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Did Your Bridesmaids Volunteer, or Were They “Volun-TOLD?”

The word “voluntold” has been showing up all over community boards for a while now and it always has to do with bridesmaids. Did they volunteer for a project or were they volun-told? It’s pretty easy to gather the meaning of this word through context, but let’s break down quickly the difference between someone offering their assistance and being told (or just expected) to do something. Some easy definitions, below.

Volunteer

When someone (like a bridesmaid) freely offers their time or skills for a project. It could be anything from planning the bachelorette party to holding up your wedding dress while you go to the bathroom during the reception, or even cleaning up at the postwedding brunch.

Some Examples of Volunteering

  • “I’d love to use my awesome calligraphy skills for your wedding, let me know if you need my help for all those escort cards!”
  • “I absolutely LOVE planning parties, can I please be involved in figuring out your bachelorette plans?”
  • “Shower games are my jam. I have to be the M.C. of the Newlywed Game!”
  • “Let me know if you need help figuring out your decor, I am an interior designer, after all!”
  • “My brother is a top-rated wedding photographer. Want me to see if I can get you the friends and family discount?”
  • “I know you’re super stressed about having kids at the wedding. Want me to look into child-care accommodations?”

Voluntold

The definition for “voluntold” is a little more loose, but it narrows down to two categories: Your bridesmaids are being told they must do a duty they didn’t offer, or somehow it is expected that they should take up this duty, even if they haven’t offered or been asked to do it. Many times bridesmaids are “voluntold” at the last minute, which can be understandably frustrating for them.

Voluntold Examples

  • “I expect my bridesmaids to all make it to the bachelorette party, even if they live out of state.”
  • “I can’t afford to pay for hair and makeup, but I expect everyone in my bridal party to get their hair and makeup professionally done.”
  • “Everyone should be at my apartment the week before the wedding to fold my ceremony programs.”
  • “If you can’t make it to my bridal salon shopping sessions, you’re out of the wedding party.”
  • “Staying in shape for the wedding is absolutely key. I expect weekly gym reports.”
  • “Don’t even think about getting pregnant this year.”
  • “Everyone should chip in for my bachelorette party transportation.”

Naturally, once you’ve explored these definitions, you may have some questions. Like, “Wait, can I never ask my bridesmaids to do anything?” or “I thought bridesmaids had expected duties!” You’re totally right. But it there’s something you’d like your bridesmaids to do, there’s a way to do it: Ask nicely and always give them the option to politely decline for any reason.

Also, unless your bridesmaids have been married before, it’s best not to assume that they understand the list of traditional bridesmaid duties. The best way to ensure your bridesmaids know what you’d like them to do is to ask them up front — like around the time you ask them to be in your bridal party — so that everyone is on the same page and no one (especially you!) is caught off-guard.

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