Before writing this post I spent some time lurking in bridal forums. Whenever the question of what constitutes bridesmaids duties came up, the answer was invariably that they are there to support the bride. The problem I saw was that many brides-to-be seem to set a pretty low bar when defining support. For more than a few brides, support from bridesmaids consisted of nothing more than showing up to the wedding, standing there and looking pretty (as long as they don’t look prettier than the bride).
According to tradition and etiquette, there are customary duties with which your bridesmaids and maid of honor should be willing to assist you and I don’t mean just holding up your dress when you have to go to the ladies room. I’ve included a list of a few of those duties here. In today’s busy world it may be unrealistic to expect any one bridesmaid to be able or willing to help with everything; However, if you have a bridal party, or individual member of the party, that consistently refuses to help with “any” of these duties then you can save yourself a lot of aggravation by letting that member go or by foregoing the idea of a bridal party altogether. Just be sure to do so before they start purchasing their dresses. At a minimum, your bridesmaids should be willing to do the following prior to the wedding day:
Attend bridal shows with you: Part of the excitement of planning your wedding is attending at least one bridal show, However having to attend them alone is no fun at all. When deciding which bridal show to attend, it’s best to choose an event that’s far enough in the future that it will give your ladies time to work it into their busy schedules.
Throw you a bridal shower or bachelorette party: The maid of honor should be in charge of throwing the bridal shower or bachelorette party. But your bridesmaids should be willing to help out by chipping in cash, helping to send out invitations, setting up and taking down the decorations and all the other details that go into throwing the party.
Actually attend your bridal shower or bachelorette party: After all, how can you trust someone to show up for your wedding if they can’t show up for your pre-wedding parties.
Show up for the rehearsal: With the exception of out of towers, your bridesmaids should show up for your wedding rehearsal. Failure to do so can result is a less than smoothly running bridal entrance and exit.
Help you choose your wedding dress: You can’t realistically expect your bridesmaids to accompany you to 15 different bridal boutiques, but you should be able to count on your maid of honor to assist you in deciding between the final three or four choices. You may also want to include your mother and at least one sister in this decision because nobody will be more brutally honest about what does or doesn’t look good on you than a mother or sister.
Help you address wedding invitations: This is a classic bridesmaids task. However it should only be trusted to those with good penmanship and attention to detail because you only get so many envelopes with your order of invitations.
Pay for their bridesmaid dress and shoes: Some brides can afford to and will pay for the dresses that their ladies will wear. If that’s not you then it’s perfectly acceptable to expect each bridesmaid to pay for her own dress and shoes. On the other hand, you as the bride should not choose bridesmaids dresses that will put a financial strain on anyone. As a gesture of appreciation, you could gift them each with a necklace, pair of earrings or a bracelet to wear on the big day. It’s also nice to choose bridesmaids dresses that can be worn for other occasions.
Lastly, your bridesmaids should provide plenty of emotional support:The weeks and days leading up to your wedding are going to be fraught with anxiety. You are going to need someone to bitch to regarding your groom, your future in-laws, those last five pounds, etc. So make sure you choose bridesmaids who will be there when you need a sympathetic ear.