Category Archives: Advice

Just Who Exactly Is Invited: Bridal Shower & Bachelorette Guest List Questions Answered

Oh, the tricky web that wedding invitations weave. I can tell you from personal experience that choosing who to invite to your wedding can feel like participating in Hunger-Games-like elimination rounds. And sending out invites to your bridal shower and bachelorette party can be just as filled with hair pulling and grief. Here, we try to simplify things for you a bit with answers to the most common questions we get on guest lists for pre-wedding parties.

Who should I invite to my bridal shower and bachelorette? Guest list questions answered.

Who is invited to the bridal shower?
The bride should provide the host with a guest list. Showers are generally attended by a select group of close friends and relatives, so you should not invite every woman who is attending the wedding. The guest list will usually include the bridesmaids, the bride’s close friends, her mother, grandmother and aunts (and even female cousins, if she is close with them) and the mother of the groom. Important to note: Only ladies who are invited to the wedding should be invited to the shower.

But we are having a small wedding and I wanted to celebrate with some of the friends I didn’t invite to the wedding. Can’t I invite them to my bridal shower?
No, you really can’t. This is considered very rude. Only guests who are invited to the wedding can be invited to pre-wedding parties like the bridal shower. Though you may be tempted to invite the friends who didn’t make the wedding list cut to your shower, you’d basically be saying “please get me a present, but sorry, you can’t come to the wedding.”

Can someone from the groom’s side of the family throw the bride a shower?
Traditionally, the shower is thrown by someone on the bride’s side of the family: her maid of honor, her bridesmaids, an aunt, her godmother, her sister, or even occasionally her mother. That being said, we can do what we want. If the bride is close with her fiancé’s mother or sister and they want to throw her a shower, there’s absolutely no reason they shouldn’t! Just make sure you don’t have competing showers from the bride’s and groom’s side. It’s best to combine into one event if most of the same guests would be invited.

Can men be invited to a bridal shower?
While showers have traditionally been female-only affairs, there are several cases in which inviting men is totally cool. If you want to have a co-ed affair, it’s called a couple’s shower. In this case, both the bride and groom attend the party and invite their friends and family. But what if the bride doesn’t want a couple’s shower, she just wants to invite some of her male friends? Just as wedding parties may now have “Men of Honor” or the “Best Maid,” if you have close friends of the opposite sex who your shower would be incomplete without, you should by all means invite them. As long as your fiancé’s feelings won’t be hurt that he isn’t invited, press on!

Who should be invited to my bachelorette party?
The bachelorette party usually consists of the bride’s closest girlfriends. This includes all her bridesmaids, plus other close friends. Sisters are usually invited, but other relatives usually don’t make the cut. The bachelorette is usually for women in the same generation as the bride—aka aunts and grandmas skip this one.

Should my mother be invited to my bachelorette party?
I have a follow-up question for you: Do you want to invite her or is she pressuring you to invite her? If you and your mom like to party together and you want her to be there, then yes, go ahead and invite her. But usually mothers and other older female relatives are not invited to bachelorette parties. Generally the parties are confined to the bride’s close friends. If your bachelorette party is going to be more laid-back—say, a wine and painting class or a nice dinner out—it may make sense to invite your mom. I’ve also seen brides go on trips with their mother and sister as their bachelorette getaway. Your bachelorette should be what you want it to be. If you want a weekend away with just your close girlfriends, do that! If you want your mom to be there, invite her! But if your mom is just pressuring you to include her, feel free to say “sorry, mom, this one’s just for my girlfriends—Ultimate Bridesmaid says so.”

Before I set the date of a bridal shower or bachelorette party, who do I have to clear it with?
This is so tricky. I feel your pain. It can be nearly impossible to pick a date that works for all guests and feelings can sometimes get hurt. But honestly, one of the roles of host is not to find a date that works for every single person. For the bridal shower, make sure the date works for the bride (duh) and the mother of the bride. Ask the bride to pick a few other priority guests—this may include her bridesmaids, her mother-in-law-to-be, or an aunt or cousin she is close with. For the bachelorette, try to pick a date that works for all her bridesmaids. Setting the date well in advance will help make this easier. The earlier you can pick a date, the less likely your guests are to have a conflict. At the end of the day, don’t beat yourself up if every single person can’t attend. You did your best.

