Popping the Question… to the rest of the team

Most couples can remember in detail where and when one of them popped the question, to the point where, if you don’t have a cute proposal story, you might feel like you’ve missed out on some vital part of the process. Which leads me to wonder, why don’t we make a bigger deal out of asking people to be involved in our wedding? Why don’t we create elevate the roles our friends and family will play to a higher status than the off-hand “If you’ve got nothing better to do, wanna be in my bridal party?” tone us Kiwis so often adopt?

I wonder whether, sometimes, by not making too much of a fuss, we miss out on an opportunity to honour our close friends and family.  By being so casual about our request for them to be part of the wedding, we relegate their role to merely a task they’ll perform, when we could [and I think, should] pitch it as an honor and a blessing, for the participant AND the couple, both.

I found this blog post, detailing a bride’s [tres cute] handmade invitations to her bridesmaids,  and while I’m not convinced we need to go to QUITE that much effort, it’s certainly worth making a small production about. It may be as simple as, rather than verbally asking, or even emailing, just taking a few minutes to handwrite and snail mail out your request to the person, detailing the role you have in mind for them, and any requirements that might be attached.

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has confided in me that they’re not sure the reading they’ve chosen is what the couple are wanting, because they had usually been asked verbally, often as casually as, “Hey, can you do a reading at my wedding?” If you’re wanting them to choose the reading, you should still include a couple of examples of options that are suitable – which will give them an idea of the style of reading you’re wanting, and something to fall back on if their inspiration runs dry.

It’s a nice idea to let the participants know if you have a specific theme or colour scheme, in case they wish to [or you wish them to] co-ordinate with it.

When inviting family and friends to be part of the bridal party, make it clear whether you’re expecting them to pay for any [or all] of their wedding attire, what they need to bring, and what you’ll be providing. If you’re planning a get-together before the wedding, make sure they know about that, too, so that they can allow for that, whether they’re travelling in or living locally.

Mostly, it’s about courtesy and communication. It’s possible to be clear and direct, without becoming a control freak or bridezilla. Clear direction means that everyone is confident in their role, which means that you, and they, can relax and enjoy the day [and the weeks leading up to it!]

If that’s really the best man, how come you’re not marrying him?

No matter how non-traditional you’re planning for your ceremony to be, it’s almost a given that you’ll be choosing a ‘best man’ to stand with you on your wedding day. And it’s one of the traditions I’m most in favour of keeping alive. As you stand at the end of the aisle, waiting to snatch your first glimpse of your bride, he’s the guy cracking jokes to break the tension, passing you a hanky, or a breath mint, keeping you calm and composed. Every groom needs a good best man.

It’s important that do have the BEST best man – the obvious choice might be the bride’s brother, or the bloke you’ve been friends with since primary school. But your decision should be based on more than mere expectation, long-standing friendship, or even a sense of family duty.

It’s usually the best man who organises the stag party, so you need someone you can trust to bring you home again in one piece. He’ll be making a high-profile speech at the wedding, so you need someone who you know won’t humiliate you in front of your friends and family. Never underestimate the potential cringe factor of inappropriate comments or drunken practical jokes, for you or your guests. Depending on how much you follow tradition, your best man will be in charge of a number of small but important details –  from making sure you arrive at the ceremony relaxed, prepared, and on time to bringing the rings safely to the ceremony, taking care of the marriage licence, and even delivering payments on your behalf to any vendors who wish to be paid on the day. He has a lot to live up to in terms of the guests’ expectations of him, which puts him under a fair amount of pressure, and by default, if he’s not up to the task, it puts you under that pressure too. Seen from this angle, your kid brother, or your hilarious drinking mate from uni might not be the obvious choice for this role.

You’re ideally looking for someone who is trustworthy and reliable, organised, who can provide a calming influence if you’re getting wound up. If possible, choose a best man who knows some of the VIP guests, and has the social nous to help make your guests feel welcome. Most importantly, make sure your fiance at least gets along with him – it will make things easier in the long run. If you happen to have a good relationship with your Dad or Grandfather, it would be incredibly appropriate, and quite an honour, to ask them to take on the role your best man – a best man who knows you really well, and is guaranteed to be looking out for your best interests.

Thanking the Team

While it’s traditional to give thankyou gifts to the members of your bridal party, and sometimes to your parents, it’s worth taking some time to really personalise your thankyous – after all these people will have had a major role in the ups and downs of bringing your wedding dreams to life, as well as being staunch supporters throughout your lives. Rather than wasting money on generic traditional gifts, take some time to consider the tastes, interests, and lifestyle of the recipients, so that you can express your thanks in a way that is really meaningful to them.

