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10 Sanity Savers to Be a Better Bridesmaid

You said yes! (To being a bridesmaid, that is). It might be the happiest day of someone else's life, but that doesn't mean you can't have a good time in the process. Here, your guide to fulfilling your duties while keeping your sanity -- and friendship -- intact.

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Ask the Important Questions

Money and time can be the biggest stress factors surrounding weddings. "A bridesmaid should be up front and clear from the beginning about what she can contribute and shouldn't assume anything," says Anna Post, the great-great-granddaughter of etiquette expert Emily Post and author of Emily Post's Etiquette, 18th edition. Post suggests asking the bride how much you are expected to spend (including dress, shoes, and jewelry) and know if you are expected to travel for the wedding or bachelorette party. Make sure you mention how excited you are to be a part of this step for her so she doesn't think you'll be counting pennies the entire process. You just want to plan ahead to prevent unexpected bank account drain later on.

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Know When (and How) to Say No

You wouldn't hold back telling your best friend that those high-waisted jeans shouldn't leave the dressing room, so why sugarcoat anything now? "It's perfectly acceptable for a bridesmaid to say, 'I'm looking at my schedule and I can't make the second veil fitting but I can help with something else,' says Post. After all, there's a big time commitment difference between one dress shopping trip and expecting to be at five of the bride's dress fittings. It doesn't hurt to score points for sweetness by throwing in, "I hope it goes well and I can't wait to hear all about it."

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How to Handle All Those Feelings

Weddings often make people reflect on where they are in their own lives, drumming up all type of emotions. "The bride might very well take time to listen to your relationship problems, but don't be surprised if she's preoccupied with wedding planning," says Post, who suggests seeking out someone else to talk to until after the wedding if you find yourself getting overly emotional. If it's the bride who is on the verge of a breakdown, take a walk together to clear your heads.

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Look Hot in Any Dress

You might not get the final say on what you'll be wearing, but you can determine how you'll look in it. Celebrity fitness trainer David Kirsch (who has clients such as the currently engaged Anne Hathaway) recommends focusing on your arms and shoulders. To do this, there's no better exercise than push-ups. Kirsch suggests doing several reps of 10, along with crunches, every morning leading up to the wedding. You'll feel and see a difference in as little as two weeks to a month. If your dress has you showing some leg, try jumping rope or logging 30 minutes on the elliptical three to four times a week to easily build muscle.

For more sculpting moves, check out Kirsch's book David Kirsch's Abs and Arms, $12.95, davidkirschwellness.com

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Take a Night Off and Sweat Together

Wedding planning getting a little tense? Kirsch recommends arranging a group gym trip, taking a class or running together to alleviate nerves. "There's nothing better to de-stress than exercise," he says.

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Eat and Drink Smarter, Not Less

The bride may have added pressure to look her best through the honeymoon, but that doesn't mean you're completely off the hook either. You'll have a lot of eyes on you during your walk down the aisle (and don't forget about all those photo ops and Facebook posts!), so you'll want to be prepared. "A great rule of thumb is to only eat things that look homemade," says Brian Wansink, PhD, a FITNESS advisory board member and author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. For example, hors d'oeuvres that consist of garlic shrimp are going to be better for you than a puff pastry that came out of a box. When it comes to liquid calories, Wansink suggests sticking with champagne and wine for the least amount of damage. And if you can squeeze in a bite before the ceremony, do it to decrease the likelihood that you'll overeat at the reception.

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D-Day Diet Tricks

Need a little body confidence boost when you're in the home stretch leading up to wedding day? Wansink has worked with top models who have perfected a healthy regimen in the days prior to a photo shoot. "They cut out all starch and bad carbs 24 hours prior and only eat lean meat, protein, and vegetables," he says. To get an instant glow without fear of streaky self-tanner lines, Wansink recommends doing simple exercises, such as 100 jumping jacks, to increase circulation before heading out.

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Play That Funky Music

David Tutera, wedding planner and host of WeTV's reality show My Fair Wedding has seen it all. "Believe it or not, I have actually witnessed brides fire their bridesmaids," he says. "It's a terrible thing when drama overrides the occasion." So how can you avoid exile in the land of bliss? Tutera thinks music is a great stress-relief tactic. "Playing an appropriate track can instantly lift the mood and refocus the attention on the meaning of the wedding and the fun to follow." Keep a custom playlist handy on your phone and turn up the bride's favorite beats after that awkward encounter she had with her future mother-in-law.

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Rock Your Maid of Honor Speech

If you've been given the prestigious title of MOH, remember that a good speech is a succinct one -- so keep it to two minutes or less. Tutera says the best speeches are those that give a glimpse into your relationship but most of all, focus on the one between the new couple. Remember that this is not a roast! Do share a sweet or funny memory. Don't dish anything that will embarrass the bride, or anyone else in the room!

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You're Not Just a Pretty Face in a Matching Dress

On the day of your wedding your main task (aside from showing up exactly like the bride has requested) is to support her in any way needed. This can entail anything from directing guests, tracking down vendors and keeping track of time, to always having a Kleenex handy. "In my opinion, the most important role of a bridesmaid boils down to being a supportive, selfless cheerleader for the bride and her new union," says Tutera. And don't forget: the role will be reversed one day and you'll expect the same from your bridesmaids.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, April 2012.

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