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!
There’s something about the holiday season that just demands sparkle—and a New Year’s wedding falls straight into that category. A glittery bridesmaid dress is reminiscent of snow and the perfect complement to candlelight (you’ll love how the dresses shimmer on the dance floor). Embrace the season’s colors with a deep red statement bouquet incorporating bold, large blooms and deep greenery. The colors feel sophisticated and strikingly modern.
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:
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.
Bachelorette 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.
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.
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
We love how this Alabama styled shoot embraced the season with a perfect blend of Southern charm and vintage flair. A deep cranberry shade served as the inspiration for the bold, lush florals by CeCe Designs. Rather than go tone-on-tone with the bridesmaid dresses, a soft rose pink was selected that really makes the vibrant florals pop. A statement red velvet sofa and plaid accent chair provide richness, while rustic accents like pinecones and feathers create the feeling of a natural woodland retreat.
Photographer: Sam Jasper Photography | Venue: Aldridge Gardens | Event Planner: Becky’s Brides | Invitations: Fine Paperwork | Dresses: Bella’s Bridal & Formal | Floral Designer: CeCe Designs | Cake Designer: Cakes by Kim
Modern brides continue to move away from traditional bridesmaid dress choices. While matching pastel chiffon frocks are still the norm rather than the exception, we love it when brides take bold style risks with their bridesmaid attire choices. We’ve seen vibrant colors and patterns, once-taboo white as a popular choice and new silhouettes, like maxis, jumpsuits and even pants. Here, our favorite bridesmaid trends of the year (plus, the one dress that gets its very own entry—because it’s just that big right now).
Photo via Green Wedding Shoes.
Patterned dresses continue to be an unexpected and striking choice. When it comes to choosing a pattern, the bolder the better. While florals are the most common choice, look to stripes, polka-dots and other geometric motifs for statement-making gowns. Pro tip: For the biggest impact, this is a time to have all your maids in the same dress. If you want to try the mismatched look with patterns, choose different textured fabrics or tone-on-tone designs in the one shade to keep things from getting too busy.
Photo via Junebug Weddings.
The first time I saw this look I was like mind = blown. Flowing floral pants are just the perfect choice for a modern bride. The silky fabric keeps the look elegant, while the billowing style is very of the moment.
Photo via Green Wedding Shoes.
Let’s face it: Heels and grass do not mix. Boots are absolutely perfect for an outdoor wedding, especially in the fall when they feel seasonally appropriate. Practical meets pretty in this style trend.
Photo via Ruffled.
All in White
White isn’t just for the bride anymore. This trend started a few years back and is still going strong. While some brides have even embraced long white dresses for their maids, Ultimate Bridesmaid still firmly suggests the short white dress if you want an all-white wedding—that way, there’s never any confusion on just whose wedding this is.
Photo via Style Me Pretty.
Can’t decide on one bridesmaid look? Have two! This bride chose both a bold, neon patterned dress and a neutral sheath as well. The key to pulling off this look is to make sure the dresses have some common element—in this case it’s their geometric patterns and pops of gold, plus the matching shoes. The result is a look that seems purposeful and considered, rather than haphazard. Stylish to the extreme.
Photo via Ruffled.
Metallic bridesmaid dresses are here to stay. The trend really picked up steam over the last few years and is still one of our favorites. What can we say? We like to sparkle!
Photo via 100 Layer Cake.
Yep, this Adrianna Papell dress has exploded onto the bridesmaid scene and quickly become one of the “it” dresses of the wedding world. And why shouldn’t it be? It has a flattering fit, a timeless deco pattern, a hint of sparkle and though we are seeing it pop up in wedding after wedding, it still feels fresh each time. Originally available only in nude, you’ll now find it in a range of soft hues, including this stunning mint.
Multicolored bridesmaids go to the next level with this subtle ombre effect. You’ll need to choose a dress retailer that carries an extensive range of colors to truly pull this off. The more subtle the color shift, the better. Having two bridesmaids in each shade is also a smart choice—it’s what creates an ombre effect rather than a rainbow one.
Photo via Junebug Weddings.
Truth: Sometimes bridesmaids get cold. Especially in the winter. Taking that fact of life into consideration and choosing a striking cover-up is both thoughtful and pays off in style points. We love leather jackets, faux fur wraps, plaid scarves and and even patterned blanket shawls, like this one.
Photo via Ruffled.
Sure, floor-length bridesmaid gowns have been around. But the maxi is a bit different. The style is loose and more casual (dare we use the word mumu?) and the result is boho chic. We love this neutral pleated version. The silhouette says “beach” but the subtle sparkle says “style.”
Photo via Style Me Pretty.
Classic in black
The LBD gets its own acronym for a reason: it just never goes out of style. Black is the perfect choice for a formal wedding and also the color choice your bridesmaids are most likely to incorporate into their regular wardrobe. We love modern black sheaths like these for a sophisticated yet timeless look.
Photo via 100 Layer Cake.
There’s nothing we love more than a bride not afraid to make a bold style choice: like these turquoise floral pencil skirts paired with maroon silk tunics. Selecting vibrant separates like this isn’t for every bride—but when it works, it’s just wow.
Photo via Ruffled.
