As I’ve mentioned here before, 2012 is quickly becoming the year of other people’s weddings. I am lucky enough to be a bridesmaid in two of the upcoming events. While I am long distance for one, and it’s a bit harder to be involved, the other wedding is local, and I’ve been what I like to think of an integral part of the process. It’s been so fun, but also a lot more involved then I originally thought. I do a lot of Googling, and I haven’t been able to find many resources that focus on advice for the bridesmaid experience.
My friend Jessica* however, has been through it all as a bride. She’s been my sounding board (and voice of reason) for some of the issues that naturally come up during the pre-wedding time. I was really excited when she suggested doing a series together about being a bridesmaid. Our goal is to give an inside – and honest – look into the wedding process, and hopefully help other bridesmaids navigate what is often a completely new situation.
Alison: Congratulations, you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid. If you’re me, this is the fulfillment of a childhood dream, and you couldn’t be more excited. It is an honor, but it’s also a responsibility. Some brides may not ask you to do a lot, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get offer to get more involved. Remember that your presence is important! It’s up to you to help bring the fun to any wedding event, which means being cheerful, thoughtful, and most importantly flexible.
Jessica: Choosing my bridesmaids was a very big and hard decision for me; ultimately I asked two friends, my sister and my future sister-in-law to be bridesmaids. I also asked all my bridesmaids for a lot of help because, in order to make our budget work, we had several DIY aspects for our wedding. And, just as a side note, I made sure that they knew I really appreciated their time/efforts. Thankfully my bridesmaids were amazing and really helped me pull off an amazing wedding despite everything that happened.
But back to the topic of this post: the first task that we had was choosing my dress.
Alison: You might think that going wedding dress shopping means you will sit on a chair and watch your bride try on dresses. Maybe if she is really rich, and you guys are on Say Yes To The Dress that may happen..
Jessica: That definitely didn’t happen for me! As a bride, it was so helpful for me to have a bridesmaid there with my mom. The one that came with us is one of my best friends, Alina, whose opinion I truly trust. Honestly, I was so happy to only have two people there – it made it a lot easier on me. Before trying on dresses, Alina and I planned out the day, including making appointments at different stores (we went to 3 in a day, which was a lot to do) and making sure to include a reservation for lunch.
It’s important to remember that you aren’t there to just sit and watch (if that is the case) – please offer to help your bride if she seems lost or overwhelmed. I know plenty of brides who haven’t felt that way, but I really needed a friend to help me get through the process while I dealt with my mom and the fact that I was actually getting married.
Alison: In my experience, however, as the sole bridesmaid and friend on the shopping expedition, there was a lot of heavy lifting – literally. Those dresses weigh a ton! You might feel like you’re killing your bride as you cover her head in pounds of tulle and fabric and hear her cries for help. Stick your arm down the top of the dress, and have her grasp hands with you. It will slide right over both of your arms and onto your bride. Be prepared to do this many, many times.
Jessica: I found that several things were really important to have with us to make the whole experience go easier. If you’re a bridesmaid, I’d suggest bringing the following to the bride:
+ a strapless bra (trust me, you don’t want to borrow the store’s)
+ if you already have your wedding shoes, bring them, or some heels that are close to the height that you think you’ll be wearing
+ if you have a family necklace (I’m thinking a strand of pearls, not something crazy impressive from the family vault), consider bringing that
+ a hair tie/clip
+ ballet flats to wear between dresses
+ aspirin (you’ll all get a headache and your feet will hurt)
+ a protein bar or two (50-lb dresses don’t carry themselves around!)
Alison: Be sure to take photos of every dress, if you’re allowed. Some of the snobbier places won’t let you take a photo, but if you’re allowed, snap away! And even if you’re not (well, I’m not telling you to be sneaky and break the rules, but I’m not NOT telling you to either, if you know what I mean). Pro tip: David’s Bridal will definitely let you take pictures, and in my experience, they are way nicer and more upscale then you might think from the whole $99 dollar dress ads.
Jessica: It’s also helpful to write down the name and style of each dress so that if you go to David’s Bridal or another discount chain you can price compare dresses as well. Even taking photos of the tag is helpful. Also, make sure to ask store policies about alteration prices, discounts and other fees. These can really inflate the final cost of her dress.
Alison: Let your bride tell you what she thinks of the dress before you open your mouth. Of course, if the dress is really unflattering, it is your duty to gently (gently!) tell her that maaaybe she should keep looking, but for the most part, keep your comments positive and remain upbeat. It’s her opinion that really matters, and while she probably won’t remember your specific comments, she will remember if you were being a huge downer that day.
Even if your bride is feeling discouraged, or tired, you should try to keep excitement high. The more I go through this wedding process with my friend, the more I am learning that it’s really more about support than anything. She will have so many people weighing in on every decision that sometimes the only way for you to make the process smoother is to gently remind her that her opinion is the only one that matters – and you will love her no matter what.
Jessica: It’s really important to be positive for your bride. I nearly had a panic attack when I tried on my first dress (which happened to be the one I ended up buying) because it meant that I was really about to get married. You should also be positive about your bride. It’s really hard to try on dresses and have everyone critique your looks for an entire day. I found that salespeople, especially at more expensive stores, can be really weirdly aggressive and mean. I had one question me about (no joke) what type of diet I would be going on before the wedding as she used industrial clamps to tighten a dress on me.
Another thing that bridesmaids should do is NOT encourage a bride to step out of her budget range. It’s really easy to get swept up in the moment and fall in love with a dress that is way out of your price range (in my case, it was a beautiful dress that also happened to be three thousand dollars over my budget). Be a good friend and make sure she realizes how much money this one dress is!
Alison: That’s true! In fact, check the price tags before helping your bride try on her dress. You may want to warn her if it’s out of her price range, if she’s the type to fall in love and be devastated when it’s out of her budget. For the most part the sales attendants we encountered were conscientious about price, but a few tried to slip in some over budget dresses – you don’t want any of that going on.
Jessica: One thing that I’d like to mention is that you should keep your focus on the bride’s dress, not on the bridesmaids dresses. Feel free to look around, but remember that this day is about the bride.
Alison: My friend found her dress on the first shopping expedition, and it was so fun to be there when she bought ‘the’ dress. It was also great preparation for what we will cover in part two of our series: buying the bridesmaid dress.
* Jessica and I went through the war together (otherwise known as studio). She moved far away to California after school, but we talk so much on g-chat that it’s like she never left. She is currently working as a senior designer, and lives in an adorable cottage with her husband and dog. She can see the ocean from her house, and I kind of hate her for that. If you like me, you’ll love her blog!