Q: One of my best friends is getting married and I am a bridesmaid. I expected the usual expenses: dress, gifts, etc. She has already asked us to chip in for hair and makeup, and we’re flying across the country for her four-day bachelorette party. This was all fine with me.
Then, a few days ago, the bridesmaids got an email from her aunt stating that she was booking a venue for the bridal shower and she would let us know what we each owed her, since we were hosting it. She said it was going to be a catered lunch for one hundred women (there are five bridesmaids) and that she would take care of the menu and centerpieces.
I have heard of bridesmaids being responsible for throwing a shower, but I have never seen anyone plan it and then give the bridesmaids the bill for a fully catered affair for one hundred. What is the proper way to confront the situation? Do I ask the bride if we can do something else for her, or do I confront the aunt directly saying this is just completely outside of our budget? Or am I completely in the wrong by not expecting to throw her a shower?
I thought I was a Bridesmaid not a Bank?
A: You have my full permission to close for business. I’m going to say a bunch of things, but honestly stop reading now, write her an email that says “No” and call it a day.
Bridesmaids’ responsibilities are a tricky thing. If you google them, you’ll find page after page of (completely absurd) duties. Here’s my take on a bridesmaid’s responsibilities when it comes to a shower. I think, as a bridesmaid, you have an obligation to consider helping host a shower for the bride. Customarily a bride does not ask for a shower; she only accepts it if one is offered, and it’s a nice thing to offer if you feel up to it.
You have been designated An Official Closest Friend For Wedding Purposes, so it’s your job to think about a shower. That thought process should go something like this: Can you afford it? Do you want to pay for it? Are the other bridesmaids planning something/down to help out? Where is everyone located? If you did want to throw one, what kind of event are you up for? Does the bride even want one? But, importantly, all you must do is consider it. It’s completely okay if your analysis is, “Nope! All tapped out on other wedding things emotionally/financially, I don’t even live near her, I love her but she’s real fancy and I don’t do fancy.” It’s also fine to decide to offer a low-key shower in your living room, because you love her a lot, but you don’t have a lot of cash to spend. (And remember, this IS the traditional kind of shower.)
After you’ve done all that, let the bride know what you’re thinking, whether it is, “Sorry I just can’t,” or “Do you know if anyone is planning a bridal shower? I can’t do much monetarily, but I am all in for baking and decorating,” or “A Paris theme, and puppies as the favor, obvi, right?”
Aunties (using the word to mean any woman closer to your mom’s age than yours, who loves you like a biological aunt) are also prime bridal shower host candidates. (Traditionally moms do not host showers. I’m totally here for rules and traditions, but I honestly cannot be bothered caring about this one. No one thinks your mom is hosting your shower to get out of filling your hope chest herself.) So Auntie here is partially doing good things! She’s stepping up! She’s organizing! She’s made a plan!
OH BUT WAIT. Her plan is you pay for it. And sorry Auntie, but helllllllll nope. For starters, rule number one is that we all spend our own money and let other people spend theirs. But also? If you are thinking someone else might want or expect to contribute to something you are planning, you ask them before you make a plan, and then collaborate on the plan.
So I return to my original answer. Tell this lady no. If her plan were something close to reasonable or something you kinda liked, sure, respond and negotiate. But it isn’t, so just say no. And reach out to the bride separately to touch base. “Hey, just wanted to let you know that your auntie reached out to us about the shower. Would love to have thrown you a shower, but honestly with everything else going on I’m just financially tapped out.” She supposed to be one of your closest friends right? She should get it.
And can I take a minute for the absolute nonsense that is a one-hundred-person shower? I know, I know, “My family is huge,” “I have thirteen aunties,” “Everyone does it.” But still. It’s a massive, massive ask for anyone to host a party for a hundred people. If your bridesmaids offer to host you a shower, you cannot tell them they need to invite a hundred people. It’s just unacceptable. This is the kinda thing that needs to be paid for by an aunt or grandmother or your mom (in secret, if she’s traditional like that). And honestly srsly? One hundred people all getting together to celebrate you is more commonly referred to as “a wedding.”
Image CreditAutumn Goodman
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