Wedding planning: Bridesmaid luncheon ideas, etiquette and invitation wording
Plenty of Bridesmaid luncheon ideas, to get closer with the women who have helped you the most.
Time, tradition, and economics may have changed the way that new brides are sent off on their happy journeys, but the acknowledgment of special companions who have played a part in the planning, the preparation and the ceremony is not one that should be left to the last minute. While it’s easy enough in the home-stretch crunch of wedding and honeymoon details, unforeseen crises, and basic bridal jitters to forget to say enough thank you’s to one’s attendants, a bridesmaids’ luncheon or brunch can be just the ticket for spending a few hours of quality time together and reaffirming the treasure of friendship.
Unlike a wedding shower in which the center of adoration and attention is the bride-to-be, a well orchestrated party for the bridesmaids puts the spotlight on them. And why shouldn’t it be? They are, after all, the ones who went from years of listening to “Do you think I’ll ever find Mr. Right?” to “Do you really think I’m doing the right thing?”
Even for brides who are taking a second—or more—trip down the aisle, the priceless presence and calming influence of dear friends have kept many a future “Mrs.” from becoming a manic “missing in action.” And unlike all of the other “have-to’s” on a bride’s extensive checklist, a special get-together for her attendants is a totally optional affair.
WHO SHOULD BE INVITED
Whether you are having 20 attendants or just your 3 best friends from high school, college or the workplace, this is your opportunity to provide a free meal in a convivial atmosphere and let them know how much you appreciate their love and support. As a courtesy, it’s nice to invite your mother and future mother in law, too, especially as an opportunity for the latter to get to know the members of your wedding party in an informal setting.
Are there close, female family members who have gone above and beyond to help put the wedding and reception together (i.e., a favorite aunt who’s making the cake, a sister in the travel business who booked the honeymoon reservations)? Depending on the size of your list (and your budget), you may want to include them as well. If you just want to limit the attendees to strictly bridesmaids, of course, that’s fine. Keep in mind, however, the importance of factoring personal thank you notes and appropriate tokens of appreciation into the equation for all of the behind-the-scenes time and energy these women have expended on your behalf.
It has also become popular in recent years for the bride and groom to host co-ed luncheons for their bridesmaids and groomsmen, especially if the parties involved have all known each other for some time. Depending on the season, an outdoor barbeque can easily take the place of a sit-down meal at a restaurant or club.
WHEN TO HAVE IT
If your bridesmaids all live locally, you have more flexibility in scheduling. A week or two prior to the wedding date enables everyone to kick back, chat and relax a little before the last, giddy wave of chaos. If they are traveling from out of town, however, it would be unreasonable to ask them to make an additional trip (unless, of course, you plan to foot the bill for their travel and accommodations!).
A day or two before the wedding ceremony usually works out well for everyone and allows the out-of-towners to get acquainted with those with whom they are sharing this special honor. Brides whose nuptials are scheduled for sunset or later in the evening have even found it practical to plan a bridesmaids’ champagne breakfast on the day itself and still allow enough time for hairdressers, manicures, and makeup.
The style and language of the invitation is predicated on the theme and complexity of the dining arrangements. If it were a full course meal being served at an elegant hotel, for instance, the occasion would call for an elegant notice, the likes of which would be ordered from the same printer responsible for the wedding invitations. The wording—stylish but uncluttered—would say something along the lines of “To thank you for everything you’ve done to make my wedding day special.”
A less formal gathering could be announced via themed “You’re Invited” cards available through local stationery and gift stores and hand-written by the bride. Whether it’s pizza at a favorite neighborhood hang-out, a brown bag lunch-in-the-park (with the bride supplying all the brown bag treats) or a gourmet dinner at home, there are colors and designs aplenty to match the mood you want to create.
Under no circumstances, however, should a bride resort to the laziness of the Internet to announce this occasion via email, especially in light of the fact that her bridesmaids have already paid for their own dresses, shoes and goodness knows what else. Further, even if the bride sees these same people everyday, it is no excuse to ignore the protocol and respect of a written and snail-mailed request for one’s company.