Who should I invite to my bridal shower and bachelorette? Guest list questions answered.

Photo by Alixann Loosle Photography.

Help! How do I hide my new pregnancy at a bachelorette party?

How to keep your early pregnancy a secret at a bachelorette party

I’m only a few weeks pregnant and attending my friend’s bachelorette party. Obviously I’m planning not to drink, but I don’t feel comfortable sharing my news yet. What’s the best way to hide that I’m pregnant so I can avoid questions I’m not ready to answer?

How to hide an early pregnancy at a bachelorette (aka not drink without anyone noticing)Isn’t it weird that people are like detectives when it comes to not drinking?! They really have to get to the bottom of why there’s no alcohol in your glass! I recently did a Whole30, a diet plan that eliminates alcohol (among other things) for 30 days, and while I was on it I went to a happy hour. When I ordered a seltzer with lime, someone immediately blurted out, “what, are you pregnant?!” The answer was no, but honestly, why can’t people control themselves? There are a thousand reasons I might not want to drink today. I was tempted to be like, “no, but I am a recovering alcoholic, thanks!” It’s really very rude for people to question your reasons for not drinking, but that doesn’t change the fact that they do it all the time. If you ordered a cheeseburger with salad instead of fries, would everyone at the table be like, “oh my god, why didn’t Karen order the fries? Let’s grill her about it in front of the whole group!” No, they wouldn’t! OK, sorry, that’s my rant on people being nosy about alcohol. On to your problem! You want to attend the bachelorette party, but you don’t want to have to explain yourself or field questions on whether you’re preggers or not. Here’s how to hide pregnancy at a bachelorette party.

First, consider telling the bride or your best friend at the party. That way, you’ll have someone who knows your situation and can help you be sneaky. If someone orders a round of shots, you can give yours to the bride and no one will think anything of it. If you don’t feel comfortable telling the bride, then the person you need to make friends with is your server. Head to the bar on your own as soon as you arrive and tell your server you won’t be drinking tonight, but you don’t want your friends to know. You aren’t the first woman to experience this, and chances are your server will be totally game to help! Tell the server to bring you a seltzer with lime in a cocktail glass and keep them coming all night long, no matter what you order in front of your friends. It will look like you’re drinking vodka sodas all night and no one will be the wiser. Another good fakeout drink is a fruity cocktail prepared without alcohol. If you act like you’re drinking, most of the time no one will notice a thing.

What if someone hands you a drink or buys a round of shots? Two courses of action. Option 1: Accept the drink and say thank you. Then hold it in your hand for a minute or two and once the attention has shifted elsewhere, casually set it aside and switch back to your fake cocktail. If you are discrete, no one will notice. They’ll just assume you downed that thing! Second option, especially with shots: Claim you absolutely cannot stand that liquor. “Oh my gosh, thank you so much, but I cannot do tequila shots. It was the first liquor that made me sick in college and now I just can’t touch it! I’m just going to grab another vodka soda!” Everyone has the one liquor they cannot stand, so this excuse should be pretty widely accepted. Offer your extra shot to the bride and take a big glug of your seltzer and lime.

If anyone sniffs you out and asks that rude question, “hey, why aren’t you drinking?”, you can also use the old “I’m on antibiotics” trick or tell them you’re in the middle of a cleanse that doesn’t allow alcohol and you really want to see it through. When I was not drinking for Whole30, I found that the thing people were most concerned about was that I wasn’t having any fun because I wasn’t drinking. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You really can attend an event and not drink alcohol and have a great time (shocker, I know). But sometimes all people need to leave you alone is reassurance that you are having fun. So if someone finds out you aren’t drinking, give your antibiotic or diet excuse, then smile and say, “But don’t worry, I am having a blast! Let’s go dance!”

