How To Be A Bride

A guide to planning your wedding without losing your friends, your vendors, or your sh*t.

Vladimir Tsarkov/Stocksy

So, you’re engaged. Congrats! You’ve officially begun one of the most exciting phases of your life thus far, complete with love, celebration, and the threat of alienating everyone you know looming over your soon-to-be-veiled head.

Yeah, that.

If you’re a bride, not only are you automatically seen as the primary decision-maker and liaison for your nuptials (thanks, gender norms!), but much like every other aspect of the feminine existence, you are also supposed to do this all without being too emotional, assertive, or needy… lest you get labeled a “bridezilla.”

Of course, these unrealistic expectations — and that wildly sexist and outdated term — are complete trash. “A bride is never a ‘bad bride’ for setting boundaries or respectfully standing up for herself and her wedding vision,” Meredith Bartel, a Wisconsin-based wedding planner and content creator, tells Bustle.

But as a former bride myself, I have to be so real with you right now: Some common bridal behaviors actually can make you a bad bride, especially when they negatively and unnecessarily affect those around you. (*Waits for you to stop throwing tomatoes.*)

I spent the majority of the year leading up to my wedding completely paranoid that I was being a bad bride. But despite my desperate desire to keep everyone else happy, I still caught myself pivoting conversations back to my wedding, crying at my bachelorette party, and completely forgetting to review my vendors until the moment I sat down to write this article (whoops, more on that below).

It’s not possible to be a “perfect bride,” but as the societally appointed figurehead for your wedding, you do set the tone for everyone else’s experience, whether you want to or not. Below, some tips for mitigating drama, avoiding breakdowns, and making your wedding a fun and love-filled time for all (yourself included).

On Interacting With Your Bridal Party And Family


1. Remember They’re Your Loved Ones, Not Staff

Your inner circle goes through a lot in pursuit of your bridal bliss. They make room in their budgets, their calendars, and their emotional bandwidth to support you. In most cases, they’re happy to do it, but not if you abuse your (temporary) power over them.

“Getting married and planning a wedding entitles you to love, support, and celebration from loved ones — but not unwavering fawning, acclimating, or self-sacrifice,” Landis Bejar, LMHC, owner of wedding-focused therapy practice AisleTalk, says.

Leigh*, 28, recalls feeling “really taken advantage of” as maid of honor for her friend’s 2022 wedding. “At one point, I stopped getting a greeting or anything — the texts were literally just names of people on her shower invite list with the expectation of me telling her whether or not they had RSVP’d,” she says. “Almost a year out from it, I finally am now feeling more normal again in our friendship, though it is weird to think I may always look back on her wedding as a difficult time.”

2. Be Mindful About Budgets

Before asking friends to be in your bridal party, help them determine whether they can afford to participate by giving them context about what, exactly, they’re expected to pay for. Are you having a destination bachelorette party, and is attendance mandatory? Should they budget for an expensive dress, or can they choose their own? Who is paying for your bridal shower(s)? And even if you have this conversation from the jump, don’t be surprised if budget concerns still arise down the road — plans change and little costs add up.

3. Do A Vibe Check

If you have close friends from various chapters of your life, the members of your bridal party may end up only having one thing in common: you. While it’s not your job to make sure everyone becomes besties, you should ensure everyone is at least comfortable with one another. Petty bickering happens even among the closest of groups, but if a serious conflict arises, you can’t just let your friends fend for themselves because you’re ~the bride~.

In 2022, Violet*, 26, carried out her maid of honor duties alongside the bride’s matron of honor… who, for some reason, seemed to hate her. “She would make backhanded comments about my clothes, my body, and that I was single,” Violet says. The animosity got so intense, Violet reached out to the bride to ensure there weren’t any underlying issues. “She told me I had nothing to worry about.” (Narrator: She did, in fact, have something to worry about.)

Because the bride didn’t smooth things over, Violet ultimately regretted agreeing to be in the wedding. “I cried a lot being in this bridal party,” she says. “I didn’t think it was worth my mental health at the end of the day. It was disheartening and made me question the depth of my friendship with the bride.”

4. Chill Out With The Required Attire

I get it — you have a vision! But forcing a group of individuals to all wear the same thing (and pay for it) is a dicey move. Personal tastes aside, your friends might struggle to speak up if the looks you’ve chosen for them are too expensive or not something they feel confident in.

Instead, consider letting your bridal party pick their own ’fits, with some guidelines and a color scheme — or even more loosely, just a general aesthetic — to go off of. Not only is this trend incredibly chic, but it also ensures your people are wearing something they actually like, at a price point they can stomach. However, if you really have your heart set on one specific dress, go for it — just remember that if you can cover the cost, it’ll ease the sting of making them wear a dress they secretly think is fugly.

