The Bridesmaids' Survival Guide

Surviving that special day!


Being a bridesmaid is a big responsibility. We’ve teamed up with Maxine Bertrand, owner and creative director of A Gorgeous Fete to offer you the ultimate guide to playing your part in the bride and groom’s very special day.

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How should I respond if I’m asked to be a bridesmaid?

Etiquette demands you react graciously, however you feel. Try not to overreact, even if you are overjoyed: you have been asked to play a part in the bride’s special day but she must remain the centre of attention. The bride also needs to know that you will remain calm in the face of great excitement and/or pressure.

If being a bridesmaid isn’t on your bucket list, accepting isn’t compulsory. You can politely, and tactfully, decline the opportunity. No bride wants an unwilling bridesmaid, but be sensitive and let her down gently.

What duties should I fulfil before the wedding?

First and foremost, you must take the bride’s lead and be willing to do what is asked of you. If she isn’t forthcoming with jobs and responsibilities, encourage her to delegate.

Maxine says that the maid of honour has the most responsibility. “She’s literally the bride’s right hand woman,” she explains, “so she becomes the bride’s emotional and logistical support. She listens even if she’s heard the same issue over and over. She must attend all wedding parties as well as plan the bridal shower. If it’s a DIY wedding she should expect to lend a helping hand to the crafts, setting up the favours and getting the other bridesmaids organized.”

Image Credit: Julia Seiler Photography

Will I meet the wedding planner?

Maxine tries to get to know the bridesmaids before the wedding, either at vendor meetings or at the rehearsal: “I take the time to chat with them and ask questions relating to how they are handling the role and if they feel nervous about the big day. I try and offer some advice to help them stay as calm as possible. I scope out the ones that seem to have a good handle on the situation and assign small tasks like having tissues on hand during the ceremony and helping with smaller children in the wedding party as they probably know and trust them.”

What if I don’t know or get along with the other bridesmaids?

Although it can be a little awkward, there are ways to improve the situation. Suggest a night out together to bond. Find out a little about them and make a gesture that shows you are genuinely making an effort, like taking them to a restaurant they’ll love. You don’t have to be best friends, but striving to get along will help you cooperate with each other on the wedding day.

How do I cope if the bride becomes stressed?

Maxine says that a bridesmaid needs to listen to the bride: “You must be her emotional support. By listening you can take on tasks that seem to be adding weight to her worries. You must also become the “middle woman” between the bride and any vendors (if a wedding planner is not involved) so the bride isn’t running around trying to deal with any issues.”

How much say will I get when it comes to the bridesmaid dress — and will I have to pay?

The bride has the ultimate say, but Maxine stresses that bridesmaids need input too: “As a bride it’s important that your bridesmaids like the dress and feel comfortable — they will be wearing it for the entire day and in the pictures. There should definitely be a discussion individually, or as a group, to figure out different styles and colours and then narrow it down.”

Although modern couples usually handle all their own wedding expenses, Maxine says that a bridesmaid should expect to possibly pay for her dress.

Image Credit: Julia Seiler Photography

Will I need to attend the rehearsal?

“Absolutely,” says Maxine. “The bridesmaids need to know what they are doing: they need to know when to walk up the aisle, when to help the little ones, who will take the groom’s ring, who will take the bride’s bouquet, when it’s time for the signing, etc. Bridesmaids cannot expect to know what is involved in a ceremony unless they attend the rehearsal (regardless of how long or short it is), as each wedding is different and personal to the bride and groom.”

What can I expect on the wedding day?

According to Maxine, “you can expect to work! During preparations (hair and makeup and attire) you should ensure that everyone is on schedule, help get the little ones ready, gather and organize the group for pictures and ensure that the travel arrangements are ready to get to the ceremony site.

“During the ceremony: get everyone ready for the procession line, calm and lead the little ones, help adjust the bride’s dress and veil, hold the bride’s bouquet, have tissues on hand and once the procession has taken place, gather the wedding party for more pictures.

“At the reception, play hostess and ensure that guests know where to sit, advise them where to put presents, collect any gift envelopes and keep them in a safe place and invite people to sign the guest book. Make sure the bride takes the time to grab a bite as she needs all her energy to make it through the night, prepare a toast for the couple (if the bride and groom choose to have speeches) — and be prepared to handle any crises whether it be a wine stain on the bride’s dress or a meal change due to allergies.”

Can I change out of my bridesmaid dress for the evening reception?

Once photos have been taken and the ceremonial aspect of the day is done, this should be ok — just make sure you clear it with the bride! You could buy a comfortable evening dress in the same colour as your bridesmaid gown for the reception, so you still look the part.

Photographers’ Top Tips for Bridesmaids

We asked wedding photographers Julia Seiler and Gary Scott for their top tips to help bridesmaids prepare for their moment in front of the camera...

  • If you have an opportunity to meet the photographer at the rehearsal or any time before the wedding, take it — you’ll feel more comfortable being photographed by someone you’ve met.
  • Before the bridal party leaves for the ceremony there are some fantastic photo opportunities — if the bridesmaids move things along there are a few more minutes to take photos of the bride and bridal party (and having the bridesmaids participate in that preparation also makes for some wonderful photos).
  • Remember that only the bride is looking radiant in a big, white dress — there’s no point in trying to steal the limelight.
  • A photographer that specializes in spontaneous, candid moments will encourage you to act natural and be yourself.
    • The more concerned you are with the bride’s well being, the less worried you’ll be about having your photo taken.
  • A good bridesmaid will help the photographer round-up guests for group and family photos.
    • If you get on really well with the photographer, consider booking him/her for your own wedding.


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