One of the first tasks of any bride-to-be is to choose her bridal party. If you’ve recently started planning your wedding, or you’ve been asked to be a bridesmaid yourself, you may be wondering: what do bridesmaids do, exactly?
Bridesmaids have a very important role to play in any wedding. As well as wearing a beautiful dress, clutching a bouquet and looking pretty next to the bride in photographs, there are many additional duties. From helping plan the hen night, to supervising the flower girls and clearing up after the reception, a wedding simply wouldn’t be the same without the bride’s most important ladies.
Bear in mind that every wedding is different, and not every bride will want or ask her bridesmaids to do all of the following. But our guide will talk you through the typical roles and responsibilities that you might expect a bridesmaid to perform.
Bridesmaid Duties: Before the Wedding
Being crucial members of the wedding party, bridesmaids are expected to get involved with the wedding right from the word ‘go’. It’s their job to help plan the wedding, organise the hen night and support the bride in the lead up to her big day. Here are some of a bridesmaid’s most important pre-wedding duties.
Help with Wedding Planning
Wedding planning is a stressful business, and one that the bride and groom are likely to want help with. As a bridesmaid, it’s your job to offer your assistance throughout the planning process.
The bride may want her bridesmaids’ advice regarding details like colour schemes, catering and decorations. She may need help contacting suppliers, or collecting things from stores.
Every bride will have different preferences when it comes to help with wedding planning. If you’re the bridesmaid, ask the bride what she’d like help with, and liaise with other bridesmaids when necessary.
Go Dress Shopping
Dress shopping is one of a bridesmaid’s most important duties. You’ll need to be there when the bride chooses her bridesmaids’ dresses, so that she can make sure they’ll look good on everyone.
The dress you’ll be wearing is generally decided (and paid for) by the bride, though you should offer your opinion if the bride asks it. Your main job here is to model dresses, and make the experience fun for the bride. You’re also responsible for collecting your dress from the store and organising any alterations. You may also be asked to accompany the bride while shopping for her own dress.
Coordinate With the Other Bridesmaids
Some brides have very specific ideas regarding their bridesmaids’ shoes, accessories and jewellery. Many brides even go so far as to request matching hairstyles, nails and makeup.
But more relaxed brides may only choose the dress, and allow their bridesmaids to finish off their own outfits. If this is the case, you should liaise with the other bridesmaids and make sure your outfits coordinate and look good together. For example, make sure you’re all wearing heels of a similar height, and ensure that none of your accessories will clash in photos.
Organise the Hen Night
The bridesmaids are responsible for organising the hen night, spearheaded by the maid of honour. Traditionally, the bride doesn’t plan her own hen party, although she may give you some idea of the kind of celebration she wants.
You may be expected to help choose a venue, book the entertainment, organise or help make refreshments, and invite guests. It’s also polite for all the bridesmaids to chip in some cash, as the bride should not have to pay for her own hen party.
Attend the Wedding Rehearsal
Not every wedding will have a rehearsal - they’re typically more common across the pond in the U.S. But if the bride has indicated that there will be a rehearsal ceremony and/or dinner, the bridesmaids must attend. The purpose of a rehearsal is so that everyone can practise going down the aisle, figure out where to stand or sit for the ceremony, and get an idea of how the day will go.
Prepare for the Wedding Day
In the lead-up to the wedding, there are several things a bridesmaid can do to help the bride prepare:
1) Make an ‘emergency kit’ for the wedding day, with items such as makeup wipes, tissues, needle and thread, deodorant, etc
2) Act as an emergency go-to contact for vendors and suppliers
3) Fetch the wedding cake from the baker or flowers from the florist (if they aren’t being delivered directly to the venue)
4) Help set up the venue the day before (placing decorations, affixing chair covers, etc)
Most importantly, the bridesmaid’s job is to help keep the bride calm and looking forward to her special day.
Bridesmaid Duties on the Wedding Day
The big day is here! The day of the wedding is all about the bride and groom’s happiness, and it’s a bridesmaid’s job to help everything go smoothly. This involves supporting the bride through the whole day, from getting ready in the morning to tidying up at night. Here is a detailed list of a bridesmaid’s duties on the day of the wedding.
Get Ready with the Bride
On the morning of the wedding, the bridesmaids all get together at the bride’s house (or hotel where the bride is staying). Everyone then gets ready in a group, and travels to the venue together.
It’s traditionally the maid of honour’s job to help with the bride’s outfit, hair and makeup, but the other bridesmaids may also be asked to assist here and there - even if it’s just fetching the bride the occasional cup of tea (or glass of bubbly).
The bridesmaids may also be asked to help young bridesmaids and flower girls get ready, if they’re not getting ready at home with their parents.
Supervise Junior Bridesmaids and Flower Girls
When you arrive at the venue, the maid of honour will be busy attending to the bride’s needs. The other bridesmaids are typically expected to look after the little ones (junior bridesmaids and flower girls - the groomsmen will look after the page boy and/or ring bearer). You may have to show the children where to stand or just keep your eye on them (as children do tend to run off).
Walk Down the Aisle
Every bridesmaid’s big moment comes at the start of the ceremony, when it’s their job to walk down the aisle along with the bride.
In the U.K., the bride and her father typically enter first, with the bridesmaids following after. However, the American tradition of the bride entering last (after the bridesmaids) has recently become more popular in the U.K.
After walking down the aisle, the bridesmaids will either take a seat, or stand up front for the duration of the ceremony. The maid of honour holds onto the bride’s bouquet.
You may be asked to give a reading during the ceremony, or sign the register as a witness. If so, the bride will discuss this with you in advance.
Socialise with Guests
After the ceremony, it’s the role of the wedding party (including the bridesmaids) to socialise with the other guests, and help them feel happy and comfortable. It’s typically the job of the bridesmaids and groomsmen to help everyone find their seat at the wedding breakfast, and lead the dancing during the reception (after the bride and groom have had their first dance).
Support the Bride
Throughout the wedding day, the bridesmaids’ most important duty is to support the bride and be there for her when she needs help. For example, you may need to assist the bride in going to the toilet if she has a large or unwieldy dress (or one with a long train).
If any emergencies or unforeseen situations example - e.g. a mixup with the seating plan, a ripped pair of tights, an argument between guests - the bridesmaids and the maid of honour should be the first ones to jump into action and save the day.
The bridesmaids should also keep an eye on the bride to make sure she’s eating, staying hydrated and taking opportunities to rest if she feels tired.
Assist with Clean-Up
At the end of the night, when the party is over and most of the guests have gone home, the wedding party should assist the bride and groom in clearing up. Though the venue will have cleaners whose job it is to mop the floors and so on, you may need to assist with taking down decorations and general tidying.
If the bride and groom are going on their honeymoon straight away, the bridesmaids may also be asked to take the wedding gifts home and store them until their return. If anything has been hired - e.g. tablecloths and chair covers - the bridesmaids can also help with returning these items to the suppliers.
The role of bridesmaid is an important one and involves a lot of responsibility. So if you’re the bride, don’t forget to buy your bridesmaids a thank-you gift, as appreciation for their hard work.