Bridal Party Etiquette

Bridal Party Etiquette
Just who you have in your bridal party and how they behave in the lead up to - and on - your big day,
can have a huge bearing on how your wedding day goes.
These tips will help you choose the right people,  
and then help you communicate their vital and privileged role.
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Selecting your bridal party:

Choosing your wedding party requires careful contemplation and planning. 
Most people look first to their siblings and closest BFF’s but before making your decision,
but consider the following:
  • If they live out of town, is it realistic that they’ll be able to provide the support you'll need?  Will dress or suit fitting cause a headache?  
  • Is it a reasonable financial burden for them?  What costs will they have to cover and will this cause a problem for them?  
  • Will they be able to put aside their own ‘issues’ for the day and concentrate on making you feel special and on being the practical and emotional support you need? 
  • As much as you love them, do they have personal flaws that might drive you nuts on your wedding day?  Eg:  Are they painfully shy?  Will they turn up late?  Are they a diva who might draw attention away from you? Are they likely to be drunk before the ceremony even begins?  
  • It’s not essential that you have ‘even numbers’ of bridesmaids and groomsmen – don’t just choose someone to make up the numbers – make sure you really want that person at your side all day! 
  • Don’t be constrained by age, or even gender, when choosing your bridal party.  If the groom’s grandfather really is his best mate, consider him as your best man.  If the bride’s brother is her closest friend, then he can be a brides-man! 
  • Choose carefully and then enjoy the fun with your nearest and dearest on your special wedding day! 
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Traditional role of the best man:

Traditionally, the best man ...
  • Organises the stag night (at least one week before the wedding!)
  • Ensures the ushers know their duties and have their buttonholes, seating plan and order of service sheets (where applicable).
  • Pays the celebrant’s fee on behalf of the groom before the ceremony (if not done prior to the wedding day).
  • Helps the groom get ready and to the ceremony on time.
  • Waits with the groom prior to the ceremony.
  • Stands beside the groom during the ceremony.
  • May be chosen to present the rings at the appropriate moment in the ceremony.
  • May be asked to sign the register as a witness during the ceremony.
  • Makes a reception speech, toasts the bridesmaids, and reads out any  messages from absent friends.
  • Helps pack and transport the gifts to the pre-arranged place.
  • Looks after the groom’s outfit, returning it if hired. 
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Traditional role of the chief bridesmaid:

Traditionally, the Maid of Honour ...
  • Helps the bride with wedding planning where requested by the bride.
  • Organises any pre-wedding parties for the bride.
  • Is responsible for the bridesmaids, flower girls and pageboys, making sure they all know their roles and duties.
  • May be asked to help the bride into her wedding dress.
  • Helps the bride with her train and holds her bouquet during the ceremony, returning it to her when required.
  • May be requested to witness the licence.
  • Unwraps the gifts and records the gift given on the back of the appropriate card.
  • Helps the bride change after reception and takes charge of the wedding gown. 
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 I saw this invitation recently – you might want to adapt it for your bridal party
so they’re clear, right from the beginning, exactly what it is you’re expecting of them.
Will you be my bridesmaid?
Will you also be my wedding planner, cake tester, interior decorator, envelope sealer, and guest list creator for the next year/
Will you listen to me obsessively talk about wedding things until it’s all over?
Will you help me pick out the perfect dress, even if it means wasting several hours of your Saturday?
Will you stay with me the night before the wedding and reassure me that everything will be perfect?
Will you get in all those uncomfortable positions to make sure my dress fits exactly the way it should?
Will you check my hair 300 times to make sure every single piece is just right?
Will you stand at the front of the church, smiling back at me, as I walk down the isle to marry my best friend?
Will you spend the entire wedding day with me, getting ready with me, laughing with me, and having photos with me, then spend the entire evening toasting, eating, drinking, and on the dance floor with me probably dancing to non-traditional wedding music?
Lastly will you be my friend through all of this, and forever after?
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How to be the world’s best wedding attendant:
It might be hard for the bride and groom – possibly your best of friends - to tell you this,
so let me ‘talk straight’ on their behalf:  
you have not been chosen for this special privilege to be eye candy or to stroke your ego. 
You have a serious role to play in the lead up to and on their wedding day. 
Make sure that everything you do is about making the day even better for this amazing couple. 
Go out of your way to focus on what they might be needing at any particular moment. 
Here are some simple hints for the wedding day:

