Category Archives: Advice

My Wedding Dress Experience and Shopping Tips

So, I bought my wedding dress. SURREAL, right? I’m not going to show you what it looks like because that would be cheating, but I will tell you a little about my shopping experience. My Mom flew up to New York and we took along my future sister-in-law, Erin, as well, who I am super close with. The two of them were like little kids at Christmas they were so excited. I was kind of nervous about all the attention and the anxiety of finding something I loved, but they were sooooo pumped, which helped shake off some of my nerves and get me excited as well. Erin, who has two adorable small children, was like, “FREEDOM, GIRL’S DAY OUT!” and my Mom was like “Big city shopping, wooooo New York!” so they were definitely providing positive vibes (a must when choosing who to shop with, I might add).

We started the day with a blow-out at Dry Bar and can I just say, BRIDE PRO TIP: Get your hair done before your bridal appointments. Seriously, it makes such a huge difference. My friend Nichole did this before her bridal appointment and I was like, this is a stellar idea, I will do it as well. It helps you visualize how you will actually look on your wedding day and you aren’t distracted by your frizzy and/or flat hair as you are trying on fancy amazing dresses.

We started our shopping at Lovely Bride in Tribeca. This salon is really relaxed and carries some great unique designers that you might not find at other salons. I knew I wanted to try on dresses by Theia and Rue de Seine because I love that style. My stylist also let me browse through the rest of the salon and pick out other dresses that appealed to me, which was nice (not all salons let you do this).

Here’s where we get to some real talk though. The hardest part about bridal gown shopping is not being able to try on your real size. ALSO, and this will just kick you in the gut, bridal gowns run one or two (or even more) sizes smaller than regular dresses. Which is just kind of a mental F you. I honestly had to just not think about the number and remind myself that it’s all about how I look and feel in the dress, not what numerical value has been assigned to this piece of fabric. But since bridal salons only carry sample sizes, it can be really hard to envision how the dress would look if it fit correctly. The stylists are seriously like wizards. They will pull and tuck and pin and straighten and cinch and do all kinds of crazy shit to get that sample to look as good as possible on you—but it’s just no comparison to trying on a dress that fits you correctly.

All this is to say that we ended up with a problem at Lovely Bride: There was a gown I really really loved the look of, but the sample size they had was a bit too small for me, to the point where I could almost but not quite get it over my hips. My stylist said she could reach out to the designer to try to borrow a bigger sample, but they would have to charge me $150…just to borrow a dress to try on that I might not even purchase. I was like, thanks, but no thanks.

Our next stop was Kleinfeld’s and I honestly have to tell you that it was an amazing experience. I thought it would be too fancy or pushy or stuffy: Wrong on all counts. The first thing I did was mention the dress I had wanted to try on at Lovely Bride to my Kleinfeld’s stylist Laura Diaz (who I recommend if you’re going to Kleinfeld’s in New York!). She was like, “hold on one sec,” and whizzed off and found the dress. Their sample size was one size bigger than Lovely Bride’s and it fit! Yay!! An inch can make all the difference here people. I loved it instantly. Laura started pulling other dresses for me and made some really good selects, but she could tell I loved the first one the most. She pulled a dress with a similar silhouette that was actually my bang-on correct “bridal” size so I could see how the dress I loved would look on me when it was my size. She pulled dresses by the same designer in different shades so I could pick the best shade for my skin tone. She was a rock star. And then I said yes to the dress (she made me, I felt a little corny, but everyone clapped, so yay!).

I have to give Kleinfeld’s credit because they had the most variety of sizes and styles and it really made all the difference. I had been shopping at a few other salons before this trip and never put on a dress that made me feel anything but meh. I would think “well, I like the top of this but hate the skirt” or “this is sort of OK” or just “Ugh, no.” But at Kleinfeld’s, not only did I find my dress, I found other dresses that looked good on me. We thought we had found the dress and then my stylist kept finding me other things that looked good too and Erin was like “now I’m getting confused.” In the end, the dress I picked was just the most “me.” It looked like a dress I would wear and a style I would choose. Plus, it’s really unique and gorgeous. And now I just can’t wait to wear it!!

