Ask Team Practical: Bridesmaid Roles and Obligations

We have one year of our two and a half year engagement left, and I am starting to pick my bridal party. I’ve put this task off for as long as possible because my fairly close relationship with one person has taken a pretty big turn in the last few years. I always thought this person would be in my wedding, and now it is frustrating to me to be around her for more than a few hours.

She got married two years ago and, when I got engaged, she started doling out (unsolicited) “sage advice” like it was her job (and most of it was WIC bullsh*t which I tried to explain my feelings on and was promptly ignored). For the last year, every time I spend time with her I am reminded about the pitfalls of “X” decision and that our guests won’t appreciate “Y” choice. At first I listened politely, but now I’m getting to the end of my rope.  I’ve started to stop attending events that I know she will be attending and, when we do speak, I avoid the topic of our wedding at all costs.

Here comes the problem—I know this person is expecting me to ask her to be in our wedding. Truthfully, I feel a little obligated to ask because we were incredibly close (a few years ago), I think she still believes we are close, and I was in their wedding party. What do I do? I feel like asking her is going to cause me so much stress and frustration, but I don’t want to upset her by not doing so. Is this even something I try to talk to her about? If I do, do I wait to ask her to be in my bridal party until I know she won’t do this to me anymore? AHHH—Help!
– Better To Ask Or Not Ask?

How frustrating! As if you don’t have enough strangers and family members and David Tutera trying to tell you how to have a wedding—now your friends need to pick on you, too? But, I need to confess something. Although I know we all get in a tiff about those jerks who try to tell us what to do, sometimes those jerks are just well-meaning friends. Everyone likes to play the role of Expert. The fact that she does, too, doesn’t make her a bad friend—it just means she’s human. At least I hope so. Because I do this all the time. Somehow, when someone brings up something they’ve never done before but you have, circuits cross and we all hear, “How would you do this?!” Being the first to get married and have a kid among some of my friends, I find myself often gritting my teeth to keep from offering unsolicited advice. We easily equate experience with expertise, and that’s just not how it works. It’s annoying but probably well-meant and unintentional.

But! I have to be honest, the first word in your letter that jumped out to me was, “obligated.” Yuck. I hate that word when we’re talking about weddings (and most other things, too).  There are a scarce few times when I’d concede, sure. Do something out of obligation. Be nice. Give in. This instance is not one. Asking someone to be a member of your bridal party means honoring someone who has and will support you and your marriage. It’s a place of respect for loved ones with whom you’re close or to whom you’d like to be closer (see: your sister in law, for example). That’s the first question I’d answer here. Has she been a good friend to you (if, perhaps, a little annoying) and you’d like to honor that relationship? Or do you really just feel obligated?

If you decide that you really want her there because she means a lot to you—NOT because you feel obligated—I think a sit-down chat over some coffee (or margaritas?) might be all you need. Add some emphasis on the “Yay! I’m getting married! I want you to be my bridesmaid!” angle, but with a note of, “In this role, I need you to support my marriage and my wedding decisions. Even if it’s not how you would do it.”


I thought long and hard about who I wanted to be my bridesmaids and decided on my sisters and my three childhood friends. When we finally decided on a dress, I got a call from one of my bridesmaids saying that she can afford the dress, but nothing else. I was a little thrown off because not two weeks before, she was picking dresses well over the price point I wanted, saying they weren’t that expensive. I explained to her that it will cost more than just the dress and have been upfront all along about the costs involved so there were no surprises. But to help her out, my fiancé and I decided to pay for a portion of each girls’ dress.

The next day she called and said she can afford the dress, does not want us to pay for a portion of it, but that she will not be attending the bachelorette party, shower, or be getting her hair done with us the morning of the wedding because she will find a cheaper place to have it done (even though I haven’t booked anything for our hair so we don’t even know what it will cost). And she said she will be leaving the wedding early because her husband has to work the next morning, so she will only be staying for dinner and until the dancing gets started.

I understand her position and the fact that it is expensive to be in a wedding. (Her husband is also in two weddings around the same time as mine.) And I can help her out to an extent, like paying for a portion of her dress so she can use that money on her hair or whatever, but she is still refusing to partake in the bachelorette party and other pre-wedding events that will potentially cost money. I was the maid-of-honor in her wedding and went above and beyond to give her the bridal experience she wanted. I’m hurt that she doesn’t want to be there for me in the same way, or be present at the other wedding events. I was upfront with her about what my expectations were in an effort to avoid all of this, but it seems we’re at an impasse. She has offered to step down if I want to find someone else, but we’ve been friends for so long and I really wanted her to be by my side through this. But I also think it’s unfair to the other bridesmaids who will have to pick up her slack.

So what do I do? Just accept the fact that she’s only going to be present at the ceremony? Or do I pick a different girl to be my bridesmaid who is willing to go the distance with me on this special event?

– Losing One Sister(-like-friend) To Inconvenient Necessities Gripped In Ritualistic Life Decision Revolving Around Marriage Achievement

I’m sorry! It’s so hurtful when friends don’t behave the way we expect and just generally disappoint us.

But, I’m gonna give it to you straight. There are no “obligations” involved in being a bridesmaid. Ask not what your bridesmaid can do for you, ask what you can do for your bridesmaid. Or something. You’re selecting a group of people that you’d like to honor by giving them a position of importance in the ceremony. The end. There’s nothing else to it. If they wear matching dresses, if they throw you a party, if they help you stuff envelopes—that’s terrific! But it’s just icing on the wedding cupcake. Let’s make sure you’re not taking that “maid” part of “bridesmaid” too literally, shall we? (In fact, maybe we should just call them the Bridal Brigade to avoid confusion?)

Maybe it’s time to let go of your list of expectations. Remember, etiquette doesn’t allow you to plan a bunch of parties in your honor (or convince other people to plan and pay for them for you). If your bridesmaids plan stuff for you, great! If they don’t, trust me, they love you anyway. I mean, you’re not getting married for the parties and gifts, am I right? You’re also not choosing friends for a bridal party so they then can foot the bill for a bunch of fun nights for you. Let them decide what they want to plan, and then do so within their own budgetary restrictions. And for goodness sakes, cut them a break and let them do their own hair if they can’t afford a hairdresser. I know, right now it seems like if she cared, she’d pay for the hairdo. But trust me when I say that’s not the point of a bridesmaid (it’s to keep crazy away from you on your wedding day and wipe your tears and such).

I realize that part of the sting is that you’d hoped she would want to do these things for you and with you—the way you so willingly did for her. Unfortunately, I can’t explain the motivations behind her decisions. Maybe things are much worse financially than she anticipated last week. Maybe she feels too guilty and proud to accept your help. Maybe she’s just a flaky friend who doesn’t see skipping these events as a big deal. There could be any number of reasons. If you think it represents the possibility that something in your friendship is amiss, it’s worth a chat. Let her know that you love her, you want her to be there during these important moments, and you’re even willing to pay her way if it means spending some time with her (use that money that she’s not taking for the dress!).

If you still feel a rift and aren’t comfortable having her stand with you at the wedding, she already gave you an out. Go ahead and take it! But, if you want to honor your friendship, there’s no reason she shouldn’t be your bridesmaid. That’s all that being a bridesmaid entails, after all.


Team Practical, how did you choose members of your bridal party? What expectations did you have for these roles? How are you working to adjust those expectations when they don’t work for the people involved?

Photo: Leah and Mark Photography.

If you would like to ask Team Practical a question please don’t be shy! You can email Liz at: askteampractical [at] apracticalwedding [dot] com or use the submission form here. If you would prefer not to be named, anonymous questions are also accepted. Although, we always love a good sign off!

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  • I wanted the least obligation possible for my two ladies who stood up with me (both married, so I avoided the “bridesmaid” tagline). I hadn’t wanted attendants, but my husband really wanted his two brothers to stand up for him, so I asked two good friends. One had to fly from quite a distance, and the other doesn’t have a ton of money. They’re also completely different sizes.

    What I asked of them was to find something in grey and blue to wear (same as the guys, who wore grey suits, and we bought them a matching shirt and tie). We tried a variety of things to find something matching, but the gals were both such different sizes. Ultimately, about three weeks before the wedding, I went shopping with the one in town and found something we liked at a price point she could swing — just an off the rack, cute grey dress. We texted it to my other friend, and she found something similar but not the same to fit her. My mom bought blue pashminas that also matched the guys’ shirt, so there was symmetry without being matchy-matchy.

    Other than that, I asked them to be there for the whole day of the wedding. My mom paid to have their hair done, and I paid for their flowers. Oh, and we ended up paying for the hotel room for my friend who flew in, because we had to book a room for the photographers (also good friends) and went with a suite instead.

    I wanted to go low-key. I figured they could do other things if they wanted, but time/scheduling precluded any sort of bachelorette party or shower (I ended up having a “shower” the day after the wedding with my out of town relatives, but that was a totally surprise, and it was my only shower).

    Sometimes I wish I’d had more of the girly, bigger experience with several bridesmaids and going more all out. But that didn’t work for the reality of what my life is. And I am really happy with what we ended up having. My main goal was to not ask too much of the ladies who were honoring me by standing up for me while still having their love and support, especially in the days surrounding the wedding.

  • SarahToo

    To me the whole idea of having bridesmaids is fraught. I grew up as a tomboy, and my childhood pattern of having more/closer guy friends than gal friends is still the case today. Plus, one of my dearest childhood friends (the one who I could most envision in the “maid of honour” role) can’t make it to our wedding. I also don’t like the way a bridal party draws lines around friendships: YOU are my BEST friend…YOU’re not quite my best friend, but still, a pretty darn good one…and you, my friend, don’t make the grade…no bridal party for YOU! For all these reasons, I’ve decided not to have an “inner circle”/bridal party, and rather, to welcome the help offered to me by whichever of my friends feel inspired (and have the time and energy) to take on more involved roles. I’m trying to trust that I’ll feel loved, and be supported, by a range of friends (both female and male) as I prepare for our wedding…even without my very own posse of beautifully-coiffed super-women/best girlfriends. Has anyone else decided to eschew the whole bridesmaid thing, and if so, how did it work out for you?

    • We don’t have bridesmaids/groomsmen in Spain! So to us, it’s always funny when we see bridesmaids/maid of honor/etc drama on TV or movies.
      Close friends usually plan the bachelorette party, which is normally a complete surprise to the bride, and all people attending split the bill, except for the bride. (Right now I know my friends are planning something, but I have no idea what it will be. I’ll just know the date of the event, obviously, but that’s it).

      • SarahToo

        Thanks for this alternative perspective…I was beginning to wonder if there was anyone out there who didn’t do the bridal party thing!

        • I’m glad I could help. I forgot to mention that close friends of the groom also usually plan the bachelor party as a surprise.

        • blimunda

          Same in Italy! We do have witnesses thou. Normally one or two- their “official duty” is to sign the license and there’s only space for one signature in civil registries, I think two in church registries. They are normally best friends or close siblings, and usually organize a bachelor-bachelorette party, including all the other friends who will split the expenses. And, they don’t wear matching dresses (the whole drama is kinda unintelligible, yet intriguing, I must admit).

