Everyone loves a wedding, don’t they? The fairy-tale setting, the overcooked salmon, the fuchsia-pink table decorations… but most of all, the collective joy at celebrating this public declaration of love.

Yet while everyone else is dancing the conga and getting slowly sozzelled on cheap champagne, I am scoffing wedding cake and sulking by the ice sculpture.

Spare a thought for the middle-aged bridesmaid, who, because she has spent her life unattached and microwaving a dinner-for-one, is the person roped in time and time again to play the supporting role.

As if being unmarried isn’t bad enough, it’s like wearing a big neon sign that screams “withered old crone, always available for weddings, after all no life of her own, and about as desirable as Nora Batty”.

My name is Kate, I am 52 and I am a terminal bridesmaid. I have been bridesmaid five times and maid of honour twice. And now at a time when I thought it might just be me saying “I do”, I am on hand 24/7 with the hair pins and rescue remedy.

As a ‘terminal bridesmaid’, I have simply had enough of smiling at other people’s happiness while mine seems to be stuck permanently on holdAs maid of honour at my friend Mari’s wedding in Sicily a few years ago, it all became too much. As I watched them take their vows and wiped away a tear-stained eye, I wish I could say they were tears of joy for my dear friend. They were not. I was thinking about myself and the heartache of my unmarried life.

Shouldn’t I have put my own feelings aside on her big day? Of course I should. The truth is, I have simply had enough of smiling at other people’s happiness, while mine seems to be stuck permanently on hold.

To be fair, I wasn’t always such a resentful bridesmaid. Back in my twenties, I embraced the role of hands-on helper. Whenever a friend announced she was tying the knot, I gushed, whooped with joy, and began helping to choose wedding dresses and organising the bridal shower.

Related: http://www.queeniewedding.co.uk/grey-bridesmaid-dresses

Bridesmaid Kate MulveyKate Mulvey, as maid of honour in Sicily in 2011

The endless duties of dress ironing, screaming down the phone at the caterer and last-minute save-the-day tricks were all done with military precision and the enthusiasm of Tigger on speed.

When, at 28, I was first a bridesmaid at my elder sister Sarah’s wedding, I waltzed up the aisle in a pale blue shift dress and danced the night away to cheesy disco songs. I was young, pretty and about as ready for the chains of matrimony as I was for joining the Women’s Institute.

Not for me that outdated female fantasy of the perfect wedding, the knight in shining armour and happy ever after. I didn’t want my life mapped out for me. I wanted adventure, the novelty of new experiences and flirting with the handsome Italian at my local deli.

By the time I was in my mid- to late-thirties, the wedding landscape had changed. This was the decade when most of my friends were either married, or tightly clutching the hand of their husbands-to-be and waiting for them to set the date. In short, being bridesmaid when you’re knocking 37 began to have a slight whiff of eau de desperado about it. I had become a dwindling commodity and not in a good way.

Being a bridesmaid when you’re knocking 37 began to have a slight whiff of eau de desperado about itWhen my friend Gunilla took me aside one day and asked me to be her chief bridesmaid, the penny dropped. Was I the only one left, I thought. This became abundantly clear on the big day as I walked down the aisle with the other two bridesmaids. A couple of sassy thirtysomethings in matching taupe dresses? Allies to swap sad single stories with at the reception?

Not a bit. I was flanked by two sweet nine-year-old girls in matching white dresses and tightly clutching mini posies. As we stood in the church line-up, I had to keep telling them to stop giggling and shush. I felt like Nanny McPhee in a posh dress.

In my forties, things got even worse on the bridesmaid front. My sister – she is seven years younger – got married at an exotic beachside wedding in Barbados. Fancy being pipped to the post by your little sister, unedifying to say the least – doubly so when your fellow bridesmaid is young, pretty and at least a decade younger.

Kate Mulvey and her sister Sarah and friendsThis, surely, would have been the time to hang up my wedding slingbacks and say “I won’t”. Time was moving on, I was 48, I had just broken up from a man I had been engaged to for five years, and I was clearly in wedding meltdown.

Not surprisingly, by now, most of my friends were well into the first or on their second marriages. They may well have been on beta blockers, slept in separate rooms or hadn’t spoken in a month, but none of that mattered because they were married and I was not.

Somehow that band of gold is not only a public declaration of togetherness, it is an endorsement of your worth. Someone has chosen you, after all.

A bridesmaid in her late forties, on the other hand, is the equivalent of being an unlovable loser who can’t keep a man. From the faux concerned sighs to the tilted heads, at a wedding, the pity police are out in force.

“Mmm, you’ve just never picked a stayer,” a friend said at the last wedding I was bridesmaid at, as she grabbed the hand of her husband in a cruel show of smug-married one-upmanship. That, or: “You’d better hurry up, Kate – not getting any younger,” accompanied by raised eyebrows and group titters.

Also see: http://www.queeniewedding.co.uk/yellow-bridesmaid-dresses

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