Being a bridesmaid is fun, and it’s an honor, but it is not cheap. According to Salon.com, being a wedding attendant costs a mind-boggling $1,700—and that’s the average! Of course, there are things you can do to cut a few corners, but you never want to make your attendants feel like you’re forfeiting things for yourself just to take care of them. Here are 6 clever and thoughtful ways to make your ‘maids lives (and pocketbooks) a lot easier.
1. Skip the Gifts
Your gals will help you, be there for you, dress up for you, and be at your side your entire wedding day. What better gifts could you ask than their love and support? They’ll also help organize your shower and bachelorette parties and will probably spend a reasonable amount just on gas to get everywhere you need them to be. Why expect them to give you a gift off your registry, too?
Let them know that all you want is their help and their love. If they buy you something anyway, that’s up to them, but as often as is reasonable (without sounding like a broken record) remind them that, when it comes to your best friends, “all you need is love.”
2. Gift Them with Practicalities
If you’re a lucky bride with almost unlimited resources and can pick up the entire tab for each of your attendants—dress, shoes, jewelry, even hair, makeup and a manicure—go for it! They will love you and do just about anything (but still tell them “no gifts, please”). This is doable even on a budget if you have a tiny wedding party and DIY pretty much everything.
For most brides, though, their girls will have to pay at least for dresses and shoes, so make their gift from you something that’s practical. Coupons for mani’s and pedi’s, or you picking up the tab for the hair and makeup pro on the wedding day—these are invaluable. Of course, if you want them to wear specific jewelry, it’s only right for you to purchase the necklace or earrings or whatnot. But also try to give them something utterly practical, like a pretty bathrobe they can use on the wedding day and after, or pay for the shawls they’ll wear for your winter wedding.
Even if you can foot the entire bill, you should still be respectful if one of your girls can’t make it to one event or the other. Don’t “buy their attendance” to every single gathering or hold it over their heads that since you’re paying, they have to do every single little thing you ask.
3. Do Not Last-Minute Anything
You already know that the minute your man proposes, the wedding planning is on—so plan, especially the timeline. If at all possible, try to have a schedule sketched out before you ask anyone to be in your wedding. Even if it’s just an outline, it will be invaluable when it comes to booking reservations and getting good deals on flights and hotels. (This is why securing your venue ASAP is mandatory!)
Also, don’t plan any pricey last-minute adventures like flying to New York or Vegas for your bachelorette, not unless you can pick up the entire tab. And again, even if you can, one or two of your ladies might have to say no, therefore be gracious. You’ve naturally put your life on hold in a sense to plan your wedding, but remember to respect their work and home schedules. They love you and will do just about anything for you, but they also still have lives outside of being bridesmaids.
4. Don’t Push Their Pocketbooks
Not only is it courteous to give them the little extras as gifts (manicures and hair, etc.) it’s also gracious to be practical with expectations. Here are 3 important “don’ts” when it comes to your wedding:
- Don’t “destination” everything: If you’re planning a destination ceremony, don’t do a destination bachelorette party. Choose one or the other. Or lump everything together: Everybody flies in a day early for the destination wedding, and you have the shower and bachelorette on location.
- Don’t make them fend for themselves 100%: Try to book a block of rooms at the hotel if that’s your venue, or even a block of rooms at a local quality motel if you’re having your wedding at home. (A little privacy might be appreciated if they don’t know your family well enough to be comfortable bunking in their guest rooms.) Do the legwork for them on travel sites and keep them up to date with alerts. You’re bound to get a better turnout of your attendants and guests feel like you have their backs.
- Don’t demand pricey dresses: It’s unavoidable: Unless you’re having a “wear what’s already in your closet” beyond offbeat boho wedding, dresses must be purchased. Even if you let your girls choose their own attire, somebody has to pay for the new clothes. If you’re going to foot the bill, you still want to be practical, especially if you want them to wear a dress they might not wear again. But this is where we come in:
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5. Group Your Gatherings
See if you can combine a dress fitting with a planning lunch or dinner. Trade off and have either a shower or a bachelorette but not both—or—combine them. You can also have a modest, girly bachelorette party the night before your wedding if you use it to give each other manicures and stick just to champagne.
If you happen to decide to have an engagement party a little later into the planning, you could have the shower that same weekend when everyone is in town.
Mandatory reminder: Everybody who’s invited to a shower or bachelorette must be invited to the wedding. (We know you knew that already, though.)
If you want to make a holiday of your wedding, why not group everything together in one fell swoop? Shower, bachelorette and wedding, all in one weekend.
6. Loosen Up
Here are some things you can do—and not do—to help your ‘maids have a much better time:
- Generalize shoe details: Tell them what heel height you have in mind, whether you want an open or closed toe, and if you’re not having shoes dyed to match the dresses, choose a neutral color like black, nude or a metallic, then let them shop for their shoes on their own.
- Let them choose their hairstyle: If you dream of everyone in an updo, that’s fine, but let them have a say in how their personal updo looks.
- Choose simple manicures: Of course, you don’t want one girl in Betty Boop red and another in neon orange, but unless you’re going offbeat, ask everyone to wear the same color. Red really is classic (though it needs to be the same shade) but a neutral French or nude manicure works with everything.
- Buy their accessories or work with what they have: A lot of women have pearls in the jewelry wardrobe already—necklaces, earrings, bracelets or all three—or classic gold hoops, or diamond studs. Have a little powwow about what everybody owns and see if you can’t build an accessory look based on what’s already in their repertoire.
Say Thank You Consistently
Going back to the fact that they’re your bridesmaids in the first place because they love you and want to be there for you, you still don’t want to take that love for granted. Don’t gush. Be gracious. Say thank you for everything from an early coffee meeting to a handwritten note sent after your wedding expressing your heartfelt appreciation.
There are definitely “expectations” that come with being a bridesmaid—like showing up on time in the right outfit and coming to fittings and showers and whatever else goes on—but never let them feel like you personally “expect” them to do anything. Adopt the mindset that everything they do for you is an unexpected blessing. They’ll appreciate you for appreciating them, and your wedding will be even better than you dreamed.
Better still, you’ll end up loving each other more after the wedding because of your graciousness before your big day.