This Is Your Official Bridesmaid Bill of Rights


The right to do your own damn hair

by Amy March

A wedding party stands in front of courthouse steps

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.

Amy March

Amy has loved weddings at least since the second grade when she made an epic diorama of Charles and Diana’s wedding for “important historical event” day. She has purchased every issue of Martha Stewart Weddings ever published and will happily talk to you for an hour about the relative merits of blush and bashful. Her happy place is poolside with a glass of rosé and a good book. 

[Read comment policy before commenting]

  • Kate

    It’s pretty amazing how easily the “How to Be a Decent Person 101” piece flies out the window when it comes to weddings. This list is spot on, even though I wish it weren’t necessary.

  • Sarah E

    Having only witnessed this from the outside, I’ll add that part of Saying No is actually saying it. If you don’t have time to help plan the shower, don’t just ghost. Respond to the group email, say “This all sounds lovely, but I can’t take a hand in planning right now.” It’s hard to do for any occasion, but ghosting is not the answer.

    • Greta

      Ugh yes! It seems to me that people these days are so afraid of confrontation (I am too!) that they feel that the easiest way to respond is to simply not respond at all. But seriously people – just use your words!

    • Elizabeth

      Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes. I would have fully accepted a no, but I’ve been playing a 2 months and counting game with a potential bridesmaid who has so far refused to give me a straight up answer. She said she might have to work when I called her to ask her (we are over a year out from the wedding), and we can be going along having an engaged text or email conversation, but she ghosts if I bring up the wedding. I still have no idea if she’ll be involved.

      • Violet

        I’ve totally seen a friend of mine have to handle this. Soooooooo painfully aggravating.

        ETA: In my friend’s case, it was she as a bridesmaid working with another bridesmaid with whom she wasn’t personally friends. So she couldn’t even have a real conversation about it, because she didn’t even really know the girl.

      • CMT

        I think you need to move forward assuming she’s a no.

      • Amy March

        I mean, I’d take anything other than a yes as a no tbh.

      • Penny Closser

        I love how someone says yes to being a brides maid but wants to complain about styles and the cost. Um ok if your not ok with the style, color or price don’t just say sometching about how you don’t like it….

  • sofar

    Can we get a clause for midwestern bridesmaids?

    You are NOT required to plan, bring a potluck dish for, or attend the gift-unwrapping party to be held the day after the wedding. Your responsibilities end at bedtime the night of the wedding and, as such, your attendance will not be required at this sick, twisted tradition.

    Brides who wish to hold a gift-unwrapping party (or are holding one to appease their mothers) may invite the bridesmaids, but must not expect their attendance.

    For non-midwestern brides, you can substitute “Day-after brunch” to this clause. Even though gift-unwrapping parties are a whole different animal.

    … But seriously. Whenever I am a bridesmaid in a wedding back home, I’m ready the SECOND the bride brings up the gift-unwrapping party with, “Oh, so sorry! I won’t be able to make it!”

    • AP

      And I thought Southern brides had it rough (*cough* church bridal showers.) This gift-unwrapping party tradition sounds awful.

      • Elizabeth

        Can you elaborate? You mean like a shower in a church?

        • AP

          Wellll…I certainly can’t speak for everyone, but my church bridal shower experience wasn’t so great. It was really for my MIL, not for me, since it was held at her church where I was not a member. I had never met any of the women invited. I was basically told to show up, told where to register (it had to be her small town’s local gift shop, because “that’s where people shop here”) and for two hours I sat at the center of a circle of strangers, opening gifts and not knowing who to thank. I was miserable, and the only saving grace was that my mom had been invited so I’d at least know someone there.

          My friends have had similar experiences, where a shower is hosted by a church member at the family’s church, and it’s really to honor the MOB or MOG. The bride is…kind of treated like a prop. (You can replace “church” with “junior league” and get the same results. It’s just a traditional “showing off the bride” to the parent’s friends, wherever they might be.)

          • ssha

            So sorry to hear this was your experience!

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Criiiiiiiiiiinge.

      • ssha

        lol. Midwesterner here and I love church bridal showers, because they were a powerful example growing up of an intergenerational community of women coming together to support each other in life stages.

        • AP

          I can definitely appreciate this aspect of it!

      • Roberta

        I think I was one of the rare ones with a good church shower experience, for the most part. My church was closing in a month, so the ladies got together and basically you had a bunch of senior ladies getting tipsy and regaling how drunk/pregnant they were at their weddings. It was great.
        My own problem was one of my own making: I scheduled the bachelorette the night before (it was the only night available. And yes, it was a stupid decision). My bridesmaids were absolute champs, with their help no one noticed i disappeared half the time to die in a bathroom. I would gladly give them a kidney now if they asked of it.

    • I have literally never heard of this type of party, and I already hate it. (And I would hate to have one, as opening presents in front of people is the worst.)

    • theteenygirl

      This just sound horrible. Is the husband invited? What happens at these? You just sit around and open gifts and envelopes with cash? How uncomfortable. I had a few family members give us unnecessarily expensive wedding gifts/large cash gifts and the thought of opening those in front of people just sounds cruel on so many levels.

      • GCDC

        In my experience (born and raised Midwesterner, now living somewhere else), yes. But envelopes of cash are not a thing. If I was at a Midwestern unwrapping party, and someone opened an envelope of cash, I would panic and think it was the money meant for tipping all the vendors the night before.

      • Jan

        It’s super awkward. You’re crazy tired and just want to sleep or have some alone time but instead you have to moon over the crystal candy dishes you 100% will never use because your husband’s Uncle Greg got them for you and is watching you open them while he sips his morning coffee.

    • Amy March

      Consider it incorporated as a penumbra of numbers 5 and 6.

      • lizzers

        LOLOL. I am here for all constitutional law jokes.

    • Katharine Parker

      Thankful that, although I live in the Midwest, I have never experienced this tradition.

    • AmandaBee

      This must be a different part of the Midwest from where I was born/raised, and I’m so glad because it sounds awful. The bridal shower is awkward enough, why would you want what sounds like bridal shower 2.0?

      • sofar

        It’s exactly a shower 2.0 And the bridesmaids are often tasked with keeping a running list of gifts/who gave them for the purpose of thank-you notes. The only differences are 1) There are no games and 2) Everyone is REALLLLLY hung over.

        • Jessica

          The ONLY reason I had this was to ensure we had a list of who gave us what before the honeymoon, and we wrote thank you cards on the flights to and from Costa Rica and during the layovers. It got 85% of the thank you cards done (most signed by both of us) in an extremely timely fashion, which was needed since he was deployed 30 days after the wedding and there was no way in hell I was doing them all by myself.

