Your Bridesmaids Secretly Resent You. Here’s How to Be a Considerate Bride.

This story is part of our cover series We Don’t: The Bridesmaid Burnout, in which we explore the role’s often absurd demands, astronomical expenses, copious amounts of unpaid labor, and ways to change the tradition that benefits everybody involved. Read all our stories here.

In the beginning there were bridesmaids. They were there, like it or not, when Jacob wed two brides in Genesis 29. (At this point in history, bridesmaids were servants who had little choice in the matter.) They were there in ancient Rome, all dressed up for the esteemed honor of serving as live decoys for the bride should evil spirits and rivals—or worse, old flames—attempt to crash the party. They were there in feudal China to guard the bride’s door from intruders when marriage by capture was common practice. And they were there in medieval times, too, to soothe her wedding-day nerves with a steady drip of plum buns soaked in spiced ale. So what if your father refused to provide a dowry because he doesn’t approve of your boyfriend? Your medieval bridal party might even step in and shower you with gifts to help you cover the bride price, dad be damned.

Marriage is a business agreement; so too is the contract between bride and bridesmaid. Wedding planner Jessica Ashley fittingly uses the contract-law phrase scope of work to describe the time, money, and labor—emotional and otherwise—bridesmaids are tacitly expected to contribute.

“It’s multiple vacations. You’re going to the bachelorette party. You’re going to the bridal shower. Maybe these are in different states and require hotel rooms or Airbnbs. Or planes, trains, and automobiles to get there,” Ashley says.

“Not always are brides very transparent about the scope of work when they ask for a bridesmaid. And I say ‘scope of work,’ because it really is work.”

Is it time to abolish the bridal party? Maybe so. My friend—business development manager Olivia Oliasani—offers up a hilarious reason of her own when I ask why she intends to break with bridesmaid tradition: Why share the spotlight with five other women on your big day? “I have ways that I want to incorporate the people that I love into my wedding, but I don’t think that it needs to be standing up there and polluting my pictures,” she quips. “That’s the most beautiful I’ll ever look in my entire life.”

But brides keep popping the question, and bridesmaids keep saying yes more often than not. Here’s how brides can go the extra mile to make their bridal parties feel heard and considered.

Be democratic; use Google Forms.

Talia Morales became a Wedding TikTok thought leader after sharing her thoughtful approach to collaborating with her bridesmaids. Instead of relying on yet another chaotic group chat as her primary hub for communication, Morales began by asking her bridal party to complete a detailed Google Forms survey. The questionnaire made it easy to collect and archive each bridesmaid’s availability and preferences for reference later.

Flag major expenses up front.

“Before you ask someone to be in your wedding, try to outline what the costs are going to be up front and let them know, ‘If this does not fit within your life, that’s completely okay. No hard feelings,’” Nashville newlywed and music industry marketing exec Laura Hostelley recommends. “That makes it feel more like an option—they can make the choice with full transparency before they commit.”

Communicate what is and isn’t important to you.

“We have to look inward as a bride,” Ashley says. “What matters to me? Is a big, fun bachelorette in Scottsdale only important to me because Brittany had one in Scottsdale? Or is it because I want to have one in Scottsdale?”

Do a little introspection about what brings you joy, and let those values guide the planning process. But don’t stop there: Share your thinking with your bridesmaids so they can better understand where your priorities lie.

“I think it’s easier for people to spend money on things when they know that it’s so important to somebody,’ seasoned bridesmaid and yoga teacher Amanda Bouldin says. “When you’re buying matching T-shirts because the bride is like, ‘Everyone is going to wear matching, and we’re all going to spend $30 on this T-shirt that you’re going to wear one time.’ Then it’s like, who cares? Nobody wants to wear that. But if the bride wanted everyone to do something because it was actually really important to her, it just makes more sense to spend money on those things. And I think people mind less. They’re like, ‘This is worth the money because it matters and she actually cares about it and it’s important.’”

Outsource if you can afford to do so.

Given the size and scale of some modern weddings, it’s no wonder couples who can afford to outsource labor to wedding planners so often do. Some brides are even hiring professional bridesmaids. Contracting this kind of help can be cost-prohibitive, but if budget allows, hiring a wedding coordinator is perhaps the most effective way to cut back on the ripple effect of wedding stress from bride to family and friends.

Take no for an answer.

Tell potential bridesmaids it’s okay to turn down the job, and mean it.

“A lot of times I feel like [the tension] comes from the need to have to say yes, because it’s just so hard to say no to your friend,” Ashley says. “It really is. So if there was this beautiful trend that made it okay to say no in a way that had no reflection on the relationship and it was just an honest glimpse into that person’s life and their boundaries…I would love for that to happen. I think those conversations are really beautiful to have, and I think we need to welcome those conversations more instead of feeling like, Oh, I’m not going to be friends with that person now. I think that’s so immature.”

After all, Ashley notes, there are so many ways a person can still be included in the wedding even if they have to bow out from bridal party duties.

“I’ve had brides invite those people to still hang out and get ready with them, even though they weren’t paying for hair and makeup—just to be in the room and enjoy a mimosa together.”

Build your own traditions.

Remember: Rules were made for breaking.

“If you don’t want to have a maid or matron of honor investment, you don’t have to,” Ashley says. “You can make the dog the best man. I’ve actually had that. I had a hawk be the ring bearer once. So you can change the roles, you can come up with your own titles, you can do whatever you want. It’s your wedding. Don’t feel like the traditions have to apply to you. Maybe you just have somebody who’s the lead bachelorette person and that’s their role because they’re a type A planner. Create things that work for your friend group and for you.”


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