Hysterical brides, runaway ring bearers, dress disasters and horrid hair-ups, serial bridesmaid, Jennifer Close, 33, has seen it all. Here, she reveals her most memorable moments
Sacrificing my body to protect the bride? That’s just all part of being a bridesmaid. And I should know. I’ve done it 10 times.
The first time I was asked to be a bridesmaid, I was 18. My cousin Rebecca, then 21, was the lucky lady. I wore a blue dress, the bride looked fabulous, and everyone lived happily ever after.
Since then, I have had a role in nine other weddings (colour schemes have included green, black, pink and even orange), and not all of the weddings have run so smoothly.
There was the time in 2007 when my friend Margaret, now 33, broke out in nerve-induced, angry red hives on her neck in the limo on the way to the church. It was not a good look. Luckily, I was on hand with a cold can of cola, which I held to her neck to calm down the rash.
Missing ring bearer
Then there was the day I had to frantically rustle up a needle and thread to sew a button back on to my 34-year-old sister-in-law Susan’s dress after it fell off shortly before the ceremony.
Or the time I was dispatched to find a missing three-year-old ring bearer who had suffered a case of stage fright and was hiding in the bushes (again at Erin’s wedding).
As you can tell, being a bridesmaid isn’t always easy. To be honest, it can sometimes be quite annoying. On more than one occasion, I’ve complained about spending £200 on a long, silk dress that I know I will never wear again. I’ve silently cursed when a bride (who will remain nameless!) insisted on hideous updos and I ended up looking like a bald man.
And I’ve groaned about hen dos eating away at my free weekends. But over the years I’ve come to accept that the main role of a bridesmaid is not – unfortunately – to drink champagne and snog the best man. Nope, it’s to make the day run smoothly for the bride.
I watched one bride burst into tears because the florist had forgotten to deliver buttonholes for the groomsmen; another yelled at her little flower girl for stepping on her veil; and one asked her father to please shut up five minutes before the ceremony started. Stress is not a pretty thing.
But I’ve also learnt that all of these not so pleasant parts of being a bridesmaid are completely worth it. Getting to be the one to button my close friend Megan, 28, into her wedding dress was a true privilege. We’d met four years earlier when we were both working on a magazine in New York, and become good mates, so I was truly honoured when she asked me to be her bridesmaid at her wedding in Pennsylvania in 2010.
I had the same tingling feeling when fluffing the train for my best friend of 15 years, Mairead, 33, right before she walked down the aisle at her amazing New York city ceremony in 2007. Those are moments I’ll never forget. Standing next to my dearest friends while they said their vows is something I wouldn’t trade for the world.
However, after watching some brides make themselves sick over the planning, I vowed that I would never behave that way myself. Why let a flower order gone wrong ruin your day? None of the guests would ever notice the little hiccups that upset the bride. I promised myself that when I got married, I would enjoy it.
And that day finally did come. After five years together, my boyfriend, Tim Hartz, 34, a government worker, proposed on the balcony of the Statue of Liberty in 2009. We celebrated with a fancy dinner and a champagne-filled night. It was perfect. But lying in bed hours later, my thoughts were already turning to the wedding planning.
I’d always imagined myself getting married surrounded by all the girls I’d been bridesmaid for. But that night, I took a little pause. I was 31 years old. Would it look silly to have lots of bridesmaids at that age? Would any of my friends even want to be bridesmaids again? I lay awake for hours mulling it over.
Eventually I decided that I didn’t care what anyone else thought, I wanted my friends with me every step of the way. So I asked eight of them to be my bridesmaids. I relieved an older cousin and one pregnant friend from bridesmaid duty, which I think they certainly appreciated.
My best friend and matron of honour, Margaret, has two little girls, Maisie, four, and Claire, two, who I asked to be my flower girls. My third flower girl was my niece, Ava, who was 16 months old when I got married. I knew that I was running the risk of a toddler meltdown, but I wanted them there anyway. These were the daughters of my bridesmaids, the second generation of my group of girls, and it felt important for them to be part of the celebration.
The morning of the wedding I woke up with a spot on my chin and a very bad attitude – despite my best efforts, I was feeling overwhelmed. While getting ready, I started to cry. I realised, after all the judgements I’d made about bad-tempered brides, it was ironic that I was crying and cranky on my wedding day. I was turning into the crazy bride I swore I’d never be. All I could think about was how exhausted I was and how horrible my wedding pictures were going to look.
As soon as I got to the beautician to have my nails manicured, Maisie came running up to me to give me a present. It was a necklace with two alphabet charms on it – J (for Jennifer) and T (for Tim). Her excitement was contagious, and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit happier.
Margaret told me that no one could even see the spot on my chin. Just as she had all through high school, she promised me that I looked great. As each of my bridesmaids arrived, they assured me that my hair did not look frizzy, and I was imagining the bags under my eyes. They asked what they could do to help, got me coffee and listened.
While I was getting ready, my mood started to change and I realised that I was with eight of my favourite girls and they were all going to be there with me as I got married. What could be better?
Keeping my promise
What was most important was that I had to stick to my promise and not get caught up in the details. Whatever last-minute jobs needed to be done would get done… or they wouldn’t. If something went wrong, then it went wrong. And there were a few things that didn’t go as planned, but I just stopped paying attention. I know that no one else noticed, so I didn’t either.
Before we left for the church, we put on music, had a champagne toast and danced and laughed. Maisie was especially excited, and she danced in the middle of us, twirling and laughing. It was like so many nights in my life – getting ready with my girlfriends, so excited for what was ahead of us. I felt completely relaxed and filled with happiness. Any nerves I had were gone and the whole day after that went absolutely brilliantly.
Just as I’d done for them at their weddings, it was my bridesmaids who helped me to relax, feel like myself and enjoy my day. And for that, I will always be grateful.”
● Jennifer’s debut novel, Girls In White Dresses, is published by Vintage, £7.99.
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