to Sarah K.

          • I love the “good story” best of all.

            One of my besties got a MAILBOX CLOCK as a gift. Think about it for a minute.

          • Aine

            Nope, I still don’t get it.

          • We got a check from an uncle with a one-line note scrawled on a sheet of paper from the hotel pad. It was pretty great. :)

          • Ha ha! If only I had read to the end…and you got the title! :)

            Personally I think it unfair to ask everything (card, gift, time, dress, shoes, flower, shower, days off of work) from one person. Talk about scraping a soul bare.

            I expect to be so damn giddy during and long after my wedding that I don’t even notice who gave what and who didn’t. And, since we are asking people who must must must give to donate to local charities, I’ll never even know who did and didn’t. I can be assured, though, that some people felt it important (for them) to support us on our day. And, since all the money I’d be donating this year is going to pay to feed them on that day, it seem only fair that the community in which I begin my marriage receive a little sumthin’ sumthin’!

          • I’m a thank you, birthday, random note kind of gal. I like to think I’m mature, usually. And I’ve spent a gazillion dollars–even when I was flat ass broke–as a bridesmaid. I kind of thought that me running around like a mad woman, offering to wipe a who-ha under the tulle and tying bows till my fingers bled actually said much more than I could ever write in a card. I have a hard time seeing how words on paper equate to a friend honestly and truly being there for whatever you may need, at your beckon call. Wiping for you. What words express that kind of commitment to a friend?

          • Again, I think this may be a cultural/regional/whatever difference, which we see on here so frequently (and is one of the reasons I love this site). While it certainly makes sense to me that bridal party is exempt from gifts (duh, of course), that’s NEVER been the case in any wedding I’ve been in or that friends of mine have been in. I certainly wouldn’t mind if my bridesmaids didn’t get me gifts (for the record, they did), but I’ve been a bridesmaid 3 times now and each time it never occurred to me that I WOULDN’T get a gift. On the contrary, I actually upped the ante because I was in the wedding and I felt it appropriate to do so (that was my choice, however, I didn’t feel obligated to do that).

            Come to think of it, though, my bridesmaids got us gifts, but our groomsmen did not … and we paid for their tuxes. In fairness, though, they DID throw a pretty expensive bachelor party for my husband (dinner at Radegast, a biergarten in Williamsburg, and rented a party bus to go out in NYC), however it was pretty clear it was more for them than my husband – he would have been just as happy skipping the party bus and just going to Radegast via the LIRR. :)

    • anon for this one

      It was groomsmen at our wedding and my husband’s sister. I can totally understand no gifts, even if the groomsmen wore their own suits and only had to purchase a tie. But no card? That’s a bit odd to me. And from his sister? Really?!?

    • Liz

      i’ve heard of some circles where being a bridesmaid is considered your contribution.maybe she’s from that mindset.

    • meg

      Time to get over it. Bridesmaids generally get a blanket gift exemption. Being a bridesmaid is expensive, and generally is considered to be the gift.

      • Her gift is her presence. And getting you drinks when you need them.

      • Yes, being a bridesmaid is the gift, that’s totally understood. I had friends who weren’t bridesmaids who traveled across the country, and I knew that was their gift as well! But not even a card? The point of a card is taking a moment to congratulate the couple and give blessings and hope. It costs less then a coffee at Starbucks and is the gift of happy wishes. To me, not giving a card is lazy.

        • tupelohoney

          I agree on the card issue. And like some have said, not just scrawling your name in it. There’s something about your loved ones writing something to you for such a big event, something that you’ll keep forever.

          • Thanks! And yes, exactly!! We have all the cards from the wedding, and since no one signed the scrap-guest book (seriously, three people), we are pasting the cards into the scrapbook so we can look over the kind thoughts again and again.

        • Some people are “card people” and others feel like they congratulated you by giving you a hug and and words of congratualtions after the ceremony- in person.

        • Do you ladies know of a book called The Four Gifts, or something like that? About how each of us expresses our love, affection, gratitude in one of four ways, and how it’s difficult to negotiate when our partners or friends don’t “gift” in the same way we do?

          Some of us think cards are important and so we give them. But maybe the recipient thinks the gift of time is important, and so the card means crap to her. But she’s pissed that card-girl didn’t give of her time and showed up late, without helping, and left the scene early.

          If time is the gift we like to give and receive, have we made it clear to others that that’s the case…or do we simply expect our friends and family to know just the kind of “gift” we desire and to give that? If we want a card, damn it, how do we make sure we receive cards from even those who think the gift of money is paramount?

          I try really hard to remind myself (not always successfully) that people generally give from their heart, no matter what the gift: money, time, thoughts, card, etc. looks like. This person loved me enough to _____________. And it doesn’t always look like I want it to, and sometimes it ends up at Goodwill. ;)

          • Anna S

            Linsey, I would really LOVE to know the name of that book, if at all possible. I did a quick search but didn’t see anything that looked like it was the one you were talking about.

            Unrelated to the general discussion, but I have one person who, after repeated attempts to express my feelings on material gifts (please don’t) she still insists on getting me things. While the gifts are always in good taste and quite handsome it really causes me a lot of pain and guilt to receive them because I just don’t want/need any more things. This is complicated by the fact that this woman could be my future MIL. Having a book to explain/back up what I’ve been trying to say would really be a godsend.

          • It’s the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman. :)

          • Carla

            The Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman
            Yup. This. This book has been a part of my mental landscape for nearly my entire life thanks to my mom – she got books about personalities and stuff like this right along with the business/leadership ones. And it’s really something you rarely consider; it seems so natural to express your love in your way that any other way just doesn’t occur to you until you run into an issue. Or maybe that’s just me :)

          • Ladies, thank you for being my long-term memory. Can I hire you? Yes, the Language of Love. And Anna, that book really helped me figure out my family and our differences in giving. Best part? It made me OKAY with the variations on giving in my family. Fascinating how often we (okay, I) think that everyone else thinks just like I do. Um, hello, self…that’s a silly thing to think!

      • anon for this one

        She was not a bridesmaid. She was not a supportive person during the planning or the day of, and she did not get me any drinks during the evening. She was a family member with her husband and two kids and they made sure they got a lot of attention that day. Call me crazy but I just think it’s polite to wish couples well when they get married.

    • Faith

      I’ve been a bridesmaid many times, and in many different circumstances. I’ve been a poor college student/recently out of college in a low paying job, in and going to A LOT of weddings in a matter of months, and being more financially stable. Each time I tried to give as much and as best as I could, but I know I dropped the ball several times (I may have totally missed the card once!).

      What I’m trying to do now as I am getting ready to be married is to simply love people for who they are, regardless of their circumstances or how their actions are being perceived by me. Weddings can bring up a lot of crap for people, somewhere along the way they could have been hurt by others and weddings bring all that up. They may not know or may not be able to give graciously at all, their manners regarding weddings may not be the thing that they are thinking about in the slightest, even though you are.

      All that to say I’m trying to be gracious on this side of things now:)

    • So, to provide a different perspective on the card thing: I dislike them. I, personally, feel that they’ve become another thing in that long line of “supposed to’s” that sort of obfuscate the real tenants of friendship. I choose to express my love for my friends in different ways and I don’t think I’ve ever given a bride a card if I was in her wedding. It has honestly never crossed my mind that I might be hurting her somehow. And, most of my posse members didn’t give me a card and a number of them didn’t give us a gift and I’m cool with that. I was lucky in that they were all very present the day I got married and I felt enveloped in love by them and for them. A card would have felt like an afterthought. I just want to say this because I worry that making card-giving a mark of friendship kind of gets us on the wrong track. If your friends give you a card: awesome. If not: hopefully still awesome. If you’re hurt by some of their actions and you feel the lack of card-giving is a symptom then perhaps that’s the thing to focus on when you talk to them about it.

      • See, the cards I got from my closest friends, even the ones who I had been with all week, were some of the sweetest and most heartfelt good wishes. They were there to support me all week, but the thoughtful words were amazing. I’m not talking about buying some generic wedding card and signing your name; it’s the effort to tell the person that you love them and you wish them nothing but the best.

        Maybe it’s just me and my fondness for the written word, but a card is an opportunity to wish for your friend all the hope and love and happiness you can muster.

      • Faith

        I’m with you…I don’t need a card for the sake of a card. I LOVE the ones with personal notes and love in them. Why just give a card with your name scrawled at the bottom? Not worth it.
        I kind of want to broadcast that I don’t need a dang card!

        • meg

          Agreed. Most of the name scrawed cards went right in the trash. The ones with the notes, I’m keeping forever.

          Sometimes I gave a card as a bridesmaid, sometimes I didn’t. But I always gave a hug and helped lift and carry and gaurded the bride with my life. What present is better than that?

      • CW

        I totally agree. I can’t remember the last time I sent someone a birthday card, a Mother’s Day/Father’s Day card, etc. Generally, cards do not have any significant meaning to me. I call, send emails, text.

        I’m sure that when I was younger I completely forgot to give someone a card at their wedding (although I always gave a gift), and it obviously wasn’t intended to be hurtful.

        Now that I realize that it has meaning (for some people), I try to remember to give cards. But because I don’t care about them at all, it can be challenging! Oftentimes it’s the last minute stop at a drugstore to find one.

      • yes yes yes. in certain situations, card-expectation because such a high-pressure formality that all meaning is rendered void. for example:

        my grandmother regularly calls me immediately after she’s given me a gift to ask where her thank-you card is (once she called before said gift has even arrived in my mailbox ). then, when i write one, i just feel burdened and uncomfortable, like “here’s the card you requested!” whereas i would otherwise really love the opportunity to write her a nice note on some pretty paper.

        when i was a bridesmaid, i assumed that the time & money & energy & self that i expended throughout the friendship and wedding-planning process was more important than a gift or card – and i’m card person! anything i would have written in a card was communicated instead via late-night conversations and early-morning set-up and the like.

        also, a special thank you for using the word “obfuscate.” you have added some sophistication to my vocabulary today.

