First of all: congratulations on being chosen as a bridesmaid! This is a big honor, and shows just how much the bride cares for you.
As a bridesmaid, there are certain expectations. A wedding is a stressful time, so before you get started it’s best to know exactly what’s ahead of you. Depending on how much time you’re willing to put in, a bridesmaid can be instrumental in ensuring the wedding day is as special as can be.
It’s impossible to predict exactly what duties you might be asked to take on as bridesmaid. Every wedding is different, and every bride is different. However, there are some things that come as fairly standard.
To get an idea of what’s ahead of you, we’ve been inspired by Yeah Weddings to put together a quick guide to the duties and responsibilities of a bridesmaid.
Before we get into it, it’s important to know being a bridesmaid does involve more than looking good in a dress. If you can’t, or don’t want to, take on the responsibility, be upfront with the bride.
Let her know how glad you were to be chosen, but explain your reasons for stepping down. It’ll save so much trouble down the line.
Before the Big day:
Support the bride
It can’t be overstated: weddings are emotional, stressful occasions. Perhaps the most important thing you can do as a bridesmaid is be there when she needs you.
Whether it’s a quick rant about the caterer, or a moment to express just how excited she is.
Help with wedding preparations
There’s a lot to do for a wedding (and I mean, a lot). As a bridesmaid, you’ll be expected to assist the bride on occasion. This might mean addressing invitations, assembling wedding favors, or even cake tasting. The bride might want you there when she chooses a wedding dress as well.
Most planning will fall to the happy couple, but let the bride know what you’re available to help with. Bridesmaid duty is not a job, so you can say no to tasks that you don’t have time for.
However, it’s generally expected for a bridesmaid to lend a hand on occasion. The bride will really appreciate if you volunteer help when you can.
Bridesmaid Dress Shopping
You’ve probably be looking forward to this one. A wedding is a really fun chance to dress up, and look your very best. It’s a rare, special occasion, where you get to go overboard with the glam squad.
Who buys the dress is a tricky question, but it’s likely to be the bridesmaid herself. Have an upfront conversation with the bride about what you’re expected to pay for and what you can afford.
Having this discussion keeps everyone on the same page, and it means there won’t be any awkward moments at the check-out.
You and the bride will both want you to look your best. However, you might have different ideas of what ‘your best’ is. Again, be upfront but non-confrontational.
The bride might have a very specific vision, or she might appreciate your input. Either way, know that she wants you to look and feel great as well.
Dress shopping will probably be a whole day out, and as a bridesmaid you can organize something special. Collaborate with the other bridesmaids to find shops to go to, and places to relax in between stores.
Plan and Attend Pre-Wedding Events
One of the most important duties of a bridesmaid is the bridal shower (or wedding shower).
Along with the maid of honor and other family members, it’s the bridesmaids task to organize this. You can lighten the load by sharing the duties. The bride probably won’t be involved, but find out if she wants a surprise or not.
If the couple have an engagement party, then you will be expected to attend. The planning, however, generally falls to the couples' family.
Unless you have a good reason, the bridesmaids are expected to be at both the wedding rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.
You may even be asked to make a speech at the rehearsal dinner. This acts as a run-through for the day, and a chance for people to get together.
The Bachelorette Party
The big one! Typically, organizing the bachelorette party is the job of the maid of honor. You may be asked to help, so be ready with ideas and suggestions.
It’s also good to know what the bride is expecting from a bachelorette party. She may want to be surprised, she may want a low-key evening, or she may want a big celebration.
Bachelorette parties are becoming a huge industry, and there’s lots more to it than just drinks nowadays. You can try vineyard tours, paintballing, spa days, even bungee jumping.
Of course, you’re expected to attend the bachelorette party as well.
Some brides may ask you to help with setting-up before the wedding. This will just be to make sure things are done quicker, and to a high-standard.
During the Day:
Assist the bride getting ready
On the day of the wedding, traditionally the bride and bridesmaids get ready together. This is a great way to get the atmosphere going, to get everyone excited, and for some last minute emotional support.
The details should be sorted before the day. Coordinate arrival times, who’s bringing what, and where and when you get ready. From here on out, the day needs to be as stress-free as possible.
The bride probably has about twenty different things running through her mind, so as a bridesmaid you’re there to look for small details. Keep an eye out for smudges and creases, keep her hair in check, and make sure she takes everything with her.
It’s good to keep an ‘emergency kit’. This will hold the boring things that are essential but easily forgotten. Painkillers, tissues, hairpins, and a little snack, are all useful.
Be in the ceremony
You’ve got your hair done, make-up perfect, and you’re looking good. The next step is actually being in the wedding.
Everyone does it a bit differently, but the traditional order is the bridesmaids walk down the aisle (accompanied by groomsmen) to present the bride. Then all you have to do is stand there and watch as your friend gets married! At the end, you file out.
