There are two types of wedding party attendants out there. There’s the type who will think of your wedding as a symbolic culmination of your and your partner’s love and devotion to one another, and a dramatic step forward into a new phase of your relationship, and then there’s the type who will think of your wedding as a chance to get totally insanely wasted! It’s not that those in the former camp won’t let loose on your big day, or those in the latter camp aren’t super psyched on you and your soon-to-be spouse’s love—it’s just that some bridesmaids and groomsmen really like to get totally insanely wasted.
What’s behind this level-11 urge to rage in the name of your upcoming nuptials? It could be that they’re a little nervous they’ll be seeing less of you once you’re hitched, or it could be that they think you deserve a proper send-off from singledom, courtesy of the squad. It could simply be that they cray, and you knew that when you asked them to be in your wedding party anyway, so why exactly are you surprised that they want to bring a flask full of bourbon to your gown fitting? Regardless of what motivates these extra-celebratory ‘maids and ‘men, it’s essential to rein ‘em in sooner rather than later, unless you want your wedding reception to look like a raucous homage to MTV’s “Spring Break” (remember MTV’s “Spring Break?”). Remember: Your big day is about marrying your best friend and celebrating your love—the open bar and dancing to Backstreet Boys throwbacks are just fun bonuses. Here’s how to keep your wild wedding party attendants in line (without becoming a party pooper):
Have a heart-to-heart with every member of your party at the very beginning.
Like I said above, some ladies and gents will open a wedding party proposal, instantly think “A year’s worth of partying? I’m in!” and that’s that. They may not realize how important their posts will be—not so much in terms of helping you guys out by doing physical labor, but rather, in emotionally supporting you; being your rock through the meltdowns and panic attacks and indecision and hair-pulling moments. There are also a lot of fittings, appointments, events, trips, calls and emails in their future when they sign on as ‘maids or ‘men, not to mention the money. So, yeah—it’s a big (but immensely rewarding!) job. If you explain this to them and say how much you want them by your side for it all, and value their love and support, you’ll start them off on the right foot and show that partying is just part of the good stuff in store. It’s important to explain to all your attendants that you’re taking your wedding seriously, and they should be too—but that taking it seriously doesn’t have to mean not having fun!
Set expectations for each event ahead of time.
Your pals who love to party are going to want to take each and every wedding event to rager-status unless you clearly state you want otherwise. While maybe you are down to throw back a shot with them during your bachelorette party (duh!), you may not want to during your engagement party where your family (and fiancé’s holier-than-thou auntie) are going to be present. If there are no rules, kick off the event by proudly proclaiming just that. If the event requires more low-key, buttoned-up behavior, however, simply round up your ‘maids and ‘men and let them know in a cool, down-to-earth (non-patronizing!) way: “We are so glad you guys are here for us tonight! There will be a lot of family and children in attendance, so we need to play it cool on the partying front—but we promise to make it up to you later!” Everyone will be happy to comply as long as they’re clearly informed on which events are for partying and which ones aren’t.
Give everyone a task to stick to.
First of all, these people are your closest friends—they want to help, no matter what. Early on, shortly after inviting them to be a part of your wedding party, give each attendant a “job” that you think they’d enjoy and would be good at to help you as you get further along the planning calendar. When it comes to your party animal pals, that job should be planning the bachelorette or bachelor parties, helping plan your wedding after party, or some other similarly convivial event. Giving them a job will keep them in line since they’ll have some responsibility on their shoulders, but also, they’ll also be able to channel their love of partying into putting together the ultimate blowout in your honor—a.k.a., their dream wedding gift to you. Overall, you’ll find that when everyone has something to do (emphasis on making it an enjoyable something to do!) the obsession with getting wasted takes a backseat to… getting it done!
Have a backup plan.
You wouldn’t show up at your venue on your wedding day without some spare bobby pins (OK, and a prayer that it won’t rain…)—so why wouldn’t you devise a backup plan for your bridal party in case someone gets a little out of hand? You want to make sure that you’re not the one who has to do damage control on your big day (even if you’re totally the type to take on every problem that comes your way). It just isn’t traditional for the bride to hold a bridesmaid’s hair back when she’s barfing in a porta-john after over-indulging at the open bar. So, before your wedding day, grab a decidedly chill ‘maid who you know you can trust, and ask her to be your right-hand when it comes to wedding party crowd control. Chances are, her services won’t be needed, because your people won’t get out of control—but just knowing you’ve got back up in case stuff gets crazy (and a tequila-fueled Jess gets a little too handsy with your one single uncle…) will help keep your mind at ease.
Know when to put their party animal ways to work.
We’ve all been to a wedding where the dance floor is bare and you can practically hear crickets behind the DJ’s desperate attempts to get the party started. If this happens at your wedding (or bachelorette party, engagement party, whatever!)—don’t freak. It’s not because people are having a terrible time and they’d rather be playing Candy Crush. They’re just shy and afraid to be the first ones out there. Here’s a perfect time to let your wild and crazy bridal attendants really let loose and shine. Put a drink in their hand, nudge them toward the dance floor and tell them it’s Go Time. The look in their eyes when they get to do for your wedding what no one else can will be priceless. And everyone else dying to dance will be eternally grateful.
Have an after-party so everyone can let loose.
In case you haven’t gathered from what you’ve read so far, the folks in your bridal party do a heck of a lot for you and your spouse-to-be. And if you expect them to do all that while on their best behavior, it’d be mighty kind of you to offer a just-for-them party after your wedding where they can finally let their hair down, kick of their (likely uncomfortable) shoes, drink like no toddler cousins are watching, and go buck-wild to celebrate your love (and their love of partying). Plus, if they have an after-party to look forward to, they’re more likely to remain relatively chill during the main event. So you get the classy affair you’ve always dreamt of, and then you all get the epic bash you deserve. Win-win!