      • FM

        Stephanova, I so agree with you. I don’t understand the card thing. I don’t get it generally, and I specifically don’t think a lot of people assume that it is good ettiquette as a member of a wedding party to give the couple any tangible gifts at all (except a shower gift, because showers are generally sort of about opening gifts), including a card. It’s different from thank you cards, which I think are much more commonly seen as good ettiquette for formal occasions at least. I actually felt like I owed my wedding party gifts and cards, not the other way around, considering how much money and time and love they gave to us. It is fascinating to me to hear about people being so offended by not receiving a card.

    • Rachel

      Oooooooooh honey I feel you on that one! My two older sisters (both unmarried, if that means anything) were part of my bridal party. For the shower, Sister 2 clearly did all the gift-getting and preparing though the cards were signed from both of them. For the wedding, Sister 1 didn’t get us even a card. Not even a card. I literally had to send a thank you note that said, “Thanks so much for being a bridesmaid…such a time sisters look forward to.” I was adament about getting my card on time, and I sort of enjoyed that this would be a little slap in the face like, “Hey yes you’re a bitch and this card is passive-aggressively recognizing that you couldn’t stop into CVS for 2.5 minutes to pick up a stupid card.”

      I eventually complained to my parents, and they must have tipped her off, because, 3 months later, a card finally came in the mail. No explanation, no excuse.

      • Anon

        Seriously? As you say, it’s a stupid card from CVS for $2.50. The passive-aggressive behavior seems massively out of proportion. Your sister devoted hours of her time, potentially hundreds of dollars on a dress, to be there for you, and you’re getting pissed over a “stupid card”??

        And, for all the brides who are pissed at their bridesmaids/groomsmen for not having gotten them cards, did you ever make it clear that you were expecting them? If there’s anything that’s becoming apparent in this thread, it’s that it’s not fair to hate on your bridesmaids for not being mind-readers!

        • Rachel

          Saying it’s a stupid card is fair. Presuming you know what I expected from my bridesmaids is not. I was hoping that she would show a sign that she genuinely cared about my wedding. I had the girls buy dresses on sale that cost in the double–not triple–digits, they weren’t asked to buy shoes or visit a salon (because I wore flip-flops and had a friend do my hair and make-up), and I didn’t demand that anybody did anything for the wedding. Everybody in my bridal party lived in different states, so I didn’t ask them to be involved in things because I thought it was unfair to burden them. I felt betrayed that, after asking for literally the bare minimum, she couldn’t even manage to pick up a card. Sometimes, it’s the little things, and this was a little thing she couldn’t be bothered with. To me, that spoke volumes.

          As an edit- when I said I was adament about getting the cards, I meant getting my Thank-You cards out on time. Just so I’m not totally misunderstood.

          And as an aside, I recognize that I wasn’t in great form, and I was honest about it. And isn’t THAT the spirit of APW, too? Because this site isn’t about daisies and roses all the time, which the WIC would have us believe is the whole “wedding experience;” this site is supposed to be about looking critiquely at yourself and your experience and sharing it with others.

      • Ara

        are we seriously throwing around b**** to describe our sisters and friends who didn’t get us cards and gifts? Some of this conversation is starting to feel far from the usual spirit of APW. can we go back to talking about the awesomeness of bridal brigades? I liked that conversation a lot better.

        • Easy now. I don’t disagree that Rachel may not have handled this in the best way, but none of us our perfect, and this obviously hurt Rachel. In fairness, most of us wouldn’t think to tell someone that we “expect” them to get us a card, because people who expect cards think it’s unspoken (and, quite honestly, if you have to tell someone they have to get you a card, it’s obviously not going to have the same thoughtfulness to it).

          It’s kind of like Thank You cards. You may not be a “card” person, but it’s good etiquette, and etiquette isn’t about personal values, it’s about others. So it’s OK to get pissed about not getting a thank you card, but not OK to get pissed about not getting a wedding card? Seems awfully one-sided. It isn’t about the card, it’s about the gesture, and the lack of the gesture was hurtful. It would have been better for her to say, “Hey sis, I was surprised when you didn’t get me a card and maybe it is silly, but it really hurt. Can we talk about this?” But that’s not always as easy as it sounds, either.

          I’m not trying to start something here, really, but I don’t like seeing people beaten up. You both bring up good points, but what I love about this forum is that we’re not abusive to one another.

        • Rachel

          Let me ask you this, then. If you were getting married and your sister didn’t even manage to get you a card, would you say, “Yes that seems fine to me; I’m totally okay?” If it is, then great job. You’re a model of a really nice, forgiving, understanding person. However, if you can recognize that you might, too, be hurt, then maybe we can reach some common ground.

          Not everybody has a perfect Bridal Brigade. In fact, I would bargain that most people don’t. It would be wonderful if we could all sit drinking hot chocolate with a shot of nostalgia, but I think the APW community is working to bust the myth that everything with weddings is wonderful. Sometimes we get hurt. Sometimes we behave badly. Am I really any worse than you for having been honest about behaving badly than you are for insinuating that my feelings don’t belong here?

          • Bee

            I can understand why you are upset. You feel like your sister didn’t care enough about this momentous occasion in your life to recognize it with even a small gesture of congratulations. Forgive me then for offering a bit of defense of her actions. I don’t know your situation, and there may be things you haven’t shared that are compounding your feelings and there may be underlying things that resulted in her actions. I don’t know those, but let me tell you a story from my own experience.
            I’ve been a bridesmaid a lot of times. I mean, double digits. Seriously, I’m thinking going pro. However, when I was a wee-baby-bridesmaid, way back in my undergrad years I did the same thing it seems your sister has done. I was a bridesmaid for my now-sister-in-law. I didn’t give my brother and sister-in-law a gift, a card, anything. This is not because I don’t love my brother and sister-in-law. They are, in fact, two of my most favorite people in the world. I didn’t neglect to get them a card or a gift out of malice or ill-will. I didn’t get them a card because I was 21 years old. Because I rode eight hours on an un-airconditioned bus in mid-July to get home for the wedding. Because I spent $200 dollars on a dress that I never wore again. Because I spent another $50 getting that dress altered the morning I got home the weekend of the wedding so I could go to the tailor the other bridesmaids went to, as per my sister-in-law’s request. Because I was working 90-120 hour weeks for very little pay that summer. Because I was an undergrad writing my senior honors thesis. Because I wanted to spend every minute I could that weekend with family and friends and my brother and sister-in-law.
            In short, they didn’t get a card because I was a bit careless in the formalities and chose to focus my limited energy and time on being present for them and for my family that week. I would have liked to have gotten them a card, but chances are it would go in a box never to be seen again. As things turned out, I was present and happy and smiling and I loved them as much as possible that weekend by helping everywhere I could and hugging everyone as much as I could and being as pleasant as I could. In the grand scheme of things the card didn’t seem as important as everything else.

      • Anon

        Just an FYI: I was one of the “horrible” bridesmaids who did not get my cousin a card on her wedding day (I did get her a well though out, personal gift, that wasn’t on her registry, but that also was given without a card) and when I received a Thank You card from her thanking me for being a part of her big day I did not take it as a passive aggressive gesture, but as something that was genuine. Despite not getting her a card I had been thrilled to be a part of her big day and was there when she bought her dress and went a couple bridesmaid dresses excursions with her. I made it to every event (minus her bachelorette party due to another good friend getting married out of the country that weekend – and I apologized profusely for it). I felt excited and grateful to be doing these things with her and I took her Thank You card to mean she felt the same.

        • Rachel


          You don’t have to defend yourself to me or anybody else on this forum. I didn’t say my sister was a horrible bridesmaid, but this one thing really bothered me. It sounds like you were a huge support for your cousin, both in the palpable and impabable ways. I love hearing that you spent time with her and got her something thoughtful; clearly, you showed her how much she and her wedding/marriage mean to you. That’s the kind of thing I wished for from my sis. The card part isn’t important for you because you did so much else to demonstrate your care for her, and it’s AWESOME that you knew she didn’t need a card to know you love her and support her. What was hard for me was that my sister didn’t want to do anything besides show up and look pretty so that our friends and family could see her do it. It felt like she was often putting on a show, telling other people how happy she was for my husband and me, how thrilled she was that she could be there for us, etc etc etc, but she didn’t bother to tell me those things. The card was important for ME because it was the summation of the entire wedding planning experience with her: there was an opportunity to say, “Here, I’m doing this for you and Dan,” and she just…didn’t.

        • liz

          i think that’s the point, anon. there are clearly two schools of thought here- in one circle, it’s expected that bridal party members bring gifts, in the other, being a member of the bridal party is “the gift.” though you didn’t bring a card, you sent a thoughtful gift- and what many posts in this thread are expressing is that EVEN IF you can’t or don’t manage a gift, the LEAST you can do is send a card (hell, it doesn’t have to cost anything. hullo construction paper.)

          where i’m from, in weddings i’ve been around, bridal party members give gifts. the big/meaningful/thoughtful “remember always” gifts. so i can understand feeling hurt when someone neglects to send something. it’s not that i’m greedy (how many toasters do i need?) or that i have a checklist of who sent a card and who didn’t. i had just expressed a lot of poignant memories and sincere well-wishes in a lot of handwritten notes and on some thought-out gifts. i was surprised/saddened that friends didn’t WANT to do the same for me.

          but, in the same token, knowing that there’s a large majority of people who assume “being a bridesmaid is gift enough,” i understood that it wasn’t an intended slight- just a sort of cultural difference.

  • Kristen

    I got married when I was 33. My family expected me to ask my (significantly younger) cousins to be my bridesmaids because sometime in 1991 we must have gushed about how awesome it would be to be in each other’s weddings. When word leaked (in the dressing room, as I had stepped into what would be my wedding dress for the first time) that I was only planning on asking my two best friends to stand up for me as co-maids of honor and that was it, my aunts stopped talking to me. Stopped talking to me, right there in the dressing room, and didn’t really get on board with the wedding until I called my cousins weeks later to explain why I wasn’t asking them to be bridesmaids.

    Weddings do crazy things to people.

  • Jess

    I’ve got to say that I never understood the idea of bridesmaids being who are supposed to do a job for you, when they are people you choose. I would feel very uncomfortable asking a friend to throw a party (such as a shower) for me, unless I knew that she was the kind of person who truly enjoyed doing those things. To me, honoring someone who is a good friend is a very different animal than choosing who is going to help you out with your wedding.

