I prefer to keep simchas personal

November 24, 2016 23:22

It was mid-morning on the day after my return from a 10-month gap year, and I was on the plush carpet of a bridal-wear shop, the assistant wielding a measuring tape and a worried look. In less than 12 hours, I'd gone from flip-flops and patterned trousers to high heels and a full-length evening dress. With just a few weeks until my older sister's wedding, I had to go from backpacker to bridesmaid, pronto.

Not that I minded. Having spent my childhood envying friends with regular gigs as bridesmaids and flower girls, I was delighted when, at 19, I finally landed the part.

As the third of four sisters, it was perhaps predictable that I would one day don a posh frock, emerge from a cloud of hairspray, and walk down the aisle in front of a blushing bride. As things stand, I'm now something of a veteran; I've bridesmaided twice for sisters and once for my sister-in-law. On top of that, I've planned four other hen parties and a couple of sheva brachot celebrations. In other words, I know my way around a chupah.

So when I heard about "professional bridesmaid" Jen Glantz my first thought was that she must have a lot of energy. Because being a bridesmaid is hard work.

Obviously, it's also incredibly special, especially when you're close to both bride and groom. But from hen books and hairdos to navigating last-minute crises and directing guests from shul to simcha, there's a lot to think about.

For any bridesmaid, tasks can run to capturing the Kodak moments to dealing with table-plan mess-ups and calming last-minute jitters. For the supporting cast at a Jewish do, it's all that and more; making sure the right people are present for the bedecken (and that everyone else is not) and herding the endless array of extended family, including those last seen when you were three, away from the mini-burgers to take part in the photos. Once the formalities are over, it's about being in the thick of it for the Israeli dancing, while making sure the bride is kept well hydrated.

It's not all been smooth sailing. Wedding number one took place on possibly the hottest day of that year in an old shul that, while beautifully ornate, didn't have much by way of air conditioning.

Midway through the ceremony, one of my fellow bridesmaids went pale, only to pass out entirely moments later. The rabbi took the opportunity to note that weddings "are not for the faint-hearted".

At her wedding a few years later, the bridesmaids managed to stay upright while the ketubah was read, but getting to the party was a different matter. With several of central London's roads closed off for a cycle ride, and an epic traffic jam forming, we bridesmaids and ushers ended up traipsing through the city on foot in our dresses and tuxes, greeted by waving and cheering tourists.

Then there was wedding number three, in Israel. Aside from the language barrier, everything went smoothly - until we tried to leave, and ended up wandering around a major road in desperate search of a ride home. It turns out it's not that easy to find a taxi on the outskirts of Tel Aviv.

So, in my time, I've organised sheva brachot that included a Halloween-themed affair for which I made tarantula cupcakes and fashioned a brownie into a haunted graveyard, and hen nights that variously entailed copious amounts of fake tan, belly dancing, and dressing one bride as a banana on Brighton beach.

Of course, for any Jewish bridesmaid, the most challenging part of the whole process is navigating those inevitable four words: Please God By You. Said in seriousness by elderly relatives, or as banter by friends, there's surely no more patronising term in all of Judaism.

My own wedding took place in the year between bridesmaiding for the second and third time, helped along by four bridesmaids and a show-stealing five-month-old page boy.

Thus, while I know being a bridesmaid is no picnic, I also know how crucial my wing women were to making our big day run smoothly (along with both sets of parents, of course). From repeatedly helping me go to the loo - tougher than you'd imagine, if you're wearing a dress as wide as you are tall - to finding the perfect wedding episode of Gossip Girl to watch the night before, and from ensuring my grandpa's kippah was firmly sellotaped onto his head to picking me up after I was dropped from a chair during the dancing, along with the wonderful speeches they gave, I couldn't have done it without them.

And I can't imagine having a perfect-stranger "professional bridesmaid" do those things. If I've learnt anything from my bridesmaiding career, it's that what really matters is having the people you care most about standing right beside the chupah. Still, it's no wonder Glantz has found a gap in the market: a good bridesmaid is worth her weight in taffeta.

November 24, 2016 23:22

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