WEDIQUET TE – HOW TO BE THE PERFECT SUPPORT ACT
In the third of her new series looking at how the various members of the bridal party can make the wedding planning process as smooth and as stress free as possible, Claire Moulds offers invaluable advice to your best man and bridesmaids.
Being asked to stand at your best friend’s side as they make a lifelong commitment to the man or woman of their dreams is both an honour and a privilege, although it might not always feel like that in the run up!
The role of a best man or bridesmaid carries with it a certain amount of responsibility and, once the initial excitement of being chosen wears off, the realisation of what you have signed up for can be daunting.
First and foremost it’s important to understand what the bride and groom expect of you. Some couples are happy taking on the bulk of the wedding preparations themselves, while others will be looking to delegate jobs to their supporting cast. If you have lovely handwriting you might find yourself asked to write the invites; if you are known for your creative flair you might be tasked with overseeing the decorations at the reception venue.
Obviously, the level of involvement will determine how much of your time will be taken up by wedding planning, so why not suggest going out for a special lunch to discuss how you can help. For example, if the bride wants you to come to all her wedding dress appointments, you might agree to ring fence certain dates in your diary.
We’re not saying you should put your entire life on hold just because your friend is getting married, but be prepared to be flexible and to accommodate reasonable requests. The fact you were chosen shows how important you are to the couple, and that they clearly value your input, help and advice.
Your first hurdle might be overcoming a dislike of your friend’s future spouse. Whether it’s a clash of personalities or the fact they are simply not the person you envisaged your best friend marrying, now is not the time to start questioning their choice of life partner. By virtue of being their best man or bridesmaid, you have implied you are there to support them, in the run up to and on the biggest day of their life and that means accepting their decision.
Your friend will no doubt be aware of any tensions between you and their other half; use the wedding as an opportunity to get to know them better, if that’s part of the problem, or to find ways to overcome any issues. After all, you’re going to be a permanent fixture in each other’s lives for many years to come and, for your friend’s sake, you need to find a way to get along.
Diplomacy is an invaluable skill, especially when asked for your ‘impartial’ opinion. It might be that the bride or groom is genuinely confused and wants some honest advice; they may have already made their decision but lack the confidence to go ahead without support; or it might be that the various parties just can’t agree and are seeking allies.
This is where you need to tread a very careful line. The groom might ask for your opinion on transport, having already secretly made his decision, only for you to inadvertently criticise his choice. Equally, if she wants lilies and he wants roses, a bridesmaid might find herself getting the cold shoulder if siding with him.
Try and guide the couple towards making their own decisions – perhaps by asking them to talk through the pros and cons of a particular choice or the emotional significance of each option – rather than putting yourself firmly in a Yes or No camp. That way they will always feel as though they have your backing, even if you’ve never explicitly favoured one choice over another. Sometimes, just being a sounding board that they can vent at over a coffee can make all the difference, even if you don’t actually say a word!
For bridesmaids, a potential flashpoint can be the choice of outfit, especially if the group are different sizes and shapes with different skin tones and hair colours. One solution might be for everyone to wear the same shade but different styles of dress so that everyone feels comfortable. Alternatively, suggest having different shades of the same colour or a set of co-ordinating colours.
One of your major responsibilities will be organising the stag or hen do. While it used to be customary for the bride or groom to be unaware of any plans for their last night of freedom, it’s now likely that they will want to have some input into the process, whether it’s one night of celebrations or a whole weekend. Ensure you’re on the same page from the beginning - ask them what they loved/ hated about hen/stags dos they’ve been on previously to prevent disappointment and frustration later on.
Pre-wedding celebrations can be costly and you may find yourself approached by guests with worries about the costs. Bear this in mind when planning activities. Perhaps stagger the day or weekend so that people can join in as and when finances permit.
Speeches can be the most stressful part of the preparations, especially if you’re not used to, or comfortable with, public speaking. While the groom can rely on heartfelt emotion to carry him through, the pressure is on the best man to be highly entertaining. There can be safety in numbers - ask your fellow ushers/stags if they’d be willing to help. Having two or even three people giving a ‘joint’ best man’s speech will, provided it is well thought out, ensure that you don’t feel over exposed.
Consider including guest spots - rather than relaying a funny anecdote, invite someone who was there to tell it. Choose people who are known for being raconteurs, but give them warning to reduce the pressure. Amusing photos of the groom will provide endless entertainment – ask his mother to share her most embarrassing. Use a few trusted friends as a sounding board to ensure you’ve not missed anything out and to revise bits where required. Also use them to gauge what is and isn’t appropriate for the intended audience – don’t be that best man who crosses the line.
If it’s the groom who is struggling let him rehearse with you as much as he wants and offer advice on both content and delivery. If he’s so nervous that it’s in danger of ruining the day, suggest that the speeches are done before the meal so that he can then relax.
In the final run up, be clear on exactly what your responsibilities are on the day – looking after the younger bridesmaids, handing out orders of service, overseeing the guest book, collecting the wedding presents and keeping them safe, etc – and, crucially, when you will be ‘off duty’ and free to let your hair down.
The best bridesmaids and best men are not only a great emotional support, but are also attentive to those all-important little details – straightening a tie, rearranging a train, introducing guests to one another – allowing the bride and groom to relax and enjoy their day.
Take pleasure in being part of the most important day of your friend’s life. Be proud of the role you played in making their dream a reality.