          • Shira

            Israel doesn’t have a bridesmaids or groomsmen either!
            I don’t think you need these official names and categories to have your friends be there for you.
            My 7 closest friends arranged an awesome bachelorette party for me (it was sort of a surprise, but they did consult, which was good!); I asked two of them to come to the apartment where I was getting ready on the day-of to offer support, and then drive us to the destination (it was only 20 minutes away). A few other friends offered to help in wonderful ways, like making a cake or designing our invitations.
            During the ceremony itself, it is customary in Israel for the parents of the bride and groom to stand under the Huppah, buy we did want to include our friends in the ceremony, so we asked them and our siblings to say a few words each in their own turn (instead of the customary “7 blessings”, sheva brachot).
            So to sum up, I definitely felt surrounded by love from my wonderful friends. You don’t need the matching dresses or the official delegations to have a great wedding with great friends.

    • Claire

      We skipped the bridal party altogether. I think that decision was settled with a three second conversation. “Do you want to have a bridal party? No! Do you? Oh no. Done.”We were planning a small (40 people), very simple wedding and only wanted the elements that really resonated with us.

      A group of girlfriends (all local) took me out for dinner/drinks and a drag show. It was just us girls getting together for a fun Saturday night with none of the “traditional” elements. They all know I hated the idea of sitting around opening presents in front of everyone so there was none of that. A few girls did send me off with some unmentionables at the end of the night, but they didn’t make me open anything right there.

      • Elaine

        Claire, I had almost exactly the same experience: 40 people, no wedding party, awesome group of ladies who threw a fun girls’ night out for me before the wedding. It was perfect and left out so much stress!

      • Dani

        You give me hope! I’m getting married very soon and very excited for it. But our ceremony is literally like yours; very small, private and hopefully wonderful. It’s going to be 40 or less, wedding cupcakes will be present and most of the guests are friends (we have a huge family and it would’ve brought us to 120 with family alone!). We went for close family and the friends we care about and I’m currently batting “+ ones” away with a very soft bat. Wedding and a dinner, No dancing! Why must everyone bring dates!!

    • KatieBeth

      This is exactly what I am thinking when it comes to choosing a Maid of Honor. I have lots of good girlfriends who I would definitely include in a wedding party, but none that I want to be like “This is my BEEEEST FRIEND.” Because, frankly, as cheesy as it is, my best friend IS my boyfriend (although not my entire world, we have other friends, etc.). I’d just as soon dump the whole wedding party idea entirely over the MOH issue, but my boyfriend really wants groomsmen. And I don’t know how to have a conversation with my bridesmaids about me not having an MOH because it’ll seem like I’m rejecting all of them.

      And, this is a really petty issue, but if you don’t have an MOH, but you want a processional, how you decide who goes first?? Draw straws??

      • ColoradoLaurel

        We did height order, for lack of a better option. My husband and I each had bridal party members of three different heights and for aesthetic reasons we had them go from shortest to tallest. I’m not saying you should do it this way, but if you’re looking for a solution, it might work for you.

      • I was in a wedding last year where my friend had three bridesmaids, but no MOH– so we also just processed in by height instead of MOH, bridesmaid, bridesmaid or whatever. :) I think that is a totally lovely way to do it!

      • MDBethann

        Some options for deciding who goes first without making it seem like playing favorites –
        (1) The order in which they met you, oldest to newest (my college roommate did that to avoid issues in her bridal party)

        (2) Height, like the Rockettes

        (3) Alphabetical order

        (4) Draw straws

        I am using one of those methods with my bridesmaids; I love them all equally, but figuring out how to line them up behind my sister (my MoH) is a bit tricky. There may be other ways to do it, but these are the oens that I and others in my circle have come up with in the past. Good luck!

      • Cali

        We decided early on that we aren’t designating a “Maid of Honor” or a “Best Man.” We’re just having everyone be at the same level because, frankly, it seems really weird to both of us to identify one person as being a BETTER friend than the others. For me, the girls I’m asking are or have been my “best” friend at some point, just at different stages of my life (my childhood best friend, my high school best friend, my current local best friend, etc). I just made it clear to all of them that I wasn’t picking a Maid of Honor and was going to divide the “traditional” MOH duties between them all, depending on what they wanted or were able to do.

        I haven’t really given much thought to the walking order, but I don’t feel like it’s all that big a deal, really. I’ll probably do it alphabetically, or by height, or something just so no one can think I’m “ranking” them. ;-)

        Also, can I just say it’s such a relief to know other people find the whole MOH thing weird, too? It’s weird enough trying to designate bridesmaids, I don’t want to have to divide them AGAIN.

        • We did something very similar. No honorifics. My hubby picked the order for his groomsmen; I don’t know how. I had my two best friends from college, one guy one girl, and my sister-in-law. Jared stood next to me for the very logical reason that he had pockets in which to hold my husband’s ring. For additional reasons, we avoided a single aisle and walked in from the sides instead. So my attendants walked in all at once in a line, while his walked in from the other side. No pairs, no escorts.

          The bridal party was very difficult for us for a number of reasons. The biggest one is that so many elements of WIC wedding expectations smack of “adult prom” and none more than the idea of a wedding party. I might have done away with the whole thing but we decided to honor those who had provided support to us throughout the years. In light of this, we worked hard to do so in a fair and non-prom way.

          • “adult prom” I love it! That describes it exactly! Although I can still understand why folks would have a bridal brigade and folks to stand up with them. It just may not be for me. It sounds like you came up with very practical solutions.

          • We had no pairs/escorts either, as 3 of our 4 people were married. I didn’t want to do attendants at all, but my husband really wanted his two brothers up there with him, so attendants it is. We only had the single center aisle (Episcopal church with pews facing center), so I had the guys walk in together and the ladies walk in together. We actually did a whole procession with the immediate families and everything.

            I’m not sure how the ladies stood, honestly. There were pews up in the choir, so they stood in the pews. I didn’t designate one as more important than the other, and I let them figure out the standing. In our posed pictures, I think the photographers arranged our attendants according to height and outfit color (everyone wore grey, but the shades were a little different). It worked out really well for us — we had people who loved and supported us, and that’s all we needed.

    • christa

      I had a pretty similar situation- I’ve moved a lot (about every three years) for my whole life, and tended to have one or maybe two close friends in each place. I thought the exact same thing labeling the friends from different periods of my life as “equal, but some are more equal than others” so, I also skipped the bridal party. There was someone who we both agreed should be the best man. He’s known my spouse since they were 8 years old, and the three of us lived together for 2 years. He got to be best man, and gave a wonderful speech (hes a professional writer), but didn’t stand up with us during the ceremony, because our ceremony wasn’t structured that way.

      It worked out wonderfully. Nobody blinked at seeing us standing there by ourselves, and the friends I am close with did step up in ways that are natural for them. Nobody (I think) felt obligated to do anything more than they wanted to, and in the days leading up to the wedding, I felt like I had all the help I could ask for. We skipped the separate bachelor(ette) parties, but a few days before the wedding, most of the young people who would be at the wedding had dinner and hung out for an evening at a local seafood restaurant.

    • Rachel

      We’re not having a bridal party either. I have about 6 best friends and three siblings, my man has one best friend. We chose not to have a bridal party to avoid imbalance, and so that I wouldn’t have to do the “I choose you and NOT you” thing that SarahToo mentioned. Also six girls in matching outfits just isn’t how I’d ever envisioned our wedding.

      But I’ve found that people who are close to us want to be part of the wedding in some way, and that it’s important to me to include them. Two of our best friends are officiating; we’re having a couple people do readings; and we’re adapting the traditional Jewish Seven Blessings (making them more meaningful and specific to us) so that’s seven more opportunities to include people. Another friend is playing viola as the ceremony begins. I’ve asked another friend to do my makeup and emcee the toasts. There are lots of ways to give people a special role and let them know how much we appreciate their participation.

      I’m also inviting my nine closest girlfriends to come over early and get ready with me, and I’ll be making little boutonnieres (corsages are weird; women can wear boutonnieres too!) for all nine of them plus my sisters.

      My closest girlfriends organized a joint bachelorette weekend for me and another friend who’s getting married a few months later. They did it out of love without knowing what role, if any, they would have in our weddings. And it was FABULOUS.

      I think there are lots of APW posts on alternative bridal brigades… Takes a little creativity to honor your relationships in less traditional ways, but it can be done!

    • sarahrose

      I also have typically had mostly guy friends, though I’ve gotten more girl friends as I’ve gotten older. My solution is just that my two closest guy friends are going to be in my bridal party, in addition to the couple of close girlfriends I have. I suppose it’s unusual, but it doesn’t seem like much of a big deal to me or my partner, who will probably just have his brother and two best guy friends.

      Is there anyone else here that’s one something similar? Considering how the APW community is generally pretty non-heternormative, I wouldn’t be surprised…

      • Steph

        We did this in our wedding. Only it was reversed because hubby had one of his female friends as a groomswoman. We had a large wedding party — 10 on my side 8 on his side — and a relatively formal ceremony and even so it worked out fine :)She wore a black dress and the guys wore tuxes. It felt completely natural for her to be standing on his side for everyone who knew us. I think it’s important to own your choices and do what feels right for the two of you. Best of luck!!!

        • Yes, my husband had a female “best person.”

          • N

            We switched the genders up too. My husband has two sisters and I have two brothers. My brothers stood with me and his sisters stood with him. After all, they are MY brothers!

    • Anon

      I agree with you about how strange it is to delineate in public your friendship status with different people.

      I’m planning on asking my brother to be my ‘best man’ and my sister to be my ‘best woman’ or maybe have a few ‘best women’. I just don’t like the term ‘bridesmaid’. I think my SO will do a similar thing with his male and female friends.

    • Kristen

      I WANT to go forgo the whole big bridal party thing except for my 2 close friends and my sister so my total is 3. The trouble is that my fiance has so many close guy friends that his turns out to be 6. I have cousins, but I’m not THAT close to them. One of his friends is married, so I can ask his wife, who I am friends with, but again — not that close (I’d invite her to the bachelorette party, etc.) It’s definitely frustrating and I don’t think he realizes that and also that it costs money.
      Honestly, I wish I could forgo it all and have only my sister up there and his one brother.

  • Ash

    In the UK the cost of bridesmaids dresses is included as one of the costs of the wedding, along with hair and make up if that’s what happens. I imagine it must be quite tough being a bridesmaid and having to spend money on dresses etc that may not necessarily be to your taste. The Hen party thing over here though is getting ridiculous, instead of a night out or a party they end up being weekends away and end up costing hundreds of pounds it’s very easy to feel obligated to join in or risk upsetting the bride.

  • Rachel

    I have six special women standing up with me, my sister and 5 close friends. I live in central-Eastern Canada, and of those 6 women, one lives in a city about 45 minutes away, one lives in a city about 4 hours away, one lives on the East Coast (about a 2 day drive, or 2 hour flight), one lives in NYC, one lives in Seattle, and one lives in Australia. Two of them are in school full-time (one in grad school), another has just started a demanding new job and moved across the country, and another is backpacking and living in hostels. My only expectation when selecting these women to stand up with me was that they would continue to be the loving, supportive, wonderful friends they were before I got engaged (oh, and that they pick out a knee-length, navy blue dress of their choice). Not surprisingly, they have delivered on that expectation!

    They have banded together from across the globe to organize a cottage weekend bachelorette party, which I’m thrilled about, and there may or may not end up being a shower. They are also constantly asking if there’s anything they can do, and I think they’re a bit disappointed when I say no, but honestly, they’re already doing exactly what I need, which is being their awesome selves!

    Anyway, moral of the story is I completely agree with the advice above. The point of a bridal party/bridal brigade is to honour people in your life who you love, and to have a solid support network leading up to and on your wedding day. Anything above and beyond that is just a bonus!