    I DO understand being angry at a bridesmaid/good friend who plain ditches your wedding or a party surrounding your wedding, though. Even if they do not care about weddings per se, showing up and standing by your friend is part of your duty of being a good friend. The key there for me is “showing up.” Being put to work in honor of your friend, at the direction of your friend, can be significantly more than just showing up.

    • This. Yes. To me, choosing bridesmaids is a way to honor *them*. That being said, I never asked my bridesmaids to wear matching dresses, throw me a single party, or buy me one gift. But if they hadn’t been present (physically and emotionally) on the day of, I would have been pissed. But I think that’s a reasonable request.

      • I can’t “Exactly” this enough. I chose the women who have been there to support me (and my husband) through the ten years of our relationship leading up to the wedding. I asked them to stand by me to honor how they have stood by me in the past, and as a promise that they will stand by me in the future. The women I chose were ones who would do that.

        I asked them to wear black dresses they could love (and damn, did they look amazing), and to be there for the rehearsal and wedding. All of them did that, even the one who had to juggle a tough teaching schedule (I got married on a Thursday). It was a HUGE honor to me. The fact that a couple of them threw me a shower and a bachelorette party was just icing on the cake.

      • meg

        Yes. Exactly one thousand times.

      • agreed! i have loved treating the bridal brigade as an opportunity to thank and honor the friends who have been so hugely formative in our relationship. this week, we are sending them christmas gifts with their save-the-dates and adding letters to thank them for their friendship. our wedding is not just a celebration of our marriage, but also a celebration of the people who support us. and i’m having a lot of fun treating it that way =)

    • Liz

      yes. but. i think some of the comments have seemed to indicate that bridesmaids would take on responsibilities that they would then ditch. which is no good.if you’re not coming to the bachelorette- fine! but if you offered to plan the thing and then ditch out, not so fine.

  • KA

    Haven’t even finished reading yet, but had to say THIS! THIS! is what I am most afraid of re: my wedding:
    “One of the things about weddings is they have a way telling you which friends there for you in a pinch and which ones are not, and sometimes you really wish you never found out.”

    Uhh, yea, wow.

  • Oh, heavens.

    This: One of the things about weddings is they have a way telling you which friends there for you in a pinch and which ones are not, and sometimes you really wish you never found out.

    …and this: Meg said it best when she said, “Weddings have a way of bringing ‘the way we wish things were’ into conflict with ‘the way things are.’”

    I had great bridesmaids. I had bridesmaids who couldn’t care less about planning, whose eyes glazed over if I mentioned centerpieces, but were there for the entire WEEK of the wedding, teared up when I gave them their matching pearl jewelry, gave me champagne, cried at the ceremony, and danced their asses off all night. They’re amazing, and I love them for exactly who they are. I had a couple bridesmaids who were into planning and parties, and they were the ones who helped my mom throw my surprise shower, and threw my bachelorette party. Love them, too.

    My one mishap in bridal party (which I firmly state was NOT a mistake) was having my mom be maid of honor. She and I are very close and she really was the person who helped me with everything (and I mean everything). But after the ceremony, she turned back into Mom, which meant she really wasn’t there to be the buffer between me and the crazies (as Alyssa said, “to run interference between the bride and people acting a fool.”). So that was rough, because we did get a few crazies. But the people I chose were my nearest and dearest, and that’s what matters to me. The photos I have of all of us goofing off during portraits are some of my favorite pictures.

    In hindsight, we had a BIG bridal party (six on my side, seven on his), and I almost wish we could have cut it off at one each (maid of honor, best man). Our friends will be there for us no matter what, and I know that (especially now). But a wedding just kind of puts friendship on the hot seat. Knowing which friends are which kinds of friends (crappy bridesmaids vs crappy friends) is very important. It makes life much less stressful if you know someone isn’t into doing flowers, but will show up with extra coffee instead.

    • This is another example of things you learn while wedding planning applying throughout the rest of your life. My mom attends a yearly Christmas cookie party (where everyone brings like 7 dozen cookies of the same type & you leave with a dozen of each kind), and one woman is always designated as the one who brings the wine, since she doesn’t bake but used to work as a wine distributor. This, to me, is the perfect example of everyone accepting that each different type of person will be the type of friend that’s most like them. Plus, she brings good wine & is fun to party with!

  • kyley

    I firmly believe that acting as a buffer between the crazy *is* your job as a bridesmaid. In my mind the party planning on cupcake tasting and all that other crap is nice, but on that day, you need people who can read the look on your face and just know what to do, what to say, and who to tell to go away. When I was maid-of-honor last year, I kind of thought of the role as bridal bodyguard.

    • I read this after my post below… I love this definition of being a bridesmaid. I could use some bridal body guards. Maybe I’ll have to reconsider my prohibition of bridesmaids. Ha ha.

    • Yeah, I wish I had been clearer about that. We had two people (a close friend and my brother-in-law) at our wedding who got a little more inebriated than the rest, and they were literally following me around. One of them even was bugging me when I was trying to talk to my 94-year-old grandmother. In hindsight, I would have been much clearer about the bridal bodyguard duties. :)

    • meg

      Yup. I didn’t even have bridesmaids, just ladies with honors, and it turns out I needed those body gaurds.

  • I decided against bridesmaids. The people who love and care about me are helping regardless of their lack of official titles. My best friends know that they can and that I want them to stand next to me during the ceremony but I don’t feel that it’s my right to demand of them all the “typical” obligations of bridesmaids. It’s not like the world is going to stop because I’m getting married. They’ve got their lives and obligations and needs and it’s just not all about me.

  • Michelle

    I had a group of 5 (2 sisters-in-law and 3 closest friends), which seemed like a big group to me. My sisters-in-law were uber helpful, my MOH was great, 1 remaining friend offered and tried her damnedest to be as helpful as she could be from across the country…. and then there was 1 who just didn’t get it. I love this girl, but she REALLY ticked me off. Similar to the above situation, she flaked out on one shower, left early from another and skipped the bachelorette night, thought that I was being silly and played the whole thing like it wasn’t a big deal. I didn’t make a scene, I never really spoke up about it, but now that she’s engaged and planning her wedding – i’m very much expecting an apology in the near future now that she “gets it”.

  • Joanna

    I’ve been trying to figure this out for a little while, but I’m hesitant to do research (because I don’t like wedding websites telling you what you SHOULD do). Regarding the MOH role: Do you HAVE to have one? Is it common to have bridesmaids without a MOH?

    I have a good relationship with my sister, but I’m much closer with my best friend. Buuut my sister is really responsible and has always been in tune with my expectations, while my best friend is pretty flakey and undependable most of the time (when it comes to showing up for events, etc. But she’s an awesome friend in all other ways).

    I love my sister, but she’s so busy that I see her only a few times a year, and we don’t have a ton in common. Is it wise to assign the MOH role based on how much you trust the person to come through for you, even if you’re not very close?

    • Kate

      I had my three sisters be my bridesmaids (I was so lucky to get to skip out on this whole drama by having an awesome bridal party since birth) and I could not possibly choose one of the three to be honored above the other two. Everyone seemed fine with this, but I had several conversations with my mother in law where she expressed how concerned she was that I was going against tradition by not picking a maid of honor. Everything turned out great, sans maid of honor. Just stick to your choice and explain you could not possibly pick between the two.

    • meg

      Of course you don’t have to have a maid of honor. I didn’t even have offical bridesmaids, for goodness sakes. Do what makes emotional sense to you.

      • Joanna

        Absolutely, this makes sense. I guess I was thinking along the lines of MOH having specific responsibilities. Without one, I’d worry that I’d be the one to have to organize a bridal shower and bachelorette, if no one would take the lead otherwise. After reading the comments for this post, It’s clear that if a bride has expectations of her bridesmaids, she should communicate them! Or else end up disappointed (because after all, people can’t read minds).

        A bit of a digression: Bridesmaids are there to support you during the ceremony and reception, but in certain situations (long-distance, etc) they can’t actually be around for a bachelorette. How important is this ritualistic event in the process of getting married? How would it feel to not have a bachelorette (or to want one, but not have your best friends near enough to be able to make it happen)? I’d love to see a post on this topic.

        • meg

          It’s not even a little bit important (it’s both made up and brand new, our moms didn’t have this). And it’s NOT NOT NOT NOT your bridesmaid’s responsability to make one happen (or a shower). They might throw you one, but they in no way have to. These are kind of nice to have if they happen naturally. Not a big deal if they don’t, or worth forcing or thinking about for more than a second.

          • Class of 1980

            At 52, I can vouch for this. A bachelorette party was unheard of.

            The word “bachelorette” was made up because women decided they wanted to emulate a wild bachelors party. I think it was invented in the nineties?

          • To add to this, if you really want a girls night before your wedding, there really is no reason you can’t plan it yourself. (Of course, if you do this, you can’t expect gifts and you need to be prepared to pay for it.) Honestly, I knew I wanted a girls night – I wanted to go out to dinner at my favorite Mexican restaurant and drink margaritas. I mentioned this to my bridesmaid, to check with her to make sure the date I chose was agreeable, and she insisted on taking over the planning. However, I never expected that, nor did I expect them to pay for me (they did, for which I was extremely grateful, but I did not expect it). I just wanted a night out with some of my favorite ladies … of course, not that I can’t do that now that I’m married, but it was a great excuse to do it then. :)

        • Irene

          Joanna, if this helps…

          I had four bridesmaids (two sisters and two friends) and no maid of honor. I told them all backwards and forwards that the only bridesmaidenly duty I was expecting was that each of them hold a corner of the tablecloth when we whacked the croquembouche at our reception. Nevertheless my sisters planned and threw a bridal shower for me… and one of them corraled a groomsman into helping her with stag/hen party planning.

          Clearly there’s no guarantee that someone will step up and do things without having been asked to do so. But they might! If you aren’t too particular, you can just let it be and see what happens organically, and if you do care… then I would recommend discussing that with all your bridesmaids and see what they think and what they can or can’t commit to helping you with. None of this forces you to pick one woman as a maid of honor, though.

