How Miserable Is It to Be a Bridesmaid?

(Illustration via MamaMia)

The sad lament of the bridesmaid is well known in song and story, and urban legend, and bridal reality shows, and popular movies… and the list goes on ad nauseum. Nearly every woman I’ve ever known has had a horror story in her back pocket about being a bridesmaid – whether her own experience or one a friend of a friend read about in a magazine once upon a time – to tell anyone who announces her engagement or that she’s about to attend a bride. There are websites devoted to ridiculing horrible bridesmaid’s dresses past. There’s currently an article up on MSNBC about how rotten – and incredibly expensive – it is to be a bridesmaid.

But how bad is it really?

I’ve been a bridesmaid three times… four, if you count the time I got nabbed on two minute’s notice at a Highland Games where some friends of mine decided to have an impromptu vow reaffirmation. Yeah, a pair of Renaissance Scots were attended by a Victorian housemaid (I was demonstrating bobbin lace making in a turn of the century mansion) and there was much rejoicing. And you know what? I would gladly be a bridesmaid again.

Sure, there are brides out there who inflict horrible dresses on their attendants and expect too much. I wore dusty rose taffeta with matching nylon lace once. I saw an episode of Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids where the bride informed her friends that anyone who wanted to be a bridesmaid had to be ready to pony up $1,200 just for the dress and the five-inch Loubouton heels to go with. At least my taffeta horror only set me back $35.00 and an afternoon of wearing a color I detest. And that rainbow squeezebox illustrating the article? Will probably haunt my nightmares.

And yet, I honestly believe that most brides want to do right by their attendants. I’ve been asked to help scout sites, pick fabrics, tie bouquets, address invitations, and hand hold brides through emotional crises without once feeling put upon or used. I’ve thrown a wedding shower without going into massive debt.

In fact, the single worst thing ever to happen to me as a bridesmaid was the time my ankle started itching insistently just after I started up the aisle, right when I couldn’t do anything about it. It itched like crazy for the entire forty-five minute ceremony (the bride was Catholic, the groom Baptist, and both traditions were being observed), and stopped just three steps before I got to the place where I could have finally scratched to my heart’s content.

Weighed against one really ugly (but incredibly inexpensive!) dress, a nasty itch I couldn’t do anything about, and having to grin and bear it when the groom’s brother at one wedding told a fifteen minute version of the moose turd pie joke as his toast to the happy couple, there was an awful lot in the plus column.

There was the knowledge that women I loved and trusted chose me to represent the community they hoped would support their marriages. There was the opportunity to use my skills in crafts and hand-holding to make their weddings better. There were parties. There were even presents. Those dinosaur scatter pins one bride gave me still get a lot of use, as they have since 1987!

The costs beyond the dresses were all pretty much of my own choosing. Even that shower I held was basically the cost of the food served, the invitations, and a present for the bride. It was held at my parents’ house and we served tea and nibbles on my mother’s good china. Everybody had fun.

Yes, there are bridesmaids with horror stories to tell. Yes, there are brides who are completely unreasonable in their demands. But I think it’s worth noting that these are, frankly, exceptions to the rule.

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