Being a bridesmaid means agreeing to a fairly long list of responsibilities. As a part of the Bride Tribe, a bridesmaid is expected to plan and attend all pre-wedding parties, help out with aspects of the wedding planning as needed, and be present and available to the bride on the wedding weekend. We've divided the list of bridesmaid duties into tasks that occur before the wedding and then actually on the big day. Every friend, sibling, or relative who's asked to be a bridesmaid should have no trouble fulfilling her role if she follows these guidelines.
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Table of Contents
- 1 A Bit Of Background
- 2 Bridesmaid Duties: Before the Wedding
- 2.1 Be there for the bride
- 2.2 Be there for the maid of honour
- 2.3 Be positive and offer to help with planning (within reason)
- 2.4 Find and book travel/hotel accommodations for you (and your plus-one)
- 2.5 Buy your bridesmaid dress, shoes, and accessories on time
- 2.6 Go wedding dress shopping with the bride-to-be
- 2.7 Help plan and organize the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner
- 2.8 Chip in for the parties if you can
- 2.9 Attend pre-wedding events
- 2.10 Buy a wedding gift
- 3 Wedding Day Bridesmaid Duties
- 4 Bridesmaid Duties: Ceremony
- 5 Bridesmaid Duties: Reception
- 6 FAQs About Bridesmaid
- 7 What is the etiquette for bridesmaids?
- 8 Why can't a married woman be a bridesmaid?
- 9 Why do brides carry a bouquet of flowers?
- 10 What are the three things a bride needs?
A Bit Of Background
The history of the bridesmaid varies across cultures, religions and periods. In early Roman times, bridesmaids formed a kind of bridal troop. As a troop, they marched alongside to accompany the bride to the groom's village. This 'protective shield' of similarly outfitted bridesmaids was supposed to intervene if any vengeful suitors tried to steal her dowry.
However, the Western bridesmaid tradition seems to have originated from the later Roman law. This law required ten witnesses at a wedding in order to outsmart evil spirits believed to attend marriage ceremonies. The bridesmaids and ushers would dress in identical clothing to the bride and groom so that the evil spirits wouldn't know which couple was which.
Even as late as 19th century England, the belief that ill-wishers could administer curses and taint the marriage still existed. In Victorian wedding photographs, for example, it can take quite a bit of inspection to pick out the bride and groom!
Suppose you've been asked to be a bridesmaid, congrats! It's a huge honour to be invited to stand with a loved one on their wedding day. But you might also be asking yourself — what bridesmaid duties am I responsible for, exactly? What are a bridesmaid's responsibilities for before, during and even after the wedding day? Well, you're right about one thing — standing at the altar with a smile on her face is not a bridesmaid's only job. Bridesmaid duties include being there for the bride (within reason) during the wedding planning process, the bachelorette party, bridal shower (and other pre-wedding celebrations), the ceremony, and reception. While that sounds like a lot, don't worry — we've got the bridesmaid duties checklist you need. (Oh and maids of honour, here's a special Maid of Honor Duties Checklist just for you.)
Bridesmaid Duties: Before the Wedding
Be there for the bride
We all know planning a wedding can be stressful, so a big bridesmaid responsibility is simply lending a helping hand or attentive ear to the bride when she needs it. She might need a bit of planning assistance — or just a good vent sesh.
Be there for the maid of honour
Some people might not be aware of everything that the maid of honour is supposed to do for the bride and wedding. It's a lot — big things like planning the bachelorette party and smaller details like holding the bride's bouquet at the wedding. A major item on the bridesmaid duties checklist is offering to provide help to the maid of honour if she ever needs it.
Be positive and offer to help with planning (within reason)
It's not your wedding, so we understand if you don't want to get into the nitty-gritty of the planning process, but that doesn't mean you can't help the engaged couples search for wedding vendors or with other planning-related tasks. Just try not to let helping the bride plan her wedding take over your life.
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Find and book travel/hotel accommodations for you (and your plus-one)
For destination weddings, the couple will usually provide a hotel room block for guests, just make sure you make travel reservations as far in advance as you can manage.
Buy your bridesmaid dress, shoes, and accessories on time
A big thing on the list of bridesmaid duties is just simply being on top of it — especially when it comes to your attire. While there are a number of reasons why you shouldn't wait until the last minute to order your bridesmaid dress, shoes, and accessories, the biggest is that if you do, it probably won't all arrive in time. An upset like this will not only stress you out but also the bride and other members of the wedding party. Avoid the drama (and the potential that you'll stick out like a sore thumb in the photos), by ordering your bridesmaid dress.
Go wedding dress shopping with the bride-to-be
Wedding dress shopping is a unique experience for every bride, and the number of people in the entourage will likely differ from bride to bride. If you're asked to join, it's important to follow a few etiquette rules while shopping — and, while you're at it, study up on the latest wedding dress trends, so you're an informed audience.
