I was pretty happy to open up a wedding planning app on my phone the other night and be able to mark “meet with florists” off the to-do list. A few evenings ago, I sat down and wrote down all the details of the appointment in my planning binder, and slid the business card for my florist with the rest of the vendors. As soon as the retainer check is written, “book your florist” can be checked off the to-do list, too.
We still have months before go time and we both feel pretty confident in how planning this wedding has been going.
But wait. What is the one item I've not tapped as done? Oh yeah, choosing a wedding party…
It's not to say that our absolute nearest and dearest don't have much of a idea about us wanting them to be included, but the “Wedding Party” page on our wedding website remains blank. The adorable wedding party invitations I bought are still in the box. Why haven't I given those cards out yet? Because I have such anxiety — it's not about who I plan to ask but it's about the expectations that the Wedding Industrial Complex has set forth on bridesmaids.
It's not just the costs of being a bridesmaid that are alarming
There seems to be new posts every week on wedding forums from frustrated brides who complain and even contemplate “firing” bridesmaids because they feel they aren't “living up to their duties.” Most of them are bitter about a friend who isn't able to pay $200 for a dress (“Why couldn't she have saved her money up? She's able to go out to dinner but she can't buy her dress yet?!”) or a bridesmaid isn't participating in the bachelorette party (“But she is supposed to do this!”).
Weddings can turn friends into props
My favorite posts are from brides who complain that their bridal party isn't obsessed with talking to them about their wedding 24/7 because isn't that what they are supposed to be doing? Other favorite posts of mine are brides who become angry with a bridesmaid who cut or dyed their hair just weeks before the wedding (“THEY ARE GOING TO MAKE THE WEDDING PICTURES LOOK HIDEOUS!”).
I have read horror stories on wedding forums of how years of friendship are thrown away because a bridesmaid didn't live up to a bride's expectations. That's the key here — it's not a friend expectation but rather a bride expectation. Somehow the lines of friendship and being a bridesmaid have been blurred by the wedding industry.
If bridesmaids aren't throwing lavish parties in matching outfits, they aren't doing it right
“Requiring” bridesmaids to throw over-the-top bachelorette parties, or instructing brides that all of their bridesmaids must have matching monogramed robes as gifts, are ways to get people to open their checkbooks just a little more. Wedding websites, magazines and Pinterest are filled with lists and suggestions that can make one feel like, if they aren't throwing a lavish bridal shower, they aren't doing it right.
Movies like Bridesmaids show how members of the wedding party can be at odds with themselves and the bride over planning bridal showers and bachelorette parties. In Bridesmaids, Annie fights with Helen over becoming Lillian's best friend/Maid of Honor. Helen's fortune allows her to throw lavish parties and pay for expensive bridesmaid dresses, whereas Annie cannot. With some studies showing that the average cost to be a bridesmaid can be $1,500-$1,800, it's no wonder that Annie couldn't keep up with Helen's spending in showering Lillian with elaborate trips and gifts.
I can't ignore that the fact that all that pressure is already out there
I definitely don't think it should be this way at all, and I guess that's why I'm anxious about asking friends to be in the wedding party. I don't want to be that bride who writes to strangers on the internet that I can't believe my bridesmaids are complaining about the costs of their dresses. I don't want my bridesmaids to feel like there are certain “duties” that they must fulfill.
Maybe it's silly of me to have this anxiety since I don't have a list of duties or expectations in mind. But I can't ignore that the fact that it's there.
The friends that Steven and I want to ask to stand by us on our wedding day are the people who love and support us individually and as a couple, who strengthen us and lift us up when things get rough and we want to honor them on our day because we cherish our friendships with them. Isn't that what the whole wedding day extravaganza is about, anyway?