When we’re asked to be members of a wedding party for the first time, it can feel a little daunting. It’s exciting, for sure, but what does it mean to be in the wedding party? What does a bridesmaid do? How do bridesmaids duties differ from that of the maid of honor?
Each bride is unique and may have unique expectations when it comes to her wedding party, but there are time honored traditions for bridesmaids and groomsmen that you should know in any case.
Why do we have wedding parties?
The ideas of the bridesmaid and groomsmen have been around for a very long time. In Roman times, it was actually the law for the bride and groom to have ten witnesses at the wedding. They’d bring five bridesmaids and five groomsmen. Historically, each served a different purpose, and for the most part, those purposes are no longer relevant today.
The groomsmen, also known as the bride’s knights, were there to essentially escort the bride safely to the wedding and to the groom’s home afterward. Some legends even had them kidnapping the bride from her disapproving parents and fighting off anyone who interfered. The best man was the best swordsman and would act as her personal guard. Luckily, being a groomsmen today has much simpler implications.
On the other hand, bridesmaids duties haven’t changed quite as much as that of the groomsmen. In the old days, bridesmaids would escort the bride safely to her wedding and also shower the bride with gifts. If the father of the bride didn’t approve of the groom, they often wouldn’t be inclined to offer a decent dowry. In these cases, the gifts given by the bridesmaids became the dowry. Bridesmaids still act as an entourage and organize the bridal shower, and therefore gifts, but bridesmaids today are the bride’s support network as well.
As the bride is the center of attention in any wedding, we’ll start with her team for the big day. If you’ve been selected as one of the few close friends the bride wants to share this experience with, make sure you are up to the task. It’s a commitment of both time and money, so be ready for a solid investment in both. So, what is a bridesmaid expected to do?
The first requirement of a good bridesmaid is to simply show up. Attend all the functions that go along with the wedding, and be there on time. That means the bridal shower, bachelorette party, rehearsal dinner, and everything else that the group gets together for. Be prepared to help out, too. A lot goes into such a grand event, so the busy bride can use all the help she can get.
Being there doesn’t end with attending events. Another big part of it is being emotionally supportive for your friend as she prepares for what is likely the biggest event of her life. Planning a wedding is emotionally taxing, so a good bridesmaid should listen and offer support wherever possible.
Help with dressing your party
One of the most important purchases that goes into a wedding is the wedding gown. It’s a tradition for many to have the bridal party to do the dress shopping together. Know a bit about what’s in and out as far as bridal fashion is concerned, but don’t discount the things the bride likes. You should help her look as gorgeous as she is.
You should also help with the selection of the bridesmaid dresses. Not all colors and styles flatter all complexions and body types. Know what absolutely won’t work for you, and let the bride know before she makes her selection. Part of cultivating a beautiful wedding party is choosing something that looks great on everyone.
Stay on top of the dress, accessories, and arrangements
If you don’t want to be a source of stress for the bride to be, make sure you get all your arrangements made early. In addition to helping the bride with her gown, an important duty for the bridesmaids to make sure they get done is securing their own dresses. No one wants to be the one bridesmaid in the mismatched dress, sticking out in all the pictures. Get your dress early to avoid any issues. If you wait too long, the dress may be out of stock or unavailable in your size.
This also rings true for travel and lodging arrangements. Make sure you secure your travel and room early enough that you aren’t scrambling to make something work at the last minute.
Help with the details
Most brides will plan a good deal of the wedding themselves, but it’s a big job, and some of the duties may fall on the bridal party. Bridesmaid job duties may be simple or complex, depending on things like the venue, decor, and whether or not the bride is using a wedding planner. You may be asked to help with some of the DIY party favors, invitations, or just to provide a second opinion in the selection of decorations, dresses, or whatever the bride wants help with.
The bachelorette party
Your friend is going off the market forever, so it’s up to you to send her off in style. Usually, one of the maid of honor duties is to take the lead in planning the party, but bridesmaids should be prepared to help. Whether it’s helping to pick the place, plan the events of the night, or paying for the party, each bridesmaid plays her part.
If the party is in town, everyone should attend. Sometimes the bridal party chooses a destination bachelorette party, and that’s not always in the budget of all bridesmaids. Even if you can’t attend due to budget constraints, it’s still a good idea to chip in to cover the bride’s trip.
The maid of honor
As the maid of honor, your duties go above and beyond the other bridesmaid responsibilities. You have been chosen as the de facto event planner, and the buck will stop with you when it comes to things like the bachelorette party and bridal shower.
The maid of honor can also be reasonably expected to give a speech at the reception. You are likely the bride’s best friend and should say something nice on her big day.
While the bride and bridesmaids will usually take care of a lot of the planning, decorating, and booking when it comes to the wedding activities, groomsmen aren’t totally off the hook. You’ll still likely have a job or two to ensure the wedding goes off without a hitch.
The bachelor party
This one is probably the part of being a groomsman that comes the most naturally to most guys. Not only are they willing to attend the bachelor party, most of them will gladly help plan, pay for, and travel great distances to the party. That’s good because as a groomsman, you should. Send your friend off in style.
Attending all wedding events
If you’re going to get down on the bachelor party, you’ve got to get down on the other wedding events as well. Whether it’s the rehearsal dinner, engagement dinner, or any other gathering that’s important to the couple, be there and be there on time. More than just a duty of a good groomsman, it’s part of being a good and supportive friend.
Helping out on the day of the wedding
Many grooms give their groomsmen responsibilities for the day of the wedding. You’ll be there early and stay late, so you’re in a perfect position to greet and seat guests on their way in and thank them on their way out.
Running errands for the group
A wedding is a group effort. There are a lot of moving parts, and it takes everyone to make sure it all runs smoothly. Offer to run and grab grandma from the airport or pick up ice for the party. The bride and groom have a lot on their plates, so any help you can provide is much appreciated.
Assisting the best man
Another person who’s got a lot on their plate is the best man. They’ve got a lot more to take care of than the other groomsmen, so give them a hand. If the best man needs help putting his plan into action, he may call upon you to help out.
The best man
If you’ve been selected as the best man, you’ve got a little planning ahead of you. The best man responsibilities are as important to the groom as the maid of honor’s are to the bride. He’s got to help the groom dress for the ceremony, arrange transportation to the ceremony for the guys, and he’s also got to plan the bachelor party. That’s a lot to put on your average guy’s plate, but someone’s gotta do it. Who are the groomsmen going to turn to when things get going? The best man, that’s who.
Have fun! The groomsmen and bridesmaids duties don’t end with the ceremony. Your friend is getting married, and it should be a joyous occasion. As bridesmaids and groomsmen, you are also stewards of the party. Get out there and dance, and help the group loosen up. By facilitating a good time for the guests, you’ll leave the couple with great memories to last a lifetime.