        • FM

          Joanna, I don’t think you need to have an MOH to have the extra parties, but if you want certain kinds of things from your friends as part of your wedding experience you should definitely communicate that and choose who you ask what of based on what they are up for and are good at. I think that would be true even if you had an MOH. You are right that some people will assume that the MOH is responsible for certain things, but that doesn’t mean that your particular MOH (whether sister or friend) will know what you want or expect from an MOH if you don’t talk to her about it. I had 4 ladies on my side and my brother was my man of honor (and lived far away and wasn’t part of any pre-wedding activities except being happy for me). Of my 4 ladies, one lives in the same city as me and she was really excited to do bridesmaidy type of things. So I leaned on her a LOT for pre-wedding support. I figured out that I really wanted a shower and bachelorette (which was a surprise to me – I thought I didn’t like showers! – but there I was wanting one). She planned my shower and bachelorette (with input from me, and funds from my mom (which came out of our wedding budget)). When I could tell she was getting overwhelmed I asked another bridesmaid who lives a couple of hours away to reach out to her and help out, which was a very good thing.

    • Do what feels right to you. Not having a maid-of -honor is fine, or even having two maids-of-honor. I think you should find what feels right for you and embrace it…even if it is atypical in your community… My husband had a female Best Person, and on the wedding day I only had one bridesmaid present, since my MOH couldn’t come. Turned out fine…

      • Exactly, Jenny. I had 2 and really, really didn’t want to have to choose a “top” person from between my sister & my best friend! (My partner had a mutual friend + my brother and didn’t want to have to choose either.) I was able to successfully call them “co-brides-people” up until the day before, at the rehearsal, when we had to decide in which order they would stand. My best friend immediately said that it should be my sister, which was a major relief for me. (But then on the day of our two friends walked down together first & didn’t leave space for the siblings to stand next to us, so they ended up out of order anyway! But it makes sense, since our male friend had the rings, so they must have thought that he should be closest to us, despite me then having to reach back further to get my vows cheat-sheet from my sister when it was time!)

  • Lee G.

    My special friend’s twin brother is getting married. We all live in the same small city and I’ve known and been friends with his fiance since they just started dating. We all started dating at the same time.

    I’m not going to lie, I was hurt and upset that I wasn’t asked to be a part of the bridal party. She asked her five high school and university friends. I understand her choice, but it still doesn’t make me feel better about it. I’m a fairly sensitive person.

    On the flip side, I have asked repeatedly if there’s anything I can do, just give me the word! And so far… nada. Again, a little upset. I would really like to be involved.

    I know my boyfriend and I will be getting engaged soon, we’ve been talking about it a lot and I think we’ve agreed on a ring. Now, I don’t know if I want to include her. Will she feel weird if I ask her? I think it’s important, our kids will be cousins one day. If I ask her, will she be non-existent because that’s what she expected of me for her wedding?

    Any advice would be much appreciated!

    ps. I’m so glad I don’t feel weird posting about this yet, even though I’m not engaged. I just can’t help thinking about it!

    • kyley

      Try to remember all the wedding graduates who have talked about how hard it was to accept/ask for help from people! Just because she’s not taking you up on the offer to help, doesn’t mean that she doesn’t care and wants to exclude you!

    • Liz

      what kyley said. seriously. i had such a hard time saying, “okay, would you mind stuffing envelopes?” to people who probably were sincere in their offers to help.

      do YOU want her in the bridal party? don’t think of it as tit-for-tat or worry that she will feel funny that she didn’t ask you. that’s a whole evolutionary process that bridesmaid-ing should never have undergone. if you want her there, ask her.

    • My partner is having this problem. His close high school friend did not ask him, but he is planning on asking the close high school friend. Now he’s worried that he’ll make the high school friend uncomfortable cause he isn’t in the friend’s wedding.

      So just know that we aren’t the only ones second guessing these kind of wedding attendant issues.

      • I don’t think so. I was in 3 weddings before I got married, and none of those women were in my wedding. (One of whom I’ve completely lost touch with, she wasn’t even AT the wedding!) I wouldn’t think anything of being asked to be in a wedding if I hadn’t asked them, or vice-versa.

    • Ask her if you want her in your bridal party, or if you don’t, you can still find an important way to involve her. Maybe by asking her to do a reading?

  • Chloe

    It would be really interesting at some point to have a conversation about Groomsmen, because I feel that guys are even less prepared than women for the saga that is joining a wedding party, and many grooms are not knowledgeable enough to communicate clearly to their guys before asking. My partner was asked to be a groomsman for his best high school bud, and was thrilled to be able to show up and support him. Only later has he realized that he is expected to buy both a wedding present and a shower present, fly 2000 miles to be there for the couple’s shower, plan a bachelor party, use up a significant quantity of his very limited vacation days for the year to attend said bachelor party (which I think he’s most bitter about), etc. Ladies usually understand implicitly that these are the basics of being part of a wedding party, but most unmarried guys I know have no clue what happens pre-wedding. My partner is frustrated, because neither he nor the groom are particularly interested in jumping through these hoops (that’s just not how they get along as friends, they have lots of long distance conversations instead), but the groom is of the “Well, this is what is means to get married, so this is what we’re going to do” school of thought. The whole process has gone from one of love and support to one of meaningless, expensive rituals, and my partner is starting to feel used… like he was tricked into a role that turns out to be much more expensive and time-consuming and overall pain-in-the-ass than he had understood, without any opportunity to actually bond with the groom in the process.

    So, brides out there? While navigating through the messes that are wedding parties, don’t forget about the men standing up there next to your future hubbie. They probably need even more guidance than many of your ladies, even if it seems like they don’t have any tasks to do.

    • meg

      Yeah, I don’t know. David just asked his guys to show up, and offered to buy them a suit if they didn’t have one. That’s what happened when he was a best man too, except he rented a cheap tux. But then he’s been asked to do way more for people when he wasn’t in the wedding. Like, $500 bachelor parties more.

      Here is the thing, we grew up in a pretty poor area. For us groomsman was really simple – show up. We operate in a mostly upper middle class environment. We’ve learned that the expectations really vary, straight-up based on class. So that’s at least one variable, right there.

      It’s interesting how non-uniform these things can be.

      • Class of 1980

        “We’ve learned that the expectations really vary, straight-up based on class.”

        So true, and such a damn mine field.

    • Liz

      i’m kind of shocked that you knew of a wedding that demanded so much of groomsmen. my husband had a lot of trouble understanding my anguish in picking bridesmaids because he didn’t realize that… well… girls do stuff. we throw parties and offer to bake cakes and go to dress fittings. it’s not required, as we continue to be reminded in this thread, but when i agree to be a bridesmaid, i anticipate doing these things.

      guys just… wear suit. take the groom out for drinks. and then stand in a line at the front. it’s kind of the way it goes, in the weddings i’ve known.

      • Chloe

        It’s actually not that much, by a BM standards: show up at the wedding, bachelor party, and coed-shower, rent tux, help plan bachelor party, buy present for shower and wedding. Period. But when you factor in 2,000 mile travel and, most importantly, mismatched expectations (He thought he just had to show up, in a rented tux, and buy a present)…

        • Arachna

          The concensus among reasonable individuals is that it is never ever ever expected for someone to buy both a shower and a wedding gift. One gift is entirely correct.

  • Emily

    I’d just like to throw in a comment about everyone’s favorite subject: money.

    Alyssa’s point about how bridesmaids exist so that brides get to share their experience with their friends is important. A lot of times when bridesmaids are resistant to certain aspects of the wedding planning process, it has nothing to do with not being supportive and everything to do with how much it all costs. I’ve once spent $2300 (dress, cross-country flight, 5 days in a hotel, wedding gift, bachelorette party) on being in a wedding. And I was a grad student living off of loans and interning at a free clinic. That may sound like a drop in the bucket when you’re get quoted $5000 for flowers alone, but that’s a lot of money for the privilege of appearing in someone else’s wedding, even if she’s your best friend and you’ll cherish those memories for ever. Right now, those memories are actually costing me compound interest. And now I have a wedding of my own to pay for, I’m even less interested in spending lots of money throwing showers.

    But here are other things I’m not interested in: asking my friends to buy $400 dresses (that will cost another $100 to alter, as most bridesmaids dresses purchased through bridal salons do). Asking them to spend time and money on themed showers (hosted where? In there one-bedroom apartments?) or out-of-town bachelorette parties. Hey, if my friends want to go to Vegas with me before I get married, we’ll do that, but it will be about spending time together and not about me. And the theme of my co-ed shower will be buffalo sauce, because thats the specialty at my favorite bowling alley.

    Which is not to say these are the choices everyone should make — these are just my choices and I’m pretty happy with them. But I do think you have to consider the burdens of time and money you put on your friends when you start expecting a certain kind of shower or a specific amount of involvement in the planning process. Being in a wedding really should be an honor, not a job. I don’t think brides need to bend over backwards to ensure that their attendants have the best time ever, but I do think we should all take our friends into consideration and make sure we’re not expecting more of them than is fair. If the most a friend can do is show up at my wedding and give me a heartfelt congratulations (or, in some circumstances, send those congratulations in a card or email with sincere apologies for having to miss the day), then that friend has fulfilled every possible duty she owes me. End stop.

    • Chloe

      Amen amen amen.

    • Agreed 100%. Because being a friend goes both ways. Having your friend feel obligated to run up credit card debt in my mind is a no-no.

      • Emily

        Totally. And the words “feel obligated” really resonate with me. So many of the frustrations and resentments that arise through the wedding-planning process happen because people actually don’t want to offend or upset each other. We all tend to fall back on doing what we think is expected of us, and avoiding conversations about it because we don’t want to stress out the bride. Or, if you’re the bride, you don’t want to have an awkward conversation with your friend about how much she can reasonably spend on a dress. So everyone just does as their told (or as they think they’re supposed to), and lets the resentment stew. That’s why it’s probably a good idea, before you even select attendants, to think long and hard about what you want from them, and then be explicit about it when you ask. I mean, I would go so far as to say, ballpark, how much attire will cost and whether you (or the groom or your parents or whoever) might be able to help out. And is your heart set on everyone getting their hair and nails done together before the ceremony, and will people be expected to pay for that themselves? And if your bridesmaid who lives far away doesn’t make the shower three weeks before the wedding (because she can afford neither a three week vacation nor two round-trip tickets), is that going to upset you?