          • sofar

            Hooray for thank-you-card writing marathons! I started writing those suckers the day after the wedding, too.

        • NolaJael

          “1) There are no games and 2) Everyone is REALLLLLY hung over” Hell is a place and this is it.

    • I’m a Midwestern bride and I’ve never heard of this gift unwrapping party thing. Is this like a WI or IA thing? Cause I’ve never heard of these in MN or MI.

      • Sonnie

        From this MN bride, it is verrrryyyy much a thing both in my family and my husband’s family.

        • Interesting! And I just realized all the MN brides I know are transplants. I’ve never actually been to a MN native wedding.

          • Sonnie

            At least in our families, only immediate family and grandparents were invited, it wasn’t like a bridal shower where more extended family and friends are invited.

            However, for my parent’s generation EVERYONE was invited over for extra cake and watching the present opening.

          • ssha

            Native Minnesotan here. I’ve never been to one of these either, but I’m going to ask my parents about it. I bet they have.

      • Lisa

        Hoosier here, and I’ve never seen this done either! I had one distant Facebook friend’s brother who had one (saw the photos come up), but that’s the only time I’ve heard of it in Indiana.

      • GCDC

        It’s a thing in Iowa, or at least central Iowa. We have our own regional weirdness, like telling jokes during trick or treating.

        • Another Meg

          We tell jokes in trick or treating in St. Louis, too!

      • Anne

        Definitely a thing in MN. In my experience, it’s generally just immediate families/maybe wedding party, and happens following the day-after brunch (so some people leave before it gets started). I guess some people are really into reading cards and admiring kitchen appliances? In my experience it’s always been extremely low key, but it’s also definitely more awkward if the couple did not have much of a traditional registry and therefore have fewer physical gifts.

        • Annie

          Lifelong Minnesotan (and many-time MN wedding attendee/bridal party member) here who has literally never heard of this. Community specific, I suppose.

      • Katharine Parker

        I wonder if it’s a small town or rural Midwestern thing? I’ve never heard of it in WI, but I’ve also never been to a wedding in like, Mazomanie or Minocqua.

        • sofar

          I hail from WI and that is where I’ve attended most of these gift-unwrapping parties. Even for Milwaukee and Madison brides. But you may be right because perhaps their parents are more rural and they are usually the ones hosting these damn things.

      • Violet

        Honest question: isn’t the Midwest huge? I’m assuming there has to be tons of variability, right? Within PA alone, a Philly wedding would not have a Pittsburgh cookie table. Signed, Ignorant Northeasterner

        • Sarah E

          The Midwest IS huge. And there are still many pocket communities of folks who share the same European descent, I can think of really concentrated Czech and German American pops around here, so I think it’s entirely possible for traditions to carry through very specific communities. Signed, PA-native, Nebraska-resident

          • Violet

            Thanks for confirming! I see that a lot here in the comments- people saying something is a “Midwestern thing,” and I just don’t know how any one thing can apply to such a populous and diverse set of people.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          (Please explain the cookie table to me. I’ve seen them in action, and I still don’t understand.)

          • Violet

            Ah, I cannot, as I am from the non-Yinzer side of that equation. Here’s a good piece on them, though: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/12/16/dining/16cookies.html

          • lamarsh

            I have only been to Pittsburgh once (not for a wedding), but I feel like a cookie table expert based on the amount of Four Wedding episodes I have watched. Not sure how to feel about that one, haha.

      • sofar

        I’ve been invited to these things in WI and MN. More common in protestant circles — don’t think I’ve been invited to one after a Catholic wedding.

        • Katharine Parker

          My first thought: “Is this a Lutheran thing?”

          • Lisa

            I wondered this, too! Or maybe a Scandinavian thing? All the German Catholic families I know have no part of this.

          • Katharine Parker

            Being a Scandinavian thing makes sense with this mostly being in Minnesota, Wisconsin, and central Iowa, too (and maybe the Dakotas–anyone?).

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Nah. Lutherans are Catholic Lite. ;)

          • Katharine Parker

            I always thought that was Episcopalians.

            But also, lol–I’m not suggesting that this has anything to do with the religion. Just that in WI and MN, Catholicism and Lutheranism are the two most common denominations, so if it’s not a Catholic thing…

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            I was just kidding! I grew up Lutheran, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to poke fun at my roots.

          • Annie

            Lol, yes. I’m from a super Irish Catholic neighborhood of Minneapolis, and I immediately thought, “this is some Scandinavian tomfoolery”

        • somanypseudonyms

          ahaaa, maybe that’s it — I’m midwestern and had never heard of this (as commented above), but the family is (VERY) catholic on both sides.

        • Anne

          I’ve been to multiple German Catholic editions of this event, but all in one family. Might have picked it up from their Lutheran neighbors for all I know.

          • somanypseudonyms

            those Lutherans, spreading their ways… *cantankerous tribal midwestern fist shake*

        • Jan

          I only went to Catholic weddings growing up and it was a thing for us. WHAT IS THE TRUE ORIGIN.

          • sofar

            Satan himself is the true origin.

      • Antonia

        I’m from the Pac NW where they’re not really a thing, but the one gift-unwrapping party I attended was a Lutheran-Mormon wedding in SLC, Utah. I don’t remember thinking it was painful at the time (I was 20), but looking back , I guess it kind of was!

        I’m very good with adding “You are NOT required to plan, bring a potluck dish for, or attend the gift-unwrapping party to be held the day after the wedding. Your responsibilities end at bedtime the night of the wedding and, as such, your attendance will not be required at this sick, twisted tradition” to the Bridesmaid Bill of Rights.

      • Leah

        Been to one in MI, sort of combo brunch and gift unwrapping. Even for a relatively casual party at the home of the bride’s parents, there was a lot of food hussle, etc. That was 20 years ago, though, so hopefully they’re dying out. I love brunch and will go to most post-wedding brunches, But.

      • Lawyer_Chef

        Anecdotal evidence: my St. Louis friend had one, but my Chicago friend did not.

      • Jan

        I’m from IL (Chicagoland) and have never heard of one not being done. I live in MN, where my partner was raised, and his family organized it. So interesting you haven’t heard of it!

        • Engaged Chicago

          That’s so funny – I’ve lived in Chicago or burbs most of my life and have never seen or heard of this!

          • Jan

            That’s so funny! I don’t know what the rhyme or reason is. It’s so deeply ingrained in my circle, I never knew it wasn’t just a thing everyone did.

