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While bridesmaids no longer perform the function of ruses for evil spirits, or act as bodyguards against wayward thugs and thieves, they still do serve many practical functions as the bride counts down the days to her wedding. And while the duties of bridesmaid may often appear to the casual observer as nothing more than looking good for the big day, there is, in fact, much more to it…if the bride so desires. In fact, there are some brides who desire nothing more than to have her bridesmaids show up in their dictated attire with hair, nails and makeup looking perfect; these brides have an army of other helpers, such as the wedding coordinator, mother, or aunts, handling the shower, pre-wedding details, and anything else wedding-related. However, there are other brides who will need you desperately during the wedding planning, for tasks ranging well beyond the traditional bridesmaid duties. Warning: both these extremes can prove tricky. For the first scenario presented here - bridesmaid-as-figurehead - you'll be expected to do little besides show up. But at the same time you'll need to tread carefully to avoid stepping on anyone's wedding-coordination toes. For the bridesmaid-as-indentured-servant scenario, in which you'll be expected to perform tasks well beyond the traditionally expected (ie: sabotaging the bachelor party; taking a home equity loan to throw the shower), you'll need to learn how to say "no." With any luck, your experience will fall somewhere in between the two. Want to predict which end of the spectrum your role will fall on? Take the following quiz.
Impassive or Imposing?
There are subtle little pre-wedding predictors that can help you determine just what your bridesmaid experience will really be like. Generally, the personality and expectations of the bride will dictate this experience. By answering the following questions and consulting the key at the end, you'll be able to get some clues as to the months that lie ahead…
1. When she's thrown parties in the past, the bride:
A. Refuses to allow you to bring anything.
B. Tells you to bring a bottle of wine or a small hors d'oeuvres, but only after you've harangued her relentlessly.
C. Prefers B.Y.O. style, calling everyone who's invited to dictate what to bring, from the entrée to the cocktail mixers to dessert
2. Which best defines the bride?
A. She's in almost daily contact with her manicurist, cleaning lady, accountant and personal shopper.
B. She shops only with a sister or good friend, in order to get their valued opinions.
C. For her, shopping means raiding your closet - and frequently not returning what she's borrowed.
3. When in crisis, the bride calls:
A. Her mother
B. Her sister or a good friend
C. Anyone who'll listen
4. How would you best describe your relationship with the bride?
A. Respectful, but a tad distant
B. Equal and mutually rewarding
C. You are her de facto therapist
5. How does the bride envision her wedding?
A. However her mother envisions it.
B. As a starting point and celebration for a strong marriage
C. Absolutely perfect, or you fear she'll have a breakdown
Interpreting your answers: If you answered mostly "A"s, it's a safe bet that you and the other bridesmaids may not have a great deal of pre-wedding responsibility. More than likely the bride will already have legions of paid helpers at her fingertips…or her mother to run the show. The best way to handle this situation is to ask before you plan…check with the bride, her mother, her wedding coordinator, and any other involved parties before planning showers or other parties.
As a bridesmaid, your best bet is ask before you plan. This means consulting with the bride, her mother, the maid of honor and anyone else with an authoritative wedding role before doing, well, anything…
If you answered mostly "B"s, you'll probably have a fairly typical bridesmaid experience, and traditional etiquette will be your guide. Expect to be involved in planning a shower or bachelorette party, as well as in other pre-wedding duties as requested. Most likely the "B"-type bride will be reasonable in her requests, and will understand that your world doesn't ultimately revolve around her wedding.
Can I say no?
It is an honor to be asked to serve as a bridesmaid, so you should not decline except under rare circumstances. See "Bowing Out Gracefully," later in this chapter, to determine if your reasons are acceptable.
If you answered mostly "C"s, brace yourself. This bride needs a lot of attention and hand-holding from everyone around her. You may be at the receiving end of requests that go beyond the typical call of duty, such as scouting out vendors and caterers, endless errands, and heavy-duty emotional support. All, of course, are the mark of a good friendship under normal circumstances, but beware of the bride who goes a bit too far with her demands or requests. If you're not sure as you go along, this book will help you determine which requests are reasonable - and which border on outrageous.