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Sunday, April 14, 2013

To Be or Not to Be ~ A Guide for Bridesmaids & Their Brides

As you know, two weeks ago, I was a bridesmaid for my cousin. That was my 6th run and my 7th one is coming up in August. I think I have to hang up my bridesmaid tassel and retire after that. Come to think of it, none of my 4 closest friends are married yet, so I'm probably not done as of yet. So, strictly speaking, before the end of my lifetime, I may very well have been a bridesmaid at least 11 times. Can we not talk about this? *sigh*

In fact, I'm beginning to fear the "99 dresses-always a bridesmaid" syndrome. *covers face*
My bridesmaid collage
Growing up and watching my aunties and their friends be bridesmaids, it seemed so fun and cool and I couldn't wait to grow up to wear the pretty dress, hair and make-up and get to look pretty. Believe or not, I also wondered how each groomsman was paired with a bridesmaid and if they ever ended up married. Yea yea yea I had a curious mind as a child. In fact, a bit of my curiosity was satisfied when one of my uncles married the maid of honor at a wedding where he was the best man. 

Fast forward to today. Being a bridesmaid, when done the right way, is not a ride in the park. I was a bridesmaid first in 2006 and boy, was I shocked to learn that I had to pay for my dress and shoes. I made peace with it and chucked it up to being an American thing. And its pardonable if you consider how much it really costs to have a wedding in America.  But these days, it seems be true for weddings in Nigeria too.  In fact, I've only been in one wedding where the bride bought my dress.  The wedding industry stays booming especially in the summer months (Christmas, New Years and Easter months for Nigeria) and couples go into hefty debt just for their big day. Some couples don't even make it to the big day, thanks to the stress of wedding planning but that's a story for another day. the spirit of the onset of wedding season, and to put my "bridesmaid-pro" status to your benefit, I have decided to not only tell you everything you need to know about being a perfect bridesmaid, but to share some tips for the bride as well. See how much I care? ;-)

I've heard soo many bridesmaid-horror stories. Bride v. bridesmaids. Bridesmaids v. Bridesmaids. I've heard it all. In fact, I've been in a wedding where the maid of honor and the bride's BFF-ship didn't survive the wedding and in a few where bridesmaids left the wedding not talking to each other. 

So this post is not only for bridesmaids. This is for brides as well.  The goal here is for good relationships/friendships to survive past the wedding. Think "AMICABLE".

So let me get to it...

From the moment the bride pops the question, you should be thinking about what being a bridesmaid entails...EXPENSES! Budget that you'd (most likely) be responsible for your dress, your shoes and the bride's bachellorette. In some case, you'd need to pay for your hair and make up too.  So, be prepared to spend money.

In my experience, I find it easier to spend money when I actually really really care about the bride, in question. So, if you know you don't care enough/can't do it, gracefully bow out. Also, before you say yes, you want to make sure you can make the wedding. Ask the bride for the date and location before you commit. You don't want to say yes, then have to cancel on the bride. 
Side Tip: Bride, I shouldn't have to say that you should be careful about who you put on your bridal train. Choose people who care about you AND ask nicely. Trust that when the going gets tough, they are the ones who'll set aside their emotions to make your day special. Please, trust me on this. 

This is the most important ingredient to any wedding. Brides, as soon as you have a wedding party assembled, create an email list where the bridesmaids can virtually "meet", bounce off ideas and make decisions regarding the entire outfit. And put your maid of honor or one of the bridesmaids who is organized in charge of the list. Google docs can also be helpful for this. 

Side Tip: Bridesmaids, when preparing for the big day, here's the checklist (dress, shoes, makeup, hair, and jewelry). 

Bridesmaids, buy your dress early! because it takes time to come. I ordered my bridesmaids dress for the wedding in August 2 months ago and I still haven't received it. If the bride forgets to mention her plans for anything on the checklist one month before the wedding, ask what her plans are! You don't want to be surprised with any last minute expenses. Also, ask what time rehearsal is-this will help you book your flight. honest AND proactive. If you don't like the dress, or anything else, don't just sit around and complain, ask the bride early what her ideas are about it and offer to help look for something you can both agree on. Do NOT make the bride do all the work, then be mad at her for her choices.