    • ssha

      I’m sorta confused by anything that extends the wedding into the next day tbh. like. Why.

      • sofar

        Yeah, a lot of times, I say “no” to any day-after brunch, unless it is being held IN the hotel I’m staying at. Otherwise, I’m like, “I’ve coughed up $140 a night for this Best Western, I’m staying in bed and watching TV during your 11 a.m. ‘farewell brunch.'”

        • ssha

          Right. If I have to go eat breakfast in the hotel ANYWAY, sure. If not… byeeee

        • Amy March

          Yeah I’m not team morning after bunch. I mean, def host one of you want, but I’m going to be busy sleeping unless I really really really like you.

      • Alex K

        Meh- I actually love the day after brunch (as long as the invite is love to see you if you can come and not thou shalt attend). For me, it another chance to hang with the people getting married in a more low key setting. Weddings are usually pretty short (5 hours ish in my experience) and that doesn’t really give a lot of opportunity to see the people getting married.

        • ssha

          That’s a good point, and I did enjoy going to a day after brunch for a cousin who lives in a different state because we actually got to hang out.
          But I can’t imagine doing one after my own wedding… I was very happy to abscond with my husband.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          #TeamBrunch. I think they’re a nice nod to people who travelled from out of town to be there, and it’s a second chance for the people getting married to actually talk to their far-flung guests. Also, I love brunch.

          • Violet

            As long as I’m not “required” to host or attend, I’ve got no issues with morning-after brunch existing. My aunt had one for my cousin, for example, and we could go if we wanted or not if we didn’t.
            But yeah, I love brunch. I’d do many a thing for some free scrambled eggs.

          • ssha

            True. I was just telling husband this morning that brunch is so great because it’s like “how long can we extend breakfast, AKA the best meal of the day?”

          • Violet

            What other meal allows you to so blatantly eat sweet AND savory in equal measure?!

          • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

            Anybody who treats any of the wedding-processed-related gatherings as required is your problem, more so than the event itself.

        • Zoya

          I’ve also been to a couple of weddings where some of the guests decided to do a post-wedding brunch just on their own. In at least one instance, we ran into the bride and groom at their own post-wedding family brunch at the same restaurant. :)

          • ssha

            Ha! My friends were excited to have brunch in the town where we got married. and i uncharacteriscally had zero FOMO about it.

        • Katharine Parker

          I like the brunch, especially when it is casual and convenient to attend. Mine was in the hotel, and it was really nice to see people that I hadn’t gotten as much of a chance to hang out with the night before.

          Only like one-third of my guests attended, though, and I thought that was a good turnout. I did not expect my friends who closed out the bars and were after-partying hard the night before to be there!

        • Jan

          I am 100% into brunch (we did a friends and siblings Indian buffet for a late lunch day after our wedding). I’m just not into public gift opening for like two hours.

      • ssha

        Amending my original statement, I was thinking about this more from the people getting married and their families’ perspectives. For guests or OOT family, it might be fun, but for me and my new spouse and my mom and dad? We’re already exhausted. Don’t require more stuff.

        • emilyg25

          This was my experience. We planned to have breakfast in the hotel restaurant and hang out so people could come and go and chat with us, but I was completely, to the bone, exhausted, so we just ate and bailed.

      • Kaitlyn

        We’re doing a brunch the next day, but the ones I’ve been to (and what are intention are) is that it’s just another way to say thanks to guests. There’s no pressure to attend, the food is covered, and people need to eat anyways haha

      • archaeopteryx

        Many of my friends have had next-day brunches, even ones who (like us) waited for marriage [sexwise]. We knew that after our wedding we would be like, uh………… nope! Nothankyou! See ya!

        • ssha

          This! We waited too, and even got a hotel 20+ minutes away instead of in the same town, to be like “Wedding and rehearsal dinner was community/family time. Now is us time.” I liked having that barrier, and it would have weird to cross it, as much as I like spending time with my people.

    • Hmm, my mom thought that we should have a present-unwrapping party (just immediate family) but then realized that almost none of the presents were physically present at the wedding because of online shipping. She and her family has never lived in the Midwest. Is it just a thing that maybe our parents used to do and is held onto stronger in the Midwest?

    • somanypseudonyms

      I’m born-and-raised midwestern and have absolutely never heard of this — afai-have-been-socialized, public unwrapping of gifts is inappropriate unless it is (1) a child’s birthday party or (2) a [baby|bridal] shower, and (2) is becoming less commonly accepted.

    • Cdn icecube

      I’ve seen this is multiple parts of Canada as well. It seems to have been more popular in the late 90s and early 00s but now it’s morphed into a ‘morning after brunch’ with no mention of gifts.

      • Eh

        Because my family lives all over Canada, we normally have a breakfast/brunch for out of town guests. Sometimes it’s informal (e.g., everyone going for breakfast at the same restaurant), and other times it is more structured (e.g., my MIL hosted ours, at their house, and we opened gifts). This is really my only regret from my wedding. My MIL invited all of her family (people who all live within an hour because she doesn’t see her aunts and uncles who live an hour away very often – and so her parents could spend more time with their siblings), but only my parents and siblings were invited (my dad and brother live 8 hours away and my sister lives on the other side of the country). It would have been hard to invite my aunts and uncles because they don’t get along and the wedding was bad enough. My aunts and uncles live half way across the country from me so I am lucky if I see them once a year (I actually haven’t seen one set in 3 years and the only in 2 years).

    • suchbrightlights

      What is this? Isn’t this basically what a bridal shower is for? I have never heard of this before.

      • sofar

        Imagine, if you will, an event held the morning after (not the afternoon after, not the evening after, but the morning after) the wedding.

        It will either be potluck, or else the mother of the bride/groom will somehow manage to prep casseroles and a roast amid the wedding craziness (how? when? — nobody knows. And yet the food is prepped).

        Guests (usually close family and bridesmaids who have been guilted into going) then sit in the back yard and eat and watch the couple open their gifts.

        In some cases, the event will start super early (like, 10 am) because it is considered funny to make fun of the hung-over people.

        It is a worse version of a shower. The tradition should die a firey death.

        • suchbrightlights

          I… don’t know what to say about that, and I am glad it is not a thing where I live. Thank you for broadening my horizons.

    • Jan

      Uuuugghhhhhh yes.

