Remember in Bridesmaids when Kristen Wiig’s character Annie forgot to make an appointment at the bridal shop, got kicked off the flight to Vegas, and then destroyed the giant cookie at Lilian’s shower? How could you forget, right? She basically committed every single etiquette faux pas in the book — and while none of it was intentional or malicious (even though Helen totally deserved it, tbh), her actions *did* almost ruin the wedding. So basically, don’t be Annie.
Whether you’re the maid of honor or a bridesmaid, there are a few simple rules you need to follow to make sure things go as smoothly as possible. I chatted with etiquette expert Elaine Swann who broke it down based on some of the biggest mistakes she’s seen during her career. Believe it or not, preventing a wedding disaster is much easier than you think.
Rules for the Maid of Honor
1. Host at least one major event (and pick up the tab)
The maid of honor is not only responsible for helping the bride in the actual planning of the wedding, but also for hosting at least one major gathering or event leading up to the big day — and that includes handling the financial responsibility of that event. “Whether it be the bachelorette party of helping the bride plan the bridal shower, it is customary for the maid of honor to host it or assist in hosting it,” Swann explained.
So you might want to think twice before suggesting a week-long trip to Vegas since you and the bridesmaids will be picking up the tab!
2. Put the bride’s needs first
On the actual wedding day, it’s important for the maid of honor to think about her role in the most literal sense. “She’s literally her maid in waiting,” says Swann. “That means helping her with everything from her dress to her bustle to her flowers to her veil, making sure any gifts or cards that are brought to the ceremony get to the right person or place.” You should also make yourself available at some point after the wedding to help the bride open and organize her gifts by recipient so she can get her thank-you cards finished on time.
None of this means that you can’t take advantage of the photo booth or the ice luge at the wedding — just remember, it’s the bride’s day, not yours.
3. Keep your toast PG
As the maid of honor, you’ll be asked to make a toast — just make sure to keep it PG and leave the dirty laundry at home. That means no raunchy jokes, no stories from your wild days, and absolutely no talk of ex-boyfriends! “Leave all the frogs in the pond,” says Swann.
Rules for the Bridesmaids
1. Don’t commit unless you’re 100 percent sure
While it’s the bride’s responsibility to set the budget and be upfront about the time commitment, it’s also your responsibility to ask questions and make sure you’re 100 percent sure before saying yes. “I advise every bridesmaid to get clarity on exactly what’s expected of them financially and their duties as far as the wedding is concerned. Get that information first before you accept the invitation,” cautions Swann.
If you can’t afford the financial or time commitment, don’t feel bad. Just be honest. According to Swann, one of the biggest faux pas you can make is telling the bride “yes” and then pulling out at the last minute. The bride might be willing to accommodate your needs or help spot you the money — but if she can’t, try not to be offended. Instead, ask if there are other ways you can help contribute to the wedding so you can still play an important and memorable role in the bride’s big day.
2. Be present
While the role of the bridesmaid isn’t quite as involved as that of the maid of honor, you will still be expected to contribute in a variety of ways. “If you live nearby, plan on attending all of the functions, including the bridal shower, bachelorette party, and so on,” says Swann. “And be prepared to spend some time doing whatever the bride needs help with, including everything from tying ribbons around favors to setting up the flowers the day of the wedding.”
Simply put, you need to be present, both physically and emotionally, throughout the bride’s journey to the altar.
3. Get the party started!
The ceremony is over, but your job as a bridesmaid has only just begun. “At the reception, the bridesmaids and groomsmen should be available and ready to help get the party started,” says Swann. “A lot of times when it’s time to start dancing, people don’t rush to the floor right away — so the bridesmaids should go grab their partner and get it going. They need to be the first ones on the dance floor!”
And yep, that includes dancing along to Wilson Phillips.