Aisle be there for you: Well-known women on their bridesmaids
With many couples preparing for their wedding, we speak to four personalities about their choice of bridesmaids and how they helped to make their day special.
Spring wedding season is upon us, with hundreds of brides and bridesmaids having their final fittings and last-minute adjustments made to their dresses for the big day. And while the roles of maid-of-honour and best man may have broadened to include "brides-men" and "best woman" nowadays, the traditional bridesmaid is still one of the focal points of modern weddings - as long as she doesn't upstage the star of the show.
With a sequel to the smash hit film Bridesmaids rumoured to be in the pipeline, we spoke to four well-known personalities about their choice of bridal attendants and how they helped make their wedding days memorable.
Sweeney Todd and Six Degrees star Jayne Wisener (28) and her sister Gillian (34) celebrated their weddings a month apart, in the summer of 2012. Gillian, a teacher, was maid-of-honour for Jayne's big day in July 2012, when she married London banker Wayne Austin at St Patrick's Church in Coleraine. The former Coleraine High School pupil put her stamp on proceedings - her order of service booklets in the church took the theme of a theatre programme. The bridal party, including Jayne and Gillian's brother John, had their wedding pictures taken at Dunluce Castle before the wedding reception at the Royal Court Hotel. Jayne says:
I am slightly obsessed with weddings, so I'm sure I talked Gillian's ears off when I was young and planning my wedding to Jason Donovan or Leonardo DiCaprio or Gareth Gates!
I had four bridesmaids - two older ones and two younger ones - Gillian, my cousins, Helen and Anna, and my niece Charlotte. I only have one sister so she knew she was going to be my maid of honour - I don't even remember asking her to be honest.
It was the strangest situation actually, because Gillian got married the month after I did. A lot of our planning was done around the same time as each other. We even bought our wedding dresses on the same day.
Wayne and I picked the colour of the bridesmaids' dresses together and I held a swatch of the material up against each of them to make sure it wouldn't wash them out. I chose different gowns for Gillian and Helen, to flatter their individual shapes. I wanted them to wear gowns that would complement mine, hence the sweetheart neckline and the ruching. For the younger girls, I went for cute dresses with pleats, which were all the rage after the royal wedding.
We wanted the bridesmaids to look quite glam and formal rather than floaty and light, which is why we went for a satin material. Although I don't think it would have been what Gillian would have chosen for herself, she didn't complain at all. But she looks good in everything, so I had an easy job. The dresses were all from Dessy and we got them in a bridal boutique in West Wickham, Kent.
As for the hen party, I actually ended up not having one. We had planned to go for a spa day but then couldn't get it booked because I was filming up until a few days before my wedding.
Gillian was really eager to help and ran all sorts of errands for me, whilst I was frantic doing other things. She barely slept the night before and nodded off at the hairdressers with rollers in her hair. On the day itself, she did such a great job looking after me and mingling with all the guests. She is really bubbly and funny so she made me look good.
I loved getting ready in the morning. We all got dressed in Gillian's bedroom. She joined me and my brother to sing Afternoon Delight, from Anchorman, for my "speech", which was fun.
My own first experience of being a bridesmaid was when I was three and my Aunty Joy and Uncle Harry got married. I danced until my shoes were destroyed. I think I have been obsessed with weddings ever since.
The most recent experience was of course a month after my wedding when I was matron of honour at Gillian's. I loved it so much. You are the first lady to the most important person of the day after all - the bride.
Former Miss Northern Ireland Judith Wilson tied the knot in 2010, marrying local businessman Gareth Grey in a lavish ceremony in Darling Street Methodist Church in their hometown, Enniskillen. A granddaughter of the late Senator Gordon Wilson, famous for his noble sentiments of forgiveness after daughter Marie was killed in 1987's IRA Poppy Day bomb in Enniskillen, Judith took the opportunity on her big day to honour both her grandfather and her late father, Peter, who died in a car accident in 1994. Her winter wedding followed her sister Eloise's spring nuptials, when she did the honours as bridesmaid. Eloise returned the favour for Julie seven months later, in November 2010. Judith works full-time as a teacher in Little Smarties nursery in Enniskillen and recently set up her own agency, The Judith Wilson School of Modelling. Judith has a three year-old son, Wilson, and is aunt to Eloise's daughter, Florence (3). Judith says:
Like my sister's wedding in April 2010, my wedding brought back a lot of memories for those that couldn't be there, including my father and grandfather. My stepfather, Hamish, is great and he gave me away.