    • ES.TR

      I think the part about being the good friends they were before you got engaged is so important. I have friends who take on different roles in my normal life so why would that be any different in the context of a wedding? And I know, because they are close friends, the stuff they enjoy or hate or whatever. I’m not about to expect a good friend who would only ever wear the same pair of jeans everyday of her life if you let her to suddenly care about dresses and makeup. And I can’t expect the girl flying halfway around the world to be available for pre-wedding craft.
      We tried to allow the friends we have to provide the same kind of support they do in real life to this new strange wedding context. The girl I debreif life with was perfect for telling all of those “holy crap guess what *insert crazy aunt’s name* said. WTF? Weddings amirite!” stories/rants and the friends who are more into accessories and hair and things I don’t know or care to know about. I tapped into their energy and knowledge to do something I’d usually stick my head in the sand about. And the one flying halfway around the world? I mean… Come on! She spent hundreds maybe thousands of dollars to literally stand by our side on a really important day. If that isn’t friendship then I don’t know what is.
      I think if you consider the things that you’re close friends are good at, enjoy and are able to provide then you go a long way to empowering them to support you out of love not obligation.

  • Rachel 2

    To the second bride – To me, the most important part of any bridesmaids’ “role” is just to be there. Bridal showers and bachelorette parties don’t have to be expensive, so couldn’t you just tell you her, “Look, I know you don’t want to spend a ton of money on these things, but just come. You don’t have to bring a gift to the shower. Just be there!”? Same with the bachelorette party. If you really want her there, could you ask the people throwing it to make it more low-cost?

    However – the cost issue is one thing, but everything combined – particularly the fact that she’s leaving early – really strikes me as odd. Do you get the impression that she WANTS to be in your bridal party, or is she doing it of out a feeling of obligation? If you think it’s the latter, maybe you should talk to her about it. If the point is to have people who will emotionally support you (and I believe it is), I don’t know that I would want to have someone standing beside me who was only there because she felt like she HAD to do it.

    • Amy March

      Yeah the leaving early part really struck me as well. The wedding is a year away and she’s already sure she can’t stay at the reception because of her husband? It just seems that something might be going on beyond cost concerns and it would be good to check in with her on that.

      Also, at this point, a year and a half into the engagement, I think this needs to
      be mentally framed as asking her to step down as a bridesmaid, not just not asking her to be one. Seems pretty clear that, rightly or wrongly, she does think she’s a bridesmaid. Not to say it wouldn’t be appropriate to ask her to step down if she doesn’t feel she can participate, but a bit more of a proceed with caution flag.

    • I agree. If she can’t afford to buy a shower gift or get a fancy updo or host a bachelorette party, that’s understandable. But claiming she has to leave the wedding early because her husband has work the next day? Unless she’s somehow essential to his job, I don’t understand why she couldn’t get a ride from someone else. Even though there shouldn’t be any obligations for bridesmaids like throwing a party, I’d at least expect them to stay later than the average guest. These are supposed to be your very best friends–why wouldn’t they want to have fun with you at your wedding?

    • Umpteenth Sarah

      I’m inclined to agree with you, Rachel 2. Although I’m admittedly reading between the lines, it seems like her friend is not really “being” there for LIGD right now, and is trying to get out of being there for her in the future. I agree with Liz, the reason you pick someone to fill one of those rolls is because you want to honor them in a special way, but what happens if the person just doesn’t want that honor?

      I think Rachel nails it — talk to the lady! Try to see if cost really is the issue — which is totally fine — say you’d really like her to be there, let her show up to the wedding with bedhead but ask her to come to the salon and NOT get her hair done (just have her sit there and sip coffee and make jokes with all of you), but really show that you want her to be there for all of these important parts. If she puts up resistance to that, then it sucks, but maybe there’s something deeper going on here that you should talk to her about.

  • Josephine

    I had a maid of honour/best friend but due to her relationship dramas she has effectively dropped out of my life. So what with that and a job which sees me moving around every six months graduate scheme), and friends doing much the same, I don’t have a bridal brigade. It’s actually one of the most stressful wedding areas- I feel like I should have this great team of really close friends ready to help out but I don’t. We’re not getting married for two years so maybe friendships will grow/return but I feel like a bit of a failure right now.

    • Liz
    • Liz

      Which is to say, it doesn’t always pan out that we have the picture-perfect circle of besties braiding hair and gossiping with us as we plan our wedding. That doesn’t make ANYONE a failure. It’s just another wedding fairytale.

      • Josephine

        Thanks Liz, I’d missed this one!
        I’m getting much better at avoiding the “should monster” so I shall just battle on and try to stop imagining how I ought to be!

        Also, not entirely sure about time frames in this site, presumably it’s meg time, but woah you were up early!

        • Liz

          Haha, I’m on Eastern time. ;)

    • I felt a little bit of this at the beginning of my engagement. I am only having 2 bridesmaids, my sister and my best friend. I felt sad that I wouldn’t have pictures like I see on all the blogs with a row of girls in perfectly mismatched dresses. I have other friends that I could’ve asked to be bridesmaids, but I decided that I didn’t want to ask people to be in my wedding that I wasn’t confident would be in my life for a long time. I grew up flipping through my parents’ wedding album all the time, and I know every single person who was in their wedding party. I want my kids to have the same experience. If you don’t currently have any friends who will be supportive, lifelong friends, then don’t ask them. There’s something incredibly sweet about your husband being your best man and you being his best woman.

      • HH


        This: “There’s something incredibly sweet about your husband being your best man and you being his best woman.”

        I just got so weepy. Wow.

        Thank you for that lovely perspective!

    • SarahToo

      Actually, after reading your post, I find myself wondering how much of my decision not to have a bridal party is empowered choice, and how much is fear: that the people I ask to be there for me will let me down (this has happened to me in the past…pain!!), fear that none of my current friends are willing to happily take on some of the major wedding organizing, fear that I just don’t have enough close female friends for a loving bridal posse to buoy me up through this whole crazy process. I can’t imagine anyone planning a surprise bachelorette party for me, or hanging out with me getting all dolled up for the wedding ceremony. The woman I’ve been friends with since I was in grade 3 lives on the other side of the continent, and recently informed me that she won’t be able to make it to my wedding. Add to that the fact that I’m not very close to any of my half- and step-siblings (or other immediate and extended family), and there have been quite a few times that I’ve felt pretty sad and lonely while planning my wedding. For me, not having bridesmaids is a coping strategy to deal with not feeling secure in my friendships right now…

    • KateM

      One of my best friends had her mother stand up for her, and he had his father, and it was beautiful.

  • Hillori

    Sarahtoo– My FH and I have also decided to forgo the wedding party tradition. We are in our 30s and both have had careers that take us around the world. With friendships like the tide (deep at times and shallow due to distance/timezones/etc), choosing people to stand up with us seemed overly complicated. Furthermore, we’ve chosen to celebrate our marriage with immediate family only as guests. We considered asking our sisters to stand up with us, but then more people would be up front than viewing! To solve the balance issue, our witnesses on the license will be our mothers, and no sister will be chosen over another to be MOH, sign a license, etc, etc, etc.

    So far, the only difficulty with the plan is getting the florist to understand that I do not need multiple bouquets for maids nor a tossing bouquet… but THAT is another story.

    • Amy March

      Love the concept of tidal friendships!

      • Same here! What a great way to describe the natural flux of friendships.

        • Erica

          Agreed. I’m in a similar situation – I went to high school in one state, college in another (an all-women’s college at that), moved to a third right after college graduation where I found myself an AMAZING group of women, and now attend graduate school in yet another state. Luckily I have three sisters and a really close cousin so the bridesmaids thing was a pretty easy decision.

          • HH

            Yay all-women’s colleges!

            My ladies are my four closest friends from college and my sister.

            I can’t imagine life without those college friends.

    • I mentioned our wedding party decisions up above but this was a big element of it, too.

      We had our mothers sign our license. It was meaningful to them and to us and no one else even noticed.

  • Claire

    Oh no, I think I’m the bridesmaid in question 1. Not literally, but I’m on the other side of a similar situation. One of my best friends is getting married and has told me that she wants to ask me to be in her wedding, but has some grandiose ideas about how to actually pop the question to her bridesmaids so I’m not fully committed yet. Thing is, when her fiance proposed I’m pretty sure she was replaced by a WIC-obsessed pod-person. The once practically-minded grad student is now planning a 4 day affair over a holiday weekend, suggesting a bachelorette weekend in Napa, and actually asked me to cancel a trip with my boyfriend to help her do wedding things over a weekend.
    I probably sound pretty whiny right now, so let me clarify that I’m trying to establish the contrast between this pod-person and the girl who only last summer was complaining about having to be a bridesmaid in a 4 day destination wedding and throw an over the top bachelorette considering that she (like most of our friends) is in grad school and has no income. I think of this girl as a sister, and if this is what she truly wants I’ll shut my mouth, buy my bridesmaids dresses (yes, plural!), and be at her side through it all.
    Problem is, she keeps asking me for my opinion, and then gets angry with me when I don’t automatically agree with all of her ideas or have the audacity to suggest that she try not to pick the same wedding weekend as another dear mutual friend. I pointed her to APW, and it didn’t take – she wants All The Things. As a pre-engaged APW lurker, I’m hoping to benefit from the sage wisdom of those who have been through the wedding thing to tell me if 1) I just need to grin and bear it and hope that my friend comes back so together we can defeat this pod-person, or 2) how to frame a discussion with her about reasonable versus unreasonable bridesmaid requests. Ultimately I want to support her commitment to her partner, but I’m struggling to align that support with the extent and expense of her expectations. Help?

    • Amy March

      I think you treat this by focusing not on what she should do, but on what you can do. Ie not “don’t have your wedding same day as mutual friend on holiday in Fiji” but “I’m really excited to stand up for you, but flying to Fiji and missing holiday with my family is going to be very difficult and expensive for me”.

      Also she may just be dreaming out loud, especially if she’s in the early stages. All The Things are less tempting sometimes when you get down to the nitty gritty.

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      Oh no! I don’t have a good answer for you. I just wanted to say that you sound like a fantastic friend.

    • Rachael (with the extra "a"")

      She sounds like she is being “taken” by WIC and it sounds like you understand that it ain’t easy breaking the zombie state (for her or for you, well-meaning friend). It seems that she is looking for support by soliciting your advice, so as for framing the conversation, I suggest giving her the support she needs and that you clearly want to give her. Perhaps you can use your experience here at APW to relate to her, and give APW a second plug (wedding planning can be a whirlwind experience and “pod person” zombies need repitition).

      I know it can be intimidating as a “pre-engaged” person, but admitting that you’ve already thought about your own some-day wedding, hypothetically, might be a good place to start. For example, you could let her know that although you aren’t even yet engaged you are already seeking support from an online community of sane, grounded women because just the idea of taking in all the opinions of others, not to mention combating the imposition of WIC, leaves you feeling overwhelmed.

      Let her know your favorite parts about APW. For me, it’s about the great advice and support about the nitty-gritty, the platform from which to carefully observe and then release some of the details to embrace more joy, and lastly the reminder to put the most emphasis on relationship(s), not just with partner(s) but with friends. Then have your links to your favorite posts ready and waiting. Sschah-ZAM!

