You know the feeling. The one where you excitedly agree to be in a bridal party and then as wedding events go on, you go “Oh shit. This is adding up quickly.” Yup, that sinking one. Would you feel differently if you were presented with the time and financial expectations before you committed to being a bridesmaid? Or do you just want bridesmaid-ing to come with less time and financial obligations?
That brings us to Lisa Torres’ viral TikTok:
@lisalovesrandomReply to @silly16boo Your ##transparencyletter may look different, & that’s okay. We envision different things.❤️ ##wedding ##weddingtiktok ##bridesmaids♬ original sound – Lisa 💙
To sum up: Lisa sent a letter out to everyone she sent a bridesmaid proposal box to, outlining exactly what they were being asked to commit to if they agreed to be a bridesmaid. It was two detailed pages laying out time expectations and expenses. She closes by saying they can feel free to say yes or no, and regardless they get to keep all the gifts in the bridesmaid proposal box and stay good friends.
Even within APW, reactions are mixed.
As a person who likes to know what the expectations are ahead of time and to have the opportunity to budget instead of feeling like I’m bleeding money later, I think a transparency letter would be a game-changer. But more importantly, having that information gives the opportunity to make an informed decision on whether or not to participate. We know that not all weddings look the same, so we can’t expect bridesmaid expectations to all mirror each other either. I mean, not every bride is going to make you buy a bridesmaid dress for $15K, right? (Seriously.)
But I asked two members of the APW team to weigh in, and turns out they had opposite opinions. Longtime APW staffer Keriann is in favor:
I LOVE this idea. Radical honesty and upfront communication and expectation-setting are my jam. (Can you tell I’m mostly a Sagittarius and poly at heart?) I especially have ThoughtsTM on this as someone who had a non-traditional wedding with no bridal party and has since been on both the “bridesmaid” end of “no wedding party” as well as been a “traditional” bridesmaid. I have learned far too many lessons about boundaries and communications the hard way. For example, I’ve learned that if I’m going to put in a situation where I can’t enjoy the wedding as a guest, then I prefer to receive the courtesy of actually being called a bridesmaid instead of feeling like an unpaid vendor. So I really believe having a conversation like this early on to set expectations and make sure everyone is on the same page can save a whole lot of angst and drama and potential friend breakups down the road.
Two things I would add is that firstly, I don’t think a transparency “letter” needs to be an official document like the one shown here. It could also just be an open conversation (which maybeeee you follow up in an email with some bullet points since memories can’t always be trusted.) But yeah, as always, know your people. Some might appreciate receiving a written letter like this one to jumpstart the conversation—others might balk that like, what, you’re giving them a contract? It also doesn’t need to be, and probably shouldn’t be, set in stone. Things change throughout the planning process and may need to be re-communicated or negotiated, but at least you’ll have already had some practice!
And secondly, I’d especially recommend having this kind of expectation-setting conversation if you’re NOT having a bridal party but are having friends support you and your wedding in some way. Think of it like this—when someone becomes your “girlfriend/boyfriend/partner/etc.,” it’s ideal to go over you and your that person’s expectations of what the named roles mean to each of you, but often the title alone comes with baseline assumptions. On the other hand, if you’re in an intimate relationship with no title, you literally have to define it from scratch and thus need even MORE communication around boundaries and expectations. Same with “bridal party” versus “friends helping out.”
Meg, however, saw it from a different angle:
As a Type A business owner, I love documents like this. At APW we have an employee handbook that staff members get (and are required to actually read) when they start working with us. It’s more than two pages, and it sets out exactly the same level of expectations. I think it’s smart to be upfront of what you request from people.
But: something deep inside my soul starts screaming when I look at this bridesmaid letter. And that’s because I think that the way that we behave in our professional life is (and should be) profoundly different from the way we behave in our personal lives. And beyond that, our professional relationships should function very differently than our personal ones.
My issues with the idea of a transparency letter are twofold.
First, and fundamentally, I think that being a bridesmaid should be something that comes with way fewer requirements. And I don’t mean don’t do all these things at your wedding. I mean, don’t REQUIRE them. If you want to have a bachelorette party in Las Vegas, great. The bridesmaids who can come will come. The ones who can’t (or don’t want to) won’t. If you want to have a bridal shower, great! Find someone to host it, invite who you want to come, and they’ll come if they can. But I think the idea that we’re requiring things from bridesmaids beyond buying a dress and standing up for (plus whatever cultural traditions you have) you means we’ve lost the plot a little.
But second, I don’t think our friendships should come with a contract. Contracts and letters are how we communicate in business. Heart to heart conversations—and texts—are how we communicate in our personal life. So if you’re going to have a lot of expectations of your bridesmaids, fine. (My opinion that you shouldn’t is hardly the final word on the subject.) But I think those expectations should be communicated in a conversation that’s a two way street, not a letter that is one way communication. Tell them what you want and expect, ask them what they can do, and then come to an agreement of what makes the most sense.
And while we’re at it can we nix bridesmaid proposal boxes? They’re cute, but they put so much pressure on everyone involved.
Where do you fall? What’s your opinion? (Stated kindly please!) And while we’re at it, how do we normalize the conversation of opting out of being in a bridal party? (No one ever talks about this!) Are bachelorette parties that involve a plane ticket and an AirBnB new norm? And are you into the bridesmaid proposal boxes or nah?
So, APW, tell us how you really feel about this transparency letter and hit us with your bridesmaid questions in the comments. We’ll see you there!