Bridesmaids and Brides: Friendship at Risk?

Bridesmaids and Brides: Friendship at Risk?

The early stages of being a bridesmaid are a lot like the first blush of a romance; you’re both excited about the upcoming celebration and eager to do your part. You discuss the merits of various color combinations. You go to the mall together and coo over matching earrings. You binge-watch romantic movies with notepads in hand.

But when it comes down to the nitty-gritty of shelling out gobs of money, squeezing into a dress that highlights every bulge for the inevitable slew of Facebook pictures, and calling in sick to work because you stayed up too late folding place card holders the night before, tempers start to fray. Sometimes it’s hard to remember that you’re in this together precisely because you used to be such good friends. Don’t let the stress of planning a wedding tear you apart.

Bridesmaids Who Ignore the Bride

If you’re a bride, you probably have a pretty good idea of how you want your wedding festivities to go. You can close your eyes and envision showing up to a perfectly-planned bridal shower and bachelorette party, surrounded by adoring girlfriends who can’t stop buying you pink, fizzy drinks. You can see your best friends lined up behind you on the big day in their matching dresses and flower tiaras, beaming with pride as you say your vows. You might even envision the hard times, when the stress of coordinating such an important occasion gets to you and you need a shoulder to cry on at 3AM. In a perfect world, your bridesmaids provide all these things and more.

But if you’re a bridesmaid, you may not be able to provide the flawless attention your bride deserves. Maybe you said yes to the position before knowing what to expect as a bridesmaid. Maybe you have to care for a sick relative. Maybe you simply realize, halfway to the wedding date, that you’ve shouldered too many responsibilities and have to cut back. The important thing in this situation is to keep communication open. Talk with your bride sooner rather than later; if she has advance notice to distribute your duties to other bridesmaids, she won’t feel betrayed like she would if you were to ditch at the last minute.

Brides, if you’re feeling ignored, it’s your job to keep communication open, too. What you perceive as neglect may simply be a case of a bridesmaid not knowing what her responsibilities are. Meet with your bridesmaids as early as possible and go over a checklist of activities you’d like them to plan and items (like dresses, shoes, and hotel rooms) you’d like them to buy. Don’t forget to offer a graceful opportunity to bow out if the responsibilities are too much for some of your friends–it’s much better to find out sooner rather than later!

Bridesmaids Who Are Too Picky 

Okay, maybe the bridesmaids’ dresses really are a horrendous combination of orange and fuchsia. But if the bride loves them (and especially if she’s paying), it’s not in the bridesmaids’ job description to complain. Plain and simple: when bridesmaids accept the title, they agree to go along with the bride’s whims. It’s practically a given that they’ll have to buy ugly dresses they’ll never wear again, among other indignities. (Brides: you can make your friends’ jobs easier by letting them choose their own bridesmaids’ dresses and by remaining flexible on wedding details.) But accepting inconveniences with a smile and filing away ideas for her own wedding is the most important part of a bridesmaid’s duties. Successful bridesmaids remember that their first duty is to be a good friend.

The exception to this rule is a bridesmaid who can’t afford it. When a hard limit like money is involved, the issue isn’t about “pickiness” anymore; it’s about figuring out what’s possible and how to make it work. As a bride, since you’re choosing most of the wedding details, it’s your job to consider your friends’ pocketbooks. If a bridesmaid unexpectedly gets laid off, or just can’t keep up with the amount of spending the other ladies are doing to fund the festivities, it’s time to scale back–or step up and fill in the remaining funds yourself.

Bridesmaids Who Steal the Limelight

A wedding is supposed to be entirely about the blushing bride (and, okay, the groom too). But sometimes bridesmaids have life events of their own during the time leading up to their friends’ weddings. 

As a bridesmaid who becomes pregnant or engaged during your friend’s wedding festivities, of course you should share the happy news with your friends. But be considerate about the timing of your announcement. A bad time to make it, for example, would be right after your bride friend has just announced she’s chosen her wedding gown. “That’s nothing,” you (wouldn’t) exclaim to the room. “I just found out I’m having a baby!” Instead, wait for a moment that’s separate from your friend’s wedding plans–that way, you won’t have to share your limelight with anyone, either.

As a bride whose bridesmaid is experiencing her own major life events, it’s your job to be encouraging and supportive. Try to understand that, as important as your upcoming wedding date is to you, the world hasn’t stopped turning for anyone else. If you’re worried that your recently-engaged bridesmaid is about to steal your thunder with her own wedding plans, sit down and plan out a calendar of events so you can be sure not to schedule anything on the same day. And remember–the more understanding and generous you are now, the more you can expect the same treatment when you attend her wedding.

The most important thing to keep in mind, even when stress levels and tempers rise, is that you’re in this together because you value each other’s friendship. The whole point of throwing a wedding, rather than eloping or visiting the courthouse, is to celebrate the joining of two lives with all of the most important people in those two lives. The wedding is just one day; it will come and go, but true friendships are (hopefully) forever.