So the day has finally come. Time to put your game face on and make the bride your number one priority. It’s important to keep things in perspective and remember the role you signed up for. Your bride may be giddy with happiness or petrified with nerves—just be the friend she needs that day.
I’ll use photographs from the lovely Michele’s wedding to lay out how a traditional wedding day will unfold. This of course all flies out the window if your bride has planned a nontraditional ceremony. In that case, just be sure to communicate with her beforehand and know what she needs you to do.
So in our traditional scenario, bridesmaids are asked to meet several hours early to start getting ready. For a girl who can be dressed and out the door in fifteen minutes this may seem excessive, but you really will need the time if everyone is planning to get hair and makeup professionally done. Even if that’s not the case, remember that job of yours? Support. Your bride wants to be surrounded by her friends. Show up when she asks.
Ok, so the hair and makeup folks have arrived or you have broken out the curling irons and mascara yourself and the primping is under way. Wear a button-down shirt or loose top so that your hair and makeup won’t get messed up and you’ll be comfortable. What else should you do for the next couple hours? I’m partial to celebratory mimosas but I highly, highly recommend keeping drinking in check—one or two at most. If you start getting ready in the morning for an afternoon or evening wedding and drink at a steady pace, people will be wasted, tired and sloppy at the actual event. MOHs can coordinate with the bride’s mother to make sure there will be food for everyone. If Mom’s not planning to provide, make it your job to arrange this. You all need to eat at least something small. No one wants to pass out at the wedding. Youtube “bridesmaid fainting” for a preview of how that will go.
This is also a great time to present the bride with a small gift from her maids. For Michele, we got her an FSU garter. The bride may have favors for you as well (Michele made us beautiful bracelets to wear on the day!). Sometimes you’ll present the bride with a gift as a group, but I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary since you’ll already have given her shower/bachelorette/wedding gifts. One thing I always try to do though is bring a card for the bride and share a private moment with her. I like to include my thanks for asking me to be in her wedding, my excitement for the day and encouragement about the future. It’s a great way to share a personal moment before she gets swept up in the events of the ceremony and reception. I kind of cherish that getting ready time, because after that the bride is going to be bombarded by the other guests and you won’t have as much time with her.
After all the maids are dressed, you’ll help the bride into her gown. If she’s using a professional photographer they will probably be on hand at that point to capture the moment. For the next hour (or so) you’ll take pictures with the bride, either at the reception venue or the church. Some couples may choose to do a “first look,” in which case the whole wedding party will meet up and take photographs before the ceremony. If there’s no first look, you’ll be expected to take more pictures after the ceremony. Either way, you’re in for the long haul here. The MOH should stay with the bride at all times and make sure her dress and hair are always looking great. Carry her train for her if she has one and step in to fix problems if you see them (I don’t want to even get into the red underwear situation).
After photographs it’s time for the ceremony! When processing down the aisle, adopt that time-honored BBQ slogan: slow and low. Walk slowly and carry your bouquet low, where your hands would sit naturally if you folded them in front. Higher will block your face and dress and just looks weird. The MOH holds the ring (if she has a pocket or place to keep it; if not sometimes the best man will carry both rings). She stands beside the bride, fixes her train and veil when the bride makes it down the aisle and holds the bride’s bouquet and her own throughout the ceremony. When the vows are said and the ceremony complete, the MOH, along with the Best Man, will sign the marriage license—the true reason we have attendants in the first place. They are our witnesses to the validity of the marriage!
If your couple has planned post-ceremony pictures you’ll now partake in those. Then the wedding party heads to the reception. Some couples may want you to be formally introduced, in which case you’ll wait for the other guests to enter and then come into the reception as your names are announced. Sometimes the wedding party stands around the dance floor as the couple has their first dance, other times they might join in after a few bars or just take your seats. It’s a good idea to find out in the morning what your bride had planned for this, because in the moment she’s going to be a litttle preoccupied.
Then, unless you’re the MOH, your “official” duties have ended! Your unofficial duties: make sure guests are having a good time—point out wedding day events like photo booths or guest books, help pass out favors, lead dances if necessary, chat with lonely old ladies, if single cruise for eligible bachelors—you know the drill. If your bride has taken a more DIY approach, your work may only be beginning, but that’s really specific to each bride.
If you’re the MOH, you’ll need to give a speech. But more on that another time.