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This is very much a personal decision however it's traditional for bridesmaids to receive a gift, that's not to say you cannot break with tradition as it's your wedding and you want to do it your way, but do consider the reason 'why' it's become common to give your bridesmaids a gift.
Your wedding is booked and you've asked your special gal pals to be bridesmaids, it's unusual for anyone to refuse and now they are locked into some pretty time consuming and usually expensive commitments whether they like it or not.
Often bridesmaids are required to travel, sometimes take time off work for the wedding and other associated trips, spend time at dress fittings, and foot the usually none to small bill of attending your hen night - which nowadays tends to be an entire weekend. Often modern hen weekends are in another city, or even potentially in another country. This 'hen weekend' can cost them hundreds of pounds in travel, outfits, food and accommodation - sure they will enjoy themselves but still, the trip is all for you.
Lets not forget that they also typically buy you a gift for your hen weekend and in addition a wedding gift too.
I think it's pretty clear at this point, that yes you probably should get your bridesmaids a gift and really that gift is a thank you - a thank you for the time money and effort they are heavily investing in your special day.
Bridesmaids gift don't need to break the bank, you could even make them yourself if you wanted to, which I think is extra special because the point is, it's not about money, it's about the thank you. So try your best when buying your bridesmaids their gifts, to make them feel special and well thought out, like you really mean it, as I'm sure you do.
The History of Bridesmaids
The history of the origins and reasons for 'bridesmaids' is actually very interesting, if a little grim.
Bridesmaids originate from Ancient Roman times, when the law needed a whopping 10 witnesses at a wedding, it is thought that this requirement is the origin of wedding parties comprising of bridesmaids and ushers.
Now to the grim bits – the reason why wedding party members were required to dress in a similar way, was part of a ritual of warding of demonic spirits or bandits. It was common for brides to need to travel to their wedding and the wedding party were a form of bridal protection during transport. The decision to wear similar outfits was so that it was difficult for would be kidnappers to know which was the bride.
Bridesmaid Gift Jewellery
Jewellery is a very popular and traditional gift for bridesmaids however that's just one idea, you don't need to conform to tradition, it's your wedding – your way.
There are some marked benefits to jewellery for bridesmaids and that is why it's such a common choice, those benefits include that it is often perceived as a 'high quality' gift, and if you select carefully it's a gift they can wear time and time again in the future. Jewellery does not have to be expensive, to be high quality.
If you do decide to purchase jewellery try to first pay attention to the accessory habits of your bridesmaids and what sort of jewellery they tend to wear and prefer – after all it's a gift, you're trying to please the recipient with something they will genuinely like.
This may seem like a tall order to get each and every bridesmaid the same piece of jewellery that they will all love, but you don't have to be so matchy matchy with bridesmaids jewellery. The jewellery could simply match in terms of the colour (gold, or silver? or copper even), or the matching element could be the same gemstone used in each piece. For instance one bridesmaid could have amethyst gemstone earrings, another could have an amethyst gemstone necklace.
Some other ideas for bridesmaids gifts include;
Hair combs – similar to jewellery, these are a beautiful addition to your bridesmaids outfits and can all match in style and colouration, but not need to all be the exact same hair comb.
Bath robes – a popular gift for bridesmaids, and often monogrammed. Not a bad choice as it can be worn again and it's a particularly good choice if you're having an indoor girls night hen party.
Spa experience gift card – a generous gift, ideal for weddings hosted in spa hotels.
Personalised jar candle – yes it's a bit naff and boring, but who doesn't love candles?
Personalised fold away ballerina pumps – for when their feet get tired at 11pm. Include note such as “These should help when you get the urge to drunkenly dance bare foot in the marquee.”
Some Things To Consider
Is your bridesmaid travelling to and from your wedding? If so is her gift cumbersome and could it present present her with packing issues?
Don't forget your flower girls, and you may want to consider gifting your maid of honour something a bit more special/different from the other gifts.
Try to avoid repeating gifts that your bridesmaids may have received at other weddings, it's time to pay attention to previous conversions, or failing that rummage through her wardrobes! (Joke).
When To Handover Your Bridesmaids Gifts
In the US they typically hand over the bridesmaids gifts at the rehearsal dinner during speeches, which is of course a perfect time, however in the UK rehearsal dinners are not a common tradition, in fact I've never been to a wedding that has one, or heard of anyone having one.
Seems like a way to spend even MORE money to me! So the alternative opportunities include;
Girls lunch – schedule a lunch for you and your girls a few days before the wedding, and it is at this you can hand over your gifts.
Hen weekend/night – If doing this, I'd recommend while you're still all sober just before you leave for the actual hen festivities.
Wedding morning – if you feel you can fit it in, just before everyone get dressed for the big day you could hand over your gifts then. This only really works if you're all getting ready in the same space.