      If all else fails, never forget gentle honesty and humor. Remind her of her friend’s wedding she (begrudgingly) participated in, and let her know that although she/you may have been critical of THAT friend, you are beginning to wonder if it’s possible for sane people (like you and her) to escape the vaccuum-suck that is WIC… Maybe tell her that’s the purpose you’ve envisioned for your Bridal Party/Brigade. Lastly, find the most humble way to tell her you hope she’ll return the favor for you someday.

    • p.

      I dealt with a similar situation where I was a bridesmaid in a wedding for a friend who seemed to turn into a different person when she was planning her wedding, and it was difficult. In hindsight, though, I don’t think that my friend had totally changed. I think she was just trying to manage so many competing interests: what she wanted, what her now-husband wanted, and what her parents and her in-laws wanted. Even over five years later, I still don’t know what the right way to handle this situation is. What I can suggest is that you give your friend the benefit of the doubt and assume that she doesn’t mean to be asking so much of you, but she’s overwhelmed, and that you set some boundaries. Think about what you think you can offer and then offer that. “I can’t reschedule my weekend with my boyfriend, but I do have an afternoon next week that I could devote to helping with ___.” or “I can’t do a whole Napa weekend at this point, but I would love to come up for the day.”

    • Claire

      Thanks ladies! Glad to know I’m not out of line in pushing back on requests. Your points are all very helpful, especially in terms of focusing on what I can do versus what I cant – hopefully that will help avoid the dreaded bossy bridesmaid problem.

  • We had our brother and sister as our maid of honor and best man. The only non-family we invited to our wedding were the friends who would have been our bridal party so I just called my group of 6 ladies “Team Rachelle” and promised them it would be all the fun parts of being a bridesmaid without all the crappy stuff :)

    They planned a bachelorette party for me but I just told them “karaoke and Rocky Horror” and let them decide all the details so that the cost would match what they wanted to pay. Everyone had a blast and told me they really appreciated how it went. Only 2 of them attended my shower which was totally fine with me. The day of the wedding, I told them to show up early, wear blue and have fun. That was it. It made me so happy that I think they were able to really enjoy the experience without so much pressure.

    The thing is though, you have to really be okay with that experience if you go for it. Don’t try to be the super laid back bride if it really IS important to you that everyone show up at a certain time and wear the same dress. Be realistic with yourself about how you see your day and how you want both yourself and your friends to feel on the day and aim for that.

  • Jenna

    On the first post, I agree that you shouldn’t have someone in your wedding just because you feel obligated to do so. I was a friend’s maid of honor last year in her wedding, but I ultimately did not ask her to be in my wedding. Initially I did feel somewhat obligated, but ultimately I decided not to, because I felt that she would probably be more of a “detractor” than I need with me that day. She’s a high-stress person, and I want only positive energy around me for my wedding! Of course, she’s still a good friend and will be invited!

    About the second post, I had to think about this while I was choosing my bridal party. An old friend of mine is currently in her first year of residency after med school, so her schedule is a bit crazy. I wanted her to be in the wedding, but I knew that schedule constraints might mean that she could ONLY be there for the wedding. However, that was what was most important to me, so I asked her and made sure she knew that I was ok if my wedding day was the only thing she could do. Although I would love for her to be able to attend other events (rehearsal dinner, shower, etc.), I had to fully recognize up front that might not happen. So, I agree with Liz – standing up next to you is the most important part of their job, and if they can do more, then that’s even better!!

  • carrie

    I’m feeling very…something over the second letter’s situation. I think it’s awful that someone is saying they’re not going to turn up at a shower, bachelorette, etc. in *that* particular way. Because if you can’t, you can’t but to announce it so early? It just seems hurtful, even if it’s not on purpose. I think most if not all of us here on APW are in it for the friendships, not the gifts. So, I hope the writer can talk to her friend because at the end of the day, they’re friends and in a special way otherwise she wouldn’t have been picked to stand up there with you. Liz’s advice, as usual, is right on in that bridesmaids aren’t obligated to do a whole lot, but this is about more than fulfilling traditional “duties.” I hope you talk to her, and best of luck.

    On a related note, my bridal party was one of my biggest stresses from my wedding. I picked four girls who are very special to me, and they proceeded to fight and include me in it. Because of perceived slights and some bad behavior two girls proceeded to sit in a corner and not speak during my bachelorette party. I rethought those friendships because all I could think of was that they really must not like me or I’ve done something awful to them. I couldn’t talk to them about it because I was too overwhelmed with all my other wedding feelings and I just wanted to get to said wedding. I didn’t have a great experience, which makes me feel like I must not be a great friend, but weddings bring out the best and worst. I’m risk averse, so my advice to baby brides is to REALLY think about it.

  • Rachel T.

    I was in one my best friend’s weddings while I was in college, and I was a bit clueless about what I was supposed to do (hell, I didn’t even know you shouldn’t wear white to the wedding). So when it came to the bridal shower, I couldn’t go because I was in school 3 hours away during finals week. I explained that I wouldn’t make it, and she was fine with it. Now that I’m getting married, I realize how much I want my girls at everything, not because I expect it or want them to pay for things, but because I’m an only child with wacky parents, so I really depend on their emotional support for events like this where my parents just don’t “get it” and inevitably will do something hurtful. I feel badly in retrospect that I didn’t help my friend more, but she has never said a word about it and was fine with it (I guess). Additionally, being in college, I was broke as well, so I too couldn’t pay for much. We did hair and make ourselves to save money, but I was still there for her on the day of.

    For me and our wedding, the bridal brigade is a position of emotional support, so I chose my four oldest friends and two very close friends from college. Even with my own bridesmaids, I feel very uncomfortable with them paying much of anything for things about me. I gave each of them a color and told them to buy whatever dress they liked and felt comfortable in. For the bachelorette, my MOH is financially secure and wants to go to Vegas, but 1) it’s not my style and 2) I have one pregnant bridesmaid and one on welfare with a baby, so that can’t happen. I would rather just spend time with my girls, not in any particular sort of event way because it is a lot of money, and I am just looking for their support and love, not their check book. So perhaps you can work it with your bridesmaids that the one is there to spend time with you but doesn’t pay as much; think of it like a sliding scale?

    • Michelle

      Ditto being formerly clueless about weddings/wedding etiquette. In the last wedding I was in, the bride and groom wanted a combined bachelor/bachelorette party, but were kind of iffy on what exactly to do. After a month or so of emails back and forth with the bridal party, they still had not decided on a plan. Then, a few weeks later, I got an email from a groomsman saying the bachelor/bachelorette party was going to be in three days (at 9 PM on a Wednesday night), at a bar.

      I wanted to go – and if I had more knowledge of the plan in advance, I would have made it happen – but I couldn’t take a day off from work. I felt bad, but didn’t think it was a huge deal, since the event was so last-minute and casual. Now reading these posts, I wonder if this hurt my friend’s feelings…

      • One More Sara

        If you are really worried about it, talk to your friend!!! From the outside looking in, it seems as though it was a really casual party to celebrate the couple, and while your friend would’ve loved to have you there, I’m sure she would understand that not everyone can take off work at the drop of a hat. But really! If it’s bothering you, talk to her about it!

  • Amanda

    I chose my sister as my MOH and my best friend as my bridesmaid. I told them both to wear a black dress that they felt fabulous wearing. That’s all that I asked of them. My sister recently mentioned that she would like to throw me a shower. Since my fiance and I are asking for charitable donations instead of wedding gifts, I told her that no, I do not want a shower, but I agreed to have lunch somewhere.

    • carrie

      I tried to tell my girls to get a dress in certain color like blue, any shade, and they were all, “but..but…we can’t!” I love the “mismatched” dresses. LOVE THEM!

      • I tried the “just pick whatever you want that’s floor-length and in a shade of grey” and it backfired on me. Make sure you really, really trust that your vision lines up with your bridesmaids’ sense of style. I thought my BFF would pick something completely opposite of what she ended up picking, which then put me in the awkward position of either letting her wear the dress she picked out which I hated (and was really unflattering on her, in my opinion), or telling her to return it and pick out a new dress for her. In the end, I went with option #2 and just told her that I’d changed my mind about mismatched dresses.

      • ElisabethJoanne

        My bridesmaids are my 2 sisters. I wanted the 2 of them to pick 1 dress for them both to wear. Mom said it’d never work. They’d never agree, never decide. Mom found matching dresses in their sizes and the right color for $30. One sister thinks it’s not “bridesmaid-y” enough. Maybe Mom’s still looking. I’m staying out of it.

  • So, I’m crying.

    I have two bridesmaids, my best friend and my sister. And they are both WONDERFUL people who express their love in very different ways. All I want is to keep things incredibly low-key and as inexpensive as possible. I’m in Minnesota (where the wedding will be) and they are in Massachusetts, so there is some travel/hotel costs involved. I tried giving them a color and telling them to pick whichever dress they wanted: no dice. They can’t do it and insist I pick something out. (I honestly could not care less what they wear, so I am having trouble doing this). The bachelorette party planning has been a nightmare. Mostly because I think my sister wants to show her love in some grandiose way that no one can really afford. I am pretty much just cool with karaoke. I am uncomfortable being the center of attention, and being an unintentional source of friction between my sister and my best friend. I keep trying to pull in the reins–honestly, I just want them to be there with me on my wedding day, to make me laugh and distract me when I’m nevous and hand me lots and lots of tissues and crumple my dress with hugs. I don’t give a shit about anything else. But every time I try to communicate that, the message somehow gets lost. I feel like a shitty bride-to-be. And worst of all, I feel like by trying to keep things stress-free, I am just stressing the HELL out of everyone. It’s all further complicated by the fact that all discussions are long-distance, conducted over email or phone, and that I am left out of a lot of the conversations between them.

    • Picking a bridesmaid dress was one of the most stressful things for me too, I think for the same reason, that I was trying too hard to be low key and easy going. I kept looking at dresses and thinking “well I like that dress, but this isn’t about me, how do I know if my girls will like it.” Eventually I sent a email with links to six different dresses to two of the bridesmaids, my mom and my fiance, and they all ended up picking the one I was too nervous to pick on my own.
      Also, another of my favorite tricks is to send them a selection of four dresses you like, don’t ask them to pick one, instead ask them each to eliminate one. They will feel less stressed than if you ask them to pick the dress, and you’ll know, that whichever of the remaining ones you end up picking, it won’t be the one they hated.
      (I use this for everything BTW. Deciding where to go out to eat, deciding what movie to go to…)

    • Erin

      A lot of dress designers also have a similar ‘style’ and the same fabric color. I sent my bridesmaids a bunch of dresses by Mori Lee (we ended up ordering online because they were far more afforable that way), and though they ended up in the same dress, there would have been lots of options in similar styles and out of the same fabric.

      If you can narrow down things like ‘tea length’ or ‘knee length’ or ‘floor length’ and then like ‘satin’ or ‘chiffon’ or whatever, and then toss them a link, they may end up really getting into it!

      • HH

        I’m about to try this with my ladies- they’re all in different states and a plane ride from me, so I’m going to tell them “medium gray, floor length, chiffon-like weight” and then give them the exact shades that I prefer from three different stores/designers. Then they have three places to go to compare colors (I plan to say “I prefer shadow to charcoal in Bari Jay dresses” and “love the j crew graphite”- here’s hoping that it’s helpful).

        I think the swatches detail is important- it’s so stressful being told “I trust your judgment- find whatever you like!” because I second-guessed myself a ton when that happened.