My bridesmaids were my sister Eloise Stockdale, my cousin Jane Rutherford and my best friend Julie Cooper. I've known Julie since primary school - she and my sister Eloise now have two girls. Jane is a dentist who now lives in Glasgow, and has just recently got engaged. I asked my sis and cousin to be my bridesmaids straight away - they were delighted and couldn't wait to get planning! Then I called Julie one day for coffee and asked her and she was equally thrilled.
All three were great at helping me organise appointments and got me lots of bridal magazines. Thankfully, they all loved the dress I chose - it was the first one I saw and I fell in love with the pearl detail. And I loved the black we chose for their dresses, as it was a black tie wedding. My wedding dress and the bridesmaids' dresses were all by Pronovias, from Bonita Bridal in Moy. I gave the girls earrings on the day and they kept those as their keepsakes.
My hen do was in Edinburgh and it was a fantastic weekend of girly fun, and so well organised by my bridesmaids. The night before the wedding, my sister stayed with me in the house and then the other two came around at for hair and make-up in the morning. I'll always remember walking down the stairs and showing them my dress and seeing their reaction. It was also just lovely to have them there all morning to keep me calm and relaxed. They also gave me a photo album with lots of special pictures, which was a real tear jerker.
We had lots of music at the ceremony and Eloise sang the blessing beautifully with a guest of ours, Gillian Rutherford.
We had a fantastic time at the Manor House for our reception afterwards. We were building a house nearby spending a lot of time here using the leisure facilities or dining in the restaurant, so it was the perfect choice for our reception.
I was bridesmaid for my sister before my own wedding and then bridesmaid for Julie the summer after ours, when I was pregnant with Wilson. I loved being a bridesmaid and actually found it more daunting than my wedding.
The girls and I are all firm believers in love being the basis of happiness, and on our wedding day our order of service we quoted words from my Granda, Senator Gordon Wilson, 'The bottom line is love - there's nothing more I can say', and I couldn't agree more.
Model agent Tracey Hall of Style Academy, Belfast, had two "brides-men" and three bridesmaids, including her sister, Susan Patterson, in attendance when she married personal trainer Stefan Rodgers last April. Susan works with Stepping Stones as vocational training officer for adults with learning difficulties and special needs. Tracey, who wore a stunning Amanda Wakeley dress on her big day, is auntie to Susan's two children, Christy (8) and two year-old Isabella, who was a flower-girl at the wedding. Tracey says:
Sue and I used to dress up in mum's wedding dress when we were kids. We also played "house" and I remember saying I wanted four children. Sue's main passion was horses, though, and I used to love organising Miss World competitions in our garage - dreams of weddings and princess fairy tale wedding dresses just didn't feature.
I was bridesmaid for Sue 10 years ago and my best friend, Hazel, about 14 years ago. I felt very honoured and proud to be asked. On both occasions, I did the make-up for the whole bridal party, which was quite stressful - but I wouldn't have had it any other way.
Susan has a background in hospitality, so her help and advice were invaluable for my wedding day. In the lead up to the wedding, she and her family were living in the grounds of Larchfield Estate, Ballynahinch, as their house was being renovated. We'd visited her often and fell in love with the stunning grounds and the wonderful staff, so we booked Larchfield for our reception.
When we were stressing about numbers, rooms or table decoration - or over anything at all - it was great to be able to pick up the phone and get honest no-nonsense advice from Sue. There is no drama with her - she just tells it like it is.
I think it's important that your bridesmaids look and feel beautiful too, so I opted for a shade that suited them - navy. I bought their dresses from a little known website who do made-to-measure - they were very plain, classic and simple.
My other two bridesmaids were my best friend, who I've known since secondary school, Hazel Brown, and Nikki Smith, who I met 20 years ago in a beauty salon when she first did my nails.
I also had two "brides-men", Clive and Geoff, two of my best friends, who I have known for 33 and 24 years respectively. They were involved in every aspect of the wedding - the ultimate wedding planners. My niece Izzy and Stef's nieces, Lottie and Maggie, were flower girls.
I bought my dress from Castle Couture - they flew in some styles I liked from London and I brought all three of my three bridesmaids with me to try them on. I was torn between two but my bridesmaids, despite their incredibly different tastes, were unanimous and gasped when they saw me in the one dubbed Cleopatra and all declared it "the one". My mum insisted on buying my dress for me - so I will always treasure it.
For the hen weekend, my sister organised the whole thing and it really was fantastic. Thirteen of us spent a weekend in a five-star luxury pad, complete with hot tub and a fully stocked cocktail bar, on the shores of the lough in Carlingford. Sue was in touch with all of my friends, plotting and planning.