Don’t break the budget over this! But, if you have to choose between favors for all the guests or personal gifts for a few VIP guests – well, I suspect I’ve already made my views clear on THAT topic… Anyway. Here are some ideas I’ve seen lately:

Pamper them – if your bridesmaids are girly girls, [or your groomsmen are metro sexual] why not look for some great skin care or pampering treats – perhaps a trip to a dayspa to unwind and relax after the wedding, a mani or pedicure [thanks for keeping me on my feet] These can be part of the pre-wedding prep, but it will probably be more appreciated as a followup treat.
Sniff out their favourites: A little detective work can find out which perfume or aftershave is their favourite, what is their favorite sweet treat or tipple.

Bling – the traditional gift for bridesmaids is, of course, jewellery to wear at the wedding. It doesn’t take much extra thought to choose coordinating, but individual pieces which will not only complement their bridal attire, but also be a treasured accessory in days to come. Think beyond the pearl necklace – what about a pounamu carving or other non-bling on a leather thong may appropriate – a cute bangle, or cheeky earrings, cufflinks or a pinky ring for the guys are lovely gifts for parents or grandparents.

Get practical – Top up their gym membership, get tickets to see a favourite band, take their car to be valet cleaned and serviced buy a subscription to their favourite magazine, or arrange for a basket of treats delivered after they arrive home. Give them kitchen or barbeque tools, a swiss army knife, luxury coffee beans – whatever suits their taste and preferences.

Tread carefully – you should know whether you can get away with a humorous gift, like as a rubber ducky, [sorry if I drove you quackers], or something totally hideous, with a gift exchange card,  or even something a bit  risqué, but if in doubt, err on the side of boring – the last thing you need is for your carefully dreamed up thankyou gift to come bundled with offence or confusion. Use your imagination, your intuition, and your knowledge of each person to create a gift that says “Thanks for everything YOU did to make our wedding day great”

Make sure to include a personal, handwritten note of thanks as well as your own spoken words of thanks. Gratitude doesn’t cost much, but it’s rare and very highly valued.

The Wedding Whisperer’s How To: a most honourable Maid of Honour

So, here’s an interesting new trend. This season, I’m seeing more and more that the “Bride’s Mate” is replacing the Bridesmaid or Maid of Honour – the bride’s brother, or next-best male friend stepping up in support of the bride, and the corollary, the Best Woman standing alongside the groom.

the bride's mates / best men, and flower boi

How cool is that?!

And, and, I’m pleased to note that it’s not the sole domain of the screaming queen or the tomboy, either. Couples are simply choosing their closest friends or family, and by doing so observing the true heart of the tradition, not just the commonest form! Yay!

That said, being chosen as maid or matron of honour is supposed to be a great honour. In reality, sometimes, it’s a great pain in the butt. What makes the difference often comes down to the bride and her Honour Attendant clearly agreeing on the specifics of the role right from the beginning.

The bride may ask the Honour Attendant to help choose the bridesmaids’  dress, shoes jewellery or other accessories. However that goes, be sure you are clear about who is expected to pay for which items.

As a general guideline, the person paying the bill should have the most input into what is purchased. This also applies to paying for hairstyling, manicures, etc. In a nutshell, [and it goes both ways] if you’re asking for something out of the ordinary, then it’s unreasonable to expect someone else to be footing the bill for it.
The mores of etiquette recommend that the Honour Attendant is the one to let guests know details of where the couple are registered, or what’s on their gift wish list, as well as hosting the bridal shower, hens night, or bachelorette party (assuming that the bride wants one).  In reality, the bride will most likely be involved in the planning of her pre-wedding celebrations, but any invites and RSVPs should come through the Honour Attendant.
On the day: The Honour Attendant should be ready and able to help the bride handle any last minute details. This includes being available to accompany the bride to the bathroom, if her dress needs wrangling, and carrying a stash of practical items such as tissues, a comb, lippy, etc for touch ups that might be needed along the way.
When the bridal car arrives at the wedding venue, the Honour Attendant helps with the bride’s veil and bride’s bouquet, and lays out the train, etc, as the bridal party is assembling and oversees the entrance of the bridesmaids and page boys and flower girls, as planned during the rehearsal.

The Honour Attendant may be asked to sign the marriage license as an official witness, but this is not always the case.

At the reception, the Honour Attendant usually sits at the head table during dinner, and may be asked to make a speech as well as, or even instead of, the Best Man.

It’s too easy, in the heat of the moment, to forget that the reason a bride chooses her attendants is because these are the people she most wants at her side during her wedding, and in the days leading up to it. No matter what, it’s worth the effort to keep the lines of communication wide open, make sure you have reasonable expectations, and be willing to extend plenty of grace to each other, so that  you can have a day to remember for all the right reasons in the years to come.

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