    • Janet

      As someone who is/has just gone thru this similar dress situation as a bridesmaid I hope I can give you some perspective on why its so difficult to just pick out a dress without the brides input. My friend is getting married in 2 wks and has been engaged since Jan. 2011 and she has seriously been one of the most laid back brides I’ve ever dealt with. It’s been great not dealing with a bridezilla, but at the same time super frustrating for the wedding party because she hasn’t really communicated any expectations for us.

      When asked about dresses for the maids “long and blue” was the answer. Our response was what color of blue as there are a multiple shades of blue out there. Did she want us in casual, dressy, or full on formal gowns as the wedding is at 6pm? Were patterns okay or no? Etc, etc, etc. All with basically no specific answers from her on what she wanted until a month an half ago, when she decided she wanted navy or cobalt blue, slightly formal dresses for us. We have been left to scramble around to find dresses to meet these requirements. With all 5 of us maids being a variety of sizes and all over the country, plus financial constraints for some AND the actual availabity of said dress in the needed sizes in time for the wedding it has been a nightmare.

      I love my friend dearly and I’m looking forward to her wedding in two wks, but this would have been much more enjoyable for all of us had she given us some guidelines from the beginning. Additionally, she hasn’t really included us in any of the planning process or asked us to help with anything so we don’t really know what to expect other then to follow the schedule of the day before and of the wedding the MOH sent us a few weeks back.

      My best advice would be to give them specifics about what you would like them to wear and like Jessa Marie said give them some dresses you would like to see them in to give them a starting point. Hopefully, that will help them feel less anxious about picking out a dress and allow you to feel like they are picking out something they actually like.

      • This does make sense and it does help to hear this explained in a clear, calm way.

        To elaborate slightly, I did give them a store, length, and color (like, the specific store’s name for that exact shade, not just a generic “blue”) to choose their dress from (basically, they get free reign on what style they want; they are both very different body types and I wanted them to be comfortable in what they were wearing), so I didn’t feel quite like I was sending them off into the world without any guidance.

        But regardless of the specifics, I think you really cut to the heart of what my problem is. I am concentrating on being undemanding, and they are viewing me as being indecisive. And truthfully, it really is my job to step up, regardless of how far outside my comfort zone that is. Thanks for helping me come to that realization.

        • EM

          Kelly – ugh. I’m so sorry about this. I definitely can’t tell you how to handle these communication woes, and I think others have posted a lot of great suggestions — it sounds like some of them have been helpful. However — an an observation.

          I always love reading your comments here on APW because you take things really seriously and hold yourself to a high standard. But it seems to me that you may have a hard time being kind to yourself (hello, beating yourself up about not making the bed every morning!)

          This stuff is really really hard. In your case, maybe being more decisive about things is the way to go, strategically. But you are not allowed to beat yourself up about how any of this is going down, okay? You’re doing your best, and you’re being a kickass bride-to-be by any standard. When the dust all settles, these ladies love you and they want to be there for you.

          Basically: TL;DR: this is hard stuff, but you’re totally awesome.

          • The kindness of the people who read this site never ceases to astonish me.

            Thank you.

            And yup; without going into the first 29 years of my life I’d say that you hit the nail on the head. But it’s something I’m actively learning to work on and I have SUCH a better relationship with myself now than I did years ago. Thanks for the reminder. :)

        • Wow, this gives me something to think about:
          “I am concentrating on being undemanding, and they are viewing me as being indecisive.”

          I think I do this a lot in life (trying to be undemanding and flexible), and maybe I should do it less because maybe it just seems like I won’t make a decision… (Which is probably sometimes true too.)

          • ES.TR

            Actually this explains a lot about my strained relationship with hairdressers!!

    • Hypothetical Sarah

      Kelly, how about planning your own low-key karaoke bachelorette party? Or mapping out the outlines of what you want (and what people can afford) and then putting on your Demanding Bride hat and saying “Here. This is what I want. Make this happen.”? Maybe that’s the easiest, lowest stress solution.

      • ElisabethJoanne usually has awful wedding advice, but it has one thing that has been true throughout wedding planning. One of its “Reasons Wedding-planning Will Be Harder than you Think” is “Saying ‘Do what you like’ doesn’t really give you less work” [or something like that]. On clothes, it’s been really, really hard to find a happy medium between “find this ideal vision of dresses” and “I don’t care; work it out yourselves.” It’s that whole to-care-at-all-is-to-care-too-much but not-to-care-enough-is-ungrateful-and-unjoyful problem so many of us encounter.

        One thing I think we have to remember is that the people asking for this information are usually those absolutely closest to us. I don’t follow Miss Manners to a T with my family in everyday life. I ask for favors I can’t return. I send abrupt messages. And they do their versions of the same faux pas. Why, just because I’m getting married, should the relationships become more formal? No. I’ve been planning my own birthday parties since I was 6. I will plan my own “bachelorette party” (camping with my immediate family, including my father). It’d be different if these were friends where the relationship were a bit more formal, or if there was a risk I was actually imposing on someone. But it’s EASIER on these people to just say exactly what I want.

        • “On clothes, it’s been really, really hard to find a happy medium between “find this ideal vision of dresses” and “I don’t care; work it out yourselves.” It’s that whole to-care-at-all-is-to-care-too-much but not-to-care-enough-is-ungrateful-and-unjoyful problem so many of us encounter.”

          GET OUT OF MY HEAD! This is my life re: bridesmaid dresses.

  • To BTAONA: Is your only “beef” with her in regards to wedding talk? If so, try to eliminate that aspect and see where you stand. (ie do you think your relationship will be great once the wedding is over and wedding talk is no longer the primary topic of conversation?) If so, then it might be worth considering, as Liz wisely suggested, talking through the support issue but involving her to honor your past and future friendship (despite the present friendship being treacherous).

    If you find yourself unable to be around her for more than a few hours for OTHER reasons beyond unsolicited wedding advice, that’s another story and then you are evaluating the friendship, and that is totally your call, as it would impact your decision differently if you think you don’t want to be close to her in the future.

  • Moz

    I mostly agree with Liz about bride dilemma number 2. No money, totally understand and you need to take as it comes. But that whole bit about having to leave because her husband starts work early the next day? Unless the wedding is being held in the middle of freaking nowhere and he’s driving, I would be a bit miffed at my bridesmaid leaving early too.

  • Erin

    I did pick my bridesmaids partly through obligation – my husband’s sister, and my sister-in-law, whose company I enjoy well enough but who I am not close to. I was a bridesmaid in her wedding.

    I don’t know that either of these girls would have thrown a hissy fit if I hadn’t asked them, but I think certain family members would have been upset. To me, it was worth keeping the peace and keeping everything simple.

    There were moments in my whirlwind engagement (we had 3 months from proposal to wedding day) when I found myself hurt by things. My sister in law did not travel the 2.5 hours for my shower (as I had done for hers) or my bachelorette party, let alone help plan either one. My husband’s sister lives across the country, so she of course didn’t partake either.

    But in the end, I found myself blessed to have people who /did/ want to throw me a shower, and a party, even if they weren’t the people I asked to stand up with me. In fact, one of the most supportive and helpful girls was someone I’d only started becoming friends with in the last year. There are times I wish I’d asked her to be a bridemaid, but in retrospect much of what drew us closer was working on the wedding together, and she was gracious and wonderful about it at every turn.

    And though I still wish certain people would have shown more interest, I try to remind myself of the things going on in her life – they have a young child and many obligations – and focus on the fact that in the end, they came to the wedding to support me and now I’m married.

    In the end, you just don’t know what’s going on in other people’s lives – but don’t forget that wedding party isn’t the only way for someone to be supportive of you, and that if your party falls short, there may be other people in your life who turn out to be really awesome.

  • Kaiti

    There were some really good points about the Bridal Brigade in this post that I loved reading about; it’s all about love and emotional support and joy! Well, that’s what I got anyways. That’s what I took from it when I read the book too.

    I chose my sister, my brothers fiance, my two sisters in law (to be) and two of my best friends, as well as my college roommate who I’ve been great friends with for years, but he felt more comfortable being on my (future) hubs side than with all the girlies. (He’s equally my friend as my fiances, so it was always an option anyways)

    When choosing them I told them that I was choosing them because of the support and encouragement they had given me over the course of our friendships and the absolute joy they had for our engagement and upcoming wedding. They’re the girls that are loving, joyful and FUN to be around…the exact feeling we wanted for our wedding. They’re the ones who if I was having a freak out would give me a glass of wine, make me drink it, and then help me work it out. They may not fully understand the Practical Wedding thing to it’s fullest, but they have been undeniably supportive of what everything.

    I never expected any parties; my fiance and I were living in two opposite corners of the country when we got engaged and a week ago, moved to Texas together, but away from every single person that’s in our wedding, in our family, and nearly all our friends. I was honestly shocked when my sister had plans for a wedding shower. I told her she didn’t have to, of course! But she wanted to, she’s excited to and the rest of the girls want to do it too.

    We’re getting married in just under five months (YAY!) and on a daily basis, I feel reassured that I chose the right people and didn’t choose a few others that I felt like maybe I should ask. I stuck with APW suggestions and stuck to my gut in choosing people who were positive and supportive, genuinely good friends, who I would want standing next to us to celebrate our entrance into our marriage.

  • Janet

    The beau and I have already decided that when we walk down the aisle we only want one attendent for each of us. My sister will be my matron-of-honor (unless she is hugely pregnant and I wouldn’t want her to be stressed/pressured to do anything she isn’t up to doing at that point in a pregnancy) and my beau’s best friend will be his best-man. We have other half sibilings and best friends/super close friends but there are some family fights, big age differences, and friends from completely different walks in our pasts lives that we don’t see getting along very well should they be forced to deal with each other in a wedding party situation.

    That said, I hope to create a come get ready party with me and my other girlfriends who won’t be standing up with me the day of, so they don’t feel left out and some pre-wedding partying can go down.

  • Ariel

    I had a situation similar to BTAONA- I had a huge and dramatic parting of ways with the friend whom I always assumed would be my maid of honor, just about a month after I got engaged. For a while I wallowed in sadness about it, and decided that if she couldn’t be there for me than I wouldn’t have anybody there at all.
    Well, fortunately we had a long engagement, because my partner talked me in to having a bridal party in the end (he had some friends he really wanted to honor). I ended up going with people who weren’t exactly my closest friends ever, but who had always been supportive of my relationship with my partner, and who I genuinely enjoyed hanging out with-because the last thing that I wanted was to be tolerating somebody who irked me on my wedding day.
    I’m so happy with the way things turned out! A couple of my friends were both surprised and thrilled to be asked, and we’ve gotten closer through the whole experience. I feel like we’re going to leave this situation being even better friends than we were, and I’ve learned a lot about the importance of choosing to be around positive people who make me feel good about myself, rather than putting up with people because I feel obligated to.

  • In Colombia and Costa Rica (the two cultures I’m familiar with) there is no bridal party. You do have a godfather and a godmother if you are getting married in a church, and I guess they would be the equivalent to the best man and maid of honor. But I could see how movies and TV might influence that in the future, as we see wedding pictures with all the best friends dressed the same around the bride, so that may start to be “a thing”.

    That doesn’t mean that certain guests (or all) are not required to dress a specific matching way: a couple of months ago I saw an afternoon destination wedding in a town (150 guests, I guess?) where all the guests were dressed in white, as was the bride.

