On the surface, weddings seem like pure joy: flowing drink, ample food, and awesome dance moves. Not to mention, a radiant couple who's happiness is infectious. But anyone who has tried to plan one knows that a wedding is way more than just fun and games. The months of preparation and tons of decision-making are not exactly easy, and it can sometimes be more than two families can handle.
That's where friends step in. We've partnered with State Farm to help you help others, giving you 9 ways to alleviate your bud's wedding planning blues.
1. Offer to help with the “extra” parties
Getting engaged is fun, but terrifying. We aren’t just talking about wedding jitters, either. Planning a wedding is full of social anxiety, from figuring out who to add to your guest list, to gaining the courage to let a friend know when you need their help.
What you can do: According to Joelle Duff, a 4-year wedding planning veteran from JoelleCharming.com, the best thing you can do is offer to help before you are asked. "She hopes that the people closest to her want to help," Duff said about the bride. "You need to come up with the idea of how to help, instead of just asking what she needs. It might be the bride's personality to not want to expect anything from her wedding party."
Reach out to the bride and see if she wants a bridal shower, who you can start talking to about a bachelorette party, and if she is having any external traditional affairs, such as a Henna or Jewish Sheva Brachot.
The bride will be forever grateful for not having to be put in the position of asking a friend to throw a party for her. However, Duff warns that you shouldn't take it too far: "Offer to help, but don’t feel like you are obligated to attend every shower and bring a gift."
2. Go dress shopping
Shopping is stressful, even if it isn’t for the biggest day of your life. So when it comes to wedding shopping, the ante is upped about a thousand percent.
What you can do: Be the bride’s cheerleader, secretary and bursar all rolled into one. "Dress shopping is one of the biggest events in a brides process," says Duff. "It is obviously a delicate and emotional time, so be careful with how you address things."
Before you go, ask her what her budget is, and if she WANTS you to stop her from trying on anything that might go above budget. Get a feel for what styles she does and does not like, any accoutrements that might be up her alley, and more. During the actual trying-on period, write down the characteristics of each dress on a piece of paper, along with pros and cons. Not only are these things that the bride might not be able to assess on her own, but it will take a significant portion of stress off her shoulders to know that she does not have to be the only one keeping these things in mind.
The big no-no though is bringing your own personal choices into the mix: "There is a difference between not liking a dress because its not your taste, and not liking it because it's not right for the bride," Duff warns. "Just be careful how you word it."
3. Act as a buffer
Time for some math: Money + deadline + family = an impending disaster.
What you can do: Be the sea wall to your friend’s choppy waters. Whether it is a micromanaging mother, an irresponsible wedding planner, or even a groomzilla, try to gently protect your friend if, and when, need be. Can you swing by her soon-to-be mother-in-law’s home to pick up the programs? Does she give you permission to be the stand-in for photo positioning? Protecting her from added stress can sometimes be the best present of all. "It is important for the bride to know that you are her main priority," Duff explains. "There is no other reason for you to be a part of this process besides for her."
4. Help keep things in perspective
She calls you in a panic to say that the WORST thing POSSIBLE just happened; the caterer she absolutely loved was just booked by another couple!
What you can do: This is a little bit difficult, since you want to make sure not to offend her while still helping her see that things will be okay. First, validate her feelings. Tell her that yeah, it really sucks that this happened. Don’t justify it by saying “but” -- simply commiserate with her for a moment, even over the smallest thing.
Then, put a solution into action. Help her figure out the next steps, and find actionable ways of getting there.
"Put things into perspective in a kind way, not a 'you're stupid' way," Duff explains. "There are little things that come up. Don’t belittle their concerns; just be aware of how you are speaking."
When the bride feels like she has more control over the situation, focus on all the things that are going well. Tell her how much you love her photographer, that her dress is absolutely perfect, and that to be honest, your friend hired that catering company and the potatoes were decidedly bland.
5. Spread the news (or the word)
Newsflash: Not all brides are the same. While some may love big flashy presents and want all the guests to wear silver lamé, others prefer you just contribute to their honeymoon fund and don’t make any speeches.
What you can do: Be a gossip. Ask your friend if there is anything that she really hopes does/ does not happen at the wedding, and try your best to drop the hint to as many people as possible. Take her word at face value; if she says no embarrassing bachelorette party games, keep the shiny beads at home. "I think it can be awkward, trying to navigate those waters," said Duff. "It's great to be able to put things into perspective through your friend."
6. Pick your battles
We are up to number 6 on this list and have yet to use the B word: Bridezilla. Now is the time.
What you can do: If your friend is being over the top about almost everything, don’t be afraid to level with her. After all, you are friends for a reason. Hopefully she will want you to be honest if things are spinning out of control.
But sometimes there are really just brides with specific tastes. Do you look horrendous in the bridesmaids color she picked out? Annoyed that the bridal shower is a two-hour drive from your house? Remember that it is, in fact, her day. A little taffeta never hurt anyone, and the look of sheer delight on her face when she sees everyone in matching shades of mustard yellow will make it all worth it. "The most important job is to make sure the bride and groom isn't bothered," says Duff. By making your tastes part of THEIR wedding, that can be pretty bothersome.
If your BFF isn’t the type to have a bride bible, it’s time for you to swoop in.
What you can do: Pinterest, Etsy, The Knot, repeat. Chat with her about what she does and doesn’t like, and shoulder some of the researching burden for her. Duff suggests that you ask specific details, like if she wants you to research caterers or send along place setting ideas, dresses, party favors and more based on her tastes. Even better: Offer to do the boring stuff, like finding the cheapest chair rentals or wedding tents.
8. Know when to back off
Easy does it, eager beaver. Being helpful is great and all, but there is a fine line between being helpful and overbearing.
What you can do: "Sometimes they are going to need quiet," Duff warns. Be communicative with your friend. Try to read when your help is, and is not, wanted. If she tells you that it would be best for you to step back for awhile with the wedding plans, don’t be offended. According to Duff, the best thing you can do is simply say, "I am here when you are ready or if you need me."
9. Be ready to NOT talk about the wedding
Believe it or not, there are other important topics to discuss during the months, or even years, before a wedding. It is highly likely that the bride-to-be wants to chat about politics, work, and the awesomeness that is Bey, amongst other non-wedding related subjects.
What you can do: Treat her like a person and talk about other things. Feel free to check in on wedding planning, but don’t forget to share snippets of your life as well. Duff suggests planning something non-wedding related. "You also need to lead real life when you are planning your wedding," she notes.
10. Show up
This seems pretty simple, but a rarely discussed bridal secret is the sadness that comes with a “regrets” RSVP.
What you can do: If you are invited, show up. Sure, weddings are expensive and the family is banking on some people who can’t make it, but sharing that special day with the people you love is an unparalleled happiness. You want to be a part of that, and the beautiful bride wants you there too.
When you need expert advice, always look to a friend. State Farm will be there to help you with every turn your life takes.