Hello and Welcome to Ellwed Talks – the first podcast about destination weddings in Greece! My name is Sanya, the founder of Ellwed magazine and I will be your host today. Join me in this new episode where we talk all about bridesmaids together with Claire and Maxeen!
The topic of bridesmaids was always on my mind for some time now. Because in my culture we don’t really have the tradition of bridesmaids as you would see in the movies or in many wedding publications. In this episode of Ellwed Talks, I am welcoming back Claire from episode 007, where we spoke about different wedding ceremonies which are possible in Greece. And I believe that together with Maxeen they can share valuable advice and input about bridesmaids!
Now, before you dive into this episode, please bear with us as we had some audio issues. I might sound like I am in another room, but Maxeen and Claire sound great!
Listen to the episode here for the full conversation:
Let’s hear a little bit about your story Maxeen, because we haven’t had you before on the podcast yet. So introduce yourself.
Thank you. I am a destination wedding photographer originally from South Africa, but now I am based between Greece and London. I shoot all over the UK and Scotland, Greece, Italy and France as well.
Great! So, as a destination wedding planner coming from UK with a rich tradition in bridesmaids, tell us a little bit more, how did this tradition originate?
Claire: That’s actually really interesting, Sanya. Bridesmaids and brides ladies actually date back to ancient Greek and Roman times. They would carry fragrant flowers where they accompanied the bride to the ceremony. And in more modern times, they were the bride’s attendants. They used to be dressed similar to the bride in order to cause confusion. In case of jealous suitors who may want to steal the bride away on the wedding day.
So interesting. I didn’t know that! So in the modern era, what do bridesmaids do? What is usually their task?
Claire: The task of a bridesmaid actually starts before the wedding day. So typically they go with the bride when she’s looking at dresses and trying them on to help her, and give opinions on the type of dress that she might like. So that’s a really good fun event. When you go to a bridal store, I’m sure you get offered the glass of champagne. It’s a really lovely meeting afternoon where you have fun with your girlfriends and maybe take your mum along too.
The other really important pre wedding task is of course, the Bachelorette party and hem party back in the UK. And the bridesmaids or chief bridesmaid is usually responsible for organizing that sort of last evening or weekend of fun before the wedding for the girls. On the wedding day, the bridesmaids are with the bride from the getting ready process and they might wear matching robes and have their makeup done. They join in the fun. There’s lots of giggling and laughter, maybe a little bit of champagne. They’re there to support her and help her make sure she gets dressed.
And then of course, throughout the wedding, they’re there in case she needs anything or maybe some help with her dress throughout the evening. So it’s just like having your best friends or your closest acquaintances around you all day.
And what you say is like the main difference between Maid of honor and the bridesmaid?
Claire: It depends on culture as well, but essentially it is the main bridesmaid, if you like, the chief bridesmaid. So she’s the person chosen to be the head of the bridesmaids or made up on a usual title given to people who were a bridesmaid but were already married to themselves rather than being a bridesmaid, which was typically the job of an unmarried friend or sister.
Maxeen: Well, in my experience, the maid of honour is usually the person who kind of drives the planning of the hen party. Or any kind of event before the wedding. Now with destination weddings, you’ll find that the person who generally has the most local knowledge may either plan it or contact someone like Claire, who will help to plan it at the chosen destination. They’re usually the person that has known the bride the longest or knows most of the bridesmaids so they can coordinate the best.
All right, so I don’t have brothers or sisters, so I didn’t have bridesmaid or maid of honor or anything like that. So let’s say if there’s another person out there without siblings or maybe that they’re have a destination wedding. Who do people typically ask and who should they ask?
Claire: I think we can answer this question in two parts. So I can tell you from my experience as a planner of my clients. I would say they typically choose their best friend or a sister. Or maybe the sister of their partner or a cousin. So it tends to be the closest female friends.
Maxeen: Yeah, I would probably agree with that. You generally see girls who’ve gone to University together. Depending if they stayed in the same place, and it depends on how close they are. I know some bridesmaids have chosen best friends over sisters, if they don’t have a very close relationship. So it doesn’t necessarily have to be someone that you’re related to. It just needs to be someone that you’re close to depending on your circumstances. So as you were an only child, that would be like your best friend or a cousin.
Is it okay if there’s some bride out there that just doesn’t care to have a bridesmaids or maid of honour? And does it make her wedding experience any less magical or anything like that?
Claire: Absolutely not. It’s completely personal preference. There are no rules, as you know, particularly with destination weddings. So, if you prefer not to have a maid of honour, a bridesmaid or a best woman, that is absolutely fine, too. We do quite a few elopements, as you know, with Covid elopements have become more popular. And those couples tend not to have bridesmaids with them. If you’re lucky enough to have a planner, someone like myself and maybe a female photographer, then we often help with those last few details. Maybe a couple of buttons or just telling her that she looks amazing. Or making sure she’s got her handbag with her. It’s not essential to have a bridesmaid, by all means. It’s really a personal choice.
