My Wedding - - PLANNING -

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.

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