tips and advice for future bridesmaids

bridesmaid tips and advice
gowns by Jenny Yoo

She said yes, and then she asked you to stand by her side on the big day -- congrats! Being a bridesmaid is one of the greatest honors I've experienced in my life so far. How great to get to be a part of someone loving someone else so much that they traded rings and threw a party? As a wedding blogger by day, I know quite a bit about what makes a beautiful wedding, but I'll be honest in saying that I didn't know what to expect when my best friend asked me to be her Maid of Honor. Now that my bestie has said "I do," I've learned what it takes to be a great bridesmaid. Lucky for you, I've got a few tips and some insider advice into how to be the best bridesmaid you can be!

Shopping for Her Dress | If you're lucky enough to be invited* to the gown shopping appointment, the most important thing to remember is that you're there for support more than you are for help. Unless you're a personal stylist and the bride specifically asks for you to take the lead during her appointment, let the consultant and, more important, the bride direct how this shopping experience goes. If the consultant asks the bride's guests to choose dresses, keep your gal's style in mind and don't get too attached to your picks. 

There can be quite a bit of time between dresses (so many buttons! so much tulle!), so now can be a great time to get to know your fellow maids and even discuss some upcoming dates like the bridal shower and bachelorette party without the bride present. Maid of Honor Bonus: It might even be a good idea to bring along your calendar! You may even be able to write down the dates of her next fittings, since she will be busy saying yes to the dress.

When the bride comes out of the dressing room, only four words need to come out of your mouth: "How do you feel?" The quickest way for a bridal appointment to go south is with too many opinions, positive or negative, so err on the side of saying less and letting the bride's feelings guide your response. Maid of Honor Bonus: Be sure to take lots of photos, and consider taking notes on what she liked and didn't like about each dress. She'll likely try the same ones on a few times to see how she really feels in them, but having some notes she can refer to can be helpful when she's feeling overwhelmed by so many different patterns of lace!

When she finds "the one," celebrate her! Tell her how beautiful she looks, how you can't wait to stand next to her in that dress when she says "I do," etc. This is a big decision, so your support is a big help. If she doesn't find the one at this appointment, remind her that there are about as many dresses in the world as there are people, and she didn't find her soulmate on the first date.

*Note: If she doesn't invite you to come gown shopping, don't take it personally! Appointments can get out of hand when more than a couple of people -- and opinions -- are present. You'll see the dress soon enough!

Shopping for Your Dress | Your bride probably has a vision for how she sees her bridesmaids on her wedding day, so let her make the call on things like color and length. However, if you're trying on a dress that you feel horribly uncomfortable in, she wants to know about it! In most cases, the bride is your friend and wants you to feel beautiful on her big day too, so speak up if something just isn't working. She's getting married, but she's not a mind reader!

Whether all of the bridesmaids are wearing the same dress or you get to choose your own, don't procrastinate! Purchase the dress and get any alterations needed a few months before the wedding so you can cross it off your list and focus back on the bride. Also, be sure to try on the dress (with shoes and jewelry) at least a week before the wedding, just in case you decide those heels are just not going to work or you actually hate the earrings you bought after all. Maid of Honor Bonus: Bring a steamer on the day of the wedding so none of the maids walk down the aisle looking wrinkly!

Know Your Strengths | When a bride chooses her bridesmaids, she's creating a team of people, who happen to be her friends and family, to help her celebrate her wedding. Like any team, each member is going to have different strengths and weaknesses. Identifying what yours are and taking the initiative to organize, coordinate, and be present is as much a part of the job description as showing up in your dress. If you love planning parties, volunteer to plan or help out with the bachelorette part and bridal shower. If you've got a Type A love for lists and organization, start a shared Google calendar with vendor meetings and check in with the bride about upcoming appointments. If you're always up for a heart-to-heart, schedule Skype or Starbucks dates with the bride to see how things are going (or to talk about anything but wedding planning, because girl is gonna need a break!). Maid of Honor Bonus: If you can help delegate tasks to other bridesmaids, that's one less thing the bride doesn't have to worry about!

Communicate Early & Often | I'm mostly including this for any scheduling conflicts, whether it be for a single event or throughout the engagement. For instance, if you're in school, you may want to let the bride know that you're so happy to be there for her on her wedding day, but you'll be less available during the planning process. If you can't make it to the out-of-town bridal shower, touch base with her to make sure she won't be sorely surprised not to see you there when the day arrives.

Practice Quick Problem Solving | From the wedding coordinator to relatives you've never met, you will be fielding questions you don't know the answer to. It's just part of wearing the bridesmaids dress on the wedding day -- you're as close as they can get to asking the bride directly without actually distracting her from, you know, getting married. There are wrong answers, but, more importantly, there are lots of right answers. 

Where should these flowers go after the ceremony? Did the groomsmen get their cuff links? The flower girl ripped her dress, do you have a sewing kit? These are all problems you're likely to be faced with, which you surely don't have the exact solutions to, but the best answer is the one you can give quickly that doesn't interrupt the flow of the day or the couple from their bliss. If you can redirect the question to someone who is more likely to know (hopefully the wedding coordinator, but sometimes she's the one asking the question!), that's a good option. If you're able to confidently provide a solution, that's even better: The bridesmaids will take the flowers to the reception. The groomsmen look great! I've got a safety pin in my clutch to repair her dress. People with questions are satisfied with any answer that takes the problem from their hands, so if that means taking it on as your own to solve, that can sometimes be the biggest help in getting things running smoothly again. Maid of Honor Bonus: Get the coordinator's phone number as early in the day as possible! She's expecting these questions (again, except for the ones she asks, unfortunately!), so don't feel bad about directing them her way if you can't remedy them yourself.

Listen to the Bride's Intuition | Being in tune with your bride is going to help you both tremendously. There's a lot of pressure on her to make the right decisions, and sometimes "right" means different things to different people. One of the most important things you can do both before and during the wedding is encourage her to listen to her gut. If she's working with a vendor and things aren't going well, she's not so likely going to come right out and say that it's not working because she might feel stuck in using them. It's up to you to sense that something is up and encourage her to either stand up for herself or go a different direction. Maybe a particular relative is being a pain, or she was unhappy with her makeup consultation. As her bridesmaid, you're her sounding board to work these issues out and help her do what's right for her. No bride wants to look back on her wedding day and remember how much she hated her hair or that random uncle who gave a drunken toast for like fifteen minutes. If you can pin down a solution before these disasters become a reality, then you may just save the wedding day! Everybody is telling the bride what they want and need, so you've got to be the one listening to what she wants and needs.

Being a great bridesmaid is a lot like being a great friend. Put her needs first, unless something is making you absolutely uncomfortable. Make sure she feels beautiful, there isn't lipstick on her teeth, and that her drunken uncle isn't anywhere near the microphone, and she'll appreciate you forever!

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