Asking friends to commit to being on the bride squad, which could entail everything from planning the bachelorette party to holding your dress up while you hit the restroom, is no small feat. Participating in a wedding can be expensive—not to mention exhausting! Between shelling out cash for dresses, gifts, and flight costs and making the investment of time and emotions, the ladies (and men!) in your life bring a lot to the table when they agree to stand by your side on the big day.
Below, some advice from top wedding planners on avoiding the inevitable snafus—guaranteeing only happy tears will be shed!
Play to Their Strengths
“Bridesmaids aren’t included in weddings just to stand with you at the altar. They’re your closest friends and are there to support you on your big day and all those leading up to it,” says New York–based wedding planner Jennifer Zabinski of JZ Events.
Assigning your bridesmaids jobs before the wedding is a great way to keep everyone involved, Zabinski suggests. “We can all use more organizers in our lives, so rely on those super-type-A friends to ensure the team stays scheduled. Comedic relief is also always needed for some of the slightly stressful moments, and, most important, we need the fashionistas in our lives to make those tough calls on styling!” Playing into each bridesmaids' strength makes everyone feel appreciated and also provides a perfect opportunity for participation in a way that makes sense for each bridal-party babe.
Love Means Never Having to Say You’re Sorry
“Your wedding is the one time in your friendship when you don’t have to apologize for asking your favorite gal or guy pal for special favors when it comes to assisting you,” notes Ron Wendt, founder of A-list favorite Ron Wendt Design.
If they’re so inclined, involve your friends from the beginning and invite them to meetings for anything from the flowers to the caterers to choosing the dress. A personalized handwritten thank-you note, enclosed with a to-do list, will ensure that they participate and check off the duties. “Most important, remember to make sure you acknowledge them for being your extra set of hands and tell them you are so appreciative that they’ve agreed to take this journey with you,” Wendt says.
Put It On the Schedule
Depending on where your bridesmaids all live, getting everyone together on more than one occasion can be a challenge. As silly as it may sound, Skyping with your bridesmaids can actually be really beneficial. “Video conferencing is helpful, especially when bridesmaids don't all know one another, haven't yet met, or don't live in the same city,” suggests Sojourner Auguste of Erganic Design. To avoid those awkward silences, get creative and make it fun!
“Consider a virtual brunch meeting where each of you can still be in your pajamas while sipping on your favorite brunch beverage (mimosa, champagne, Bloody Mary) and munching on food or snacks. The idea is to get everyone to feel like it's fun when you are gathered together to talk wedding logistics, rather than obligatory,” Auguste says.
Buy-In Is Key
Kick off the festivities by speaking with each bridesmaid candidly, and ask them how much they want to be involved in the process of picking out their dress or organizing activities. Expectations can lead to resentment, so try to start the process with an open mind.
“Bridesmaids want to help, but they also don't want to let the bride down,” Auguste says. If you’ve got a friend who's a new mom or a friend who is constantly stressed about her demands at work, give her an opportunity to bow out. Let each bridesmaid express how she's feeling, and assess whether or not she is capable, time-wise, of leading actions. If not, let her know that you'll give her the heads-up as decisions are made.
Including your leading ladies from the beginning of the wedding-planning process is always a good idea. “Since bridesmaids will be making a fairly large investment with their time and money, it's important you take them into account and make sure they know how and in what way they're participating in the wedding,” says Araceli Vizcaino of Azazie, a custom bridesmaids' dress retailer.
Style It Up
As much as you want everyone to agree on everything, try to be realistic. There’s no way each bridesmaid will have the same taste, and some bridesmaids may not even have a strong opinion about anything. (That’s okay too!)
Explaining your vision and expectations for the big day is crucial—especially when it comes to choosing bridesmaids' dresses. Share your ideas for the bridal party: Color palette, dress styles, and details on how each girl will be walking down the aisle can help inform what your bridesmaids will wear and whether or not they will choose their own dresses.
“Creating a secret shared Pinterest board is a great way to involve your bridesmaids. Allow them to pin some of their ideas for dresses, hair, makeup, shoes and accessories to the boards,” says Auguste. That way, you create a working mood board for the weekend, and your photos will be picture-perfect.
While your friends might be itching to get started, wait to queue up the pins until after you've established a framework for the general aesthetic. “Start each board with images that you’ve pinned yourself—photos that clearly show the colors and style for the wedding—so no one veers off track,” Auguste recommends.