Help! I’m a Maid of Honor Who Hates Public Speaking!

Your best friend is getting married. You’re her maid of honor. It’s all great. You’re ecstatic. Except for one little problem: You HATE public speaking. You’re petrified about giving that toast at the reception. You haven’t spoken publicly since that incident in history class senior year and no one wants a repeat of how that went. Well girl, it’s time to face your fear. Giving a toast at the reception is part of your responsibility as a maid of honor. And you CAN do it.

Tips and Advice for the Maid of Honor with Stage Fright. You CAN do it!First of all, preparation is your friend. You may be tempted to wing it, because this allows you to put off thinking about the speech, and thus experiencing some of the stress, until the last minute. Resist this temptation. Having a prepared speech will not only help your nerves, it will also help you deliver a speech you can be proud of.

Stuck on what to write about? Take a look at these speech writing prompts and my advice for how to get started with writing. The good news? I’ve already got your first sentence written for you. Start with “For those of you who don’t know me, I’m Caitlin and I’m the bride’s sister/best friend/sorority sister/former roommate.” This may sound like a boring opening, but unless you know every single person at this wedding, it’s important to mention who you are and your relationship to the bride.

One way to approach the speech is to think of it as writing a personal letter to your best friend, telling her why you are happy for her on her wedding day. But remember to factor the groom into your speech. It can be tempting to tell all your favorite stories about you and bride—how you met, the club you started in middle school, that road trip you took in college, that one crazy night in college. But remember that this speech is about the bride and the groom. Talk a little about yourself and the bride, but make sure her man gets mentioned too.

If you want to incorporate a poem, song lyrics or a religious verse that you think will be meaningful to the couple, that’s totally fine. This can be a good option for those who hate public speaking, since it’s often easier to present words that someone else has written rather than your own thoughts. Just don’t let that be your entire speech. It’s important to include some personal remarks about the bride. She chose you to be her maid of honor because of your special connection. Use the poem or verse as the middle of your speech and bookend it with a personal introduction and explanation of why you think this verse will be meaningful to the bride. Then finish with remarks on why you think the couple will be a great match, your favorite story from their courtship or your well wishes for their happiness together.

Forget trying to memorize your speech. You’re already nervous, and there’s absolutely no reason to add another hurdle for yourself. It is perfectly acceptable to read your speech from a printout. Keep it to one typed page. You really do not have to talk for that long. Two or three minutes is completely fine. Double space your speech and set the font size to 12 or 13 (or even 14). You want it to be super-readable and easy to follow.

Now practice reading it. Out loud. Over and over and over again. The first time you read it, you aren’t going to be able to look up. But when you actually give the speech, you’re going to want to take a few pauses to look up at your audience. Practice looking up and smiling. You’re happy, remember? If you have to write in cues for yourself, like in a script, go right ahead. Like this: [Pause, look at Amber, smile.]

You’ve heard this before and you’re going to hear it again. Don’t just read the speech to yourself. Recruit a listener. They aren’t there to give you advice, they are there to be your crowd stand-in. They are helping you get used to saying your speech in front of other people. Pick someone who you are very comfortable with. You can even ask them to read the speech to you! Hearing how they read it may help you with your own delivery.

When you get to the reception, resist the urge to indulge in liquid courage. A drink is fine (depending on your tolerance, of course), but don’t overdo it. Liquor really won’t be your friend once you get handed the mike, and an earnest if jittery speech is going to be much more appreciated than a slurred, boozy one.

When it’s time to read the speech, hold your printout away from your face. If you have a podium to work with, set the paper down (this is when your large font size comes in handy). If not, keep your elbow at your side to achieve the right height. You want the guests to be able to see your face while you’re reading.

Keep yourself slightly turned toward the bride and groom while you’re speaking. You don’t want to turn your back on the other guests, but focusing on your best friend and looking at her may help your nerves a bit. Here’s a little trick for you: If you wear glasses or contacts, take them out/off during your speech. Not being able to see the eyes of those watching you can really help  relieve that feeling of being watched. You’ll feel a bit safer in your own private sight bubble.

