Taking the 'maid' out of bridesmaid

Taking the 'maid' out of bridesmaid

Keep your friends around for your first anniversary

By Mara Severin

Picture this: You’re preparing for the ceremony. Your beloved friends are adjusting the train, tucking away a stray curl, telling you how beautiful you look. But most of all – they are smiling. They’re excited for you. They feel beautiful in their gowns. They’re having fun. Everything’s perfect before you even walk down the aisle.

Now, picture this: You’re in a room alone looking desperately for a bobby pin. Your bridesmaids are in the room next door. They’re mumbling under their breath about how badly they’ve been treated. They’re making carpool arrangements for as soon as possible after the photo session. Not so perfect. And not fiction. Karla DeLong, of Karla DeLong Weddings & Events has seen this exact scene. The bride had been imperious, demanding, and rude and this was the result. “They just wanted it to be over,” she recalls.

Being a bride might feel like a full-time job – if that job is, say, CEO of a multi-billion dollar global corporation or a general – but remember that this is your full-time job, not your bridesmaids’. And while CEOs and generals have their staff and troops, do not mistake your bridesmaids for your minions.

Full disclosure

It used to be that a bridesmaid could expect to arrange a bridal shower, help with gown shopping and fittings, purchase the dress of the bride’s choosing, and provide moral support to the bride on her special day. Sounds like plenty, right?

Today’s wedding might involve multiple showers, bachelorette parties, three to four day–long wedding weekends, including travel to far-off destinations. For most, it’s simply unrealistic.

How do you know if you’re offering a friend or relative a great honor or an enormous burden? “Be honest,” says Heather Siegel of b2e (Beginning 2 End) Weddings & Events. “Let them know what’s planned and give them a way to say no,” she says. If they can’t accept, let them know you understand and tell them that as a guest they’re still very important to you.”

Karla agrees that full disclosure is the best policy. “When you first start talking to your wedding party, you should write a note explaining exactly what will be expected,” advises Karla. “The bride should explain how elaborate – and how expensive – a bridesmaid’s involvement might be.”

And while your friends may enthusiastically jump on board the wedding train, you have to give them a chance to get off the train from time to time. “Your bridesmaids have lives of their own,” says Karla.

Put yourself in their very spiky, strappy, dyed-to-match uncomfortable shoes

Nothing is crueler than forcing a friend to wear something unbecoming and then march down an aisle to music with all eyes glued to them. And that strapless dress that looks so great on your size 2 sister? It might not look so great on your rubenesque best friend.

“I’m seeing bridesmaids having a lot more freedom in terms of apparel,” says Karla. “The bride gives them the colors and the bridesmaid chooses the dress. After all,” she says, “The bridesmaid knows how they look best.”

Elena Tuohey, whose experience as a first-time bridesmaid sets the bar for all other brides, says that she was simply given a fabric. Then they had a dress made in the style that suited them best. The result? “It wound up looking gorgeous,” says Elena. “And so did each of us because, of course, we chose styles that complemented our shape.”

Make planning fun

“People should not take the word brides-“maid” too literally,” says Heather.

There’s a lot of grunt work involved in planning a beautiful wedding. And you will need help. But addressing envelopes, assembling favors, and having dress fittings does not need to be a long, grim death march. A couple bottles of champagne, some fun music, and a few candles can turn any tedious task into a party.

And remember to share the fun stuff. Elena’s bride and groom invited the wedding party to a champagne tasting to help choose the bubbly for the reception. The members of the wedding felt involved, useful and special.

Say thank you… and thank you…. and thank you… (repeat)…

This may seem like a no-brainer. But a stressed, frazzled, anxious bride is likely to forget her manners.

Consider treating your tired bridesmaids to a spa day where everyone can relax and treat themselves. The Ice Spa at the Sheraton downtown offers a “relaxation area” with couches and fireplaces and a view of the mountains. Drink champagne and wine, bring food, or have the hotel cater, and take turns getting massages and pedicures and facials. “It’s the most wonderful thing we do here,” says Julie Novy, the spa’s director. And possibly just the thing to take the edge off.

Have a luncheon during the planning process, advises Karla. Bring everyone up to speed on the planning. Or better yet, make a rule that there will be NO wedding talk for those few hours. After all, these people were your friends before you even got engaged, and it might be relief for everyone to remember that.

Bridesmaids are for now – friends are forever

And if you remember nothing else says Karla, remember this: “You’re asking these people to be in your wedding because they’re special and valuable to you. They’re not your bride-slaves – they’re your friends.”