Granted, its always better to be in a wedding train where all the bridesmaids are friends. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen like this. Bridesmaids, in communicating with the other bridesmaids, please leave off the "stuck-up" attitude. Keep in mind that your sole and unified purpose is to be there for the bride. The wedding is not an opportunity to compete with other girls/women. Instead, its a chance to make new friends and have fun. Remember this.
Bride, please understand that your bridesmaids are doing you a favor by sacrificing so much to support you on your big day. For this reason, if only, treat them with respect. It's your big day, yes, But there's life after. You don't want to ruin your friendships because you are too self-centered, demanding and  rude. You are stressed, we understand but there is absolutely no excuse for "bridezilla" behavior. Appreciate what your bridesmaids are doing for you. 

Side Tip: Buy your bridesmaids something simple (and inexpensive) nice to show appreciation. My sister got her bridesmaids simple colored beach slippers to say "thank you". It made us all feel special. 

Also, in making your demands, even though I'm sure you've planned since you were 5 how you want your bridesmaids to look, consider that not all dresses or hair styles look good on everyone. 
Let's be honest; if a bride chose this dress, I may just gracefully decline -_-
In picking both the dress and hair style "reasonably" seek second opinion from a reasonable person. Especially, when you're not paying for your "demands" of the bridesmaids, remember they have their own lives/expenses too and not everyone can afford that expensive but hideous dress (they'd never wear again) you are requiring them to buy. 

Side Tip: Bride, if they must buy the $150 dress + pay for your bachelorette, maybe pay for their jewelry and make up or at the very least, give them the color/shade of shoe you want, but allow them wear something they already have. 
To be honest, I really dislike uniform bridesmaid shoes chosen solely by the bride. I have at least 3 "bridesmaids shoes" chilling in my closet. I'd probably never ever wear them again. 

Side Tip: If your bridesmaids must wear the same shoes, give them options and an opportunity to choose. Even if they can't all agree on one, let majority carry the vote. One disgruntled bridesmaid is better than all. 

 4. In light of that, I feel the need to remind bridesmaids; THIS WEDDING ISN'T ABOUT YOU. Understand that you may have to compromise on some of your personal preferences. You can't win it all. I've had to do that many a time. In both my sisters' weddings, I had to put my hair in a bun (which I really dislike but did as an act of compromise) and in my recent cousin's wedding, I had to put in a weave (which I'd never done). 

Leading up to the wedding, understand the bride has a million and one things on her mind; don't burden her with your problems. Yes, I understand you are flying to a whole different state for the wedding but please do NOT and I repeat, do NOT expect her to pick you up from the airport the day before. It's a NO-NO. Also, most times, the bride will book a hotel room for all the bridesmaids; this is awesome but make your own back-up plans. If your dress doesn't fit, tell the bride only to get her tailor's information from her; and not simply to complain. Remember your goal is to minimize stress on the bride. 

Side Tip: Try to get your dress shipped to wherever you are incase you need alterations. One time, my dress was shipped to the bride and I had to wait to get it the day before the wedding. When I went to get it altered, I was told it'd be ready in a week. I had to miss the rehearsal dinner just to scrabble for another tailor to alter it. 

5. Remember your role- BRIDESMAID!
The word says it all - "Bride's Maid". Appreciate the importance of the day, FOR HER. Your role is to "serve" her, for the day. Your time will come. Serve well and be served well in return. 
On the day of the wedding, at every turn, your priority is making sure the bride is taken care of. Do whatever you need to do to make sure she's comfortable; help her get dressed, take her cell phone and take her calls, touch up her lipgloss, tell her she looks beautiful and help her change into her evening outfit, if need be. Constantly ask what you can do to help. If its a Nigerian wedding, and there's no one helping to pick money, please do. Whatever you can do to make this day worry-free for her, do it! 

One time, my bride-friend was really uncomfortable and feeling itchy in the fitting of her dress, I literally had to bend down, raise her heavy wedding dress, put my hands under her dress to scratch her back, then adjust her dress to fit better. Any other day, it would've been really weird. 

Having said that, I understand as a bridesmaid, you want to look pretty; perhaps pick up a handsome groomsman. But prioritize well...and you can do both ;-)

That's it oh. Did I leave anything out? Comment away. I'm so excited for wedding season. I have 3 more weddings this season (one of which I'll be a bridesmaid in) and I LOVE weddings. Yippie! 

Cheers to wedding season! May yours be fun AND memorable! 

Stay Inspired...

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