I pulled together my takeaways from wedding dress shopping for you into the handy below tips.

wedding dress shopping tips

My Wedding Dress Shopping Tips

  • Get your hair done before your appointment. It will make a huge difference.
  • Eat before your appointment! Do not be tempted to skip breakfast—it is not worth it. Trying on dresses is actually really exhausting and you will need energy.
  • Drink water before and during your appointment. Again, these dresses are heavy and putting them on and taking them off really can wear you out. Stay hydrated.
  • When choosing who to take with you, pick people who will be positive and supportive (I have been shocked by some of the things I’ve heard bridesmaids/mothers/sisters say to brides).
  • Limit the number of people you bring with you to your appointment. I find three at most to be the best number. And some of the shopping experiences I enjoyed the most were with just one other person (my MOH and I had a great time trying on gowns at The Bridal Garden and she helped me realize I should broaden the silhouettes I was looking at). Big groups create confusion.
  • Wear nice undergarments. Because lots of people are going to see you in them today.
  • Bring along any accessories you might want to wear and shoes with your preferred heel height. I’m planning on wearing a vintage fur that was my grandmother’s for at least part of the wedding day, so I brought it along and it definitely made an impact.
  • Don’t let the sizes bother you. My stylists said this happens to every bride, no matter their size. Whether you’re a size 0 or a size 10, finding out that your bridal gown size is not your normal dress size can be shocking. Don’t let it bother you. Concentrate on how you look and feel in the dress, not on the number stitched in the back.
  • Order the size you are now, not the size you plan to be. This is the most common advice that was given to me by other women and bridal professionals. Brides are notoriously going to lose ten pounds/drop a size by their wedding day. But making a dress smaller is not that hard. Making it bigger really, really is. Trust your tailor and order the size you measure at now, then let them make it perfect.
  • Be open-minded when you are first trying on dresses. My biggest mistake was thinking I knew which style would look good on me. I thought I needed an empire waist with an A-line skirt, but I ended up with a sheath dress that makes my booty look fab. Having an open mind and trying on different silhouettes will quickly show you what you hate (tulle skirts and anything in ivory, in my case) and what you love (unique lace patterns and dresses that make my butt look good, apparently).

I hope those tips help you!

Photo via Unsplash, by Brandon Morgan

The Perfect Bachelorette: For the Active Bride

In our perfect bachelorette series, we’re mapping out the perfect activities for every kind of bride, from the fashionista to the foodie, the adventure gal to the party girl. First up, the perfect weekend for the active bride. You know, the one who runs the New York Marathon each year, swears by her spin class and is killing that FitBit step challenge (she won’t stop taunting you!). Fill your healthy bachelorette weekend with lots of fitness, while remembering to balance it with a bit of relaxation and to allow room for indulgence.

Make sure your guests are on board for an active weekend
You should expect and understand that your guests will be used to different levels of activity and have different levels of experience. Some may view child’s pose as about as bendy as they go, while others are floating a crow pose like it’s nbd. Just make sure the girls you invite are game for an active weekend. Be clear about your plans so that attendees know what to pack (running shoes, fitness attire, yoga mat, etc.) and aware of what they are getting into. Make sure to emphasize that you really want everyone to participate in all the activities. As the host, that means you should be mindful of guests’ skill levels when working out the schedule (choose a 5K rather than a half marathon, a beginning class over the advanced). But that also means that guests are signing on to get outside their comfort zone a bit and be up for whatever.

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Run a 5K together 
A 5K is the perfect distance for a healthy bachelorette party. Your guests won’t need to do any special training to prepare, and you’ll be finished before noon, leaving plenty of time for other activities. We adore these In It For the Long Run tanks from Fit Little Bride to keep the party looking sharp and coordinated. And make sure to schedule a yummy post-run brunch to celebrate (mimosas encouraged)!

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Rent bikes and take a tour
Renting bikes can be a fun way to see a city and stay active. Book a tour, like the Napa Valley Bike Tour, with stops at wineries and vineyards for tastings along the way, or Get Up and Ride’s Brooklyn Sunset and Brews tour, which takes in gorgeous views of the sun setting over the East River and the street art of North Brooklyn before ending with artisanal brews. If you’re craving a bit more freedom, just rent by the hour and head out on your own to explore. Local farmer’s markets or craft fairs make great stops along the way.

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Attend a yoga class  
After getting in some cardio, it will feel good to stretch your muscles and have a calming moment. If yoga’s not her thing, just book the class you think she’ll most enjoy, be it kick-boxing, barre, spinning or rock climbing.

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Keep healthy snacks on hand
Save your indulgence for your meals out by stocking your lodging with healthy snacks and plenty of bottled water. You’ll feel much better about that donut at brunch or that amazing pasta dish at dinner if you haven’t spent the afternoon or night before filling up on chips, dip and sodas. Opt for veggies and fruit, and choose hummus, fresh salsas or Greek yogurt dips to keep things light.