Maxeen: Who you do ask as a bridesmaid is very different to who you should ask. And I’ve found that this is quite important, because as Claire said, your bridesmaids are with you the whole day. In my opinion, It’s best to ask someone who doesn’t have children. Because if you have bridesmaids who are bringing their children, they’re not actually going to be able to help you throughout the day. They might be there for the ceremony. But if they’ve got a little one, they’re probably going to have to care for their child more.
If you have a friend that is quite dramatic or prone to drama, she’s not usually going to make your wedding morning easier for you. I’ve had a couple of instances where bridesmaids have actually made getting-ready a lot more stressful. And a lot more difficult than it should have been purely because they seem to like drama. So when you’re married, obviously it’s a high emotional day. You probably want to have someone who’s relaxed around you and you’re going to be a can-do person! Really someone who’s very positive.
Also, you’ll know, because you’ve planned weddings yourself, sometimes things happen or it will rain. When we were hoping there was no rain or something will happen, it’s best to have people around the bride at that point who are super, super positive. Only the bride knows who that person is. But it’s better to try and pick people who are a little bit more calm and a bit more positive, as opposed to people who have other things that they’re going to have to do and won’t be able to help you or who are possibly a lot more nervous or praying to drama because that’s going to make the day a lot more difficult for you.
Yeah, exactly. And also, I think if you’re already picking somebody that’s going to be with you for maybe even a wedding week or wedding weekend, a destination wedding, for instance, where there is a lot of traveling and organizing, you want somebody that you can really rely on! Someone that has this organizational side of them and maybe not self-absorbed, as it is your wedding. So it should be about you, not above them! Right?
Maxeen: Definitely. And, we’ve seen sometimes you do get a couple of bridesmaids who are maybe a little bit more worried about themselves than where the bride is and what she’s up to. And it does make the day a lot more stressful for the bride than it actually needs to be.
Claire: Totally. I would like to say that you can share the role as well. If you have a calm, organized friend and you also have super fun friends as well, let them share the role. Because the calm, organized friend as Maxine, said, is the person you want around you on your wedding day just reassuring you. But the fun friend, maybe you want their input for the hen night or something else. And together they’ll make a great team for your wedding. So think outside the box, if you can’t pin that roll down to one of your friends, then share the role for instance.
And also we should mention brides-men. It’s not just if your best friend is a guy or you really want your brother to be a best man instead of that is okay to have him on team bride as well. That’s a new trend we’re currently seeing. So it’s not just for girls anymore. You can have guys on your team bride as well.
Yeah, that’s great. Tell us a little bit more about that. Like, how does that work? Does he then go around with the girls everywhere as well?
Claire: In the occasions that we’ve had, in my experience, we’ve had brides-men, they have tended to be the gay best friend of the bride, which is okay. And they’re great characters. The ones that we’ve had and they’ve been brilliant. The last one I had in October, he was also the MC for the wedding. So he was really fun. But together with the other bridesmaid, the bride was just so happy that she had like her four best friends with us. They tend to be the instigators of the party. I won’t lie. They’re usually the ones getting the party started and keeping the fun going.
That’s so great. And especially in today’s age when we have non binary gender. So we shouldn’t be just focusing on bridesmaids and brides-men, but in general, best friends of the bride or of the groom.
Claire: Exactly. It’s a bridal party. So whoever that includes for you as the bride or the groom, that’s who you should have.
So who usually pays for what when it comes to bridesmaids attire? And what is trending right now with the dresses? Is it still matchy-matchy as we have been seeing some years ago or is it more casual?
Claire: Traditionally the bride and groom pay for the bridesmaids’ outfits and that includes dresses, the shoes and can also include accessories as well. But in more modern times, it does depends on you as a couple and what you feel comfortable in your budget. But traditionally, as the wedding couple asking someone to join your bridal party, you would pay the cost for their outfit.
Yes. I also think that if a bride has a specific vision for the bridesmaids’ dresses, for instance, and for the overall look, it’s okay that she pays for that. But if there is like a dress that bridesmaids can wear later on and which is not so festive, but more chic, I think that then they can pay for it themselves. Would you agree?
Claire: I do agree with you and I think you’ve raised some good points there. So if you do have a vision for your wedding and a style and a look, then in order to have that, if you’re bearing the cost of the outfit, then it is your decision what people wear. If you have a group of them that they will put some money towards whatever dress or outfit is they’re going to wear, then also the point you raise is really good. When looking at styles, you can look at address of which that person would be able to use. Again, another occasion.
Because I’m seeing lately bridesmaids wearing more chic options which they can wear again later on. For instance, many bridesmaids are color or pattern/style coordinated but the type of the clothing can vary.
Maxeen: I think that’s generally down to the bride and it’s also down to her bridesmaids. So if you have a bridal party that is composed of different genders, ethnicities, hair colors, not every style is going to look great on everybody. Then you can also have different body types or even brides-men and of course they can’t all wear the same outfit.
