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Planning: Stand By Me

Get your wedding party started with our roundup of tips, trends, and inspiration for bridesmaids and groomsmen

By Chelsea Lin

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1) CAST YOUR CREW

“Remember that family will be in your life forever, but friends can come and go. If it becomes a choice between a pal or a sibling, it may be in your long-term interest to select a family member,” advises planner Sherry Smith of McKenzieKate Weddings. “When it comes down to it, though, it’s your day. Just because you were Susie’s’ maid of honor doesn’t obligate you to make her yours. Feelings may get hurt, so if you don’t choose someone who was perhaps expecting it, try soothing feelings by sending a personal note to remind them they’re special to you. You might also honor them with a prime seat or ask that they be an usher, escort, or greeter.”

All Inclusive Gender, too, is out the window these days. There’s no reason for a bride to not include a brother as a ”bridesguy,” or for a groom to make his closest gal pal a “brosmaid” or the best woman. For their April 2014 wedding at the Pickering Barn in Issaquah, Kirkland couple Katelyn and Pat Reilly had a mixed-gender wedding party of 12, plus adult friends who acted as the flower girl and ring bearer. Many modern couples choose to have no wedding party at all.

Pop the Question You don’t have to be on bended knee, but presenting future members of your wedding party with a small gift when asking them to participate is a kind gesture. Cupcake Royale recently took to its Instagram account to share an adorable duo of treats commissioned by local bride Lu Yang to ask her longtime friend Becca Hersh to be her maid of honor. (She said yes!) When considering a fun, inventive way to pop the question, planner Holly Patton of Perfectly Posh Events recommends thinking of your wedding’s venue and theme. “One of my couples is incorporating apples into their wedding design theme so they decided to ask their wedding party by sending packages with engraved glass-blown apples,” she says. “I loved this idea because it becomes a keepsake for the wedding party and it also ties in to the design scheme for their big day.”

 

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2) WEDDING PARTY 101

Being in the bridal party involves more than just showing up for the ceremony dressed to the nines. “The two main duties of a bridesmaid or groomsman are to act as a support system for the happy couple and to host the special events leading up to the wedding,” explains Patton. If you’re asked to be in the party, know that there will be expectations—dress shopping, event planning, late-night advice calls—that pop up from engagement to wedding day. Thankfully, though, Patton says that most of the young professionals she works with decide not to dole out too many additional duties because they’re considerate of just how busy schedules already are.

When the wedding day does arrive, the maid or matron of honor and the best man should pass along information to the rest of the bridal party and step up to ensure the happy couple is calm, fed, and happy throughout the evening.

Money Matters Who picks up the tab for all the festivities, wardrobe changes, primping, and travel expenses? Traditionally, it’s left to the pocketbooks of the wedding party. To help shave down costs, event planner Chesney Schmidt of All the Flutter suggests looking online for gently used frocks or borrowing tuxes from friends with shared sizes. If attendants have financial limitations, Schmidt suggests they tell the bride and groom up front so that they can plan a solution together.

 

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When the big day comes, make sure your wedding party knows where they need to be, and when. A simple timeline of the day’s events will alleviate a lot of unnecessary concern. Brides should have a maid there who knows how to bustle the dress; grooms might need help knotting that bow tie. On the other side of the altar? This is the day when the happy couple is most stressed/blissed out, and it’s a great time to step up and do something special: Perhaps decorate the honeymoon suite or take on the responsibility of shuttling around visiting family. And don’t forget that speech.

 

3) MAIN EVENTS

Prior to the aisle, you’ll have the chance to gather for events ranging from engagement celebrations to planning luncheons. Here are our tips for tackling two of the big ones.

Shower Power We love a traditional bridal shower around an afternoon tea or midmorning brunch—the Queen Mary Tea Room and the Georgian at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel are popular choices. But this is one area where many people are breaking the mold: Couple’s showers are en vogue, particularly when the bride and groom share many of the same friends. Bella Bridesmaids owner Erin Casey Wolf suggests a co-soirée with a “stock the bar” theme. “It’s a natural way to create a cocktail party that everyone can enjoy together as they toast the bride and groom,” she says.

