Ten years ago this month I was thin, single and being fitted for my second bridesmaid's dress. Four years before that I was a little heavier but still sexy, single but in a relationship and being fi

Ten years ago this month I was thin, single and being fitted for my second bridesmaid's dress. Four years before that I was a little heavier but still sexy, single but in a relationship and being fitted for my first bridesmaid's dress. My thinking isn't usually linear, but this tale will be easier for most to follow if I start with the first wedding.

I was maid of honor for my father's fourth wedding. I learned several things about dating and relationships from this event. First, if you are in a wedding, do not bring a date. My beau, Ed, was my escort, and to this day I feel sorry for him, because he was essentially ignored for the entire evening. He didn't know anyone at the wedding, so he didn't know where to sit. I was working, in a sense, because for the entire ceremony I was either walking or holding a bouquet or handing off a ring or just standing straight with knees slightly bent trying not to faint.

At the reception I was seated with the wedding party, and Ed had to sit with the other guests, away from me and any sense of comfort or belonging. We did eventually get to chat and dance, but with having to greet people and do the receiving line thing, I wasn't much of a date. If you are in a wedding, it is a job, not a social event. It's best attended alone.

Wedding number two was my mother's remarriage and again I was maid of honor. I had starved myself down to a 35-26-37 figure. Don't bother to get out your tape measure. I was a bombshell, and I knew it. I was smart and went dateless this time. Still I learned something else important.

The part where the minister says, "Is there anyone here who thinks this marriage should not take place, speak now or forever hold your peace" is really not your opportunity to speak. Its place in the ceremony is more archaic than the line about obeying, and people get a little nervous and anxious when they fear you are about to speak. As I found out when all eyes turned to me at that crucial moment. I kept my mouth shut, the couple is still married, and I didn't get any more dates being thin than I did when I wasn't. So, yes, give me another slice of that wedding cake.

Since those two weddings, I've served as maid of honor one more time and a bridesmaid once. And I learned a few lessons there, too. Anybody in the wedding party who is cute and interesting is already taken ... and probably by a jealous person who also is attending the wedding. Also the person who actually escorts you down the aisle will be the person you are least attracted to.

As for finding a date among the wedding guests, use caution. Everybody's attractiveness quotient increases in formal attire. I was especially pleased at my mom's reception when I ran into a guy I'd had a crush on who had rejected me. Thank God — and the seamstress — for my dress that night.

After the reception, hit the bars in your wedding clothes. It's probably the best you will ever look, and patrons who've been in weddings themselves will sympathize and offer to buy you drinks. Ladies, be sure to sigh aloud, "Thank God, I was only a bridesmaid!" Guys will pick up on the noncommittal vibe, and you are guaranteed a date.

I wouldn't make a career of being a wedding party member. But if the situation arises, do it at least twice. You'll get to meet potential dates and unless your friends are really cheap, you'll get a cheesy gift like an engraved can opener, too.

contact erma p. sanders: [email protected]

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