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Now that the holidays are in full swing, I am excited about all the festivities AND the fact that wedding season is officially over! I have never been one to relish in all the girly lore of the tradition. And, frankly, it’s because most of the weddings I’ve attended are ones I have been in and the whole process is exhausting. Or as Samantha Jones says in the "Sex and the City" movie when asked about being Carrie’s maid of honor, it’s “painful and unnecessary.”
Yes I once felt super cool being part of the inner circle at a wedding, riding in the limo with the bride to the ceremony, getting a special mention in the program and sitting at an exclusive table during the reception, but really after it was over, I just felt burned out, emotionally and financially. We’ve sanctioned this my-special-day attitude so much in our culture that being part of a bridal troupe can feel like a contest of meeting responsibilities and expectations instead of taking part in something willfully and heartily.
Being a bridesmaid has become a $10-billion-a-year industry in which the members of the wedding party prove their devotion by stepping up to the plate at the ever-expanding list of formalities -- the engagement party, dress fittings, the shower (and even a whole range of said themed events. Have you ever been to a kitchen shower?), official brunches and lunches, the bachelorette party, and more. There are forced bonding situations -- specifically, I recall having to spend a weekend for a bachelorette party with the bride’s volatile sister-in-law among us, who stirred up spectacular drama when she hurled her anger and frustrations at the maid of honor. She called her a lush, among a host of other names. There are the stresses of not stepping on people’s toes with the duties, navigating girl politics (it’s all about avoiding a "Bridesmaids"-ish, old-cliques-versus-new-new-cliques situation!), and dealing with power struggles.
Paying to participate in each crusade can add even more stress. Each wedding one is part of can easily add up to at least two grand in activities -- think plane tickets for bachelorette parties, food for showers, gifts for the bride -- with people quibbling over debts. It’s a vortex that can amount to the time spent on a part-time job and leave even the most generous and enthusiastic recruit depleted. Perhaps we should eschew these "Bridezilla" antics that have been egged on by the launch of wedding-related TV reality shows in the mid aughts and forgo convention. Let’s take a cue from the Europeans or Latin Americans who don’t have the same societal pressures in this tradition. (How many times have you heard, “I better be a bridesmaid in your wedding" from a friend, relative, or future in-law?) I’d go with just featuring cute page boys and flower girls. Let adorable children get the attention!
As for the matching dresses, Austrian stylist Caroline Sieber hit it on the nail when she told me, “There is something quite odd about seeing grown-up women in matching dresses.” To all those adult women out there who already have a rainbow of unusable dresses and limited closet space (think Katherine Heigl’s character in "27 Dresses"), you feel me, don’t you? And let’s be realistic, one type of dress does NOT work on all your closest friends. From looks that were too big for my modest bust to cuts that were too short, I've had to wear some pretty bad dresses. On top of that I’ve been guilted into following the rules and donning the most unflattering of hairstyles -- cue an egghead updo so tight that my temples were stretched back as if I had had plastic surgery.
So far the best wedding I’ve ever been to was one that did not have bridesmaids or groomsmen, the bride did not wear white, I didn’t have a million showers I had to go to, the ceremony was maybe 10 minutes long, and we all sat around and ate and danced most of the night. It’s the only one that compelled me to spend more on the gift, in fact. (Hint, hint, you’ll likely get better presents if you don’t make people do shit for you.) In the end a looser reign over your crew will stress out everyone less and make for a more enjoyable experience for all.