Published on Jun 8, 2017
A chief Bridesmaid writes the inner thoughts of a somewhat reluctant Chief Bridesmaid a.k.a secret bride in waiting….
When I was asked to be a bridesmaid at my best friend’s forthcoming wedding, my first reaction was one of horror. Firstly, I have been a bridesmaid now six times – the last time when I was just 18.
I am now 32 and quite frankly no one over the age of 12 should be allowed to wear those strange coloured taffeta dresses that all bridesmaids seem doomed to wear. But hey, this is Marina’s – my best friend’s wedding – and I definitely want to be part of it.
My problem is how to be part of it graciously.
I find out that I am to be one of five fragrant attendants – ranging from the obligatory cute nieces from central casting aged four, six, nine; a tender 14-year old cousin and then me. We are to be co-ordinated in chocolate and pink. How can one look sexy, or even hope to catch the eye of the best man in co-ordinated chocolate and pink? I am to be sandwiched and outshone by a quartet of adorable young, cute kids, and a shimmering vision of champagne voile.
Need I say any more?
Troubled by the fact that I am to be outshone on every front, back and side, I decided to take a look into the World of Bridesmaids. Did you know that being a bridesmaid can be traced back to pagan times?
In Roman times, bridesmaids were like a private mini army marching Miss Bride to the Village of the Groom. This girl’s army was there to protect the bride against any marauder out to grab her dowry or to deflect any broken hearted suitors who wanted to spirit her away!
However, the modern idea of a bridesmaid seems to have evolved from later Roman law that required witnesses at a wedding to outsmart evil spirits that were believed to attend nuptials. By surrounding the bride with look-alikes – girls of the same age who looked like her – it was believed that the Gremlins wouldn’t be able to single out the bride.
I wonder what Marina would say if I suggested, that as chief decoy, I should wear a similar champagne and lace column dress? Gremlins would be confused, she’d still get the groom, and the best man might well get more than he bargained for…
OK, I’m the chief Gremlin-deflector, so what do I do, and am I the woman for the job?
Actually, the Gremlin-deflector is pretty interesting stuff, and apparently, this decoy bride idea continued right into the 19th century. In early Victorian photographs, it’s pretty hard to ascertain who the bride and groom are in relation to the other guests as they all wore pretty similar clothes to keep the you-know-who at bay….
However, at Marina’s wedding it will be all too clear – champagne coloured voile equals bride, while Prince of Wales morning suit equals groom. Chocolate and pink (32-year-old variety) equals the non-bride, very single, Chief Bridesmaid.
OK, I sound bitter, but actually bile aside, I’m happy for my Gremlin-proof best friend-rival to have found a soul mate. I just wish I didn’t feel so chocolate and pink by contrast. I must rise to the occasion! So apart from flirting with the best man and getting hideously drunk, what is it that a chief Gremlin-deflecting, decoy does, and then more importantly, (envy aside, friendship to the fore) how do I rise to the occasion?
Myself and Austin, (asexual neighbour with child that he sees once a month – never asked, always feel it’s a no-no area) spent a couple of hours on the internet looking at the world of wedding etiquette. My God, I didn’t realise being a CD (chief decoy) was so demanding.
After plodding through a great number of wedding sites, wedding hints, tips and tricks books, it seems that the job description for a CD is pretty intense.
For starters, I have to be a font of emotional support (“It’s your wedding, of course your mother is wicked and insensitive to insist on white rose button holes”).
Then I have to have the wherewithal to become a sort of tour operator as it’s me who organises the:
There’s general shopping support, administrative support, creative support(“Yes, no worries I can turn raffia into beautiful and exciting 3D table decorations.”) Oh and there’s helping to organise the bridesmaids’ outfits, then the rehearsal dinner. At the wedding itself, one has to mingle and be a sort of nuptial ambassador as well as paying attention to the best man, jumping up straight away to ensure the dancing takes off, and then elbowing everyone out of the way whilst running to catch the bouquet. You know what, I wonder if one should be able to do an NVQ Level 1 in Bridesmaiding – there certainly seems to be plenty to it, with many skills transferable to civilian life.
Brides like pregnant ladies can get weepy. If the brides are pregnant they are even weepier. Let’s face it, there’s lots to get weepy about.
For some girls – their wedding day is the day they have been fantasising about since they were two. You know the sort, the ones that always drew wedding dresses in their exercise books at school. But hey, whether it’s been a slow burn for 30 years, or a whirlwind ignition, weddings are emotional. It’s one of those events in your life that can bring up all that subtext in your relationships. That’s why organising a wedding can be really stressful. You just can’t hide the truth!
