A friend of ours, who had recently been asked to be the Best Man in his brother's wedding, came over for dinner last night, and was asking us what, exactly, that responsibility entailed. I am sure a lot of you will be in weddings this summer, so here's my advice, spoken from the perspective of both a veteran bridesmaid and a recent(ish) bride.
So you've recently been asked to be a member of someone's wedding party. That's where you made your mistake- you were too good of a friend to someone, and this is your punishment. It's obviously an honor to be asked to be in a friend's wedding, but it is also a big responsibility- physically, financially and emotionally. Your jobs, while simple, extend beyond wearing an ugly dress or tux and holding your friend's hair/car keys at the bachelor/bachelorette party (although those things are certainly required, as well).
Technically, the responsibilities are as follows:
Maid of Honor: plan the bachelorette party and collaborate on the shower, give a toast at the wedding or rehearsal dinner, help the bride choose bridal party attire, serve as a liason between the bride and the rest of the bridal party (answer questions and deal with logistics, etc), help the bride get ready and stay calm on the wedding day.
Best Man: plan the bachelor party, give a toast at the wedding, help the groom choose groomsman attire, serve as a liason between the groom and the rest of the groomsmen (answer questions and deal with logistics, etc), help the groom get ready and stay calm on the wedding day.
Bridesmaids/Groomsmen: Help Maid of Honor and Best Man deal with all of these responsibilites.
But there are other, some might say more important, considerations, which come down entirely to your attitude. Here's a list of the things you should remember to do in order to be the best Best Man, the most honorable Maid of Honor, or the savviest bridesmaid or groomsman you can be.
1. Show Up
This sounds obvious, but the biggest responsibility of the wedding party is to make the bride and groom feel special and happy and unstressed and to help them have fun. And in order to do that you have to be present. That means you should plan on attending the shower, the engagement party, the bachelor/bachelorette party, the rehearsal, the rehearsal dinner and the wedding, and that you should also try to be available for envelope-stuffing and making favors and dress fittings, if they ask you (or, if you want extra credit, you can offer). And be on time for all of it. Seriously. If you live far away and simply can't make it to all the auxiliary parties, you should at least pretend to try to make it and apologize a lot (and you should still send a gift to the shower, bridesmaids).
2. Listen Up
Planning a wedding is stressful- dealing with different tastes, merging two families, and dealing with the delicate business of budget can be overwhelming. Chances are, your friend is going to need to vent to someone other than their fiancé(e). Sorry, but you're that person. So whether your friend wants to regale you with the difficulties of finding the perfect ribbon, or is just desperate to talk about something- anything- other than the wedding, try to be a pal and listen. As a bonus, they may honestly ask your opinion about things, allowing you to gently suggest the less expensive hotel, or the less hideous cummerbund. But if they don't ask, don't tell. That brings me to...
3. Shut Up
Look, unless all of your friends are from Stepford, it's not likely that five women are all going to love wearing the same dress. Sure, it stings to shell out $200 for a dress that normally someone couldn't pay you to wear, but that's part of the deal you made with the devil...oops, I mean, the bride. Don't complain about it unless she genuinely seeks your input. And even then, tread very softly. Also, try to keep your feelings about what you are paying to be in the wedding to yourself. Unless the couple is really out of control with what they are asking (bachelor party in Monaco, anyone?) and you truly feel an intervention is necessary, zip it. Don't drop snarky hints, no matter how tempting.
4. Party Down...
During the wedding festivities, try to be an active and fun participant in everything. Pay attention during the rehearsal, have a good attitude during the hair/make-up part of the morning, be available to take the groom to a fun, casual lunch if he needs a break on the day of the wedding. At the reception, smile and mingle, chat with the people at your table. If asked, deliver a toast (it doesn't have to be perfect- enthusiasm goes a long way), and pay attention during other people's toasts. Ask the bride's nephew or the groom's great-aunt to dance, if it seems like they might like to.
5...But Not Too Much
Really, really, try to limit the amount you drink at the wedding events. Lord knows that open bars are tempting, and feel free to have a few drinks (it's a celebration!) but stop before you start losing control. Do you really want to be remembered as the groomsman who was wearing the tie on his head? Remember, people take a lot of pictures at weddings. Also, limit yourself even further at the Rehearsal Dinner, and resist the urge to drink a lot and stay out late. The wedding day is a big, full day, with a lot to deal with for the wedding party. In order to be the best friend you can be (not to mention, to hold your head high in that ridiculous outfit), you are much much better off without a hangover. Chalk that one up to personal experience.
If you do all these things, you will be admired and beloved by your friends, who will feel so grateful and indebted to you that they will never ask you for anything again.
Until they have a baby.
photo credit: Elizabeth Anne Designs
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