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 upfront 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.