Friday, September 3, 2010

Bridesmaids: What's the Point

TWO-THOUSAND AND TEN has been the year of weddings for me. In addition to planning my own wedding (not taking place until 2011, of course) we have been invited to a record number, Matt has been a groomsman in one and I will be in two weddings in October (one as a bridesmaid and one as a maid of honor). Having never been in a wedding before, everything I know (or think I know) about what it means to be a bridesmaid I have learned in my extensive wedding research that began with my first bridal magazine and currently stands at subscriptions to over 50 wedding blogs and several magazines. I think I can safely say that I am well educated on all-things-wedding, but I have found the variances in opinions on who does what, how and when to be quite interesting. People in Ohio clearly have a different way of doing things than people in New York or Alabama. Part of it is tradition and part of it is cultural. However some expectations, or lack there of, are simply a result of not knowing. And I think that's where the role of a bridesmaid becomes confusing. What are the common expectations? The realistic ones? Why and who do you choose? 

Going to Extremes: Please Plan My Wedding
A good friend of mine was recently back in town for a wedding, in which she was a bridesmaid. Over dinner a few days after she filled me in on her most recent experience. This particular bride had high expectations of her bridesmaid, which was made clear the minute they were each given their "assignments."  Her personal responsibility was the flowers. The bride gave her some direction, a budget and told her to take care of the bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages. Her fellow bridesmaids were assigned invitations, centerpieces, seating cards and assignments. Talk about the ability to delegate! This bride clearly has a future in upper management. The plan worked and the bridesmaids successfully completed their tasks and a beautiful wedding resulted, but was that appropriate use of your bridal party? And if not, what is appropriate?

The Opposite End: Stand There and Look Pretty
Yesterday at my first official meeting with my own bridesmaids, my cousin (whose upcoming wedding is one that I am in) commented that she thought the sole responsibility of a bridesmaid was to stand with you at your wedding. That's it! And that seems to be reflected in some of the ladies she chose. While I was doing my MOH duties to plan the shower and bachelorette party, several of her BMs were completely absent while others helped here and there, quite unreliably. Clearly their expectations are the same as my cousin's.

Which brings me to The Bible for wedding planning:
According to The Knot:
Technically, bridesmaid duties only require you to buy the dress and show up to the wedding on time, but bridesmaids can offer to help:
  • shop for bridesmaid dresses, her wedding dress
  • assist in addressing invitations
  • package wedding favors. 
  • attend the ceremony rehearsal and rehearsal dinner
  • run any last-minute errands on the day of the ceremony
  • "The bridesmaids also generally plan and host the bridal shower, including helping the bride to keep track of who gave her which wedding gift so she can send out thank-you notes later. And do not forget the bachelorette party! The bridesmaids will generally plan and pay for this event as a gift to the bride."

So there you have it. The truth is that truly nothing is required besides standing up there with you in a church and doing a little partying with you after.

The Real Truth
That being said, I am sure that the quality of the bridal party is directly proportionate to the quality of a friendship. Although I have two bridesmaids whose involvement will be limited by their physical distance (one lives across the state and another across the globe), I know that my girls are true friends, picked because I have loved them for years. And I know they like to help, plan a good party and will want to be there with me and, more importantly, for me during the most important days, weeks and months of my life. They are enthusiastic, proactive and are already researching how to throw a great shower - and they have over 5 months to go. One took my engagement pictures for me, free of charge. Another is helping to make my dessert buffet. Already they are going above and beyond.

I consider myself to be quite lucky to have such great friends. And I'd advise any bride to be to seriously consider who will be a help and who will be a burden because they is exactly what you'll have on your hands.


Amy said...

The bride who gave "assignments" went to the extreme, and I wonder how her friends feel about her after all the work they did. I hope she got them some nice gifts. I think a bridesmaid should help (as much as possible)with dress shopping, the shower, favors, flowers - but as a group, which is more fun.

Becky said...

As a group and preferably over cocktails!