Your Essential Guide to Bridesmaid Etiquette

Tips and tricks on how to be the perfect member of the bridal party.

We’ve put together a simple list of dos and don’ts for you to follow to ensure you're the best bridesmaid on the day of and leading up to the wedding!

real wedding photo malibu rocky oaks malibu california sterling engagements planner bride with bridesmaids in very mismatched dresses jewel tones
Photo: Callaway Gable

Being asked to stand as someone’s bridesmaid is an honor, but as many women know, after the fun of receiving a bridesmaid proposal box it can also be a bit of a hassle with a lot of responsibilities leading up to the wedding day. However, once you accept the duty of being in the wedding party, you want to make sure you’re a good bridesmaid and don't become a part of one of those horror stories where the bridesmaid never speaks to the bride again.

As wedding etiquette rules relax more in modern times, it can be difficult to know what actually is considered proper as a bridesmaid. We know the old-fashioned etiquette books and common sense don’t always line up, and it can be hard to find a more practical guide for how to go about life as a bridesmaid. That’s why we’ve put together a simple list of dos and don’ts for you to follow. 

Attend the Pre-Wedding Event(s)

Do attend at least one of the pre-wedding functions, unless you live halfway across the globe. If you’re the only bridesmaid from out of town, everyone will understand if you can’t make the engagement party, bridal shower, and bachelorette party. However, if you live in town, it will look bad if you’re absent at all three or most of these events. Within the means of your schedule, try to be there for the bride whenever you can.

Pitch In for the Bachelorette Party

Don’t make the bride pay for the bachelorette party. As the event is being thrown for her, it is generally expected that the bridesmaids will split the cost of her share. Should this cause a financial hardship, reach out to the maid of honor or whoever is planning the bachelorette party and see if something can be worked out so you can contribute in another way.

Expect to Purchase a Bridesmaid Dress

Do expect to pay for your attire, even if the bridesmaid dress chosen is unflattering. While some brides have the means to generously purchase the dresses for their bridesmaids, in the United States it is customary for the wedding party to foot the bill for their ensembles.

Be On Time!

Don’t be late to any part of the wedding; whether it’s the rehearsal, the time spent getting ready with everyone, or certainly the actual wedding ceremony! As a bridesmaid, it's important to set a good example for the other guests too!

Lend a Helping Hand

Do listen to the bride when she needs to vent. You were presumably selected to stand beside her because you two are close friends, and that is what friends are for. This is especially true during the stress of wedding planning, when the bride may be dealing with unresponsive vendors, a controlling mother-in-law, and other pressures. Be there for her and lend a helping hand however you can.

Avoid Drama

Don’t fight with the other bridesmaids, even if you think their behavior is not up to snuff. It’s best to take the high road and handle the situation as diplomatically as possible. You don't want your reaction to something to stress out the bride more than she likely already is.

Have Fun!

Do dance all night at the reception. Bridesmaids are the unofficial party starters, and getting on the dance floor will encourage guests to let loose and have fun. You don’t want the bride to worry that no one is enjoying themselves, right? Lead the other guests to spend time on the dance floor by example!

Be Responsible

Don’t drink too much. After all of your major bridesmaid duties are over, it’s understandable to feel you’ve earned a couple trips to the open bar. However, you don’t want to overindulge and risk embarrassing yourself or the bride. There is a wedding photographer there, after all.

For more ideas, discover what to expect from bridesmaids and how to keep them happy, see if it's ever acceptable to drop a bridesmaid, and learn how to handle disagreements between bridesmaids who don't get along. Get ideas for chic bridesmaid dresses from real wedding pictures in our photo galleries

Opening photo by Callaway Gable; Planning & Design by Sterling Engagements; From Real Wedding: A Romantic Destination Wedding at a Vineyard Estate in Malibu