Sunday, February 28, 2010

Clueless About Bridesmaid Etiquette (What I Wish I Knew Then)

I had a real eye opening experience as a bridesmaid.  It was the first wedding I’d been to since I was a child so I what not really up on my bridesmaid etiquette when my friend asked me to be one.  I was 21 at the time and didn't know what being a bridesmaid entailed, so I asked someone (don't remember who, probably my mom) and they said "you just get invited to parties and show up at the wedding.”  I hadn't talked much to this friend much since we'd graduated college, but I was happy for her, so I said sure, I’d be happy to be in her wedding.

She told me that I could find my own bridesmaid shoes so I’d be comfortable.  And since our bridesmaids gifts were candles it seemed that jewelry was up to us too, so I bought a cute necklace and earrings that were perfect bridesmaid jewelry to coordinate with the dress, but versatile enough that I still wear 10 years later.

All that was fine so far.  But I'd never driven out of state on my own before and as I’ve mentioned before, I have an awful sense of direction (this was long before GPS, kids).  So my stress over the situation started knowing I was going to drive 6 hours to get to her wedding (and yes, I got so lost it added another hour onto my travel time).

Then I learned I had to pay for my bridesmaid dress.  It makes sense to me now, I mean, the bridesmaid gets to keep the dress (though she doesn’t get to choose it) but mom hadn’t mentioned that was customary. And it was actually a very pretty dress.  A lot like the purple bridesmaid dress below.

So while I don’t fault her for making me pay, it was a real shock to my system this bridesmaid dress was more than twice as much as any dress I'd ever bought for myself.  I never bought “couture” before; I handmade my own prom dress.  That freaked me out right there, because I had JUST moved out of my parents' house and started full time work and grad school was not used to supporting myself or budgeting money.  And due to unforeseen circumstances, money was REALLY tight.

Then came the hairstyle I had to pay for.  It was 10 times more money than I was used to paying for a haircut, and at least a haircut lasts more than a single day!

Then the manicure I had to pay for.  I never had one before; I do a fine job of filing and polishing; always thought they were a waste of money.

She didn't tell me about the hair and manicure until I had already arrived in her state, so there was no backing out then!

And then, nothing to do with money, but she wanted me to do a reading.  I'm not of the same faith as her, and when I looked at the piece it made me so uncomfortable that I finally did draw the line there when she told me the day before the wedding that I’d be doing this, and handed it to me.  I felt horrible because I know it was her day, but I just couldn't bring myself to stand in a church and say things I didn't believe in.

Lots of this is common knowledge in terms of bridesmaid etiquette I guess, but back then it wasn't common knowledge to ME and it was a horrible experience.  I was already in debt, so the whole time I felt so mortified, but went along with all the expenses without one word because I didn't want to put a damper on her day.  The friendship didn't last long after that, but like I said, it had been dwindling prior anyways so I felt like she just wanted another person in purple next to her.  I don't think she did any of the above to be mean spirited or greedy, she was NEVER like that.  My point is just that some people have NO CLUE about wedding protocol, and though I asked, I was not given the whole story!

So based on that bad experience, I started thinking about the whole concept of “the roles of people in my wedding.”


  1. ok first of all she shouldnt have sprung the reading on you the day before the wedding either! but it's interesting how much you learn after being in a few weddings, isn't it? makes me think twice before i ask my girls to do anything.

  2. Yeah, heh. Thanks for the support. I really do feel bad about refusing. The whole experience was just awful. The money stuff, if it happened today, now that I'm a professional I could afford to spend the money and just enjoy getting dolled up for her and all, but I was just starting out on my own and ran into money troubles, so it was a really rough situation.

  3. wow, sounds like you had a tough first experience as a bridesmaid. I've only been a bridesmaid once, I was 15, and it was my aunt's wedding. since I was so young, my parents took on the cost, not me. But I am like you - I would definitely be bothered by the amount of money that's expected to be spent on the dress, nails & hair! I'm trying to avoid putting those expectations on my bridesmaids!


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