Maid to measure: Natasha Mac a’Bháird shares her 10 rules for being the best bridesmaid
Honoured to be in the bride squad, but daunted by the task ahead? Here, author Natasha Mac a’Bháird shares her 10 rules for being the best bridesmaid possible
When my sister was my bridesmaid, she told me her job was to look beautiful and drink Champagne. She did both of these things with great skill, but, of course, she did quite a bit more for me too. It’s not until you’re closely involved in a wedding yourself that you realise just how important it is to have someone you trust by your side, so it was lovely to be able to return the favour when she got married.
While I was planning my own wedding I couldn’t find a book written specifically for Irish brides — so, once the wedding madness was over, I wrote one. With The Irish Bride’s Survival Guide I wanted to pass on all the tips I’d picked up along the away to other brides-to-be who were just getting started. With my new book, The Irish Bridesmaid’s Guide, I’m hoping to do the same for the bride’s right-hand woman. Being a bridesmaid is a huge honour — your friend or sister is planning the most important day of her life and she wants you to be a special part of it! But it can also be a bit daunting, knowing you might need all the skills of a party planner, social coordinator, fashion expert and personal shopper as you help the bride with the build-up to the Big Day.
So, here are 10 golden rules to get you started!
1 Make friends with the bride squad
If she’s having her sister, the groom’s sister, her best friend and her closest colleague, chances are you won’t know each other well already. A Sunday brunch or meeting for a drink on a Friday evening would be a good way to break the ice. A WhatsApp group can be a really handy way to share ideas and make arrangements. But be selective with what you share. A few dress suggestions is fine, but a constant barrage of photos might make people tune out, and then you won’t get replies to important queries.
2 Canvass for a dress you like… without treading on any toes
When it comes to the colour, you probably won’t have much say: the dress is usually the main colour of the wedding and the bride may well have planned flowers, stationery and decorations around it. Where you do have a bit more leeway is in the style of the dress. The bride might have had a strapless dress in mind, but if you hate revealing that much flesh, there’s nothing wrong with steering her in the direction of something a bit more covered up, that will still blend in with the style of her wedding. One way to have more say in the dress you wear is to get in there first with your suggestions. Sound out the bride to find out the general colour and style she has in mind, then go off and search for some ideas yourself. You’ll have saved the bride some work, and improved the chances of her choosing something you’ll love to wear. Win win!
3 When it comes to dress shopping, prepare for an expedition
Wear comfy clothes — it’s going to be a long day — but do bring heels with you so you can try them on with the dress. Put your hair up (a simple ponytail will do) to get a better idea of necklines, and don’t forget to take lots of photos. If this is a no expenses spared wedding, then take a group trip to London to check out the latest dress styles. Or save money by ordering dresses online and having a girls’ night in to try them on.
4 Mix things up
Bridesmaids come in all shapes and sizes, and what suits one may not work for the others. One way around this is to get dresses made up in the same fabric but in different styles — check out the pictures of the bridesmaids at Amy Huberman’s wedding for inspiration.
5 Know your bride!
Does the thought of falling out of a nightclub in the wee hours, veil askew and L-plates flying, sound like her perfect night out — or fill her with horror? Would she consider afternoon tea to be classy and sophisticated — or as dull as watching paint dry? Don’t get too invested in a type of celebration that’s just not her thing. If you’re finding it hard to suit everyone, why not have more than one hen party: a spa day for the mums and older relatives and a wild night out for her college mates? The bride who is splashing out might take inspiration from Pippa Middleton, who celebrated her hen by jetting off to Meribel in France for a skiing holiday. For a tighter budget, a slumber party with popcorn, hot chocolate and girlie classics like Grease or Mamma Mia! makes for a lovely hen.
6 Give the hen party a personal touch
Come up with a theme based on something the bride loves, create your own games or quizzes based on how well you know her, or simply make a photo collage of special memories from throughout her life.
7 Bridesmaids should be seen — and heard
You might have thought you were off the hook when it came to speeches — but think again. More and more brides are asking their chief bridesmaid/maid of honour to say a few words. Keep it short and sweet, and don’t feel obliged to try to copy the best man in coming up with outrageous stories from the bride’s past. Saying something simple about what a lovely person she is, how much it means to you to be a part of her special day, and how happy you are for the newlyweds is enough.
8 I’ll be there for you…
No matter how well organised your bride is, there are lots of jobs that can’t be done until close to the time: collecting dresses, making appointments, confirming details with suppliers, and the inevitable stress of trying to finalise guest numbers when some people have failed to RSVP on time. Can you take some of the stress away by helping with any of these jobs?
9 Give yourself a break
For brides, the wedding plans can become the centre of their world, but it doesn’t have to be the centre of yours too. If you’re trying to cope with a Bridezilla who expects you to drop everything to be at her beck and call, be prepared to take a step back. Make it clear that while you’re happy to help, you do have a life of your own to think about.
10 Memories are made of this
Don’t get so caught up in finding the perfect dress or hen party venue that you forget to just enjoy what is a very special time. Turn chores into occasions to celebrate as much as you can. Ten years from now, when you’re both at different stages in your lives, these are the moments you’ll look back on as the things that really matter. Perhaps book afternoon tea as a surprise for the bride after dress shopping, or for a more budget-friendly option invite her around to yours for wine and crisps and endless reruns of Say Yes to the Dress.
‘The Irish Bridesmaid’s Guide: From the Dress to the Hen to the Big Day’, by Natasha Mac a’Bháird is published by The O’Brien Press at €9.99.