Monday, August 15, 2011

The Bridesmaid’s Bill of Rights

On behalf of brides everywhere, I would like to officially apologize to the bridesmaids. I apologize for the taffeta, the butt bows, and the uncomfortable shoes you’ll never wear again. I apologize for choosing to express just how much your friendship means to me by making you wear an ugly dress and dance with my weird, unsociable cousin. I’m really, really sorry.

Well, although I’ll apologize on behalf of other brides, I haven’t technically done any of these things to my own bridesmaids. (Not yet, anyway.) But wedding season is starting, and you can bet that for every sane, reasonable bride out there, there’s a crazy person stomping around on a power trip, having royal freakouts about the wrong color shoes, or forcing her bridesmaids to paint the grass at the ceremony site a prettier shade of green, like on an episode of Bridezillas. Bridesmaids may be obligated to put on a smile and a strapless gown for a day, but nowhere is it written that they have to put up with abuse. Before you perform one more thankless wedding errand (or before you even agree to be a bridesmaid at all), be sure to know a bridesmaid’s unalienable rights.

You have the right to know what you’re getting into.
Being a bridesmaid in a wedding is an honor, but it’s also a commitment, and before you agree, it’s fair to ask the bride about what she expects. Some brides expect their bridesmaids to throw multiple showers and help them with each and every planning decision. Some brides just want their bridesmaids to show up and get the dancing started. No matter what the bride wants, it’s better to find out sooner rather than later. You can’t possibly know whether you’re up for the task of being a bridesmaid until you know exactly what that task is going to entail.

You have the right to have a life—and to have it come first.
Don’t tell the bride, but the only person who considers her wedding to be a big deal … is her. While she’s dreaming about floral schemes or linen rentals, you may be dealing with schoolwork, work stress, or family obligations. Don’t feel bad if you can’t drop everything for each and every vendor meeting, dress fitting, or menu consultation. Your life—whether it’s your kid’s school play, your family vacation, or just your night to relax—can come first.

You have the right to adhere to your budget.
Yes, being a bridesmaid means that you’ll be incurring some expenses, but you’re under no obligation to take out a second mortgage to make sure your friend has her dream wedding. Whether emergency car repairs have left you unable to afford a five-star bachelorette weekend or you just don’t want to spend more than $150 on a dress, you don’t need to explain or justify your decision. If she’s a good friend, the bride should already have some idea of your financial situation and what you can or can’t afford.

You have the right to not wear an ugly dress.
Since you’re buying your own dress, you should have at least some say in what it looks like, whether you want to be able to wear a regular bra or you think tea-length skirts make you look dumpy. Some brides like to make the dress decisions themselves, and in the case of large bridal parties, that’s often the easiest solution, but any bride worth her salt will acknowledge her bridesmaids’ likes and dislikes, as well as their budgets. While it’s impossible to please everyone all the time, you should expect the bride to at least make an effort to take your opinions under advisement and choose something flattering.

You have the right not to be a servant.
Bridesmaids traditionally help with some of the wedding chores, but if the bride expects someone to go running all over town on her behalf, performing a laundry list of errands, then what she really needs is a wedding coordinator. Bridesmaids are not just a free source of unpaid labor.

You have the right to an opinion.
If the bride wants her bridesmaids involved in decisions, then she’d better expect real opinions. No one likes showing up to dress fittings, florist appointments, or other wedding to-dos just to have her each and every idea shot down. Even if the bride doesn’t ultimately take your suggestions, you should feel like your opinion is valid and valued

You have the right not to play therapist.
Sometimes it falls to the bridesmaids to help run interference on a pushy relative or keep an eye on the underage cousin with the fake ID, but asking them to mediate long-standing drama between parents or siblings is too much to ask. When it comes to grudges, feuds, misbehaving, or untrustworthy relations, the couple should handle these problems themselves.

You have the right to have fun.
At the wedding, it’s not the bridesmaids’ job to be at the bride’s beck and call the whole time, so let loose and enjoy yourself! Sure, you’ll hold the bride’s dress if she has to use the restroom, and you’d be happy to help with a few small tasks, but remember this: unless you’re getting paid to be there, you’re there to have a good time.

You have the right to a non-lame gift.
After a year of planning, celebrating, reassuring, and obsessing over someone else’s wedding, it’s okay to be disappointed if you get a lame, impersonal gift that seems hastily picked out of a catalog. Who wouldn’t expect more from a close friend than just a polka-dot beach bag with your initials embroidered on it? Even if the bride blew her budget on imported Peruvian orchids, she should still take the time to find a thoughtful and personalized gift.

You have the right to say no.
No one has the obligation to be a bridesmaid. If you suspect that the impending wedding will stretch beyond the limits of what you can tolerate or afford, don’t be afraid to say no. It’s better to decline gracefully from the start than to risk ruining the friendship by harboring resentments along the way.

A bride’s bad behavior usually stirs up only one thing in the minds of her bridesmaids: thoughts of sweet, sweet revenge. So, for ladies who treat their bridesmaids like handmaids, be prepared for your comeuppance. For those ladies about to squeeze themselves into unflattering dresses, we salute you.

By: Allison Ford

I'm a staff writer here at Divine Caroline. I lived in New York City for 10 years, where I tended bar, worked as a film and theater critic, did freelance writing, had lots of brunch, and fell in love with NY1's dreamy morning anchor, Pat Kiernan. Although I miss Manhattan, I love San Francisco, along with all of its amazing Mexican food. (Seriously--if I thought I could survive by eating tacos and quesadillas every day, I would definitely try) I also have a serious sweet tooth, and anyone who brings me real English Cadbury chocolate can be my new best friend.

I love cooking and baking, playing my piano, watching House reruns, watching my cats hunt bugs, and scuba diving, and my favorite places in the world are Hawaii and Newport, Rhode Island. But nothing beats the the experience of reading a good book in a quiet room.

If I wasn't a writer, I would apply to be a quality assurance expert at Ben & Jerry's. If you'd like to be privy to my innermost thoughts (or if you'd just like to receive updates of weird news stories and cute animal videos), come follow me on Twitter at

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