It's very important that brides and potential attendants discuss the expected expenses before the attendants accept their positions. (Grooms and their attendants either rarely have these problems or rarely complain about them.) I therefore present the following exciting, and totally new…Mutual Responsibilities of the Bride and Her Attendants.
The bride is responsible for:
◾Informing the attendants, when she asks them, of the level of investment (both time and money) she expects of them. A bride who does not know where, when, or how formal her wedding will be is not ready to ask her attendants yet.
◾Consulting with the attendants about the cost, style, and color of the outfits they will wear.
◾Recognizing that a $59 dress worn by your best friend is far more beautiful than a $300 dress on a professional model.
◾Being open to the idea of relatively classic, neutral styles and colors. A "neutral" is neutral because it coordinates well with many other colors.
◾Resisting the urge to fixate on dyed-to-match shoes, and entirely refusing to get involved in choosing the bridesmaids' stockings or undergarments.
◾Paying for professional hairstyling or make-up for the bridesmaids if she suddenly decides, months after asking the attendants, that these services are a necessity.
◾Graciously accepting that a shower is a "nice to have" not a "need to have"-and that it's no reflection on the friendship if her attendants can afford only a small shower or no shower.
◾Never springing a surprise expense on the bridesmaids.
◾Recognizing that travel greatly increases an attendants' expenses- and helping with those expenses however possible. If the couple cannot follow the old custom of providing lodging for the attendants, then at the very least they should help by recommending affordable hotels and by keeping the other attendant expenses low.
The attendants are responsible for:
◾Asking the bride about expectations and expenses-if she doesn't volunteer the information-before accepting or declining the position.
◾Returning the bride's calls promptly when she asks about preferences for dress colors and styles. Bridesmaids who don't return messages have only themselves to blame if they end up wearing skin-tight lime green gowns.
◾Leaving your worst personal insecurities home when invited on dress-hunting expeditions. If you always hate your rear every time you look in a mirror, rest assured that you'll hate it in the dresses you try- and live with it, okay? Similarly, the bridesmaid who is half your size was not chosen solely to make you feel huge (or vice-versa).
◾Leaving your preferences for how you'd do your perfect wedding at home, too. As long as you look nice in the dress and don't feel that you're squandering your rent money, it doesn't matter if you'd put your own bridesmaids in it.
◾Being honest, polite, and direct about dealing with areas of discomfort as soon as they arise. Ignoring phone calls or refusing to send measurements will not make an unwanted, over-priced dress go away. If you feel you must drop out of the wedding for any reason, tell the bride as soon as possible. The news will hurt less if you deliver it three months before the wedding instead of three days before.
◾Consulting with other attendants on any project that will call for their time, effort, or money. You simply cannot assume that Bridesmaid #4 will pay a quarter of the shower costs if you didn't ask her.
◾Recognizing that poverty is not shameful, and that saying "I'd love to do it, but I really can't afford it" is a polite and reasonable response to a request that you can't handle.
An interesting note on the traditional division of expenses-I discovered that in South Africa , the bride traditionally buys her attendants' wedding outfits. This wouldn't be a bad custom to adopt in the United States , as it would motivate brides to trim their tastes in bridesmaids' dresses to their own budgets rather than to what they wish their attendants could afford. (The same could be said of grooms, but tuxedo quality and prices don't vary as much. Men have it easy!)