A proposal. A diamond. Tears of joy. A white dress. A ceremony of love. A sacred vow.
Each word evokes visions of a beautiful wedding. But do these words represent a modern-day wedding? Where do the strippers, drunken fests, and bridal party (AKA “servants”) fit in? Where is it written that a union of two souls is a yearlong celebration of the bride? Have we lost sight of the true meaning in this powerful celebration? Better yet, how do you survive this self-centered event if you are one of the bridesmaids?
The weddings in ancient times were not about love and they certainly were not a celebrated occasion. Instead, they were about politics and survival. Brides were often kidnapped by the groom and his family and oftentimes used as political bait to bring together feuding families. Throughout time, weddings became contracts involving barters and dowries. They were arranged and they were a matter of staying in power.
Yet today, they have transformed into opulent, enormous occasions. Even if the wedding is small, the focus on it is huge. Weddings have been known to bankrupt, instigate family feuds, and entitle the bride to truly believe the world is painted white.
The worst part is this “joyous celebration” relegates the bridesmaids to the position of handmaid for an entire year. The bride agonizes over whom she should choose to be her bridesmaid, and these women are supposed to feel honored because they are considered her closest friends. But the responsibilities for a bridesmaid are endless. Not only do they have to listen to the bride talk about herself incessantly, the topics may include things such as her hair crisis and how long her hair needs to be by the wedding, what toe nail polish she should wear with her closed-toe shoes, and how her other bridesmaids aren’t taking the event seriously enough!
Cora, a client, was recently a bridesmaid for a friend of fifteen years. She was so devastated by her treatment during this celebration that she is no longer friends with the bride. “I threw my friend a beautiful shower and she barely uttered a thank you,” explained Cora. “Not only that, she ignored me during the event. It only got worse when her wedding arrived. I was so disgusted I no longer speak to her.”
Ironically, you have been chosen as the bride’s “special friend,” yet you no longer exist. The phone calls and the emails are nonstop, but you have become a sounding board, not a friend. You are considered selfish if you do not attend her out-of-town engagement party, you are uninvolved if you do not ask her about the wedding during every conversation, and you are expected to spend hundreds of dollars on things such as the shower, bachelorette party, bridesmaid dress, hair and makeup, and all of the flights, hotels and gifts. This is your duty and, if you want to prove your friendship, you had better do it with a smile.
Another client, Shereen, spoke to me about her experience as a bridesmaid for her friend. “My friend turned into bridezilla, for real,” she said. “I had to listen to her shallow, superficial conversations for an entire year and everything was soooo dramatic. Her flowers weren’t the right shade of purple, she had to lose this amount of weight for the wedding, how cheap people were and what she expected of all of us on her day. It was just too much. What gives brides the right to treat their friends like this just because they are getting married?”
This day is especially hard if you are single. You are honoring a day that you may want for your own future. When you see the bride acting in such a callous way, losing sight of the meaning of the day, it is exceptionally difficult. Melissa, a single friend says, “I literally dream of meeting the guy I will marry and I watched my friend act like this day was all her own and that her wonderful fiancé didn’t even exist. It was like she was using this day to celebrate herself. I would have given my right arm to be in her shoes, but I would have treated the day so differently.”
In all fairness, not every bride morphs into bridezilla. We have all been part of beautiful weddings where the ceremonies were meaningful, and the brides were easygoing and gracious. But, unfortunately, the bride who is depicted in this story taints the entire wedding experience for all of us.
The year of the bride is a test — a test of your inner strength, the weight of your friendship, and your own self-worth. This day should be celebrated, but not at the cost of your own value or your friendship. You don’t have to play servant in order to be part of her wedding. You don’t have to spend every waking moment discussing her wedding. Your life was important before her engagement, and should remain so throughout. Honor your friend, commemorate the love, but let your voice be heard.