A Public Service Checklist for a First-Time Bridesmaid

Learn from my mistakes, and be calmer, more graceful, and better prepared than I ever was.
Publish date:
November 2, 2013
money, weddings, bridesmaids

About a year ago, my very dear friend asked me to be in her wedding. Wide-eyed young thing that I was, I agreed. Now that the wedding is over, I can openly admit it: I was a terrible bridesmaid. Terrible! I had no fucking clue what I was doing.

Of course, I made many feverish calls to my mother.

She spoke with reassuring certainty, and I followed her directions. After about a month, I realized that she was using the same reassuring certainty she used to use when telling me things like, “Of course your tie-dye shirt is acceptable School Photo Day!” or “Boys are just intimidated by how smart and pretty you are.” I soon learned to ditch her advice.

Learn from my mistakes, and be calmer, more graceful, and better prepared than I ever was.

Don’t Be That Girl

There is going to be one bridesmaid who wants so badly to be the favorite that she will try to remind you just why she is the favorite and that you are nothing but a bridge troll. Or there will be one bridesmaid you have to drag out of a bathroom stall at the bachelorette party by her hair, because her relationship with Jack Daniels turned messy. Or there will be one bridesmaid who bores you to tears.

Quick spot-check: Make sure you are not any of these women. If you are, stop it! You bridespeople are a team, and this is no time for upstaging and/or boring anybody.

The Bachelorette Party? Oh Hey, That’s You!

Did you know you have to organize a bachelorette party? You do! What you decide to do is up to you, but here are a couple of tips:

1) No dinner theater (especially not with the words “Awesome,” “80s,” or “Prom” in the title).

2) Keep karaoke to one hour, max.

3) Drinking will keep the awkward conversations flowing!

4) Activities are a great idea, especially if the members of the bridal party don’t know each other well. Hire a chef for a private cooking class or rent out a bar for a cocktail-making lesson; learn crochet; go LARPing. Whatever floats the bride’s boat, and preferably also your boat. Doing something engaging first will give you all plenty to talk about over dinner later.

5) If you invest in a tiara, sashes, light-up antennas, or bunny ears, be warned that everyone in the room will hate you and 110 percent of the skeezeballs will try to fuck you.


Are shower gifts and wedding gifts the same thing? If you bring a gift to the wedding shower, do you have to bring one to the wedding?

I didn’t know, so I called my mom. “Nah, they’re the same thing,” she reassured me (have you considered tie-dye?) “You can either bring the gift to the shower, or to the wedding, but it doesn’t matter which.” I thanked her and hung up. Five minutes later, she texted me. “I googled it and I was wrong. Bring a present to the shower!”

If you can’t trust a Southern woman to handle etiquette, who can you trust? I just don’t know. Pro-tip: Anything to bring to the shower will be opened in front of all of the shower attendees. Make that present the good one! The other one can just be a brick wrapped in tissue paper, for all it matters.

The Wedding Shower

This party will almost definitely be weird for everyone with a frontal lobe. It is a mixture of parents, friends, friends’ parents, next-door neighbors, and women whose hairstyles haven’t changed since the 1980s. It may be helpful to remind yourself at regular intervals that the bride is the jam and singlehandedly got you through high school.

If you are organizing the shower, here are a few tips:

1. If you must play shower games, try to keep your dignity intact. Stay away from anything with a pun in the name (“The Nearlywed Game!”) or “Pin the whatever on the anything.” A piñata or a rousing game of Flip-Cup are both recommended. You know, for dignity.

2. Keep a clear start and end time specifically for attendees who may be traveling a great distance or have pressing commitments. Otherwise, they will feel awkward ducking out after four hours.

3. Any variation on the statement “Girls rule; boys drool!” should be avoided. This includes a novelty “husband” doll that says things like, “I will never ask for directions! I don’t know how to cook!” or an apron that says, “Men have no idea where the clitoris is—amirite, ladies?” If men were such cottonheads, 75 percent of the room wouldn’t be married to or dating them. Now shut up and drink your flirtini.

4. Your energy is best spent in facilitating conversation and reminding everyone why your love for the bride brought you together. Don’t worry too much about themes, guacamole, or shaped ice cubes. Unless they are penis-shaped ice cubes. I’d definitely worry about those.

The Rehearsal Dinner

If you give a speech, keep it simple, short, and heartfelt. Pro Tip: any use of words like “divorce,” “Bridezilla,” or “God is dead” will suck the air out of the room, regardless of context. (“If these two get divorced, it’ll be because God died! Champagne for all!”)


Try not to look stupid in the pictures. Godspeed.

The Wedding Reception

If you want your presence to the The Gift that Keeps on Giving, play hostess at the reception. Chat with strangers, help strangers chat with other strangers, and flail with conviction on the dance floor. Invite others to join in your fun, whether or not you know them; at a wedding, joy is an easy chain reaction to start. Make your motto “Leave No Man Behind,” and keep it subtle. When done correctly, the bride will have no idea you did anything at all.