        Not to say you have to have answers to this stuff, but I think it matters to think about it, and discuss it with your friends. Just getting that stuff out on the table ahead of time keeps people from feeling mad or guilty later on, when the wedding is imminent and money is spent and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I also think that conversation helps remind you that these are your friends, and you like each other, and you both want the other to be happy. For some reason, that gets really hard to remember later on.

        • This is exactly why I’m asking my women now, instead of a year ago when I got engaged. I wanted to have answers to all these issues so that they knew what they were getting themselves into.

    • KA

      “Right now, those memories are actually costing me compound interest.”

      THANK YOU. I will be carrying this sentence around in my soul for anytime I forget why we chose not to have the destination wedding we wanted, or why we’re not having a bridal party, or when someone from across the country RSVP’s no.

      Because I have been there. And I get it. It’s just sometimes harder to remember when it’s *your* wedding…

    • anonymous


      I very specifically picked my sister (whom I bought a dress for as she had no cash and my parents were helping us pay for the wedding – at their insistence, not our asking) and best college friends to be bridesmaids, and they came through for me spectacularly.

      But I didn’t ask them to buy specific dresses or shoes (two wore dresses they already owned), and I was very careful in my choosing of this small group of mutual friends who had shown that they could communicate and cooperate. Also, they all lived weekend-trip driving distance from our venue. They hosted our engagement party, but we contributed to the cost and labor – technically an etiquette violation, but nobody at the party needed to know and anyway who cares. No showers, bachelorette parties and they knew quite well without my having to come out and say so that no gifts were necessary, though they did all get together to buy us a lovely group gift.

      I’m firmly of the belief that being in a wedding party may entail some expectation of help/support (as long as that expectation is clearly communicated), or it may just involve showing up and being happy…but what it should NEVER involve is spending thousands of dollars to throw parties and buy wear-once dresses with ugly matching shoes.

      • Chloe

        “they knew quite well without my having to come out and say so that no gifts were necessary, though they did all get together to buy us a lovely group gift.”

        I’m really glad that worked out for you. This concept of gifts and bridesmaids seems muddled, as a couple women who commented above were saddened when their BMs DIDN’T get them gifts, and took it as a critical sign that the BMs were not excited about the wedding. It seems like the best way to ensure that your BMs won’t spend thousands of dollars is to be really, really explicit about what you *don’t* need and don’t expect, not just what you do need. Because I know I would spend major money simply to make sure the bride didn’t feel hurt or abandoned. So, brides who know you don’t need an extra BM gift or BM presence at your across-the-county shower to know that you’re loved, say so.

        This reminds me of the “Love Languages” concept: different people communicate and hear love expressed through different ways. Some people “hear” love when expressed in actions, others through physical gifts, others through words, others through service, etc. So one bride may not need a gift or a card to feel loved, but another really really will. Similarly, some BMs may communicate support via long gossipy conversations over manicures, while others communicate love by hand-addressing 100 envelopes. Meg’s been really clear that you should be mindful of your BMs’ strengths when assigning tasks. It seems to me equally important to be mindful of how *you* “hear” love, and communicate clearly what is and is not important to you, so that folks don’t waste a lot of time trying to show you love and affection in ways that you can’t “hear.”

        • Faith

          Yes. Chloe. That’s it exactly. Thank you for cracking the code!
          Love Languages…yours and theirs might be totally different!

    • Agree. Agree. Agree. I’m not having bridesmaids, but instead, am trying to find ways to honor my friends in specific ways in the wedding (toasts, readings, etc.)

      However, I think if you can afford it, buying your bridesmaids their dresses (or letting them wear whatever they already own in their closet) is the best gift ever. When my best friend had me as her maid of honor, she bought me my dress, and it was just SUCH a relief for me and my poor pocketbook. Even if your bridesmaids still have to pay a lot of money to fly to showers, bachelorettes, and the wedding, just the gesture of having the bride buy your dress goes a long way in easing money resentment I find.

      • Emily

        I agree it’s really helpful when you don’t have to worry about the price of the dress, either because it’s paid for or being made by a family friend or whatever. But realistically, that’s not going to be affordable for most brides (I know I could never afford it).

        But there are other options. When my sister got married, she asked us all to just wear a black cocktail dress, whatever we felt comfortable in. Two of us were pregnant and two had just had babies, so this was a godsend. I wound up buying a new dress (that I then wore over and over until it no longer fit, because it was a black cocktail dress), but some ladies just wore something they already had. And it was sweet of my sister (and thoughtful) because technically her “wedding colors” were pink and brown, and there was so much pressure from the WIC to make everything pink and brown. But she decided having everything match was significantly less important than making sure her bridal brigade felt comfortable and wasn’t burdened with purchasing (and having fitted) a dress they’d never wear again. And you know what? Those photos are lovely. It’s true, black really does go with everything.

  • Vmed

    I have two sisters and a fiance’s sister as bridesmaids. I have a handful of good friends who merit the honor, and I’m hoping that the day of I’ll have them as nearby as my sisters. But almost all of my friends are recent graduates or grad students (far away and making 0 $), and one recently backed out of being a bridesmaid for another lady.
    I thought it was more sensitive to just say, Hey, I won’t ask you all to do something we know isn’t easy. Or cheap. They really appreciated it, and are still there to talk. And I really hope what they save on matching dress + shoes they can spare to make the trip.

    And on the other hand, forcing my sisters to order their dresses in advance will prevent dress-finding mayhem. It’s our favorite event dilemma. And making sure those dresses are easy to spot will cut down on shenanigans (though bridesmaids, they are most likely to be creating drama, not running interference… I’m resigned to it. Maybe I’ll be pleasantly shocked.)
    My wedding policy: Keep your friends close, but your sisters closer.

  • peanut

    My bridesmaids chose themselves. I didn’t really like being a bridesmaid myself and thought having them was kind of dorky, so I didn’t have them for more than half of our 18-month engagement. I am lucky to have a bunch of really close friends, but during our engagement a few friends really stepped up their game and got the ball rolling on showers and the bachelorette (not to mention plan to put their lives on pause to fly halfway around the world for our wedding). About six months before the wedding, I realized I wanted to honor their love and devotion and made them official bridesmaids. I was really lucky in that I a) didn’t have expectations of them to begin with, and b) I didn’t need to delegate because they took charge on their own. My advice is to WAIT for a while into wedding planning before choosing bridesmaids (if you decide you want them at all) – you’ll get a better idea of what you need out of your friends/family and who is capable/willing to provide it.

    • Erika

      Great advice. Right after I got engaged my bestie was like, “oh, I’m your MOH, right?” And I was so taken aback, because I hadn’t really thought it through, but I thought it meant she was really into it, so I said, “of course!” Should have said, “Hmm, we haven’t decided about that yet.” It all *kinda* worked out, but we had some rough patches.

    • Liz

      this happened to me, too! i was strictly “family only” and had my sister and josh’s.

      then, i realized how awesome some others were in jumping in, and i couldn’t help but ask them.

  • I read somewhere that the tradition of having bridesmaids and groomsmen came from Roman law, saying you needed witnesses that dressed like the bride and groom to confuse any evil spirits. Possibly not true, but kinda interesting.

    • anonymous

      Snopes confirms the “evil spirits” thing.

  • When I asked my best friends and family members to be a special and honored part of our wedding festivities I did so in an email that detailed exactly what I was asking of them. Only after they had read the email and decided they wanted to do those things, did they then have the chance to agree or disagree be a part of my Posse. I think this helped us all stay on the same track– when you lay out expectations and ask if people can meet them, it makes it a lot easier for people to meet them! I think this may also be a good exercise for people planning a wedding because it forces you to write out what you DO expect from people and allow yourself to question WHY. This, of course, does not alleviate the possibility that some folks can still let you down and that it really hurts when that happens. But at least you know you’re not expecting something from them they didn’t even know they were supposed to do.

    • we did this, too! a letter thanking them for their friendship and explaining how much they mean to us, and giving them space to CHOOSE into the bridal brigade after actually thinking it through – for us, it meant committing to holding us accountable to our vows, as we made a symmetrical commitment to them as our friends. that’s not stuff to take lightly, and we didn’t let them. we said in the letter that they could do whatever wedding stuff they wanted to, whether that meant stuffing envelopes or drinking margaritas, and that they should wear something they look hot in, and show up both physically and emotionally. i’m not sure how it’ll play out with planning – some are more into it than others, of course – but that’s a whole lot less important than the relational bit anyway. now i feel that i’ve been given permission to call and cry/talk/complain/inquire, and i’m (getting more) comfortable asking for help with wedding projects since we’ve made it clear that they can always just opt out.

    • KA

      thank you guys for posting about the “bridal brigade invitation”! we were thinking abt doing something similar soon, as a lot of my friends are very enthusiastic about helping to plan, and as much as i know i don’t want a formal bridal party, i also feel weird just calling people up about wedding stuff more or less out of the blue. i’m hoping something like this will give me “permission,” like emilyrose said, to take them up on their offers to help.

  • Corey

    I’m at the VERY beginning of the planning stages and we are looking at June/July 2012 for a wedding date. I’m super excited to ask the girls that I want to be in my wedding as soon as I can, but I don’t want to do it too soon. Any advice on when I should ask them? My bestie knows that she is going to be the MOH, but I haven’t officially asked her yet. Just wondering a good time to do so. Thanks!

    • I would suggest waiting until you have at least the date and location picked. Asking someone to at some point in the next year and a half to be in our wedding somewhere in the world is a little vague.

      It is also helpful to consider whether or not you really want them to attend specific activities. If you don’t care, then you can ask them sooner than later. But if certain activities are important, it might help to have an idea of when those are so they can check whether or not they can attend.

      Also, depending on who you are asking, you might want to be able to give them a ballpark figure about how much it’s going to cost. That might impact their ability to stand up with you or not.

      Personally, I’m asking them 6 months out (at Christmas), even though we’ve been engaged for more than a year now.

  • Steph

    Wow, always a dicey subject with bridesmaids. We had a large wedding party (started with 11 girls, wound up with 10 b/c one of hubby’s sisters backed out), and even though there were some difficulties I wouldn’t change any of choices I made. I had important people from each part of my life standing by my side as I made this amazing life transition, and the day would not have been the same without each of them there.

