What Are Bridesmaids Actually Expected to Do?

Posted on . Filed under: Guest Experts, Weddings.

Choosing bridesmaids can pose a dilemma, when brides attempt to surround themselves with their closest pals while preventing any drama and hurt feelings. As the bride seeks wedding help from her bridesmaids while avoiding the dreaded label of “Bridezilla,” it also begs the question – What are bridesmaids actually expected to do? This guide from Camille McLamb of Camille Victoria Weddings LLC will answer those bridesmaid quandaries.

How to choose bridesmaids:
Bridesmaids are usually your closest friends and family members. If your fiancé has a sister, good etiquette suggests including her as a bridesmaid, though if your wedding party is at maximum capacity, you can invite her to participate in another role.

Sometimes a bride becomes overly concerned with inviting friends to be bridesmaids simply because she was a bridesmaid for them years before. The bride and her childhood best friend may have vowed as kids that they would be each other’s bridesmaids, and she now wonders whether it would be rude to exclude this friend, even though they now rarely talk. I advise against being beholden to such long ago promises. Choose those ladies that you’re closest to today and will likely remain close to in the years to come. Also choose friends that you know will make your life easier on the wedding day and throughout the planning process, rather than those that will cause drama or stress.

How many to choose:
Traditionally the size of the wedding party will reflect the size of the wedding, meaning smaller wedding parties for smaller weddings. But nowadays, there is more flexibility. One main factor to consider is your budget. A larger bridal party means higher flower costs for additional bouquets and boutonnieres, higher gift costs, etc. Also, consider your ceremony venue. Will the altar be able to accommodate a line of eight bridesmaids? How will the number of bridesmaids affect your ceremony pictures? If you want to limit the number of bridesmaids but don’t want to offend someone by excluding them, consider giving them another important wedding role, such as a reader or program attendant.

What’s expected of bridesmaids:
Leading up to the wedding, the main job of the bridesmaids is to plan the bachelorette party and/or a bridal shower. If the bride asks for help with the wedding planning, such as with selecting bridesmaid dresses or filling favor bags, then they should be willing to help, as needed. Otherwise, bridesmaids should keep opinions and demands to themselves. On wedding day, bridesmaids essentially serve as ladies-in-waiting. They should be on hand to help the bride get dressed, bustle her train, and simply follow all directions.

Bride etiquette:

The bridesmaids are there to be your right-hand gals, but don’t forget that these are your friends, not your servants. Make sure any requests for help are reasonable (i.e. don’t expect them to attend an 8-hour marathon session to make all your DIY centerpieces). When you do seek help, try to make it fun and convenient for your bridesmaids. Tying bows to programs for a couple of hours will be much more palatable if there is wine and cheese involved!

Remember, it’s expensive to be a bridesmaid, especially for out-of-town friends. So, try to keep costs down by choosing an affordable bridesmaid dress. Consider providing hair and makeup for the girls, if it’s in your budget, and let them choose their own shoes and accessories.

Finally, show your appreciation. Hosting a bridesmaid luncheon the day before the wedding is a chance to spend time with your friends and show your gratitude.  Giving a small gift with a personal note to each bridesmaid, either at the luncheon or at the rehearsal dinner, is a nice way to say thank you, not only for their participation in your wedding but also for their friendship and support throughout the years.

Bridesmaid etiquette:
You often hear stories of diva bridesmaids who seem to forget whose wedding day it actually is. A bridesmaid’s job is to make the wedding planning process and wedding day easy and joyful for the bride. So bridesmaids should wear the selected dress without complaint and place their dress orders on schedule. They should be on time for all wedding activities and do their best to work out any problems themselves before going to the bride.

The general rule of thumb for bridesmaids is simple — do whatever the bride says!


Camille McLamb is the founder and lead coordinator of Camille Victoria Weddings LLC, a premiere wedding planning company in Chicago, Illinois. She has been quoted as a wedding expert by Glamour, CNN, Wedding Guide Chicago, and Fabulous Living.  She won WeddingWire’s 2011 Bride’s Choice Award and was named one of the Top Ten Wedding Planners in Illinois by the Wedding Industry Expert Awards in 2012. Every bride should have a fun and memorable wedding planning experience. With a keen attention to detail, personalized service, and a network of Chicago’s finest wedding vendors, Camille Victoria Weddings lets you be a guest at your own wedding! Contact Camille at Camille@CamilleVictoriaWeddings.com or connect with her on Facebook and Twitter.