Nobody will blame you for stressing out over the wedding plans. But venting your frustrations on the bridesmaids? Not so smart. These are the people who lend an ear when Mom vetoes the vegan menu in favor of roast beef, and who still smile as you tell the story of his proposal for the fifth time. Read these cautionary tales, and heed them well.
Gowns Gone Wild
With a wealth of flattering options out there, why would a less-than-lovely frock make it down the aisle? Tina L., 25, reports: "When I found a dress that I liked, I heard the bride say to the salesperson, I don't want to be upstaged.' She insisted on a different dress, but the only one in stock was too small, and the bride wouldn't allow the tailor to let out the back for fear it would mess up the lines.' " Tina kept the dress partially unzipped during most of the wedding so she could breathe.
Some fashion disasters stem from a desire to turn the attendants into decor. Take the case of Catherine B., 30: "At the fitting, the dress looked okay—but that was before the bride had the seamstress add a huge green satin bow and seven yards of white tulle," she says. "I wound up donating it to a high school—one of the wicked stepsisters wore it in a production of Cinderella."
Going for Broke
Though most brides take their attendants' finances into consideration, a few, um, don't: "Besides gifts for the engagement, shower, and wedding," says Sherry W., 23, "I had to shell out $300 for the dress, $100 for the shoes, $275 for the bridal shower, and $750 for the bachelorette party in Vegas. It came to more than $1,800, which was completely crazy!" But that's nothing compared with the bride who insisted that her attendants pay for practically everything: "The bride planned a wedding in the Carib-bean," says Susie S., 33. "She didn't have a lot of money, so she asked the bridesmaids to foot the bill for all the group activities, like a snorkel-sail for her 50 guests. And she told us not to drink because she didn't want us to look puffy' in the photos. We got so mad, we blew our six a.m. wake-up call and didn't show until a half hour before the wedding."
Butter up your bridesmaids and they'll go to the ends of the earth for you. Treat them like you're auditioning for Mean Girls 2 and you'll live to regret it. Says Kristen H., 31, "At the last minute, the bride realized there was nobody to decorate the church. Since I lived the closest, she asked me to do it, which I did—in full makeup and gown. Now she has one sweaty, grouchy bridesmaid in all the wedding-party photos." Jennifer D., 28, was similarly singled out. "We were old friends," she says, "so apparently the bride felt she didn't have to pay much attention to me when the bridal party got together. But then, on the morning of the wedding, she asked me to wrap all the bridesmaids' gifts—including my own!" Jennifer got payback, though: "I accidentally' gave the nicer earrings meant for the maid of honor to myself. Oops."
Brides, consider yourselves warned.
Samantha Goldberg of God Evewnts in Chester, New Jersey, reveals how to pick a dress that your bridesmaids will want to wear again (really!)
Go Black: Or gray, navy or brown. Outfitting your bridesmaids in any of these sophisticated neutrals will ensure that their big-day gown becomes their go-to party dress.
Go Custom: Choose a simple wearable cocktail dress—a sheath is a versatile look—then embellish it with removable elements like a brooch or a sash.
Go Versatile: Pick a manufacturer (like Dessy Collection, Melissa Sweet, Nicole Miller) that offers variations on a basic silhouette, the have each bridesmaid choose the style (halter, V-neck, strapless) that suits her body type.