Being asked to be a bridesmaid is a huge honor. Though at times it can feel like you agreed to an (ahem) unpaid second job, it’s one of the best ways you can support your friend, and can be a lot of fun. But being a modern bridesmaid isn’t what it used to be, and when your friend’s special day is a destination wedding, the rules of the game change completely.
The destination wedding trend has bridesmaids all over the nation pausing to ask “Am I supposed to pay for that?” when it comes to lodging, airfare, and the bachelorette party. Responsibilities that used to be cut and dry as far as finances go (outlined in Emily Post’s etiquette guides) have progressively changed — especially if the wedding is far from home.
So if you are about to embark on the bridesmaid train, here are some Dos and Don’ts before the couple says their I-dos to make life a little easier for you, the bride and groom, and everyone else involved.
Don’t avoid discussing expectations with the bride before you say yes to being her bridesmaid
If the couple decides to have their wedding in a yurt in Wales, great! But make sure you discuss what she expects you to pay for before you agree to be her bridesmaid. It’s traditional for the bride to cover the cost of lodging for out-of-town attendants, but when the wedding is in an overseas location, etiquette rules change, and often the guests are responsible for their own lodging. Regardless, it helps to have these conversations ahead of time.
According to tradition, the bride and her family often cover lodging for the bridesmaids, and the groom or his family do the same for the groomsmen. However, not everyone follows tradition. You have to discuss this in advance!
Do ask the bride if she would prefer to have her bachelorette party at home, or at the new destination
Because not everyone may be able to make it to the destination wedding, the bride may prefer that you throw her party at home where more friends are able to attend. But if she wants to salsa dance and drink margaritas before her destination wedding in Mexico, it’s your responsibility to make that happen for her. Discussing her expectations can prevent you both from feeling disappointed.
Don’t hesitate to speak up if the bachelorette party will be difficult for you to attend
If you’re both living in different places and she doesn’t want to have it right before the wedding, this could pose a problem. For example, if she’s in New York and you’re in San Francisco, don’t feel like you have to fly to New York for the bachelorette and to Hawaii for the destination wedding. Your presence at the wedding is sufficient, unless you really want to do both. And Glamour magazine reminds new moms, “… a rowdy bachelorette party isn’t mandatory for bridesmaids who are pregnant or brand-new moms. (“Brand-new” meaning they have a newborn at home. Put on your dancing shoes—at least for a few hours—if your kid is older than, say, six months.)”
Do discuss formal wear and hair and makeup expectations before wedding plans are too far underway
While the bride is allowed to choose what the bridesmaids will wear as part of her big day, the bridesmaids are traditionally responsible for paying for the formal wear and accessories. But with a destination wedding, hair and makeup are up in the air.
In the past, the bridesmaids would do their own hair and makeup, meeting up with the bride later to help her get ready.
But with professional photography and Pinterest and Instagram so central to the big day, more brides want their bridesmaids’ hair and makeup to be professionally done.
Since you’re going to be in a new place, and are already burdened with the flight and possibly lodging expenses, her desire for you to do your hair and makeup professionally should be presented as an option and not a requirement. If the bride does require it of her attendants, she should pick up the tab.
Don’t complain after you know the expectations
Don’t grumble to the bride about the expense of lodging, airfare, formalwear, the bachelorette party, etc. especially if you’ve already discussed expectations ahead of time. After you discuss expectations, if they seem out of your budget, let the bride know politely and in a timely manner that you are unable to fulfill the duties of a bridesmaid, but be sure to tell her how honored you are that she asked you to participate. But if you agreed to the duties and were told what was expected of you up front, put on a happy face. Complaining can stunt the happiness the bride feels having you there.
And above all … Do have fun!
Throw an epic bachelorette party. Be the first to start the dancing at the reception. Save in advance so you can celebrate stress-free with the couple in the destination of their choice. Honor the friendship you’ve built and make memories that will last a lifetime. After all, the bride asked you to be a big part of the most important day of her life.
Do you have a bridesmaid experience or any tips you want to share with us? Let us know in the comments below!