Saturday 29 November 2014

Andrea Smith: Being a bridesmaid is a poisoned chalice - just say no

Published 01/07/2014 | 12:14

Katherine Heigl in 2008's 27 Dresses
Katherine Heigl in 2008's 27 Dresses

We're in the middle of wedding season, and I know this because Facebook timelines  are littered with the sad remains of various grown women’s dignity.

So as you gaze upon the happy couples beaming in their arty wedding shots, spare a sympathetic thought for the poor bridesmaid standing next to the radiant woman in white.

Trust me she’s counting down the hours until she can rip off her false eyelashes. She’s the one with a rictus smile fixed to her face, who has spent the morning shoehorning her stomach into some circulation-stopping spandex to fit into the slinky dress.

She’s been doing all this while trying to ignore the headache induced by the jabbing hairpins in the too-tight and frankly unflattering up-do that was mandated by the bride.

And if you manage to look into her soul, there is every possibility that you= catch a glimpse of the dark fantasy she’s harbouring about jabbing one of those hairpins into the eye of the woman in the veil on her right.

She was once her best friend, until she morphed into a demanding, petulant, over-emotional bridezilla approximately three days after her fella got down on one knee in front of the Trevi Fountain. Weddings do funny things to the sanest of women, and the person best-placed to testify to this is usually her frazzled bridesmaid.

I was watching serial bridesmaid, Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses over the weekend, as she ran herself ragged trying to soothe the nerves of the various wound-up brides, and it struck me that being a bridesmaid may actually be a poisoned chalice. Say no and you are turning down what the bride considers to be a huge honour.

Say yes and you could easily be letting yourself in for one of the most head-wrecking experiences of your life. Over the years, friends of mine who were bestowed with the bridesmaid “honour” have been ordered to grow their hair a certain way or have been banned from cutting or dyeing it.

One girl was shrieked at for acquiring tan lines while out cycling – you’d swear she had done it on purpose. I know of one bride who ordered her sister’s dress a size smaller, the caveat being that if sis didn’t lose some weight, dhe would be replaced by a slimmer model.

So the sister drank only juice for a fortnight, got drunk and then milled into the wedding cake at the reception. I was a bridesmaid in America several years ago, and while the bride, Sylvia, was as laid back and chilled as could be, her wedding planner seemed to have taken leave of her senses.

Thrilled beyond belief that the bride was a real-life Irish person she was all for having a green carpet rolled out, along with shamrocks festooned all over the room. I was highly amused at her mad suggestions, until she announced that the size of the bridal party bouquets would be tailored in proportion to the girth of each individual girl.

“I always think it looks ridiculous when you see a big girl with a small bouquet, and vice versa,” she trilled.

Bearing in mind that Sylvia was a skinny little minnie, her sister Rita was a regular size and I was a two-ton Tessie, I had a horrible vision of me staggering up the aisle carrying a giant bush, while Sylvia was left with a skinny little posy.

We vetoed that one too, and the wedding planner sulked for days. The latest trend coming from the US is a pic of bridemaids taken from behind, showing their bums for a “cutesy” pic. If that ever catches on here, I’ll eat my, er, fascinator.

Could you imagine Irish wedding albums containing a shot of the “ridesmaids” flashing their Penneys’ smalls for the  camera, while Uncle Paddy clutches at his pacemaker?

They say that always a bridesmaid, never a bride, but I think it should be the opposite way around. If you have a pal you love or a sister you’re close to, for God’s sake decline when they invite, or implore, you to be a bridesmaid.

You’ll both be grateful when you emerge sane and still speaking in the aftermath of the big day.

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