    That being said, I have a few stories from my experience that may be helpful.

    My best friend was my MOH and had no clue about weddings. Before even accepting to be my MOH she asked me, “what are the responsibilities?” my initial response was “just wear a pretty dress and stand by my side.”
    She jokingly reminded me of this comment as other responsibilites inevitably crept up. In honesty two of my other girls took responsiblity for a lot of the planning and detail oriented stuff (they are planners and very detail oriented), they are friendly with my best friend and didn’t seem to mind not having the title, but being more of the driving force behind the plans. I’m so grateful for their help but in the end even without it I still wouldnt want anyone else as my MOH but my best friend. She’s the Gail to my Oprah and to have anyone else in that role would just feel wrong for me.
    The only time she really got on my nerves/caused anxiety was when I felt like she was getting too down to the wire getting her alterations and I was worried it wouldn’t be done in time. But looking back how she approached the alterations is in character with how she is about other things in her life. It gets done at the last minute, but it WILL get done.

    I had one bridesmaid who as “difficult” to get along with. She is difficult to get along with in everyday life. I knew this, my other friends knew this, but she is also important to me and though I knew it would be a challenge including her with my other friends I knew I wanted her to be standing with me. My friends knew it was important to me too, and so they did a lot of “grinning and bearing it,” for my sake. This was one of the biggest presents they could give me.

    Hubby’s one sister drove me nuts (the other one was and still is an absolute doll)! But I still don’t regret asking her because I felt it was the right thing to do.

    One of the detail oriented girls was my oldest childhood friend, who I’d drifted apart from and then drifted back together with shortly before getting engaged. I’m soooo glad I decided to include her, and she wound up falling for my BIL while they were in our wedding party and are getting married n 2012.

    I did have one bridezilla moment where I was hurt that one of my friends couldn’t come with the group to pick out dresses (it made me feel like she wasn’t that interested in my wedding), only to find out later that she was hosting my shower at her mother’s house. I felt like an idiot! Fortunately I didn’t say or do anything when I was hurt that I regretted later, just felt bad for doubting this wonderful friend.

    Overall I got very very lucky. Almost all of my girls knew my best friend but few knew each other, but they all worked together for the common goal of making me feel special and loved on my wedding day and the days leading up to it. I couldn’t ask for better friends.

    Sorry this was so rambly, but I felt compelled to share my experience. I gues smy best advice is to know yourself, know what you want and know your friends. Having a wedding won’t give them a personality transplant, but if you want them by your side, fight for it.

  • Internally, I knew that picking out one or more friends as the “specialist” would never sit right with me. I didn’t have bridesmaids, but some friends still offered up their help both in trying ribbons and things, but also listening to my struggles and being there for me. That was what worked for me, and I didn’t feel bad about it. I’m glad there are some places that don’t chastise you for not having a wedding party if you don’t want one. But it’s ok to want one and struggle through it too.

  • Sarah

    Ok … I haven’t yet read all the comments. So maybe this is better in response to a conversation already happening, but…

    We kind of had the best and worst of both worlds. When we got engaged, there was no question in my mind that I wanted my best friend to be my MOH. She’s someone I knew I could count on, and who it really hurt to think about not including. Enter the issue that my sister EXPECTED to be my MOH. Now, we’re not particularly close (6 years apart (she’s 21), completely different personality types etc.) … in fact, we barely get along. But my mother and her sister were best friends growing up, and were each other’s MOH … so Susan expected that was the way it would be for us.

    It took many months (most of the wedding planning, actually) before she really got over that. In those months, she and my mother also gave me a large load of hell about including people that “aren’t family” in our wedding and house parties. Which I found ludicrous, as my family and I have never been close. So, many months of arguments and tears, and one particularly vicious fight over my shoes (Seriously. The women in my family have STRONG opinions), and MUCH selfishness (for example, she was all kinds of put out when the shower invites went out without her name on the “hosted by” line … even though this was for a shower she had no interest in helping plan or put on). Lots of fun, right?

    Turns out, the being-the-bride thing actually gave me the courage (and backing) to finally look her in the eye (WAY after it all came to a head) and say “Susan, you’re being a bitch. You need to stop thinking about yourself, and remember that this is NOT about you. I want you to be here with me, but if you keep acting like this, I can’t have you here.” (Note: I was not this calm. Pretty sure it was said through tears of rage. But still.) This led to a discussion on why I hadn’t asked her to be the MOH – it had nothing to do with choosing my best friend “over her” and everything to do with the fact that I needed someone who could support me, hold me up when I needed strength, comfort me when I needed to scream and cry, and snap me back to earth when the Crazy took hold. I needed someone who would be there for me. And she was not that person. I wanted to honor someone who WAS. I could have asked them both, but I didn’t … I didn’t want to be disappointed and hurt when she wasn’t ever there for me.

    Putting it that way, she got it. And miraculously, she shaped up. The last two months before the wedding (minus the final week … but that’s stress) were so much easier than the 11 leading up to that point. It was stunning, and so, so good.

    Switching back to my best friend … when I asked her to be my MOH, all I asked was that she stand up with me, and write a toast. Oh, and find a dress that she felt hawt in. The girl took that, aced it, and then ran with the ball … she was available to me whenever I needed her. She stood in front of me when the crazy approached. She encouraged me when I needed it, and smacked me upside the head when I also needed that. (Figuratively, of course). Then, the day of the wedding she abandoned her own comfort to come and shoo people away so we could eat (something she did on her own), cleaned up the hotel room when everyone else left it a mess to get to the venue (I really owe her … and her lovely man … for this key piece of help) … and on and on and on. Plus, she threw a lovely shower, and gave one of the best toasts I’ve ever heard. None of this (well, minus the toast) I would have even thought to ask from her … and yet, none of it is out of the ordinary. It’s the way our friendship works, and something we’d do for each other on a normal day, without thinking about it. Watching it happen, when I wasn’t expecting it, just made her even more dear to me than she’d already been (and that’s hard to do!).

    So yes … weddings bring out the best and worst in people? Oh yah, I know that one. Just look at my girls … we sum it up pretty well. =)

  • Nina

    This conversation really hits me hard. Especially the part about having to face it head-on or it will drive a wedge in your friendship. With me the wedge is there, lodged really really deep and I’m not sure a conversation at this point will really help. But I suppose our issues go much deeper than the wedding.

    I asked one of my oldest and closest friends to be my MOH, based on some good reasons but also some dubious ones – such as the fact that she would be terribly upset if I didn’t ask her (I had been her MOH a few years earlier) and my other friends are far more understanding about such things. Although we were still close friends, for years I have found the friendship to be uneven, often exasperating, and only occasionally rewarding.

    Surprise, surprise, her involvement in the wedding planning and at the wedding was also exasperating. She was self-involved and consistently made things harder, not easier like one would hope from a friend.

    I knew this about her personality but I honestly thought she would leave her emotional baggage behind for the wedding day and really be there for me for those few hours, but instead that emotional baggage filled every conversation we had that day to the point where I was forced to avoid her. She was the thorn in my side in an otherwise beautiful wedding day, and luckily I was able to tune out her pricks that day but they sure stung the day after.

    I still haven’t spoken to her about her behavior that day and I’m not sure I will. The wedding only brought forth underlying issues that were there all along and trying to work out our issues by focusing on the wedding would likely be counterproductive. Weddings really do highlight relationships and most vividly, their fault lines.

    • ANON (The Poster)

      Thank you for posting this. It had nothing to do with “traditional obligations” and everything to do with her attitude and her total unwillingness to help me out when asked. I really needed her support (and I DID express that as a need when I asked her), and she totally bailed on this.

      As I mentioned above, I know she wasn’t “in the wedding because she didn’t know how to say no”, as she had expressed anger about another friend’s choice to not have her in her wedding. And, yeah, I think talking to her about it will drive a further wedge. However, I’m sort of at the point that I’m OK with that. The friendship is increasingly one-sided, and it is quite frankly exhausting. If me confronting her ends our friendship, well, perhaps that means it was going to end anyway.

      I initially was going to do one and one (and Bad BM would have been it), because I liked the simplicity, but thought better of it because I know how she is (plus, my husband has two brothers, and I had a dear childhood friend who I am still close with that I wanted to include; SHE was absolutely amazing and made up for it). I don’t regret asking Bad BM, because I would not have seen this if I had not asked her.

      Actually, I regret not asking my cousin as a third; I was going to, but she was getting married 2 months prior to me, and she was in a wedding 2 days after mine. I didn’t want to put an added burden on her. However, in hindsight, it would not have been a burden on her at all; she was more “present” emotionally than Bad BM, and the only financial obligation any of the girls had was the dress. She used my wedding as an excuse to buy a new dress, anyway. (And even if she hadn’t, I could have just bought her the dress; I chose something simple and affordable.)

      On the flipside of that, though, because I wanted to include my cousin in a meaningful way without burdening her, I asked her to do a reading. We weren’t going to have any readings at all. I ended up finding one that melded so well with our ceremony and really was “us,” and I never would have found that if my cousin had been in my wedding, because I wouldn’t have bothered.

  • Anonymous

    For a bit of comic relief in a serious discussion :)

    From my experience there is one thing definitely not to do…ask two of your friends (both in their late 20’s) to be flower girls. Despite the fact that growing up I wanted nothing more to be a flower girl and sadly never was, that ship has sailed. I love my friend (and she knows it) but I have to say I was a little relieved that there was just no possible way I could make it to their wedding (I was living abroad and had already made five trips back to the US for weddings – one has to draw the line somewhere).

    • Actually, not to derail your comic relief, but we had a twenty-three year old ring bearer. One of our close friends was excited for our wedding, and we wanted him to participate; we knew he wouldn’t be a groomsmen, and he told us that he hated being an usher for weddings, so we jokingly suggested he be a ring bearer. It stuck! We used a ring bowl from Paloma’s Nest, and he processed up the aisle just before my father and I! It was amazing, and so much fun.

