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Category: Expert Advice

Welcome to another round of Southern Etiquette!  This week, I thought we’d focus on those lovely ladies who help ensure a smooth and fun wedding day: the bridesmaids.  We hear from a lot of younger brides who are the first in their group of friends to get married, and are dealing with a gaggle of maids who are eager but slightly clueless as to the ins and outs of bridesmaidhood.  Those who are struggling, consider this your print-and-save guide to being the South’s best bridesmaid.  And my experienced maids out there?  Feel free to chime in in the comment section.  We’d love to hear from you!

Image credits: Millie Holloman and Alders Photography

Bridesmaid Responsibilities:

Pay for own wedding attire and accesories.  You can read more about what to do about an outrageously expensive gown here… and an ugly one here.

Attend pre-wedding events, especially the rehearsal and rehearsal dinner.  Send your regrets promptly if you won’t be able to attend.

Arrange and pay for own transportation, both on the wedding day and to travel to the wedding. If the bride and groom are arranging transportation, you’re expected to partake.

Contribute to attendants’ group gifts to the bride and groom, if applicable, or give an individual gift

Understand specific duties and follow instructions.  Very important!  As fun as the whole Pam-and-Jim-Office-wedding-Chris-Brown ceremony entrance was, it could have been devastating for a less-relaxed couple.

Arrive at specified times for all wedding-related events.  Again, very important!  A bride has enough potential stressors on her wedding day without adding tardy maids to the list.

Assist the bride throughout her wedding day.  Yes, this might require an accompanied trip to the restroom.  Such is life as a bridesmaid.

Be attentive to other guests at the wedding and reception.  Help make the day a Southern wedding to be proud of: assist the elderly when they need it, lend a hand with young children, be gracious, get on the dance floor, alert guests to reception events like the cake cutting and first dance, and generally lend a hand when you can.

–Nice, but not mandatory: host or co-host a shower or bachelorette party

What do you think, ladies?  Anything you’d add to this list?  Something you’d remove?  Let me know!

All images in header c/o Millie Holloman

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar DCbride reply

    Thanks! Now, can you anonymously email that to my maids?

  2. avatar Southern Weddings reply

    You got it, DCbride! We’ll make it look like a newsletter. Better yet, just print this post and slip it under their doors at night. Slightly creepy, but maybe necessary? :)

  3. avatar F and S @ sanebrideadvice reply

    We would add to also check in with the bride from time to time along the process to ask if any help is needed. Many times people tend to forget about all the planning that goes on during the lull periods and brides really appreciate knowing and being asked without feeling like bridezilla!!

  4. avatar Emily @ Southern Weddings reply

    Ooo, good one, ladies! I’m sure DIY brides in particular would appreciate a buddy on especially long craft nights. :)

  5. avatar Anonymous reply

    Probably the #1 thing a bridesmaid can do on a wedding day to make the best day for everyone is to get herself ready (hair/makeup/dress ON) quickly so that she can help the bride. Soooooo many times i see bridesmaids spend hours getting themselves ready and then its down to only 30 mins before the ceremony and the bride MUST get dressed and there’s no one to help her because the bridesmaids are all still primping.

  6. avatar Dennis @ Wholesale Fresh Flowers reply

    Admittedly I have no experience as a brides maid so I cannot offer any insights as to what it must be like to be one. With that said, I do want to say that tips/tricks/advice posts like this one can be very helpful. I appreciate that you take the glitz and glam out of it and let the ladies know that being a brides maid is a job and there are real responsibilities that go along with it.

  7. avatar Bridesmaid’s mom reply

    I just found this site and read it with interest since my daughter just graduated from college and is beginning to be asked to be in her friends’ weddings. The first one was reasonably priced and thoroughly enjoyable. The second one is 6 hours away and the bride has about 4 showers coming up, wants a bachelorette weekend with shopping and a spa visit, none of which she will pay for!!!! Meanwhile her bridesmaids are just out of school, starting jobs or graduate school, have little or no vacation time or extra money. To top it all off she’s already living with the groom. When did a wedding become all about a big show and inconveniencing your friends instead of the celebration of a new life started with someone you love? My husband and I had the wedding we could afford (small) and paid for almost everything ourselves. These first two weddings my daughter has been in will leave the parents in debt for quite awhile. To all brides reading this, before you get carried away with the "big day" think about the rest of your life, your friendships and what is really valuable. It’s not a big show and a dress.

