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How to Be a Perfect Bridesmaid

A single girl's guide to bridesmaiding.

A Single Girl's Guide to Bridesmaiding

Lesson Three: Rely On Your Fellow Bridesmaids.
If you're as green as I was, chances are your bride has filled the bench with a few ringers. It's expected that you'll be delegating some of the responsibilities to the team. Play to their strengths. One of my crew, a newlywed and a caterer, made a killer frittata for the shower. And all that bitching you want to do about how busy you are? That's what your fellow bridesmaids-not the bride-are for.

Lesson Four: Don't Express Dress Distress.
No doubt, this is the stickiest wicket you'll face. On the one hand, you're an individual with your own taste and body shape. On the other hand, too bad. Bottom line is the bride decides what you'll be wearing. (See Lesson One.) But that doesn't mean you can't influence the decision. Ask her early on what styles she's thinking about, then do some research to find examples you both might like. Some brides even allow their attendants to pick their own dress styles from an agreed-upon color or fabric. What shouldn't you do? Make the bride do all the work and then blackball all her choices. Ultimately, Monica stopped asking me what I thought and chose a dress that would look great on her. On me? No, but I deserved it.

Lesson Five: Plan the Shower Early.
Know your bride. Does she want a surprise party or does she want to be in on the planning? Her mother and mother-in-law are great resources, but it's up to you to suss out whether she wants a brunch or a breakfast, drinks or a dry bar, gifts from the registry or cash for the honeymoon. And the guests? Get a list. With addresses and phone numbers. I forgot those finer details until shortly before the little big day, and I'm sure I inconvenienced more than a few cousins. However, I didn't forget to keep the receipts for the food, drinks, and invitations so I could split the cost of the soirée with the other bridesmaids. (See Lesson Three.) Oh, and about the bachelorette bash: It's perfectly acceptable to ask invited revelers to pay their own way, but never, never, never have it the night before the wedding. A hungover bride ain't pretty.

Lesson Six: Embrace Your Nothingness.
From the moment she wakes up until the last guest leaves, your biggest job on the big day is making sure the bride is cool, calm, and completely in the moment. You chill her eye mask; field calls from the florist; steam her slightly rumpled gown; hustle the photographer to the wedding suite while she gets ready, then make sure he gets lost; find the mother of the bride, then make sure she gets lost; mark up the slippery soles of the bride's satin pumps; reapply her mauve gloss; and then, as she glides down the aisle, give her the warmest smile you've got. Once I surrendered myself to my best friend's needs, I even cried a little-and not because my sticky curls were pinned too tightly to my head. I felt profound happiness for her new life. But my favorite part was the best man's speech: "Let's give the maid of honor a big hand. She's responsible for this whole thing. She's the one who set Monica and Austin up." Glory at last. Turns out it was all about me.


From the Fall 2005 New York Wedding Guide