CHOOSING YOUR PARTY
Finding the right size
When the joy of the engagement blends into the excitement of planning, the question of who will stand at your side on the big day will undoubtedly come up. For those with several siblings or a big group of close friends, sometimes not everyone can make the cut. This can be a problem, particularly for those who by choice or necessity have a smaller bridal party. How many people you have in your bridal party can often depend on your budget or the style of your wedding. For a couple wanting to go all out, ten bridesmaids and groomsmen might be perfect. However, if you’re planning an intimate ceremony with just close friends and family, there’s no need to have more people at the altar than in the seats. It’s no longer tradition to pay for all your bridal party costs, but many couples choose to contribute something towards wedding day outfits or buy a gift to show their appreciation. Consider your budget.
Choosing the right people
Pick people who you think you will be close with for many years into the future, rather than people you are close with right now. Siblings will generally fall into this category and some friends more than others. This way you avoid looking back at your wedding photos and realising you haven’t spoken to one of your bridesmaids since the big day.
Evens or odds
You and your partner might find that you have drastically different ideas of how many people you want to include. This is a discussion to have early on and, if you just can’t see yourself having more than three bridesmaids while he insists on four groomsmen, having uneven numbers is an option. If you choose to go down this path, however, you must consider how it will affect different aspects of your wedding, such as walking back down the aisle after the ceremony and bridal party dances.
Maid-of-honour or just bridesmaids
The maid-of-honour and best man are roles with a lot of significance and a lot of responsibility. The maid-of-honour, in particular, assumes a lot of responsibility and helps the bride plan aspects of her big day as well as celebrations such as the bridal shower, hen’s night and kitchen tea. The maid-of-honour will also take the lead in looking after the bride on the day, making sure she is ready on time and carrying any last-minute essentials such as makeup for touch-ups, mints, tissues … or bandages! The best man often takes on the responsibility of looking after the wedding rings, planning a wild (or not so wild) buck’s night and delivering an appropriate and entertaining speech at the reception. Today, couples are choosing to abandon the roles of maid-of-honour and best man so the wedding party as a whole shares all the tasks. This is a great option for brides and grooms who can’t choose just one person as their best or closest friend and would rather keep their party equal. However, don’t let concerns over offending one of your friends stop you from honouring another as a maid-of-honour or best man — this is your choice to make.
How to break it to someone who didn’t make the cut
It’s unfortunate, but generally someone will be unhappy with your choice of bridal party. Break the news gently to close friends you don’t select and discuss with your partner different ways of including other friends in your ceremony. You may like to get musically talented friends to perform a song or have some do a reading. In any case, remember that this is a day about your love for your partner — not for your friends.
DRESSING THE BRIDAL PARTY
Keep an open mind
Katherine Heigl’s film 27 Dresses illustrated the potential drama and horror of bridesmaid dresses. If you’re expecting your bridesmaids and groomsmen to pay for what they wear, you’ll need to be reasonable in your expectations and make sure they are comfortable with the final choice. Many brides make a day (or a few) of
finding the right dresses by going out to lunch and shopping with their girls. If you aren’t confident that you’ll find something that you like off the rack, that doesn’t mean you should skip this step — a day of window shopping can give you a better idea of what your bridesmaids will be comfortable in and the colours that you all like that will match your theme.
If you have a diverse bridal party, you might consider more diverse dresses. Perhaps choose a colour or style you’d like the dresses in and let them choose a dress that suits them. One tip for colourmatching is to decide whether you want them all in the same hue or are happy with some variation — every colour comes in many tones. Giving your bridesmaids free rein could be great, but make sure they stick to your theme or colour scheme. Mismatched bridesmaids dresses are also an option if you want each of your friends to show off their style and personality. Celebrity brides such as Christina Hendricks and Molly Sims — not to mention Sarah Jessica Parker’s character Carrie Bradshaw in Sex and the City — have thrown away the tradition of matching bridesmaid dresses in favour of something more unique. Brides could also select a colour palette in place of a single colour so bridesmaids can choose a shade that suits them best. Once you’ve figured out what you want, fittings will need to be arranged and it’s important that you give your bridesmaids plenty of notice before each. Being organised here will save you and your bridal party a lot of stress and tears.
Choosing the suits
Don’t forget the groomsmen — your decision about your bridesmaids’ outfits will have an impact on them, too. Depending on the style and theme of your wedding, you’ll need to consider if the gentlemen are wearing full tuxedos or a simpler dress-pants-and-shirt combination; whether they’ll wear bowties, neckties or no ties; and what colour each aspect of their outfit will be. Many brides match their groomsmen’s shirts or ties with the bridesmaids’ dresses, but you could opt for contrasting colours on either side. You may even consider distinguishing your maid-of-honour and best man by choosing a brighter or bolder colour for them.
Understanding the expectations
The duties of the bridal party are quite well understood, but you and your partner may have certain expectations or requirements that you’d like them to fulfil. Make sure these are clear from the outset and that everyone is comfortable. Understand that while the wedding may be in the forefront of your mind, it may not be in theirs.
When it comes to buck’s and hen’s night celebrations, you don’t want any nasty surprises. If you’d like to leave the planning to your bridesmaids and groomsmen, make sure you discuss anything you definitely don’t want with them first — and don’t forget to consider your partner’s wishes as well as your own. If your bridal party needs support with planning and organising, don’t hesitate to give it — they just want you to have a good night. Also, make sure the celebrations are a week or more before the wedding — you don’t want any lingering effects of a wild night out visible on your wedding day. You also don’t want any embarrassing or nasty surprises in the wedding speeches. There’s nothing wrong with having a good laugh, but encourage your speakers to steer clear of anything too inappropriate for your family to hear. While stories about what you did “that night that you were really drunk” might seem entertaining, for those who didn’t share the experience these often become boring and tedious. Also, remind your speakers to avoid insulting your new wife or the institute of marriage as it can put a downer on the festivities.
SAYING THANK YOU
Hopefully once your wedding day arrives, your bridal party will still be happy to be there. They will have helped you and your groom through the planning and organising process and, on the day, they’ll be feeling pressure to make sure everything goes off without a hitch and, most importantly, that you both enjoy yourselves. Most couples choose to buy thank you gifts for their bridal party and other special helpers. You could contribute towards paying for their wedding day clothes or buy their accessories for them, such as matching jewellery or shoes for the bridesmaids and matching ties and cufflinks for the groomsmen.
Another great memento idea is to have framed copies of your wedding photos made to give to your bridal party — your friends are sure to appreciate them. Many companies offer personalised gifts such as cups and glasses, photo frames and trinket boxes. To pamper your bridal party — and yourself — you could go on a relaxing weekend away before the wedding and indulge with spa treatments and massages. A simple suggestion could be going out for a nice dinner and shouting everyone their meals. Hampers of luxurious skincare products, delicious food and chocolates, or perfumes will give your friends a well earned treat after the big day. Most of all, don’t forget to actually say thank you at the end of the night! There’s nothing nicer than being told in person that you are appreciated, so give your bridal party the gift of recognising their efforts in person.
By Laura Rankins
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