Category Archives: Basics

Take the 2013 Bridesmaid Census!

emily delamater photography via style me pretty

Photograph by Emily Delamater, via Style Me Pretty

Something that I spend a lot of time thinking about (so much time, you guys) is what the bridesmaid experience today is like. What kind of bridal showers are we throwing for our friends and what kind would we want for ourselves? Where are we spending our destination bachelorette weekends and will there be a stripper…or is that absolutely not going to happen? What do you love about being a bridesmaid and what do you most dread?  You can answer as many or as few questions as you like in our anonymous 12 question survey. Just 12 questions! Questions apply to bridesmaids and brides past, present and future alike, so any lady will be able to answer. I can’t wait to share what we find!

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. 

The Bride’s Pledge to Her Bridesmaids

Last week I shared my slightly cheeky but heartfelt Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride. Well, it’s only fair that the bride make a few commitments to her maids as well. After all, the bride really sets the tone for the wedding festivities—a relaxed bride makes all the difference. For me, what’s most important is remembering that even though wedding planning is stressful, you still need to be there for your best girlfriends just as they are there for you. This would be a great Will You Be My Bridesmaid idea!

the brides pledge to her bridesmaids

A Bride’s Pledge to her Bridesmaids

I, [insert your name here], being of sound mind and happy heart, joyfully ask you to be my bridesmaid. I pledge to uphold the following provisions and ask that the bridesmaids uphold the points set out in the Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride.

  • I pledge to make no demands, as I understand that friends do not demand things of each other.
  • I pledge to remember that while this wedding is consuming my life, you still have one. I ask that you excuse me if I talk too much about calla lilies. I still love you and want to hear about your life, so tell me what’s up.
  • I pledge to be conscious of your budget throughout this endeavor and to be understanding should you be unable to attend a bachelorette party or shower due to cost or distance. I will miss you, but I will understand.
  • I pledge to try not to share every single wedding detail with you—unless you’re really into this shit, in which case, let’s talk taffeta!
  • I pledge to choose a bridesmaid dress at a reasonable cost and in a style and color that I actually think will look good on you.
  • I pledge to let you wear your hair however you desire.
  • I pledge to try not to freak out if things don’t go exactly how I planned. I ask that you let me know, gently, if I am being insane.
  • I pledge to remember that our friendship is more important than any little detail and that the most important thing is that you’ll be there by my side on my wedding day.

Most importantly, I pledge to be what I pledged to be the day we became friends: there for you through it all, the best friend I can be.

Will You Be My Bridesmaid idea: The Bride's Pledge to her Bridesmaids

Want a copy to email to or print for brides in your life? Download the PDF here: The Bride’s Pledge to Her Bridesmaids.

And don’t forget to take a look at our companion pledge: The Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride.

(Adorable photo of my friend Amanda and her sister via Alicia Lauren Photography.)

The Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride

I love, love, love getting emails from my readers and I’m so honored that many of you have trusted me with bridesmaid-related problems that have arisen and asked for my advice. Some of these problems have the potential to cause a lot of heartache between friends, so the most wonderful feeling for me is when I’m able to help someone resolve an issue without them jeopardizing their friendship with the bride or bridesmaid. I’ve realized that a lot of the time we just need to be reminded of what is most important. So I decided to ask myself, “When I sign up to be a bridesmaid, what am I promising my friend? What are the givens, the things I can guarantee? And what do I expect from the bride in return?” I thought about the kind of friend I want to be, the things I want to do for my brides and the type of bride I’d like to be as well. I wrote down every little issue that might arise, from tiny annoyances to major troubles, and summed it all up in two “pledges,” one for the bridesmaids and one for the bride. Ok, some of these are not totally serious, but it is all heartfelt (though I am totally serious about no undergarment-shaped baked good—if I see one more corset cookie…). What’s most important is to remember to be there for your friend, above all else—to be kind, to be patient, to be loving, and to just generally continue to be the friend you’ve always been.

The Bridesmaid's Pledge to the Bride

The Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride

I, [insert your name here], being of sound mind and happy heart, joyfully agree to be your bridesmaid. I pledge to uphold the following provisions and ask that the bride uphold the points set out in the Bride’s Pledge to Her Bridesmaids.

  • I pledge to bring laughter and smiles into your life whenever you’re feeling stressed.
  • I pledge to take your frantic calls regarding cake decorators and try my hardest to take your concerns regarding buttercream versus fondant seriously.
  • I pledge to hold my tongue if I do not like the flowers, venue, and/or color scheme you pick for your wedding. I will remember that it is your wedding, not mine, and that I am your bridesmaid, not your event planner.
  • I pledge to attend your bachelorette party and bridal shower, if distance and finances permit, and I ask that if I can’t come, you know that it’s not because I don’t want to be there. I know you might be sad, but I ask that you understand.
  • I pledge to wear whatever bridesmaid dress you deem perfect for your special day, though I ask that it not be too shiny or too tight.
  • I pledge to be a source of positivity and encouragement to you.
  • I pledge to be on time the day of the wedding (despite any previous difficulties with punctuality).
  •  I pledge to help calm your nerves as we wait for the ceremony, be it with drugs and alcohol or hugs and squeals.

