I have never been a bridesmaid. Most of my best friends and I were too busy getting graduate degrees, traveling the world, or attempting to assemble IKEA furniture to get married before now. In addition, a good number of people in my social circle never intend to get married, which is cool by me. While these are life courses I support, such choices also mean I’ve yet to be in a bridal party. As a result, I have no experience from which to draw when it comes to how I should act with my own bridal party. To remedy this knowledge gap, I decided to do what any self-respecting feminist academic with a massive case of social anxiety would do: I conducted a small research study on how to treat one’s bridesmaids with respect and dignity.

This survey, conducted using the highly scientific method of a social media status update requesting my Facebook friends share their bridesmaiding experiences, proved exceedingly helpful. In the end, the vast majority of respondents said they were more than happy to devote significant amounts of time – and all the money they could reasonably afford – to helping their friends achieve the wedding of their dreams. All anyone seemed to want in return was to know the bride appreciated their labour and their financial limitations. As my friend Jess, a law student and all-round fabulous person, explained to me: when a bride does little things like respect her bridesmaids’ comfort zones and clothing preferences, this eliminates internal and external conflicts that can mar a wedding, instead of allowing the bridal party to “to focus on the fun stuff.” It seems like everyone wins when bridesmaids are respected!

Inspired by these amazing feminists who shared their tips, I compiled a document called “The Bridesmaid’s Bill of Rights.” It is a guide for brides like me, designed to ensure we treat the friends and relatives who act as our bridesmaids fairly and lovingly. Let us never forget bridesmaids are there because they love the bride, and therefore should be showered with love in return.

The Bridesmaid’s Bill of Rights:

  1. The bridesmaid has the right not to go into debt in order to fulfill her bridesmaid’s duties. She should not be expected to spend thousands of dollars she does not have on a dress, nor should she be expected to pay for a bridal shower that is too extravagant for her budget. Brides should accept that if a bridesmaid is paying for an event, said bridesmaid should not have to deplete her life savings or take out a shady Pay Day loan to do so.
  2. The bridesmaid has the right to expect repeated thanks for her services. No one is entitled to a bridesmaid’s free labour. The bride in question ought to remember her bridesmaids are not actually her maids. The bride should refrain from believing she is Lady Mary on Downton Abby, and instead should treat her bridesmaids as the dear friends they are. Each time a bride seeks assistance with wedding-related tasks, she must do so using the magic words all self-respecting kindergarten students have mastered, “please” and “thank you.”
  3. The bridesmaid has the right not to wear an embarrassing t-shirt at the bride’s bachelorette party. T-shirts emblazoned with labels such as “Knocked up,” “Single and looking,” or “Old married lady” should only be worn by choice. They should not be a bridal party requirement.
  4. The bridesmaid has the right to receive a token of appreciation for her services when the wedding is over. This token does not have to be extravagant. It could be anything from footing the bill for the bridesmaid’s dress to a handwritten note explaining why the bridesmaid is such a cherished, wonderful friend. Such gifts are precious keepsakes that demonstrate how much the bride values the time and effort the bridal party provides.
  5. The bridesmaid has the right to have fun at the wedding reception. Yes, bridesmaids are often called upon to help the bride get ready for the wedding, and to iron out any last-minute issues the day of the wedding; however, once the speeches are over, the bridesmaid heretofore has the right to act like an actual guest, not a medic performing triage on the wedding as though it were a critically injured patient. The bridesmaid should not be judged for imbibing substances in large quantities if that is her want. Nor should she be judged for experimenting with Beyonce-style dance moves, or hooking up with other guests in the alcoves. She is entitled to all the drunken hookups and “Drunk In Love” sing-alongs she desires.