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Go on a hike
Climb a mountain, find a waterfall, stroll on the beach or wander in the woods. Even urban bachelorettes can plan a day exploring the city’s parks or “urban hiking,” i.e., exploring a neighborhood. For example, San Francisco bach parties can spend an hour or two exploring the Mission District to see the amazing street art on every corner (make sure to grab a fish taco from one of the taquerias lining 24th Street before you go).

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Challenge the bachelor party
Meet up with the groom’s bachelor party and get ready for a good ol’ fashioned boys vs. girls smackdown. Head to a local park for a game of kickball or dodgeball, throwback classic games everyone can enjoy. Or set up a field day with multiple events, like a sack race and egg toss. The losing team buys the winners a round of drinks before the two parties go their separate ways.

The Perfect Bachelorette for the Active, Healthy Bride #healthy #fitness

Indulge a little
An active weekend will help the bride (and her guests) feel good and keep on track with any fitness goals. But it’s OK to indulge—it’s a bachelorette party after all! Balance your active days with stops at great restaurants and bars, and be sure to include a few of the bride’s favorite treats along the way.

Image credits, top to bottom: Fit Little Bride, Wedding ChicksAndrea Lee Photography, Michelle Able Photography, Ruth Joy Photography, Free to Be Photography, Angela Cox Photography

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Prompts

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Tips and Prompts

This post could probably be entitled “creative writing tips” because that’s really what writing a speech is all about—with the caveat that whatever you write needs to sounds natural when spoken aloud. Since getting started is usually the hardest part, I’ve compiled a list of maid of honor speech writing prompts that will help you organize your thoughts about the bride and groom and focus your speech. I’ve also written on how to format your speech and some maid of honor speech do’s and don’ts, if you’re looking for more info.

To start writing a speech, I am a firm advocate of just vomiting out whatever enters your mind (from your fingers, not your mouth). Other people would call this “stream of consciousness” or “spontaneous writing,” but “word vomiting” is just as apt. The whole idea is to not worry about choosing the right word or turn of phrase. You want to focus on ideas rather than word choice. Organization and finesse can come later. What you need to start are the broad strokes. Sometimes I don’t even write full sentences. I just jot down phrases or words that enter my head. I skip around. I leave my thoughts unfinished. I just get something out there. Don’t worry if what you’re writing doesn’t make sense. Let yourself go.

Once you have all those words down, read over what you’ve written. What has potential to be expanded? What catches your attention? Do you see some of the same words and ideas coming up again and again? Sometimes getting out your thoughts shows you the shape of what you want to say. To give you a really good example, when I started writing this post I thought it would be a step-by-step guide to writing a maid of honor speech. But as I was word vomiting (don’t worry, I feel fine now), I realized that I was focusing a lot on the barriers that keep us from starting to write a speech and how we can overcome them. So I modified my idea, organized my thoughts and turned this post into what you see today.

Still struggling? Here are a few tiny tricks I use to help with my writing process and some general advice on maid of honor speeches in particular.

1. If you get stuck on a word, or find yourself slowing up as you grasp for a particular concept, just type “TK” and move on. TK is a editing term that means “to come” (don’t ask about the K instead of a C, I don’t know). TK is really useful because it frees you to keep writing, but you know you need to come back later and find that perfect word.

2. Sometimes your brain needs a warm-up. If I’m struggling with writing, I like to tackle a simple task or mental problem. I feel like it gets my brain organized and ready to think without all the creative frustration that can come from writing. So for example, I might work on putting together a shopping list or read a blog post by a writer I admire. Endless scrolling on Instagram or catching up on Real Housewives won’t encourage your mind to be active. Quite the opposite—those activities are like pause buttons for your brain waves.

3. Resist the urge to use or modify a canned speech from the internet. Resist, resist, resist! 95% of the ones I have read are horrible—like truly cringe-inducing. The number one thing you speech should be is personal and there is no way you’ll get that from a template.

And here are your writing prompts. Use these to get you started. Hopefully these ideas will help you find the nugget of a story or idea that will lead to the perfect speech.

Maid of Honor Speech Writing Prompts

What words best describe the bride?

What words best describe the groom?

What words best describe their relationship?

How did you meet the bride?

How did the bride and groom meet?

What did they do on their first date?

What did you think of the groom when you first met him?

What’s your favorite story about the couple?

What do you admire about their relationship?

How did the groom propose?

What are some of the highlights or milestones of their relationship?

What were some of the challenges they faced in their relationship?

What’s your favorite story to tell about the bride?

Is there a story that epitomizes the bride?

Is there a story that epitomizes their relationship?