Maid of honor clause:

  • I pledge to plan a bachelorette party you will actually enjoy. It will be classy, it will be fun, but most importantly, it will be you. There shall be no objects shaped like a penis and absolutely no baked goods in the shape of undergarments or shoes.
  • I pledge that your bridal shower shall not involve gowns made of toilet paper.
  • I pledge to toast you at your wedding. I pledge not to mention your ex’s or that one time in Cabo, and I pledge not to have too much to drink before the toast (afterwards, all bets are off).

Most importantly, I pledge to be what I pledged to be the day we became friends: there for you through it all, the best friend I can be.

bridesmaids pledge to the bride

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Brides, make sure to check back soon for the Bride’s Pledge to her Bridesmaids so you can keep up your end of the bargain!

Want a copy to email to or print for your ladies? Download the PDF here: The Bridesmaid’s Pledge to the Bride.

(Adorable photo of my friend Amanda and her sister via Alicia Lauren Photography.)

LastBash: A Bachelorette Weekend Planning Tool

As anyone who has planned a bachelorette weekend will tell you, it can get stressful. There are so many moving pieces to manage, from choosing the date and location that works for most of the guests to managing the guest list, communicating expenses, booking activities and coordinating special touches for the bride. Just take a look at my step-by-step guide to planning a bachelorette weekend…I can feel your stress building. So imagine my joy when I stumbled across LastBash. It’s like a supercharged evite, with tons of planning tools like private message boards and expense tracking, that’s totally dedicated to organizing your bachelorette weekend—and completely free! Here’s a look at how it works.
Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 12.20.17 PMFirst, you set up a page for your event. This will serve as an invitation, but will also create a wall where everyone can comment, allowing you to communicate easily with the guests and get their input quickly. You can also initiate private messages so you can loop in a few guests (like the other bridesmaids) without involving everyone. One of my absolute favorite features is the ability to create polls. This eliminates all the confusion of sorting through emails to see which date or location works for most of your guests.
Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 11.45.08 AMYou can also add activities that guests can RSVP for separately. For example, maybe you slot in the limo company you’re expecting to rent from and their rate. Then if another guest finds a better rate she can let you know. Or you can list optional activities, like going to the spa for facials and pedicures and the girls can let you know if they’d like to attend. You can also share your flight itineraries and contact information, so you know when everyone will arrive and how to get in touch with them.Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 11.41.39 AMFinally, there’s a panel for expenses, which lets you easily share costs and keep track of who has paid for what. Asking your friends for money can be one of the most delicate subjects, so having everything organized and out in the open takes away some of the stress and also serves as a reminder to your guests to pay up (so you don’t get stuck with the bill!).
Screen Shot 2013-06-27 at 11.45.49 AMOverall, I love this concept. With a crisp, clean design and lots of features that keep all the details of your party together and streamline communication with your guests, Last Bash is the perfect tool to take some of the stress out of planning your bachelorette weekend.

Q&A: When the Other Bridesmaids Won’t Help

What to do when the other bridesmaids wont helpQ: I’m the maid of honor in my best friend Ashley’s wedding this summer and four of her other friends are bridesmaids. I’m not close with any of them, but I’ve been trying to get them to help me with planning the shower. The all originally agreed to chip in, but now they hardly ever respond to my emails and when they do it’s usually to say that they’re too busy to help out. I know I can’t force these girls to be involved, but I just don’t understand why they won’t contribute at all!

A: First of all, I feel your pain. It’s difficult to be paired up with girls who you don’t know very well and who don’t seem to want to contribute beyond showing up on the wedding day. It can be especially hard when you aren’t close friends with the other bridesmaids, because you have no frame of reference on why they would act this way. You can’t help but think, are they always like this? It’s hard to know what’s causing this, but it could be that they just aren’t as interested in the details of the shower as you. If they’ve never been a bridesmaid before, they may be unfamiliar with what the duties involve outside of the wedding day. And there’s always the sticker shock of a first-time bridesmaid—cost is a tricky subject when budgets are tight and everyone is already paying big money for a dress or travel to the wedding.

That said, if the girls signed on to help and are now backing out, something is up. If you’ve had some negative interactions with them and feel like there’s tension between you and the other girls, then it could be helpful to try and start fresh. When you’re writing emails to them, try to always make it positive and about Ashley—that’s your connection. Be careful not to “blame” them or say anything that seems like an attack. Read your emails over before you send them and delete anything that sounds like criticism. They’ll never help you out if they think you’re against them or have turned into a “MOH-zilla.” You could send them an email that says something like this:

“Ashley’s shower is coming up and I’m really excited to share this special day with her and all her best girl friends! There are still a few things that need to get done before the party. I’m hoping that we can split these up and would really appreciate your help. I know Ashley is going to be so surprised and touched with everything we’re planning and I think she’d love for everyone to be involved. I can’t wait to see her face when she sees [detail from the shower]. Here’s a list of what we need to get done. Can you all let me know what you’d be able to help with? I can’t believe there are only a few weeks until the wedding! Email or text back soon so we can get everything set. Thanks!”

