There may be no greater privilege as a friend than to be chosen as a bridesmaid. You’ll likely be flooded with excitement and joy, but if you’ve never been in a wedding, overwhelm and panic could creep in if you’re not prepared. Wrapped into all the celebrations, there is a bit of work and financial commitment involved for anyone in a wedding party, so you’ll want to be well-informed of the duties at hand in order to show up as the best bridesmaid you can be.
Here, we’ve enlisted wedding and events pro Jane Yu (who has also been a bridesmaid seven times!) to breakdown the complete guide to bridesmaids’ duties before, during, and after the wedding.
Meet the Expert
Jane Yu is co-founder of wedding planning and DJ company Veils & Vinyls with her husband Jon Yu. Together, the Los Angeles-based couple has over 20 years of experience creating events from intimate micro-weddings to massive brand activations.
Before the Wedding
Be Emotionally Supportive
Wedding planning is as stressful as it is exciting. First and foremost, it’s important to be there for the bride in those moments of tension. “Be available as much as you’re able! You don’t have to be at their beck and call, but it’s nice for the bride to know that their bridesmaids are there for them as their closest friends and best supporters,” Yu says.
It’s also important to support the maid of honor. A lot of the burden falls on them to get things started with pre-wedding events, but not all MOHs are natural planners. “It is a group effort especially where any planning is involved, and it’s important to set that tone from the beginning.”
Be a Sounding Board
If you’re someone the bride trusts to bounce ideas off of, that’s a pretty important role to play as a bridesmaid. However, Yu warns, there’s a fine line between helping the bride make decisions and being pushy about what you think is best–give your opinion if asked, but don’t force it.
Yu advises that bridesmaids take the time to understand what might be expected of them, financially and otherwise, and have honest conversations about those responsibilities from day one. Sometimes, even the expectations you have for yourself as a bridesmaid may be beyond your means. Honesty is always the best policy–with yourself and with the bride–be communicative if you’re not able to handle something, and as a close friend, the bride will likely be completely understanding.
Help With Pre-Wedding Events
Planning (and paying for) the bridal shower and the bachelorette party are two of the biggest pre-wedding expectations. The maid of honor will typically take the lead, but the bridesmaids should support by helping to plan and pay for as much as possible. For the bridal shower, you want to help cover the amount of the event, and for the bachelorette party, you want to at least make sure the bride’s portion is covered.
If a bachelorette trip is way out of your budget as a bridesmaid, Yu notes it’s a nice gesture to chip in and help cover the bride’s portion of the trip even if you’re not able to attend yourself.
Assist With Attire
Some brides may already have a strong vision of what they want the wedding party to wear, but if the bride asks for help, you can certainly chime in on ideas for the bridesmaids’ attire, hair, or makeup. If you’re asked to wear something you don’t like, this is the time to forever hold your peace.
The one exception is if you’re asked to wear something you are truly uncomfortable with (i.e. something too low cut or that you can’t wear a supportive bra with). “If you already know what you’re uncomfortable with it’s totally fair to bring that up,” Yu says. “Just let the bride know before they pick anything, so you don’t derail plans.”
Keep It Drama Free
In many cases, not all of the bridesmaids will know each other. They may be from different places, different backgrounds, and different phases of the bride’s life; it’s possible that conversations could get misconstrued or personalities may clash. Don’t leave it up to the bride to be the middleman or set the tone for the group. Play nice, be kind, don’t complain, and definitely do not stir up any unnecessary drama.
Give a Gift
If you can afford it, it is customary to give an item from the registry or gift something like a spa day or facial for the bridal shower. If other bridesmaids want to chip in, it’s also a great idea to pool your resources on a larger gift for the couple.
During the Wedding
Attend the Rehearsal Dinner
As part of the bridesmaid duties, it’s expected to attend any rehearsal events. During the rehearsal dinner, you may be asked to do a toast during dinner if you’re not the maid of honor (who usually gives a speech at the wedding). If something prevents you from attending, communicate that with plenty of notice and perhaps make the effort to connect with the wedding planner on what you missed.
Connect with the Planner
As a ‘maid, it’s important to know who the planner is and understand your role with them. You’ll likely meet the planner during the rehearsal and will usually be given direction from the planner at some point during the wedding activities. It’s vital to cooperate with the planner, be mindful of their schedule, and make sure you do whatever is asked of you to ensure that everything goes smoothly the day of.
Know the Plan
The timeline should be shared a week or two prior to the wedding day–know that it exists and follow along. Yu says you don’t have to memorize this, but be sure to review it, understand how the day will flow, and remember the details to the best of your ability.
The day of the wedding is a long day for the entire wedding party, but remember that all the pressure is on the couple, so you don’t want to voice your frustrations or annoyances on the day of. Maybe you don’t love how your hair or makeup turned out; work out with the stylists, don’t complain to the bride.
This also includes not freaking out if something goes completely sideways. Hopefully, that won’t be the case, but if something does go wrong, it’s your job to keep the bride as calm as possible.
Feed the Bride
The bride or mother of the bride usually provides refreshments for the group as they get ready, but Yu notes that it’s nice when the bridesmaids make sure the bride stays hydrated and fed amongst all the wedding day excitement, even if it’s light snacks throughout the day. At the very least, make sure the bride drinks water, especially when the couple is running around doing photos.
Prepare for Photos
After everyone is finished getting ready, make sure the bride has everything she needs with her during photos and then for the ceremony. Typically, the planner will have most of the important things like rings, vows, any change in shoes, etc., but a bridesmaid can help as keeper of the smaller items like a touch-up lipstick, blotting papers, and the bride’s cellphone.
Be a Bathroom Buddy
If the bride’s dress is extremely voluminous or formfitting, they’ll likely need someone to help hold up or maneuver the ensemble in the restroom. You may also need to bustle the dress during the reception. If the bride is changing outfits, they may need help getting out of one and into the other. The planner will often assist with this but sometimes the bride is more comfortable having someone they are closer to help.
Keep the Energy Up
“Help set the mood and help keep the energy up after dinner–you’re there to celebrate!” Yu says. And if there’s an after-hours event, be prepared to keep the party going there too.
After the Wedding
Help With Returns
Always offer to help take leftover items back to the hotel, or return any rentals–the latter doesn’t happen too often unless the event is more of a DIY affair.
Create a digital collection of any photos and videos taken by the wedding party while the couple is waiting for their official photos. Since it can be anywhere from four to eight weeks before the photographer shares, it’s nice for the couple to reminisce over these memories while they wait. And finally, be excited to see the professional photos and video when they're ready! Though the wedding excitement has died down, the couple will still be highly anticipating this moment, so be sure to indulge them when the time comes.