In 2011, it's always the bridesmaid, never the bride

They're the new curse of celebrity weddings: beautiful attendants who steal the star-studded show. Alice Azania-Jarvis reports
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The Independent Online

First came Pippa Middleton, then Keira Knightley and now Naomi Campbell.

If reports are to be believed, the highly-strung supermodel is, along with actress and designer Sadie Frost, currently fulfilling that time-honoured role of bridesmaid at Kate Moss's wedding to the singer Jamie Hince. And what a role it is turning out to be. The bridesmaid, it seems, is the break-out star of the summer. Forget the happy couple, this year it's the bride's entourage taking centre stage.

Perhaps we should blame Hollywood. After all, that's where the idea for this summer's must-see film was dreamed up. What is it called? Bridesmaids. And what is it about? A gaggle of foul-mouthed, heavy-drinking hens, headed by maid of honour Annie. As the women go from dress fittings to cocktails to hen parties, Annie finds herself fighting, not the bride, but a fellow bridesmaid, the self-interested Helen, for the limelight.

No such struggles for Pippa. When she stepped out of her car at Westminster Abbey, the battle was already won. Elegant in white Alexander McQueen, her perfect posterior rapidly became the focus of world attention as thousands of royal-watchers logged on to Twitter to express their approval. No sooner had her sister been named Duchess of Cambridge than she found herself sporting her own, rather less formal, title: Her Royal Hotness.

"Ever more is made of the 'chief bridesmaid' role," agrees Miranda Eason, editor of You & Your Wedding and Cosmo Bride. "You see brides asking their maid of honour to give a kind of 'best girl' speech. Bridesmaids' dresses have also got much better. You look back at old photos and they were awful but now brides make the effort to make sure that everyone's comfortable and looks good."

Perhaps it's no surprise, then, that when that particular bridesmaid also happens to be an international celebrity, the bride finds herself cast, unwittingly, in the shade. When paparazzi flocked to Caleb Knightley's wedding in April, it wasn't his fragrant bride-to-be they were photographing – it was his younger sister, and bridesmaid, Keira. With a new hairdo and new boyfriend – James Righton of indie band Klaxons – there was little the Oscar-nominated actress could do to deflect attention.

Given this, it may be with good reason that Lily Allen decided not to ask her sister, the designer Sarah Owen, to join her bridal party. When Owen did, eventually, arrive at her sibling's big day, she was sporting an attention-grabbing minidress, showing considerable cleavage. "When I saw that, my eyebrows were definitely raised," says Eason. "No matter how gracious the celebrity, there will always be some guests nudging one another and looking. Inevitably, some of the focus will be deflected."

So hats off to Kate Moss for choosing, in Naomi Campbell, one of the few names – and faces – as instantly-recognisable as her own. Given Campbell's well-documented fondness for histrionics, she's hardly a safe bet. But then the pair are long-term friends, both reaching the peak of their modelling career in the 1990s, and have supported one another through tough times – be they stints in rehab, anger management counselling or turbulent relationships. And, if anyone can shine on her big day, it's the future Mrs Hince. She is, after all, the face that's launched a thousand ad campaigns.