      Story: I hate this tradition with a passion and thought we had gotten out of it until 1am the night of my wedding when my new MIL asked us what time she could expect us to arrive in the morning for breakfast and gift unwrapping. Apparently she’d already invited their entire extended family. She also refused to invite any of my family because it was too many people. Literally my only family in town were my parents and siblings. (Eye roll.) We ended up having to get up super early to take decorations down and then haul ass to the gift unwrapping. Hate. Hate hate.

      • S

        Nooooo. And that’s so mean, excluding your parents! Argh I am so mad for you.

        • Jan

          I was annoyed. It also made it so that we had to have FOUR day-after obligations to see people. One at their house, one with friends (this wasn’t required but we had friends in town we hadn’t seen in years and wanted to have lunch), one with my mother, and a separate one with my father (bitter divorce, yay). We were exhausted by end of day. I wish our families had all been less selfish that day.

      • Amy March

        No is a complete sentence, but “hell no, we’ll be busy banging” is a much more fun sentence.

        • Jan

          Yeah, I was sort of borderline-dickishly a hard no in the moment (I think I said something like “We see you all the time; we would like to spend time with my family and since they aren’t invited to your house we are going to have to prioritize them.”). But by morning we ended up doing it. I was so tired, I think I just didn’t care.

      • Eh

        What I hate more than morning after gift unwrapping and brunch, is taking down decorations the morning after. I was in a wedding last spring where the bride said she wanted us to enjoy our night and not worry about taking down the decorations the night of the wedding. The wedding was over half an hour from the hotel. Just before we left, the people that own the venue said that we couldn’t take down the decorations Sunday morning because they go to church so the building would be locked. Since I needed to pick up my daughter from my father’s house I bowed out of taking the decorations down.

      • sofar

        OMG. And it’s not like you can say, “No” to the MIL when everyone has already been invited.

        What I hate most about this tradition is how matter-of-fact everyone is about it, like, “Oh of course you’ll have a gift-unwrapping.” Why do midwestern mothers like it so much?

        • Amy March

          You can though!!

          • sofar

            You can. But … should you?

            If my MIL had planned a party in my honor (which she has) based on a tradition she finds important that I wasn’t aware of (which she has) and people were coming, I could easily say, “I had no idea about this! I can’t come, sorry!”

            But … there are consequences to doing that.

            One, it may make me look bad to people who didn’t know why I wasn’t at a party thrown in my honor. And two, it would make my MIL look bad if she planned a party and I (the guest of honor) didn’t show up. Maybe she deserves that. But … I might also want to help her save face, knowing that she’ll have my back for something else down the line.

            But I’d also tell my MIL that I was caught off guard by the party and she needs to confirm with me important events in advance.

          • Amy March

            Oh I didn’t realize we were talking about your own MIL. I think as a Bridesmaid in that situation you say no to the bride’s MIL with no second guessing. Your own MIL I think gets a bit more thought.

          • sofar

            Oh yeah, if I were the bridesmaid and ANYONE else’s mom mentioned a gift-unwrapping party on the wedding night, I’d have NO problem being like, “Thanks but no thanks!”

    • Katelyn

      I had no idea this was only a Midwestern thing! All of my 3 siblings did it – but it was pretty casual.

      • sofar

        I’d definitely attend for a sibling. I only have an issue when brides (well, their moms) try to strong-arm me into attending as a bridesmaid (or helping to plan)

  • Violet

    “Your body is not a prop.” A little louder for the people in the back!

    • I Talked Her Out of It

      No, do not ask your bridesmaid to pierce her ears so her jewelry matches the other bridesmaids.

      • Violet

        *jaw drops*

      • suchbrightlights

        Please tell me that your username applies to this situation, and that this request never made it to the bridesmaid with unpierced ears.

        • I Talked Her Out of It

          YES. I was also a bridesmaid, and as all the wedding planning stress got to her, this was the one little thing that just started to bug the crap out of her and she channeled everything into. To her credit, she came to me for advice, and presumably to talk her out of it, which I did. We had talked before about how earring hooks can be swapped out for clip-on hardware, and I just doubled down on, “Let me alter the earrings, it’ll be fine.” She ended up buying mismatched but coordinated earrings for everyone, which soothed the omg-one-doesn’t-match factor that made her eye twitch. The unaltered bridesmaid was blissfully unaware. It just stands out in my mind as that one time the WIC swallowed her up and she lost her damned mind.

          • suchbrightlights

            Thank you for fighting the good fight on behalf of the gloriously unpierced.

  • RoonilWazlib

    Ah man I didn’t even think about the fact that adding in a gift would make saying no significantly harder for the invitees. I was so excited to make little handmade cards and buy them these shirts (I still think they’re hilarious). But I’m also not asking much (financially or time wise) of my bridal party
    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/a1bc882cd8f5ee892c3b82bf1ca26eaec934fd9a2c3728da2b3a7b2cb44e9b57.jpg

    • Eenie

      I have your solution: ask unofficially or hypothetically over the phone/text/in person and follow up with the official ask with whatever goodies. The sign would look just as sweet saying “Thanks for being my bridesmaid”.

      • RoonilWazlib

        That’s a great idea, thanks!

        • penguin

          Also I love your username :)

      • Amy March

        Completely agree and the shirts are super cute.

      • M

        A friend did this for me, and it was great. We skyped, she made it really clear that she wanted me to be involved the wedding, that her preference was for me to be a bridesmaid, but that she knows I’m not huge into big productions/any drama and would understand if I wanted some different kind of role (like literally, even if all I wanted was to just hang out in the getting ready suite/light candles/whatever). We cried, I told her I would be there for her in whatever way she wanted, and I was thrilled when my big card/copy of Bridesmaids/request to be a bridesmaid showed up in the mail a couple weeks later. But it was seriously SO THOUGHTFUL of her to do this before sending out the “official” requests. And, she was obviously sincere when she said I could say no, so that helped too.

    • Lawyerette510

      Those shirts are awesome!

    • somanypseudonyms

      !! where are those shirts from? (I am done with the wedding, woo, but I owe some people infinite thank-you gifts, and aaaaahhh.)

    • suchbrightlights

      This is the one and only wedding party shirt I have ever liked. Thank you for sharing it with us.

    • Jan

      Know your crowd. There are some people that I’d bet my left arm would never say no if I asked them to be my bridesmaids (like, my ride-or-dies), and I’d feel pretty safe asking them with a gift, if that’s what I wanted to do.

      But, I also agree that you can still get them the shirt after you’ve asked and they’ve said yes. I’ve never totally gotten why the gift must come at the ask.

      • Engaged Chicago

        Agree. my people go nuts for ask parties or ask gifts. I couldn’t imagine saying no to anyone and our bridal parties are mostly all part of the same big group.