Sue was the voice of calm and common sense in the run up to the wedding. In planning a wedding, you start to obsess about little things and blow their importance out of all proportion. Sue managed to make me see the bigger picture. The couple of days before, I was a bit emotional; I didn't sleep the night before and so was zombie-like first thing on the morning of the wedding. Sue managed to keep everything bright and breezy and inject a sense of fun, and stop things from getting to me. I don't know what I would have done without her.
UTV sports reporter Denise Watson had two bridesmaids - her sister Julie and best friend Amanda Tucker - at her wedding to David Scott on April 8, 2000 in Harmony Hill Presbyterian Church, Lambeg and Galgorm Manor, Ballymena. The couple lives in Lisburn with their two daughters, Samantha (10) and Elizabeth (6). Denise says:
As well as my sister Julie, I wanted my best friend from university at Queens, Amanda, to be my bridesmaid. We met on my first day at university. We studied English Literature and I used to joke that she was posh, as she had a wonderful English accent.
She had a lovely demeanour and was always very positive, and knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Amanda and has done so well since - she taught at the Boys Model, then Methody, and is now the Principal of Lagan College. She's married now too, and, like me, has two children.
When I asked Amanda to be my bridesmaid, she was delighted and told me it would be an honour. She always made time to drive up for dress fitting appointments, and made me feel very special. Amanda was living in Strabane at the time but left work and came to my mum's house in Lisburn. Nothing was too much bother to her.
I had all my dresses handmade by a lady called Maureen Reid. She also helped us make favours with sugared almonds and lace bags in my mum's front room.
I remember Amanda calling all the time on the phone asking if there was anything else I needed. She was very attentive.
I always loved simple and unfussy dresses. I chose a pattern for the bridesmaids' dresses and the colours were based on the theme "first colours of spring."
So the emerald green dresses were to represent the green of springtime. My flowers were red roses and I wore white - the red, green and white colour was fresh and bright.
I was going for a simple but elegant look for all three of us. Unfussy but beautiful, and it was important to me that Julie and Amanda were comfortable all day. I never went to a shop ever. Even the shoes were ordered in and specially dyed to match the green dresses.
Amanda never disagreed with any of my choices. She was lovely. We had a lovely hen weekend in London and she hit it off well with my good friend Simon Proctor, who works as an entertainment producer over there. I remember having a lovely meal at a pizza restaurant in Soho and Amanda making sure we all had fun, with little dares and spot prizes.
Amanda is a calming influence and she was the best person to have beside me ahead of my wedding day. She stayed at mum's with me the night before and when the hairdresser came round the next day, she was dressed and sorted with minimal fuss. She kept reassuring mum, which meant a lot to me.
I got a bit emotional in the church when dad stood forward to give me away. I needed a tissue and Amanda got the message to David, and subtly got it to me under my veil! She also went beyond the call of duty, as my dress was so long with a train that I couldn't get to the toilet alone. She came with me every time.
David bought them silver necklaces from a jewellery range called Hot Diamonds as bridesmaids' gifts and my dressmaker gave me a lovely little blue garter. I think Amanda and I always knew we would end up with the men we did. Her husband Adrian and David get on well and are both quite laid back guys. I was her matron of honour for their wedding in Bangor.
As I'm so old, I was a matron of honour for both Amanda and Julie! They had great weddings - even with the DJ getting the choice of first song mixed up at Amanda's evening do. They wanted Radiohead and he played Motorhead.
Famous bridesmaids and their dresses
Although Pippa Middleton claims THAT bridesmaid dress at the royal wedding in April 2011 was intended to be "insignificant" and to "blend in with Kate's train", the figure-skimming ivory cowl-neck, by Sarah Burton for Alexander McQueen, created a sensation and spawned a million copies. Since then celebrity bridesmaids have been careful not to overshadow the bride, as seen in these recent high profile weddings.
Cara Delevingne wore a relatively simple white dress to complement her sister Poppy's beautiful Chanel gown at her wedding in London last spring.
Prince Harry's ex Chelsy Davy wore a figure-hugging gold gown - echoing the shape of Pippa Middleton's - for her friend Lady Melissa Percy's wedding in Northumberland in June 2013.
Lady Gaga toned down her stage persona to dress demurely in a full length bridesmaid dress in champagne for her friend Bo O'Connor's spring 2013 wedding in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.
Khloe, Kourtney, Kendall and Kylie Kardashian wore elegant floor-length white gowns as bridesmaids for their more glamorous sister Kim's wedding to Kanye West in 2014.
Oscar-winning actress Jennifer Lawrence wore a one-shoulder J Crew gown and posed on the front of Real Weddings magazine alongside her sister-in-law Carson Massler in October 2013.