      But it ONLY worked because it completely fit his personality (he’s the youngest among our friends, and a really chummy guy), and because it started as a joke. You have to REALLY know your audience if you’re asking a grown adult to stand in for a role typically taken by a child. Yowza. :)

  • Andrea Marie

    I am loving this topic discussion! I had NO IDEA how delicate and confusing the relationship/role is until this year. Everyone must be keeping it a big secret! ;) So I’m so glad to hear everyone talking about it here.

    I have been asked to be in four weddings the past year, and I just got engaged myself. Needless to say, I should have said no to some of the girls. I really could not even imagine doing it though. It seemed like it would be too hurtful. (I know, like missing events because I can’t afford and do not have the time to fly back for, or secretly resenting all the expectations of me…aren’t hurtful? right.) What makes it worse, two of these girls I do not consider to be very close, good friends. So my emotions are all over the place about it…I’ve been close to these women in the past, but things change, people lose touch, etc. It is kind of confusing to be asked. Relationships can be unequal, messy, hurtful, etc…and the bridesmaid thing just puts a spotlight on it.

  • Marina

    Tough love ahead…

    We need to start actually voicing our expectations. I’m reading a lot of “I thought my friend would X but she actually Y.” Um, did you ASK her to do X? We need to stop saying, “Would you be my bridesmaid? Yes? Yay!” and start saying “Would you collaborate with another person to organize a shower, attend these three pre-wedding events, listen to me whine at 2am, and make me laugh if I’m freaking out before the ceremony?” Or, you know, “Would you stand up with me at my ceremony?” Or whatever. Be specific. Divy it up. Give them the opportunity to say, “Actually, I will probably be super grumpy if you start whining at me at 2am, but I am great at shopping and will happily find you the exact necklace you’re envisioning.”

    Because when you assume someone is going to do something they’re not actually expecting to do, you’re being just as sucky a friend as they are.

    • ANON (The Poster)

      You’re absolutely right. Thing is, I DID ask her, and she still balked (but not before she initially was fine with anything I needed). It was like, she wanted to wear the pretty dress but she didn’t want to actually be there for me when I needed her.

      One of the biggest things was, our venue was far away from where we live, but (coincidentally) close by to where she lived. I had said to her, since it happened to be nearby, that I might need her to run some interference with vendors, or let me stay at her place for the night when we needed to deal with things, and she was fine – and even excited about – this, in theory. However, when it actually came down to it, she wouldn’t let us stay with her the ONE time we needed to. Granted, she didn’t come out and say no, but she avoided giving us a straight answer until we had no choice but to make another plan. Actually, I would have preferred if she just said no up front – at least then I wouldn’t have been scrambling.

  • i couldn’t agree more with a few points made in this…i was the maid of honor in a family member’s wedding and i threw a freaking expensive (for a broke college student) bridal shower, ran all over who-knows-where for errands for her, gave a toast, was early and sang their first dance song and she was still complaining the whole time that i hadn’t done enough and that i wasn’t involved….first of all: WHAT.

    second: when did we get it in our heads that our bridesmaids have to care as much about the damn wedding as we do? just enjoy the company…enjoy the ears who will listen to you freak out momentarily and not lose their cool on you for it…enjoy the people who know you best being THERE, giving up days of their lives to be with you and stop expecting them to show up with some grandiose surprise and allow yourself to be surprised by the little things…

  • Ehhhhhh, I dunno, sometimes I think we think about stuff waaaay too much. I don’t have that many friends, so I asked the three closest to be my brideswomen. (I could’ve done with two, but meh). Yes, one girl was hurt because I didn’t ask her. I was upset because she made me feel bad. We both got over it.

    I didn’t give them responsibilities, I didn’t tell them what I “needed.” I just said HEY. Be a part of our wedding. If someone wanted to plan something, great, if someone wanted to speak, great, if someone couldn’t come to the wedding-related festivities, great. And they did. And it wasn’t stressful for me. And it wasn’t stressful for them (I was told).

    Now, I know that I’m lucky in having three easygoing women who got along with each other. And I also know that I’m lucky in not having to walk the fine line between close friends and family members. But I think if we pare it down, if you want to have an “official” wedding party, then just ask the people who you want to ask. (Political choices can’t always be avoided, I know, but I still feel they should only be made if they won’t stress you out.) Ask who you want to ask and I feel those people who are your closest friends won’t disappoint as much as those people who you asked but didn’t really want to in the first place.

    And be grateful. Hard to do when people are being a**holes, I know. But be grateful for what the lovely people are doing. You’ll be happy that you spent much more time on doing that than chasing down a friend who dropped the ball.

  • I am really enjoying reading this conversation! I think that we will ultimately not have attendants, will have a “brigade”. It’s interesting because all of mine are coming from far away, most of his live here, so we’ll need to find a way to balance it.
    There are a few people that I would ask to be attendants but I know that it would be a trickle-down and cause too much drama (asking one sister and not another, yowza), so we’re really happy just having us stand up and letting our community show their support in other ways. I want the getting-ready-together part, and there are people I’ll call with crazies, and I will nominate bouncers and hire a coordinator. The rest of it is just for the friend time.

  • AKP

    I think this all boils down to expectations and communication. I had 6 bridesmaids, and I chose them purely because I love them and they are my best friends. 4 of them live on the other side of the country, and all of them have busy lives, so I never expected them to help out with wedding planning or to be particularly “skillful” bridesmaids. Case in point: I chose my very best friend to be my MOH, knowing full well after being her roommate for four years that she had absolutely no organizational skills. True to form, she lost her bridesmaids dress one week before the wedding, but also true to form, she called me completely distraught, apologized a zillion times and then called the manufacturer and somehow got them to make her a new one in time. When she called me expecting me to go all bridezilla on her, all I could do was laugh because (a) it was funny, and (b) I knew it was coming, and I expected nothing else. I didn’t choose her to be my MOH because she was organized or reliable, but because she makes me happy and I wanted to drink champagne with her and share my wedding day with her, regardless of what dress she was wearing. I actually felt really bad that she thought I would be upset or angry with her – I wanted my wedding experience to be fun for all my bridesmaids, too, not just for me!

    But my point is that if I had expected something else from my MOH or from my bridesmaids, and I had told them that, then I would have been upset. If you do expect your bridesmaids to help you with your flowers, or plan a shower, or anything like that, I do think that you need to tell them what you will need help with and ask them if they are willing to help you. I think a lot of us have friends who would love to help, but just don’t necessarily know what they are expected to do as bridesmaids. But the one thing they should all know that they are expected to do is to be your friend – be there for you emotionally, support you and celebrate with you. So if you do have a bridesmaid who sulks at your shower, and is not supporting you emotionally, then I think that is a friendship problem, not a bridesmaid problem, and I think anon’s comment reflecting on that point is exactly right.

    • ANON (The Poster)


      I love this post, because Good BM has flaky tendencies. Not quite that pronounced, but she does. And I love her in spite of it. Initially my mom was nervous about those flaky tendencies, but I knew she would come through with no major issues, and she came through in a HUGE way, and went above and beyond.

      You’re right, though – it is a friendship problem. It isn’t like I chose a $400 dress and a trip to Vegas for the bachelorette and she said, “Sorry, I just can’t afford this.” (I actually did say, “Sorry, I can’t afford this” to an expensive bachelorette party for another wedding – I offered to give the MOH who was planning it money toward the party to help offset her burden, but I couldn’t afford to attend myself … as it turned out, I wasn’t the only one so the venue was moved.)

      The pleas about money and excessive amounts of time commitments and other “over the top” demands in many of these comments are not what I was talking about. It was how she made me feel. I can point to specific problems, but the bottom line is that she made me feel like she just didn’t care, and that’s what was so heartbreaking.

  • “And keep in mind what life altering changes they may have in the works during your wedding planning. Their life changes need to be celebrated just as much as your wedding does. Just because you’re planning a wedding doesn’t mean you stop being a friend.”

    My coworker and I were JUST discussing this at lunch. She was the MOH for her best friend of nine years. Long story short, she was really excited leading up to the wedding, she threw her friend a great shower and was on board with everything. Then her father died suddenly. Her friend didn’t come to the funeral. Weeks later, planning begins for her bachelor party to be in a big city about six hours away, and my coworker told her that she’d be happy to help, and if was here, she’d definitely plan and attend, but she didn’t really think she could make the trip (financially and emotionally). Her friend apparently took the news well . . . until her mother called my coworker and suggested that she “step down” since she obviously had other things going on and she wasn’t able to be there for her daughter during “her month.” (“It’s your day. You get a day. Not a week.” Anyone?) The back and forth went on for a while, and finally my coworker and her friend ended up hashing it out, and her friend felt as if my coworker wasn’t doing what was expected of her. My coworker was like, you’re ridiculous. I’m out.

    Let’s keep the wedding blinders off, shall we? You are not more important than your friends because you’re having a wedding. And as much as we might “expect” things from our friends just because we’ve asked them to be a part of our wedding, they have a right to expect things from us as well. Like, that we treat them as friends first. I mean, isn’t that why they were included in the first place?

    • Chloe

      Sentence of the day: “And as much as we might “expect” things from our friends just because we’ve asked them to be a part of our wedding, *they have a right to expect things from us as well*.”

      Right on.

    • Wow. I am a little stunned by this. My MOH’s father passed away right before our wedding and it was horrible because I wasn’t able to go to the funeral (it was the week of the wedding in another country). Anyhow….I just wanted to say that I am a little shocked that this MOH was asked to “step down” because she couldn’t fulfill her MOH duties during this time of grief and loss. I mean….what about the responsibility of the bride to the MOH? Joy is not a more important emotion than loss. Births, funerals, weddings…these are often the times when the important things of life are most illuminated and when communities come together to support each other in the deepest emotional experiences of life.

      I dunno….I guess this hits very close to home and I am so sad to hear that this situation didn’t have enough room to welcome the sorrow of the best friend into the joy of the other best friend. I mean, life is complicated and real and “gritty,” and love and grief and deep joy often mix. I mean, that’s what I felt on my wedding day….deep love, joy, and happiness but also grief and sadness and an aching deep in my soul for my best friend’s family’s loss. There were tears of sadness numerous times and my eyes are bloodshot in quite a few photos. It was all far from ideal, but now your comment has made me realize how special it is to have a friendship where both joy and sorrow can be shared as equally important.