        • Jan

          We don’t do ask gifts. I just can’t imagine anyone saying no. But, I also don’t have a ton of close-ish friends, just super close sister-types. So the people I’d ask to be in a bridal party are, like, the people I’d drop what I’m doing for and hop in the car for three hours to help them with an emergency (and vice versa). But, we are also all mostly of the “show up day of and maybe wear a matching dress” variety, versus the “sink a bunch of money into this whole thing” people, so it’s not a huge ask generally speaking.

          • Engaged Chicago

            Totally, this. I’ve said yes to sister-types and also close-ish friends and it’s usually my honor because they’re people I want to make happy. (And when I don’t like the dress/ have to deal with things, I just vent to someone else.)

  • recent wedding party SO

    Okay, I’ll take advantage of this topic to go on a little rant about #3. Not only is your significant other very much invited, but they are also not the hired help! They are probably patiently putting up with a lot of travel and hassle and awkward socializing while their partner is doing the wedding party thing, and so even if they might seem like an odd person out who needs something to do, it is not a great idea to expect them to decorate for the rehearsal dinner/clean up the church/set up the day-after brunch/etc, just because they’re going to be there and don’t know as many people. And pleeeeease seat them at the head table. It will make everyone much happier.

    • Elizabeth

      My FH got stuck at a “without a plus one” table at my brother’s wedding with a bunch of people he didn’t know because there was a head table, which is where I was. *eyeroll*

      • Sarah E

        I was at the odd ball table when my now-husband was in a wedding, about a year into our relationship, when I hadn’t spent much time with his hometown friends yet (know and love them now). But I didn’t know anyone I was sitting with, and usually I’d just dance, but the only folks hitting the dance floor were 6 yrs old and under. Most boring wedding ever.

      • Kristen Johnson

        yeah this was me at a wedding a couple years ago my bf was the best man, I was the guest of the best man, he was at the head table I was at the table with the woo girls and my bf’s mom coworkers, I second the *eyeroll*

      • Rose

        This happened (decades ago) to my mom at her own brother’s wedding–she wasn’t a bridesmaid but her then-boyfriend (my dad) was a groomsman, as was her other brother. So her parents, brother, and partner were all at the head table, and she was seated at a miscellaneous one. Thirty years later, she still mentions it sometimes because it was just so awful. Seat your people with their partners!

      • Lisa

        Yup, my husband and I have both been on the awkward plus one side. He got seated at a table with all of the other bridal party plus ones, and I got shunted to the random high school leftovers table because I’d gone to the same 3000+ student school as the bride and groom. (I did not know them or any of their high school friends, and I was on the opposite side of the room from my husband’s college friends, who were the only other people I knew at the wedding.)

      • Jan

        Gah I hate this. The first family event my now-husband came to was my sister’s wedding, at which I was a bridesmaid. The wedding was in my hometown (a 7 hour drive from where we currently live), and he ended up seated with a bunch of strangers and my other sister’s husband while we the only people he knew were at the head table. Generally speaking, I gotta say, I sort of hate the entire concept of a head table, but this is my very least favorite aspect of (most of) them.

        • Anne

          Yep. Husband and I have both been on the wrong end of this one, and it’s just not fun. For our wedding I initially wanted the head table (including SOs) to just be an xl round or square table, because really, how are you supposed to have real conversation when you’re all sitting in a row anyway? The venue coordinator talked us out of it (“everyone wants to see you! you won’t have much time there anyway!”), but I still think the idea of having the couple & wedding party *on display* while they’re eating is silly.

          • Jan

            We just did a sweetheart table. We didn’t have a bridal party so a head table was a nonstarter, but even if we had a party I just dont like the idea of them (people watching me eat, having all these people around me that I can’t really talk to, potentially cutting dates out of the table, etc). Besides, I bet we only sat for however long it took for us to eat and for all the toasts to finish, soooo 30 minutes? Tops? Why plan something that minor?

    • sofar

      Seriously.

      “Hey, can your boyfriend grab the rental van and go pick up…”

      NO.

    • Lala

      Strange but extremely effective solution to this problem: we had under 100 people, and we stuck ourselves in the middle of the room. We sat with immediate family members: we wanted to give them the chance to get to know each other with us present, and this was likely one of our few opportunities. As far as I know, we only had one truly awkward table situation (and the problem people would have been a problem anywhere, that’s sort of their whole deal…but I still feel bad for the people who got stuck with them), everyone sat with their SOs, and everyone, SO or no SO, had at least one other person they knew personally from before the wedding at their table. It was easy for people to come by and talk to us and for us to go hang out at other tables as necessary because we were in the MIDDLE OF THE DAMN ROOM at a round table. Also, no one felt like they were less important, since everyone was essentially seated equidistant from us.

      Seriously, kill the head table. It’s isolating and you’re gonna spend enough time with your wedding party that day without it.

      • Laura

        Love this seating idea! Sounds like it went really well.

      • Kate

        100%! We didn’t have table settings at all, which isn’t to say they’re bad, our guests just didn’t need them, and we had the kind of set-up where there were more seats than people and tables and chairs could be moved around. Point is, no-one felt like a second-class guest, we didn’t have to stress about who people might like to sit near, and we got to hang out at all the tables :-).

      • archaeopteryx

        We did this too! It’s excellent and doesn’t leave you “on display ” while eating.

  • Savannah

    Can we talk about #6… having bridesmaids set up and tear down wedding receptions? My MIL is insistent that this is “what my bridesmaids are for” — eyeroll — and I wanted to get a feel for how common this is before I remind her yet again that my bridesmaids are not my slaves. (For reference, I’m a transplant to the Midwest and haven’t done this when I’ve been a bridesmaid.)

    • Violet

      I wouldn’t try to push back based on whether it’s common or not. Even if it is common, that doesn’t make it okay. The common cold is common, and it freaking sucks. Sometimes I can understand a little set-up help: there’s an air of anticipation, arranging flowers can be fun, having some music and snacks and everyone bustling around can be enjoyable. But end of the night, after a long day, tired, footsore and ready to go to bed? No. You do not ask your nearest and dearest friends to, at that point, take on unpaid manual labor. I don’t care how many times your MIL has seen it done. It’s not okay.
      I also want to throw a bit of a gender roles piece in here. Your MIL saying this is what bridesmaids are for is pretty unfair. All the groomsmen get to enjoy themselves for the night while the bridesmaids have to clean up after a huge event? Nuh-uh.

