Thursday, June 4, 2009

Bridesmaid's Guide: At the Wedding (Part I)

The shower was glorious, the bachelorette party was a bash, the rehearsal went off without a hitch, and you received a beautiful Elsa Perpetti pendant as a gift from the bride for your services. With the help of Valium or meditation and herbal tea, you've gotten a good night's rest. Your nails haven't chipped yet and that blemish on your chin is finally disappearing. Even the raspberry-colored taffeta bridesmaid gown looks kind of fetching in the light of the new day. You're feeling in control and confident. You've been training for months, preparing and planning. Yessiree, W-Day is looking pretty manageable from the toasty confines of youi bed.
Well, pardon the wake-up call, but the real battle still lies ahead. You've survived basic training but, as a bridesmaid, the wedding is where you pull together everything you've learned in bool camp. All of your preparation, your meticulous planning—today is the day you will use it.
If you've planned well and prepared thoughtfully, you should be able to make it through this day with very few problems (barring acts of God and those little things that lawmaker named Murphy always talks about). If not, well, there's still time to make up for it. Consult the maid of honor as early in the day as possible (wake her up at the crack of dawn if you have to) and get the plan for the day. You're a modern woman—have her fax it to you. Then follow the checklist below, gather your things together, and get your butt out the door.

Superstitions: If the bride writes the names of her unmarried friends on the sole of her shoe before she walks down the aisle, the name that rubs off first will be the next person to get married.

  • Wedding Survival Kit
  • Dress
  • Shoes
  • Two pairs of pantyhose or stockings/garter belt
  • Directions (with any emergency contact phone numbers)
  • Invitation
  • Makeup
  • Handbag
  • Underwear (optional)
  • Bra/bustier
  • Required headgear/ extra pony tail holder or barrette
  • Extra change (for phone calls) and a few twenty-dollar bills (like your mother always told you—"just in case!")
  • Camera
Primping with the bride and the other bridesmaids is one of the best parts of being in the wedding party. You're sitting around with the girls, chatting and munching on snacks, while people play with your hair. There is a lot of excitement surrounding a wedding. When a friend's marriage is about to become a reality and you are a member of the wedding party, you're in the thick of it all. Break out the camera and take pictures.

If you are getting your hair done professionally, wear a button-down shirt. One dedicated bridesmaid we know spent a small fortune to have her hair done at a salon alongside the bride. Her hair looked gorgeous, but how in the world was she supposed to take off her tiny T-shirt without mussing the new coif? Another bridesmaid had to cut the shirt off her body!
Celebrity Trivia: When she wed Senator John F. Kennedy in 1953, Jacqueline Bouvier's bridesmaids wore pink silk faille and red satin gowns created by African-American designer Ann Lowe. Jackie's sister Lee Radziwill served as her matron of honor a second time when she wed Aristotle Onassis in 1968.

Formal wedding photographs are the bane of every bridesmaid's existence. You're on your feet wearing spiked heels in soft grass, standing totally stiff in a dress that's too tight, attempting to hold a smile while the photographer asks you to "turn this way" for about the 400th time. You're trying to banish thoughts of pulling an Alec Baldwin and putting your fist through his camera lens when the photographer finally says, "Okay, now the ushers." Ah, sweet relief.

Professional photos are a prerequisite of almost every wedding. Whether the pictures are taken by Bachrach or the groom's second cousin, formal photos capture everyone looking their best and provide the bride and groom, as well as the rest of the wedding party, with a special and irreplaceable memento of the wedding day.

While the bride will most likely have given the photographer a list of photos she particularly wants taken, many of which will include the bridal party, be sure to ask the bride for a photograph with her alone and make sure she gets one with all of her female attendants. Chances are that in the flurry of the millions of things the bride has tried to prepare for, she may have forgotten to request these two shots and she'll be grateful that you reminded her. These two photos make great keepsakes for you and the bride. Whatever you do, don't go directly to the photographer and start requesting pictures of you with your boyfriend. He or she is hired by the bride and groom, under their instruction, and is there to capture their day, not your good side. If you start insisting on certain photos, you might detract from what the bride and groom really want. If there is a photo you would really like taken, there is plenty of time at the reception to place yourself in front of the photographer's lens.

Celebrity Trivia: Carolyn Bessette chose John F. Kennedy, Jr.'s sister, Caroline Schlossberg, and not one of her own, to serve as her matron of honor at their secluded 1996 wedding.

Well, you've practiced your march and you know your position. All that's left to do is focus on the end of the aisle, smile, and try not to trip. The following are a few helpful hints for marching gracefully down the aisle:
  • For a Christian processional, leave three or four pews between you and the pair in front of you.
  • For a Jewish processional, leave half the length of the aisle (unless instructed otherwise).
  • Don't hum to the music.
  • Be careful of runners, as they tend to scrunch up.
  • Don't blatantly scan the congregation for your friends.
  • Don't drag your feet.
  • Don't drag your partner.
  • Don't make small talk with your partner, even if he is cute. There's plenty of time for that at the reception.

OK, you've successfully maneuvered your way down the aisle, you've all formed an almost perfect V shape, and a roomful of strangers are now staring back at you. You feel very important. The following hints are designed to help you maintain that facade of poise:
  1. Don't chat with your neighbor—even if she is dying to tell you about how she left the rehearsal dinner with the best man.
  2. Don't swing your flowers.
  3. If you have to blow your nose, do so discreetly (hide a tissue in your hand under your bouquet before you go down the aisle). Dabbing is better than blowing.
  4. Don't clear your throat when the officiant asks if anyone objects to the union.
  5. Do try to look interested in the ceremony. Or inspired. Or just serene.
Finally ... on to the reception! The best advice we can give here is don't turn a stately walk down the aisle into a mad dash in a fervor to get to that punch bowl.

The Receiving Line
As guests begin to filter in to the reception, most likely, if there are more than 50 guests, there will be a receiving line to greet them. The order goes like this:
First in line—Bride's mother
Second in line—Bride's father (optional)
Third in line—Groom's mother
Fourth in line—Groom's father (optional)
Fifth in line—Bride
Sixth in line—Groom
Seventh in line—Maid of honor
Eighth in line (and so on ... )—Bridesmaids (they may stand in any order they choose)
Superstitions: An old wives' tale says that if your younger sister gets married first, you have to dance barefoot at her wedding or you'll never find a husband.

The Party!
Once the guests have been properly greeted and have had their opportunity to hug the mothers and kiss the bride, FINALLY it's time to party. Everyone knows that the reception is the big party that follows the ceremony, where the guests get to celebrate the marriage with the newlyweds. You mingle with the guests, drink to your heart's content, and dance till your feet hurt. Most wedding receptions follow a format similar to this one:

1. The bride and groom are introduced to the crowd.
2. The new couple dance first.
3. The parents and bridal party join the couple on the dance floor.
4. Everyone joins the bridal party on the dance floor.
5. Everyone sits down for the first course or salad (if a buffet is served, people begin to eat).
6. People dance.
7. The main course is served (if it's a buffet, people continue to eat).
8. People dance more.
9. The bride dances with her father. 10. The groom dances with his mother.
11. More dancing and drinking.
12. The bride and groom cut the cake.
13. Dessert is served (if it's a buffet, the grazing continues).
14. More dancing and drinking.
15. The bride tosses her bouquet.
16. The groom tosses the bride's garter.
17. The best man tosses his cookies.
18. The man who catches the garter puts it on the leg of the woman who caught the bouquet.
19. The reception comes to a close and the newlyweds take off for Tahiti.

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