I wore a pale yellow sleeveless floor-length gown with a beaded bodice. My braces sparkled, and my hair was in a French braid. My curled bangs were plastered with so much hairspray I was terrified someone would light a candle next to me and I’d instantly go up in flames.
This was my initiation into the world of being a bridesmaid. My mom was getting remarried and asked me to be her maid of honor. I don’t think I did any of the things a maid of honor is supposed to do. But I wore that yellow dress with conviction and stood proudly next to her on a rainy day in March in a tiny Dallas church with emerald green carpet.
A few weekends ago I was a bridesmaid for the 17th time. When I tell people how many weddings I’ve been in, the response I usually get is, “You’re like that girl in 27 Dresses.” Outwardly, I laugh, but inwardly pray I meet someone well before being a bridesmaid that many times.
The other response I get is pity: “You’ve been a bridesmaid that many times? All the showers, the bachelorette weekends … that must be awful.” Well, you haven’t met my friends. I have some incredible women in my life, and it’s an honor to walk beside such powerful ladies as they enter into marriage.
As a professional bridesmaid, I have a lot of compassion for brides. The transition from being single to being engaged overnight is huge. Before that even soaks in, everyone starts asking about the wedding. And everyone has an opinion on how it should look, how much it should cost, which band to hire. You’re thrust into throwing what is probably the most expensive party of your life. You’ve been given money from your parents, and it usually has some strings attached. The pressure from everyone else’s dreams and expectations of your wedding can be crushing.
If you’re not careful, your wedding can turn into an impersonal, energy-draining event you dread. You try to please every person in your life while agonizing — and I mean agonizing — over unimportant details — like which shade of white linen napkins to choose.
Brides, it doesn’t have to be that way. Let me take a few burdens off your shoulders.
Most floor length gowns will not be worn again. Trust me. I don’t care if it’s only $129. I’d rather pay more for a dress that is well-made and flattering, one I will actually wear again. Praise God for BHLDN. If I could wear a BHDLN dress in every wedding I’m a part of, I’d be a happy girl. No one will care that your bridesmaids aren’t wearing the same dress. And as a wedding photographer I can assure you that different colors and silhouettes look beautiful in photos.
Don’t sweat the small stuff.
Believe me when I say, no one notices the bridesmaid’s nail polish, or whether the groomsmen have matching socks and cuff links. What I remember most about weddings I’ve been in, attended, and photographed is the joy and connection of the couple, the amazing dance parties, and catching up with friends. We’re there because we love you, and are for your marriage … and maybe the dance party too!
Trust yourself, choose joy, and have confidence in the decisions you’ve made.
Once you make your decisions, stay away from the wedding blogs.
They provide inspiration as you start to plan your wedding, but what can happen is this: you’ve booked your venue, bought the dress, and then you get into the rabbit hole of your favorite wedding blog or Pinterest. You see a new wedding theme, and in a matter of minutes the joy of your decisions is replaced with regret and comparison.
Once you’ve made your decisions resist the urge to scroll through the blogs. Trust yourself, choose joy, and have confidence in the decisions you’ve made.
Be mindful of costs for your bridal party.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime event. You’re splurging, and I don’t blame you! But it can cost several thousand dollars just to be in a wedding — dresses, shoes, jewelry, gifts, spa days, flights for bachelorette weekends. We’re happy to do it because we love you. But consider some affordable alternatives, like a girls night where everyone paints their own nails. Or going out to a place that has a good happy hour. If you really want your girls wearing specific jewelry or shoes, perhaps have that be your bridesmaid gift.
Remember the Why.
You’re making a life promise to the love of your life. The wedding day will come and go, but you’re gearing up to spend a lifetime with someone. Focus on preparing for a life together. Get pre-marital counseling. Meet with couples who’ve been together for a few decades. Learn from them. Ask questions.
The vows you say to each other are the most important thing. It doesn’t matter if your wedding takes place in your living room or in a chateau in Provence. What matters is your relationship.
How many times have you been a bridesmaid? What did you love (and not so much love) about it?