You have been asked to stand with one of your closet friends as she takes this important step in her life. Whether you love weddings or think they are a waste of money, you should still feel honoured that the bride values your relationship so much that she wants you not just to attend, but to participate in her special day.
You may be thinking that being a bridesmaid simply means buying a dress and standing at the front of the ceremony site while the couple say “I do,” but that is actually only one of multiple duties.
Being a bridesmaid has quite a few responsibilities, and more expenses then just the dress. Below I’ve explained the customary duties of a bridesmaid and what she is responsible for financially.
Duties & Responsibilities
A bride should never assume that a bridesmaid knows exactly what her duties are, especially since every bride has different expectations.
Today, many brides send out an email to their bridesmaid to let them know what her plans and (reasonable) expectations are, and what the bridesmaids should be available for.
- Assist bride in any reasonable way with any wedding planning
- Accompany bride dress shopping for wedding gown if she asks you too (some brides take their entire bridal party, others just take their maid of honour and other family members)
- Accompany bride dress shopping for bridesmaids dresses
- Run errands up to and on the day of the wedding
- Attend all wedding related events/parties if possible
- Assist maid/matron of honour in planning bridal shower and bachelorette party, and contribute to costs financially
- Give a gift at the bridal shower and wedding or contribute to a group gift
- One or two bridesmaids should record the item and recipient of all gifts at the shower
- Assist bride in making/assembling save the dates, wedding invitations, and/or wedding favors
- Assist as co-hostess for all wedding related events; mingle and introduce guests, make sure people are enjoying themselves, etc.
- Pay for your own attire (dress, shoes, jewelry, hair piece, etc), hairstyling, and make-up (unless the bride has stated she is paying for this)
- Arrange for your own transportation for the day of, unless the bride has already done so
- Pay for your own accommodations if you live out of town. Some sources say this is the responsibility of the couple, but majority agree it is the responsibility of the bridesmaid. If you are unsure, check with the bride to see if she’ll be swallowing this cost or not.
- Possibly give a speech at the rehearsal dinner (some brides choose a bridesmaid for this task since the maid/matron of honour gives a speech at the wedding)
- Walk in the processional, stand/sit at the front of the ceremony site during the ceremony, walk in the recessional
- Greet guests in the receiving line if the bride asks you too
- Assist the maid of honour with the bride’s bustle if necessary
- Dance with your designated groomsman at the end of the couple’s dance if they are following this tradition
- Participate in the bouquet toss
Maid/Matron of Honour
The maid/matron of honour is the primary bridal attendant. She is the bride’s right-hand-woman for the entire wedding planning process and on the big day.
The role is the same for a maid or matron of honour. History simply created the different terms to distinguish whether the lady was single (maid) or married (matron).
On top of the customary bridesmaids duties listed above, the maid/matron of honour has the additional duties of:
- Initiate and coordinate the bridal shower and bachelorette party (unless another bridesmaids wishes to take on this responsibility)
- Coordinate group gift from the bridesmaids for the shower and/or wedding if you are doing one
- Ensure all bridesmaids have ordered their dresses in time, and get any alterations needed in time
- Hold the groom’s ring during the ceremony if there is no ring bearer
- Hold the bride’s bouquet during the ceremony (be prepared, these can be heavier than they look)
- Serve as the ceremonial/legal witness for the marriage
- Straighten the bride’s train after the processional, before the recessional, and during the photos
- Make a speech/toast at the reception, and possibly at the rehearsal dinner
- Bustle the bride’s train at the reception (it helps to attend a fitting with the bride so you are shown how to do this. You might need another bridesmaid’s assistance as well).
- Assist the bride in changing out of her wedding gown if she is changing outfits
- Have a list of contact’s from the bride (parents, vendor, officiant, caterer, dj/band, etc.) so you can handle any glitches that occur on the big day so the bride can remain stress free
Being prepared for emergencies is always a good idea. No matter how hard the bride has worked to make her special day perfect, something can go wrong. To help with the minor mishaps on the day it’s suggested that bridesmaids have an emergency tool kit with them. When at your seamstress ask for suggestions on any items you should have on hand (ex. needle/thread, safety pins) for any unexpected emergencies.
Other suggestions to include in your kit are aspirin/ibuprofen, bandages, bobby pins, etc.
Who Picks the Dress and Accessories?
Yes you are paying for the dress. Yes you are the one wearing the dress. However, the final decision on what dress the bridesmaids are wearing is up to the bride since it is her day.
A good bride will take your budget and opinion into her consideration, but ultimately she does make the decision.
Some brides are letting their bridesmaids choose their own gowns given some specific parameters; such as colour, length, material, and/or designer. In this case it’s always a good idea to make sure the bride does give her ok on your dress before you purchase it to make sure it goes with her vision.
When getting alterations on your dress, make sure you wear the same undergarments you’re going to be wearing on the actual day of the wedding. Undergarments do affect how a gown sits and fits.
Also make sure your undergarments are not visible underneath the dress. This occurred at a wedding I was a bridesmaid in. Minutes before we were getting ready to leave we noticed one bridesmaid’s black underwear was showing through her coral gown. Luckily we were in the hotel yet so she could run back to her room and change.
Some brides want a unified look, right down to the toes, so they ask their bridesmaids to all purchase the same pair of shoes and other accessories. Other brides give general specifications (ex. nude pump, pearl stud earrings, etc) but let the girls choose the exact items themselves.
So before you run out and start accessorizing your look find out what the bride has decided.
Hair, Make-Up, Nails
It’s customary for the bridesmaids to pay for their own hair, make-up, and nails. Again, some brides want a certain look for their wedding and want all their girls to have an up-do, matching nails, etc. while other brides let the girls choose what works for them.
If the bride doesn’t inform you of her choice you should check with her or the maid of honour, and not make any assumptions either way.
Some brides do decide to pay for this service for their girls as part of her thank you for helping her with her special day. However, this is not a requirement so make sure you leave room in your budget for these services unless the bride tells you otherwise.
Being a bridesmaid should be an enjoyable experience for you, and a great time to enjoy the relationship you have with your friend. It can also be a busy and stressful time which can put a strain on your friendship.
To help reduce the stress it’s always a good idea to find out what the bride’s expectations are at the beginning, let the bride know what your budget and time availability is for the event, and to remember that this is a time for celebration so don’t let the little things bog you both down.