Help plan and organize the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and rehearsal dinner
While planning most of the pre-wedding events falls onto the maid of honour, keeping track of details can be incredibly overwhelming, so add "offering event planning assistance" to your list of bridesmaid duties. For example, if you're helping to plan a destination bachelorette party, volunteer to coordinate flights and hotels for other members of the bridal party.
Chip in for the parties if you can
While you shouldn't have to shoulder the costs completely on your own, consider splitting the cost of the pre-wedding activities among the bridal party.
Attend pre-wedding events
One of the best items on the bridesmaid duties list is celebrating with the bride-to-be. So try to be available to participate in the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and especially rehearsal dinner.
Buy a wedding gift
It's a proper wedding etiquette for guests to buy the couple a wedding gift. With all the other details of being a bridesmaid, try not to let this fall by the wayside. Head over to their wedding registry and pick a gift you think they'll love.
Wedding Day Bridesmaid Duties
On the big day, bridesmaids help ensure everything goes smoothly for the bride, her maid of honour, and the majority of the wedding guests. Here's how:
Get Ready With the Bride
Bridesmaids should plan on showing up at the designated getting-ready location on time, with all of their gear (bridesmaid attire, shoes, jewellery, makeup, undergarments, etc.) in hand. Besides getting themselves aisle-ready, the bridesmaids should do whatever they can to assist the bride during this time, such as:
- Keeping her smiling, laughing, calm, and collected
- Answering any incoming texts, calls, or logistical questions for her
- Making sure she eats something and stays hydrated
- Pouring celebratory bubbly for everyone to enjoy
- Keeping hair and/or makeup appointments on track
- Helping her into her dress
- Assisting her with her shoes, jewellery, or veil
To learn more check out our post on What can brides/bridesmaids carry besides flowers?
Assist the MOH
The maid of honour has a pretty big job on the wedding day. Bridesmaids should serve as her right-hand ladies, helping out with whatever tasks are needed—whether that's making a last-minute run to the drugstore, coordinating with the photographer or wedding planner, or providing (and keeping track of) a wedding day emergency kit.
Provide Getting-Ready Snacks
If no other arrangements have been made for getting-ready sips and snacks, the bridesmaids should take it upon themselves to provide these treats. Everyone—from the bride to her mother to even the photographer and beauty stylists—will appreciate the gesture and benefit from some food and drink throughout the busy day.
Be the "Bride Tribe"
Bridesmaids should embody the concept of being the support crew for the bride and the maid of honour in all ways during the big day. They can also serve as a point of contact for guests and vendors when it's helpful. Here are some tasks the bridesmaids can cover to be of service:
Double-check that all members of the wedding party and any special family members have their flowers (bouquets, boutonnieres, corsages, flower crowns, or toss petals). Assist with pinning on boutonnieres or other floral accessories as needed.
Help guests navigate the venue, such as directing them to parking areas, bathrooms, handicap access, exits, and if applicable, the bar or refreshments station.
Standing near the gift table, guest book, or wedding favours helping direct and facilitate guests' participation.
Participate in the Ceremony
Bridesmaids should be in place at the ceremony venue on time, (most likely hidden out of sight), and ready for their cues to process down the aisle. Keep chatter to a minimum and be respectful of the planner, officiant, or whoever is running the show. During the actual ceremony, be sure to hit your rehearsed mark, fulfil any other roles you've been assigned during the actual service, and then process out of the ceremony according to plan.
If the wedding party didn't pose for photographs with the happy couple before the ceremony, typically these group photos occur right after the ceremony at the beginning of the cocktail hour. Rather than dispersing into the crowd, bridesmaids should stick together and be ready to follow the photographer's commands—gathering stray folks for these shots can be tiresome, not to mention steal precious minutes away from the couple's ability to enjoy their cocktail hour.
Be Model Guests (and the Life of The Party)
Bridesmaids should mingle and chat with other guests, enjoy the food and drinks offered, sit down at their dinner table when asked, participate in guest-related activities like signing the guestbook or visiting the photo booth, listen to, applaud, and/or give any speeches (that have been pre-arranged), witness the special dances, and boogie down (tastefully) when it's dance floor time.
Maintain a Stress-Free Send-off
Finally, bridesmaids should help the maid of honour, coordinator, or the couple's parents assemble any items then need to be transported out of the reception venue at the end of the night. These packable might include:
- Any getting-ready clothing or gear
- Extra/unused ceremony programs, favours, or sparklers
- Leftover alcohol
- Any decor or signage that was personally provided (not rented)
- The bride and/or bridesmaids' bouquets
- Wedding cards and gifts
- The guest book
- Special toasting flutes, cake servers, or cake plate
- A basket of late-night leftovers (packaged by the caterer)
- The top tier of the wedding cake
- A few slices of late-night wedding cake (packaged by the caterer)
- The bride and/or groom's wedding attire, if they've changed into getaway clothes
In addition to making sure the above items leave the venue in the right vehicle(s), bridesmaids can lend a hand with these final logistical tasks:
- Make sure all guests make it onto the right shuttle buses, find their cars, or otherwise make it safely out of the venue.