Finally, end your speech by raising a glass and toasting the couple. It’s the guests’ signal that your toast is over and it’s time to take a drink! Then give the bride a hug and enjoy the rest of your night. You did it!

Take The 2016 Bridesmaid Survey

bridesmaid survey 2

Calling all bridesmaids past and present: We need your help! It’s been a few years since we did a bridesmaid survey and we are kind of dying to know the state of bridesmaiding today. I learned a lot from my first survey and I think I’m going to learn even more this time. It is super-quick, we swear. Just 14 easy multiple choice questions about things like your favorite bridal shower themes, the places you’ve traveled for bachelorette weekends and the best and worst parts of being a bridesmaid. Hopefully we’ll learn a little about what it’s like to be a bridesmaid today AND I can better help you, our readers, by providing articles that address the real problems you have and the things you are really searching for!

Take our survey here

My Favorite Whole30 Recipes

I recently completed my first Whole30! You can read a complete recap of my experience (the good and the bad) here, as well as my results and check out all the details of the program here. Here, I’m sharing my favorite recipes from the Whole30, as well as my approach to cooking for the week.

My Favorite Whole30 Recipes

My Whole30 Approach & Weekly Cookup

I don’t mind eating the same thing every day for breakfast and lunch. I think this would bother some people, but for me it’s totally fine. So for my Whole30, I would cook my breakfasts and lunches for the weekdays every Sunday. For breakfast, I would have a hard-boiled egg and half an avocado with black iced coffee. This is a little bit of a light breakfast for Whole30, but I found it to be the right amount for me. Some days I would have the whole avocado or an extra egg if I needed more fuel. For lunch, I would have roast chicken breast along with roasted vegetables, which I would vary week to week (carrots, brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli rabe, etc.). I’d also bring an orange or apple to work to have with lunch or as a snack and would always have a Larabar in my purse (my favorite flavors are Carrot Cake and Coconut Creme Pie). Then, when I got home I would make dinners (though we would usually have enough to have leftovers one or two nights a week).

Weekends were the exception and honestly were harder for me than the weekdays. I think I do well with routine and weekends break routines. Since we don’t have a weekend wake-up time, there’s no set breakfast time. And since each weekend day is different, it’s harder to plan out in advance what you’ll eat. Still, I muddled through. Andrew and I would make awesome breakfasts (my favorite below) or go out to breakfast (by far the easiest meal to eat out on Whole30). One other thing that helped me out was doing the Whole30 in January, a month that’s super antisocial (hi, biggest snowstorm in NYC’s history). We hung out with friends a few times, but it was mostly at their house or ours, so it was pretty easy for me to stay on track.

One challenge was that my work friends wanted to throw a little birthday celebration for me. Our workplace is big on birthdays and it usually includes a breakfast of bagels and smears, an afternoon cupcake treat or a pizza lunch. Obviously, all those things were out for Whole30. I had told my coworkers about my Whole30, so they were aware and supportive and asked me what I would recommend for my birthday celebration. I came up with the idea of ordering in tacos from a great local tacqueria (that makes everything from scratch) and just ate my scrumptious chicken taco bowl with lettuce, salsa and guacamole.

Here are a few of my favorite meals from the Whole30: Continue reading

My Whole30 Experience and Results

My Whole 30 Experience and Results

I first heard about the Whole30 on one of my all-time favorite blogs, A Beautiful Mess. Elsie’s post about her experience is well worth the read and a lot of things she said really resonated with me. At the start of her post, she talked about how frustrated she was that exercise never led to weight loss for her. She said:

One of the biggest things I have learned is that fitness and weight loss aren’t the same thing, and they don’t necessarily come hand in hand…[When I was training for a marathon] I was definitely feeling stronger and more disciplined than ever before in my life. I was running long distances leading up to the race (five miles, then six, then eight, then ten….), and it was a great experience! But I did this at my highest weight ever. And I’m not going to lie…it was frustrating in some ways because, even though I felt accomplished and fit, I was a little disappointed that I didn’t lose any weight. —Elsie, A Beautiful Mess

