From the Golden Girls to Sex and the City, groups of women bonded by breasts, baggage and biology come together to celebrate being women. This celebratory sorority is most evident when a bride calls together the most important people in her life to be a bridesmaid. Bridesmaids gather to offer advice and support when needed, and laughter and levity when required; yet, brides’ egregious demands have formed the monster called Bridezilla. Suddenly, she treats her nearest and dearest with behavior that borders on verbal and monetary abuse, in what is mistaken as bridal entitlement.
Bridesmaids are sisters, old friends, new friends and relatives. They are the people that a bride relates to the most and couldn’t imagine not having by her side. Before the Middle Ages, a bridesmaid’s purpose was spiritual protector from demons seeking to ruin the wedding. To deflect the bad juju, bridesmaids wore identical bridal garments to confuse the demons as a divergence. Today, their official role in the wedding is a supportive one – a shoulder to cry on, a dose of reality and a rollercoaster of fun; however, bridesmaids still make sacrifices for their betrothed friends, in the form of time, money and sanity, sparking the post-wedding question, “…are you still friends with her?”
The time required to plan a wedding is immense, and the time required to be a bridesmaid can quickly become equally demanding. They are expected to plan and/or attend the larger events: engagement, bridal shower, bachelorette parties, rehearsal dinners and finally the wedding. Auxiliary time-swallowers are the clothes, assisting the bride in licking stamps to scooping potpourri, travel to and fro, not to mention the constant phone calls from an overwhelmed and frustrated bride. Being caring, gracious friends they do it out of loyalty and love without complaint, but when the bride’s expectations exceed reasonable time-commitment levels, she in effect turns her bridesmaid into a butler, and no one wants to feel like the hired help.
On top of feeling like more of a housemaid than a bridesmaid, bridal management dictates that bridesmaids should pay for their own uniform too. Add that to the exorbitant list of costs (including a gift that at least covers the per head cost of the wedding ticket) a bridesmaid is looking at several hundred dollars at least. To demonstrate this point, here is a low to high cost estimate chart.
In my own closet hangs a $200 bridesmaid gown (add $45 in alterations). And I will never wear again. I am now the proud owner of a huge, $245, pink dust collector. The insanity surrounding bridesmaids dresses was enough to inspire it’s own Hollywood blockbuster with Katherine Heigl in 27 Dresses. The dress cost alone caused considerable personal resentment, but it wasn’t just the price ticket that did me in. Between my own experience and listening to others’ nightmarish stories, while time and money is always a sore point, it’s the way decisions are made and whether the bride gives any consideration to her bridal party that can really set an enjoyable or unpleasant tone for the entire wedding experience.
There’s no argument that weddings are stressful events. They are true windows into how people manage pressure, and, more importantly, whether they have leadership skills. Allowing the world to overwhelm oneself with opinions is the kiss of death, but autonomously dictating is equally invasive to those involved in the wedding. It’s important to take the bridesmaids’ personalities into account – it may be “your day,” but there’s a significant difference between dictatorship and appreciative requests for help. It’s also incredibly important to take into consideration their time and financial situations. Women today have responsibilities that take precedent over stuffing tissue in envelopes or attending the bridal shower. I remember not being able to make a dress fitting due to a doctor’s appointment that’d been scheduled for months, and it hurt when the tone I received on the other end was not an understanding one. And while I still hate that $245 dust collector, it was the mistreatment by the bride that really left a bitter taste.
When it comes time for a feminist bride to call the shots, a few simple considerations towards the bridesmaids are useful to keep in mind. Here are questions I asked myself:
1. Can they wear it again? Contrary to popular belief, the ability to shorten a dress in order to wear it again does not mean that they will actually pay and bother to do it, so the answer is no, they won’t wear it again.
2. Is the dress affordable? People can’t always splurge for special events. Make sure it’s cost affordable on an every day budget.
3. Does it reflect their personalities as well as your tastes? My bridesmaids are not girly, so a pink princess dress would never do. Perhaps they wouldn’t have chosen the final dress color for themselves, but they were at least happy it wasn’t pink.
4. Will they be comfortable? Stilettos, corsets, braless and tight fitting are not comfortable for everyone. The things my bridesmaids loved the most about their dresses were that they were cotton, came with optional straps and even pockets. They loved the pockets.
5. Ask them what would make them happy. In the end, you may not choose what they like, but involving them in the decision process and listening to them makes a world a difference.
The battle of the bridesmaid is to endure, but brides can lessen that burden with a little consideration. Whether withstanding spiritual demons or bridal demons, the bridesmaid’s sacrifice, patience and forgiveness is invaluable. Though it may be the hardest thing to do when planning for “your big day,” it is extremely important that brides put others before themselves and recognizes her party’s efforts and understanding natures. Therefore, to all brides, remember to be gracious, and to bridesmaids, remember that one day the tables will turn and you’ll be the one preparing to say, “I do.”