Is It Ever OK To Ask A Bridesmaid To Alter Her Appearance?

Buckle up, buckaroos, cause we’ve got another round of bridal dilemmas, thanks to the lovely folks using Reddit in order to crowdsource opinions on their private lives. This is the sh*t I live for. Last round, we had a crazy bridezilla ask the subscribers of r/amitheasshole if she was being a jerk for demanding her friend help her redo her $30k wedding because she ruined her special day by being pregnant. (Spoiler: the bride was, most definitely, the asshole.) This go-around, we have a dilemma of bridesmaid etiquette. The central issue here comes down to what is and isn’t appropriate for a bride to ask of her bridesmaids on her wedding day, specifically, when it comes to their appearance. In the case of this particular Reddit rabbit hole, the bride in question wants her friend to cover up her tattoo—but not for the reason you might think. This begs the question: is it ever okay to ask your bridesmaid to alter her appearance for your big day? The answer, unlike our last Reddit dilemma, isn’t so cut and dry. So we asked Alyssa Longobucco, Senior Style + Planning Editor at The Knot, to weigh in on what is and isn’t appropriate when it comes to bride and bridesmaid etiquette. Let’s get into this beautiful mess of a tale, and Longobucco’s much-needed guidance.

The Set-Up

The thread starts out fairly tame.

“I’m getting married this year, and my fiance and I are super excited. I got all the big ticket items paid for and ready to go, and all my girls have their dresses and will look phenomenal in them. Everything was going great until my one bridesmaid posted a picture of her newest tattoo … and now I am slightly mortified that it could end up in my wedding photos. Now all my bridesmaids have multiple tattoos. I have nothing against theirs, or any tattoos for that matter. And honestly if I wasn’t a chickensh*t, I’d have a few myself (but needles freak me out so it’s a hard no for me). So why am I thinking of singling out one bridesmaid for her one tattoo? Well. It looks like a giant..veiny..penis. My mother saw it, immediately called me and asked WTF it was, my MOH texted me asking why she got a d*ck tattooed and a few other bridesmaids contacted me asking what the hell was going on.”

Wow, wow, wow. I almost spit out my wine. I’m glad that the OP here points out that her bridesmaids all look great in their dresses and they all have multiple tattoos. It shows that she isn’t simply being a prude about her maids rocking some ink, which, in turn, makes her next points more valid. It also lends some credence considering that she, her mother, her MOH, and a few other bridesmaids all mentioned the phallic tattoo in question. So, it must be pretty bad for multiple people to have noticed it and pointed it out independently.

So, is it ever chill to ask a bridesmaid to cover up a tattoo or change her appearance in a certain way? Longobucco says, “Loving your friends is about loving all of them—from the personality quirks that drive you crazy, to the tattoo they rock with pride that may not be quite your style. There is no ‘right’ way to do a wedding—so why should there be a right way to look in order to be included in a close friends wedding party? This is a big nope for us!”

Ok, like, totally agreed, but what about PENIS tattoos. What then??

The Tattoo In Question

The OP goes on to explain about the real reason behind said tattoo: “The idea that she was going for was adorable, especially because it signifies her kid’s birthday. But it’s not what it looks like at all. It looks like the side profile of a headless penis. And it’s lightly outlined in pink and blues, so it looks like veins. And the trunk is detailed so it looks wrinkly and overall just a poor execution on what would have been a fantastic tattoo. Now if it didn’t resemble male genitals I wouldn’t care. But it’s a big piece and in a highly visible spot that will be in almost every single photo. I just don’t want a big penis in my final wedding photos. So Reddit, would I be the asshole if I asked her to cover it up? And how could I tell her I want it covered because her tribute tattoo to her little beautiful baby looks like a d*ck?”

I want you all to know that I scoured the internet trying to find a photo of this monstrosity and f*cking succeeded, so give me a raise brace yourselves. I won’t include the photo here in this article, but you can check it out at this link. (I recommend not doing so if you are at work, in public, or another location where you don’t want people to think you are looking at porn.)

What, in the name of Jesus tap-dancing Christ, happened here? If I was given this tattoo, I’d sue. First of all, the only things that were pink on the OG sketch were the ears; why did the “artist” decide to make the whole damn thing pink?! Also, the bride says it’s in a prominent place, so I’d imagine the maids are wearing sleeveless dresses and this is on the maid’s upper arm. Class, class, class.

So, does the bride have a leg to stand on in terms of asking the maid to cover it up? Ethically, no, according to Lonbobucco. “Honestly, there is no real tactful way and we can’t reiterate this enough—just don’t go there,” she warns. “The most ‘control’ you have around anyone else’s personal presentation on your wedding day comes from asking them to wear a specific style or color of outfit or maybe doing their hair a certain way. But even that is pushing it—it’s unfair to ask someone you care about to spend money they can’t afford or look a certain way that they don’t feel themselves. If you keep running up against the thought that your friends’ appearance isn’t meeting your perceived wedding expectations, you should probably consider forgoing a wedding party all together and allow your friends or family to celebrate you the way they see fit.” The Knot pro also feels like asking a maid to cover a tattoo is sort of in the same vein (sorry, pun not intended) as asking her to dye her hair or get a spray tan. You’re asking them to be in your wedding, so accept them for who they are.

Hmmmm. In all other circumstances, I would agree. But for some reason, this one feels different.

The Solution

After reading through the comments on the original thread, it sounds like the bride is going to work with her photographer to finesse the pictures so the tattoo isn’t front and center. She says that for the final photos—the ones that are going to be printed out and put in an actual album and given out to friends and family—the photog will pose her in a certain way so as to obscure the tattoo, and do some editing for those images. Thank god for Photoshop! But the bride-to-be specifies that the tattoo will not be covered up in every single photo, because she understands the meaning of the tattoo and appreciates the thought that went into it.

Is this a viable solution? Honestly, I think so—that is, until the bridesmaid sees the pictures hanging in the bride’s house and realizes her tattoo is totally gone. Then, there will probably be an awkward conversation or two. But, given the situation, this seems like a good compromise.

All in all, when it comes to asking your bridesmaids to change their appearance, Longobucco advises against it. Instead, she recommends putting things into perspective. “There are a lot of things you’re going to need to let go of expectations around on when it comes to planning your wedding,” she says. “Any wedding professional will tell you, there’s rarely an event that goes 100% perfect throughout the day. So focus on the parts of your day that you can control, like surrounding yourself with loving and calming energy, hiring the right team of professionals to execute your vision, and showing up ready to celebrate you and your spouses’ relationship. One thing that doesn’t fall under that umbrella of control? Anyone else’s appearance—or even their behavior, for that matter. Loving your friends and family means accepting all of them, perceived ‘warts’ and all. You’d want that for yourself, right? So why not give your loved ones the gift of that same kindness?”

Agreed, for the most part—I think you can try to control your friends and family’s behavior in the sense of like, making sure nobody gets so wasted that they embarrass you and/or themselves at your wedding. But the rest I agree with. To be honest, I’m just glad I am not the bride here.

Images: Samantha Gades, Unsplash; Reddit (1); Giphy (2)

Sarah Nowicki
Sarah Nowicki
Sarah Nowicki aka Betchy Crocker writes about food, fashion, and whatever else she's in the mood to complain about for Betches and like, some other people. She resides in Asheville, NC, where she spends her time judging hipsters and holding on to her Jersey heritage and superiority. Yell at her on Instagram @sarahnowicholson