      • Savannah

        Love that, Violet! You’re right that me saying “oh, it’s not common!” isn’t the right strategy. Fiancé and I will try your suggestion next! I was just so startled when she brought it up!

        Headshaking note on the gender inequality: I said that to her originally to just try to change the topic (the first time she brought it up), and she was like “Oh, of course the groomsmen have to help, who else will lift all those chairs?” Yup.

        • Violet

          Oh goodness, I am *cringing* at the chair comment. Ugh. I totally get it- if you’re not expecting that kind of comment, having a response ready is a challenge.

          I am firmly on the record on this site as being anti-bridesmaids-as-unpaid-manual-labor, probably to the point where people are starting to wonder if I’ve had to do it so many times that I’m scarred. But it’s really the opposite. Because I’ve never been asked to do this, hearing it sounds So Bad. This is sort of another reason why the “common” framework isn’t helpful- sometimes we become inured to what is common, such that we forget to examine it. I’ll bet your MIL isn’t a mean person (or hell, maybe she is, but what I mean is the determination can’t be made alone through this one thing she believes). It’s more likely that she’s become so accustomed to seeing this done that she’s forgotten to take a step back and really think about what it is. Which is asking your loved ones to function as free labor for un-fun tasks. Blech.

          • Savannah

            You’re absolutely right! (Also, she can be a terror but her heart is usually in the right place, I swear.)

            Can I just say “blech” if she brings it up again? ;)

          • Violet

            Bahahaaa, yes! Or PAJane’s reminder that honestly, “No,” is a complete sentence.

        • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

          You also don’t need to spend your energy defending your choices. “I’m not asking them to do that” is all she needs to know. People tend to get defensive when you start justifying and providing specific reasons, sometimes it’s simpler to just bypass that part.

    • PAJane aka Awesome Tits

      I’ve been in 3 weddings, and have never been asked to do this. I would have done it if asked, probably, but I certainly wouldn’t take for granted that it’s part of the job.

    • Lisa

      The one wedding where I was asked to do clean-up was in the South, and we weren’t really asked so much as told, “The wedding party will stay after and help us put up all of the chairs and tables before we carry on the party at another bar downtown.”

      I felt a little guilty, but my husband and I conveniently needed to get my stuff out of another bridesmaid’s car right at the time when take-down started. We tried to meet up with them for drinks and realized we were too exhausted to function and went home instead.

      • Savannah

        Oof, I would not have the energy for drinks after tearing down — I would be halfway into my PJs :)

        • Lisa

          Yeah, we went to our car, put all of my stuff in it, drove over to the bar where we were supposed to meet, waited for about 10 minutes, and realized that we could barely talk to one another for how tired we were. Plus the bar was loud, and pajamas sounded so much better.

    • JC

      I’m mulling this over because yes, it absolutely should be expected that the wedding party is not free manual labor, but also I will gladly help if I have been asked. I think the key, for me, would be to be asked ahead of time if I can help and to be given very specific directions so that my task isn’t “figure out what needs to be done.” I’m also thinking about who I gladly helped (my sister, my best friend) and who I begrudgingly helped (the bride by whom I didn’t really want to be invited anyway). That should have been a giveaway.

      • Lisa

        It’s also important to include the ask more than a few hours before the wedding, during the reception, or immediately following the last song. The bride who ask/told and I dearly love didn’t broach the idea of the wedding party cleaning up until the reception. If I’d known in advance, I could probably have brought other shoes/clothes to change into so I could help. As it was, I was so exhausted and had no desire to drag around furniture in my fancy clothes.

        • JC

          Oh yes, in my mind this was asking well in advance! “Hey, looks like we’ll need some hands putting up decorations after the rehearsal dinner. Can you stay for another hour? Afterwards, we’ll go get drinks.” Not “Oh we need some help right now, you don’t mind right?”

      • Jan

        Totally! I’m not against helping with tear-down, but please give me a specific task, like being on the chair-stacking committee, or the person wrangling the centerpieces and gifts. And please tell me ahead of time. My mom once screamed at me because I’d gotten really drunk at my sister’s wedding and left without cleaning up (I was newly 21 and didn’t know I was on clean-up duty, the perfect recipe).

    • Eenie

      I’m pretty sure this is what family is for? All the tear downs I’ve seen have been headed up by a family member. I actually don’t mind pitching in as a guest too – the only time I’ve done so as a part of the bridal party was for my brother. There’s quite a few people who are willing to pitch in some manual labor so the happy couple doesn’t have to.

      • Anne

        I think the key point is that who is best positioned to do this kind of thing might vary depending on your people, but regardless of who it is, ASK them specifically, politely and well in advance, and thank them correspondingly.

      • Amy March

        I think it’s what a) people you pay to do this or b) people who offer to help are for!

        • Savannah

          Amen, Amy March!

    • suchbrightlights

      As someone who has been surprised by this expectation, which was announced AT the wedding at which I was a bridesmaid after I had asked about responsibilities and expectations beforehand… I am happy to help, provided that it doesn’t prohibit me from driving home safely and that there are reasonable expectations around what help the bridal party is providing. But if you’re going to expect me to do something, and expect that it will get done, it needs to be a conversation that we have well prior to “an hour into the reception.”

      So, like, talk about it. And make sure it’s cool if people don’t do it. And maybe treat them to brunch or nails or a coffee the next day to thank them.

    • I think it’s broadly whoever’s agreed to do it beforehand (asking some extra people so that it’s not actually left to the one or two sober enough people because everyone else forgot), usually family and friends. However, at the weddings I’ve seen it done, the couple were so determined not to make anyone to manual labour that they decided to pack up everything themselves, which resulted in at least one case where all the remaining guests pitched in because when the bride is wearing a massive 80s style meringue dress she can’t see her feet in, standing on a chair on a table to reach decorations way above her head is not a position you feel comfortable leaving her in!

    • NotMotherTheresa

      Haha, is your MIL from the midwest? Because I’m from the midwest, and I’ve been through this many a time!
      I’m voting that this is a total ‘know your people’ thing. Some APWs are 1000000% against it ever. Plenty of other brides I know are like your MIL and see zero problems with it. Personally, I’m in the middle–from my perspective, you get X amount of goodwill from family/friends/wedding party, and it is up to you to figure out what areas you’re willing to spend that on.
      As long as you’re considerate–you ask me ahead of time, you make it optional, and you don’t keep the party going until 4 AM–I’ll probably be happy to help, but you’ll also need to realize that you’re asking a favor of me, and that I’m well within my rights to decline without any eyerolls from you.

