By popular demand, my latest Toastmasters speech. This was speech #4, "How to Say It."
Your best friend comes to you with stars in her eyes and a spring in her step. She flashes you a bright smile and a brand new diamond ring. “I’m getting married,” she squeals. “And I want you to be my maid of honor!” Don’t answer just yet! Take a moment to think. Being a bridesmaid is more than buying a dress and standing up during the “I Dos.” Your friend (or sister, or cousin, or college roommate) is charging you with a sacred duty. If you accept, it will be your job to make sure her Special Day stays “special.” Are you up for the challenge?
First, you’ll need a uniform. If you’re lucky, you’ll end up with a reasonably attractive dress. “You can totally wear this again,” your friend the bride will say. You will never wear this dress again. If you’re unlucky, or your so-called friend is particularly cruel, you’ll end up with an organza monstrosity that makes you look like you’re colorblind and on the way to the prom … in 1984. Regardless, you will also need a regulation haircut, make-up and accessories. And while it may seem like wearing flip flops beneath your floor-length gown could not possibly ruin your friend’s marriage, trust me on this one. It can, and it does.
Now, you’re all outfitted and the wedding is still months away. It’s time to kick back, relax, and wait for the nuptials, right? Wrong! It’s time to plan your friend’s bridal shower. The bridal shower is an exciting opportunity for female friends and family to shower the bride with even more gifts. You, as the bridesmaid, will be in charge of keeping track of who sent which gift so that the bride can (eventually) write thank-you notes. You will also be forced to play inane party games, like Tissue Bride – an excuse for the bride’s younger sisters to wrap you in toilet paper. This humiliation is nothing compared to the dangers you face if the bride should also demand a bachelorette party. You will drink. You will dance. You will make sure the bride doesn’t do anything that will lead to an annulment.
Let’s assume you survive the shower and the bachelorette party, and make it to the Big Day. It's time to rally the troops. You'll have ushers and groomsmen, who often have been given no further direction than "show up." You'll also have junior bridesmaids, flower girls and ring bearers; a passel of children who may or may not decide to behave. It's important to realize that everyone in the wedding party - including the groom - is merely window dressing for the bride. Once everyone accepts their role as scenery, things will go a lot smoother. The bride and her groom will come together before family and friends and declare their undying love for one another. The music swells, the couple kisses, everyone cries. The end? Not hardly.
The reception. In many ways this is the most arduous task of the bridesmaid. It is a new tradition for bridesmaids to "get the dance floor going." You will be expected to step into a big open space in front of a group of strangers and begin dancing like a fool. Typically the bride will have selected songs out of nostalgia, music that was popular when she was growing up. This will cause you to flashback to every awkward middle school social you ever attended. You will begin to sweat appropriately. The point is not, as you might think, to look good. Good dancing intimidates people. The point is to look like you're having fun - even if inside, a part of you is dying. This will encourage other wedding guests to brave the floor with you. Only when you are surrounding by a dozen aunts and uncles doing a colorful rendition of the Macarena will you be allowed to duck away for a piece of cake.
Halfway through the reception, you will be tempted to call it a night. You've done your part, and your friends seems happy. But there is one odious tradition left ... the bouquet toss. You'll have to herd all the single women onto the dance floor, and suffer in silence as overeager cousins jostle you for position. You may end up catching the darn thing, at which point you hope against hope that your friend the bride has not scheduled a garter toss. If she has, you may have to endure being pawed at by a drunk uncle who caught the garter, as he slips the used lingerie onto your leg. But all of these trials - the dress, the shower, the wedding and reception - pale in comparison to what you'll face if you try to leave with the bouquet in hand. Inevitably, you will be stopped by an older relative, who will pinch your cheek and say,
"You'll be next!"