For the artistically inclined, there is also the option of designing and printing one’s own invitation, utilizing greeting card software programs and blank stock available in any art supply store. Even something as simple as individualized photo-cards capturing a special moment with each of the bridesmaids will be remembered long after the day has come and gone. For those who are sans vintage photos or scrapbook memorabilia to turn into invitations, there is always the creative spin of taking a picture of a stack of colorful books and captioning it, “It’s fun to share another chapter with you.”
Are you a poet and don’t yet know it? For a whimsical touch, try something along the lines of the following:
“Although I’m soon to change my name,
There’s one thing that will stay the same.
The friendship and the care you’ve shown
Have let me know I’m not alone.
Before I journey down the aisle,
Let’s spend some time to chat awhile.
A cup of cheer, a meal to share—
Please mark this date. I’ll see you there!”
WHERE TO HAVE IT
The location of the bridal luncheon should be convenient for everyone to reach (always include a map with the invitation!) and should never, ever require the guests to spend any of their own money. And don’t feel restricted by the word “luncheon,” either. Depending on the work schedules and family commitments of the bridesmaids, this social gathering could be a breakfast, a lunch, a high tea, a happy hour, or—for the night owls among you—a midnight buffet and slumber party.
Some couples have even taken to cooking a meal together for the members of their immediate wedding party, symbolizing their future life of entertaining.
It’s also helpful to keep in mind that this occasion for special thank you’s needn’t be confined to just eating. An enterprising bride may want to consider getting tickets to a local theater or music production (with dessert and coffee afterwards), planning an afternoon of miniature golf, chartering a river cruise, or going for a group portrait at an old-fashioned photography studio, giving copies as presents, and treating everyone to ice cream sundaes.
Whatever sort of special outing you plan, just make sure it is one that keeps all of you in close proximity for talking, sharing memories and laughing.
WHAT TO DO
Unlike a bridal or baby shower, your guests will be secretly relieved not to be called upon to participate in any kind of goofy games. Nevertheless, you may want to have some diversions in mind to accommodate those lulls in the conversation when everyone feels compelled to be doing something.
Here are a few suggestions:
• Provide each bridesmaid with a notepad and pen and ask her to list 10 things she knows about the bride, along with the circumstances of how they first became friends. In circumstances where the bridesmaids have not previously met each other, it makes for a fun ice-breaker.
• Pass around a tape recorder and ask each one to give her 5 minutes of advice on how to have a happy marriage. (This also works well in co-ed events.)
• A variation on the tape recorder technique is to include a small sheet of stationery with each invitation that is mailed out and ask that the bridesmaids write one page of advice on it. These are then read out loud at the luncheon and can be added to the wedding album of memories.
WHAT TO GIVE BRIDESMAIDS AS A PRESENT
The traditional gesture of giving one’s bridesmaids a gift is to have it relate in some way to what they will be wearing at the actual ceremony. To no great surprise, necklaces and earrings rank among the most popular, not only providing the participants with a lasting memento of the day but imbuing the ensemble with an accessorized look of symmetry.
Gift certificates for spas have also gained in popularity, recognizing that these ladies who have been a part of the wedding from start to finish deserve a relaxing day of pampering once the whole thing is finally over. Music boxes are in vogue as well, in addition to pewter or silver “Quaichs”—a small Scottish drinking bowl symbolizing friendship and fidelity.
For those who favor nostalgia, nothing touches the heart more deeply than something from a shared past. Framed photographs, a favorite book, a CD by their favorite artist, or—if you have the time to record them—individual audio tapes recalling some of the best times you had together—such are the things that lasting memories—and friendships—are made of.
Last but not least is the Victorian tradition of the bridesmaids’ charm cake, a pastel confection in which silver charms are attached to ribbons and placed under the cake’s bottom layer. There is one charm per guest, with each one signifying some aspect of the future (i.e., a ring for the next to be married, a house for a happy home life, a wishbone for good luck, etc.). In the event that the bride has opted to give each of her attendants a silver bracelet as her gift, the charm that each woman pulls out then becomes the first trinket to adorn it.