All the details of this will be covered at the wedding rehearsal. On the day, you’ll know what to do, where to stand, and where to move.
Help the day go smoothly
This is going to be a busy day, and the bridesmaid is there to see as little goes wrong as possible. Keep yourself free and open, so the bride knows she can turn to you for any help needed.
This might be just making sure people are in the right place at the right time, but you may also be needed to do any last minute tasks that have fallen astray.
A bridesmaid is expected to interact with the guests. Welcome them, help them find where to go, and make them feel relaxed. People may turn to the bridesmaid for help, so they don’t have to bother the bride and groom.
Of course, as everyone starts to relax, it’s also your job to be the life of the party. It’s the duty of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to get people dancing, and keep them dancing!
It’s very serious business, as you need to be first out on the dance floor (especially if people seem reluctant). Bridesmaids are expected to be upbeat and positive. If everyone can see you’re having a good time, then they’re more likely to enjoy themselves.
It’s difficult to say exactly what the duties of a bridesmaid on the day will be, because so much of it is about responding to circumstances.
You may be asked to run out and pick up last minute decorations, or you could be asked to sign for deliveries. The more time you’ve spent helping the bride with the run-up, the easier you’ll be able to deal with any problems.
Hopefully, this one won’t be called upon. However, if things do go wrong you should be there to support the bride.
A wedding involves multiple moving parts, and if one falls out of sync then you’re there to get it back on track, but also keep the bride calm. This is months, possibly years of planning, and it’s an emotional occasion.
Be there just in case the bride needs a minute to get herself together.
After the Day:
Not quite after the day, but you may be expected to hang around for a bit as the day winds down to help with clean up. This is just to make sure that things can be done quickly and smoothly.
Plus, as a bridesmaid you should know what items need to be kept and what will be thrown in the trash.
Ask in advance whether you’ll be expected to help or if the venue has their own cleaning staff. This way there’ll be no annoyed feelings when you’re asked to do a last-minute clean.
Alternatively, you might be asked in the next morning. Again, expect advanced notice. It might not be a job you look forward to, but working together can get it done fast - and then you can go back to nursing that hangover.
With the wedding over you might think the bridesmaids duties are over. There are still a few things you may be asked to do.
Traditionally, it’s the best man’s duty to collect and store any gifts until the couple are back from their honeymoon, but they might ask a bridesmaid instead.
If any clothes have been rented, a bridesmaid might be asked to sort out the returns.
You may also be asked, further down the line, to help the bride with some extra duties. This could include addressing thank you cards, or putting together wedding albums. You won’t be obligated to help, but it’s a chance to relive some happy memories.
What’s the difference between a maid of honor and a bridesmaid?
If you’ve been asked to be maid of honor, then well done! This is a big role, and with it comes big responsibility.
The maid of honor is essentially the head of the bridesmaids. She takes on more organizational roles, and will be expected to take the lead on the bachelorette party.
In the run-up, the maid of honor usually works closer with the bride than the bridesmaids do. She’s expected to be more available than a bridesmaid may be, and might even be turned to for decision-making.
On the day itself, the maid of honor may be asked to help the bride get ready, greet people as they arrive, and escort guests to their seat.
Sometimes a maid of honor will be expected to make a toast at the reception, but your bride will discuss that with you beforehand.
Being maid of honor is a big responsibility, but it’s also, well, an honor. The maid of honor is someone the bride trusts and loves. It shows how much a part of her special day she wants you to be.
What are bridesmaids expected to pay for?
There’s no hard and fast rule, but a bridesmaid is generally expected to pay for her own dress. While the bride may volunteer to cover the costs, this isn’t standard. The bridesmaid will usually cover the costs of their accessories and styling as well.
As the bridesmaids organize the bachelorette party, they’re normally expected to pay for it. This is seen as a gift to the bride, and the bridesmaids cover food, drinks, and any bookings.
So, if you are planning a big night (or weekend), then consider the budget of you and other bridesmaids. There are lots of fun, cost-effective, bachelorette party ideas around.
The bridesmaid is also expected to buy a wedding gift. This may be a collective gift from the group, or an individual present. As a bridesmaid, there’s some room to go ‘off-register’. You know the couple well, so can make a personal choice.
Other costs may include contributing to the bridal shower, or buying an engagement present or bridal shower gift. If you think these may be expected, then draw up a budget at the start. Or, explain to the bride that rather than giving several presents, you’d rather save for one that’s extra-special.
It can become an expensive job, so if you think you’re going to have issues then speak to the bride. Explain to her that you’re honored, but are worried about the financial side. That way you can either form a budget, or graciously step down from the role.
By speaking openly you can even negotiate what parts you’d like to be included in, and where you may have to miss out. The bride probably has lots on her mind, so might not stop and consider your finances. Don’t get offended, simply be clear.
Bridesmaids are an important part of the wedding, but they also get to have a lot of fun! It’s certain to be an occasion you never forget!