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Jessica Kosowski, left, and Rebecca Keister have served as bridesmaids more times than you can count...

Always a bridesmaid …

Or: what is it like to play the role of attendant over and over again?

By Rebecca Keister

On this most recent Christmas morning, my younger brother announced that just a few hours earlier he had asked his long-term girlfriend to be his wife.

He was engaged.

He could barely get the announcement out of his mouth before I was rushing over to hug them both, tears of happiness starting to slip down my cheeks.

And they were tears of happiness. My brother is very much in love with this woman - a perfect fit for him and a very welcome addition to our family. Well, they were tears of happiness until my youngest brother said in front of everyone, "Wow, Becky, it really is going to happen that all your brothers get married before you."

My response went something like this: "What, are you trying to kill me!" followed by a sprint to the bedroom and an hour outside trying to calm down. I did not handle it with what you would call grace.

Of course, my youngest brother, feeling very bad, apologized profusely. But his comment wasn't that out of line. We've joked about my single status many times. I have three brothers. They're all younger. One is married, one is engaged, and one is 19.

My Christmas morning outburst had a lot to do with some emotional trauma I had recently gone through. I felt awful, though no one seemed to care, and the best news is that now I have another wedding to help plan and share in.

And I am excited for that. Seriously. It's my little brother! But it also will be the seventh time I've been a bridesmaid, and that old saying, "Always the bridesmaid...never the bride," has started coming out of just about everyone's mouth.

You know, there's only so many "So, when is it going to be you?" comments from every he-really-didn't-think-before-he-spoke male relative, friend and co-worker a girl can take.

In the movie "27 Dresses," which opens next weekend nationwide, Katherine Heigl plays a young woman who has been a bridesmaid, you guessed it, 27 times and now has to watch her sister marry the man she secretly loves.

Ouch. At least she's got it worse than I do.

The last single one among her friends and family, she's had to withstand being the perpetual woman behind the woman, always the one carrying the smaller bouquet and hearing the endless support parade assure her that "You're next!"

Ugh, how does one deal?

Truth is, it is plain hard to handle. If you want to get married and it just hasn't happened yet, it's understandably hard to be extra happy for someone who has what you don't.

While you're throwing a pity party inside your head, and blaming the wad of tissues in your color-themed purse on female emotions, it's not easy watching and wondering, "Where the heck have I gone wrong?"

There's nothing more you can do than sneak an extra glass of champagne and try really hard to throw cake.

That's not really the case for me. My problem is even worse.

I'm the perpetually dateless bridesmaid. Because every time someone else makes a permanent commitment to their beloved, my own love life seems to fall apart.

Every dress I've saved is a memory of a loved one's happiest day - and of a personal disaster.

Except the first one. But I was 14.

The next time, I was 23 and donned a navy blue two-piece for my cousin's wedding. The engagement came the same weekend my boyfriend of two-plus years left me at the airport, having canceled his plane ticket for our weekend at my house ... for my mother's 50th birthday party.

About a month before a very dear high school friend's wedding, my then boyfriend announced he did not plan to attend. It was my friend's wedding after all. His stand-in, a good friend, called the night before the out-of-town affair to say he couldn't make it. I snuck that extra champagne and sat up straight in my shiny red two-piece.

For my now sister-in-law's wedding, I orchestrated a sure-fire way to get that same boyfriend to the ceremony. I sent a friend to pick him up.

But there's not one picture of me and him from that night. He refused to be photographed and never danced. And I looked really good in that wine-colored ball gown.

Last year had two bridesmaid dresses in store for me, one coral and one cranberry.

The coral dress brought with it the perfect date. He was on time, danced the night away and was in about a thousand pictures with me. No wonder that might be my favorite dress. He went to the cranberry wedding, too, just a couple months ago. But that turned out to be the last big event we'd attend together. And I never got the pictures developed.

And then there was Christmas morning.

I felt like I ruined my brother's big day. My sister-in-law was more than kind. She's the one who calmed me down outside.

