Please excuse the interruption to your regularly scheduled Q & A, but we need to talk. Specifically, we need to talk about bridesmaids (including bridesmen, bridal brigades, bridal posses, etc., fill in the blank).
Week after week, serving as your advice columnist for Always a Bridesmaid, I get questions about bridal parties that suggest that either people are straight-up horrible, or that the stress of planning an event with lots of moving parts means that sometimes basic principals of friendship get lost in the shuffle. I can’t do anything about the terrible people (srsly just stop being their friends), but I decided that something (anything), needed to be done to offer the misguided some… guidance, if you will.
Because I get it. Getting married is a lot of pressure and stress and expense. Yes, yes, yes, this is all true. But you guys. For the love of your bridesmaids and other beloved people, and possibly just to provide hope for humanity, you’ve got to get it together. So without further ado, I present the bridesmaid (and other bridal party) bill of rights. Read it. MEMORIZE IT. Send the link to your hot mess of a friend. And whatever you do, remember that any and everyone you invite to be part of your wedding has the following rights.
1. You have the right to say no.
Being a bridesmaid is an honor, and it’s also going to involve some level of effort. That means that when asked, it’s okay to say no. Maybe you just really can’t afford it, maybe you’re not able to travel to the wedding, maybe you’ve never even met your future sister-in-law so you don’t feel a need to be one of her fourteen bridesmaids. That is okay. It may well affect your friendship. I am in no way guaranteeing that your saying no will be without friction, but you are not a bad person for saying you just can’t be a bridesmaid.
That means, brides? People getting married? You need to hear me on this. You may ask someone to be in your wedding party, and they may choose to decline, and that’s okay. Even though it’s your wedding, chances are good that it’s not really about you.
Which leads me to this. Brides, stop with the absurd bridesmaid proposals already. We are all grown ups. You know what makes it really hard to decline? Being asked in public. Being asked with a sentimental gift box. Being asked the very second someone gets engaged before they set a date or a location. Treating your potential bridesmaids with respect means not pressuring them into service, even if that pressure comes with a Best Bridesmaid Ever mug, before they’ve calculated if they can afford the dress, travel, and time off work.
2. Your budget is respected.
Look, we get it. No one agrees to be a bridesmaid thinking she’s going to spend $20 on the wedding. Some money is going to be changing hands. You’re buying a dress, a gift, maybe contributing to a shower and bachelorette, you’re getting yourself to and from the wedding, and you’re probably spending some amount of money on looking pretty.
How much money though? That’s really personal (and there are limits here). If your shower budget is $50, that’s it. If you can’t afford a weekend in New Orleans (we all know it’s gonna be a grand by the time you come home), that’s totally fine. When you tell a good friend, “Hey I’d love to, but I can’t afford it, so I’m going to sit this one out—have a great time,” that friend should listen. This is basic How to Be a Decent Person 101 here.
3. Your Significant other is invited to the wedding.
Wedding-planning people? Let’s get this straight. You should be letting all of your guests bring their significant others because you aren’t the IRS, it isn’t 1927, and requiring that people be married or engaged or living together in order to be treated as a social unit is absurd.
But srsly?!? Your bridesmaids, MINIMUM, get to bring their significant others. Do not even try it. I hear you out there, formulating Reasons why this is a good idea. She’ll be busy all day! Her partner will be bored! She’ll be running off from her duties to check on her needy partner! We only want people we know there! We all think he is the worst! It will simply ruin my head table seating arrangements! Just stop. If you don’t invite your bridesmaids’ significant others, and those significant others haven’t committed a crime against you, you are a bad friend.
4. Your body is not a prop.
Sure. A bride gets to pick a dress, in your budget, and ask you to wear it. But you have to combine that with truly recognizing that bridesmaids are people, not props. Which means it is okay for you to say, “My boobs and I do not do strapless,” and then expect a bride to pick a non-strapless gown for you. Or to tell the bride that you’re plus size… and you need a damn plus size dress. Or that you have modesty requirements. And if you have tattoos every other day of your life, they aren’t magically disappearing for the wedding (Sidebar: People! Just pick a dress with sleeves for everyone if this is an issue for you.)
I’m going to ask that brides go a step further than the basics though. Are your bridesmaids dress people at all? Is professional makeup something they want to do? As a bridesmaid, don’t make a fuss because you just don’t like the color, or the style isn’t your favorite, or you prefer that your hair not look like a ’90s prom. A certain level of suck-it-up-and-deal is required. But important fundamental concerns? Voice them and expect that they will be listened to.
5. You still have your own life to live.
As a bridesmaid you should anticipate generally doing wedding stuff the full day of the wedding and attending a rehearsal dinner, if you can. But you don’t have to fly in for a shower or bachelorette or dress shopping or a bridesmaids’ luncheon absurdly scheduled for mid-day Thursday before a Saturday wedding because somehow your BFF has forgotten that most people have jobs. These are all nice things to do, and it’s especially nice to try and make time for them if you are local. But a wedding is one day, and you do not owe a bride a year’s worth of weekends.
6. You aren’t an actual maid.
You are there for moral and emotional support. Not manual labor. It is not your job to set up the chairs or break down the room. Yes, bustle the dress, fluff the flower girls, carry a bouquet, provide emotional support. And if you want to help out more than that? Awesome! Enjoy! But you aren’t on-call manual labor just because the word “maid” is in your title. Sure, people can ask for help. Sure, you can agree that you’d love to do a chore or two or ten. But accepting that Best Bridesmaid Ever mug did not mean that you signed up for floor scrubbing in a gown, full stop.
We have nine people wearing black robes in charge of interpreting the actual Bill of Rights, so put on your “favorite” obligatory floral robe and get to work on these. What are your additions? Subtractions? There’s plenty of room for debate.