      I’m getting teary now… Please pass on my condolences to your co-worker…

    • My grandfather – who was like a father to me, as mine was out of the picture – died 5 years ago, so this really hits home for me. I had some friends blow this off (not necessarily by not coming to the funeral, as that wasn’t possible for everyone, but by not even acknowledging my loss), and I was very disappointed in those people.

  • Ash

    I thought I was a genius for not having bridesmaids. Now I am wondering why my special girls aren’t rallying around me emotionally. *You can not have your cake and eat it too*

    • Lane Ellen

      I was just married last weekend, and I’m conflicted with how our “not really bridesmaids/bridal posse” thing went.

      Early on in the two years of planning, I said, “You three people. I like you a lot. If we had bridesmaids, we would totally have you. But we kinda think that making you get all dressed up in a dress you don’t want, and fluttering around with pictures and stuff is silly. You are my friends, and I would love to have you around me at that time, I would love to have help too.” We called them a “Bridal Posse”.

      Then, when the time came, I found one of them was there through it all, another was occasionally there (but was busy planning her own wedding a month after mine) and the other was pretty much no where to be seen. The first helped me through it all, physically and emotionally. The second was there for my emotional outbursts. The third was basically not around, showed up early, offered to help, and then didn’t do what I really really needed her to do, causing us to have to change the whole structure of the processional last minute. (Thank heavens for amazing performers!) I got them each gifts, but I found myself conflicted with giving them because the people who had /really/ helped I’d not planned gifts for (and frankly, they probably don’t expect them because they were just happy to be a part of it.)

      I found I didn’t know how to ask for help because I hadn’t “obligated” them with dresses and “silliness” of bridesmaid stuff. I didn’t communicate specific times to be there early to help me get ready because, well, I kind of felt like I would be putting upon them. I found the most help with my family and other friends attending who had arrived days early and took on tasks I’d never even considered in our mostly DIY wedding.

      So, I’d say, if you’re going to make a bridesmaid choice, go all the way or not at all. And be clear in communicating what you feel is important as FRIENDS, not as bridesmaids, not as a posse.

  • It sounds like, from reading through the comments, that the bridesmaid issue is so dependant on where you come from, what class, what age, what culture.
    For me it was actually easy. My husband was not having groomsmen – or bestman and ushers as we call them in the UK – because it’s not his cultural tradition. His father would be the witness to our marriage. So I chose my sister to be my witness and my bridesmaid kinda-all-rolled-in-to-one and that was it. I had three good friends from the day before helping with all the prep work and giddy “I’m getting married tomorrow!” moments.
    I don’t know if they were initially disappointed not to be asked, but they never hinted at it and were the best friends I could have asked for in those three days. I will be forever grateful for their freindship and involvement… and for having avoided all the various kinds of bridesmaid drama that others have experienced.

  • Anon

    This is more of a rant than a comment, but it is a weird situation and I am not entirely sure how I feel about it, as I have never been a part of a wedding.

    One of my friends recently got engaged just as I was coming home from school abroad. We’ve been friends for almost 10 years now (middle school) The unique situation is we are in a “group” of people who have all been friends that long or longer. Honestly I am a little worried for us all when we have to pick bridesmaids because we can’t all pick each other (it would be like 8+ people plus sisters etc), so I do understand the tricky situation she would have found herself. I was not chosen as a bridesmaid and though at first a little sad, I am finding myself quite glad to be on the outside. I can be there for her in a very different way, one that does not require me to be the ‘perfect bridemaid’ that she seems to want.

    She has chosen three of our close friends to be bridesmaids. One of these friends I am very close with and she has confided in me about how she is considering stepping down from being a bridesmaid. It seems that ever since she was chosen, the bride has been using this as an excuse to mold her into a better friend such as “I don’t think you are being a very good bridesmaid, I chose you because I thought I could trust you”. I think this might be a classic case of choosing a bridesmaid to heal a relationship…as they had been drifting a part for a little while now.

    I am worried for her because she feels she cannot be a good bridesmaid for her friend and wishes to step down. However I think in doing this it would break their relationship forever. I don’t feel qualified to give any advice because I am friends with them both and therefore highly biased towards both! This frightens me for when I have a wedding as I feel if I chose people outside of this “group” that I will be judged, and if I chose within I will be expected to act a certain way…

    Lets just say I am very glad that I can be a part of this wedding without being a maid…I wish in some ways that she had not made a distingtion between maids and friends, because honestly we are all going to be there for her on the day, and before, no matter what our titles…we’re a family. I feel like I am stealing the bridesmaids thunder by throwing a bridal shower for her, but I also feel like a bad friend if I just sit back and make all of them do the work because they were “chosen”.

    Am I intruding on something that is not mine? Can I be there for my friend at the wedding even though I am not a bridesmaid? Why are we so fixed on bridal etiquette?

    • Liz

      offer to help with the shower if you want to. just because she doesn’t want you to wear a matching dress doesn’t mean that she- or the rest of your friends- don’t want you to be involved in the experience. sometimes we set arbitrary numerical limits for ourselves. who knows why she picked 3- but any number of factors could play into why you weren’t included.

      as far as your bridesmaid friend, stay out of it for the most part. i don’t have the full story- don’t know the bride’s bitchiness to the full extent- but if i were in the bm’s shoes, i’d put up with a lot before stepping down if i’d already agreed to be one.

  • Renee

    I actually have a sticky bridesmaid situation. I have a friend who I always thought would be my bridesmaid, but now I’m turned off by including her. She is in a long-term relationship with a married man. this has always disgusted me (and she knows it and does not defend the situation). Now the more I think about it in the context of my wedding, it feels right to have her there but not necessarily to have her standing at the altar with me because I feel she has no respect for the institution of marriage. the other part of me feels like her “boyfriend” is taking advantage of her and she is more of a victim, and I should just separate her from her situation on this day.

    • Liz

      in my opinion, her participation in your wedding should be about your wedding. in the sense that you should only ask people who you think will support and protect your own marriage. her personal decisions about her own relationships may or may not impact how well you think she will do that.

    • Alexandra

      Wow, that’s tough!
      It’s hard to give an answer without knowing more about the situation, but I imagine that this affair is a temporary thing in her life, while memories of your wedding are forever, right?
      Whether that means you need your friend at your side, or if her relationship and lack of marriage-respect will make you NOT want her at your side; may take some introspection.
      Good Luck.

  • JPS

    Does anyone have suggestions for how to deal with wanting to ask only two of a group of three friends to stand up with you? Two of these women I know I can rely on to be supportive and helpful and excited for me. The third is in many ways more like a sister than a friend– we were roommates for many years, so we know each other more intimately than friends, but she has always been fairly competitive, is not reliably supportive, and is kind of down on weddings in general. With all of that said, though, I know that she would be incredibly hurt if I included other friends from our group and excluded her. Is it worth risking a little negativity in order to keep the peace? Or do I not include any of them and opt instead for family who are perhaps not as close?

    I know that I will have the support of my friends– and hopefully some help!– regardless of where they stand or sit during my wedding. I have considered asking only my brother and my very close guy friend (both of whom live in different states) to stand with me, but the idea of being the only woman in the entire wedding party just feels kind of odd.

    Any advice?

  • Ashley

    This is an awesome post. I’m in an EXTREMELY similar situation with selecting women to be bridesmaids because they were “close” to me and have expectations for them that were unfulfilled. I’ve been allowing myself to be hurt by it – like when one bridesmaid is debating going to my bachelorette dinner versus going to a bachelorette party for another couple that threw her bachelorette party for her.

    I’m so tired of being upset or hurt by it and at the end of the day if the are there for me on my big day – then great!

  • DS

    OMG, this is an absolutely amazing post, thank you so so much and thanks to everyone with their comments!!
    I have been completely overwhelmed by my wedding.. not the planning (which I love), not family dynamics (because my family has been amazing) but because of my maid of honour. I have spent so many sobbing phone calls to my family about it. I thought I was expecting too much from her but after reading your simple explanation of what a bridesmaid is suppose to do, let alone a MOH (all I want for her is to be with me when I am celebrating my wedding and have her excited for me)… I am only now starting to realise, with the help of my sisters, my mother and your website, that she was not stepping up and just not doing simple things that are expected of her, i.e. to surround me with her friendship. When I asked her to be my MOH, the first thing she said was “I was afraid you were going to ask me that” and since then it seems like my wedding has been a non-event, she never brings it up or appears excited for me and only talks about herself when we are together. I am so glad I now have asked her to step down (there are other factors at play here, she will have a newborn and wants her baby continually latched to her breast… ok, bit of a hyperbole, but the situation falls just short of that) and I already feel relieved.

    I felt like I was stressing far too much over this, something which is suppose to be a non-brainer, that my friend would actually want to be there for me, and not focussing on what really was important, that is, I am marrying the love of my life!!! This page has really helped me understand that I should not feel guilty for wanting my friend to be there for me and that just because my friend is not standing directly next to me on the day, does not mean our friendship is not important.

    So goodbye to stress, to guilt and to shit MOH’s!!!

  • Jessica Smith

    I’m so glad I found this post. I have been feeling very sad and disappointed with my bridesmaids because I felt they have not care about my wedding as much as I did/will about their wedding. I know that not everyone is going to be as excited as I am or as I will be. I’m a planner, I love events, I love making people feel special and going out of my way to do so but I have to remember that is my choice to do these things and be this way and should expect it in return. I know not everyone will be able to attend everything and that they have their own lives. And I think I’ve known this all along deep inside but I guess when you start to go through the process you do become slightly hurt when someone chooses their own priorities over yours. And like others have said I have been focusing too much on the wrong things. I am marrying the most amazing man in the world! Ok, so I have been let down my a few people but at the same I have become closer than ever to my sister, who has simply been amazing! At the end of the day my girls are my bridesmaids for a reason. They are my closet friends and family. I fell in love with them because they are who they are and I wouldn’t change them for the world. I should’ve never let my feeling get hurt and should’ve never expected more from them than to be their for me on my wedding day. Hell, let’s not forget all they have to do just for that day, everything else is just a bonus. I really appreciate this post to help me snap back into reality and remember what is important and to just enjoy the last 6 weeks of my planning. OMG, I’M GETTING MARRIED Y’ALL!!!!!!