10 Lessons You Can Learn from Mary's 11 Trips Down the Aisle

tips for bridesmaids

Are you a bridesmaid? Do you have friends that are girls? Chances are, you will be in or involved in a wedding at some point in your life, and there's no better way to support your bestie than by being the most kick-butt bridesmaid or friend you can be on the wedding day. In this first ever guest blog post, the beautiful Mary Kuehn shares 10 lessons that bridesmaids can learn from her vast experience - 11 I do's and counting! Mary was a great sport as I drug her around town to capture all of these dresses, toting a literal box of them, changing in cars, venturing down locked stairwells, climbing on landscaping, twirling like a fool in view of band camp students... she's really quite amazing!

Without further ado.... here's Mary!

Hello!  No, I haven't gotten married eleven times--not even once, in fact!  I've just stood to the left with flowers in my hands a bunch of times while other people did.  I'm no Katherine Heigl, but hopefully I've learned something from these dresses, and I'm excited to get to share that with you.  As a bridesmaid, you are not the point, and there's a lot to do.  But, cheesy as it sounds, it also really is an honor to stand up and support your friend/relative/future in-law as she gets married, so make sure you enjoy it too!  The less stressed you are, the more you will enjoy it, so here are a few tips to make things a little easier.

P.S. One thing I didn't learn from being in weddings is how to wrap a sari, much as I loved wearing one!  My apologies to those of you that know what it really should look like and recognize that I can't dress myself.

 Bridesmaid in two piece bridesmaid dress with a periwinkle or sky blue skirt and grey spaghetti strap crop top standing in front of an ivy wall
 Bridesmaid in two piece bridesmaid dress with a periwinkle or sky blue skirt and grey spaghetti strap crop top standing in front of an ivy wall

Communicate

You, the bride, and the other bridesmaids are on the same team! Talk to them, and be nice to each other. If you're in different geographies, start an email thread or a group text and introduce yourselves.  You'll be glad!  You don't have to be BFFs with them all, but it will be so much more fun to collaborate if you know each other's names.  And who knows, maybe you'll even find a new friend.  The only reason I know the lovely Jill Stiffler is because we were both bridesmaids in a wedding last year, and now I can't imagine not knowing her!

More specifically, talk about duties and costs for the shower, bachelorette party, etc.  Costs add up quickly, and no one wants to be caught off guard having to suddenly pay for something they can't afford, so it helps to be sensitive to this and plan together.  Here's a spreadsheet template I used to keep shower costs organized and split them evenly, and the rest of the bridal party really appreciated it!  You can customize the formulas (don't worry, they're super simple!) with your bridesmaids' names and then just toss in anything anyone pays for.  You can also use an app like Splitwise to do the same sort of thing.

 purple and gold Indian sari floating in the breeze worn by model in front of a black garage door in an urban setting
 dark haired model wearing a purple and gold sari for a bridesmaid dress looking confused on how to tie a sari
 purple and gold Indian sari floating in the breeze worn by model in front of a black garage door in an urban setting

Plan Early

Your biggest job when it comes to planning will be putting together the bridal shower and bachelorette party, if the bride wants them.  The maid of honor is in charge, but she can't do it alone.  Start planning as soon as you can so you don't wind up rushing to throw things together, and don't be afraid to ask for help!  Find out what the bride would like since these parties are for her, after all, and don't forget to involve her mom in the shower if she wants that.  Moms always like to be thought of, even if they don't want to help with planning!

Another part of planning early is to start saving money for your dress, shoes, shower costs, hair appointment, etc.  Unfortunately, being in a wedding can be expensive, and that can be frustrating.  Even if you're doing things as cheaply as possible, you'll be glad if you set some money aside as soon as you know you'll be a bridesmaid.

 bridesmaid in a long silver sequin gown in front of city-scape
 bridesmaid in a long silver sequin gown in front of city-scape

Get Your Dress ASAP

Don't leave dresses until the last minute!  A lot of this depends on the bride deciding what she wants you to wear (and remember, that's ultimately up to her! don't be a dress bully), but the earlier you can get this worked out, the better.  Depending on where you get them, dresses can take several weeks or even months to come in, and you may need alterations.  Hopefully your friends have good taste like mine do, but even a hideous dress will look way better if it fits you properly.  