Being a chief deflector (CD) is no mean feat. Obviously, your duties are as light or as heavy as your relationship to the bride, her relationship to her family and the type of wedding that she is planning to have.
Marina and I have been friends and rivals forever.
I was there when the casual boyfriends and the nearly-made-it over-the-finish-line-serious boyfriend came and went. Marina and I have revised, got first jobs, decorated flats and been on diets together. We’ve shared wardrobes, holidays, faked each other’s CVs, wailed, cried and laughed together. Although Phil is what you would call an A-list kind of guy, he just can’t do that post-mortem forensic, obsessive detail that girls can be really good at.
Despite bouts of jealousy, Marina is my best friend in the world, being a CD has given me a sort of purpose and I intend to do it as well as I can. It’s also my way of making sure I won’t feel left out….
Check list – What’s expected of me?
Sitting down with Phil and Marina in the local curry house on the night they announced their nuptials and asked me to be CD, I was treated to the whole wedding vision in glorious chocolate and pink technicolour.
Marina’s so-called alternative streak is surprisingly no-where to be seen. Phil and Marina have opted for traditional all the way with a chocolate and pink twist.
Being some kind of auditor-person, I was not surprised by the emergence of Phil’s transparent clipboard with my duties and the running order of what the couple have envisaged for their party of parties. Phil handed me over a print-out (!) of my duties.
• Helping the bride in all things including choosing her dress. M’s mum to get involved also, but given that she never has an opinion about anything, Marina wants me there to do the honest ‘does my bum look big in this?’ debrief.
• Help to choose the style of bridesmaid dresses. The colour (sadly) is set but the actual dress styles need work. This is good as it can work very much in my favour.
• I learn from Phil that I’m paying for my own frock and shoes, apparently it’s the done thing. Yippee!! I have to pay to wear chocolate and pink but the question is, can I cleverly create a style that I would actually want to wear again? Don’t know. But I can cunningly orchestrate some distance between me and the other basketful of cute bridesmaids.
• Help Marina and mother to choose and specify flowers.
• Help to decorate the church.
• Help with writing and sending of invitations.
• Throw a bridal shower!!! (Has this woman been watching American TV for too long?)
• Help with rehearsal and pre-wedding dinner.
• Arrange hen weekend (Great this wedding is getting nice and expensive).
• Help with hair & beauty dummy runs.
• Be there on the day, ready with spare bits n pieces.
• Help Best Man on the day with a collection of presents and anything else.
• In the interests of girl power – make a speech!
• In general where I’m not planning, orchestrating, being dumped upon, listening, soothing, choosing and nodding sympathetically, I must be a home help, church help, reception help, helper, helping, a heffer of a helper. Help!
OK, we have a chocolate and pink template but not much else. So we kick off with the wedding dress shopping experience. My God, with all the inherent drama, it should be a reality TV programme on Channel 5.
I am under no illusions that helping to choose Marina’s wedding dress would be as Austin put it, an episode. I can say this with authority as I clearly recall about four years ago, the saga of going with M to buy an evening dress. She’d just started going out with Phil and he’d asked her to his firm’s black tie affair in the city. I remember nearly collapsing in Selfridges with sheer exhaustion as we tried on yet another little black number.
Going shopping with Marina was always difficult. I recall endless trying on of clothes on Saturdays in Top Shop before it gained the street cred of being a sanctuary for the MABYS (middle aged but youthful) brigade. We started off well, but it always turned ugly.
Armed with experience, hindsight and insider information, I have taken measures. No wedding dress shopping on a Saturday, Marina gets stressed in a crowd, and gets worked up if anyone looks better than her in the changing room. So we’re off shopping on a Tuesday!
With instructions from me, M is wearing seam-free pants and a multi-way flesh coloured bra obviously with clothes over the top, I hasten to add. Until we’ve chosen the dress, we’re not sure what underwear to go for, so with our ‘universal’ lingerie, we’ve at least got some idea of what the dress infrastructure needs to be like.
It’s also just after 9.00am in the morning and we’re meeting at my favourite greasy spoon. Marina and her mum are on this organic juice diet so that they look their best on the day. I try to persuade them that for this type of endeavour organic isn’t going to work. No, Serious bodice lacing and under skirt hooping requires pig fat, fried eggs, fried bread, tinned plum tomatoes and a double helping of mushrooms, all washed down with builder’s tea. It doesn’t work. I trough out while they have a demure egg on toast. However, we’re all satisfied and by 10.15am we enter our first bridal boutique full of trucker’s breakfast and hope…..