    • avatar Laura reply

      Bridesmaid’s mom: I have been a bridesmaid 9 times since college and that wasn’t that long ago. Sometimes the weddings are expensive and sometimes they are more laid back. When my brother was getting married she had a bridesmaid who couldn’t afford the dress so she stepped down from the role. My sister in law did not take offense and she understood that not everyone is in the same place financially. Showers are usually given to the bride or couple by others so you can’t blame the bride and groom for having too many events. You daughter may not be invited to them all and even if she is she may not be required to come. I am getting married in May to a man I have lived with for 5 years. We are having a very big wedding after all it is “our” day. We each have 10 bridesmaids/groomsmen in the wedding and they are located all over the country. I have invited all of my bridesmaids to the engagement party, the bachelorette party, and 2 showers out of three that are being given to me. Only about half of my girls will be able to make it and that is fine with me. I simply wanted them to know they are included even if they can’t make it. Even though my fiance and I have lived together for 5 years doesn’t mean we don’t deserve the big wedding of our dreams with all of our friends and family. I am paying for most of my wedding but even if I wasn’t I am sure my parents would graciously give me the wedding of my dreams. It is about a big (or small) party and a pretty dress and LOVE!!!! After all you only do this once and then you do have the rest of your life. If your daughters friends don’t understand that maybe she can’t come to everything or maybe she can’t afford to be the bridesmaid that they want then maybe they aren’t true friends in the first place. One day it’ll be your daughters turn!

  8. avatar Bride reply

    Thank you for this post. For the bridesmaids out there remember one day you will likely be the one wearing white and hoping a best friend will help hold your dress while you go to the restroom. Trust me, the current bride will be your wonderful, helpful bridesmaid in the future! Help make this special time as easy and enjoyable as you would want for your own wedding day!

  9. avatar Christine reply

    Help get the guests outside for the exit – if there is a coordinator, they have already gone off with the first guests to the door for the grand exit. Meanwhile, there are stragglers just hanging around, talking with the couple inside the reception. In this Southern heat in the summertime, it isn’t fair to the guests already outside to be left waiting! Help get them out the door so the couple can go enjoy their wedding night!

  10. avatar Southern Weddings reply

    Christine, you are SO RIGHT! SO right. Having worked at a wedding, I can say this is a huge help — corralling guests at the end of the night is one of the most difficult tasks, and a great thing for bridesmaids to lend a hand with.Emily @ SW

  11. avatar Michael and Anna Costa reply

    Interesting read. Thanks!

  12. avatar Lisa Jeffries reply

    Just being an active part and a good friend is important, too! Going on my own version of 27 Dresses here, I'm always surprised to be part of a wedding and see other bridesmaids who have to be coaxed into doing or being a part of anything! I still to this day consider it a huge honor to be asked to be a part of someone's big day… and that includes all parts of the process, where the bride wants you to be a part, leading up to the reception ;-)

  13. avatar Southern Etiquette :: Who’s Invited to the Bridal Shower? « Southern Weddings Magazine reply

    […] shoot me an email! If you liked this post, you might want to check out past etiquette columns: Bridesmaid Responsibilities Tuxedos with Navy Dresses? Who Gets a Save the Date? xo Emily June 20, 2011 | view Emily's blog […]

  14. avatar LL reply

    I’d be interested to see the flip side of this list – what is too much to ask of a bridesmaid? Where do brides know when to draw the line? (had an intensive 5-day wedding weekend full of manual labor, and am just wondering ;)

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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Though we know so many of our readers are already located in the South, we wanted to put something in V2 for those ladies who might not be lucky enough to live south of the Mason-Dixon Line… but who are smart enough to be planning nuptials in our fair region!  We hope our special destination wedding guide came in handy, wherever you might be getting married! 

The eight-page spread featured advice from stationery favorite Minted; planners Beth Helmstetter, Alison Hotchkiss, and Kelly McWilliams; luxury wedding consultant Rebecca Grinnals; wedding dress guru Randy Fenoli (y’all know we love him!); and many more.  Pick up a copy to see the rest!

