Never again a bridesmaid: why I’m tired of celebrating this dated custom

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My friends recent confession that her wedding would be bridesmaid-free came as a relief: theres no need to force our friends into a tradition of sameness

Recently, a dear friend announced her participation. We toasted and feted and constructed happy noises about her soon-to-be-husbands fantastic option in a mate. Later, though, she took me aside, hushed and confidential. I dont want you to feel hurt by this, she said. Youre my best friend, my person. I watched her in fear; what was she about to tell me? Im not going to have any bridesmaids, she ultimately concluded, forehead knit, prepared for me to break. Impending bridals can set a altogether reasonable person on edge, sometimes.

I smiled and hugged her and took a big swig of whatever I happened to be drinking, then inhaled my own sigh of relief. Youre my person too, I said. And this is the best present you could give me.

You might say I have a few problems with the bridesmaid tradition.

Ive been to a lot of weddings so many that I wrote a book about attending them. And Ive been a bridesmaid a couple of times: once, in a pale blue J Crew strapless dress, clutching a corsage of wildflowers, strolling bravely down the aisle as my heels stuck into the soft ground; the next time, as the maid of honor, wearing a brown sateen gown with a rhinestone belt, witnessing the marriage of my very best friend from childhood. At both occasions, which took place in my twenties, this seemed a lovely thing to do. Clothe in an attire and shoes and perhaps even a hairdo that matched someone elses, I would support my marrying friend; I would take on an array of organizational and secretarial and stylist and personal shopper and party-planning and therapist responsibilities, whatever the books said I should do, because I was a woman and women are supposed to drop everything else to supporting each other in this primordial, primary thing, this getting married.

Yes, I would thrill to spend whatever it is I had to spend( of late: an average of $1,178$ 1,466 per wedding ), to traveling across the country, to use my vacation days, to hurl a rain, to buy the right clothes. Because I was a bridesmaid, and she was a bride, and this was coming only so often, and someday it would be my turning, right?

By my thirties, something had changed in my bridesmaid worldview. Perhaps its that I found out that in ancient times, bridesmaids dressed identically to the bride to ward off evil spirits hellbent on tearing the happy couple apart.( Kind of builds those matching Davids Bridal sheaths feel a little eerie, huh ?) As an added bonus, that was a hour of marriage by capture, and all those similar-looking ladies helped to confuse dimwitted former suitors who might try to steal the bride at her own wedding.

Or maybe its that I realized that as girls get married later and later( which, happily, correlates at relatively low divorce rates ), it seems increasingly odd to have a host of women dressed alike all standing next to you. Who has that many friends, anyway? Its not a cheerleading competitor, its a bridal. We are all precious snowflakes , not matching maids in waiting.

But most of all, Ive come to see the bridesmaid tradition as merely one more instance of the style that females are packaged and primped and codified by society. We are expected to look a certain way( the same ), and behave a certain route( like ladies or maids ), and to set marriage above all else in terms of our ultimate, expected goals. So what if “weve been”, in our actual lives, lawyers or professors of philosophy or emergency room doctors or novelists? No matter. When a wedding comes around, whether its ours or our best friends, we are expected to force our actualized, individualized friendships and personas into a rut of sameness. Because its tradition. Because, somehow, we keep will be willing to it. Because someday it will be our turn, and well want this, too or will we?

I loved being part of my friends important days, and I hope to be a part of still more. Ive also learned in a lifetime of wedding-going that just like you dont have to get married to be happy, you dont have to be a bridesmaid to be a good friend. Theres plenty you can do to celebrate someone whos getting married, whether those things come under the traditional role of bridesmaid or not. Use your own abilities, the reasons youre friends in the first place: give savvy advice while dress shopping, write a heartwarming speech, tell wry jokes and construct her giggle about her ridiculous in-laws, make sure there are plenty of singles for the strippers at the bachelorette party. On the reverse side, if youre a bride, you can give your friends a gift, too: tell them to wear whatever they like, to come and be not a clan of bridesmaids but themselves. After all, its not the title that matters, its the friendship. And in 2016, who in the world wants to be called a maid?

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