Bridesmaid Etiquette

My Role and Duties for her Big Day

  Daniel Sheehan Photographers / Getty Images

Your friend or sister just announced that she's getting married, and you're over-the-moon happy for her. You've celebrated with the happy couple at their engagement party, and now she's asking you to be one of her bridesmaids. Initially, you're gleeful that you'll have such an active part in the wedding.

Then the fear or panic sets in because you're not sure what to do. Do you wonder what will be expected but are afraid to ask? This is a common fear among first-time bridesmaids.

You're aware that being asked is an honor, but you have no idea what all it entails. It's always good to know what you're getting into before making a decision.

Whether or Not to Say Yes

Most bridesmaids have quite a bit of responsibility to make sure the bride's special day goes as planned. Here are some things that can help you make the decision:

  • Know the primary duties of a bridesmaid.
  • Find out what the bride expects from you in addition to the norm.
  • Make sure your calendar is open on the dates when you'll need to be available for showers, fittings, and other bridesmaid events.
  • Know the cost of everything and decide whether or not you can afford it.

What is a Bridesmaid?

In the traditional wedding ceremony, the bride is usually attended by young women of marriageable age. These attendants are referred to as bridesmaids. The chief, or lead, bridesmaid is called the maid-of-honor if she is single and the matron-of-honor if she is married. Younger girls who are obviously too young to be married may also be included and are called junior bridesmaids.

The contemporary bridesmaid may be of any age and marital status. Some brides have even asked their mothers to serve in this important role of honor.

Historical Bridesmaids

The bridesmaid tradition is thought to have originated in Bible times during the ceremonies of Jacob, Leah, and Rachel. Each of these sisters brought their own attendants or servants to the wedding, and they were to serve from that point forward as their personal handmaidens.

Another popular thought in the West attributes the bridesmaid tradition to an ancient Roman law, which required that there be at least ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart any evil spirits in attendance. It was believed that the attendants, by dressing in identical clothing to the bride and groom, would confuse the spirits so that they would not know who to curse.

Today's Bridesmaids

Basically, the bridesmaid is someone who is close to the bride, and she is called upon to offer emotional support on perhaps the biggest day of the bride's life. Other duties may include doing things like helping the bride choose her bridal ensemble, addressing envelopes, hosting the bridal shower or bachelorette party, and standing up with her on the wedding day.

Special honor may be given to the maid or matron of honor before and during the service. She may be asked to help the bride dress, hold her flowers during the ceremony, assist her with her veil during the ceremony, or arrange her train once she is at the altar.

Most maids or matrons-of-honor are also asked to serve as a witness by signing the marriage license and holding the groom's wedding band. In addition, She and the best man will probably be asked to propose a toast during a formal reception. The junior bridesmaid is only responsible to show up to the wedding and look adorable.

Typical Bridesmaid Expenses

There was a time when the bride's family covered all or most of the wedding expenses. This is still the case in some cultures and on some rare occasions here in America. However, most modern day bridesmaids are expected to cover their own expenses. These costs might include any or all of the following.

  • Bridesmaid Ensemble. This includes your shoes, dress, and jewelry. Most brides cover the cost of their bridesmaid's flowers.
  • Travel Expenses. This would include your travel to and from the wedding location as well as your accommodations once you have arrived.
  • Bridal Shower. Together with the other maids, most bridesmaids choose to host either a bridal party, tea or shower in honor of their bride.

Use this information to make an informed decision. Should you decide to be a bridesmaid, make sure you are an asset to the bridal party as this is a very exciting yet stressful time in your friend or sister's life. Do your best to meet deadlines, plan ahead for known expenses, have your fittings done when asked, have the agreed upon shoes and jewelry, and get a fresh and pretty hairstyle for the big day.

If you don't think you can afford to be a bridesmaid, be honest and let the bride-to-be know as soon as possible. If you cannot serve in this capacity, make a point to offer your assistance in some other way, and be sure to come and support your friend on her big day. Have fun!



Edited by Debby Mayne