There are two kinds of bridesmaids in this world: assets and liabilities.
As wedding season is about to commence once again with a double-header on January 3, 2009, I find myself reflecting on past blunders, both of my own doing and ones I have observed others commit, and I hope to educate the outside world of some wedding etiquette I have gained from the past two years and 14 some-odd weddings I have attended.
Some things may seem like common sense, but you would be surprised...
1. Earmuffs. Regardless of what's going on the day of the wedding, the bride should not hear about anything minor that goes wrong. Unless an immediate family member or the groom is in the hospital, then whatever happened is completely irrelevant.
2. Jail bait. Do NOT make-out with the bride's younger brother. She WILL find out eventually, and will be less than thrilled, especially if he is a teenager. He's not the one who is going to get in trouble for this indiscretion... you are.
3. Tread lightly. No matter how relaxed or laid-back a bride is in real, non-wedding-related life, she's under a lot of stress. She's got a lot going on, and if she needs to vent, just listen.
A friend once called me over Christmas break whispering from a closet, two weeks before her older sister's wedding, just because she thought she might go crazy with everyone telling her what to do.
4. Because she's the bride. If the bride tells you to put your hair up, then put your hair up. If she tells you to wear it down, wear it down. If she doesn't care either way, then you have options. Now is not the time for individualism. (Ditch the sports watch for a day while you're at it- digital doesn't go well with your bouquet.)
If everyone in the bridal party is getting their hair done, and it has been arranged by the bride, it will probably be by a stylist you don't normally use. This is okay as long as you know how to be assertive and don't mind telling the person where your part should go and the appropriate level of volume. You do not want to end up looking like a 15-year-old at her first Homecoming and it's your responsibility to speak up. Reminder: wedding pictures last forever.
5. Plus one. Do not ask to invite other people. If you were "and guested" then you have the option to bring a date and you are responsible for his behavior. You do not need to feel obligated to bring a date either. If there is no date option then just enjoy doing the electric slide with your friends or two-stepping with a nice young man who you will never see again, but don't under any circumstances ask to bring more people.
6. RSVP ASAP. Always RSVP, regardless as to whether or not you are in the wedding party. They include the pre-addressed, stamped envelope for a reason, and it's really, very easy. You're not planning to attend? Well how are they supposed to know that if you didn't sent the card back?
7. Hanging from the chandeliers. Know your crowd at a bachelorette party. If there are little sisters or mothers present, then maybe take it down a notch and cool it on your cocktail-intake. Ask the bride if she even wants those people invited- some girls are totally open in front of everyone and others would rather crawl under a rock and die than have their future mother-in-law watch them pull something lacy and black out of a box.
8. Cheers. Toasting is tricky. If you are a MOH or a BM, in which case speeches are not optional, you should have something prepared beforehand that has a definitive ending. "So uhh yeah, cheers you guys" is probably not the note you want to end on. Referring to a note card is totally acceptable. Also, try not to use mitigated speech in front of the crowd. Silences don't have to be filled with "umms" and "ahhs," in fact they shouldn't at all.
9. Cheese. Never annoy or boss around the photographer. They could make your life miserable from many different angles. Don't chew gum during picture-taking either, you have no idea how many candid shots they take.
Kevin: [motions to a "Gone With the Wind"-style dress] What the hell is that?
Jane: Theme wedding.
Kevin: What was the theme? Humiliation?
10. An honest answer. If your opinion was solicited when the bridesmaids dresses were selected, then you are free to give it. If you were emailed a link of what to order, that's great too. There are normal options out there these days, and I haven't minded any of the dresses I have been asked to wear. They even got bonus points if they had pockets. Remember that bridesmaid dresses are not chosen with posterity in mind.
11. Timing is everything. Pay attention to where you are supposed to be and when. The rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner are probably different places, FYI. If there are maps included in invitations, they are there for a reason; that reason being that your friend the bride will not be answering her cell phone and doesn't want to spend her wedding weekend trying to give you directions that you should already have.
12. Fine china. People spend a lot of time registering for gifts, so keep that in mind. It's totally okay to go in on a gift with someone else. I know procrastination is tempting, and sometimes if you're flying to a wedding you have no option but to buy the gift the weekend-of, but the longer you wait, the fewer options you'll have when picking something out yourself.
13. Travel coordinating. If you are coming from out of town, be sure to arrange your own transportation and accommodations. Rooms are held at hotels but it's your responsibility to actually book them and to get yourself from Point A to Point B.
14. Stealing thunder. This is not your day. Whether you traveled 2,000 miles or across town to get there, it doesn't change anything. Don't make anyone feel guilty for how far you traveled or how much money you spent on their wedding. You may have already gotten married and so you should be appreciative that this person probably went to great lengths to make your wedding special, and if you aren't married, then you know that this person will hopefully be there for you one day.
15. Smile across the aisle. Make friends with the groomsmen if you don't know them already. If you are at a dry wedding, there is a 95% chance that at least one of them is carrying a flask.
"Rule #76: No excuses. Play like a champion!"
-Jeremy Gray, Wedding Crashers