They're your best friends, your family, the people closest to you. Treasure them and treat them well with this guide to bridesmaids.
Queen for a Day
Your bridesmaids are there to make your life easier, so let them! You'll want total control of your special day, but these girls should be the ladies in waiting to your Bridal Queen. They can scour cities for their bridesmaid dresses (showing favorites for final approval, of course), research hotels for guests and assemble favors. After you've got your hands on just the right style of paper, have bridesmaids address invitation envelopes and write place cards (making sure you call on the ones with the nicest handwriting!). Let the maid of honor be your royal attendant as she coordinates pre-wedding bridesmaid fittings and lunches and acts as your personal beauty (and therapy) assistant on the big day.
Don't fret about urban legends of closets full of awful dresses belonging to fashion-victim bridesmaids of yore—we've come a long way from the days of ruffles and fuschia. Of course, you may have to accommodate various body types (not to mention diverging senses of style), so make sure your bridesmaids have a say in their wedding wear. Whatever you do, don't let a gaggle of girls out on the street in search of the perfect dress—that's a recipe for disaster. Let your maid of honor choose her dress per your specifications, and then select three similar styles from which your bridesmaids will have their pick. If you have a pregnant bridesmaid, be sure to anticipate her size at the time of the wedding, and order extra fabric in case her dress size needs to be altered.
Although similar dresses are the most striking for bridesmaids who flank the true star of the show, it isn't necessary to have a procession of clones introduce you. Bridesmaid dresses should complement the style and formality of your gown; the only official rule of thumb is that if you're wearing a short dress, your attendants should avoid letting their hemlines dip below yours. Encouraging bridesmaids to choose the most flattering style for their tastes and body types will make for more sparkling smiles in the wedding album. And you can outfit the girls with similar headpieces, bouquets, shoes and jewelry (accessorize, girl!) if you want a fall-in-line parade.
Always a Bridesman?
Including a guy in your procession is a perfectly acceptable (and even progressively hip) thing to do. Of course, you should be sensitive to his limits—dragging him to all-girl showers and gown shopping excursions is asking too much. He can don the same attire as the groom's attendants, but you might outfit him with a unique boutonniere or cummerbund to identify him with your bridal party. Be sure to thank him with a gift that fits—groomsman gifts may include tickets to a game or show, stationery or an engraved fountain pen. And remember, if you give the bridesmaids necklaces, he might rather have cuff links.
Ballot of the Bridesmaids
Your list of bridesmaids should fill you with joy, not anxiety. Call upon people who will be in your life forever—close friends and relatives who are in it for the long haul. Choose the number of bridesmaids that best reflects the size and formality of your ceremony; you and your groom don't have to have the same number of attendants (the clergy arranges processions and lineups, so that's one load off your mind). Remember, you aren't obligated to ask people who included you in their weddings, and you're not expected to keep a promise you made to your best friend in elementary school. There are always creative ways to include more people if you think the girls from the office might feel slighted—having a friend man the guest book or give a reading at your wedding can make her feel just as special.
Bridesmaid Dos and Don'ts
DO: Consider your bridesmaids' budgets
DON'T: Call to tell them that Vera Wang will be needing their credit card numbers for processing
DO: Delegate responsibilities amongst the bridesmaids and keep them informed
DON'T: Expect them to accompany you on every shopping trip and call them every hour, on the hour, to update them on the latest wedding joy or disaster
DO: Let your bridesmaids voice their opinions on the style of their attire
DON'T: Dictate an accessory or hairdo that makes your bridesmaids uncomfortable—it will show on their faces. tLadies in Waiting
Take care of your bridesmaids and they'll take care of you.
KAREN GEAGHAN PHOTOGRAPHY / www.karengeaghanphotos.com
michael paul PHOTOGRAPHY / www.photographybymichaelpaul.com