How to Navigate Being a Bridesmaid and a Bride at the Same Time

We spoke to real brides and an etiquette expert for tips on how to balance responsibilities and delicate situations.

A bridesmaid wearing pink nail polish helps the bride button up her white wedding gown.

Aleksandr Zubkov / Getty Images

It's hard enough planning your own wedding—there is a lot to keep track of. But throw in the responsibilities and obligations of being in someone else’s wedding at the same time as planning your own, and you’ve got the makings for some sticky situations. “When you’re both the bride and the bridesmaid, you’ll potentially experience stress on your relationships, finances, and scheduling,” shares Diane Gottsman, a wedding etiquette expert and the owner of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio, Texas. 

Meet the Expert

Diane Gottsman is an etiquette expert and owner of The Protocol School of Texas in San Antonio, Texas. 

For example, when Rebecca Nelligan of Peabody, Massachusetts, became engaged to her husband Daniel in 2018, she could never have imagined she’d be planning her own wedding while being a bridesmaid in three others. “It was a few years of insane scheduling and spending,” says Nelligan. 

Below, we speak to brides who are currently planning their weddings—while at the same time, a bridesmaid in another wedding—for their most nuanced predicaments. Then, we ask Gottsman to share her best advice when it comes to navigating these tricky situations. But first, some words of wisdom from Nelligan: “Plan the best day for you and your partner, and try not to stress about anyone else’s plans as you’ll have enough to deal with at your own wedding!”

Managing Finances and Budget Concerns

No matter what, there will be a time when you have to consider the financial elements of planning your wedding and attending another person's wedding—and all of the events and expenses that come along with both celebrations. Here, Gottsman provides guidance about how to have conversations around budgets, and how to manage expectations.

My bridesmaid announced she’s throwing a four-day destination wedding. I can’t take time off from work as I just started a new job. What should I do?

When it comes to taking time off for another person's wedding, Gottsman emphasizes two things: your personal responsibilities come first, and the issues can be solved with an honest conversation. "Your first priority is to be a responsible steward of your time. A four-day-long destination wedding is a large chunk of time for anyone to commit to and a very big ask," says Gottsman. "Have an honest conversation with her about your inability to take time off especially as you’ll be taking time off from work for your own wedding. Bottom line: Your job takes precedence over a destination wedding unless it’s your own."

My bridesmaid wants a destination bachelorette party that requires a plane ride–I just don’t have the funds right now as I’m paying for my own wedding. Is there any way out of this without upsetting my friend?

Unsurprisingly, your budget can be one of the most limiting factors when balancing multiple weddings and wedding-related events. Keep in mind that the cost of going to a bachelorette party won't end at the price of a plane ticket. "Have a confidential talk and let her know you’ll be there with her in spirit, love and adore her, but you simply can’t afford the expense," recommends Gottsman. "On the other hand, if you knew this in advance, you’ll need to recognize you’re now putting pressure on those in the wedding party to cover a greater portion of the celebratory costs so you may want to make some type of contribution."

My bridesmaid (whose wedding I’m also in) doesn’t think twice when it comes to expensive asks. I’m on a limited budget due to my own wedding but I don’t want to disappoint her.

Once again, you have to be honest and transparent with your friend (and yourself!) about expectations and finances. And while it's always best to do that before accepting the responsibility of being a bridesmaid, it's better late than never.

"This is a conversation that every bridesmaid needs to have before agreeing to be in a wedding party," Gottsman says. "But since you’re past that point, it’s reasonable to determine what you can afford and share your budget with your friend along with the fact you’re having some angst about all of the unexpected or continuously updated expenses."

What to Do When Details Overlap

Friends are friends for a reason, right? Don't be surprised if a close friend is choosing a similar wedding style, color scheme, or playlist to your own. Try not to sweat the small stuff—and when something feels deeply important to you, Gottsman recommends honesty above everything.

My bridesmaid wants to use my wedding song at her wedding (before mine). Considering pretty much the same people will be at both weddings, what’s the best way to handle this?

"A song is not the intellectual property of the bride and groom and the wedding guests aren’t going to be taking notes on every detail," says Gottsman. "If a particular melody means something to you, prior to both weddings let your friend know it’s the song you plan on using for your own wedding."

Gottsman recommends using the following script to navigate this conversation: The song you’ve chosen is the same song we’d like to use, which has great meaning to us. I wanted to let you know now so you don’t think I repurposed an idea from your wedding.

My bridesmaid wants her bridesmaids to wear the same color dress I chose for my bridal party.

"Friends often have similar interests and tastes so it’s not unusual to have the same thoughts and ideas," suggests Gottsman. "Communication is key here. Sit down with your friend before you get heavily into bridesmaid duties and discuss whether you may be unintentionally using the same ideas." Gottsman suggests to keep in mind that compromise is important when feelings are involved, and talking through these challenges is the best path forward. "If you’re already heavily invested emotionally and/or financially with a certain dress, move forth with it," she says.

Navigating Family Dyanmics

Perhaps one of the most sensitive parts of planning a wedding is keeping everyone in the family happy. While it may not always feel easy, there are ways to ensure that things feel smooth among family members in the days leading up to your celebration.

My cousin wants to have a dual bridal shower to make it easier for family members who have to travel. I have no interest in co-showering.

With a situation like this, Gottsman recommends—once again—honesty. "The answer is simple: no," she says. "While it’s prudent to be thoughtful to family members, a shower is a very special part of a wedding celebration and one you’ll remember forever. Let your cousin know you understand and respect her intentions but it’s also important to make your own wedding memories, which includes having your own bridal shower." Gottsman suggests explaining that while co-showering has its benefits, it may actually cause guests some confusion around gift-giving—especially if some guests don't know both brides.

My sister is my maid of honor and is getting married nine months after me. I can afford to invite extended family to my wedding, but she can’t. Now she’s saying she’s going to look bad by not inviting certain family members.

Navigating family dynamics while planning a wedding—or two—can be incredibly tricky. But keep in mind that all couples have a different budget, and no one wedding is the same (even if you and your sibling are getting married within the same year).

"It’s your big day and it’s your right to invite anyone of your choosing to your wedding. I encourage you to be kind and show understanding but do what feels best for your own wedding," advises Gottsman. "Perhaps you can both throw a cocktail party at one of your homes prior to the wedding and include those who will not be invited to her wedding so you can celebrate your dual nuptials together."

My sister-in-law, who is in my wedding, is having our relatives’ kids at her reception. I don’t want any kids at my reception, yet now people are asking if they can bring their children!

This is another instance when honesty—and prioritizing your needs—is of the utmost importance. "At the risk of sounding harsh, kids are wonderful but not everyone wants a wedding with children," says Gottsman. "No judgment. It’s important to be understanding, but firm, and do your wedding your way."

Knowing When to Let It Go

Some of Gottsman's most valuable advice? Pick your battles, and know when to just let something go.

My best friend and I are getting married a few weeks apart. I just found out friends who can’t come to my wedding are going to hers. I feel hurt.

"Don’t be upset," Gottsman says. "People have different schedules and levels of friendship and it’s not your friend’s fault that others have chosen to go to her reception and not yours. It could simply be a matter of timing. Whatever the reason, be happy for your upcoming wedding and stop comparing guest RSVPs."

My bridesmaid just announced her rescheduled post-pandemic wedding date—it’s now three weeks after mine and right after I get back from my honeymoon. Would it be okay to express I’m upset? 

The reality of a situation like this? "Say nothing," says Gottsman. "Your friend planned her wedding to accommodate her schedule. The good news is she didn’t select a date before your wedding, which would have been even more stressful."

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