Over the course of my engagement, I had a lot of different ideas on who I wanted to be in my wedding but I held off until I had my date and venue at least to ask anyone. Being engaged for four years
meant people came in and out of importance in my life and I knew that was the way things went sometimes. I’m glad I held off on asking anyone for that very reason. I knew I was going to most likely ask my four sisters to be in the wedding party and I knew I was going to have Matt’s two sisters as well. It got more difficult from there though. What about friends or sisters-in-law? An even bigger question for me was about my nieces and cousins. I have nine (eight at the time) nieces and a crazy amount of cousins and second cousins, many of whom I’m pretty close with. Leaving them out of the wedding party didn’t really feel right because of what they all meant to me. With my nieces in particular, though, I realized that having them in the wedding party would’ve doubled the cost to my sisters. In the end, I had the niece and cousin who were closest in age to me (and who I had grown up with as friends as much as relatives) in the wedding party and that was it. I did have two of the youngest as my flower girls and then found roles for the rest as party of the wedding ceremony. I still am sad I couldn’t find a way to incorporate another couple of cousins I’m really close with, but I figure at least I saved them the hassle of having to take on any planning.
I wanted to make a big deal of asking my bridesmaids be in my bridal party. When all the details were sewn up about my wedding I decided it was time to come up with how I was going to ask my girls to be in my wedding party. I figured I’d DIY some beeswax candles and come up with some cute way to ask them using those. And then the winter hit. It was February 2015 and Mother Nature decided New England had to pay for the Patriots winning the Super Bowl. I was stuck inside my house for the better part of a month with little or no creating supplies. Some beeswax candles got made, but then they got tossed aside as I couldn’t figure out exactly the way to ask with them and I re-thought their significance. Time was creeping up on me and I knew I needed to ask soon or there wouldn’t be time for us to go out and do all the things that needed to be done in anticipation of the wedding. So I used the world’s worst communication method to ask: I texted them.
I know, I know. Texts are impersonal and …whatever else they might be that makes them a not-so-worthwhile form of communication. But time was of the essence and I’m not good with phone conversations. I didn’t have everyone’s emails at the time, and it was important for me that I put my thoughts together before I came out and asked them. I didn’t just fire off a text that said “Hey b in my wedding plz?” or even let emojis do the talking. I sent them miniature novels in text form that said: 1. Why I wanted them to be in my wedding and what they meant to me; 2. What my expectations of my bridal party were going to be; and 3. That I understood if they couldn’t take part in it because of money issues or just a general desire not to. I let them know my feelings wouldn’t be hurt if they said no (even though they totally would have and I waited for each return text with trepidation as to what they’d have to say).
I think that beyond any beeswax candles or sparkly gifts I could’ve given them, within those texts, I hit on some important things that a lot of people neglect to talk to their bridal party about and that lead to a lot of problems down the road in planning. Not so much why I wanted them to be in the wedding, because I think that comes down to individual relationships and feelings, but more my expectations and the understanding that I was asking them to be part of it, not telling they had to be.
Expectations for the bridal party are a big deal. How often have we tossed the “z” suffix onto a bride because she outlined her expectations of her bridesmaids and went a little bit (or a lot) overboard? These things might seem crazy at times when put out there like that, but at the same time, it’s important to be honest at the start about what being a bridesmaid means to you. When I was actively involved in Wedding Yard Sales, I’d see brides that had all different ideas about what their bridesmaids roles were, and bridesmaids who had even more ideas. Some people feel its the bride’s responsibility to pay for her bridesmaids’ gowns while others feel its up to each bridesmaid to get her own dress. Some feel the bridesmaids take care of the extracurricular parties, like the bridal shower or bachelorette party and that the bride is to have no part in planning those whatsoever. Others feel it’s up to the mother of the bride and still others feel the bride does that herself. Outlining YOUR expectations as a bride at the start avoids confusion and possible arguments later rather than assuming that you’re on the same page and finding out later that you weren’t even in the same book. If you can go so far as to let people know a dollar amount or range when giving your expectations, even better (although I’d say give room for that number to change because some things can cost more than you originally expect, too). The better you can give someone an idea of what they’re agreeing to when you ask them, the better off things will be down the line. It’s important to come to terms with what being a bridesmaid means to you before you ask someone else to do that, and maybe even do a little bit of research before talking to them about costs and responsibilities.
It’s also important to recognize that you are giving people a choice. Just like when my husband proposed to me, this proposal can come with a “yes” or “no” after the fact, not an assumption of agreement just for the question having been asked. Being in a wedding party can be really expensive, even a broke-ass one where you do your best to keep costs low.
My bridesmaids had a mish-mash of expenses they were dealing with above and beyond my wedding: A new home, a new car, multiple kids and the tuition that said kids were racking up in all grade levels through college, a new baby and other weddings. No matter what age or stage of life my bridesmaids were at, they had something major going on in their lives money-wise and I acknowledged that when asking them because it’s important to remember you’re not the only one dealing with expensive, life-altering stuff at any given time. Sometimes even greater than the dollar value is the cost to people’s time and energy, especially if they have demanding jobs or families or are just in a spot in their life where they’re already being dragged in several different directions. Like I said, my feelings might’ve been a little bit hurt if some people had turned me down … but realistically, it’s important to be understanding of other people’s circumstances. It might feel like they are saying they don’t care enough about you to take part in your wedding, but they could also be saying they care too much about you to be there for you on a part time basis when they know you deserve better than that. There are many different thoughts and emotions that can go into the decision to become someone’s bridesmaid, just like there are a lot of emotions that go into why we choose the people we do. Be mindful of that and do your best to not take it as anything personal against you or your husband to be.
In the end, I didn’t spend a ton of money on my proposal to my bridesmaids. I used the beeswax candles I made myself and instead spent my energy on coming up with just the right words and put it out there to them. I’m glad I was able to express what they meant to me, and had the opportunity to really talk about what their role in the wedding meant to me. I used the money I would’ve spent on a proposal on their thank you gifts.
It’s not so important how you ask them, but making sure they fully understand what they’re being asked and that is is a question, not a declaration is important. I can’t say my bridal party was without any drama at all, but I can say that I minimized it as best I could on my part by letting people know what my expectations were and allowing them to make a choice to take on that role that meant so much to me. Everyone played their roles in the end and added different elements to the wedding. I’m grateful to all of them for being part of such a special day for me.
How did you ask your crew to stand by your side? Did you create elaborate proposals or keep it simple ‘n’ sweet?