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?