Nfld. & Labrador

The (bridal) party line: A toast to the bridesmaids and groomsmen

They're not the centre of attention on the big day, but bridal parties play a huge role, writes Gary Moore.
Stephanie Smith-Hawe had been a member of numerous wedding parties before she finally got to be the bride. She married Darren Hawe earlier this summer. (Christina James/James Photography and Videography)

They're not the center of attention on the big day, but bridal parties play a huge role for brides and grooms.

They come in all sorts of shapes and sizes and can be as small as just the bride and groom or as big as a small army. It boils down to the couple getting married and what they want. 

There's no formula for selecting the troops to stand next to you on the big day, but usually the chosen ones are selected from a distinct inner circle of close friends and family.

Honour or duty? 

When it comes to duties, the bridesmaids get the short end of the stick compared to the groomsmen. Getting the nod as a bridesmaid means you've committed to 24/7 service to the bride until the wedding day, starting the moment you accept the gig.

Stephanie Smith-Hawe and Darren Hawe were married in Bryant's Cove. (Christina James/James Photography and Videography)

The job requires an endless list of responsibilities that range from helping the bride say yes to the dress, all the way down to seating arrangements … and everything in between.

And when Bridezilla attacks, it's the bridesmaid's job to extinguish the flames.

The price to show your support for your friends getting married can come at a high cost — for both sides of the party.

Bridesmaids often have to buy a new dress which will be worn just once, plus matching shoes and jewelry. Groomsmen will most likely have to rent a tux that could cost the same as a once-worn bridesmaid dress.

Both sides will have similar costs when it comes to getting a wedding gift, shower gift and throwing appropriate bachelor and bachelorette parties before the big send-off. 

Always the bridesmaid ... 

With an expensive price tag and the time commitments involved with standing in a wedding it's not something someone should have to do too many times in life. But, some people are naturals and keep getting the call.

Stephanie Smith-Hawe of Coley's Point has lived a life similar to that of Katherine Heigl's in 27 Dresses — well, not quite as bad, but close enough.

Smith-Hawe has been a flower girl five times, a bridesmaid four times, a maid of honour once, an emcee and she's a videographer for weddings as a side job.

Despite the demands and responsibilities that come with each of these roles she says each time is completely worth it. "With each time you're asked," she says, "it's a different friend, it's a different situation, it's a different wedding, possibly a different style or whatever."

Boys just want to have fun

The groomsmen escape the wrath of wedding bells pretty much unscathed. A lifelong friend of mine, Steve Gorman of Mount Pearl, is getting married next week.

Basically the idea is to make sure the groom doesn't escape out of a bathroom window. If that doesn't happen, it's a job well done.

He laughed when I asked him what he expected of his groomsmen before the wedding day. 

"I don't expect much," he said. "There's really not a lot for them to do except throw me a bachelor party —which turned out amazing —and to go down and get fitted for a suit. That's pretty much the extent of it."

I've stood in three weddings over the years. Aside from renting a tux, the most I've been asked to do is give a toast to the bridesmaids.

Other than that, it's a lot of hurry up and wait on the actual wedding day.

Basically the idea is to make sure the groom doesn't escape out of a bathroom window. If that doesn't happen, it's a job well done. 

A game of numbers

Gorman is having what I would consider an average sized modern day bridal party. With four people standing on each side plus a flower girl and ring bearer.

But, the party can be bigger. Let's revisit our "always a bride, never a bride" Stephanie Smith-Hawe. After becoming the punch lines to all jokes among close family and friends, she was finally a bride earlier this summer.

And for a professional wedding attendee she went big -- despite her initial thoughts of having a small bridal party. When it was all said and done her bridal party consisted of 22 people! That includes bride, groom, flower girl and ring bearer.

Smith-Hawe says she knew it was going to be tough keeping track of everyone, but couldn't imagine it any other way.

"I had a note on my phone because I would forget. Or I would have to count on my fingers — there were two Amandas and two Danielles and then I would go on from there."

For the most part the only real setback for having a large bridal party was during the pictures. Wrangling in 22 people at once proved to be a challenge. Not to mention getting a close up shot of a group that size.

With a little help from my friends, maybe?

Despite the large cast of bridesmaids to draw upon, Smith-Hawe decided to look for professional help instead of asking her bridal party for any major help.

"I actually did it to relieve stress off myself because I seen my friends go through the crying sat down to the kitchen table crying because the invitations didn't print off right and now they couldn't get new ones or whatever," she said. 

"So I was like, 'Yeah, I'm going to relieve  some stress off myself and get a professional to do this.' And actually when I priced it, it was cheaper for me to get a local business to print them off then for me to do them myself."

In the end the bridesmaids were coming to her asking for tasks, so she tried her best to keep them busy with little details.

A nice gesture

And for all the troubles that the bridal party has to go through, there's usually something in it for a sign of appreciation. Smith-Hawe went all out and gave her bridesmaids jewellery, hair accessories, personalized tote bags and wine glasses.

And the groomsmen got some swag too, including embroidered baseball hats and gift cards.

A little thank-you for making her big day special.

Stephanie Smith-Hawe and Darren Hawe celebrate their wedding with their friends. (Christina James/James Photography and Videography)

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Moore

CBC News

Gary Moore is a video journalist based in Fredericton.

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