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Being a bridesmaid

Tips on what's expected of you

Thursday, January 26, 2012
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Kate Middleton, left, waves as she arrives at Westminster Abbey with her sister Pippa at the Royal Wedding with Britain's Prince William in London last April. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Kate Middleton, left, waves as she arrives at Westminster Abbey with her sister Pippa at the Royal Wedding with Britain's Prince William in London last April. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

There's been plenty of time to recover from the last year's royal nuptials, where Pippa's head-turning McQueen gown left some wondering how far a maid of honor can go in looking, well, good. No way, said Anja Winikka, editor of TheKnot.com, did Pippa upstage the newly minted Duchess of Cambridge.

"I'm not buying it. She looked fabulous, but Kate still looked like the bride," she said.

Some of the discomfort, at least among Americans, is the unfamiliarity of bridesmaids wearing white, she said. The tradition is less unusual in the U.K., and it heeds a superstition among royals and others that dressing the wedding party like the bride will ward off evil spirits, Winikka said.

Most bridesmaids are up against a lot of other challenges as well, not the least of which is the expense of "serving" a best friend or relative. But they want to do right. Some tips:

The money

How much does it really cost to be a bridesmaid ?

"It can really add up," Winikka said, especially if the bride plans a destination wedding and/or a bachelorette trip, let alone a shower. "You're looking at upward of $1,000 just to be a bridesmaid and often more."

There's the dress, shoes, jewelry, travel and party expenses, all not typically covered by the wedding couple.

"You should have a conversation right up front about expenses. It's hard but you need to say what you can and cannot contribute financially," Winikka said.

If committed, start setting aside a small amount every month to make it work. Plan a group wedding gift with fellow bridesmaids . Definitely plan on sharing a room if the wedding is out of town.

Guilt-free is the way to go if you can't afford to "serve," but don't delay the money talk. "If she's your friend, she'll understand, or she could adjust to make it less of a burden."

Pre-wedding

The two big pre-wedding responsibilities of bridesmaids is planning the shower and a bachelorette party -- at their expense. Keep in mind the parties should reflect the bride, not the bridesmaids .

When it comes to dress shopping, a bride usually won't bring the entire wedding party to kibitz, but a bridesmaid or two might be invited, Winikka said. Honesty about dress choices, within limits, is a good thing, she said.

The wedding

Bridesmaids should consider themselves "sub-hosts" at the ceremony and reception. Be gracious but don't take charge, unless the bride asks you to. "If it looks like someone isn't having a good time, kind of take it upon yourself to get everyone involved," Winikka said.

But don't mistake the role.

"You're not the wedding planner. That's the line you draw. You don't need to have safety pins and Band-Aids in your back pocket," Winikka said.

Conversely, brides should be clear on what they expect of the wedding party, she said. Sometimes an otherwise rational bride can go bridezilla in the moment. Winikka's advice is roll with it.

"Something might come up." she said. "Keep an open mind. Be flexible. I think every bride has a little moment of crazy."

 
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