Big Night Out If there’s one piece of advice planners all agree on, it’s this: don’t throw your bachelor or bachelorette party the night before the wedding. Do, however, celebrate a few weeks in advance to avoid feeling anything but ready and well-rested on the day of your wedding.

Recently, more couples have been trading in the shot glasses and stripper polls for more sophisticated bachelor and bachelorette parties—out of town. Sure, general revelry (and perhaps a little debauchery) may arise, but asking your best guys and gals to join you on a weekend away makes it extra special for all involved. Before their April 11, 2015, nuptials at Chihuly Garden and Glass, Seattle couple Frank Guanco and Sarah Lawer chose independent getaways: Frank and his friends headed to Las Vegas for a weekend of good eats and a little blackjack; Sarah had two separate vacays, one at quiet Grey Cliffs Ranch in Montana with one group of friends, and another in San Francisco with a few others. Opt to stay closer to home grounded with a wine tasting in Walla Walla, Oktoberfest in Leavenworth, or a serene San Juan cabin rental.

 

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4) DRESS THE PART

Gone is the era of requiring matchy-matchy bridesmaids’ gowns that never see the postnuptial light of day. While many modern brides still select a specific color palette, less often are they requiring their wedding party to sport the exact same design—a look that rarely works in everyone’s favor. Instead, brides are letting their maids choose frocks that best suit their figure and style. “One of our favorite couples treated their 10 bridesmaids to the little black dress of their choice from our showroom,” says Wolf. “They wanted to make sure each girl found a dress she felt sensational in. What a treat.” A treat, indeed, but remember it’s not one that’s expected: Most bridesmaids pay for their own attire, plus professional hair and makeup, if they choose.

Best Buds As with apparel, there’s a definite trend away from uniformity when it comes to blooms. “You create a fresher look with uniquely individual bouquets and boutonnieres,” says Erica Knowles, owner of Botany 101. “There are several ways to accomplish this while remaining cohesive: bouquets in different shades to match individual bridesmaid dresses; each groomsman doning a boutonniere of a different color; and distinctive flower choices for each posy. I love the idea of an ombré line of bouquets, starting with an all-white bride’s spray and ending with a rich color for the final bridesmaid” She says, too, that alternatives like petite wreaths, lanterns, and floral hair crowns are equally chic right now.

5) SUIT UP

Men have it substantially easier, as there’s little that can go wrong with a rented set of tuxes. But even the gents can distinguish themselves with individual details, says Nicole van der Bogert, owner of Bellevue’s Trillium Custom Tailoring. “When it comes to bespoke suits, the groom should give general direction and pick the fabric, but each groomsman can be free to personalize design details like interior lining, lapel style, and stitching details.”

She likes grays and blues for formal events, and suggests that guys dress in lighter, brighter shades of the two hues in spring and summer, and darker, warmer shades during the cooler seasons.

Extra, Extra! As for accessories, mix things up and incorporate your wedding colors in playful but subtle ways. Groomsmen can vary their looks with patterned socks, ties, and pocket squares. Bonus: these relatively inexpensive items can make a suitable gift from the groom.

6) WITH THANKS

As a final token of appreciation for your wedding party’s support, surprise them with a thoughtful thank-you gift. “It’s important to show gratitude to your bridesmaids and groomsmen because they’ve invested not only financial contributions but time,” says Schmidt. Some of her choice gifts given by her couples include personalized Chuck Taylor sneakers for the guys and matching robes for the gals, which they can wear while getting their hair and makeup done on the big day.

An idea we love: Create a gift bag for your maids containing beauty products and wedding-day necessities like lipstick, coordinated earrings, rollerball perfumes, and oil-blotting sheets. For an individual touch, present each girl with a unique piece of jewelry with their initials or, our favorite, their astrological sign, like the Brooke Gregson yellow gold necklace in our Needful Things spread on page 30.

For the gents, we dig thoughtful accessories that carry them from the wedding day onward. Consider monogramming the pocket squares or ties the guys will sport down the aisle. Or get specific with cuff links shaped like snowmen, Buddahs, or basketballs from locally based Etsy shop Mancornas (etsy.com/shop/mancornas), which sells over 700 styles, sure to match each guy’s personality.

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