What hobbies and interests, like and dislikes do the couple share? How has that enhanced their relationship?

What hobbies or interests, likes or dislikes do they differ on? Has that led to any funny stories?

Have they tried to introduce their spouse to something new? Has it succeeded or failed (hopefully in spectacular fashion)?

Tips for writing your maid of honor speech, with lots of writing prompts to get the ideas flowing

 

Photograph by Christa Nicole Photography.

The 10 Most Overdone Bridesmaid Photos on Pinterest

You’ve been meticulously planning your wedding for months—well, let’s be honest, more like years via your secret “Future Mrs.” Pinterest board. So it’s understandable that you’ve seen a lot of cute wedding photos. Here’s the trouble. What may have started out as a cute and original idea has had all the cuteness and originality sucked out of it when a simple search yields dozens, if not hundreds, of girls doing the exact. same. thing.

Pinterest can be an amazing tool and asset. But too often we try to turn it into a dream xerox machine. There are a few great articles written by photographers and bloggers alike about the effect of Pinterest on the wedding industry. They talk about how Pinterest discourages the creative process and creates both unreal expectations and a copy-cat culturePinstrosity and #pinfails are the ultimate expression of that phenomenon. You see something you love and you try to make it yourself, and you fail…epically. Unfortunately, while we’re quite used to thinking of nail art tutorials and simple peanut butter souffle recipes as ripe for a pinstrosity, we don’t often think about wedding photography that way—but we should. Trying to recreate an image you love will have the same result. What looked natural and beautiful or freakin hilarious on Pinterest will most likely look forced and awkward when you try it yourself. This is because taking a good photograph is not the same as following a recipe. It’s much, much harder.

What’s frustrating about this problem is that it comes from a good place, a place of wanting to be creative and unique. Pinterest really is very inspiring. For me, there’s a strong element of discovery in Pinterest. In particular, it has led me to a ton of blogs I would have never otherwise found. It has introduced me to artists, photographers and designers who are doing amazing work. In a practical sense, I have used Pinterest for party planning, recipe hunting and even Christmas list making. I also use it to pin pretty pictures of ice creams that I will never make—but I know it’s just an ice cream dream…really!

So, without further ado, the top 10 bridesmaid-related photos that are way overdone. Don’t let Pinterest create a wedding shot list for you. Let yourself live in the moment of the day and see if you don’t unintentionally create an authentic moment that translates into a beautiful photograph that someday finds its way onto this list.

1. Bride and MOH Jumping on the Bed

Photo by Brad Ross

How bout we make this rule: If you have not jumped on a bed in the last ten years, you do not get to do this. I think that seems fair.

2. The Bridesmaids Pose

Photo by The Bird and the Bear

Did you even like this movie? Please tell me you’ve at least seen it. Also, their poses aren’t that interesting. So you’re just doing weirdly specific poses from a 2011 comedy. This is going to get dated fast.

3. Don’t Corrupt the Flower Girl

Photo by Maria Vicencio

I love that this image is so popular that we have collected agreed on a phrase for this pose: “Don’t corrupt the flower girl.” If you’d like to be truly horrified, look up some of the less successful attempts at recreating the above original.

4. How We Met the Bride (With Chalkboard, Of Course)

Photo by Katy Hall Photography

Here’s a case where the first time someone ever did this, it was cute. Now? Played out. Also, so many chalkboards! Why the chalkboards, all the time, everywhere?

5. Bridesmaids at the Bar

Photo by Miller Miller Photography

Uggghhhh, cheese factor times one thousand. Also, did they all legitimately chug a beer before the wedding? Because to get it upside down like that, you gotta be draining that thing.

6. We’re All Wearing Such Cute Matching Floral Robes

Photo by Melanie Lust Photography

I mean, I get it. Robes are cute. But this particular type of robe is just every-freakin-where.

7. Just Wait Till You See Her!

Photo by Perry Vaile

The conceit behind this one is that you’re supposed to take this picture and then text it to the groom right before the wedding. My first thought is: Is the groom supposed to think this is cute? Clever? I’d wager money he will think neither. Second thought: What do you do if you don’t have exactly six bridesmaids?

8. Bouquet Face

The 10 Most Overdone Bridesmaid Photos on Pinterest

Photo by Dani Fine Photography

You spent so much time on your makeup, ladies. Why hide your faces?

9. Your Affection Disgusts Us

Photo by Ricky Stern Photography

No one is that disgusted by kissing. I mean, they should at least be going to second base for this to make any sense.

10. Bridesmaid Booty Shot

This one just cropped up recently, but it’s threatening to gain popularity. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, please, do not let this happen.