In case you missed it, we’re giving away magazines!  Order a copy this month and we’ll give you another copy free for a friend!  Order here.


Written with love by Southern Weddings

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

Reply to:

Hey, y’all!  Welcome back to another Southern Etiquette.  Today’s question comes from Rebecca in Virginia.  She writes:

“I am confused about the etiquette of the rehearsal dinner.  At first, I thought it was to only include the wedding party, immediate family and grandparents.  Now I have run across the idea that it also includes all out of town guests.  If a majority of both sides of the families are from out of town, wouldn’t this be like having two weddings?  Not that I am not up for having two parties all about me, I am just wondering who to invite and not invite!”

Great question, Rebecca, and one that’s increasingly relevant as more and more couples plan destination weddings and full wedding weekends.  Emily Post advises:

“The guest list normally includes all members of the wedding party and their spouses or partners; the close families of the couple; and special guests such as the officiant and his or her spouse.  Is the host obligated to invite out-of-town guests?  Though a nice thing to do, this is entirely optional.”

Agreed.  It is never incorrect to only invite “the essentials” to a rehearsal, but it is also a lovely gesture to open up a welcome dinner to the whole guest list.  As for your concern that doing so would essentially be like having two weddings, I’d recommend making sure that the two events are very different in tone and formality.  A great example is Kristen + Grant’s celebration in Sea Island, GA.  You can see their relaxed clambake welcome dinner here, and their glitzy, glam wedding here and here.

Another option, if money is a concern, is to hold a welcome dinner but not host it.  My sister is having a destination wedding this August.  90% of the guests will be traveling, so we want to spend as much time as possible with those we love and don’t get to see very often.  We’ve organized a welcome dinner at a local lobster shack on the Friday before the wedding.  On the card detailing the weekend’s events, we wrote “We recommend budgeting about $12 per person planning to eat lobstah!” as a gentle indication that we wouldn’t be picking up the bill.

What do y’all think?  Are you hosting a welcome dinner?  Are you holding one?  Do you think either is a better option?  Why?

Email me if you have a question you’d like to see discussed on the blog!  I’d be happy to take a stab at it.

Written with love by Southern Weddings
  1. avatar nb reply

    I have been part of a wedding party (destination wedding ) and was obviously included in the dinner portion. The bride then invited all the guests for dessert at the same location. It was a low cost way to include everyone.

  2. avatar kaity reply

    I’m definitely dealing w/this situation. All our family will be out of towners and only 15-20 guests out of our 80 person wedding will be local.Of the truly local guests, one of them is going to be our officiant – so I feel obligated to invite that circle of friends too, leaving me with nearly all guests at both events.I don’t mind, but it’s overwhelming to think about!

  3. avatar Julia reply

    "Lobstah"? New England destination wedding? Maine, maybe? Perhaps my FAVORITE place in the world. Great advice, by the way!

  4. avatar Emily @ Southern Weddings reply

    You got it, Julia! We’ll be in Maine this August — can’t come soon enough!

  5. avatar ShannonP reply

    We did a happy hour event before our rehearsal dinner which everyone was invited to. We supplied appetizers and left it as a cash bar. It was a great way to see all the out of town guests (though in towners were invited as well) before the wedding but keep our actual rehearsal dinner size smaller. Plus, it gave extended family members and friends a meeting time and place where they could congregate before heading out to their own dinner.

  6. avatar Emily reply

    We had a pig pickin’ as a rehearsal dinner and invited everyone, which turned out wonderful. Friends are surprised when we tell them there were 200+ people at the wedding, because they say it felt so intimate, partially because of having spent the night before getting to know everyone.

  7. avatar Cathy reply

    Being brought up in the north, we only had the wedding party and partners with the grandparents. Both of our children are getting married in 2017, both in Charlotte. Much to our surprise my son told us he wanted to invite all out of town guests, there are many!! Now is upset with us that we don’t agree. He hasn’t offered to help with the expenses and I don’t think the venue will hold the amount of people. On a side note, the brides mothers friend owns the rehearsal venue where I was expected to use. HELP!!!

Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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