     Bridesmaid in orange dress with mint green peep toe pumps and turquoise accent jewelry
     Bridesmaid in orange dress with mint green peep toe pumps and turquoise accent jewelry

    Don't Forget Your Feet

    Break your shoes in a bit before the day of the wedding!  You'll feel (and look) so much more comfortable walking down the aisle if you've already walked around in your shoes.  Wear them to the rehearsal, so you'll know how they feel on the actual floor/grass/stone path you'll be walking on.  Besides, you'll spare yourself the horror of realizing as you're stepping into the aisle that your shoes are too big and literally flopping off your feet, when at that point there is nothing you can do but smile and desperately try not to trip.  Trust me and those gorgeous mint green peep toes on this one...seriously.  And bring some flats for the reception!

     Bridesmaid standing in front of white doors beside a column wearing crimson red satin floor length dress with red elbow length gloves
     Bridesmaid standing in front of white doors beside a column wearing crimson red satin floor length dress with red elbow length gloves

    Make an Emergency Kit

    This is for the day of the wedding.  I once had a dress split up the side just moments before I had to walk down the aisle!  No one noticed.  There are always a few little last minute fixes that someone in the bridal party needs, so it's helpful to bring a few things with you, such as:

    • Makeup--even if you're getting it done by someone else, you usually have to bring your own foundation and mascara, plus anything you'll need for touchups at the last minute
    • Tissues
    • Bobby pins
    • Safety pins, and maybe even a sewing kit
    • Hairspray
    • Deodorant
    • Dental floss, mouthwash
    • A razor--why does someone always forget to shave their pits?!
    • Clear tape--for sudden dress or shoe emergencies
    • Steamer--not as crucial, but slightly miraculous if anyone's dress is wrinkled
    • A non-messy snack--see below
    tips for bridesmaids

    Be a Problem Solver

    This is always a good thing to be, but I'm specifically referring to the morning of the wedding.  Remember, you're part of the bride's team.  Make her day less stressful, and protect her sanity in any way you can.  If people are peppering her with questions you can answer, answer them.  If someone wants her to solve a problem you can take care of, solve it.  Just do what needs to be done.  She has plenty to think about, and part of your job is to make hers easier so she can fully enjoy her wedding day!  

    tips for bridesmaids
    tips for bridesmaids

    Know What's Expected

    Pitch in, stay afterward, and help clean up.  The bride and groom's families will be SO grateful for this.  Bring a change of shoes, or even a full change of clothes if you want, so that this is easier.  Random last minute things will come up in the few days leading up to the wedding, so be prepared to help the bride out with whatever she needs (both practical needs and emotional support) that week.  Again, just do what needs to be done, and when everyone does that, things go pretty fast!  This day is not about you, and remembering that will make you so much happier about serving your friends and helping out.  

    tips for bridesmaids
    tips for bridesmaids

    Don't Get Hangry

    It took me a few weddings to remember this one.  While the guests are snacking on appetizers before the reception, you will be taking lots of pictures.  Breakfast, if you even ate it, was a while ago by now.  You will definitely get hungry.  Anyone who thinks to bring snacks (or commissions a guest to bring them a tray of appetizers) will be a bridal party hero!  Also, make sure the bride eats at least a little bit on her wedding day.  She will forget, and even if she remembers, she'll find she's too busy and has too many people to talk to.  Be a dear and just bring her some food.

    tips for bridesmaids
    tips for bridesmaids

    Have Grace for Yourself

    Things will go wrong.  It's okay.  They will probably be tiny things that no one will notice, but even if they're not, just look for where you can help, and do what needs to be done.  As long as the bride and groom wind up married to each other, it's been a successful day!  This leads us into:

    Remember the Why

    Even though yeah, we already know this and it sounds trite, it's way too easy to lose sight of the most important thing of all when the details are overwhelming.  Remember the reason you are here, and help the bride remember it too. You love the bride and groom, they love each other, and they are about to commit their lives to one another.  Wow!  At the heart of all this, your most important job is not to avert disaster, plan a shower, look pretty, or smooth the train of a dress. You're here to support two friends in their marriage, not just in the details of their wedding day.  Marriage is a big deal!  It is exciting and serious and life-changing!  The bride and groom are building a life together, not just planning a party, and if you or they forget that, none of the wedding details matter.  

    Stop for a minute and let that really sink in!  Their marriage matters the most.  Remind the bride of this when she gets overwhelmed, too.  Pray for them, for their relationship and their marriage, and let the little planning details fall into perspective.  Make sure you remember it again when the ceremony is about to begin.  Give her one last hug as a single lady, smile down the aisle, enjoy your front row view of their vows, and have fun celebrating your friends!