Editor’s note: for more on bridal attendants and their responsibilities, see The Wedding Party, in the Miss SOS archives.

All Bridesmaids Should Agree to Follow These 11 Etiquette Rules (March 2017)

Reader’s Digest February 2017 – with Permission

Should you even say yes?  Sometimes the best thing you can do is not accept the bride’s invitation to be a bridesmaid, says Thomas P. Farley, known as Mister Manners. ‘Just because your friend says yes to being a bride doesn’t mean you must say yes to being a bridesmaid,’ he says. Consider this if you don’t feel close to the bride or don’t want the financial obligations. Of course, handle your turn down, with great delicacy, so she doesn’t get offended, Farley says.

Pay for your own bridesmaid dress

Unless the bride offers to pay, be prepared to pay for your own dress. But Kellee Khalil, founder of Loverly, a virtual wedding planning site, shares that if your bride knows it’s a struggle, she can—and should—offer to help.

Help plan the bridal shower

While Khalil says planning the entire bridal shower falls under the maid-of-honor’s duties, you should be prepared to help and be an active participant.

Try to attend all bridal events

Attending all bridal events is a must for a bridesmaid, Khalil says, except, of course, if you live out of town or have another family obligation. ‘Never say you’re too busy to participate in any pre-wedding event,’ shares Cristen Flaherty, event planner and founder of Cristen & Co. Event Coordination & Design. ‘Everyone is busy and that is a poor excuse and you will simply upset the bride for not being a part of all the festivities.’

Be ready and on call the day of the wedding

From helping a flower girl down the aisle to making sure the bride’s train is bustled, a bridesmaid should be ready to help out, no matter what, on the day of the wedding. ‘A bridesmaid should also act as a resource with information for any guests who may have questions about wedding logistics, bridal registries, directions to the ceremony or to the reception,’ Farley says

Do not complain to the bride. Ever.

This may seem like a given, but if you are used to sharing your every thought with the bride on a regular basis, you may forget that this is her big day and she doesn’t want to hear your thoughts. Not about the dress, not about the shoes, and not about the jewelry, no matter what.

Leave the drama at home

‘This day is not about you. You are there to support the bride,’ shares Flaherty. ‘Yes, you have been chosen for a special role however, it is all about the couple getting married. Don’t be a diva!’ That also means don’t get drunk and don’t make a scene, say, if your ex turns up with his new girlfriend.

Make an effort

Sure, you show up for bridal events and the wedding, but having a smile on your face goes a long way. ‘You should always pay attention to the bride and be present, this is a really exciting time for the bride and staying off your phone and having fun together is extremely important,’ says Flaherty.

Speak up about financial concerns

‘Being a bridesmaid can get expensive and if you know there are certain things you may or may not be able to afford be upfront with the bride before all the festivities get started,’ Flaherty says. ‘It is OK to say no, because if you say yes and then can’t afford to do certain things it ends up causing unnecessary tension and potential arguments.’

Keep your opinions to yourself

This is the bride’s big day. She has spent hours finding her dream dress, choosing the perfect flowers, and fantasizing about how everything would come together. ‘Don’t give unsolicited feedback on her design or wedding details,’ says Khalil, ‘Let her create a vision that feels special to her, not everyone has to love it as long as she is happy!’ Farley also shares that, ‘A bridesmaid should be supportive, positive, joyous and ready and willing to participate in all traditional activities on the day of the wedding (such as the bouquet toss) even if she is not a fan of such traditions herself.’

Here Comes the … Bridesmaid? (May, 2008)
In ancient Rome, it was the custom for the Bride to have 10 people dress alike to witness the wedding to confuse any evil spirits or jealous suitors intent on marring the festivities. In early England, Bridesmaids would escort the Bride to her wedding to protect her from thieves after her dowry.

Probably as old as marriage itself, the custom of having Bridesmaids plays a prominent role on your special day. Though Bridesmaids are no longer chosen for their ability to protect, you still should select them carefully.

Choose people closest to you. Traditionally, the Bride’s sister is her Maid of Honor (or Matron if married). Have a best friend you grew up with or from your college days? Not to worry. It’s quite acceptable to have a Maid and a Matron of Honor to attend you. Just know you’ll have to select one to stand closest to you at the altar to hold your bouquet, etc. And, though not required, asking the sister of your fiancé makes for good family relations. Some Brides ask a male friend or relative – and why not? These days crossing genders is quite common. It’s all about who’s closest to you.

There’s no rule on the number of attendants you should have, nor does the Groom’s side have to equal the number on the Bride’s side. For a small informal wedding, you may just want a Maid of Honor. If it’s a large wedding, four to six Bridesmaids is common.

The attendant’s responsibilities and duties are dependant on how involved the Bride wishes them to be. Be clear about what you expect from them. To give them as much time as possible, contact them shortly after your engagement has been announced. Ideally you should ask in person but if that’s not possible, call. One Bride wanted to ask a potential Bridesmaid who lived more than 1200 miles away. She sent her a bouquet of flowers with a card asking her to be in her wedding party, and then followed up with a telephone call. E-mail invitations are too impersonal however, once the wedding party is assembled, e-mail is a great way to keep your Bridesmaids up-to-date on how the wedding plans are progressing.

All Bridal attendants should be prepared to buy their own dresses and accessories. (The Bride’s family furnishes the attendant’s bouquets in addition to any floral headdresses.) They are to promptly arrive and attend the Wedding Rehearsal, and must keep their fitting appointments. They may send a give to the Bridal Couple either individually or as a group or with their parents. Bridal attendants are invited to all parties given for the Bride or the Bridal Couple with the exception of office parties or special group parties. Bridal Attendants stand in the Receiving Line. (Groom Attendants and Ushers do not.)

To express your appreciation, it is customary to give each of your Bridal attendants a thank-you present, such as a necklace, or earrings, or a small handbag, or a box of spa items—the list is almost endless.

Of course, your attendants will all agree that the most meaningful and lasting gift you gave them was being asked to fill such an important role on your wedding day.