Girls, admit it – we’ve all been there before.  One of your close girlfriends gets engaged and, of course, you’re thrilled for them but you also begin secretly wondering if she’ll ask you to stand in her wedding party.  Heck, you may even start comparing yourself to her other girlfriends to estimate your chances of acquiring the lucrative maid of honour position.  But have you ever stopped to wonder why exactly you want to be a bridesmaid?  Are you simply enamored with the idea of wearing a beautiful dress and being in some photos or do you honestly love your friend so much that you’re willing to do all the hard work it takes from the wedding party in order to make the big day a success?

I bet you’ve read something like this before.  You know, the classic “duties of a bridesmaid” article that every wedding magazine has written and re-written to death:

“The job of the wedding party starts well before the walk down the aisle and continues on even after the wedding day is over.  Wedding parties will help set up showers and bachelorettes prior to the wedding, help with last minute details and decisions on the day of and even help the newlyweds organize gifts and write thank you cards upon their return from the honeymoon.  Yes, being a great bridesmaid (or Maid of Honour) is hard work but it’s well worth it because you love your friend!”  Yadda, yadda, yadda… am I right?

BLAH!  I’m so tired of reading those articles.  They’re so frilly and beat around the bush.  You really want to know how to be a great bridesmaid?  I’ll tell you – but I’m going to be blunt.

Don’t. Be. Selfish.

It’s as plain and as simple as that.  Whether you were chosen to be a bridesmaid because you have been a long-time friend or you got the position by “default” because you’re family, if you plan on being selfish at any point during the process you may as well hang up the dress now.

Yes, it’s true that wedding parties have a lot of responsibilities throughout the wedding process like throwing silly showers or wild bachelorette parties.  When you’re planning these types of events, you need to keep in mind that you are planning an event for the BRIDE, not for you.  Trying to set up the menu for the shower?  If the bride is vegan, make sure to have plenty of vegan friendly options – you want the bride to be able to eat at her own shower, right?  Does the bride hate dive-bars but they are your favourite watering hole?  It doesn’t matter what you like, get the wild bachelorette party night started at one of her favourite locales, even if you despise the joint.  Even though you’re doing all the hard work to plan these events, you still need to keep the brides preferences in mind and make it all about her – afterall, it um.. is actually all about her!

IMG 2874 - How to be an Awesome Bridesmaid (or Maid of Honour!)
Lisa’s bridesmaids helped her at every step of the way! Their dedication and care helped make the day FANTASTIC!

Being a truly fantastic and selfless bridesmaid doesn’t stop after the bachelorette party either.  In fact, being organized, punctual and keeping the brides best interest in mind is most crucial on the wedding day itself.  Make sure you know the schedule of the day and help be a time-keeper in order to keep everyone on track.  Make sure you’re ready to go (hair, dress and makeup) well before you need to be so that you can then devote time to helping the bride go through her bridal preparations.  Help the bride organize her family photos by wrangling in stray family members – you can even throw a pair of flip-flops in your purse to help you do some running around without heels on.  At the reception, get up on the dance floor!  When the wedding party is dancing, guests will dance.  Did you know that most guests take their behavioral cues from the wedding party?  Finally, stay sober!  It’s okay to have a few drinks, but don’t forget that after the party is finished, there are still jobs to be done!  Someone needs to help load up gifts into cars, make sure the cake topper doesn’t get lost, and collect any stray centerpieces.

Throughout my years as a wedding photographer, I have seen some truly amazing bridesmaids and some absolutely horrific ones.  A bad bridesmaid can not only infuriate the bride and cause unneeded emotional breakdowns during times of high stresses but being a bad bridesmaid can also cause the wedding day to run extraordinarily late.  I’ve seen bridesmaids cause ceremony delays because they didn’t get ready on time, I’ve seen bridesmaids miss out on morning photos because they decided that they didn’t like their hairstyle (that they picked at their trial) and made the hairdresser go back and start again and on more than one occasion I’ve seen bridesmaids (and groomsmen, too!) stay sitting in the limo while knocking back the champagne while the bride tries to wrangle all her friends and family for photos.  Oh, and I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen wedding party members get ushered off to the washroom before dinner is even over because they have had too much to drink (good luck making your wedding party speech if you can’t even stand up!).  In every single one of the cases, the bridesmaids all appeared to be acting in a very, very selfish manner.  They were only concerned with themselves and the bride was merely an afterthought.

Maybe it seems like I’m coming down hard on these various girls and well, I frankly, I am!  As a wedding photographer, my job is to watch the day unfold naturally and unobtrusively through my camera lens.  This means that I get to do a lot of people watching.  You learn a lot about families and friends and their relationships with each other when you’re silently observing all day.  I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen brides get angry, frustrated and even cry because of the actions of the people who are surrounding them on their wedding day (whether it’s bridesmaids or other family members).

Are you afraid of being a bridesmaid now?  It’s understandable.  It really is a lot of work and responsibility.  Sure, they call that group of people the “wedding party” but there really is no ‘party’ involved at all – just hard work.  As a final note, if you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid and you really don’t feel like you’re up to the job, it’s okay to respectfully decline.  Explain to your friend/family member that although you are flattered that they asked but you feel like your shyness/money situation/time constraints can’t allow you to do the job in a way that they deserve.  It may result in a little bit of awkwardness for a few days, but it’s better than a lifetime of anger resulting from a ruined wedding day!