For the bridesmaids:
  • Help create a fun yet calm environment during the wedding morning’s preparations.  Ask if you can help coordinate the hair and makeup rota so that the bride doesn’t have to think about that.  Have some calm, classic and romantic background music playing. 
  • Be time-keeper for her in the morning. Chances are she isn’t even wearing a watch and she will have so much else on her mind.  Quietly keep her to schedule with hair, makeup and everything else that’s going on in the morning!
  • Ask: would the bride like you to help her get into her dress or would she prefer to have a private moment with her mother?   If necessary, your role here might be to run interference and keep everyone else away!
  • Help her with her shoes – it’s really tricky getting down that far with a big dress on!
  • Help her with the fiddly clasps of her jewellery.
  • Ensure one of you has a hanky or tissue handy throughout the day.
  • Pack a practical goodie bag for her so that she has everything she needs should any malfunction arise.   See here for suggestions.
  • Help her into the car, paying special attention to ensuring her dress doesn’t drape on the ground or against any blackened car tyres.
  • Check her hair and makeup, and fluff her dress on arrival to the ceremony.
  • Hold her bouquet and hanky, where appropriate, during the ceremony.
  • After the ceremony, when everyone is gathering to congratulate the couple, gently slip her bouquet from her hands so that she can properly hug everyone. Make sure it’s carefully packed for the photoshoot.
  • Be official dress-fluffer during the photo session.  Check with the photographer as to how they prefer the dress to be laid out.  But don’t over-do it and soak up lots of time getting the train ‘just right’ for a headshot! 
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For the groomsmen:
  • Ask if there is any help required to lay out the ceremony or reception venues.  This might include putting out chairs, erecting a backyard bar or decorating a hall.
  • Prior to the big day, learn how to put button-holes on correctly so you can help with this task.
  • Ensure the groom’s shoes are cleaned and polished, and that he has matching socks!
  • Keep some mints in your pocket and feed them to the groom throughout the day.
  • Keep the groom sober until after his reception speech!
  • If having photos at the groom’s house prior to the ceremony, replace any furniture the photographer has moved during the shoot.
  • Ensure the groom’s collar, button hole, zipper etc are all in their correct place throughout the day.
  • Help with any last minute movement of furniture prior to the ceremony.
  • If singing from a service sheet during the ceremony, ensure that each member of the bridal party has a copy so they don't have to stand awkwardly, pretending to know the words!
  • Prior to the family photos, ask if the photographer needs any help moving seating etc.
  • If the photographer is working alone, s/he might appreciate some help carrying equipment or holding lights – just ask if you can assist as this will enable the photographer to focus on the couple and achieve more and better shots. 
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For everyone in the bridal party:
  • ASK don’t assume! Be an active listener. Be gracious and tactful. And be patient! Don’t bring your opinions on dresses, catering, and playlists unless you’re specifically asked.  Don’t compare this wedding to any others. Thoughtless comments can really mess with the bride (or groom’s) head!
  • Project calm and confidence throughout the day! Your panicking over anything will distract the couple from their zen-space!
  • Be nothing but encouraging!  The golden rule: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it!
  • In the leadup to the big day, ask if you can help with any wedding DIY.
  • Always be on time!  The bride and groom have enough to manage without waiting on you.
  • Don’t bother the bride or groom with something you can handle!
  • Wherever possible and appropriate, build a good vibe with the wedding suppliers.  When the celebrant, venue coordinator, barman, photographer, etc  are having a great time and enjoying their job, the couple will always get that little bit more out of them.
  • During the family photos, ensure that you sneak bite sized snacks and sips of water to the couple between sets.
  • Help the photographer by keeping an eye out for sunglasses on heads or stretched buttons from arms around friends, etc.
  • Observe what sort of emotion the photographer is trying to elicit for a shot and do what you can to help.  For example, having a groomsman shout ‘go get a room’ can disturb a beautifully romantic shot, so hushing the bridal party for a few minutes might be appropriate.  Other times, the photographer might appreciate the bridal party playing up and making the couple toss their heads back in laughter.  The secret is to read the scene, be involved, and don’t overstep the mark.
  • Generally, hang close to the couple throughout the day so that if there is anything they need, you can fetch it.
  • Help with the hosting: During reception, rotate around the tables, introducing yourself if necessary, and do what you can to ensure everyone is having a great time.
  • If you’re aware that a special friend or family member can’t make it to the wedding, secretly arrange for an email or video message to be included in the speeches.  
  • When it’s the bridal party’s time to join the couple on the dance floor, don’t be shy!  Help get the party started!
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Who pays for what:

The most important thing is that the couple makes it really clear, really early on,
exactly who is paying for what, and ensuring that everyone is ok with it.
  • Typically the bridesmaids pay for their own dresses and shoes, and the guys pay for their own suit hire, shirts, socks, and shoes.
  • The bridal party normally pays for the hen and stag do’s, but this could be discussed with the couple or even their parents.
  • Bridesmaids and groomsmen cover their own costs of getting to and from the wedding town, and may need to arrange their own accommodation too.
  • The bride normally pays for the bridesmaids’ flowers, hair and makeup.
  • The bride normally gifts any jewellery she wishes the bridesmaids to wear.
  • The couple should not expect gifts from the bridal party – chances are they’ve already emptied their bank
  • accounts paying for their outfits!
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