5. Don’t Force Your Bridal Party To Pay For Hair And Makeup

If you’re going to require your bridal party to get their hair and/or makeup done by professionals on your big day, you should pay for it. Full stop. This can absolutely count as your gift to thank them for supporting you during this time. TBH, it’s much more useful than giving your friends yet another monogrammed makeup bag or robe stamped with the word “bridesmaid” across the back.

If paying for your whole group’s glam puts a strain on your budget, consider making it an optional service (most people will jump at the chance to get done up anyway).

6. Don’t Be A Jerk About Your Friends’ Bodies

If you want your bridal party to dress a certain way, prioritize making them feel good. Gemma*, 30, is in an upcoming wedding where she and another bridesmaid wear larger sizes than the rest of the group — and she feels tokenized for it. “Every step of the way, [the bride] has been like, ‘I checked with [the other bridesmaid] and she’s OK with this, so I figured you would be, too,” Gemma says, even though she and the other bridesmaid wear different sizes and have very different personal styles. “It f*cked with my head being lumped together for every clothing decision, down to pajamas to get ready in. I would’ve rather been given something ugly and gotten over it than be given something and told ‘the other big girl is cool with it.’”

7. Have Some Perspective

You may feel like your wedding is the only thing that matters in the world. It’s not.

Abigail,* a former maid of honor, recalls the fallout from her missing her friend’s bridal shower due to a health scare in 2022. The decision was not well-received. “The bride basically told me that her bridal shower and my health were of equal importance,” Abigail says. “It was just a terrible experience to the point where me and the bride are no longer on speaking terms.”

Even in much lower-stakes situations, expecting your friends and family to always be available for every wedding event, emergency, or spontaneous brainstorm session is a sh*tty thing to do. Yes, these are your people for venting, getting opinions, and even helping you with wedding tasks, but they also have their own lives that don’t just disappear because you’re getting married.

On Working With Your Vendors

8. Don’t Bring A Whole Squad To Your Dress Shopping Appointments

Say Yes to the Dress raised a generation of brides who think bringing everyone and their mother (literally) wedding dress shopping is perfectly normal. But large shopping parties can be a nightmare not only for the salesperson charged with handling them, but also for the bride.

“One [bride] came in with 22 people, a clothing rack, and a cooler,” says wedding hair and makeup artist and photographer Meredith Schneider, who used to work at a popular bridal store chain. “It was chaos.” Amid cousins running amok up and down the rows of dresses and wine-fueled opinions coming from every direction, she found it nearly impossible to do her job. “At one point, the bride called me into her dressing room and just sobbed, half-naked, into my arms because she felt too much pressure from everyone.”

As you can probably guess, the bride left without a dress that day. Don’t be that bride. Bring one or two people whose opinions you truly value — or perhaps even better, go alone.

9. Please Feed Your Vendors

If you want the best service on your wedding day, make sure your vendors aren’t just fed, but well-fed. “We are doing so much actual physical labor on the day of a wedding and I think people forget that,” Sasha*, a New York wedding photographer, says. “I’m going to do my job better if I’ve been fed. We’ve been on our feet for 10 hours, sweating and running around. Like, we need more than a cold sandwich.”

10. Submit Reviews

I’m not going to tell you to tip your vendors because I don’t want to insult you by stating the absolutely obvious. (But if you really need to hear it: Tip! Your! Vendors!) The next most important thing you can do is to spread the word about how wonderful they are.

“The best thank-you you can give a vendor is a genuine hug at the end of the night, a great review on their websites, and a word-of-mouth referral to your friends,” Bartel says. “Tag your vendors on social media and sing their praises! Remember that your vendors are humans, too, and we love to feel acknowledged and appreciated.”

On Celebrating With Your Guests

11. Set A Clear Dress Code

You might think it’s a “chill bride” move to not set a dress code, but actually, it’s way more helpful to give your guests guidance. That said, lately there’s been an influx of made-up dress codes that are somehow overly specific yet still enigmatically vague. No one knows what “Cabo cabana-chic” means — just tell me if you want me in a sundress or an evening gown so I don’t have to text every other guest I know to see what they’re wearing.

12. Ensure Your Wedding Is Inclusive And Accessible

Not everyone can climb stairs, eat gluten, or hear the DJ. Whether your guests traveled across the country or just down the block to celebrate with you, they deserve to feel welcomed and appreciated. You can help ensure they don’t feel forgotten by asking about accommodations on your RSVP cards, and by hiring vendors who prioritize inclusivity in their work.

13. If You Don’t Actually Want Someone There, Don’t Invite Them

Whether it’s your mom’s friend with questionable political leanings or a once-close camp friend you had a falling out with, there’s usually at least one person you feel like you should invite but really don’t want to. My advice? Don’t do it. More often than not, they’ll know their invitation was out of pity or obligation and they won’t go but feel like they have to send a gift, or they will go and it’ll be awkward for everyone.