Bridal Shower 101: Hosting, Etiquette, Party Planning, Gifts and More

Bridal Shower 101: Questions answered on hosting, etiquette, party planning, gifts and moreSo who hosts the bridal shower and who is responsible for the cost? Who should be invited and how many bridal showers is too many? How much should you spend on a shower gift—and do you have to send one if you aren’t attending? Should we surprise the bride? Can the groom attend? You’ve got questions about etiquette, themes, games, food, hosting and attending a bridal shower—we’ve got answers.

The Basics

Who hosts the bridal shower?
The bridal shower is traditionally hosted by the maid of honor, the bridesmaids or a family friend or relative of the bride. A lot of factors come into play: where is the ideal location for the shower, when will most people be able to attend, who is financially able to host the party? A good rule to remember: Hosting a shower is a choice, not an obligation. If the maid of honor has offered to host the shower, she may ask the rest of the bridesmaids to cohost—but they do not have to say yes. Other relatives or friends may also offer to throw a bridal shower and the bride may accept or decline. In the past, it was considered a faux pas for a direct member of the bride’s family to host as this was seen as “present grabbing.” But even the maven of manners herself, Ms. Emily Post, now says that it’s perfectly fine for your mother or future mother-in-law to throw the shower.

Who should be invited?
The bride should provide the host with a guest list. Important to note: Only ladies who are invited to the wedding should be invited to the shower. Though you may be tempted to invite the friends who didn’t make the wedding list cut to your shower, this is considered rude and puts friends in an awkward position. You’d basically be saying “please get me a present, but sorry, you can’t come to the wedding.” 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.

Who pays for the bridal shower?
The host is responsible for paying for the shower. This goes back to our rule on hosting being a choice, not an obligation. If the bridesmaids have agreed to cohost, they should split the costs of the shower…but they are not hosts by default. This differs from how bachelorette parties are handled—typically each attendee pays her own way at a bachelorette party, chipping in for food, drinks and whatever activities are going down. At a bridal shower, whoever is throwing the party is expected to pick up the bill.

What is my role as a bridesmaid in terms of the shower?
You may choose to cohost a shower…or not. If the bride has multiple showers, you will probably be invited to all and if it is possible for you to attend them, you should. (See below on gifting for multiple showers.) If you don’t live geographically near the bride, you should only attend one shower…if that. I personally make it a rule to only buy two plane tickets per wedding—one for the wedding itself and one for a bachelorette and/or bridal shower. Air travel is expensive and friends get that. If the bachelorette is not being held the same weekend as the bridal shower and you are financially unable to or uncomfortable with attending both, talk to the bride and pick one. All of my friends have 100 percent understood this and have wanted me there for their bachelorette weekends—and we usually choose to throw a small shower during the bachelorette weekend anyway, even if the bride has had other showers with family or local friends.

When and where should the shower be held?
The bridal shower is usually held three months or less before the wedding. Consult with the bride and bridal party to pick a convenient date. I recommend that the bridal shower be no less than one month before the wedding. The bride is going to have a lot of details to attend to in the last month before the wedding and will appreciate having her weekends free. As to location, showers are most often held at the home of the host, but can also be held at a restaurant or winery, in a park, at a hotel, or really anywhere you like. Just keep in mind that no matter where you hold the shower, the host still must pick up the bill. You can’t ask guests to pay for an activity at the shower.

What should you do at a bridal shower?
Many people choose to host a shower at home, serve food and drinks and play a game or two. You can also plan an activity, such as a cooking class or crafting session, or have the shower at a special location, like a winery or day spa. Plan a party that appeals to the bride’s tastes and interests. Don’t just go through the motions of “bridal shower traditions”—make it special and personal to her. Throw the kind of party you want to attend!

Can you have more than one shower?
Yes, you can—on one condition. With the exceptions of your bridesmaids and direct relatives (mother, mother-in-law, sisters, grandma), the guest lists should not overlap. If multiple people offer to host showers, you are welcome to accept, but they should be from different spheres of your life and plan to invite different groups. Perhaps your aunt wants to throw a shower for your extended family and invite your mother’s close friends, but your bridesmaids want to throw a shower for your college girlfriends to attend. If two people who would invite the same guests offer to host the shower, politely decline one offer (“Oh, that’s so wonderful of you to offer, but my MOH has started to plan already. I can’t wait to see you there!”) or see if the two would like to host together.

