You best friend is getting married, and she has asked you to be one of her lucky bridesmaids. What a great honor! You’re feeling very happy and excited to share in such a wonderful experience, and you should! However, in addition to all all the fun and laughter you will both share on the way to the big day, there really are a couple of things that you need to know about your important role.
Now you can relax, I have put together a simple and stressfree guide for a perfect wedding day so you will know more or less what to expect, and maybe go above and beyond in your role. Make sure you sleep well the day before, as the d-day is definitely going to be a long one!
The traditions of being surrounded by bridesmaids during a wedding takes its origins from ancient times, when people believed in evil spirits. The bride was surrounded by look alike girls that were dressed all the same to fool demons and prevent them from taking away the bride. Over time, it has evolved into a more « helping » position, the bride had too many things to think about on her big day, so the bridesmaids are there to help and ease the pressure. Even as late as the 19th century, the belief that evil spirits could place curses on the bride was still widespread. If you look at Victorian wedding photographs, it can take quite awhile to pick out who the bride actually is in those old portraits!
- The Getting ready
If there happens to be more than one bridesmaid, the first challenge will be to find a dress that flatters every woman, regardless of size and shape. I have noticed the bridesmaids in Asia would all wear the same outfit matching the color theme of the wedding. In Europe, the trend seems to be more casual, and the dresses do not have to all look similar. In my opinion, it will look more dramatic if the girls all wear similar gowns and colors.
Assuming you manage to get dressed on your own without too much difficulty, and perhaps had your hair and make up done first very early in the morning, it is now your role to help the bride getting in a fancy, complicated, and magnificent gown. If you’re the Maid of Honor, you must maintain a calming influence throughout the day, and be as organized as possible. The wedding planner might not be present during the traditional ‘getting ready’, ( it should be a girl moment, shouldn’t it ?) so you are officially in charge of this important milestone. Make sure you coordinate this part with the photographer who will capture these precious moments. Feel free to enjoy some cold refreshing champagne with the wedding party, and make sure that nobody is drinking more than they should! You should gather up all the accessories, and look after the bride’s handbag including mint spray, small mirror, cellphone and charger, lipstick for touch ups, aspirin, sewing kit, tissues and blotting paper. God knows how emotional your best friend will be on the most important day of her life! As a wedding planner, I always carry an emergency kit, so feel free to ask me for anything you might have forgotten during the day ! Be prepared to receive a gift from the Bride as part of the fun !
- Going to the venue of ceremony
Coordinate with the wedding planner to let him know that everybody is ready to go. The bridesmaids will most likely travel with the bride’s mother. You will certainly notice that the tension will increase as the ceremony time approaches. No matter what, your role is to be a calming influence. It is only possible to understand how stressful this will be until you have experienced it. You might find it strange, but I strongly recommend you enjoy these precious moment of crazy excitement. This memory will be part of your shared history with your best friend, and you are very lucky to be invited to share in this magical day. So for her sake, try to hold back your tears and smile through it all, your emotions will only put more stress on the already nervous bride.
I often had to attach the boutonnieres on the groom and the groomsmen during my first luxury destination wedding, and I admit that even I had to control my shaky hands. I got used to it with experience, but be prepared for your own case of nerves on the big day !
Once all the wedding party is assembled, the photographer will most likely take some group pictures before the bride shows up. The bridesmaid will have to manage this session and organize everybody. Try to find a balance between being nice and firm, particularly with the young ones who can be hard to manage on a wedding day. Make sure you meet with the photographers before the ceremony so everyone has a clear idea of what will be happening, and when.
- During the ceremony
At this point, your help will surely be appreciated by the wedding planner. You can ensure everyone is in the right position ready for the bride’s entrance, and check that everybody has their bouquet. You can calm any overexcited flower girls with candies. Do not use champagne with kids! You can also make small adjustments to the bride’s veil and dress. If you follow the american tradition, you may walk down the aisle first, and stand near the front to watch and wait for the bride. If anything does not go according to plan, act as normal as you can and smile! Make sure all young children have their parents seated close by. These little creatures are super cute, but can be very annoying and distracting!
Once the bride has reached the altar, the maid of honor takes her bouquet and looks after it for the duration of the service. Yes, you will be holding two bouquets at this point. Tricky, isn’t it? If the couple must sign the register, you should witness the signing. At the end of the ceremony, you and the best man take up positions behind the bride and her new husband for the recessional.
It is your duty to arrange the couple and attendants for the photographs. If things are taking longer than expected, the wedding planner will give you a gentle warning. After photos, you need to get the couple in the car and on their way. And finally you can breathe a little !
- During the reception
We are not done yet, even if the atmosphere is now calmer and you are feeling a little tipsy! You can display the bride’s bouquet somewhere safe like the cake table, or perhaps near the guest book. Smile sweetly and join the receiving line, this allows the bride and groom to greet and thank each guest personally. You should also circulate among the guests during the reception and make sure that Aunt Marta doesn’t need anything and is enjoying herself. Smile, smile, smile, and be polite no matter what! You are acting as the bride’s back-up; as she will have only limited time to spend with each guest.
Previously a male’s responsibility, more and more bridesmaids give a speech during the dinner. This is your big moment! The best speeches are the most natural ones, try to include a touch of humor, treasured memories, and honest emotions. I have seen bridesmaids put together songs and video montages that were absolutely brilliant. Don’t be scared to be original as long as it fits the wedding style! If the couple have decided to go for the traditional first dance, the maid of honor can join this routine half way into the song, along with the best man. All eyes should be on the bride, though!
Finally, you should help the bride change into her second dress, if she has chosen one, and to take care of the first wedding dress. You can put it in a box or travel bag, and make ensure it gets home safely.
I hope that you enjoyed reading this advice. If you are not married yet, this will give you a good idea of what happens behind the scenes of a well-organized wedding ! Warmest, Jean charles