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The movie Bridesmaids is a comedy rooted deeply in reality, as in the reality of watching your previously sane friend turn into a power hungry, self obsessed she-devil. But it doesn't have to be this way. With wedding season in full swing, we offer a bride's guide to keeping your bridesmaids onside - because you want to toss your bouquet, not your BFFs.

S tart by setting out your expectations

Alison McGill, editor-in-chief of Wedding Bells magazine suggests a bride should be clear about what the job entails when she makes the initial "Will you be my bridesmaid?" call. If there's a $700 dress purchased involved, a destination wedding or 17 showers don't think it will sting less later.

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Don't make every event mandatory

If you're going for the Big Fat Wedding, chances are there will be a lot of celebrations leading up to the actual event. This is fine for the bride (and certainly a great way for her to score loads of loot), but can be a lot (read: too much) for the ladies in waiting. Consider asking different BMs to accompany you to different events, or keep the family celebrations in the family. And don't expect all your bridesmaids to show at the day-after brunch. "At that point you're exhausted and hung over and just want to stay in bed," says Wendy Near, a veteran bridesmaid with 13 weddings under her strappy sandals.

It's your day, not your month

Brides often make the mistake of thinking the earth is standing still for everyone involved in their wedding celebration. "Brides need to relax, and also to be mindful and reasonable about all aspects of the wedding experience," says Ms. McGill. Remember that your bridesmaids are your friends, not your employees - if you expect someone who's going to carry a clipboard and cater to your every whim, hire a wedding planner.

Don't force your friends to cough up for a five-star stagette

Unless you're picking up the tab, keep in mind that jetting off for a Paris-Hilton-worthy weekend in Vegas probably isn't a fair expectation. "It comes back to the mindful and reasonable thing," says Ms. McGill. Of course, the bride should feel free to hit up Sin City before saying I do, but trips of this nature should be presented as optional, rather than the pinnacle of the bridal-party celebration. "It's a good idea to plan a more casual night in the city you live in as well," says Ms. Near. That way everyone can have fun (even if only some of you can see Céline).

Your bridesmaids aren't quintuplets, or Stepford wives

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So don't force them all into the same cookie cutter. Matching dresses are one thing, but expecting them to add matching sandals, matching accessories or (worst of all) matching hair takes the whole cloning process too far. "Let them show their individuality," says Ms. Near.

They aren't made of money, either

"I think these days, most bridesmaids are expected to pay for their own dresses," says Ms. Near, though she adds that a $250 price cap is a good idea. Brides who want their maids in designer dresses should be prepared to pay designer prices out of their own pocket. Don't rationalize that it's fair to expect your friends to pay $800 because the dress is so totally gorgeous they'll wear it again. They won't.

And don't do this: Forget to thank them (profusely) in your speech.

Special to The Globe and Mail

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