What about a work shower?
Work showers are the exception to the “must be invited to the wedding” rule. Generous coworkers may offer to throw a shower for you, either during work or after hours. In this case, it is understood that you won’t be inviting all the shower guests to the wedding. Work showers are often much more casual than a regular shower—gifts may be much smaller or everyone may go in on a gift card for the bride.

Should the shower be a surprise?
My feeling on this is no, the bridal shower should not be a surprise. Brides want to look beautiful at their showers. They want to pick out a pretty dress and maybe even get their hair done. They do not want to be coming home from the grocery store in their sweats to find 30 people in their house. If you really want to surprise the bride, tell her the date and time of the shower and keep the details a secret. That way she can relax knowing she’ll look good. Even if you go this route, I think you should consult her on guest list. She may be disappointed that you didn’t include certain friends or you may inadvertently offend someone by overlooking a touchy relative. Keeping the theme, location and events a secret will be enough of a surprise.

Can I throw a co-ed shower?
Of course! Choosing to throw a co-ed shower is a personal decision for the bride and groom. One of my favorite co-ed shower ideas is a field day competition—heck, I’d do this with just girls too! But pitting the bridesmaids against the groomsmen in sack races and capture the flag? Yes, please!

Can the groom come to the shower if it’s not co-ed?
It’s my feeling that the groom should not come to the shower if it’s not co-ed. I think people look forward to getting to spend time with just the bride—and part of the fun of getting her away from her fiance is being able to dish about him when he’s not around. That said, it has become a bit of a modern tradition for the groom to make an appearance at the end of the shower and bring the bride flowers. If you do this, be sure to say hello to all the guests—don’t just show up, wave and then bolt. This can be a good opportunity for guests who have never met the groom to get to know him a bit before the wedding day.

Can I have a “no kids” rule at my shower?
Of course you can! It’s your shower. If you think kids will be a distraction, know that certain guests do not have well-behaved children or just want some adult fun time, reach out to those with children to let them know the party will be adults only. If you go this route, make sure there are no exceptions—if your friend can’t bring her holy terror of a son, your sister can’t bring your adorable niece.

Themes and Party Planning

Should the bridal shower have a theme?
Themes are an easy way to give you direction when you are planning the shower, but you can also choose a color or pattern as the inspiration for your decor. Just concentrate on creating a party that fits the bride’s personality, whether that means a casual backyard fiesta or a modern sparkly soiree.

What are some good shower themes?
When it’s time to choose a bridal shower theme, think about your friend’s interests and passions and see if one would translate into a great bridal shower theme. Don’t throw a tea party just because it’s the first idea that pops into your head—go for the tea party theme if your friend can’t get enough of all things British, brews her own loose tea or collects vintage teapots. Need some inspiration? We’ve got 21 spectacular bridal shower themes for you right here or check out some of the real bridal showers featured here.

Should I send out printed invitations?
That’s up to you. Most bridal showers I’ve been to have had a printed invite. It’s a nice keepsake and doesn’t have to be too expensive. You can find beautiful shower invitations on Wedding Paper Divas or through some amazing Etsy vendors. If you don’t choose to use printed invites, I love Paperless Post for chic digital invitations. Whether you go digital or physical, invitations should be sent out about one month before the shower.

Gifts

What is traditionally given as a bridal shower gift?
Many bridal showers have a present theme, such as lingerie, cooking, home goods, bar supplies or items for the honeymoon. Group gifts are also popular at bridal showers. You can go in with the other bridesmaids to schedule a year of date nights or put together a wine basket with poems attached for notable events in the couple’s first year of marriage. If there’s no shower theme, you can always choose something from the bride’s wedding registry.

How much should I spend on a shower gift?
This is a personal decision, but my recommendation is to shoot for the $30 to $50 range. Another lovely (and inexpensive) shower gift is to create a friendship scrapbook for the bride. Before the shower, each guest decorates a scrapbook page with their favorite pictures and memories of their friendship with the bride. On shower day, the pages can be slid into an album to create a wonderful keepsake for the bride.

As a bridesmaid, I’m attending multiple showers. Do I need to bring a gift to all of them?
No, you do not (and should not). Bring a gift to the first shower you attend. After that, your presence is all that’s required. If you feel weird showing up empty-handed, bring a card to the other showers with a funny or sweet note to the bride.

Does the bride have to open all the gifts at the shower?
I had so much to say about this that I wrote a whole post about it. Short answer: Yes, you need to open the presents while the guests are there so that you can thank them, but you don’t have to make it boring. No one likes watching people open presents for two hours. It is the worst part of bridal showers. So here are some ideas for making the present unwrapping portion of your party less painful for your guests.