  • Leah

    This part of #1: “Being asked the very second someone gets engaged before they set a date or a location.” confused me a little. I would say that OF COURSE you ask your bridesmaids before you have a date. What if you picked a date and they couldn’t make it?? That would be awful.
    I called up all 3 of my besties as soon as I got engaged to say ‘hey, so I’m engaged and we want to get married sometime this summer and of course I want you in the wedding, so are there dates you can’t do it?” And they’ve asked me the same when they got married (my one bestie who knew I was trying to get pregnant called up as soon as she got engaged to see if there was any news she should plan her wedding around! – which I totally appreciated). I’d be kind of sad if one of my best friends had picked a wedding date without checking in with me first. There’s no way that’s just me/my friends, right?

    • Lisa

      I think that your friends could be part of the wedding date discussion if they are on the list of “people who need to be at the wedding,” but that doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to have the bridal party discussion at the same time.

    • Violet

      I think she’s referring to the bride who is not going to be accommodating of the maids’ schedules, and then gets resentful when the bridesmaid has to back out because her sister is also getting married that day, or whatever.

    • Amy March

      Yeah I really meant more of a locking them down before they know what they are signing up for thing than, like, hey so how’s late may for you since I’m hoping you come and be my Bridesmaid. No pushing for a firm commitment before you’ve made a firm plan.

      • Leah

        Fair enough. That sounds like such an inconsiderate thing to do that I honestly didn’t even think about it that way — which I guess is your point :)

      • Katharine Parker

        Yeah, I’m imagining if someone asks you to be a bridesmaid before they’ve set any plans, you assume the wedding will be in your shared hometown, and then it turns out their wedding is a destination affair over eight days in Phuket.

    • Tera

      Eh…the wedding date is exactly what caused the BIGGEST fight between one of my bridesmaids and me. She was in another wedding and the other bride and I both had our eye on the same date. I told my friend it was ok to just be in the other wedding and she was furious that I didn’t change my date. My husband and I had our reasons for choosing that date and ultimately we were the only 2 ppl who needed to be there. End of story. If we had let other ppl dictate the date it would have caused a lot of resentment and regret. And in the end it came out that the other bride was lying just to see who my friend would pick!

  • Kelly

    I am trying my hardest to remember this as I plan my wedding – but what do you do when you have a bridesmaid who you think wishes they’d said no?

    I am doing zero extra things (no shower, no bachelorette) it’s show up at the wedding, wear this, and probably come to the rehearsal dinner so we can stage it.

    I put a LOT of time and thought into picking bridesmaid dresses (price point, came in plus size, didn’t charge extra for plus size, offered options with straps for boobs, had a variety of styles for different tastes) and my one bridesmaid is refusing to wear it. She claims that nothing will fit her (won’t try it on!) (And for the record, the other girl similar size/shape wise had zero issue with it as a choice.)

    She keeps telling me that she wants to pick her own dress or have the bridesmaids all do it together via Pinterest. Which would be fine, but none of the other girls want to do that!

    Am I being unreasonable? Is she? I have absolutely no idea how to confront her on this. Any time we talk about the wedding she seems irritated at best. And I told her point blank when I asked (over a chill dinner, no proposal) that she did not have to be a bridesmaid if she didn’t want to.

    Do I ask the other girls to do all this extra work for one girl? Do I put my foot down?

    • Amy March

      I think you have two options. Let her wear whatever because you’d rather have her there, or say no. “this is the dress, I’d love to have you wear it and be a bridesmaid but that’s up to you.” But only if you are truly truly sure it does come in her size.

      • Kelly

        I am 1000% certain. All the dresses come in an 18, and 6 come in up to a size 30 – she wears an 18 normally. So I picked something that would give her the choice to go up to plus size if it ran small/she wanted it bigger.

        • Jan

          Has she specifically told you what she’s concerned about with the dress? Has she tried one on? If it were me I’d just be like, “Hey, I see you’re really stressed about this, I want to figure this out but I need to know what you dislike here (or are envisioning instead.” If she is just being a pain because it’s not her style, then tell her sorry but this is the dress. Overall I think Amy’s above advice should stand. But maybe there’s something going on that she just isn’t vocalizing, and I would personally find that helpful from a friendship management/drama easing standpoint.

        • penguin

          Also how’s the price point on this dress? Or are you paying for it? I wonder if that’s the sticking point for her.

    • dress options

      I think you’re being totally reasonable. I’m not sure she is, but I also don’t really know what she’s got going on in her head and her life so can’t really say. That said, I don’t think it matters who is or isn’t reasonable; you just need to move forward with what you know. I see your choices like this:

      1. Let everyone pick her own dress, probably without any parameters at all (I think that’s the only way you get a guaranteed decent result for this bridesmaid). Let them wear the ones you already chose if they want, or wear whatever they want from the wide wonderful world of dresses someone might wear to a wedding.
      2. Let this bridesmaid pick her own dress, again probably without any parameters (again, see above), while everyone else wears what you picked.
      3. Tell this bridesmaid it’s this dress or being a guest (or usher or reader or something else not involving prescribed clothes, if those are options in your wedding) rather than a bridesmaid.
      4. Tell this bridesmaid she’s required to at least try it on, and then you’ll go from there with one of the other options.

      Those options all have downsides. 1 and 2 might not look how you want, might cause unhappiness from the other bridesmaids (either they have to do free choice dresses when they didn’t want to, or they’re unhappy someone else got the privilege of picking her own when they didn’t), or might just create some weird dynamics between bridesmaids (assuming they don’t all know each other, I’m not totally sure that “we all wear assigned dresses except for this one woman who for some reason isn’t?” is going to make a great impression, especially if she’s made any noise about this stuff to the group). Option 3 might hurt this bridesmaid’s feelings. I think there are nicer and less nice ways to deliver the message, but I don’t think you can ensure it goes well. Option 4 might not even exist–I picture it turning into a weird granular power struggle where she basically says, “I have to try it on, OR WHAT?” and then you basically end up having to pick between the other 3 anyway. Odds of it working are higher if you two have a really good, close, talking-things-out, working-together relationship.

      Finally, I intentionally did not include “have everyone pick on Pinterest together!” because I think it _would_ be unreasonable to ask everyone else to do that when neither they nor you are interested.

      • Kelly

        At this point I care less about the dress and more about the fact that it is causing (really silly) drama for the rest of the girls. They are mostly really irritated/annoyed at her and i feel like I’m in a no-win situation.

