How to Have Bridesmaids (and Keep Them As Friends)

Consider an unpopular opinion on bridesmaids, and find out how to keep them happy.

Wedding planner David Pressman of David Pressman Events shares why he doesn't think you should have bridesmaids at your wedding – and if you decide to have bridesmaids, how to keep them happy!

bride with bridesmaids in fuchsia maroon bridesmaid dresses david pressman events bridesmaid advice
Photo: Next Exit Photography

One of my guiding principles as a wedding planner is to make sure that my clients can tell me anything, and with hundreds of decisions ahead, things can get overwhelming at times. If there’s anything about your wedding that keeps you tossing and turning instead of dreaming, that’s something I should know, so we can tackle it together. One topic, however, only gets attention after it’s too late... Bridesmaids.

Spoiler alert before you read any further: this might be unpopular advice, but I offer it with the best intentions. My recommendation: Please don’t ask your best friends to be your bridesmaids. 

bridesmaids in light blue short robes for getting ready david pressman events bridesmaid advice

Photo by Laurie Bailey Photography; Planning & Design by David Pressman Events

If you have been a bridesmaid – and my guess is that you have, maybe several times before your own wedding – take a moment to remember what the experience was like. You probably didn’t want to do anything to disappoint the bride; you might have worried about how you would get along with that friend of the bride you never got along with but is also a bridesmaid… Maybe you were a little irritated taking time off work to try on – and pay for altering – a dress you’ve never worn again. And you no doubt thought about the investment, especially if you were a bridesmaid three or four times in the same year. 

I’m not saying there’s a price tag on friendship, but I am suggesting that the actual costs of being a bridesmaid go far beyond the money spent. I’m also not saying don’t follow your heart. If you want bridesmaids, have them. My only advice is to be gentle, considerate, and not assume everyone can do everything you want them to do, when and where you want them to do it. 

Should you choose to have your friends be your bridesmaids, refer to this advice:

  • If there is a pre-wedding getaway, remember that not everyone can afford the flights, hotel rooms, meals, drinks, or all the activities you’re dreaming up, so maybe ditch Los Cabos for somewhere closer, and don’t make it a big deal (before, during, or after the trip) if anyone can’t attend. 

    Ensure the hotel has plenty of rooms that can be shared wherever you go. If the trip requires flights, do some research first so you can plan around less-expensive flights and dates when the hotel rates aren’t peak. Don’t ask your friends to buy specific clothes for a themed event; in fact, skip themed events entirely. And once everyone is together, pick up the tab for the most expensive event you’re planning as a thank you to everyone who went out of their way to join the celebration.

  • Be sensitive to single friends and avoid making them feel self-conscious about needing to “find a date” for your wedding.

  • If you choose the bridesmaid dress and the color, offer to pay for it. Otherwise, consider suggesting a color palette and let your friends choose their own gowns to find a style they’re comfortable with and can wear again. 

  • If your wedding-day plan calls for everyone to have their hair and makeup professionally done together, offer to pay for that too, and make sure you have food and beverages for everyone, taking all dietary restrictions into account. 

  • When planning gifts for your bridesmaids, remember that they don’t need to be expensive, but they should be something personal and meaningful to each of them, reinforcing how special they are to you. 

bride with bridesmaids or friends wearing unique headpieces david pressman events bridesmaid advice

Photo by Callaway Gable; Planning & Design by David Pressman Events

Most importantly, make the time to thank each of your friends and tell them how much their being with you means to you. Of course, as the bride, it’s your day, but these are those friends that you can’t imagine not having by your side, so try not to forget that. And while it’s true that people drift apart throughout a lifetime, your wedding should not be the cause or start of that, especially with your closest friends (aka bridesmaids). 

However, if I’ve given you pause to consider not asking your friends to be bridesmaids, and you’re looking for a compromise, there are family members to consider – sisters, sisters-in-law, cousins, etcetera, from both sides – making for a beautiful way to celebrate what you and your partner are starting together: a family of your own. A plus to asking your relatives is that all of you will have great stories to retell for years to come at holiday gatherings as they lovingly recount your big day. 

At the end of the day – your wedding day – we (me, on behalf of all wedding planners) want you to have had a once-in-a-lifetime, drama-free celebration surrounded by everyone, bridesmaids included, who will bring a smile to your face. 

Opening photo by Next Exit Photography; Planning & Design by David Pressman Events; From Real Wedding: A Whimsical, Travel-Inspired Wedding in Pacific Palisades, California

This story was originally published in the Fall 2023 issue of Inside Weddings magazine. To order a copy of the Fall 2023 issue, visit our library of Inside Weddings back issues available for purchase.