If I’m not able to attend the shower, should I still send a gift?
If you can’t attend the shower, you are not obligated to send a gift. If you do want to send something along, I love this idea for a mail-away shower in which guests who couldn’t attend all sent a book they thought would be useful to the bride, with topics ranging from cookbooks to personal finances.

Should there be party favors for the guests?
A small favor is lovely if possible and it doesn’t have to be expensive. My recommendation for choosing a bridal shower favor? Don’t brand it with the bride’s name or wedding date. I know that a lot of people choose to do this, but I never end up using these gifts because I don’t want to advertise your wedding around my house. That would be kinda weird. Make shower favors something I’ll actually enjoy or use. For a cooking shower, a nice wooden spoon is a perfect and useful gift. At a tea party, send me home with a fragrant bag of Earl Grey leaves. You can always add a tag to the gift with “Trisha’s Bridal Shower” to tie in the shower theme. I’ll snap a pic of your cute wrapping and get to enjoy my gift long after the party.

Games

Do we have to play games?
No, you don’t. (Everyone’s like, “WHAT?!?”) It’s true that most showers incorporate games, but there’s no shower goddess who’s going to rain fire down on your party if someone doesn’t get wrapped in toilet paper. Think about incorporating an activity, like wine tasting, a spa treatment or pottery painting, instead of the typical shower games. Or just eat, drink and chat it up—what lady wouldn’t be into that!

What are some fun bridal shower games?
A classic and actually truly enjoyable bridal shower game is the Fiance Quiz. I legitimately always enjoy this game because it’s amusing and you learn a lot about the groom. And I have 5 other bridal shower games (that don’t suck) for you as well. Remember that people want to eat, drink, and chat, not have a regimented schedule of enforced games, so just choose a few to sprinkle in. And have prizes! People are more likely to take interest if there’s chocolate involved.

Food
Bridal Shower 101: Everything You Need To Know About Hosting, Etiquette, Party Planning, Gifts and More

What kind of food should be served?
Yum-yum kind! Ok, but serious answer. Bridal showers are usually held in the morning or afternoon, so plan your menu accordingly. Buffet style is common to allow guests to mingle and chat, but a seated meal works for a tea party or showers held at a restaurant. And we are ladies, and ladies like sweets, so please serve us dessert as well.

Is alcohol served at a bridal shower?
It’s perfectly fine to serve alcohol at a bridal shower (but not mandatory…unless it is my bridal shower, in which case break out the champagne!). Mimosas are lovely for brunch and wine or a signature cocktail is delightful for lunch. Serve what feels right for your bride.

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Resources for the Best Man and Groomsmen

Best Man and Groomsmen Duties

This one’s for the gentlemen. I recently received an email from a new bridesmaid whose boyfriend is going to be the best man in the same wedding. She was on the lookout for a few sites to help him navigate his groomsman duties, and I had to sympathize with her struggle. There are tons of wedding websites out there, but they’re pretty focused on us ladies. But groomsmen have just as many responsibilities as bridesmaids—they have to write funny speeches, plan wild parties and stay sober enough before the wedding to withstand a paparazzi session and keep track of one really expensive piece of jewelry. So, I present a roundup of my favorite resources for the best man and groomsmen.

The Alpha Groom

Alpha Groom
The Alpha Groom website (and app!) has lots of great articles and tips for grooms and groomsmen alike. Grooms will find help with planning the proposal or writing wedding vows and best men/groomsmen can find ideas for planning a bachelor party and a breakdown of their wedding day duties. This about sums up their spot-on take on what it means to be a best man: “It is your job as the best man to have the groom’s back like he had yours in the dim, laser light clubs or the side-of-the-road watering holes you stalked as a pair of single hunters. You are the best man because your buddy trusts you to have his back at his time of greatest need and most worry—his wedding day.”

A Gentleman’s Guide to Best-Man Hood
This article from Slate’s Gentleman Scholar Troy Patterson could be considered the one-stop shop for how to be the bestest best man. The writer sums up the spirit with which one should approach best manning thusly: “If the wedding is at a vineyard, and if in the vineyard there are snakes, then you will drive out the snakes as discreetly as possible. Flirt with the mother of the bride and any other mother who wants to be flirted with. Build a rapport with the wedding planner. And always and forever OBEY THE BRIDE.”

Staggered

Staggered
This UK site specializes in helping you plan and book the stag do—they even have a toll-free number for instant advice! They also have plenty of articles to cover the rest of the groomsman experience. One of my favorites? This compilation of several thousand wedding jokes to incorporate in your best man speech.

