Just as the bride needs to prepare step-by-step for W-Day, so must the bridesmaid and maid of honor. Whether the wedding is a clambake on the beach or a black-tie, sit-down dinner for 350, there is no other celebrated milestone in life that involves so much planning and so many egos. It is an extremely complex and emotionally charged event, with societal laws and cultural mores to observe and expectations to fulfill. Can you understand why the. bride is tearing her hair out? Beware the trickle-down effect: fre-neticism and hypersensitivity can be contagious and may lead to a distortion of reality. After you receive a dozen late-night phone calls from the bride wailing that the florist is not offering her the shades of French tulips he found for her more charismatic older sister, you may find yourself reaching for the phone to gripe to your boyfriend that the bride intentionally chose a tea-length aubergine dress for her bridesmaids so nobody could possibly upstage her. Stop! Don't make the mistake of troubling yourself with imagined motives and don't air to your boyfriend or co-workers the irksome, petty details of the wedding process. Your boyfriend will become allergic to the word wedding and your colleagues will avoid you like the plague. The antidote to panic and petty behavior? A rational approach to the larger picture—the timetable.
The surest way to keep the bride sane is to offer her assurance that she can rely on your support. You can't accomplish this by picking up your dress at the tailor's an hour before the photo session. The key to being a successful bridesmaid is planning, planning, planning. Don't assume your shoe-repair shop will correctly dye your white silk pumps the identical rose-petal pink of your bridesmaid dress on the first try, or that your hay fever will take a vacation the day of the wedding. With a little advance preparation, you can glide right through the bride's engagement period with minimal stress, hopefully avoiding those pitfalls that can turn an otherwise joyous event into an excruciating memory. Just because it's not your wedding doesn't mean you don't have to pull your weight. As a bridal attendant, you have accepted a major role in the most important event in someone else's life, and there are about a hundred things you will need to do in order to prepare for the Big Day. The following timetable will help you:
ONE YEAR TO NINE MONTHS BEFORE THE WEDDING DAY:
- Purchase engagement gift (optional).
- Attend engagement party.
SIX MONTHS AHEAD
- Provide your dress measurements to the bride, maid of honor, or designated bridal salon for dress ordering. If you're an OOTA—Out-of-Town Attendant—this time frame will allow for delivery of the dress to your home, leaving plenty of time for alterations and to correct any major mix-ups (such as, you get shipped Cousin Martha's gown and she gets yours—she's a size 16, you're a 6).
- If you're fortunate and the bride asks you to choose your own dress for the wedding, start searching for your gown. Begin this search as early as possible. Believe it or not, stores don't carry summer gowns in the summertime. They carry them in the late winter and spring. Don't wait till the last minute to pick out a dress; the selection will be paltry.
- Start planning the bridal shower (see "The Bridal Shower").
THREE MONTHS AHEAD
- Pick up and pay for your bridesmaid gown.
- Take the gown to the tailor for any alterations.
- Purchase your shoes. This allows for plenty of time to have them dyed if they must match your dress.
- Schedule a hairdresser appointment for the wedding day if you're going to have your hair professionally styled (optional).
- Schedule a manicure appointment (if you don't plan to do your own nails).
- Make arrangements for accommodations if you're an OOTA. Hotels fill up quickly, and chances are that even if the bride and groom have reserved a block of rooms at a group rate, there is a deadline for reservations.
- Make plans for the bachelorette party for no less than one week prior to the wedding. (See "The Bachelorette Party.") You'll feel queasy enough when nosy guests engage you in conversation about the latest developments in your life without having to tend to the side effects of a hangover as well.
- Maid of honor: Pick out a gift for the bride from the bridesmaids to present to the bride either at the bridesmaid luncheon or the rehearsal dinner. (Optional—see "The Maid of Honor.")
ONE MONTH AHEAD
- Pick up the altered dress. Try it on before you leave the shop!
- Make sure you have appropriate undergarments.
- Plan your outfit for the rehearsal dinner.
- Pick up your shoes at the shoe shop where you had them dyed.
- Pick up any required headgear. If none is required, you may still want to pick up something for your hair, either for the ceremony or for later in the reception. Very few hairdos last a whole evening. You may want to buy a hair band or a barrette that goes with your dress so that you can pull your hair back at the reception.
- Purchase a wedding gift. Technically, you have up to one year after the wedding to give a gift. Decide if you want to bring a gift to the wedding or if you prefer to send one at a later date. If you've already laid out a great deal of money for this event, you may want to save a little each month and give the.couple a gift sometime after the wedding.
- Get your hair cut. Don't get your hair cut on the day of the wedding, or even the day before. A bad haircut can really dampen your spirits. Get your hair cut no less than a month before the wedding and DON'T try anything drastic!
- Scuff up your shoes. Take them outside (on a nice day, please) and walk around on the sidewalk or an asphalt road. Do a little soft-shoe number for your neighbors if you like, but scuff up the soles so that when you wear them at the reception, you won't slide on the dance floor and into the punch bowl.
- Attend the bridal luncheon (if the bride is throwing one).
- If you're going to have a facial, do it NOW! We know plenty of overzealous bridesmaids who, in pursuit of perfection for W-Day, have gotten facials a day or two before the wedding day. Bad idea. Yes, your skin will glow, but you'll also have nasty blotches and red marks where the facialist picked, and picked, and picked. Allow time for your face to heal fully.
ONE WEEK AHEAD
- Assemble the contents of your Wedding Survival Kit. (See "The Tour of Duty Begins.")
- Confirm directions to the ceremony and the reception site.
- Confirm transportation plans to the ceremony and the reception site.
- Confirm transportation home from the reception.
- Make sure you have all additional items you will need for the wedding (pantyhose, hair accessories, gloves and so on). (See "Wedding-Day Checklist," )
THE DAY BEFORE
- Get a manicure, or do it yourself.
- Press your dress if it needs it, and hang it up where it won't get wrinkled.
- Go to bed early!
THE DAY OF THE EVENT (W-DAY)
- See "At the Wedding."