  • Annon

    I asked two of my 9 (!!!!!) bridesmaids out of obligation. One was amazing, and went above and beyond with emotional support, and I am so glad that it gave us a chance to reconnect and have a common experience. The other bought the dress, but barely made an effort to talk to me during my engagement, let alone come to any of the pre-wedding events, and then left early from the wedding without even saying goodbye (not to hurt me, but maybe because of social awkwardness and not realizing she should have at least said goodbye). So, I generally agree with Liz’s advice, but you never know.

    Second, even though I had 9 bridesmaids, only two of them actually made it to my bachelorette party. At first I was disappointed (but understanding), and in the end I realized that it just gave me more time to hang out with other good girl friends that I wouldn’t necessarily see as much the weekend of the wedding since they were not in the bridal party, going to the rehearsal dinner, etc.

  • Erica

    I might end up the black sheep here, but I am going to (constructively!) criticize Liz’s answer to the second post.

    As a former bridesmaid and a current bride-to-be, I feel like I take the honor associated with being asked to be a bridesmaid very seriously. After all, the whole reason for a wedding celebration (WIC, Practical, or otherwise) is to bring your family and friends around you while you pledge your love and devotion to the person you are marrying – they are the witnesses to your vows. Whether or not your wedding is 8 people or 400, everyone there is accepting the responsibility of bearing witness to your vows – and who is standing the closest to you while you exchange those vows? The officiant performing the ceremony, and the bridal party (if you have one). Therefore, if you do ask to have them, those bridesmaids and groomsmen are there to literally stand up for you and the beginning of your marriage.

    I feel for the bride writing the second post because it sounds like this particular bridesmaid just doesn’t see the honor in her role. It’s especially hurtful when the bride writing was this woman’s MOH during her wedding – what ever happened to the Golden Rule?

    And of course, all of the extra parties and showers and events are totally optional, but if one of my bridesmaids was acting like this woman (misleading her on budget, insulting her “undefinitized” plans to get hair/makeup done as an expensive salon, flaking on the bridal shower/rehearsal dinner/bachelorette/etc.), I would definitely question the friendship. Ask yourself, would you be there for her to shower her with gifts (handmade/handwritten card to KitchenAid) and give it the old barn raising? Would you take her out for one last night on the town as a single woman? If you couldn’t make it to either of those events because of a tight budget, would you still show her your love and care in some alternative way? Yes? Then you should expect the same from your friend. And you should certainly expect the same from your bridesmaid, because after all, this is a person who you want there standing up for you on one of the most thrilling days of your life. If she can’t be a supportive friend on the happy days, what kind of friend is she when times get rough?

    • Liz

      Agreed. Mostly. Some people just don’t see this stuff as important. Maybe she’s a good call-in-the-middle-of-the-night-friend and a terrible wedding friend. I have a few of those. Like so many other things, we sometimes let weddings become some friendship barometer. The friends who were flaky or distant about my own wedding are still terrific ladies who love me. They’re just it super wedding friends. That’s okay, because I asked them to be my bridesmaids to honor them and the relationship we DO have- with or without wedding event participation.

    • Lisa

      I kind of have to agree with you. While I’m not quite sure what “the bridal experience she wanted” entailed, that statement makes me think that this person may not be the terrible wedding friend. Perhaps she is the person who couldn’t say no to being a bridesmaid since the bride-to-be was in her wedding. The way I see it, she has given the bride an out by offering to not be a part of the wedding party. As sad as accepting that offer might be, maybe that is what needs to be done. The two of them need to have a talk (prepare for it to be painful) and figure out if the bridesmaid bowing out is the best option or if you can meet somewhere in the middle. It may hurt now, but better to work towards repairing the relationship than letting things spiral as the wedding gets closer. Believe me, you can adjust/lower expectations but that doesn’t mean you won’t be hurt in the end by their behavior if you don’t address the issues.

    • Victwa

      I’m going to have to respond to this one. I agree that it’s weird to not stay for the whole wedding, but I was in two different wedding parties in the last year and a half, with totally different experiences. I should preface this by saying that I am not, nor have I ever been, the kind of person who cares about things like dress colors, etc. I am, however, a person who thinks a lot about relationships and human beings and with this particular friend, I had spent a TON of time in the preceding years supporting her through a first excruciating marriage/divorce/tough relationship. I loved (still do) her 2nd fiancé, was extremely happy for both of them, and had been there for lots of support throughout that relationship as well. When this friend decided to get married, it wasn’t clear to me what she expected–she’s always been super low-key and not into making a big deal of things. Ha ha. And ha ha ha again. I didn’t ask her about dress colors or bachelorette parties or wedding showers early on, because, frankly, it seemed really far away and also because I really didn’t think about it. (See preceding details about me and things that I think/talk about.) Then she started talking about doing a whitewater rafting trip for the bachelorette party that I would need to fly to (which sounds fun, but expensive), and then changed her mind on the dress she wanted us to wear (turned into one that I would not wear again, but was, of course, expected to pay for), and then I was going to have to fly to the wedding as well. Add to that an EXTREMELY stressful financial year in which I found out how much I was losing on my house, and how that was going to be a giant impact on my finances. I was really, really stressed and at one point, ended up sobbing on the phone with her, trying to explain how all this stuff was happening and the cost of the wedding was stressing me out, and her response? “Well, what do you expect me to do about it?” Um, maybe try to be a little supportive? If even a “wow– sorry about all that!” I felt like what I had offered as friendship for YEARS was totally ignored because I was saying that I was stressed about the financial cost of being in her wedding. I was totally down for being there emotionally, and I could not be happier about the partner she has found. I think he’s a marvelous human being who sees and cherishes her for who she is. Not asking about details of the wedding that I would never have asked about did not, in my view, lessen my excitement for her MARRIAGE. I get that maybe her emotional needs had shifted, and she wanted me to be more excited about weddingy stuff. I mean, I understand, but I don’t think there’s any way I would have known this beforehand, when she had never acted like that before. I thought she wanted me to be in her wedding based on the person I had always been with her, not some version of a “good bridesmaid” that I’m just not.

      Fast-forward to the next year, when another close friend asked me to be her MOH. I explained that I would be totally honored, but that I was not a weddingy person, and that I would not be good at all the “stuff” that I apparently did wrong the last time. She laughed and said she didn’t want me to be that kind of person– she wanted me to be the friend I had always been. She picked out the dresses (and paid for them). She didn’t want a shower, so we coordinated a ladies-only potluck dinner with lots of wine and an awesome ritual/sharing where each person brought something small that represented something they thought would was important to have in a marriage (ex: someone brought little notecards for communication). She loved it. I felt like I was being the person I have always been, who doesn’t care so much about certain details but cares a lot about human beings. On her wedding day, I was there when a family crisis came up, witnessed her being one of the most courageous human beings I have ever seen, and then spent a beautiful rest of the day celebrating with her and her new husband.

      I guess what I’m trying to say is that I think it’s important, when picking people in your wedding party, to remember who that person is, and expect of them that which they would normally do/be. One of my other friends was listening to me talk about the 1st situation and she started laughing and said, “But you’ve NEVER cared about stuff like that!” And it’s true. And I can say that very few things have felt worse in my life than feeling like I was letting down a friend by not being someone for her that I was expected to be but who I had never really been.

      • Erica

        That is a terrible experience! How sad that she was not understanding when you were literally crying on the phone to her! Some people just don’t get it. This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about when I said the Golden Rule reference – you were trying your best to be a good friend and she did not return the grace. That’s really a shame.

        There are people in this world who like the pomp and circumstance and there are people who like an alternative, low key approach and everything in between. And that’s the best thing about weddings right! Everyone gets to do it their way just once! (Or heck, more than once, depending.) And yes, not everyone is cut to be molded into the ideal kind of bridesmaid for every kind of bride. That’s fine because that shouldn’t happen. But neither the bride, nor the bridesmaid should change how they treat each other as friends during the process. Your first bride apparently did (I’m assuming she didn’t treat you this way before this incident, otherwise you probably wouldn’t be friends – it can’t always be you supporting her right?), and your second bride and you were more on the same wavelength/temperament when it came to weddings so that worked out great for the both of you. Overall, you are right, you can’t expect people to change because you asked them to be a part of your big event. But, you probably don’t want to be friends with people who don’t care about you during times of stress either. A wedding shouldn’t make the difference, but sometimes it highlights them.

        • Victwa

          Thanks. This also strikes me as a situation that is somewhat rife with sexism. I don’t see men having so many anguished discussions over what the best man is supposed to do, or expecting that because he’s the best man, he will care about the various wedding decisions to be made, or be expected to be interested in having long conversations about them.

          • Liz

            I’m not sure if that’s an indication of sexism as much as it’s an indication of a certain cultural narrative surrounding the way men and women have friendships. Women are expected to have close emotional ties, talk about everything, laugh and cry together. Men are expected to limit their conversations to, “Pass me a beer, bro.”

            Because of that underlying cultural narrative, I think women sometimes approach a wedding with higher expectations of their girl friends than guys have with their male friends. We expect to fit the storyline as written by Wedding Fairytale, Inc. And then are disappointed when we don’t.

          • Victwa

            Well, I can’t respond to your comment, Liz, so I’ll respond to mine, responding to yours. If you interpret sexism as solely in the context power relationships, perhaps not–I did not lose a job over this situation, or have less opportunity in my life because of this. However, if you interpret sexism as including gender stereotyping, then yes, I think this is an instance of sexist expectations. If you don’t follow the hetereonormative cultural narrative (“Care about these wedding details and react in this way by doing x, y, and z”) , there’s a fair amount of possible backlash for your behavior if it varies from the gendered narrative. I guess I’m also not sure what you mean by separating out the cultural narrative from sexism. Cultural narratives can (and do, often) reinforce sexism.

        • Jo

          But neither the bride, nor the bridesmaid should change how they treat each other as friends during the process.

          This. This is it.

      • rys

        “She didn’t want a shower, so we coordinated a ladies-only potluck dinner with lots of wine and an awesome ritual/sharing where each person brought something small that represented something they thought would was important to have in a marriage (ex: someone brought little notecards for communication).”

        Just wanted to pipe in to say that to me that sounds like the best event ever! Casual, meaningful, and fun. I bet there are great memories of the stories told that night.

    • I agree with this, totally. The leaving early part, in particular, struck me, because that’s pretty high on the list of lame excuses to leave early when you’ve agreed to be IN the wedding, particularly since the wedding is a full year out and leaves plenty of time for appropriate planning. It’s possible, in regards to finances, that her circumstances changed suddenly and she’s not ready to talk about that yet.

      It sounds to me it’s not that the bride in the second letter is making unreasonable demands or unwilling to work with her bridesmaids who have financial concerns or constraints. It’s the pile-on that has her feeling overwhelmed. I agree with Liz in that you DO need to talk to her about this. She may be looking for a way to get out of being in this wedding but doesn’t have the courage to say that her heart isn’t in this. You need to give her the space to be honest with you.

      Also, I want to point something out that I haven’t seen mentioned on this thread. A lot of talk on this blog mentions that while it is yours (and your partner’s) “day”, it also belongs to other people in your life who want to love and honor you. YOU (as the bride) may not expect (or even want!!!) a bridal shower, but Mom and Grandma and Auntie sure as hell do. And, usually, they expect the bridesmaids to throw it. If you’re lucky, that’s where the expectation ends.