If you only go to the other bridesmaids for the necessities there may also be less drama. Try to send only a few emails and keep them polite, but short and to the point: what you need from them and when you need to know.

If it seems like you’re way past this point or you’ve tried something like that in the past with no luck, another option is to move forward with limited interaction with the other girls. It isn’t required for all the bridesmaids to contribute to the shower and the person who throws a shower varies in every scenario. While some groups will have the bridesmaids band together, other times just the maid of honor throws the shower or it could be thrown by a relative or family friend. It’s tough to take on the burden of planning everything, but you may have to just accept that you’re going to do the bulk of the work.

Next, ask yourself if there’s a person you’ve overlooked who could be an asset. Do you and Ashley have a mutual friend who is not a bridesmaid but will be coming to the shower and wedding? If so, see if you can recruit her to help you with the plans. It wouldn’t be appropriate to ask her to help pay for the shower, but she could be a big help with making decisions, putting things together, decorating…whatever needs to get done to make this shower happen! You could also find an ally in the bride’s mom. If you need help, reach out to her to see if she’d be willing to cohost the shower with you or give her input on the details.

Lastly and I think most importantly, no matter what try to maintain a civil relationship with the other bridesmaids. I know that’s hard when you’re tearing your hair out, but it’s the best thing you can do for your friend. I always try to tell myself that whatever stress I’m feeling about the wedding, the bride’s has got to be 10 times worse. The last thing I’d want to do is add to her stress by creating a bridesmaid infight. When you want to explode at the other girls, just remember that the bride must like them for some reason! Concentrate on Ashley and try to just let the other stuff go. In the end, the day’s about her—but you already know that.

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. 

Do I Have to Open Gifts at My Bridal Shower?

I recently came across an article on a popular bridal website about opening gifts at the shower. The reader asks if it’s necessary to open gifts at the shower and the writer replies “‘Fraid so, since receiving gifts—and opening them—is the main focus of a shower.” She then goes on to recommend that you “figure out a few gracious stock responses that you can use after unwrapping each gift (“Thank you so much—I love it!” or “Oh, wow—how gorgeous!” are good ones)” and maybe even “recruit a witty friend” to “oooh and ahhh where appropriate.”

HOLY HECK! This is the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Practice sounding appreciative?!? Stand in front of the mirror and repeat “Oh wow—how gorgeous” until it sounds sincere?!?! Recruit a “witty friend” to fill dead air?!?! Oh my GOD! Do not do this!

View More: http://dyannajoyphotography.pass.us/kellie-bridal-shower

Photo courtesy of Dyanna Joy Photography.

Saying that the purpose of a bridal shower is to receive and open gifts is like saying that receiving gifts is the purpose of any party—birthdays, housewarmings, graduation. It is not! The purpose of a shower should be to gather with all the women in your life to celebrate your upcoming marriage. Can gifts be involved? Of course! But making them the centerpiece of the shower is one of the reasons bridal showers have a bad rep. This is why people think showers are boring! No one likes watching people open presents for two hours.

Do I think you should open your gifts at the party? Yes, I do. Does everyone have to sit around you in a circle and ooh and ahh (possibly only because they have been selected as your witty friend, though how this is witty I don’t know)? Nope!

Here are some ideas for making gift opening more enjoyable for everyone and less awkward for you, all of which do not involve you acting fake or recruiting friends to save you when things get awkward.

  • Pick a gift from the gift table and then find the giver. Privately open it with the giver so they can see your reaction and so you can thank them right away, then place the open gift back on the table so others can see it if they’re interested in what you’re received. This eliminates the awkward “gift opening circle” but still allows you to show your appreciation to your guests for bringing a gift.
  • If you have only a few gifts to open, go ahead and do it all at once, but encourage guests to eat and drink while you’re opening. Have some music playing so that the mood is still festive and no one feels like the party has ground to a halt just because you’re opening gifts.
  • Open the gifts while standing by the gift table. Again, this encourages movement and will keep the guests from settling into boring present lethargy. It will be easy for you to run over and give someone a hug instead of those awkward sitting hugs. Ugh.
  • If you do want to recruit a helper, ask them to make this announcement (or make it yourself): “Carrie is going to open her gifts, but she really wants you all to keep having fun! Feel free to keep the party going if you’re not interested in how many blenders she’s going to receive!”

No matter how or when you open your gifts, I think it’s important to send a thank you note. Some people may find this old fashioned, but if you’ve ever received a thoughtful thank you note, you know how warm and fuzzy it makes you feel. Make sure the women in your life know that you appreciate them by sending a note that thanks them for coming to your shower, mentions their gift and shows them how much you love it.