That. Is. So. Me. I could not put it better. I had recently been feeling really betrayed by my body. I had felt as though I was doing the things you are supposed to do: being mindful of what I eat, pushing myself to exercise more and better, but with little to no result on the scale. Over the past two years I made it a goal to up the amount of exercise in my life. I woke up an hour earlier every day and went to the gym four to five times a week before work. I was running faster and longer and my flexibility and strength were better than they had ever been in my life thanks to yoga and Pilates. I could feel muscles forming, I knew I was getting stronger, I had more energy—but I was not losing weight. Far from it—if anything, I gained weight. Now don’t get my wrong, focusing on increasing exercise to my life was NOT a mistake. This routine has become an integral part of my life and I’m 100% grateful for this. Moving your body every day is a good thing, no question about it. But the fact that I was putting in all this time and work and my clothes were fitting WORSE, not better, was very, very discouraging. Why was I waking up early every day, trudging through the rain and snow to the gym, if the result was just that I needed to size up in my pants?!

I also ate what I felt was a pretty healthy diet, mostly by cutting out grains and legumes during the week and limiting when I added dairy like cheese or milk to a dish. I rarely indulged in sweets. But I definitely made exceptions; my rules weren’t hard and fast. I looooove cheese. I regularly indulged in wine or my favorite drink, gin and seltzer with lime (seltzer! it’s healthy, right?!). I felt that indulging in a fancy cheese plate once every two weeks and a glass of wine or two (or more) a night was what I deserved for all the hard work I was putting in. I was willing to restrict things, but I wanted to live a little too, right?! But “living a little” often turned into total derailment on the weekends: let’s have bagels in the park this morning, football time, I’ll just munch on a few of those fries at the bar while we drink a few beers and watch the game, whew, what a day, I’m tired, should we order a pizza?? Drinking led to bad eating decisions as well—hello, cheese drawer, my old friend—and I’d wake up the next morning feeling disgusted with myself. I’d throw myself back into my restrictive eating to try to make up for my misbehavior.

Once I started reading about Whole30, I liked what I saw. You can read all the details for yourself here. I liked that the program was very clear. Some people might be put off by how restrictive it is, but to me this is one of the benefits. Plans that allow you to save up “points” for “treats” just do not work for me. Cheat days do not work for me. I think this is because it’s really psychologically confusing for the body. One day you may have saved up enough calories to have that slice of lasagna. The next day, you can’t. I don’t think your body and mind truly understand that difference. It’s also a very negative loop. Either you’ve “been good,” so you deserve the treat, or you’ve “been bad,” so you can’t have the thing you want. Whole30 has none of that. Foods are approved or they are not. There’s no “this week you can’t have dairy but next week you can have a little bit.” For the 30-day program, you either can eat it or you can’t.

I also liked that Whole30 involves no math. There is no calorie counting. There is a meal template that shows you basically how much protein, vegetables, fat and fruit should be incorporated into a meal, but it’s a rough guideline. As long as you are eating approved foods, you are following the program. You are doing it right! You are also not starving yourself on Whole30. Because you are eating nutrient-dense foods and filling up on them, you not only have more energy, but you don’t get hungry as quickly. One of my mantras while dieting used to be “if you feel hungry, that’s good, it means it’s working.” NOOOOO. No, that was so bad.

Whole30 is also psychologically healing and supportive in a way that most diets are not (they claim to be, but they are not). It sets you up to eliminate guilt. The program is strict for 30 days, but after that, your choices are your own. You can choose to reintroduce the foods you missed—or discover you don’t miss them as much as you thought. The goal is to break bad food habits and addictions you’ve developed, develop new clean eating habits and then give you a baseline health to which you can incorporate the things you love. I know I’m not going to live a life without cheese. That’s just not going to happen because cheese is heaven. But Whole30 gives you a way to eat cheese AND NOT FEEL GUITLY. It helps you get to a place where you don’t need cheese. And this applies to whatever your dragon is: sugar dragon, pasta dragon, pancake dragon, pizza dragon, cheese dragon. Continue reading

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know

So it’s your first time as a bridesmaid? No sweat! Being a bridesmaid can be a lot of fun, a lot of work, a pain in the butt—or a little of all three. It’s really all about what you make of it. If you’re excited about being a bridesmaid and approach it with enthusiasm, you’ll end up having a blast and creating great lasting memories with your friend. If you approach it like a chore, you’ll find yourself constantly complaining about how much work there is to do and how much you just want to quit. Here are a few things to keep in mind to set you up for bridesmaid success.