I guess it's a little bit more of a "Why not me?" situation than I'd like to admit, but not because of the engagement ring or the dress or all the new pots and pans. Well, it might be a little bit about the pots and pans.

It might be about the person I just haven't found yet. The one who will show up on time and keep doing that.

In the meantime, I'm getting very good at holding my champagne. And I've not once thrown a piece of cake.

By Jessica Kosowski

Throughout my college years, one of my favorite times of the week was when my friends and I were getting ready to go out for a night on the town. There was always a certain energy in the air, one of anticipation of the night's events, which were bound to be fun, chatting about who we thought we'd run into during the night, and finally, the agonizing over what to wear. The excitement over getting ready to go seemed as much fun as the actual night out.

There have been four times in my life that have trumped my beloved college primping prep times. Those were the four times that I've been getting ready for weddings as a bridesmaid or maid of honor. Being asked to be a part of a wedding is like being invited into the inner sanctum of friendship - only the bride and groom's closest buddies and relatives are asked to be in the wedding party, so each time I felt honored to be a part of such a special day.

My sister, Kerrie, was the first to ask me to be a bridesmaid, and on a hot day in August of 1999 I slipped on a long, buttercup yellow gown and walked down the aisle of St. John the Evangelist Church in Attleboro. The experience was simultaneously exciting and scary as I stepped carefully, but slowly, down the church's long, slick, stone aisle keenly aware of the hundreds of pairs of eyes watching me.

The next wedding wouldn't be until 2006, when I would be in two in one year. My friend Kelli asked me to be a part of her May wedding, wearing a long red dress with a shawl, while my cousin, Susi, bestowed upon me one of the greatest honors a woman can have for October. I was asked to be her maid of honor. Actually, we had an agreement - we would be each others' maids of honor - so when she told me she was engaged, I hugged her and told her I couldn't wait to be an MOH, then followed it up with, "I am, right?" To which she gave an eye roll and said, "Of course!" She then told me I'd be wearing red, with "sparkly" accents, as those were her chosen colors. My dress turned out to be a tea-length halter dress accented, as promised, with a shiny rhinestone brooch at the waist.

The most recent wedding was just three weeks ago in December, and I can set the scene perfectly. Five red wine-colored dresses with champagne sashes were hanging neatly in a row, waiting for me and four other excited bridal attendants to slip into them the next day. Meanwhile, a kitchen in Plainville filled with women ready to toast the bride, my friend throughout high school and college, Lauren, who, rightly so, was the most excited of us all.

While each ceremony was unique with truly special details, they each held a common thread. There was a certain energy in the air; one of excitement, anticipation and restlessness reminiscent of those nights out in college. The four nights before the weddings of which I was a part, I was nearly sleepless in anticipation of the next morning when all the bridesmaids would gather, get our hair and makeup done, and go to the ceremony, ready to see our friend, sister and cousin take the most important walk of her life.

More important than the dress, the hair or the makeup, though, were the conversations that took place leading up to the wedding days and on the days themselves while getting ready. Big events always bring out the funny, heartfelt, silly, and "awww" moments during the hours spent working on save-the-date cards, planning a shower, and organizing place settings. It's during those chats in the company of friends, some old and some newer, that a bond is made between a bride and her maids.

Unless you're involved in a wedding, you don't know how much work went into it. The people chosen to be bridesmaids, those with whom you got ready during those college nights, and those with whom you might still get ready for just a fun night out, are the people who really know the dreams, excitement, nervousness, frustration, love, and every other emotion of that time. They were there with you when things went frustratingly wrong and celebrated with you when things went perfectly right.

I have one more dress to wear. My college roommate Christine is marrying in May, and I'll be wearing a long royal blue gown. It's beautiful, like the other dresses I wore. And for this wedding, like all the others, I'll be putting so much else on with that dress besides jewelry and makeup. I'll be wearing the shared memories, the laughter, the tears, the dreams and the smiles that got me there, standing with the bride on the most important day of her life, and with my other friends, celebrating her happiness.