Behind Every Bride
Never underestimate the job of a bridesmaid
By Klein Aleardi

Kristin Leeds noticed her life was starting to resemble the movie “27 Dresses” about six months ago. In the movie, Katherine Heigl plays a master maid of honor who juggles dozens of friends’ weddings. When Leeds had her movie revelation, she was heading to her second bachelorette party in five days.

This was her third stint as maid of honor and seventh as a part of the bridal party – and she’s also committed to two more weddings this summer.

As a seasoned pro, Leeds is full of bridesmaid hints, from how to calm a jittery bride to the best time to help the newly married couple grab something to eat.

“You need to have them eat before everyone else, because when they’re walking around to each table, they’ll probably have a glass of champagne in their hand,” she says. “It could be bad if they keep walking and drinking without eating. Plus, they should try some of the great food they picked out.”

But getting the happy couple to take a bite from the buffet is just a small part of the job. Accepting the position of bridesmaid, or maid of honor, is a big deal – and an even bigger responsibility, say those in the bridal world.

“Being a bridesmaid is a duty,” says Katlyn Mogavero, director of catering sales at The Grand Hotel of Cape May. “And being there for the bride is the top priority. The day is not about you – it’s about your friend, so you have to be 100 percent on-point.”

Dani Dorton and her bridesmaids.

The job begins once you accept the position, adds Mogavero. Asking a friend to join the wedding party has become almost as much of an operation as the wedding itself. Leeds was on the receiving end of this new tradition last year when her best friend Christine Reed popped the question.

Reed and her new husband Todd make their own wine, so the Ocean City natives designed individualized labels that read “Can’t say I do without you” and gifted each girl a bottle. “They all love our wine, so it was perfect,” says Reed.

After some relaxation with a side of Prosecco, Reed and Leeds joined forces and began planning for the October wedding. They needed decorations for the shower, a hotel for the bachelorette party and much more in between.

Thankfully, Leeds says she and the other bridesmaids instantly clicked. But when members of the bridal party are more unfamiliar with each other, Mogavero suggests some time to bond.

“Some bridesmaids might not know each other,” Mogavero notes. “When the bride chooses her bridesmaids, a luncheon or some kind of get-together can help break the ice, so it’s not awkward.”

But sometimes, distance can get in the way of bridesmaid bonding. Dani Dorton tapped four of her friends, each in a different state, for bridesmaid roles in her October wedding. “My maid of honor Laura was in Virginia, Andy was in Florida and Anna in New Jersey,” Dorton says. “Sam was the only one who was local.”

The distance meant all planning was reserved for phone calls and text messages, but that didn’t cause any hiccups. It helped that Dorton’s friend base spanned far and wide, and people were eager to help even if they weren’t a bridesmaid. “For us as bridesmaids, it was mostly about making sure that on the day of, everything was going smoothly,” says Laura Kelly, Dorton’s maid of honor.

Dorton distributed small tasks to each of her bridesmaids to help her mom, who was helping to plan the event. “I needed them each to take on a role or two, because I didn’t want my mom too stressed,” Dorton says.

Christine Reed and her bridesmaids celebrated her bachelorette party in Nashville.

Kelly collaborated with other bridesmaids as well as the mother of the bride to plan the shower, packed with fun bridal games and special hands-on activities. Guests were given fake engagement rings but had to give one back any time they said “bride” or “groom.” And as a special keepsake, guests were asked to write their best marriage advice on seashells for the couple to take home.

While planning the shower can be involved, it’s nothing compared to the bachelorette party. The celebration has come a long way. “Bachelorette parties now are more like mini-vacations,” Leeds says. “You try to incorporate different activities so everyone has fun.”

Leeds has taken her fair share of bachelorette mini-vacations. There was Ocean City, Maryland; Savannah, Georgia; Chicago and, for Reed’s wedding, Nashville. The itinerary was packed with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame, time to explore the city, and a tour on the pedal tavern (a bike for 15 led by a tour guide who takes you from bar to bar).

“I knew I wanted to go to Nashville, but I let the girls plan the rest,” Reed says. “I had full trust in them because they’re very similar to me, so I knew I would enjoy anything they planned.”

Reed’s party was decked out in wedding swag, too. Reed wore a white shirt that read “These boots were made for walking down the aisle,” while the bridal party was dressed in hot pink shirts with “Her boots were made for walking down the aisle,” on the front. Their beer koozies said “Last Bash in Nash 2016” with a cowboy boot, and sunglasses had the girl’s name on one side and Nashville 2016 on the other.

“I had a bachelorette board on Pinterest,” says Leeds. “I was always looking for stuff and would buy something for the shower or the party if I saw it.”

Dani Dorton and her bridesmaids.

The Pinterest boards, decoration buying and other planning all come together on the wedding day. It’s also the day when bridesmaids have the most responsibilities. They play the part of cheerleader, therapist, body guard, emcee, personal assistant and more.

“The bridesmaids are there so you don’t have to be stressed trying to remember everything,” Dorton says. “The bride should be concentrating on enjoying and soaking up every minute of the day, because it goes by fast.”

Dorton was so focused on her wedding that she almost walked to the ceremony without any jewelry. Luckily, her youngest bridesmaid, Anna, saved the day before she could reach the door. “When she told me I had forgotten, I thought, ‘I can’t believe I almost left without it,’” Dorton says. “But you don’t think about that stuff because you’re so excited.”

That’s the bridesmaid’s job: preventing the worst. Or if the worst does happen, finding the silver lining.

Kelly and her girls did just that when the rain started as Dorton walked down the aisle at her rooftop ceremony. “We kept telling her how beautiful everything was,” she says. “Then we kept talking about how photos come out better when it’s overcast to calm her down.”

The evening turned around quickly as the wedding party borrowed some hairdryers to dry the men’s grey suit jackets. Now, it’s a funny memory from a romantic day. That’s what can happen with a laid-back attitude – and that’s why being flexible is Leeds’ number one tip for bridesmaids.

“When you commit to be a bridesmaid, you have to be flexible,” says Leeds. “You have to respect the bride and what she wants to do and consider everyone’s opinions and personalities.”

And who knows, the biggest wedding mishaps could turn into the best memory. That was the case for Reed.

“We had my shower on the hottest day of the summer, and the AC broke at the restaurant,” Reed says. “At the end, I grabbed my girls and said let’s jump in the pool. And we did, still in our outfits, we didn’t even care. It was a nice moment after sweating all day.”


April 2017
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