So I think brides are becoming cleverer and saying, “Well, I want you to actually look good in my wedding photos”. So it’s no longer: “I’ve chosen this dress, I don’t care if you like it or not”. It’s kind of become more popular for brides to choose certain colors. And maybe it’s not only one color, maybe it’s a color palette because we need to be aware that not every color looks great on everybody. And I think that that’s actually contributing, from my perspective, to better photos because you don’t have anyone looking uncomfortable. Everyone looks good.
Claire: I’ve been looking at fashions online, and I can see that popular places for searching for price matches. Such as Asos and then maybe at the other end, White by Vera Wang, this year they will release a number of dresses in a similar color. So whilst you can purchase the same dress for everybody, you can purchase a dress in the same color or fabric, but in different styles. So carrying on from what Maxine said, it’s easier to offer people a style that suits them but also keep true to your wedding theme and style.
And when I discuss flowers and palette with my brides, first thing I will ask them is what is the style of their wedding that they have in mind. Secondly, what are the colors they have chosen? My third question is also what are the bridesmaids wearing? Because those two colors are quite integral to the wedding palette.
So, for example, if you told me that your wedding colors are going to be green and yellow. And then you tell me that the bridesmaids are wearing fuchsia pink, I think perhaps then we need to have a conversation about that. These are two quite strong colors. So do they go together? Are we bringing those colors in anywhere else throughout the day? Or perhaps maybe we should look at either keeping the dresses or changing the flowers. Just so there’s fluidity and consistency throughout the wedding theme. It also makes for better photos.
So in Greece couples would traditionally have Koumbaro or Koumbara. Sponsors or witnesses of the wedding. What would you say is the main difference between the maid of honour or a best man and Koumbara?
Claire: I think now in 2022, just in the Greek weddings that I’ve been involved in recently, I think the role of Koumbara, or maid of honor, has evolved a little bit. And I know that the Greek brides that I’ve sort of dealt with the last 18 months, they’ve chosen a dress or been involved in picking the dress for the Koumbara. So it’s crossed over a little bit in the bridesmaid territory where the Koumbara is wearing an outfit that works with the wedding theme. But then there’s still people who do the traditional theme where they asked me to be the Koumbara, and she just chooses what she’s going to do on that day. I know it’s a very great honor to be asked to be a Koumbara in Greece as well. So it’s similar to being asked to be a maid of honor.
Okay, so as we are in Greece and lots of destination brides choose Greece as their destination and usually in the summer where the temperatures are quite high. So what do you suggest for these brides to think about when they have lots of bridesmaids to dress?
Claire: That’s a great question Sanya. So definitely think about the temperature. Try and choose more of a loose fitting dress made with a soft, summer fabrics. Try to stay away from heavier winter style dresses and heavier fabrics because they will make your bridesmaids hotter and not as comfortable in the heat. So just think soft flowy dresses, skirts and breathable fabrics. I would urge to steer away from satin type fabrics because they can be clingy. And also on the wedding day, they’re not very sympathetic to sweat marks and things like that.
Maxeen: Yes. You’re going to be sweaty, so think summer, light fabrics. And try and find something that has some good support as well because the less sort of underwear that you wear underneath that’s also more comfortable in the heat. And it’s better not to have unsightly bra straps and underwear on show as well. Nude underwear is an absolute must for anyone in the bridal party.
Claire: There is a style dress which has been consistently popular every year. I know at least one or two brides will pick it for their bridesmaids and it’s the multi way dress. You’ll have seen it on various stores and online as well. It is a great dress and I tell you the reasons why.
Firstly, it comes in many colors so you can always find one that suits your wedding. And the multi way style of it means that it suits girls with a large chest, a small chest, slightly larger girls and also slightly thinner girls. They can tie it in a way that suits their body shape and makes them feel happy and confident. But it also means that your bridesmaids are all wearing a similar color, but with a little bit of individuality.
Maxeen: Also in the Greek sunlight, you can go for stronger colors! Mainly because the sunlight is quite harsh. It blows out color quite a lot, especially if you’re getting ready in the middle of the afternoon. So if you do walk into the sun, the color might get blown out, but also because there’s so much Sunshine and there’s a lot of color in the landscape. Anyway, having a little bit of a pop of color on your bridesmaids and in your flowers is great because it really draws your attention and it looks gorgeous in Photos.
So sometimes people also get married later in life or for the second time around. Do those brides also choose their bridesmaids or their maid of honour?
Claire: Again they do! And quite often they actually choose their daughter or daughter in law to be with them on the wedding day. Which is really lovely because then not only are they bridesmaid, it’s their family as well.
Maxeen: Our bride Linda had her two daughters as bridesmaid. And that was really special for the girls and for their mum. It was a really special day. They got to spend the morning together, get dressed together and it was quite a beautiful thing for her daughters as her bridesmaids.
And for the last question, do you have any advice for all those brides getting married abroad?
Claire: I would say your wedding day is about you and your partner. So whoever you choose to have up there with you, remember you’re the center of attention so don’t choose anybody that would steal your thunder. Because the day is about you!
Maxeen: Definitely. You’re the “centerpiece” of the day!
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