      I said from the get-go to my bridesmaids that I wasn’t interested in a shower. When I told my (then future) mother-in-law, I thought she was going to crumble with disappointment. She then announced that she and her sisters were going to start planning something because “her sisters” would be disappointed otherwise. (Ha.) Upon telling my mother this, SHE and HER friends insisted on throwing me one in my hometown as well. So, I went from having NO showers to having two showers on opposite sides of the state.

      I was clear with both parties, from the get-go, that it was to be SIMPLE, that I was to KNOW WHEN AND WHERE THEY WOULD BE, and that expenses or expectations should not be lobbed onto my bridesmaids because I had already told them I wasn’t really interested in having a shower, let alone two.

      However, in one wedding I was in, the bride’s father not only expected a shower and expected the bridesmaids to plan it and pay for it, he also insisted on it being held at a particular restaurant. Not wanting to tell the father of the bride that he was out of line, the MOH asked for a “reasonable” (relative, I know, but for those of us involved, it was) amount of money from the rest of us and covered the rest herself without complaint. (That I know of.)

      Another wedding has a whole clusterfluffle of nonsense surrounding the shower and the two families, and what’s worse is they’re both trying to plan “surprise” showers, so the bride couldn’t even intervene on anyone’s behalf if she even wanted to, because she doesn’t *know* about the showers. (I, personally, don’t want to drag her into the drama.) I won’t get into the specifics of this particular mess for obvious reasons, but trust me when I tell you it’s messy.

      I’ve been a bridesmaid in four weddings, and in three of them the brides haven’t been the ones who have lobbed unrealistic expectations for the showers (or other events), their families have. In each case the bride was not in a good position (for one reason or another) to make a case for the bridesmaids. I don’t blame any of them for this. As a loved one of these girls, I grinned and beared it (or, at least, beared what I could bear and made what I thought were the best decisions for my friends) and moved on.

  • KateM

    This post strikes home on so many levels for me. I have been a bridesmaid 7 times, between that and choosing my own bridesmaids it is a road that is fraught with stress, in fact I found this to be the most stressful part of the wedding.
    As a bridesmaid, especially to a bride in a long engagement, it can start to feel that this process is going on FOREVER. You talk the wedding to death, you go over ever choice, you talk about stupid details that no one but the bride cares about. You spend money on your dress, the hair, the shoes, the hotels, the showers, the bachlorette party and sometimes you don’t have the money or the time to do it. Sometimes, the bridesmaid is the middle of a break up, or waiting for her BF to propose, or worse, struggling with being single and lonely. And you feel like the bride isn’t able to be there for you. She is caught up in a huge life change and she doesn’t see what her friends are going through and isn’t being present. And her fiance is always there.
    As a bride, it is hard to choose who to stand up with you. I am lucky in that I had a plethora of women to choose from, but how do you decide? Sisters, cousins, college friends, newer but very close friends. Ultimately, it was my sister as MOH (which I always knew) my sister in law, my brother and my best male friend. They are very important to me, and I didn’t have to feel like I was basically rank my girlfriends, and they are my bridal brigade in addition to having a wedding party. I have found that my single girlfriends have pulled away some, they don’t invite me to as much and that has really hurt. A couple haven’t really gotten excited for me, or said much about my wedding, or ever ask me about it, so I don’t talk about it. It is a hard line to walk between talking wedding too much and not enough (I have been told that I am not excited enough and that I don’t ask for enough help etc) but having been on the bridesmaid side, I didn’t want to make it all about me, especially when I have someone I can always go home to and will always listen to my hopes and fears and I am having to learn to rely on him rather than just my friends. I freak out about HUGE marriage is and commitmentphobic me is really struggling with that. It is not something I confide in my single friends, because it sounds like bragging sometimes.
    I guess my main point is that marriages are about redefining relationships, with your partner, parents, single friends and married friends. I am changing and like many of us, my lifestyle is changing too. I have a partner who I spend a lot of time with and he is now involved completely in my life and I don’t have the same level of autonomy as I did before. I have to make an effort to connect with my girlfriends without him and make sure that I am present in their lives, that they can still call me about guys or anything else they want to talk about, I getting married, I didn’t die. And I think it is important to talk about the things I struggle with in my relationship with my single girl friends. NONE of my married friends talked about cold feet, missing single life, or how being with him is truly home and the sense of peace I have in my soul when I am with him. I wish they had.
    We have an obligation to our friends. Aristotle defines friendship as wanting the good for the other person. So sometimes we go out for margaretias to celebrate, sometimes we share a bottle of wine and a good cry. And sometimes we put on our big girl pants and talk about the hard stuff, like I am hurt because you don’t seem to be able to be there for me.

    • Erica

      I think you hit two things dead on:

      “Marriages are about redefining relationships.”


      “Aristotle defines friendship as wanting the good for the other person.”

      It’s really hard to talk about your relationship to people who aren’t in relationships – but it’s certainly not bragging! If you are suffering, your true friends will be there for you. If they are suffering because they are lonely, then yeah, dial back the mushy wedding stuff a tad, but not all together! Relationships are about balance – the happy and the sad moments all come in stride.

  • Lauren

    I’ve been maid of honor in two weddings and by the end of this year I will have been in three others. Five in all.

    I’m getting married next month. We invited 24 people. Fiance and I each invited one friend and their spouses and the rest is family. The friend I invited is my matron of honor and his friend is his best man.

    The only thing I asked of my matron of honor was to try to attend the wedding (she’s in the Army and lives in a different state, so you never know) and to stand up with me. I told her she could wear anything she chooses. I told her it’d be fun if she could spend the wedding day with me getting ready, but even that I wasn’t going to push since she’ll be in town with her husband and I kind of hate asking people to lose a whole day of the trip (her husband has never been here and if she’s with me all day, she’s not with him.) She said she’d like to spend that day with me.

    That’s it. I told her I’m getting my hair blown out and if she’d like to come and/or have hers done too I’d pay for that. A friend will do our makeup.

    I feel good about my decisions.

  • PA

    I’m having a difficult time guessing, from the language of the first question, whether the friend is being critical and angry, or just spewing information. Because here’s my advice if criticism, anger, and “tearing down,” are themes that SHE (the friend) brings up on her own:

    If you’re trying to tiptoe through a minefield, don’t bother.

    You don’t want to spend your pre-wedding weeks, days, hours, and minutes being criticized or attacked for your choices – you want to be able to say things, choose things, without examining each word that comes out of your mouth to see if it will trigger something. (In my mind, this is far different from being considerate to your wedding party and guests.) If you know, deep down, that you won’t be able to get through the wedding without doing something “wrong” and offending her, then you aren’t any better off than if she would be offended by not being in the wedding at all. (Arguably worse off, in fact, since you COULD have someone very supportive at your side instead.)

    If you’ve got time, though, you actually could try tackling this head-on (if you haven’t already done so). Sit down with her and explain that you think the two of you may be on very different pages with wedding planning. Explain that you’ve really relied on her friendship and support in the past, and as you’re planning this very stressful event, you’re hoping that she can be there for you. Ask her how things are going for her. It’s possible that there’s some unknown issue that’s pulling her issue and energy to a bad place.

    Basically, my point is: if you want to fix the relationship, tackle that right now and hold off on making wedding party selections (yes, even a little bit longer). If you’ve tried and see no way you can get through this with her support and love, don’t try to structure your wedding to appease her.

    Best of luck!

    • PA

      I realize I forgot to say this: I may be WAY off the mark, none of this may apply, or it may just not be helpful for you. I don’t mean to come off as authoritative!

  • Phoebe

    To the first bride- I agree with many of the other comments, that you really need to talk to her and explain how you are feeling. I would try to steer clear of the “this is my special day, you must do everything the way I want it!” mentality which can be so easy to fall into as a bride (I have totally been guilty of this), but do try and explain that there is no one single way to have a wedding. If things still just don’t work out maybe you can honor her in a different way?

    For our upcoming wedding in June we decided to each ask our siblings (my sister, his brother). I’ve got 5 other close friends that I considered asking, but I didn’t want them to feel obligated for all the reasons people have already mentioned (money, time, travel…). I am hoping they will all be able come spend some time with me, my sister and mom as we all get ready the morning of the wedding. That’s when I am planning on giving them each a handwritten letter thanking them for their friendship and making sure they know how important they are to me regardless of their bridesmaid status.

  • We extended formal invitations to our friends to join our Bridal Brigade. We wrote letters explaining how much we value their friendship, what the bridal party meant for us, what the expectations would be, and how participating meant that we were asking them to commit to supporting our marriage for the indefinite future. Thankfully we have really incredible friends and they all excitedly joined in.

    BUT, we were super careful about not making the experience a burden on them. We let them buy their own clothes and helped the ones who needed it, we put them all up in a big house for the weekend, we helped pay for plane tickets, etc etc etc. We were very serious about wanting to thank them rather than use them.

    I think Rachelle made a really good point above – you have to actually be okay with the expectations that you set. I didn’t have any dreams of fancy bridal shower teas or a crazy over-the-top bachelorette or anything. If I had, I would have been bitter and disappointed.

    Either way, I highly recommend the invitation idea so that (a) everyone is on the same page and (b) they have a chance to opt out and/or express their needs from the start.

  • Liz

    I like the idea of a Bridal Brigade but I also have a few, very close friends that I would like to honor and recognize as essential contributors to who I am and ask them to be a part of my bridal party. That being said, I am fortunate enough to have lots of friends and a large extended family. I fear that people will be offended if I ask for their help without “officially” recognizing them. Is it enough to give shout outs and thanks in the program?

    Has anyone had luck combining the two (for lack of a better term)?

    • PA

      You could mention them in a toast, if you’re making toasts, or give a little gift – I’m not talking hand-embroidered pashmina, more like some tea they like, or something like that, and a little card thanking them for the part they helped with.

    • Anne


      My husband and I honored loved family members and friends at the wedding by asking them to perform a special job. My brother-in-law did a reading and my sister-in-law played a song. When we gave our toast, we made sure to mention people by name.

    • rys

      I’m a non-bridesmaid-ey sort (which all of my friends knows very well), but I am the crafty sort who loves making things for my friends for any reason. As a result, I often volunteer — but also love to be asked — to make things, rather than do bridesmaid-ey things for weddings. I am much better at making sewing table runners and arranging flowers than I am at discussing makeup options or shopping for shoes, for example. I don’t know if I’m typical, but I’m always really happy to be asked to do something that plays to my strengths. As long as you ask people to do things they like and are good at, I think it’s win-win for all. A verbal shout-out and/or a thanks in the program is perfect.

    • Jo

      I had a girls brunch a couple days before my wedding where I thanked all of my non-bridesmaid Bridal Brigade. Seemed to do the trick – and give us some cherished time together before the craziness got into full swing!

  • CBaker

    I’m getting married in about a year, with likely a 80-120 range of guests at our wedding.

    The first decision we made was to only have one attendant apiece. I have three sisters and several close friends that I would love to stand up with me, but I was not comfortable obligating all of these individuals to wear matching dresses, pay for hair, travel, gifts, etc. Even if I don’t want those things for them, plenty of people would expect matching up-dos, hair, bouquet, etc. of a bridal party, and I just didn’t want to deal with the drama.

    My maid of honor is one of my sisters, the one whose style and personality is closest to mine, and the one that loves planning, working on DIY crafts, dressing up, and won’t frown if I tell her I’d prefer a certain dress or shoes. My other sisters are equally wonderful, in completely different ways, that are not quite as suited for that role. My oldest sister will do a reading during the ceremony, which I am so grateful for. My youngest and I are still deciding what role she will have. She’s a bit of an introvert, so I’m working to find a way she can participate that reflects who she is.

