Friday, June 17, 2016

The Blue Haired Bridesmaid and the True Blue Bride

Another wedding planner reached out to me for advice and asked: "The MOB just called me to ask me what they should do about a bridesmaid situation. Evidently the bridesmaid has dyed her hair blue and is not going to go back to her natural color prior to the wedding. The wedding is going to be a formal affair and the bride does not want blue hair in the wedding. What do you suggest I tell her? The wedding day is not until October. Thanks in advance."

Here is my advice:

The only thing worse than a Bridezilla is a self centered member of the bridal party. Wedding etiquette exists for a reason. Wedding planners can't just make it up as we go along. That is not what we are paid for. We are paid to inspire and empower, anticipate problems and manage crisis. Ideally, both parties should be educated about wedding etiquette at the onset so situations like this can be avoided in the first place. There are several wedding etiquette books that I recommend all planners have in their arsenal to deal and PREVENT exactly these types of scenarios. 

When looking at wedding photos of blue haired bridesmaids, I have to say I was very distracted by the blue haired bridesmaid in the picture above and spent more time looking at her than anyone else. I assume when the bridesmaid was invited to join the bridal party she did NOT have blue hair so I can imagine how shocked the bride must be feeling. Obviously her appearance will change over the course of the year in many ways but just as the bride may select the hairstyles, gown style, color, shoes nail polish or jewelry, drastic and unnatural or distracting topics such as tattoos or radical hair color changes should also be on the table for discussion. Manners and etiquette are timeless and span across all geographic regions so it is important to have clear guidelines from the beginning so everyone is on the same page. It is inappropriate for the bride to dictate every detail of the bridal party appearance but the bridesmaid chose a dramatic change that she can easily modify or alter to support the bride's vision and compliment NOT compete with her for attention. It is important to respect the bride's wishes above all as she is spending thousands of dollars on the photos and videos and the blue haired bridesmaid will dominate a lot of those photos. Bridesmaids are not supposed to upstage the bride with outrageous fashion or hairstyles. This is basic etiquette that all the guests observe which is why certain colors and dress styles are generally avoided. 

A lot of bridesmaid drama can be prevented with a simple conversation about expectations, etiquette and responsibility in advance and topics like drastic/distracting hairstyles or hair color should be addressed BEFORE accepting the role. The bride had no way of anticipating this so she failed to ask if her friend is comfortable with the limitations and boundaries or giving them some time to think about it. Sometimes bridesmaids accept the role without understanding the sacrifice, cost, inconvenience or considerations involved. Being a member of the bridal party does not mean a strut down the runway and a free for all. This is where the event planner could have helped prevent misunderstandings and offered valuable expertise. If the bridesmaid is not willing to make a simple compromise by wearing a wig then perhaps she can be honored in a less high profile manner or she can volunteer to play a bigger role in planning one of the festivities where more casual pictures are taken. I think coordinators can be particularly helpful in this area by teaching wedding etiquette, creating guidelines, anticipating this common type of problem in advance and having a script or mock conversation with the bride and groom so they feel comfortable discussing parameters with their bridal party. 

Not everyone is bridal party material. There are TONS of ways to be creative and flexible about accommodating bridesmaids attire, makeup or jewelry but something as dramatic as unnatural shades of hair color may be non-negotiable for the bride. This is why it should have been addressed beforehand. It's not appropriate for the bride to control her decision to color her hair or demand that she change the color but it is appropriate to request she wear a wig, dress modestly or cover up tattoos for pictures and inside her house of worship or at a religious ceremony where certain codes of dress are considered offensive. Its not about the hair, it's about respect and deferring to someone else's wishes for just one day. Other examples of altering one's appearance out of respect is when a friend invites you to visit their mosque or Budhist temple where everyone is expected to remove their shoes or in a synogogue where every male visitor covers his head or in a Catholic church were strapless sun dresses are innappropriate. This is  the most  joyful, profound and spiritual day of the bride's life. It is not just an 8 hour party. It is also the most visually dynamic moment of the couple's life representing their public image. They spent thousands of dollars on photo shoots and video and the average metro wedding for 100 guests is $25,000 including feeding Bluebelle. A very simple compromise is a wig and it costs the bridesmaid nothing but would be a valuable gift to the couple demonstrating that respect is more important than vanity. 

I live in the DC metro area which is extremely politically liberal but where official diplomatic and military protocol is understood and practiced. Being part of a bridal party is NOT about political correctness, making a unique statement about how special, trendy, fashionable, hip or liberal one is. It is about loyalty, sacrifice and a small degree of CONFORMITY to reflect the couple's public image in the spotlight in accordance with THEIR vision. Just like performers have costumes and are expected to look uniform, a wedding is a production with plenty of costumes, lights, camera, action too! That is why everyone looks SIMILAR. If not IDENTICAL. If our blue haired beauty wants to look radical in a classic themed photo lineup then she belongs as a part of the audience not the bridal party. I personally think blue, pink, purple and rainbow hair is gorgeous when done well but it is definitely not in line with a CLASSIC look if that is the bride's goal...AND it can be distracting. Ms Bluebell's choices will demonstrate whether her vanity is more important then being in the bridal party. The good news is there are many helpful roles she can still play while simultaneously showing off her locks!. She can assist with hosting an engagement party, bachelorette party or bridal shower when the paparazzi aren't being paid through the nose to capture formal portraits. She should not think of it as a demotion but  simply being re-cast to a role she is more comfortable and willing to play. There are lots of creative solutions to this problem.

In sum, a strong friendship does not have to be sacrificed although the bridesmaid was ill-informed or is behaving selfishly and seems short sighted. The best solution is for the bridesmaid to select an elegant wig that can be worn on the wedding day to cover the blue. Someone needs to explain to the bridesmaid that blue hair is a trend that is not conducive to natural, timeless and classic photos and actually distracts attention away from the bride in every photo. If she opposes then perhaps they can compromise and allow her to show off her blue hair during the last two hours of general dancing once all the major pictures are taken. If she does not agree to this then she loses her privileges to participate in the bridal party but the bride will still have a beautiful, unique, expressive blue haired, trendy guest at the wedding and the bride should make sure to include her in less formal guest shots and take special time out for shots alone with her taken. 

Some say, what is all the fuss about? It's just a 8 hour event? Lighten up! I dont see the wedding as just a 8 hour event. I see it as a day she has fantasized about her entire life, planned for over a year, spent $30,000 on and her only memory of the event is her photo album which will be viewed by anyone special and important to her in her life. Since the issue was not properly addressed to prevent the incident in the first place, damage control is the only option. A compromise is in order if the bride is uncomfortable. Maybe ALL the bridesmaids and groomsmen could wear blue or rainbow wigs to fit in and abandon the silly, boring, classic theme all together to accommodate the bridesmaid instead?

In retrospect, a bridesmaid etiquette and responsibility handout could have avoided all of this in the first place...


Emily Post Wedding Etiquette
The Bridesmaid Guide

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