        • dress options

          Would they be unhappy if she just wore whatever she wanted? Do you think if you gave her that option she’d then loudly have a hard time finding something, would worry loudly and a lot about not matching, etc?

          I think generally your way out of this is declining to engage in whatever drama she’s generating; whether that means “it’s this one or nothing; I hope you’ll be able to participate,” or “I care way more about you than about the dress, please buy literally anything in the world and I will be happy to have you standing there. I want to have zero input into this dress; please do not send me photos or ask me questions, just show up dressed on the day,” is the right answer, I can’t say–you know your people.

          • Kelly

            Thanks. I guess this is where I’m struggling. I do care more about her than the dress (I give zero shits about the dress) but another bridesmaid (sister) specifically asked me to choose. So I feel like I am now being forced to pick sides.
            I have this far tried to stay out of the drama by just not dealing with it, but at some point I have to do something, I suppose.

    • NotMotherTheresa

      What I did was strive to always keep an open dialogue going on with my bridesmaids, where I did my best to make sure everyone understood that they were allowed to bow out at any point.

      Indeed, two of my six bridesmaids did exactly that–they just weren’t really in a place in their lives where being a bridesmaid was for them (one was going through a divorce, and the other was 7 months pregnant and living half way across the country). Initially, they said yes, because they were genuinely stoked for me, but after a few months, when it got to the nuts and bolts stuff of buying dresses and making concrete plans beyond “This is going to be soooooo awesome!!!!! I love you sooooo much!!!!!”, it started to kick in for both of them that being in a wedding–even a laid back, accommodating one–was just going to require resources that they didn’t feel comfortable sparing.

      I might try having another chill dinner with her where you frame things as being about her–“Hey, it seems like you’re having a hard time with this whole wedding thing? Is something in particular bothering you? If you’d rather, you don’t have to be a bridesmaid; I’ll still be just as stoked to see you at the wedding.” That way, she understands that it’s not too late to drop out, and that doing so isn’t going to be seen as some drastic, nuclear option.

      Then, if that doesn’t work, it’s time to put your foot down with a simple “Look, THIS is what we are doing. You can do it, or you can choose not to be in the wedding. Pick one.”

  • Camrin

    I was a bridesmaid once at age 19. I was a college student. I purchased the bride a couple of gifts, drove 5 hours to the wedding. The morning before the wedding , we all and got our hair done. I was told to buy black flat dress shoes. The bride’s family paid for our dresses and jewelry. I was asked by my aunt, to be her bridesmaid. She and her fiance called off the engagement and she gave me the dress that was already made. I guess where I grew up it was considered rude to expect the bridesmaid to drop a lot of money on a dress you picked. My wedding was at a courthouse. I asked my friend to wear a nice dress that she already owned.

  • Deb

    How about “I have the right to dictate my own sleeping situation”? I am in an out-of-state wedding, and my husband will be traveling/attending the wedding with me. I get that since I’m in the wedding party, he will have to do his own thing for some of the time- it only makes sense. But this bride is dictating that the night before the wedding, all the bridesmaids sleep in a rented house with her- and without our spouses. This means that my husband is traveling 1000 miles to sleep alone, AND we need to pay for his lodging. To me, this is not okay. The big house should be optional, OR our spouses should be included. NOT “you have to sleep in this house, away from your husband, and he has to figure out his own hotel situation”. Ugh.

    • Amy March

      Say no! Do it for me, do it for all of us. “I’m staying in xyz hotel, let me know what time to show up in the morning!”

    • Abby

      I used to think it would be fun to have a sleepover with my besties the night before my wedding…when I was 22 and neither I nor my best friends was actually in a long-term relationship. By the time I got married, I was an actual adult used to sharing a bed with my person, and waking up next to him on our wedding morning and sharing that sunny moment of gleeful “we’re getting married today!” is still one of my favorite wedding memories.

      If she wants to spend their last single night apart, that’s her business, and you can go along for the night of gossip and hairbraiding and be back for mimosa breakfast while still sleeping alongside your husband in your hotel room.

  • Chris

    This may be more specific to a “bridesperson” than bridesmaid, but I also refuse to do embarrassing and/or professionally questionable wedding photos. I know it is your special day. Yes, I will gamely go along with whatever wedding theme, entry dance, or silly face photos that you want. No, I absolutely refuse to wear novelty underwear with my wedding role on it, and I will under no circumstances drop my trousers (or pull up my dress) to have them photographed. Even if the pictures don’t go on Facebook (which they almost always do), I do not want photographs of me like that floating around on the internet.

    (*ends rant, climbs down off soap box*)

    • Amy March

      A horror I haven’t even had to contemplate previous.

    • suchbrightlights

      I am late to this comment, but I am appalled that this is a thing. A bridesmaid tank top* is bad enough. Bridal party underwear? Photography of same? There’s a reason our grandmothers called them “unmentionables” and it wasn’t because our grandmothers were all prudes.

      *unless it has dinosaurs. But only if all of the people who are wearing it LIKE dinosaurs.

  • Bridemaid

    I agree with this article 100%. I am a bridesmaid and many of the other bridesmaids are going in debt and are stressed because they said yes to a formal invite. They have said yes to a one time dress that is only fit for this ocassion. They said yes to pay for make up when they don’t wear make up on regular basis. They said yes to contribute to Bridal Shower. Really their answer should have been NO! Now the bride and bridal team are frustrated because the individuals have to much pride to admit that they just can’t afford it. The bride did set the moment up in an environment where its hard to say no. Now we hear excuses. One lady said she could not try on dress because she forgot her heels. Therefore she did not purchase her dress that day. The other lady said she couldn’t purchase her dress this day because she owes her boyfriend $20. Stop with the excuses just say No! Soon to be brides read the original article and understand this advice.

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  • Sal

    I was a bridesmaid in my friend’s wedding and I should have known it would go poorly from the start. My favorite moment was when she asked me to dye my hair back to it’s normal brown color. I’d been wearing it with a large streak of teal on the underside for a few years and it was blue when she asked me to be in her wedding. I told her “no” and said it wouldn’t be so noticible with a low updo. She said it would look dated and weird in her wedding photos. It got worse from there and she was generally a nightmare bride. Also guess who now has rainbow colored hair *eyeroll*

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  • brittany

    This is awesome. And these comments are so helpful! I’m basically one week in to planning my wedding and I love that I can come to this site for honest advice with a bit of humour and levity thrown in for good measure :) Also I have not come close in my planning to have considered a seating plan yet but now I know I won’t be doing a head table! :) Thanks for the insight one and all.