I’ve Been a Bridesmaid Nine Times, and I Think This Madness Should Stop
Weddings are a special time for everyone. From the people getting married to the guests invited, it’s a special day to celebrate love. The only downside to weddings is oftentimes the cost. According to Brides, the average for weddings in the United States is $29,000. In major cities, it’s closer to $35,000. This doesn’t take into account the amount bridesmaids have to pay.
From elementary school until the ripe age of 33, I have participated in nine wedding parties. Except for a few instances, most weddings have averaged between $1000 and $2000. It’s a big honor being asked to be a bridesmaid. But I think it’s one of those traditions that should be done away with.
Bridesmaids were once used as a form of protection for their corresponding brides since there was a lot of traveling involved back then
According to Reader’s Digest, bridesmaids were more of a practical tool than anything else. Women would have bridesmaids to help protect them on their journey to the altar. And by the journey, I mean their literal journey.
Women would sometimes be married to men in other towns and, if they were royalty, in other countries. Bridesmaids were meant to be decoys against highway kidnappers and malevolent spirits. Yes, you read that correctly — malevolent spirits.
This is why they and the bride-to-be would dress up wearing the same dress. There wasn’t the colorful spectacle we have today. They all wore the same colored dress, so people (and spirits) couldn’t tell them apart.
It wasn’t until Queen Victoria of England that the use of bridesmaids was altered to what it is today. Reader’s Digest notes that this was also the time that white bridal gowns became a thing. Before that, women wore silver.
Thanks to her, bridesmaids were now perfunctory and symbolic. The bridesmaid’s primary duty is to ensure the bride has a good time. I thank Vicky for making it so that I no longer have to fight off kidnappers. I’m a writer, so these hands are not “Rated E for Everyone.”
But with this honor comes a bit of a cost. Kennedy Blue cites that the average cost of being a bridesmaid is $1200 per wedding. Depending on the bride and the region of the U.S. you live in, this cost can go up.
Modern bridesmaids have to contend with a bit more than their ancestors, especially in an inflated economy
So, what have I had to pay as a bridesmaid? For starters, the dress. Most dresses I’ve purchased have ranged between $200 to $300 without alterations. This can run between $30 and $100, depending on what you need done.
Have there been outliers? Yes. My most recent dress from Birdy Grey cost me $110 with shipping. Alterations were $35. There was also the dress I wore for my cousin’s wedding in the Dominican Republic. It was rented and cost the equivalent of $55.
But that’s not all bridesmaids have to budget for. An article from The Knot cites additional expenses, including wedding day hair and makeup, pre-wedding event attire, the bachelorette party, and “getting ready” outfits for the wedding day for photos.
You also have to account for manicures and pedicures, how your hair needs to be blow-dried so that you have it primed for wedding day hair, shoes that go with your dress, and a few other miscellaneous expenses.
This doesn’t consider that many bachelorette parties require some form of travel. If your bride is doing a destination wedding, you must account for travel expenses, hotel stays, and anything else that goes with that process.
My accountant cousin and I were discussing my tenure as a bridesmaid, and she calculated that I’d spent close to $10,000 on other people’s weddings. It’s why I no longer get my brides a gift.
All these expenses add up. If you don’t make a lot of money or are in between jobs, you can’t just drop that much money. But, saying you can’t afford it can come at a greater cost for some women.
Many argue just to say “no” when being asked to be a bridesmaid, but saying no isn’t as simple as most would think
When you’ve been in as many bridal parties as I have, you’re bound to experience many things. The belief is that if you say no to a bride, your friendship will suffer. It’s true. I was once relieved from my duties as a bridesmaid.
Now, before anyone thinks I did something, I didn’t. The bride who decided to let me go was someone I had been friends with in college. While we were still somewhat close after graduating, we grew apart throughout her planning.
I distinctly remember the phone call where she told me how she felt. I reminded her, foolishly, that this wasn’t a break-up. That we would be okay. I let her know that we would still be friends after this.
We weren’t. Being “unmade” a bridesmaid had pushed us over that edge. I haven’t seen or spoken to her since after the wedding. It can be argued that we were already on the outs of the friendship, but I’ve seen how friendships deteriorate in other circumstances.
Someone once told me how they alerted their bride they couldn’t afford to be her bridesmaid. Their relationship suffered greatly. This person she cared for so much essentially dropped her. It caused her friendship trauma.
Additionally, there is always some sort of hiccup within the bridal party. Someone somewhere will unknowingly fumble at some point. The tension this creates will establish a crater that only gets bigger as time progresses.
It’s heartbreaking if I’m truthful. No one wants to see someone they care about experiencing a tough situation during a special time. There should be love and joy from all angles. Also, weddings are stressful enough as it is.
But why has society made being a bridesmaid the end-all, be-all measure of friendship? How is this fair to anyone involved? Why do we equate your ability to afford this “rite” with your dedication to your friend?
Due to my leanings, I’ve already alerted my friends on where I stand in regards to the bridesmaid tradition
I haven’t been entirely bashful about my thoughts on the bridesmaid tradition with my friends. I’m pretty sure they’d call me a broken record on the subject at this point. I thank them for holding space for me on the subject.
So, will I have bridesmaids at my eventual wedding? Nope. Will I support a friend who wants to have them? Yes. By my count, I have at least one or two weddings left on my roster. I will proudly stand by my bride as she says yes to her human. Just because I don’t want them doesn’t mean I’m going to rain on someone else’s parade.
There is a part of me that would love to make my special humans a bridesmaid, especially the ones who have never been one. But when I think about where they are in their lives, I can’t ask them to in good conscience.
Some of them are mothers. Others are paying mortgages. Some have other responsibilities that they need to tend to. I also take into account the state of the economy. How can I ask them to dish out between $1000 and $2000?
Am I calling others who choose to move forward with this tradition bad friends? Not at all. I wouldn’t even breathe that in their direction. But not everyone can spend that kind of money, and I’ve seen the tough spot it puts some people in.
In my heart, I’d like to save folks that anxiety and pressure. At the end of the day, a wedding is just an expensive party (not to be confused with a marriage), and everyone should have fun from start to end.