    I sent the other girls in my life a card to ask them to be part of my “bridal entourage”. I requested that they try and be there for the rehearsal dinner and getting ready portions of the big day, and I’m going to throw a day-of brunch with mimosas and kolaches so I have time to spend with them before the ceremony. I have spoken to each of them about choosing what they are comfortable and able to attend, and how in NO WAY financial or travel contributions or lack thereof will impact our future relationship. So far, everyone has seemed ok with this decision.

    Briefly, my youngest sister (introvert) said, “You can’t do that! (have only one sister as a bridesmaid). When I explained to her that typically bridesmaids are told what to where, plan events, are told where to be, and have to stand in front of everyone for the entire ceremony…she appreciated my decision to work out how she could still be honored and included in a way that fits with her personality better.

  • A A

    YUCK! Just say “NO!” to bridal drama.

  • Anon

    I haven’t yet read the comments, but the letter from LOST IN GIRL DRAMA really hit me. I was that bridesmaid, and LOST IN GIRL DRAMA was a friend I had known and loved for years. I found myself looking for outs – cost, anything – that could allow me to be a guest, and not the maid of honour at her wedding. The reason? Not because I couldn’t afford it, but because I didn’t *want* to put my hard-earned money into a show that had turned into a circus, and for a friend who had turned into a total witch during the planning. I’m sorry to be frank, but that was what had happened. Her friends who had not be picked to be in the bridal party were hurtful and mean-spirited, and I had had enough. The bride wouldn’t stand up to them, and I ended crying the entire 6 months leading up to her wedding.

    So! All this to say – just take a moment to take a close look at your behaviour to ensure you haven’t done something inadvertently to hurt your friend. And there is nothing in your letter to indicate that you have, but I just want to send a note of caution. Talk frankly with your friend, and try to get to the bottom of the situation. I hope it works out for you!

  • Liz

    Hey hey, you guys. Just want to reiterate what i said above (only not in blue! dangit!) because of some of the tones in the comments.

    Around here, WE all know weddings are important. But sometimes our friends just don’t see them that way. Sometimes they’re flaky about attending events, staying for the full duration, or just flat out being supportive. It might not mean much about a friend’s personality other than that they suck at weddings. Maybe they’re good at being friends in tons of ways, and this just isn’t one of them.

    Sure, it could mean something if off between friends- I don’t think it’s any secret that “TALK TO THEM” is somewhere in there every Friday. Talk to them!

    But be very very careful that you’re not using your wedding as some sort of friendship test. It’s heartbreaking when you expect friends to behave a certain way and then use the fact that they don’t to measure their lack of care for you.

    Weddings are weird, you guys. They make people act weird sometimes.

  • MC

    I am not skilled at weddings. I feel like many of my bridesmaid/MOH experiences could really be summed up “I’m sorry, it’s not very good, but it’s the best that I could do”. One was particularly memorable: planning a wedding shower (having not previously planned a wedding shower and not being good at that sort of thing in general) from a different continent while on a tight budget and not knowing the rest of the bridal party/invitees, then driving several hours and setting up and “running” the party the day after flying across eight time zones… well, I tried very, very hard, but expectations were almost certainly not met (including mine! “but, this activity was supposed to be fun for all! I have let down my friend! Aargh!”).

    I think that, just like brides are magically supposed to become event planners and organizers, there are sometimes similarly insidious expectations with bridesmaids, except that what they can accomplish is taken as a measurement of their commitment to or love for the bride. But, for some people, they just don’t have these skills or capabilities or money (or the psychological ability to accept financial help!) and we need to either be okay with a revision of the “traditional duties” to fit the person, or okay with having someone different, or okay with… um… lowered expectations (I’m pretty sure my friend has forgiven me for the decidedly-not-ideal jet-lagged wedding shower. Mostly…). And there is all sorts of stuff going on behind the scenes in everyone’s life; something so easy as karaoke might be terrifying to someone with certain forms of social anxiety, or the loss of a job and subsequent fear of being trapped into paying for something they can’t afford (or of being publicly embarrassed by not being able to do “their share”) might cause people to make apparently irrational plans like skipping parties where their gift might not measure up or avoiding bachelorette trips or hairdressers or other things of unknown cost. And that’s before even bringing in spousal opinion on financial/time matters (I’m wondering if this is what’s going on with letter #2, actually: something like an unexpected spousal budget/time discussion that threw all her plans askew; compromise often looks really, really weird if you’re only seeing one person’s adjustments to it).

    Anyway: if these people love you, they love you. They may not be able to be in your wedding. That is okay. They may be able to be in your wedding, but not do X, Y, and Z other things. That is also okay. They may not do the right parties/dresses/gifts or may drive you up the wall with advice. This doesn’t mean they don’t love you. It also doesn’t mean you have to have them in your wedding, but please don’t measure their friendship by the “how excited are you about my shoes/colors/favors?” and “will you happily pay 1/5 of your monthly income to attend these parties before the wedding?” wedding yardsticks. Not all friendships work out, but if you’re going to see if they do or not, use friendship yardsticks instead. And maybe, wait to use the yardstick until after the wedding, when you’re sure there isn’t any wedding stuck to it accidentally… :-)

  • SteffanyF

    I got married at city hall so I didn’t really have maids-though I did ask my two high school girlfriends, my brother and sister, and a cousin to show up for me. I asked them to wear black and we had matching baby’s breath bouquets for pics after.
    I choose people based on the length of time I had known them. I have so many amazing friends, and it’s never easy to know exactly how relationships will grow and change, but I picked the two friends I’ve had for over 10 years, ladies who have stood by me and who I just KNEW I couldn’t say vows without. I also had my sibs because they are my life. My brother signed my marriage license. I picked my cousin because she’s only two months older than me and I don’t have any memories that predate her. :)

  • Lturtle

    I am still planning my wedding (when did June get so close?) but I have my bridal brigade all sorted out. I originally planned to not have any attendants for the sake of simplicity, and to avoid any bridal party drama. But my guy really wanted to include his three best buddies as they are a tight group. Then we decided to have a chuppah during our ceremony so we needed people to hold that and agreed on two friends for each of us to hold it with one additional friend each standing with us.
    I have three dear friends who are wonderfully supportive and clearly wanted to help with the wedding in any way they could. So I asked them each individually if they would “stand with me at my wedding”. They each said yes. Then I sent an email to them as a group letting them know what my expectations/wishes were.
    The main points were these; I don’t care what they wear as long as its NOT JEANS, I do not need or expect a shower or bachelorette party but gave some thoughts on what I would enjoy if they wanted to put something together, detailed some pre-wedding errands and craft activities that I would like help with if they had time/inclination, and asked what they would like to do (if anything) on the day of in addition to standing with me during the ceremony.
    They have been great about communicating what they can and can’t do, and hopefully I have done ok at not stressing them out. They started calling themselves my bridesmaids, and I am going with it for lack of a better term, but there is no MOH or other hierarchy. Also they are just generally awesome and keeping me sane. Mostly.

  • Sharon

    My baby brother is engaged to be married August 2013. His fiancee asked me to be one of 7 (!) bridesmaids, out of a sense of obligation because she convinced my brother to have her brother as one of his groomsmen, and the dresses she picked out are going to look positively awful on me, but at least my brother talked her out of strapless because of the ugly surgery scars I have on my chest.

    The more I think about it, the less I want a bridal party. I do not want to single out any person or group of people as more important to me than anyone else. The only people that have to be up there with the officiant are my intended and I. In fact, I think I would want to have us walk in together, and meet each other in front of the officiant – no parental escort or anything. Heck, I don’t even want a bridal shower (‘ve lived together for 3 years, we’ve got all the stuff we need) or bachelorette party (I turn into a pumpkin, and strippers embarass the hell out of me).

  • ANON

    I struggled with the idea of having bridesmaids vs. having none because I really wanted to honor certain friends, had always envisioned having bridesmaids, but having been a bridesmaid and been in the bridal brigade and gotten worn out before the wedding was over because I helped DO.EVERY.THING.IMAGINABLE (except, of course, sleep!) and spent more than I could to even *get* there, I didn’t want to put my honored ladies in any of those positions.

    I also almost wrote to AskTeamPractical about five hundred times, because I have a sibling who has always made it clear that the only *right* way to do things is to have your siblings in your wedding party, regardless of how close you are or how they feel about your significant other. I did feel obligated to ask said sibling because I viewed having them there as an investment in keeping our future relationship as positive as possible. I did end up asking, and though the invitation was met with drama and fraught with tension, I think I did the right thing. I’m hoping it turns out okay- luckily I also chose to ask my closest girlfriends (although they live crazy far from me), and they are quite familiar with the situation, so they’ll be able to run interference if need be.

    Again, though- I Feel.So.Guilty asking them to do that. Even though I know they love me and would take care of that without even asking.

    Weddings ARE weird- Liz is so spot on. I had years to think about all of this (and still have more than a year to go), and I cannot believe the considerations that are coming up now, that I never even contemplated.

    Good luck to the posters! Go with Liz, and go with your gut. Even if that means potentially giving in to an obligation.

  • Bella

    A lot of different stories here.

    I would prefer not to have bridesmaids, because of the issues around choosing people, and how to pick one friend out over another when I really see them as being at the same level. I would prefer no bridal party over a party of 15 so I could include everyone, or the agony of just choosing 4. I’m currently toying with the idea of unbalanced parties – my man has 4 close friends who will stand up with him, but I’m really only certain about having 2 bridesmaids (my sister and his sister). So I’m very strongly inclined to just save the heartache and have an unbalanced party.

    I was bridesmaid for my sister in both of her weddings. In the first, it was a perfect, traditional wedding in every way. The second, her husband wasn’t keen on having any groomsmen, and my sister wanted me as a bridesmaid, but nothing else. So that’s what they did. I walked in first, stood behind my sister, did a reading, and was a little bridal party all to myself. I had flown back to Australia from Asia, and before that, Canada only a week before the wedding, so even if my sister had wanted a bridal shower or party (which she didn’t, being her second wedding), it would have been very tough for me to organise it from Canada and not even attend. My sister knew I was broke from travelling, so she bought my dress ($100 on sale) and my jewellery, and had friends do our hair and makeup. I gave them money to put towards their honeymoon a few months later when I was working again.

    I think that bridesmaid choosing and roles should be thrown out the window! Do what you want (nicely), choose what you want, and explain your reasoning if anyone asks. Accept what people can give when they can give it, and focus on getting married. Not everyone will understand, but they will probably get over it!

  • Maileen

    With regards to the second letter – this post once again illuminated the whole WIC for me. I was born and raised in the Philippines, and flew back home to get married there. While I won’t say that Manila is WIC-free (Pinoys do like things over the top) – there are definitely some traditions we don’t have. Bridesmaids NEVER pay for their own dresses and usually their obligations run to church/reception tasks/helping you not freak out. There is no expectation that they pay for hair and make-up, no expectation for them to throw (and cover the cost of) bachelorette parties or bridal showers.

    My cousin, who grew up in Canada, was my maid of honor and I couldn’t understand why she insisted on throwing a dinner for me and my close girlfriends in Manila and treating me out to a spa. She didn’t have to do it! I was super thankful she did but I had no expectation that she would. I think that’s the key really to all the “extra” stuff – don’t expect, but be grateful when they go over and beyond standing beside you while you take your vows.