Whether family or friends, there’s a reason you choose a certain group of women to be your bridesmaids—they’re your nearest and dearest. Though it’s easy to go a little bridezilla now and then—it’s your day, after all—keeping your cool will help maintain important relationships long after your vows are exchanged. Follow these simple guidelines to ensure your bridal party gets treated with the same love and respect they’re showing you by standing by your side.
1. Choose wisely.
“When selecting your bridesmaids, you should select them because you want them there—not because you feel obligated to ask,” says Jen Glantz, founder of Bridesmaid for Hire and author of All My Friends Are Engaged. Just because someone asks you to be a bridesmaid, does not mean you need to reciprocate, she says. “Only select people who you truly feel should be there with you throughout the process and on your wedding day.”
2. Introduce everyone.
If your bridesmaids don’t know each other or live across the country, eliminate any awkwardness by ensuring everyone can put a name to the face, says Glantz. “Things like social media or Skype really help. You can have a group hangout where all of the women can meet and introduce themselves as if they were meeting in real life.”
3. Choose attire carefully.
When it comes to bridesmaid dresses, one size rarely fits all. If your party has a variety of body shapes or style preferences, explore the idea of doing a mix and match look, where you select a color and fabric and let them do the rest. Sites like Weddington Way streamline the shopping process by bringing the bride and her bridesmaids together in a private virtual showroom. You simply select your favorite styles, and then invite your bridesmaids to “like” and comment on the dresses you’ve chosen. Those on a budget can even opt to rent certain styles instead of purchasing to save money.
4. Remember their “other” lives.
“When you’re a bride, you need to try to put yourself in the shoes of your bridesmaids and realize some of your requests can be asking too much,” says Glantz. “I’ve heard horror stories where bridesmaids have been asked to grow their hair out five inches.” It’s perfectly acceptable to rely on bridesmaids for help with DIY tasks, advice, and other planning duties, but don’t forget to take a step back: “Remember these women are your friends and family members, not your personal assistants.”
5. Be gentle on their bank accounts.
Money is always a touchy subject—especially when the average cost of being a bridesmaid is upwards of $1,500. The best way to ensure there are no financial surprises is to try to gauge everyone’s budget from the very beginning. Then, “break down each event and plan events that everyone can afford to go to.” If Miami is your dream bachelorette party destination but your bridesmaids can’t afford the plane tickets, a local beach may be more appropriate. Try to accommodate and plan around everyone’s financial situations and, remember, the most important thing is spending quality time together to celebrate the occasion, says Glantz.
6. Pick your battles.
Over the course of 14 months (the length of the average engagement in the United States), there’s bound to be some disagreement. One of the most common, says Glantz, is when the bride thinks one or more of her bridesmaids isn’t pulling her weight. “Often bridesmaids don’t know what they need to be doing or should be doing, so it’s really important to set expectations and be clear about what you need. Spread out duties across all of your bridesmaids so nobody feels super stressed,” she says. If there’s a disagreement at a wedding-related event, the first rule of thumb, says Glantz, is to deal with any problems after it’s over: “Fake it until you make it.” Then, deal with conflict in private once everyone has had time to cool down.
7. Give them a schedule.
“On the day of the wedding, bridesmaids often show up and are eager to know what to expect throughout the day, so I always tell brides to give bridesmaids a detailed itinerary of how the day is going to go, where they need to be, and who they can turn to with questions,” says Glantz. And don’t forget to provide enough food and drink to keep everyone’s energy up: “Food is absolutely necessary to make sure everyone is well fed and hydrated.”
8. Say thank you—often.
You’re probably planning to give all of your bridesmaids a gift on the big day, but it’s essential to make the ladies feel appreciated throughout the entire process, says Glantz: “Writing a handwritten card or pulling them aside and saying ‘Jessica, thank you so much for all you did, it truly made me feel more confident on my wedding day’ can go a long way.”