Wedding: My Best Friends’ Weddings

How to keep the peace — and all of your friends

When an old college friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, happy hour truly lived up to its name — I was ecstatic. Since she was the first of my friends to take the plunge, I thought the whole process would be a blast, especially when it was time to assemble the bridal party and pick out the dress. But then we all had to get into a car together.

One bridesmaid forgot to make our appointments at the first salon. And at the second? Two of the bridesmaids, in flagrant disregard of the bride’s decision on dress color, emerged from


When an old college friend asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding, happy hour truly lived up to its name — I was ecstatic. Since she was the first of my friends to take the plunge, I thought the whole process would be a blast, especially when it was time to assemble the bridal party and pick out the dress. But then we all had to get into a car together.

One bridesmaid forgot to make our appointments at the first salon. And at the second? Two of the bridesmaids, in flagrant disregard of the bride’s decision on dress color, emerged from the dressing room in matching black dresses as a “suggestion.” And then there was me, who despite my best efforts, was quickly discovering that I really didn’t like these other girls. The tight squeeze in the backseat didn’t help, and the mood quickly turned chilly. By the end of the day, it was clear — we were nothing but a pack of bridesmaid-zillas.

We could blame the disaster on inexperience or on each other, but we had forgotten the reason we were all there in the first place: the bride. We weren’t alone; the relationship between a bride and her bridesmaids can be trying. So we assembled a panel of local experts to help you get through this emotional obstacle course with the women you love best, and keep them by your side for years to come.

Picking and Choosing

Unfortunately, bridesmaid Politics 101 does not have a gentle learning curve, and your first decision is possibly the most difficult — who will make the cut? Be cautious about asking someone like the groom’s sister or someone who asked you to be in her wedding, solely because you feel obligated. Jenna*, who got married this past summer in Wissahickon Valley Park, had someone in her life who had lots of time to help out but was a much newer friend than her other maids. In the end, “I felt kind of obligated,” she says. “It was definitely somewhat awkward — she was standing in the same place as all these girls who I am really, really close to.”

It is also important to consider your bridal party from a practical perspective. “You need to be smart about people you can depend on,” says Gail Madison, director of The Madison School of Etiquette and Protocol in Huntingdon Valley. “Yes, it’s a wonderful way to honor a relationship, but these people have jobs to do.”

If you’re planning to trust crucial duties to a bridesmaid — such as addressing envelopes, helping to shop and run errands, or collecting the other bridesmaids’ dress measurements — it’s important that she knows exactly what will be expected of her. Her reliability is critical and can be as simple as being on time. “If you have someone who doesn’t fit that criterion, you can ask them to be included in other ways,” says Sheryl Garman, owner of Perfect Weddings in Berwyn. She suggests lightweight duties such as being the guest book attendant or giving a short reading in the ceremony.

Then there’s the pesky matter of money. Being a bridesmaid comes with a price tag that not everyone can handle. It’s not just the dress, but the shoes, the jewelry, the shower, the bachelorette party and, if she’s an out-of-towner, the plane tickets. If someone is a little cash-poor but you’re dying to include her, it’s perfectly acceptable to help out a little, by paying for part of her dress or her plane ticket. “If you want her that badly and she financially can’t make it happen, then you have to financially make it happen,” says Kristin Kane, owner of Kristin Kane Events in Philadelphia. “Weddings are planned over the course of a year,” she says, and you can always ask the bridal salon about payment plans.

In Love and War

Once your MVPs have accepted, tension may mount in ways you never imagined: Jenna began to regret her decision after she had a blow-out fight with one of her bridesmaids. If confronted with the impulse to strip a bridesmaid of her title, Garman recommends taking a little time to cool off. “This is a time for couples and for the bridal party to build bridges rather than burn bridges,” says Garman. “If you have a problem with a girl, but you feel this can be rectified, you need to tell her that.”

In the end, Jenna was able to do just that, although not at the best time — they began the heated discussion as the bridesmaid in question was trying on her dress. “I felt like ripping the dress off her in the dressing room,” says Jenna with a laugh. But they ultimately talked things over and got on the same page.

That said, if a fight has permanently cooled your feelings toward your bridesmaid, a “firing” conversation will be difficult but necessary. “Honesty is the best policy,” says Kane. “If something has been marred, then you need to be honest and say, ‘You know, our friendship has changed from when I asked you, and I think it might be better if we parted ways.’ I would definitely have a conversation and make it a joint decision.” Just keep in mind: If your ousted bridesmaid has already bought her dress, you may have to recoup the cost for her — perhaps a small price to pay for a less stressful planning process.

Which brings us to that almost inevitable moment: Some bridesmaids may balk at your choice of dress and feel entitled to submit unsolicited opinions. Lindsay*, a bride-to-be from East Falls, ran into trouble early in the process when her bridesmaids began to whine about wearing her color choice: purple. “I told them, this is my wedding, but I would be happy to wear whatever color they choose at theirs,” she says — which is an offer your maids will find hard to refuse.

Though the color should definitely make the bride happy, when selecting a style, you should be kind. “Usually you choose a dress that will flatter the person with the most challenge, someone heavier or extremely thin,” says Madison. “Take the most difficult situation and then tailor it to the others.”

If you’re dead-set on a style that doesn’t work for everyone, offer them the option to wear a shawl or jacket. After all, if a bridesmaid is uncomfortable all day, “It’s going to show in your pictures,” says Garman. Be flexible, but the bottom line remains — this is your Big Day.

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