by Catfish of Light Green
You know that old saying: “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride”?
I have been a bridesmaid many times. I have never been a bride (and don’t plan to be any time soon). If you pay attention to pop culture (like the trailer for the movie Bridesmaids) that means I am:
- an uncool spinster
- seriously lacking in anything that might attract a man
- conversely, desperately willing to couple with any available man, especially if he’s wearing a tuxedo.
Sheesh. If you consider those stereotypes, “always the bridesmaid” seems pretty lame.
Luckily, pop culture doesn’t represent my experience of being part of a wedding party.
In my experience, being asked to be a bridesmaid is an acknowledgment of sisterhood. It’s a statement that a family can be made up of all kinds of people.
However, it’s not always easy.
These are a few of my take-aways from the bridesmaid (or bridal party – since now, bridal parties can be co-ed – yay!) experience.
For the Bride and Groom
- Get clear about what you expect from your wedding party. My friend was telling me the other day that as the maid of honor at a rural wedding she had to shovel horse manure from the ceremony site. This is the kind of thing that people like to know ahead of time, so they can pack their manure-shovelin’ outfit. Ideally, you should clarify these expectations before you ask people to be part of the gang. Do you expect the members of your wedding party to hold showers? Crazy bachelorette parties? Is your wedding a DIY affair, and you hope everyone will be cocking the hot glue gun? No matter whether your vision is traditional or avant-garde, knowing what you want is key. There was probably a time when everyone had the same vision of what it meant to be a bridesmaid, but that time is not now.
- Don’t be a slave to symmetry. I’ve heard friends say, “I have to have six bridesmaids because there are going to be six groomsmen, but I don’t know six people I want to ask.” This is never a good situation. My friend Kelly had six in her bridal party (five gals and a guy) and her husband didn’t have any groomsmen (we’ll get to that in a minute). The other way to avoid symmetry? The dreaded bridesmaid gown. Giving your gals and guys some options about what they’ll wear will endear you to them forever.
- Honor your friends by knowing them well and letting them share their talents. You don’t have to ask a friend to be in the wedding party to show you love them. Remember my friend Kelly, the one whose wedding didn’t have any groomsmen? One of her husband’s best friends was asked to officiate. A few times, I’ve been asked to give a poast at weddings. What is a poast? It’s a poem-toast, which is a tradition in my family that my friends want to share in. There’s no reason why your friends have to stand next to you holding a bouquet.
For the member of the wedding party
- Be flexible. If you’ve been a bridesmaid several times, inevitably there comes a time when you have to hold up your friend’s dress up so she can pee. Just think of it this way: if you weren’t loved, you wouldn’t have this privilege. Sometimes, weddings get a little cray-cray, as the modern kids are saying. It’s best to be able to go with the flow.
- … but don’t compromise your values. If you’re a vegan and your best friend has been planning a Doctor Zhivago-themed wedding since age 6, you don't have to wear an ermine hat! If you’re thinking about objecting to a request, ask yourself: is this really something I’m not OK with, or is it just an inconvenience? If it’s just an inconvenience, you can probably go ahead with it. But there are lots of wedding traditions that might not align with your values, and a true friend will understand your point of view about them.
- Have fun! Weddings are big parties. Yes, if you’re a member of the wedding, there may be a lot of expectations of you (things I’ve done for weddings: made vegan cupcakes, fetched Starbucks for the bride even though we were in the country, worn Western gear – twice!, played quarters with people I just met, woken up at 4 a.m., spent hours trying to figure out the seating chart) but the rewards are great (things I’ve done for weddings: gone to a catering tasting when the bride couldn’t go, written poems, danced to a funk band, had my own hotel room for the first time in my life, felt like one of the family).