No bride deserves a deadbeat bridesmaid in her wedding party. That said, unless the wedding is a Kim and Kanye style affair with all expenses paid, the reality is that being a bridesmaid is often about 30% glamour and 70% hard labor. With the growing interest in DIY and destination weddings, it’s more important than ever for a would-be bride to select her attendants carefully and be realistic with herself and with her potential maids about the demand on everyone’s time and pocketbook. There is a lot more to it than tulle and flowers, and not everyone will be enthusiastic about hot gluing sequins to masons jars for 12+ hours to save you a few bucks.
The question shouldn’t be “Do I owe it to this friend or family member to make her a bridesmaid?” — instead you should focus on whether or not she is really up for the challenge of being a bridesmaid in the first place. What will being a bridesmaid in your wedding actually mean? What will it cost? What are your expectations for attendance? Are you (the bride) prepared to shell out some dough for a proper thank you gift for each member of your bridal party?
Look, if you plan to buy everyone’s dress, pay for their hair/makeup, chip in on their travel arrangements, and will be hiring a planner to handle every aspect of the big day as well as your bachelorette party… well, then being your bridesmaid will be pretty darn easy. If you’re not doing all of that, then assume that your wedding entails some discomfort for your bridesmaids in the form of money spent, time dedicated, and probably some minor burns from hot glue guns.
Nowadays bridesmaid duty is exactly that: a duty and an honor. For most brides, bridal party members will be expected to contribute something, and your Maid of Honor in particular is going to shoulder most of the planning and work leading up to your big day. In fact, for some brides it may even make sense to appoint 2 Maids of Honor.
VIP Alternatives to Bridesmaid Duty
Always remember that there are ways to involve your friends and family in your wedding without including them in the bridal party specifically. If nothing else, there are exclusive VIP parties (engagement, shower(s), bachelorette, rehearsal dinner, pre-wedding activities) for them to attend that don’t require them to shell out for a bridesmaid dress and be on your speed dial for the next 6+ months.
You can ask them to do a reading during the ceremony, perform a musical piece, act as an usher, or you can actually form committees. I’ve heard of brides nominating a group of women to be her “Something Blue” and each one wore blue to the wedding to “stand up in spirit” with the bride. Other brides keep the bridal party very small and form committees instead: a dress committee (helping with the wedding dress selection and process), a crafting committee (invitations, decor, place cards, signage), and so on. Whatever you decide, you can always honor the relationship by giving them a special role or a small gift along with a handwritten note.
Keeping all of this in mind as you assemble your wedding party makes for a happy bride and minimizes the potential for deadbeat bridesmaid behavior. A boss lady bride is well aware that the group of people she assembles is going to be her primary support system on the big day as well as during the months beforehand. And let’s not forget that your wedding party is going to be in some of your most important wedding photos. If you are careless about choosing your bridesmaids, you may very well regret it while browsing through your wedding album 10 years from now.
How to Ask Someone to be a Bridesmaid / Maid of Honor / Matron of Honor
– Let her know how much her friendship means to you
– Invite her to join the wedding party while clearly expressing your actual expectations for her participation (“I am really going to value your creativity for the bachelorette party!” or “Your advice is really going to come in handy as I select floral vendors and put together our reception playlist for the DJ.”)
– Be concise about financial obligations for the role (“The budget I’ve worked out will mean that you will probably end up spending an extra $500-800 to be a bridesmaid. Is that going to work for you?”)
– Give her a polite and easy out (“I know this is a lot to ask, and my feelings won’t be hurt if you need to decline. I’d still love for you to participate as one of my best friends without the added stress. Maybe you could do a ceremony reading or just help plan the shower instead?”)
A lot of people are afraid to say what they want. That’s why they don’t get what they want. – Madonna
Ladies, if you are going to need your bridesmaids to do more than just show up and smile, then you’ve got to be open about the help you may need. If you don’t ask for it by name and just assume that people can read your mind, you risk getting something other than Wonder-Bridesmaids in your wedding party.
If you choose bridesmaids from your close friends and family, very rarely will you end up with a bridesmaid who is deliberately disruptive or neglectful. Some are too young to know better; others are simply unaware of the wedding party protocols. But if you don’t properly communicate your expectations as a bride, then you’re probably going to end up with some bad behavior because your maids didn’t fully comprehend what they were getting themselves into when you asked them to help.
