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Bridesmaids: A Complete Guide on How to Ask, What to Wear, and More!

Where would a bride be without her bridesmaids? They go to great lengths to ensure your big day is nothing short of perfect. From hyping you up to calming your nerves and taking on numerous stressful tasks, they do it all gladly because they’re getting to share such an amazing journey with you! While there is a lot that goes into being a bridesmaid, there’s a lot that goes into being the bride of bridesmaids as well. How should you ask them? What are some important conversations to have? What should they wear, and when should they buy it? How do you make sure they feel valued and appreciated? Wedding planner Skylar Caitlin with Chancey Charm is covering it all in the guide below!

(guest post by Skylar Caitlin of Chancey Charm

bridesmaids guide

Photo // Katy Cox Photography

How to Ask

Now it’s your turn to pop-the-question! Your girls (and bride’s men, too!) will be honored no matter how you ask, but if you want to gift them something special, I recommend matching the gift with your attendant’s personality and interests in mind. This is more personal than a generic “Will you be my Bridesmaid?” box and the recipient will know you really thought of them when making your list. A few quick examples might be:

  • a personalized yoga mat or water bottle for the sporty ‘maid
  • a monogramed makeup bag for the fashionista
  • a custom luggage tag for the bridesmaid on-the-go
  • an engraved bottle of sparkling for the wino

However you ask, I definitely recommend including a handwritten note. Everyone loves a personalized note and there is no better way to tell your attendees how honored you would be to have them be a part of your big day.

The Cost of Being a Bridesmaid

Now that you have your party lined-up, I want to take a moment and remind you of what it’s like to be a bridesmaid. It was can very cost intensive and cost restrictive. They’ll be expected to pay for their dress, jewelry, appropriate shoes, travel, a gift for you and your new spouse, their portion of the bachelorette party, gifts for any showers they attend, possibly co-hosting a shower… it adds up fast. Being conscientious of each of your attendant’s financial situation as you make decisions for the bridal party will make you the best bride in their eyes.

When to Order Bridesmaid Dresses

Bridesmaid dresses aren’t like wedding dresses. Most aren’t custom or even made-to-order. They can be found “off-the-rack,” but many do still require tailoring of at least the hem to ensure they properly fit. If you do want to go the custom or made-to-order route, be sure to leave a longer lead time. For the more commercial options 4-6 months should be plenty to measure, order, receive and get alterations completed.

If you are leaving it up to you girls to select their own attire, be sure to set clear deadlines for ordering and alterations. You can enlist your maid- or matron-of-honor to help follow up so that no one is scrambling last minute.

As a note, if you have a non-cisgendered or attendant and are concerned about making sure they feel their best day-of, have an open conversation with them about what they feel most comfortable in. There are so many unique options out there from jumpsuits to tailored menswear-styles that can be made to fit your wedding style and color of the dresses – your group is going to look great!

It’s also nice to give your ladies parameters when it comes to accessories. Let them know whether the ground is level or if uneven terrain will be in their future so they can select shoes appropriately. And if you don’t want them to wear a certain style or metal color of jewelry, be sure to let them know ahead of time so they can plan accordingly.

Hair & Makeup for Your ‘Maids

Earlier, I mentioned the cost of being a bridesmaid. Hair and makeup is often one of those uncertain costs. Some brides can afford to cover their attendant’s services, while others have chosen to allocate their funds to other categories. Neither is right or wrong, however, it is nice to give your girls the option of professional hair and makeup to alleviate any stress they may have about looking their best in your wedding photos.

If you are requiring them to have a particular hairstyle, especially if it’s something more complex like an up-do, it would be not only appropriate, but more respectful to cover this service financially for them.

Plus Ones & Your Bridal Party

There are a lot of opinions around bridal parties and plus-ones. Obviously, if your attendants are married or in a long-term relationship, you’ll likely be inviting their guest by name on the invitation. But what about bridesmaids who aren’t dating anyone in particular when you send your save-the-dates or invitations? Or what about those who weren’t dating someone at save-the-dates but now are when you’re ready to send invitations?

If you can afford to have all of your attendants invite a date, I’d recommend that you do. Whether they’re in a newer relationship or just want someone they can force to slow dance with them, your attendants will appreciate the gesture. It’s likely that not all of them will take up the offer, but never count on “might” when projecting costs at the beginning.

If your budget will not allow for any additional guests or if you’re purposefully having an intimate wedding, you do not have to give your bridesmaids a plus-one. I would recommend having a private conversation with them to make it clear, kindly, that you aren’t going to be having anyone have a plus-one so they don’t make the assumption they will be given one and “write in” an additional guest you aren’t expecting on your RSVPs.

The Bridesmaid Luncheon

This optional event is hosted by the bride (or a family member) usually the day of the rehearsal and provides an opportunity for everyone to meet-up and get kick-off the wedding weekend with your girls. My aunt personally hosted my own, and we had light finger sandwiches at the hotel spa while getting our nails done. She covered the bites, bubbly and one basic nail service. My girls were able to upgrade or add to their service on their own if desired. You can also take this opportunity to provide your attendants with their bridesmaid gift and provide any important weekend info.

Wedding Weekend Gifting

On the wedding weekend it’s customary for the couple to gift their attendants as a way to say “thank you” for supporting you and for all they’ve done to make the day possible (remember those costs I talked about). Often bride’s choose to gift something wearable, whether that means a robe or PJs to wear while getting ready or a set of earrings or necklace to go with their wedding attire. Some other ideas might be a personalized wine glass for mimosas, a monogramed tote or weekender bag, or a gift certificate for a post-wedding massage.

Thank you to Skylar for sharing this invaluable advice! Connect with the Chancey Charm team via their vendor profile here. And now that you’ve got all the information on everything bridesmaids, get started on planning your bridal brunch and bachelorette party to celebrate with your #bridetribe!

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Other Local Vendors: Hughes Manor, Katy Cox Photography, Chancey Charm Weddings