Just to freshen your memory: A wedding is the celebration of a marriage, and a wedding party is a group of people who are meant to witness your union. Somewhere along the line, the wedding industrial complex has sort of morphed those definitions into “extravagant party” and “indentured servants,” respectively—but you can reject this! Follow these simple rules to start your marriage off on the right foot… and keep your friends too.
1. Let them choose their own goddamn outfits (at any price point)!
Picking a color or a color family is fine. Forcing a group of people with different body types, boundaries around modesty, style, and personal finances into the same garment isn’t just closed-minded, it’s mean.
2. Let them plan a killer bachelorette party (where everyone’s input is encouraged)!
Not everyone is a born planner. But what if the people who enjoyed the task were on the party planning committee and then those people were asked to be sensitive to particular concerns like finances, whether or not people have children, etc., so it was kept reasonable? That would be so great.
3. Let them walk down the aisle in a single-file line, free from accompaniment, like the goddesses and/or gods they are.
Anyone in the bridal party can strut their stuff down the aisle on their own! They don’t need to be paired up with a member of your partner’s party they’ve never met before. Really.
4. Don’t force them to “make an entrance” at your reception! If they’re game, fine, but by all means, ask them!
And make sure they really feel like they have the choice to say no. That means no guilting or shaming, and no peer pressure, either. For people with social anxiety, a forced moment like this can take the fun out of the entire event.
6. Figure out a way to schedule the photos so that your bridesmaids don’t miss an entire cocktail hour waiting to get their photos taken with you.
Or set up a little bar with snacks where you are taking photos so they don’t miss out. So many bridal party members have had to skip the hors-d’oeuvres just waiting for the couple to take photos with their extended families before getting the money shot—which is always the entire wedding party jumping in mid-air right at sunset—at the end.
7. Tell them not to give you a gift! After all the travel, the organizing, the dress-buying, the shower-throwing, their presence is gift enough.
For the love of all that is good and holy, must they really pad your bank account or furnish your new home to prove their love?
9. Be gracious and appreciative.
Remember to say a heartfelt “thank you” at every turn. Now is the time to be open and generous with your gratitude for their friendship and their effort. Hand-written notes are great for extolling specific virtues of each friend—lift them up, as they are doing for you and your loved one.
10. This should be a rule for all of life, but please, when it comes to your wedding and what your friends look like: They are perfect as is.
No one has to lose an ounce of weight or change their hair or get a French manicure to fit some fantasy person-mold you have created for a six-hour event. Differences are to be celebrated. These are not robots; these are your friends.
11. Let them be as involved or not involved as they can manage, with zero pressure.
Are you really going to let someone’s finances determine whether or not you both enjoy the mutual honor of their bridesmaidship? (Yes, that’s a real word. I just made it up). What kind of person do you want to be? If total attendance is important to you at an event, consider covering the cost for your friend who can’t afford it.
12. If your bridesmaids don’t all know one another yet, set up a first meeting to get everyone acquainted in person, or via Google chat if they’re far away.
Being part of a group of bridesmaids can send you right back to middle school with all the awkwardness and none of the puberty to blame it on.
13. CHAMPAGNE AT ALL DRESS FITTINGS. I REPEAT. CHAMPAGNE AT ALL DRESS FITTINGS.
They even make champagne in cans now! How convenient is that?
14. Holding a bouquet is great for anxious friends who otherwise don’t know what to do with their hands.
Bouquets for all! Let them hold yours while you get married! In the same vein, if it’s a long ceremony, consider having them sit front-row. Someone once told me that if you lock your knees too long in a standing position you can pass out, which ruined being a bridesmaid in a wedding ceremony for me forever.
15. When assigning roles and responsibilities, think about each friend’s skill set.
Your most Julia Child-like friend can bake for the shower, while your incredible dancer-friend choreographs a reception number for the group (assuming everyone is game). People are good at some things and bad at others—don’t be the as*hole who makes your friend who has never had a manicure book the spa treatments.
Ariel Rivera is a freelance writer and reformed Fashion Person living and raising three kids in Brooklyn. She documents it frequently and enthusiastically on Instagram.