To avoid problems later on, communicate on the front end. There are essentially 5 types of bridesmaids that can round out your wedding party. If you choose wisely, and communicate effectively, I see no reason why you won’t be blessed with a wedding party full of Wonder-Bridesmaids. Cross your fingers that you don’t end up with a motley crew full of Divas and Deadbeats, though. Below is a description of each, in case you need help classifying yours…
The golden standard for bridesmaids. She is faster than a speeding bullet to respond to your frantic calls, texts, and emails. Her negotiation skills are more powerful than a locomotive. She is able to leap over wedding snafus in a single bound, and has an emergency kit hidden in her bra full of double stick tape, safety pins, hair spray and other big day essentials. It’s Wonder-Bridesmaid to the rescue! When duty calls she springs into action, but otherwise she’s a supportive and unassuming member of your bridal party. She’s grateful to be included and her mission is to ensure that your special occasion is lovely and and as stress-free as possible for you.
Note: it is possible to have a Wonder-Bridesmaid in your group that truly is crunched for time (maybe she’s busy immunizing kids against diseases in Africa, for example) and truly can’t be available for every call, text, email, or event. She will find other ways to help and support you, and that is absolutely okay. That said, she may not be a wise choice to be your Maid of Honor.
Demanding Diva Bridesmaid
This is her world and everyone else is just living in it. Demanding Diva Bridesmaid doesn’t hold back in telling you exactly what she thinks of your wedding decisions, and she doesn’t think much of them at all. She’ll be the first to offer unbridled criticism on everything from the bouquet flowers to the bridesmaid gown colors, length, material, and thread count. She does not sugarcoat her disapproval and she is going to wreak absolute havoc on your bridal party with her negativity, bullying, and know-it-all attitude. Try not to take it personally, but be prepared to pull her aside and have a gentle heart-to-heart.
The Deadbeat Bridesmaid
She pretty much just wants to show up to collect her bouquet, strut down the aisle in a pretty dress, take a few selfies in the bathroom, and get rowdy at the reception. Outside of that, she simply cannot be bothered because she is always “too busy” or any number of other excuses. She is unresponsive to communications from you or the rest of the bridal party, offers unhelpful objections and roadblocks to the group’s efforts to plan, does not show up for the pre-wedding events, and generally puts her own priorities and interests ahead of anything else. This bridesmaid is a burden to the rest of the bridal party, forcing them to pick up her slack and costing them financially and emotionally in their efforts to shield your feelings from the crippling disinterest of your Deadbeat Bridesmaid.
If you find yourself continually hurt or distracted by a deadbeat bridesmaid’s behavior, or you see it taking a major toll on the rest of your wedding party, an intervention may be required. Let her know that her detachment is hurting your feelings and damaging the relationship, and politely offer her the opportunity to step down from the position if the responsibility is too much. Sometimes a deadbeat bridesmaid can be converted.
Penny Pincher Bridesmaid
Research on the subject has shown that serving as a bridesmaid in just one wedding can cost more than $1,500 on average. Here in Los Angeles, that’s about one month’s rent. In other places it’s closer to 2 or 3 months rent. Either way, it is an expensive decision and you should consider the burden it will pose to ask someone to join your bridal party when they really don’t have the means to participate.
You’re going to feel guilty asking this bridesmaid to participate because you know she’s struggling with her finances, and you’re going to feel guilty if you exclude her altogether. In my experience, the Penny Pincher bridesmaid will usually feel compelled to say yes to your bridal party invitation because they love you and really do want to support you, but I see it happen time and time and time again… these are the bridesmaids who take on financial hardship in order to be there for you, causing themselves a lot of stress in the process and ultimately failing to enjoy what should be a special celebration, or they turn into deadbeat bridesmaids and leave you feeling completely rejected and confused. It’s a bad result for everyone involved, and causes unnecessary damage to the friendship.
If you can get away with it, my recommendation is not to extend a bridal party invitation to friends or family members who struggle with their finances or, if you must extend the invitation, be crystal clear about the financial expectations at the time of the invitation. Let them think it over and decide what they can afford. This is not snobbery and you shouldn’t feel guilty. It’s responsible friend behavior and spares you both from months of embarrassment and frustration that will most certainly tax your friendship once the bills start to accumulate.
Oh boy, watch out. This bridesmaid is completely unpredictable. She is the Melissa McCarthy bridesmaid in the lot and such a hot mess that only Igor Frankenstein could concoct her using parts of the other bridesmaid types I’ve outlined above. She could be super sweet, but shows up to every event without a bra and loses her bouquet right before the processional. She could be the one that refuses hair and makeup and opts instead to paint her face like a drag queen or simply insists on showing up bare faced and “natural” for photos. Maybe she is great until the reception but ends up making out with your DJ, or the bouquet toss turns her into a panicked mess that confronts her single woman woes by trying to out-drink and arm wrestle the groomsmen during the slow songs.
Unfortunately there is not much you can do in this situation, and frankly she is probably going to provide a lot of good stories later on, so try to laugh it off.