14. Send The Damn Thank-You Notes

Emily Post may have a lot of outdated etiquette advice, but handwritten thank-you notes will never go out of style. A thoughtful, personalized note is an easy but impressive way to show your gratitude — and at the very least, it lets your guests know their gift wasn’t lost in the mail.

On Planning With Your Partner


15. Don’t Make It A Wedding-tatorship

Surprise! There are actually two people required to have a wedding, and your partner may be interested in planning and seeing their own vision come to life. For Michael*, a 2022 groom, that was certainly the case. “I’ve seen what I did and didn’t like about other weddings we attended and wanted to make sure that our wedding would be one that someone like me would enjoy,” he says. “Also I have a different way of thinking than my wife, so sometimes I might think of something she hasn’t, or vice-versa.”

16. Set Wedding-Planning Meetings

This was a game-changer for my husband and me when we were wedding-planning. I know, it sounds about as romantic as scheduling sex (which, FYI, we do that, too), but it was actually a lovely bonding experience for two type-A freaks like ourselves. Not only did it give us a set time to keep track of our deadlines, correspondence, and decisions, but it also ensured we weren’t bombarding each other with wedding-related questions during all the other hours of the day.

17. Have Planning-Free Date Nights

Just as helpful as it is to set aside time to only talk about the wedding, it’s also important to make time to specifically not talk about it. “[That] helped remind us that this didn’t need to be a super serious process, that we were doing something fun,” groom Riley* says.

18. Schedule Alone Time On The Big Day

Take a look at your wedding day timeline. If it’s packed from morning to midnight, there’s one key edit you need to make: Add in some downtime with your partner. You could do this by doing a first look before the ceremony, sneaking away during cocktail hour to eat and unwind, or having a last dance before leaving the venue.

On Actually Enjoying Yourself

19. Remember You Have A Life Outside Your Wedding

Your wedding is only one aspect of your life — and a temporary one at that. Plan wedding-free hangouts with your friends, take care of your mental and physical health, pursue your hobbies, get good rest, and get excited about the life you’re going to build after you get married.

20. Don’t Be Too Hard On Yourself

There’s going to be at least some point during the wedding process that you’re going to go through it. “Managing budgets, familial expectations, merging two families into one, plus the logistics of emailing vendors... it is a lot,” Bartel says.

If you snap at your mom over floral arrangements or pop off about matching fanny packs in the bridesmaid group chat, be sure to apologize and hear your loved ones out if you hurt them. But then allow yourself to move on and enjoy the process.

21. Don’t Compare Yourself To Other Brides

Maybe everyone in your friend group got engaged in the same year, or you’re just feeling personally victimized by #WeddingTok — either way, it’s really hard to not play the comparison game with other brides. Someone is always going to have a bigger budget or a more raucous bachelorette party. All you can do is focus on your vision, your plans, and your love with your partner — nothing else will matter on the big day. And for the love of Martha Stewart: If you’re a guest at someone else’s wedding, do not tell people your attendance is “research” for your own event. You can be judgy, just do it quietly.

22. Select A Point Person

“At some point before the festivities begin, make a conscious choice to take off your ‘planner hat’ and put on your ‘bride hat,’” Bejar says. “Remove yourself from the behind-the-scenes chaos and let your support team take over.”

This is where hiring a wedding planner or day-of coordinator really comes in clutch. Having someone whose literal job it is to make sure everything runs smoothly takes the pressure off you, your loved ones, and your other vendors. But if you don’t have a pro to handle the day-of stuff, you should at the very least select someone trustworthy (and sober!) to take the reins — just ensure this person is actually down to have this responsibility, and definitely get them a nice thank-you gift after the fact.

I promise, you’re going to be way too overwhelmed to run sh*t yourself — and after all the time and money put into this event, you and your partner deserve to be fully present during it.

23. Don’t Get Too Drunk

Sorry to be a buzzkill, but it’s for your own good. If you like to drink, by all means, enjoy a glass of bubbly before walking down the aisle and sip on those signature cocktails you and your new spouse spent so long deciding on. But if you don’t pace yourself — and drink a ton of water and actually eat your wedding food — you’re going to regret it. Sure, it might not be that bad — you might stumble over your words during your toast or bust out a few embarrassing dance moves… or, you could wake up the next morning and not even remember what was supposed to be one of the best days of your life.

24. Have Some Fun, Won’t Ya?

Wedding planning is stressful. The day of your wedding is overwhelming. These are facts every bride has to deal with. How you handle it makes all the difference in how you remember it for years to come.

As my own wedding photographer, Erica Reade, says, “At the end of the day, you’re throwing a massive party because you found someone that you love. If that gets forgotten … you’re going to [miss out on] enjoying your own wedding day.”

*Names have been changed.


Meredith Bartel, wedding planner and content creator

Landis Bejar, LMHC, owner of wedding-focused therapy practice AisleTalk

Erica Reade, wedding photographer

Meredith Schneider, wedding hair and makeup artist and photographer