After a surprise email from a local seamstress, Shaunda of E’MAGINE Weddings & Events was inspired to collaborate with her to create completely custom bridesmaid robes and dresses. Seamstress Stini and wedding planner Shaunda carried the theme of personalization through the decor and accessories, incorporating wine glass decals to customize the beverages, monogramming on the robes and each bridesmaid’s name stitched into clutches. As a serial bridesmaid (eight times and counting!), Shaunda wanted to create a luxurious inspiration shoot for a bridesmaid luncheon, the perfect way to thank your ladies for being there for you through all the craziness of wedding planning. Charlotte wedding photographer Samantha Laffoon perfectly captured all the little details of the day.
Floral design, event design & dress design by: E’MAGINE Weddings & Events | Photographer: Samantha Laffoon Photography | Venue: WinMock at Kinderton | Desserts by: Nye’s Cream Sandwiches, The Popcorn Fanatic & C’est L’amour Macarons | Stationery: Laura Hooper Calligraphy | Dresses, robes & clutches: Stini’s Sewing Shop | Wine glass decals: Purple Rose Crafts | Linens: Wild Flower Linens | Rentals: BBJ Linen | Makeup Artist: Lets Get Vamp | Videographer: Tyler Harmon-Townsend
That’s right, Ultimate Bridesmaid is 3 years old!
It’s crazy to look back at some of the first posts I wrote and then see where the blog is today. Thanks are due, as always, to the amazing friends, family and readers who have supported this crazy blog project of mine. Your words of encouragement mean the world to me. It is also such a privilege to get to work with incredibly talented and inspiring photographers and creatives—the wedding community really is full of generous, warm-hearted people.
Usually for our blogiversary, I share what you loved the most (check out our top 10 posts from year one, many of which are still some of your all-time favs + our year two milestones here). But this year I decided to share some of my favorite posts from this year—ok, and yours too.
What’s in Your Cell Phone Game: This party game, with versions for both a bridal shower and a bachelorette party, debuted just a few short weeks ago, but it’s already edging into the daily top 10, which is fast in blog world. Usually a post has to gain momentum over time or have a really big surge due to some influential social sharing, but this baby is just knocking it out. I hear you—you like games, more games!
Bridal Shower 101: This is one of those posts that took forever to write—like, weeks. Because I really tried to cover every basic and not-so-basic question you could have about a bridal shower. From who is responsible for planning the shower and who should be invited to what to serve (is alcohol allowed?) and what to do (does the bride have to open her gifts?), this post will answer many, many of your questions. A great article to peruse for new bridesmaids!
MOH Speech Writing Prompts: As evidenced by our all-time favorite post, The Ultimate Maid of Honor Speech, writing a great maid of honor speech is a topic on many a MOH’s mind. Since I already tackled the basics of speech writing and some major do’s and don’ts, I decided to focus on one of the hardest aspects of writing any speech: getting started. These speech writing prompts will give you ideas for exactly what to talk about during those three minutes in the spotlight.
33 Spectacular Bachelorette Party Ideas: Following the success of 21 Spectacular Bridal Shower Themes, we had to bring the same treatment to the bachelorette party. Ideas include a nude drawing classes, belly dance lessons, river tubing and so much more!
What’s Wrong With the Bachelorette Party (and How We Can Fix It): Writing this post was a bit like writing Ultimate Bridesmaid’s manifesto. I really wanted to express my thought process for the aesthetic choices I make on the blog and the mission behind it, and the bachelorette party is the perfect microcosm to express all that. In a nutshell: Down with pink boas and penis-shaped straws, up with parties that reflect the bride’s personality and style!
Plus, here are a few of my favorite real bridal shower and bachelorette parties from this year!
Top row: Donut Bridal Brunch, Poolside Bridal Shower, Cooking Classy Bachelorette
Middle row: New Orleans Bachelorette, London Tea Party Shower, Garden Bridal Brunch
Bottom row: Bridal Crafting Party, Lowcountry Bridesmaid Luncheon, Peacock Blue Bridal Shower
Personally, this was an exciting year for me because I got engaged! Andrew and I have decided to have our wedding in Maine, which is a place we fell in love with together and now visit every year (see past recaps of our trip and the places we love here and here). Originally I was going back and forth on whether we should get married in Brooklyn or Bar Harbor. Before Christmas, I was pretty much set on Brooklyn and had even scoped out a couple venue—and then all of the sudden I totally switched directions and landed on Maine.
So what happened? Well, I realized that when I thought about planning a wedding in Brooklyn, it stressed me out—there’s so much competition for venues and vendors, and don’t even get me started on the prices. But when I thought about getting married in Maine, I felt relaxed. Once I realized that, the decision was simple. Plus, as my awesome future sister-in-law pointed out, New York weddings can be a bit scattered. Guests want to go off and explore the city, and hotels may be far from the venue, so you get to see less of the people who have traveled so far for the event. At a more intimate destination, everyone will stay close and you’ll get to spend more quality time together.
Next week we’re taking a trip to Maine and will choose our wedding venue and finally set our date (eek!)! I’m trying to decide between late May and September or early October. Any advice from those familiar with the area? We always go in May and love it, but fall is my favorite season…plus, it would give me more time to plan. If anyone has gotten married on Mt. Desert Island, let’s talk!!
I’ve got big blog dreams for the coming year as well. I’ll share one with you in the hopes that putting it out on the Internet will help hold me accountable: I think I’m finally ready to tackle a site redesign. I’m in the process of looking at designers right now and trying to find the right fit, but I’m really excited about this. And nervous! So nervous. I want to improve functionality and navigation and add new features and photo galleries and spruce up our look a bit and I just need to find the right dream-vision partner to make this all happen.
Here’s to year 4!