Coincidentally, I'm posting this bridesmaid-related question only weeks after I asked my little sister to be my maid of honor and went dress shopping with my girls. Drawing from my own experience being a maid of honor a few years ago and from my experience as a bride so far, here are a few tips of my own:

  • Be grateful that your friends and family are willing to take on the cost and responsibility of being a bridesmaid or maid of honor. Also, be clear about your expectations for them. I've already explained to my maid of honor that I expect her to pay for a stretch Hummer and to hand-capture doves for releasing. (I'm also being a tad sarcastic here.) In seriousness, I do intend to ask my bridesmaids if I may delegate certain tasks to them, such as arranging for breakfast on our big day. 
  • Bring drinks, snacks and even meals when you're asking your bridesmaids to spend a large portion of their day with you. It demonstrates to them that you've thought about the time commitment and appreciate them. Besides, a well-fed woman is a happy woman, at least from my point of view. ;]
  • As I wrote in my bridesmaid blog, I individually asked the girls what they wanted to spend on dresses so that no one felt awkward saying it in front of everyone else. Then, I provided the number to our dress consultant.

Plenty of other people offered insights on this topic, too:
  • Letting the bridesmaids choose different styles and colors is an option that has a lot of fans, that's for sure. "That way, everyone (looks) about the same, but each (gets) to add their own flair to the party," one of my friends wrote. She's been in four weddings. That said, one person said it looked "awful" when a bride left color selection to her maids, only to have two in lilac, a third in dark purple and another in a third shade.
  • Another former bride encouraged me to keep budgets in mind and noted that a number of bridal and menswear stores offer discounts to attendants if the bride or groom has purchased their getup from said stores. (David's Bridal offers a $20 discount to each bridesmaid if the bride has purchased her gown there, for example.)
  • My bridesmaid, Amy, said she's seen brides simply name a color and ask their bridesmaids to choose a dress that was their style. While Amy said these brides always asked to see the dresses before purchase, others noted they've known brides who required no pre-approval. One friend of mine said a bride she knew tied mismatched dresses together with a matching sash. (Oh, and another useful tip: Some bridesmaid dresses are two pieces, which improves the likelihood that one or both pieces can and will be worn again.)
  • A recent maid of honor couldn't believe how expensive a "no-frills" shower cost. She said it cost $400 for 40 guests, even with them cooking the food themselves. Given a do-over, she would have had a restaurant cater the event, she noted.
  • As for shoes, if you want to spare your bridesmaids and groomsmen additional cost, ask them to wear shoes of a common color, such as black, that they may already own. Also, a lot of women said they purchased matching jewelry for their maids, and others said they gifted their bridesmaids a day at the spa to get their hair, makeup and nails done for the wedding day.
  • When I asked on Facebook for less predictable bridesmaid dress options, one person suggested taking one's bridesmaids to a vintage store. Pick an era, she suggested, rather than a color or style.

Your turn, former bridesmaids and groomsmen: What made participating in someone's wedding day a fun event for you, and what made it less enjoyable?
While others hunted for toys and electronics on Black Friday, I braved the unpredictably crowded Jo-Ann Fabrics on a hunt for the burlap I'll need to craft table runners, lace and ribbon for wrapping the glass jar collection currently overwhelming our small dining room and twigs, too.

Thanks to a generous 50% off coupon, I snagged 12 yards of burlap for $23, plus several yards of beautiful lace. I left without fake twigs because I decided I would go gather real twigs in the park across the street.

Gluing lace to jars and cutting strips of burlap seems well within my crafty abilities. But I asked the above question because I wanted to know what people regretted tackling on their own. There was no shortage of advice here:

*No one disagreed with Jenn, my culinary school-trained friend: Leave the food to the professionals.
*Many, though, recommended making your own centerpieces (we are!) and your own favors. A number of my Facebook friends said they simply wrapped candies or made donations to charity for their guests. Another said she created mini storybooks showcasing her hubby and her as part of their centerpieces. A third mentioned his wife and he put together bowls of water with colored stones and floating candles.
*People also recommended that we leave alterations to the professionals. This is a must-do, given that the sewing machine my mom gifted me three or four years ago remains unopened as of yet.
*The response regarding invitations was mixed. Some were happy that they did their own invitations and saved money doing so. Another woman, however, was quite adamant that her decision to DIY the invites was not the right one: "I did my own invitations ... huge mistake ... wayyy more difficult than I thought they would be ... leave those to the professionals!!!!"

*Finally, a piece of advice with which I do agree: "I would have gotten my makeup done as mine didn’t last well throughout the evening," one former bride said. "I’d actually leave anything related to your appearance to the pros – dresses, hair, makeup – you will be able to see the impact."
I may have more anxiety than the next bride about this topic. Maybe. My hair is naturally curly, and while I love it, I worry it will prove a challenge to even the most seasoned hairdressers.

In fact, when the HTB (husband-to-be) texted me this, revealing I'd been photographed while getting an autograph from the Cleveland Browns' new starting quarterback at training camp, he wrote, "Recognize this chia?" (When my hair is super unruly, I call it The Chia Pet.)
Credit: Associated Press

Yet again, I digress. Here's what my Facebook friends offered in the way of beauty advice:

Your wedding day is not the day to experiment with a new look, most said. Try not to deviate too much from the makeup you normally wear, wrote one of my former sorority advisers. Another girl I know from high school said her husband didn't like it when she went heavier on the makeup for their nuptials.

Another bride who's been there, done that said that for her wedding, her stylist used mineral makeup, which she said has a soft look and more staying power. While she kept her look fairly natural, she said her eyes were done up darker for photography purposes (so she wouldn't look washed out).

It seemed to be the consensus that updos are something to leave to the professionals. Given that I have no desire to be responsible for my look on The Big Day, this suits me just fine. You?

Seemingly everyone suggested trial runs. Another former bride advised: "Practice your hair, and make her keep doing it until she gets it right. And, as I've said -- pay to get your makeup done (with a natural look, though; it doesnt hurt to practice this, either!) so it lasts through the day, all the hugs and kisses, and even through the tears. You do not want to look like you're wilting as the day goes on."

Can't argue with that!