The purpose of being an attendant is to attend to the bride; she is your cause. The finest guerrillas are equipped for any complications or nuisances that can arise at or before the wedding. You are the bride's emergency hotline. Be ready for any emergency— medical or otherwise. Prepack a small bag or box with the following items, which may save you or the bride at a critical moment. This will be your Wedding Survival Kit. The contents should include the following:
- Aspirin and/or ibuprofen. Boring toasts, lots of drinking, loud music . .. throb, throb, throb ... get the picture?
- Band-Aids. Uncomfortable shoes, dancing, corns. . .. Bring several different sizes and shapes for cuts and blisters.
- Nasal spray. Especially useful at outdoor weddings held at the height of hay-fever season. A runny nose is not attractive on any member of the wedding party.
- Tissues. If you do get that runny nose, the back of your hand just won't do, especially when you're expected to shake hands in the receiving line. Also, use a tissue to blot your lipstick and it won't rub off on your teeth.
- White medical tape. It's shiny, made of cloth, and almost actually looks like some kind of wedding trimming. Be creative; it's good for lots of things .from taping bridal boo-boos to holding down headpiece fabric.
- Needle, thread, and scissors. Buttons pop off, hems rip, and tags may need to be removed. If you have the time and the dexterity, these are important items.
- Safety pins. Because chances are you won't have the time. Bring them in all sizes! Be prepared for flimsy spaghetti straps, ripped lace, and stretched seams. Bridal gowns and bridesmaid dresses get stomped on, smushed, yanked, and caught on flimsy trellises with cascading greenery. Likewise, one good pirouette on the dance floor and the slit of your dress is exposing your hootie to the world. Safety pins are essential to wedding survival.
- Nail file. Ragged nails snag tulle and silk. Snags are bad.
- Clear nail polish. Nails chip and pantyhose run. This is a fact of life. Clear nail polish is a sure fix for both situations.
- Smelling salts. When emotions run high, such as at a wedding, people keel over.
- Eye drops. Tears of joy, a late night out with the girls for the bachelorette party, you're stoned ... whatever your reason, red veiny eyes ruin photos and don't look nice up close. Eye drops also take the red out of a skin blemish.
- Hair spray. Buy a small travel-size bottle of hair spray. It's discreet and very effective for putting windblown hair back in its place. Down hair, down! (Or, in some cities, up hair, up!)
- Breath spray/breath mints. If you don't know why we're suggesting these, you're the reason we are.
- Bobby pins (a.k.a. hair pins). Bring as many as you can, both big and small. No matter how many pins Jacques-Paul stuck into your elaborate 'do, rest assured that the first time your partner dips you, your hair will spring free.
- Tampons and panty liners. We don't care if you just finished your period. Mother Nature loves to play jokes, especially if you're planning on wearing anything white or light-colored.
- Mirror. All of that smooching and being smooched is enough to make any flower wilt. Perfect for quick touch-ups for the bride (and yourself!).
- Condoms. Because you just never know, and in Girl Scouts you learned to be prepared.
- Keep your Wedding Survival Kit under the front pew at the ceremony, in the bride's room at the reception hall, or under your table. Wherever you are, the kit should be within arm's reach. The kit is your best friend (besides the bride).
As a bridesmaid, be mindful of flagging spirits among the corps. Unreturned phone calls are a tip-off; if you're trying to help the maid of honor plan the bridal shower and all you're getting is a lot of answering machines, quiet outrage may have infected the troops. How much time and money have they been asked to contribute already? Morale boosting can take the form of a group bull session in which each woman can vent her frustrations with the prenuptial process: the tedium of fittings at the bridal salon, the drudgery of finding a brassiere that does its job under an off-the-shoulder dress, the numbing practice of sympathetically listening to the bride's latest litany of complaints. Practical jokes at the bridal shower will relieve tension and promote camaraderie, but you may need a mood elevator sooner. A night of watching movies such as Father of the Bride (the original with Spencer Tracy or the remake with Steve Martin) and Muriel's Wedding can help keep the hysteria of the wedding ritual in perspective. The lesser-known Catered Affair (1956) is fun for some campy laughs—an ambitious Bette Davis plans an extravagant wedding for daughter Debbie Reynolds that her husband, Ernest Borgnine, can't afford. Observe how Davis is no different from any bride's mother.
Sometimes a force much darker than weariness is at work and is making everyone uncomfortable. Nan, who was the maid of honor for a childhood friend, recalls a creepy sister of the bride who liked to joke about the groom's infidelities when the bride was not present. Nan had ethical debates with the other bridesmaids, lay awake in bed a couple of nights, and finally took her friend Annette aside to tell her what her sister had been saying. Annette was unfazed. Her younger sister had always been competitive with Annette, and her jealousy at wedding time had come out full force. Annette was only including her sister in the wedding party in deference to her mother's wishes. Thereafter, Nan and the other bridesmaids gave Annette's sister a wide berth and cheerfully carried on with the wedding preparations. If a malaise is descending upon your fellow guerrillas because of one problem bridesmaid, it's often better to group and discuss than to suppress and splinter. It's beneficial to identify shared values and objectives. This kind of episode can even reinforce your outfit's collective commitment to the cause—the bride's happiness and a victorious W-Day.
Performing as a bridesmaid is a daunting, democratizing task not to be taken lightly. If you're the kind of person who has never been very good at taking a backseat to anyone, acceptance of this post may involve a little bit of an attitude check. However, the payoff can be enormously rewarding. You are an honored guest with a crucial role in one of the most important days in a close friend's or sister's life, and as you'll see, the best service you can provide is to be a really good friend.