1. Your #1 job is one you’re already doing: Be the best friend you can be to the bride.

2. Take on what you can handle. If you’re not Little Miss Planner, don’t offer to create the itinerary for a bachelorette weekend.

3. Offer to do what you’re best at. Are you a photographer? Snap some artful shots at the bridal shower. Great in the kitchen? Offer to cook breakfast during the bachelorette weekend. Music more your thing? Create a rocking playlist to blast while the girls are getting ready for a night out.

4. Just because something is traditional doesn’t make it mandatory. Modern brides are choosing the customs they like and leaving the others behind. Just follow the bride’s lead.

5. You are the bride’s support system on her wedding day. Emotions will be running high that day. The bride may be nervous about a thousand things. (Will the caterers remember to create a gluten-free dish for her cousin who has an allergy? Will Uncle William drink too much and start making inappropriate comments to her friends? Will she still fit perfectly into her dress after that extra glass of wine last night?) You are there to put her at ease, make her laugh, encourage her and tell Uncle William to freaking cool it.

Are you like, yeah, great advice, but what do I actually have to do? What are my bridesmaid duties? Allow me to help:

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know

Bridal showers: Bridal showers are traditionally thrown by the bridesmaids or a relative of the bride (aunts, sisters, cousins, even your mother-in-law-to-be). Though thinking outside the box is always encouraged, here’s the basic idea behind a shower. Bridal showers are usually held in the morning or afternoon. The celebration is multi-generational, including female friends and relatives of the bride, from her childhood friends to her aunts and grandmother, as well any close family friends she might want to attend. Only guests who are invited to the wedding should be invited to the shower. Gifts are usually given (hence the showering part—you’re showering her with gifts). For a more in-depth description of every aspect of the bridal shower and answers to the most common FAQ, read our Bridal Shower 101.

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to KnowBachelorette party/weekend: Bachelorette parties are usually planned by the maid of honor with the help of the bridesmaids. Many brides now opt for destination bachelorette weekends—this is the best choice for brides who have friends scattered all over the country. The bachelorette should include things the bride loves to do, whether that be good food, shopping, beach time, hiking, a sporting event or a wild night out. It’s a time to bond with your best girlfriends. For more help on planning a destination bachelorette, click here.

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know
Bridesmaid dresses:
The bride generally selects the bridesmaid dress, though some brides will provide a color palette or selection of dresses and let their bridesmaids choose. Sticker shock can be a factor as some popular bridesmaid dress retailers can run $200 and up (especially for floor-length dresses). However, lower-priced options are available. If your bride asks for help in hunting down bridesmaid dresses, look outside of traditional bridesmaid dress retailers. Check your favorite stores to see if they’re carrying cute dresses in the bride’s chosen palette. Just remember that the bride does have the final say and be prepared to deal with that (even if it means a color or fabric you hate). For more of what to expect when shopping for a bridesmaid dress, click here.

Everything a First-Time Bridesmaid Needs to Know

Wedding day duties: On the day of the wedding, as mentioned, you are the bride’s support system. You’ll spend time getting ready with her, take pictures, stand with her during the ceremony and party the night away with her. The maid of honor has the important job of signing the marriage license and giving a toast at the reception. For more in-depth run-down of wedding-day duties, click here.

Still have questions? Check out our Bridesmaid Basics section or leave it in the comments!

Photos top to bottom: Sam Jasper Photography, Ducky Jessica Photography, Blue Barn Photography, Glass Jar Photography, Brooke Images Photography