Alternative Bridesmaid Ideas

Today I’m sharing a collection of alternative bridesmaid ideas—for those of us who don’t feel like a traditional wedding party works for us… exactly. A few readers have taken to calling me the Alternative Wedding Librarian, which… is kind of true. So today, a collection of ideas, pulled from the APW archives.

Christina and Patty, who’s musician wedding took place in the backyard of their LA home, coined the term Bridal Brigade, for the team of women who helped them put together their wedding. When I heard about this, something inside me clicked, and I suddenly felt sane again. It wasn’t me! There were other people who couldn’t work with the wedding party, and had found an alternative! At some point during my planning process, Christina wrote me a note about how she loved that the term Bridal Brigade had become synonymous with feminist non-conforming bridal party, here on APW. But seriously. Look at those ladies! Who doesn’t want a gusty and glam group like that at their backs? Here is what Christina told me about her Brigade:

I only had one week off work to get married, so I knew I needed help! The idea of the Brigade didn’t come overnight. Again, I didn’t really feel like I had to follow the “traditional wedding model” and I wasn’t really comfortable with the idea of “bridesmaids.” What I did know: I wanted my friends and family involved, so the Brigade happened organically, really. It all started with the cupcakes: one day I was sitting with my friend Moore & I told her we were getting married. She immediately offered to make our cake. She’s an amazing vegan baker {I’m allergic to dairy & eggs}, so it was an amazing offer–I couldn’t refuse. We decided cupcakes would be more fun. Patty’s favorite baker, Danny, offered to make more cupcakes–her favorite flavor: pecan chocolate! The rest just grew, we talked about details that would be fun to diy {the cupcake tiers} and we asked our friends if they would help out. We scheduled “Project Brigade” craft weekends about once a month: we thrifted, crafted, hung out, went to vintage expos to look for wedding attire, laughed…It was loads of fun and really made the wedding a community effort. By the way, even though it was the “Bridal” Brigade, everyone involved were both friends of mine AND Patty’s, so it felt like our friends really knew us as a couple.

From this idea, David and I formed our own rag-tag group of friends into a Bridal Brigade. There were people that helped us set up, there were people that took polaroids, there were people who did readings, people who held flowers, people who made sure everything went as planned. It wasn’t traditional, but it worked for us. On my desk I have  a picture of David and I surrounded by old and new friends, grinning their heads off before our wedding. And that’s what I needed.

Then there is the genius Lauren, who got married the same weekend that we did, and had non-bridesmaids:

A non-bridesmaid: Listens to me complain about how expensive weddings are. Comes wedding dress shopping IF she wants. Helps my mom throw a shower. Comes to the bachelorette party if she can. Helps out doing whatever she likes to do or is good at (i.e. baking snickerdoodles, making invitations, making funny videos of the other guests, drinking mimosas, etc). Helps me get ready day-of (hint: this may involve drinking mimosas). Tells me when I’m being bride-zilla-ish.

A non-bridesmaid does NOT: Wear the same dress as all the other non-bridesmaids. She wears her own dress (or skirt, or lovely pantsuit) instead. Get her hair or makeup done for my wedding (you all are very familiar with making yourself look beautiful every day), Caveat: if you WANT to get your hair or makeup done because you love any excuse to be pampered, then I am all for that! Pamper yourself! Carry flowers. Caveat: if you really want some flowers, I will get you some, just for being such a fabulous friend. Stands in the front of all the other guests. But you can sit in the front row if you arm wrestle my brother for his spot!

Rebecca, who had her own Bridal Brigade, offered these words of advice for the non-traditional wedding party:

If you are enlisting the help of friends AND forgoing traditional bridesmaids, give people titles. It honors the relationship you have and empowers them to take ownership of the project. I watched a friend be really disappointed because although she had a large friend base, none of them wanted to step on each other’s toes so not much got done. She says now that if she had told them they were the Bridal Brigade, like I did, and explicitly given them permission to communicate with each other without going through her, she would have felt less burdened.

And then there was Sarah. Sarah’s sisters were her bridesmaids, but she had many more women that she wanted to honor, so she told me this, ‘My “something blue’ was a group of 13 very special women who wore blue to ‘stand up with me in spirit.'”

Then there is Maddie, who sent me this email sometime before she threw her amazing and lazy wedding

I haven’t found a quirky offbeat name for my ladies, but I did get this great e-mail from Kristina who lives in California yesterday after I e-mailed all of them about dresses. The correspondence went like this:
Me: Not to complicate things… But if you feel like saying fuck it and all wearing bright colored dresses, I’m also cool with that. Coordinating is a bitch
Me: P.S. Have I mentioned what a horrible decision maker I am?

I think what I wanted to tell you was that APW has helped me to appreciate not only the way that my future husband and I can make this our own, but how the people who have helped shape us to become who we are today will also help shape our wedding and how we grow as a couple together. And having a bridesmaid who understands that yes, I WOULD like my bridal party to look like an Erykah Badu music video means the world to me.

And then, there is just the bad-ass wedding party. Because really, if that works for you, why make it more complicated than it needs to be? But maybe you need some non-traditional inspiration? Ok! Go:
Danae and her ladies (bride in pink, bridesmaids in white, natch).
Sarah and her ladies. Note how they make pretty traditional dresses look totally bad ass?

And Marisa’s ladies in grey jersey. Blogworthy? Maybe. But I think they’ll actually *wear* these dresses again. I would.

And *of course* at this point, no indie bridesmaid round up would be complete without a picture of Kristina and her lovely bridesmaids. This woman has style bred into her genes, but she really made the one color many shades thing WORK – don’t let anyone tell you it doesn’t.

So break out of the box. Or don’t. But remember, the point is to honor people you love. So find a way that works for you, and then tell them over and over again how much they mean to you (and pick up the tab if you have them wear matching dresses). It’s that simple.

PS You know why I wrote this post? Because I would have *killed* for it back when we were planning. So here is to paying it forward!

Photos, in order: Chris Strother Photography, One Love Photo, Lisa Rigby, Lisa Rigby, J Wiley Photography, Photography By Shea, Eve Event Photography, Lillian and Leonard, One Love Photo, Amanda Borozinzki, Michele M. Waite

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