The Art of Manliness

The Art of Manliness
While The Art of Manliness can school you in everything from how to shave to how to “stop just hanging out with women and start dating them,” it also has a few great articles on the art of being a groomsman. I particularly like their take on the bachelor party, in which they advise men to ditch the strippers and revive the tradition of toasting the groom while also doing something he’ll enjoy…though they do recommend that it not be “anything insanely dangerous” (definition of “insanely dangerous” at your discretion).

Well Groomed
Well Groomed
A wedding website devoted to groom (and groomsman) style, this resource is the man’s guide to tying the (windsor) knot. It’s packed with a really creative mix of features, from real weddings and style inspiration boards to gift guides and fashion tutorials. If you need to know how to mix and match your groomsmen’s attire or where to find manly gifts that don’t suck, this is your destination.

How Do I Tell a Friend She’s Not One of My Bridesmaids?

Q: My fiancé and I have decided to each have five attendants at the wedding. We both agreed that we didn’t want a huge wedding party and he really only has five people who he feels comfortable asking—his two brothers, my brother and his two best friends from college. The thing is, it was really hard for me to choose just five people and there are two girls who I am close friends with who I’m not going to be able to ask to be bridesmaids. How can I break the news that they aren’t in the wedding party without hurting their feelings?

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A: This is a very tough situation, but also a pretty common one. It’s very likely that most couples don’t have perfectly matching numbers of close friends to create symmetrical bridal parties. Beyond that, we always have to draw the line somewhere—you can’t ask every single friend to be your bridesmaid or you’d end up like this crazy woman. You’re already through the first hard step: deciding who you have to leave out. That was a tough decision in the first place and you shouldn’t beat yourself up about it. You had to make a choice and you did. Good job.

I think a piece of advice that should be more widely circulated is that no one should assume they are going to be invited to a wedding or asked to be a bridesmaid. We could all save ourselves a lot of hurt feelings if we make it a rule to assume the bride and groom are going to elope and then are just pleasantly surprised if we receive an invite or a request to be in the wedding party. There are so many considerations that go into these decisions and most of them have nothing to do with your friendship. Brides have to think about the cost of each guest and the spacial constraints of the venue. Parents and relatives can lay on additional pressures, so a bride may be forced to choose a cousin as her bridesmaid over one of her close friends. If a bride envisions a small service, she may not want to have any attendants at all and might only invite her immediate family to the event!

So how do you tell your friends that you can’t ask them to be a bridesmaid? Think about what you want to say before you bring up the topic. Don’t try to explain why she didn’t “make the cut.” Instead, focus on affirming your friendship. Make sure she knows that she’s invited to the wedding and the pre-wedding festivities, like the bachelorette. It might be a nice touch to ask if she can be involved in some small way that directly plays to her strengths. For example, you could say “you have such great taste in music, I would love your recommendations for our wedding playlist” or “you are so my most fashionable friend, so I’d love to run some dress ideas by you.” Don’t ask for anything too large—after all, she’s not a bridesmaid so she shouldn’t have to do the work of one—but asking for her opinion or advice is a simple way to include her that won’t burden her as well. Let her know that just because she’s not an official part of the wedding doesn’t mean that your friendship is going on hold. Try to leave the conversation with plans to do something together, maybe that doesn’t involve your wedding.

You could also think about adopting the Southern tradition of a “house party.” Basically, the house party is composed of women who are close to the bride, but are not her bridesmaids. The house party attends all the showers and the bachelorette party and sometimes participates in the ceremony in some small way, either by doing a reading, manning the guest book, or helping to direct guests to different activities, like a photo booth or dessert bar. This role is also sometimes called the “host” if only one or two girls are doing it. House party members can sit in the second row during the wedding (behind immediate family) and sometimes wear dresses that are the same color as the bridesmaids (but not the exact same dress).

The other thing to think about, and I know this is revolutionary, but maybe you don’t need to have the same number of attendants as your fiancé. I’ve actually given this a good bit of thought and other than perfectly balancing wedding party photographs and giving each lady a gentleman’s arm to process out on, I just can’t see why two people can’t have a slightly different number of attendants. Wedding “rules” have loosened up a lot. Head tables, formal introductions, and receiving lines are starting to be rarities rather than certainties, and the traditional setup of the wedding is in flux. Lots of brides are choosing to have more casual weddings and are playing by their own rules. So, just give it a think.

Photo courtesy LanierStar Photography.

Have a tough question you’d like to submit for the next Ultimate Bridesmaid Q&A? Leave it anonymously in the comments or email us at ultimatebridesmaid@gmail.com.