Asking a girlfriend to be your bridesmaid is a real honour. You’re telling her that it’s important to you that she’s by your side on one of the biggest days of your life, that you trust her, can rely on her and basically need her there.

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But you know it’s really quite a responsibility being a bridesmaid – particularly if you’re the chief bridesmaid or maid of honour. So think very carefully about who you choose before you ask – your best friend or sister may, in fact, not make the best bridesmaid for you – and you also need somebody who lives fairly locally who can help with arrangements, rather than a friend, sister or cousin who lives on the other side of the world and won’t be with you until just before the wedding.

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Your maid of honour

We asked top wedding planner Siobhan Craven Robbins what she thought were a bridesmaid’s duties.

“It really all begins with the hen party,” she says. “That’s the starting point. It’s the job of the chief bridesmaid (and the other maids) to organise the date, the venue and what activities will take place. They should bear in mind the personality of the bride and what she’s likely to enjoy – it should be a fun time and the hen party doesn’t have to be an evening or weekend event- it could be an afternoon tea party if that suits.

“Leading up to the big day, it’s the chief bridesmaid’s job to help with all the running around. On the day itself, the bridesmaids should help the bride put on her wedding dress, answer the door to visiting hairdressers/make up artists etc and show them up to the bride’s room. Oh and keep the bride calm!”

“The chief bridesmaid also needs to organise the younger members of the bride’s entourage – the flowergirls and the pageboys – keep them clean, keep them occupied and call them when they are needed for the official wedding photographs. Also show them what they are supposed to be doing and when – like following the bride down the aisle, where to sit during the ceremony, when to throw confetti.”

“During and after the ceremony I call the chief bridesmaid the ‘handbag keeper’,” says Siobhan. “She needs to keep a small pretty bag at hand for the bride containing tissues, lipstick, a comb – whatever the bride is likely to need.”

“Once the ceremony is over and the speeches are done the chief bridesmaid is off duty and can relax a bit – but not until then. She basically is the bride’s right hand woman and should anticipate the bride’s needs and look after her.”

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Looking after your guests

We think it’s very thoughtful if your bridesmaids (and the best man’s helpers) keep an eye on the guests at the wedding reception and make sure they are having a good time.

That means maybe introducing people to one another (particularly those who won’t know many others at the wedding), helping the bride and groom to greet people in the receiving line, getting the dancing started and keeping an eye on the oldies. It’s all those little considerations which will make sure people remember your big day as being as wonderful as you want it to be.

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Jobs for your other attendants

What about your flowergirls and ring bearers? What roles can you find for them so they feel part of everything and useful?

Flowergirls are quite young children, aged from about three to seven. Their job is to look extremely sweet and maybe follow you down the aisle scattering petals or carrying a little basket of flowers or posy. Or, if they’re a little more confident, perhaps they could even entertain your guests, like this like Australian attendant!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=95U4b4zbGZY

Often known as ring bearers, Pageboys might carry the ring down the aisle on a cushion. Alternatively they could also throw petals (but make sure they don’t do it too enthusiastically). If you’re having a very formal wedding, your pageboy might hold your train as you walk down the aisle – it’s up to you.

You could also ask older children – maybe age seven and up – to be in charge of the guest book at your wedding reception, encouraging people to sign it and calling people over as they enter the area.

Other older children (we’d say no younger than 12) could maybe do a reading at your ceremony – just make sure they get some practice in first and won’t be overwhelmed when it comes to it.

If you’re getting married in summer, why not ask the younger members of the party to act as bubble blowers outside the entrance to your reception venue – which will create a light touch.

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Communication

Finally, we think it’s key that you tell your bridesmaids exactly what you’d like them to do when you ask them to perform the role. If they feel it’s too much for them (maybe they live abroad, have a really hectic job, young children or just don’t feel confident enough) then accept their refusal gracefully and choose another friend. It’s far better to find out early on that somebody isn’t really up to the job than later on when you need to depend on them.

That said, a wonderful bridesmaid will have the satisfaction of knowing that a fabulous wedding was in some ways due to her help – and it could make you friends for life! See what our other brides are saying about bridesmaids here…

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