In the moment, you want to say “yes.” No brainer, of course. Your good friend, possibly your best friend, newly engaged, radiant, the very picture of beatitude, is asking you to be a bridesmaid.
It’s an honor, you think, to stand beside her at the altar on the big day—and not just because she’s glowing, and maybe you’ll be able to bask in some of that light and luck. Of all her many friends and relatives, she’s selected you, declared you as one of the elite members of her social circle. You want to don the pretty dress in a show of solidarity with a cast of other similarly clad women, as she exchanges vows of eternal love and embarks on the next chapter of her life, but being a bridesmaid, I’ve learned, is much more than looking like a well-groomed wallflower. It’s work. It’s a job that requires you to sweat, spend, craft, and, in some cases, abandon your principles and self-respect—all for her sake. When she asks you to be bridesmaid, you can’t just agree. You first have to ask yourself these questions.
1. Do you have the time?
Do you travel a lot? Does your job consume your life? If yes, don’t agree. Being asked to be a bridesmaid is like getting invited to an exclusive, highly demanding, and short-lived club, the ultimate extracurricular. Between planning the shower, trying on gowns, finding gifts, coordinating the bachelorette party, and periodically offering reassurances to the bride, you better make sure you can commit. Clear your schedule for the next year. Drop your other plans. If you agree to do this and you drop the ball, the other bridesmaids may very well eat you alive. That is, unless bridezilla wants everyone to lose weight for the wedding, in which case eating is on no one’s agenda.
2. Do you like crafting?
More specifically, are you prepared to scour Pinterest and replicate everything you find? Of all the responsibilities that accompany bridesmaid-ship, crafting is the one I loathe most. For some brides, you can get away with buying stuff for decorations and favors, but other brides want to DIY the crap out of everything. It’s burlap and lace and mason jars and chalk-like script galore. “Rustic chic” I think they call it. At my cousin’s shower, for which I cooked, cleaned, and avoided being responsible for decorations at all costs, it looked like Pinterest had exploded over my entire backyard. It was life imitating tech imitating life, and I thought perhaps I had somehow stepped into a real-life Pinboard, a phenomenon which continues to repeat itself. Recently, I tried to craft a bridal shower sash. Using a hot-glue gun, I positioned lace onto the edges of some burlap wired ribbon, then attempted to stencil calligraphy letters onto the fabric. Only after the letters smudged and turned into mushy blobs did I remember this thing called Amazon exists where you can purchase a sash for five dollars with free shipping.
3. Do you have money?
For real, being in the bridal party is expensive. If you thought having to spend money on a gift as a guest was bad, being in a bridal party can easily cost double (or more) of what you would have spent on a gift otherwise. Not in all cases, of course, but money should nonetheless be a factor you take into consideration when you’re debating accepting the bride’s slave—I mean, bridesmaid—challenge. Depending on how traditional the bride and her family are, you could end up paying for expenses such as a bridesmaid’s gown, her bridal shower, the bachelorette party, shoes, hair, makeup, hotel stays, transportation to and from the venues, group gifts, bachelorette party gifts, shower gifts, and the wedding gift. If you have concerns about money, just think twice before you commit because by the end, you will probably start answering to the name “BIG SPENDAAAA.”
4. Are you OK with the cheese factor?
When you’re a bridesmaid, you often need to put on a grin in spite of how you might really feel about something. You smile and nod and answer emails excitedly with an excessive number of exclamation points. As a bridesmaid, you’re required to gush with enthusiasm about every detail, even if you’re annoyed, or can’t stand the other bridesmaids, or can’t believe the bride picked the ugliest, most expensive dress in the entire bridal shop for you to wear. You have to offer deferential opinions about flowers, fabrics, and foods every few days. Everything is perfect, hunky-dory, amazing, splendid. You put the bride’s needs ahead of yours in all matters for the foreseeable future. Eventually, you will need to come to terms with tacky rhymes and silly games involving fairy-tale romances, and kissy photos, and, possibly, irresponsible lingerie, that offer outdated interpretations of femininity and that may call into question your sense of self-respect. And still, you will smile through it all. Perhaps your face will freeze that way, and a groomsman will think that you’re actually a cheerful, fun-loving, and attractive bridesmaid that he wants to hit on. Joy.
5. Do you know the bride well enough? And do you like her?
It seems obvious, but make sure you know the bride well and like her enough to go out of your way to do nice things. When it comes to wedding events, the personal touches make all the difference. Photos, quotations, and favorite moments from her love story and life are what set her wedding and all the events leading up to it apart from every other cookie-cutter ceremony. And when you actually like the bride and want to make everything perfect, the work you in terms of planning, decorating, coordinating, and just plain making stuff happen, feels less like an inconvenient obligation and more like a responsibility, or even an opportunity to show how much you appreciate her. Some people are worth it, and others are not. Some brides are using you for labor, while others genuinely think you’re an important part of their lives. If you can’t honestly answer that you unconditionally love the bride, then pass on being a bridesmaid. Everyone will be better off in the end, especially you.
6. So, are you ready?
Well, are you?