In May last year, I was back in my home country (on the other side of the world to where I live with my husband in his country) to visit family and friends. As part of my grand tour of catching up, we met with two good friends from university, who had hooked up long after our campus days and were newly engaged to be married. We chatted and laughed over coffees, and they updated us on some of their wedding plans: their idea to have a decorative stack of cheese wheels instead of a traditional wedding cake, booking a photo booth (although their popularity for weddings was on the rise, I was yet to experience one!), and that another good friend of ours from university was even becoming ordained as a celebrant just so she could marry the two of them. So much fun!
After our cafe jaunt, we headed to a group picnic with a larger group of friends from college. Later, when everyone was heading home, the bride pulled me discretely aside and said with a smile, “Um, I didn’t want to ask in front of everyone, but I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about who I want to be part of my wedding, and who would be in my big-day posse. And I wondered if you would be one of my bridesmaids!”
I was so shocked! “Really?!”, I squealed (before squealing it a few more times). “Oh my God, I would be so honoured!” (before also squealing that a few more times). I gave her a big hug and jumped up and down a little, before remembering that we were trying to be discrete. I was beyond excited. Their wedding sounded like it would be such a blast, I was so stunned to be asked to take on such an honoured role, and – seriously – how often is it that you go to a wedding we’re you’re actually equally friends with both the bride and groom? Over the next couple of months, I checked in on the bride’s progress from a distance, gave advice (always delicately… I hope!) and offered myself up for any help and pre-wedding venting. Their wedding would be in April 2015.
And then came a spanner in the works. In August 2014, my husband and I learnt that I was one month pregnant. And, if your brain has already fast-forwarded through the math, you might have figured out what that spanner might be. Yes, I would be due to give birth in April – and three days after the wedding. Although my husband and I were hugely looking forward to the arrival of our bundle of joy, I was heartbroken about the timing. And no matter how determined I was to join my friends’ big day, no airline would allow a woman nine months pregnant to fly with them (aside from the fact that I’d probably be hugely uncomfortable flying so far and the rather large possibility of, er, giving birth while travelling).
Once I passed the three-months pregnant mark and we had informed close family of our news, it was time to tell the bride and groom. They deserved better than to find out via social media, and I wanted to inform them as close to “in person” as was possible, so chose doing a Skype video call. When it came time for our video appointment, I took a deep breath and explained it all to the bride. And, bless her heart, she took it very well. We both cried – a mix of sad tears and happy tears – and vowed that I would still be a bridesmaid involved in all the expected ways… except for the part about actually being there on the day. I even said that I would completely understand if she wanted to bring in another bridesmaid to replace me, if they were aiming to keep the number of bridesmaids and groomsmen even (though in the end she never attempted to recruit any substitutes).
So then the question came: how could I be the best bridesmaid possible, without actually being there on the day? I posed the question to friends, Google and even my pregnancy forums, and this is what I ended up doing to ensure I was still part of the bride’s posse – even if from a distance.
Before The Day
Even from the other side of the world, I wanted to help out with the preparations as much as possible. If any other bridesmaids (or groomsmenn out there) find themselves in the same boat of not being able to attend a wedding, here are some ideas you can use to be involved:
• Once a month I would check in with the bride to see what she was finding frustrating at the moment, or if there was anything she felt she didn’t have time to get to this week. In the beginning this mostly led to wedding planning venting! We also had a few video calls during the engagement for this purpose. As there was no maid of honor among her five bridesmaids, she asked me to be head bridesmaid in the sense of “administrating” the other bridesmaids for their tasks (bachelorette party, dresses and speeches). She didn’t formally announce this to the other bridesmaids, so I decided to do likewise, and simply follow up the others on their tasks.
• Asking the bride what was making her feel overwhelmed that week led to some individual tasks such as researching and recommending transport options for the bridal party, finding glittery flat shoes for the reception, and giving the couple a second opinion on decorations (since I wouldn’t get to see them on the day anyway, the surprise wouldn’t be ruined or leaked!), and so on.
• The bride chose an online store for the bridesmaid dresses, and asked us girls to choose any dress style we liked, so long as it was in a particular shade and length. We had a group email conversation about it, and I chose a dress as well. 🙂 I didn’t order it, as it was impossible to take my measurements accurately with a six-months-pregnant belly, but I may order it for the next time I go home to my country.
• I was also very involved with the bachelorette party. Although the local bridesmaids had to handle venue visits, finances and shopping, I researched activities, crafted the agenda, designed all the stationery, put together the music playlist and created all but one of the games (interview questions for the groom, all kinds of dares, voting cards and more). I also sent the bride an email in the morning, and created a video message to be played during the festivities (as did another bridesmaid who couldn’t attend on the night).
• After seeing my craftsmanship with the stationery for the hens night, the bride asked if I could design the menus for the reception. They liked the Penguin Classics design they used for their wedding invitations, but thought it was too expensive to commission the creator again to make something as simple as menus, so I mocked up a replica with my limited Microsoft Word artistry. 😛
• I put together for her a wedding-day emergency kit, and posted it across a month or so before the big day. I packed a pretty beige toiletry bag (matching the wedding color scheme) and fastened on a personalized label with the bride’s name and wedding date. It featured safety pins, travel sewing kit, Band-Aids, hair pins, double-sided tape, clear nail polish, nail file, super glue, and a big chocolate bar in case the bride got the munchies. That way, even without me present at the wedding day, the bride knew I still had her back. 😀
On The Day
By the day of the wedding we were home from hospital with our one-week-old newborn, but that didn’t stop me participating.
• Early in the morning I sent the bride an email with the graphic on the right (I’d sent her something similar the morning of the hens night), and my best advice for the wedding day, plus a promise that she would receive more messages in different forms throughout the day.
• The bridesmaids would all be getting ready in the hotel room that the bride and groom would stay in on their wedding night. I arranged in advance with hotel concierge to have delivered to the girls a platter of chocolate-dipped strawberries – decorated like tuxedos – with the following message: “Special delivery for the bride and bridesmaids! Something sweet and beautiful to enjoy, while you sweet girls make yourselves even more beautiful for the big day.”
• The other bridesmaids had come up with some lovely ideas for the hair and make-up portion of the agenda. We all chipped in to buy matching black and white dressing gowns for the bridesmaids, and a white robe for the bride. I also bought one of the bridesmaid robes for myself! The couple were adding a book motif to their big day, so one of the bridesmaids suggested we each buy the bride a hard-cover edition of our favorite romance novel and present it to her while getting ready. I sent across “The Princess Bride”, along with a handwritten message inside (about mawwidge, twue wuv and the like :D).
• I also prepared in advance some photos of myself to SMS to the bride during the preparation time. I posed in front of a mirror tidying my hair by straightening iron with one hand and applying mascara with the other, and sent that as a photo an hour after the hair and make-up time began. I then did full hair and make-up and slipped on a dress that looked something like our bridesmaid gowns, and then my husband took a picture of me making a stunned, happy face – my attempt to replicate me seeing the bride in her wedding gown for the first time.