- Hand out pre-addressed tip envelopes to the vendors.
- Make sure the bride and/or groom's overnight bags make it to their wedding night hotel room.
- Organize guests to the after-party if there is one.
Bridesmaid Duties: Ceremony
Know your cue
It's time for the couple to say "I do". To keep the whole thing from having any hiccups, know when you're supposed to walk down the aisle and where you're supposed to stand. These details should be discussed and practised during the wedding rehearsal.
Mind the kids
If the couple is including children in their wedding, you might need to keep an eye on the little guys and gals before walking down the aisle. Kids aren't always the best at sitting still and being quiet for long periods of time, so don't be afraid to use bribery.
Stand with the bride at the altar
Even if you weren't super-involved in the pre-wedding activities or planning, the real reason you were asked to be a bridesmaid was to stand by the bride's side. Stand up straight, hold your bouquet low, and smile (but don't be afraid to get emotional!).
Bridesmaid Duties: Reception
Mix and mingle with guests
The newlyweds may not immediately make their appearance at the reception, in which case it falls on the wedding party members to make sure the guests are entertained. Introduce friends and family members of the couple who may not have met before the wedding.
Dance your heart out
Once the couple performs the first dance, it'll be time for guests to join in the fun. A major bridesmaid duty is to lead by example. Grab your plus one or a few friends and head to the dance floor. If the wedding party looks like they're having a blast, other guests will soon follow.
Make sure the couple eats
Just like getting ready, the reception can be a bit chaotic. With the couple greeting and thanking all their guests for attending, they might forget to have anything to eat. If the couple isn't having a formal seated dinner, it's the bridesmaids' responsibility to make up a plate or two and have them sit away from all the commotion to enjoy their meal.
Help maid of honour pay/tip vendors
At the end of the night, vendors will need to be paid and tipped. If there isn't a wedding planner, this task may fall on the maid of honour. It can take quite a few vendors to make a wedding happen, so try and lend a hand to speed up the process.
Help send off the newlyweds
Your final bridesmaid duty is to send the newlyweds on their merry way at the end of the night. Whether they're going home or straight to their honeymoon, give them a send-off they won't soon forget!
Be on Hand at the Wedding
Duh. It's likely you'll have to run some last-minute errands on the day of the wedding, including confirming flower delivery times, meeting and greeting the ceremony officiant, and grabbing food to make sure your bride isn't hungry. Additionally, you'll probably have to serve as auxiliary hostess at the reception by introducing guests, making sure they know where the bar is located and inviting them to sign the guest book. You'll probably have to hold the train and bustle the gown before dancing begins too (and accompany her on visits to the restroom, if asked).
Go All-in on an Epic Wedding Present
Team up with one or several of the other bridesmaids for more buying power. In some cases, the entire bridesmaid troop will pitch in for one knock-her-socks-off wedding gift.
Be the Life of the Party
Of course, you have a job to do, but most importantly, your bride wants you to enjoy yourself (and help her guests do so too). So hit the dance floor when the music kicks in, dance with groomsmen during the formal first-dance sequence and be on the lookout for toe-tapping guests who might need some encouragement or a dance partner.
The duties of a bridesmaid can vary from wedding to wedding. They depend on many details, including the size, style and location of the event. Brides should be mindful of each bridesmaid's situation, and also consider the budget. Bridesmaids need to be supportive of the bride, and since that might mean something different to everyone, I'll put it this way: treat the bride the way you would want to be treated if you were the bride instead.
And no one wants a sourpuss that hates every dress option available.
What are your thoughts on the subject? Are you currently a bridesmaid and getting overwhelmed with responsibility? Share in the comments below what your duties are and what you think they should be!
FAQs About Bridesmaid
She may be asked to help the bride dress, hold her flowers during the ceremony, assist her with her veil during the ceremony, or arrange her train once she is at the altar. Most maids or matrons-of-honor are also asked to serve as a witness by signing the marriage license and holding the groom's wedding band.
There's no reason you can't ask a married friend to be a maid. You can refer to her as a bridesmaid in your programs, and everywhere else too -- no need for a bridesmatron title. Think of it this way: Being a bridesmaid is more like being a "Ms." than a "Miss."
The tradition is based on an Old English rhyme that dates back to 19th-century Lancashire. It describes the items a bride should have on her wedding day: "something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue, a sixpence in your shoe."