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Bridesmaids: Setting Expectations

Here's how to keep your bridesmaids' role in check.

What Brides Can Expect From Your Maids

There are some great perks to this often-overwhelming role. For starters, the bridesmaids will get to accompany you when you start shopping for dresses, both yours and theirs. They’ll have the opportunity to show off their party-planning skills, with both the shower and the bachelorette party. And as a last bit of fun, they may decorate the honeymoon suite with romantic candles and rose petals for the newlyweds’ arrival. On the flip side, they'll be expected to spread the news about where you're registered; help coordinate out-of-town guest activities and transportation; place welcome gifts in guests' hotel rooms; and collect gift envelopes brought to the reception. They'll also have to assist as hostesses, show guests where to sit, direct them to restrooms, tell them where to put presents, invite them to sign the guest book, and generally be helpful.

Bridesmaids make great therapists. Throughout the process, bridesmaids will continue to be trusted friends and good listeners. So they'll be there to keep you laughing which, for any stressed-out bride, can be as effective as venting. In most cases, your therapy will require lots of tissues, hugging, and hair smoothing.

Bridesmaids also make great bride-sitters. It will be your maids' job to make sure that you take a moment to eat something, drink something, rest, sit, and all of that other stuff your mom would normally tell you to do. They'll also help you get in and out of your wedding attire -- a huge help when you’re dealing with multiple pounds of dress.

There will be a lot of money involved. For starters, your maids will have to pay for their own ensembles -- from the dress to the shoes to the jewelry. They'll pony up for the shower and the bachelorette party, wedding weekend accommodations, and gifts. All in all, their pocketbooks will take a beating. So remember to be nice to them in return.

What Bridesmaids Expect From the Bride

It’s not all take-take-take. JFK forgive us, but ask not what your bridesmaids can do for you, but what you can do for your bridesmaids. They need you to be compassionate. They're not ladies-in-waiting, so before you turn into one of those "let them eat cake" brides, remember that these girls have feelings, and lives, too. Think about tasks that are reasonable, and those that are just mean. A short meeting over coffee to discuss the upcoming events is reasonable. A 3:00 a.m. envelope-licking session would be considered cruel.

They expect the bride to be considerate of their finances. Is one a student, another independently wealthy? Base things on the lowest common denominator, so none of your maids is struggling to keep up with all the wedding prep.

They want the bride to communicate. Some brides send out a newsletter detailing all of the to-dos and other essential information. This way, everyone is privy to everyone else’s duties, and no one will feel as though she’s being targeted.

They want -- ahem -- a thoughtful gift. Put a lot of effort into a nice present for each of your bridesmaids. Nice doesn’t have to mean expensive -- the gift should be personal and meaningful, and should show how much you appreciate her work and friendship.

They want you to have fun. They know how important this time of your life is and will bend over backward to make sure you’re completely happy with everything. Gee -- isn’t that why you chose them in the first place?

See More: Basics for Bridesmaids , Your Bridal Party