Ten times the bridesmaid, Author Kerry Richards reveals the game rules to follow to ensure the bride has the best day of her life…
The heroine in my book, The Best Day Of Someone Else’s Life, is besieged by weddings, and in my case, truth is stranger than fiction. I served in two weddings before I was seven, the tacky, pouffy 1970s flower girl garb a forecast of future teal and celery satin dresses. I’ve attended over 60 weddings in the last decade, acting as maid of honour five times, bridesmaid five times and reader twice.
Despite the occasionally cynical tone of my narrator’s – and my own – musings, I love weddings. I am unfailingly pleased to be included in a wedding, and thankful for the many friends who have invited me to share their special day.
And now it’s happened to you. Your best friend has come back from her holiday with more than a snow globe from Rome. She’s got a rock on her finger and wants you to float down the aisle behind her.
Can you refuse? While it may be socially controversial, I say yes. I’ve been in weddings where an uninterested bridesmaid affected the entire tone. When we revisit wedding stories, the Surly Bridesmaid tops the list. Do everyone a favour – if you aren’t interested, haven’t seen her since school, or don’t have the time or money to participate properly, decline. Do it promptly, gratefully and concisely, thanking her for the honour.
More likely, however, you’ll be thrilled at the offer. So grab some pompoms, because you just became a full time cheerleader in the Wedding Game. Give me a B-R-I-D-E-S-M-A-I-D-S!
B is for BRIDE. Check your ego and hone your tongue-biting skills. During the lead up to the big day your friend will be Bridezilla and you must forgive her. It’s all about her, and with that comes a host of obligations: engagement party, bridal shower, hen party, dress fittings, late nights tying ribbons on invitations, and the wedding. As a bridesmaid, you should expect to organise and co-host a bridal shower and a hen party. You and your fellow maids will bear the cost, but you’re not obliged to take the bride to her beloved Paris if she asks. Try a brunch at the local French bistro instead. Bridal events should be about the bride’s preferences, not yours, but they also must be manageable on your budget.
R is for RESPECT. Your bride may be a force of nature, but she’s working hard to plan her dream wedding. Respect her efforts. You don’t have to attend every single event, but you should make an effort to be as available as is reasonable. If you undertake a task, follow through on time. A less stressed-out bride means a less stressed-out you.
I is for INSPIRATION. If asked, help the bride plan creative flourishes for her wedding. Be specific: “Would you like me to make welcome bags for the guests?” instead of “What can I do?” One of my brides was married in Turks and Caicos, not long after a hurricane damaged the region. She loved my idea of wind chimes favours and a donation to the Red Cross Hurricane Relief Fund. As bridesmaid, you’re an auxiliary hostess, facilitating conversation among guests. One inspired bride made badges bearing her and her partner’s picture so guests were able to identify one another in the hotel bar and mingle. Instead of numbering reception tables, suggest a conversation-starter. At one wedding each table had a travel postcard, and the bride and groom explained the significance of the place to them. Guests later swapped the stories with each other.
D is for DRESS. YOURS: You probably won’t like it and you probably won’t wear it again. If you’re expected to pay, and the cost would require you to sell a kidney on eBay, politely explain that to the bride. Suggest a reasonable price range.
HERS: The most important outfit of her life. Try to help in three ways. One, make an appointment – most showrooms won’t even let you browse without an appointment.
Two, be honest. If a dress makes your bride look as if the 1980s threw up on her, tell her. Focus on her assets and try a variety, including a few styles off her radar. Even when she knows exactly what she wants, it’s conjecture until it’s on. Help her through with tact. Three, maintain perspective. Don’t try on a US$20,000 dress on a US$2,000 budget. It will only break her heart. Employ a walk-away cooling period strategy to help your bride retain perspective and her budget.
E is for ELEGANCE. When it comes to your wedding appearance, one rule of thumb: if it’s permanent, the bride shouldn’t ask, but if it’s temporary, grin and bear it.
With footwear, be sensible. If the wedding is outdoors, reconsider those spikes. Help the bride resist the lure of dyed-to-match. If it rains, you’ll have an array of mismatched splotches. My feet were once blue for weeks. Break in those darling pumps before the wedding day. Your feet will thank you. The smartest brides switch into ballet slippers after the ceremony, and you should too.
With your hair, don’t get too fancy. Consider what suits you and stick with it. Facing a crowd is no time to try something new and complicated.
S is for SOCIAL MEDIA. We blog, we post, we tweet, we pin. Good or bad, we love our social networks. When it comes to the wedding, use online media thoughtfully. Don’t scoop your bride by tweeting an instagram of her dress. Do use pin boards to help her organise ideas, or online file sharing to coordinate the hen party with other bridesmaids. Don’t Facebook photos of the groom puking after the reception. Do share images with guests with the bride’s approval. Don’t blog about the Bridezilla your friend has become. Do send emails offering moral support.
M is for MAKE IT WORK. There’s always a Plan B. I once rearranged 10 outside-tables-of-eight to eight inside-tables-of-ten in an hour, then watched a happy bride dance between raindrops. Bridesmaids, this is your job. Make a Plan B and make it happen.
A is for ALTERATIONS. Don’t wait until the last minute. Actresses who claim to pick a dress the morning of the Oscars have an army of tailors. You don’t. Find a good seamstress and alter your dress early.
I is for INHIBITIONS. All eyes are on you. It’s no time to be sloppy. Go easy on the drink and watch the dance moves – avoid anything OTT that could lead to something that shouldn’t popping out. If you are doing a speech, practise before your mouth gets near a microphone. Write your toast and memorise it. Keep your tribute short, personal and heartfelt.
D is for DEFENCE. It’s game day. On the wedding day, you must protect the bride at all costs. Run the last minute errands and have an emergency kit: aspirin, plasters, tampon, nail file, safety pins, hair pins, mints, dental floss, tape, sewing kit, clear nail polish, a packet of crisps, bottled water and bubbly. Deflect all inquiries. You’re not the wedding planner, but the bride shouldn’t have to deal with anything but “I do”.
S is for SMILE. You’ll never be so photographed again. Walk that aisle at a one-one thousand, two-one thousand pace, flowers at navel level, grinning like your teeth want a Gossip Girl walk-on. As Prince Harry can attest, photos last forever. Don’t forget to bend your knees. You’ll be standing for a while, and you can pass out from locking your knees.
The Best Day Of Someone Else’s Life is available here