Antionette Kerr: Being a bridesmaid has a price
After a couple of decades serving as a bridesmaid, I was wondering why someone hasn’t written a “tell all” book about the experience.
Being asked to be a bridesmaid is an honor, to most women, but no matter how much you love your friend, the American bridal party traditions often test the bonds of friendship, honor and trust.
I haven’t been a bridesmaid in years, but I was recently reminded of those experiences when I received an invitation to join a Ladies’ Night Out viewing of the 2011 film “Bridesmaids.” Attendees were encouraged to wear bridesmaid dresses. My friend sent along a message insisting, “We SO have to do this.” We were as giddy as a wedding party and immediately began exchanging funny stories.
Full disclosure: I love the raunchy film “Bridesmaids,” but I suppose it would make some uncomfortable. It’s a guilty pleasure, and I was surprised the film was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture — Musical or Comedy. Several of the female cast members previously appeared on “Saturday Night Live,” and the film was my first introduction to the hilariously talented Melissa McCarthy (who was later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and Best Original Screenplay).
The movie is a crude chick flick. If you haven’t been a bridesmaid, you might not understand the humor. The film’s antagonist is Annie (Kristen Wiig), a baker who recently lost her business and boyfriend. Annie is asked to serve as maid of honor by her childhood best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph) during one of the worst moments in her love life and career. The bridal party is a colorful cast including Rose Byrne, McCarthy, Wendi McLendon-Covey and Ellie Kemper. This film is a laugh-out-loud journey through the expensive and bizarre rituals of bridesmaids.
The idea of getting all dressed up to see the movie led to a stroll down memory lane. I didn’t have a lot of options, and even though brides are known for selecting “something you can wear again,” bridesmaids quietly disagree. Most of my bridesmaid dresses were donated or mysteriously shrank over the years.
I went down to the garage and pulled out a raw silk Carolina Blue bridesmaid dress I made a point of keeping because it cost me over $300. The hefty price tag did not include the matching heels and the travel (for a ceremony that took place in the middle of a heat wave). We also purchased matching blue flip flops to wear during the reception. I kept insisting that if I was going to pay for heels, I was perfectly fine with wearing them the entire night, but the bride would not budge.
The couple is no longer married, and we’ve since laughed about the disastrous day, so I feel safe to share details. The bride called her cousin’s hair salon to make sure they were “prepared” to handle African-American hair. She was insistent that we tie our hair in a French chignon. I had no idea what a chignon was supposed to look like, but when the stylist swirled my chair around to face the mirror, I gasped. I was almost certain that the bird’s nest-type configuration that appeared on the top of my head wasn’t quite the style from the bridal magazine.
Even though the bride had paid for the ’do, she took one look and decided it would be OK for me to wash away the hot mess of hair spray and pomade. I recall it being a very emotional day due to the fact the groom’s family wasn’t particularly pleased with the less-than-perfect union. Both the bride and groom seemed to have eventually agreed and are happily remarried to new spouses.
We were barely out of college when my friends and I declared it wedding season. I loved my girlfriends, but after notoriously complaining about the price of bridesmaids dresses, I finally learned to say no. But I was determined to wear that silk dress again. It represents one of my last days as a bridesmaid. That dress is symbolic of my unlucky experience.
I can’t share most wedding stories in an effort to spare feelings. Being a bridesmaid sounds fun at first, but it comes with a financial, emotional and social price. I appreciate there are certain bridesmaid truths explored in the film that range from the battles between childhood and new friends, the awkwardness of incorporating sisters in-law, the crazy cousin dynamic and the consistent complaining about the matching dress selection.
There are also good points made in the film “Bridesmaids,” and in the end the women come together. I think the film’s trailer describes it best. “With one chance to get it perfect, she’ll show Lillian and her bridesmaids just how far you’ll go for someone you love.”
After sharing some of our bridesmaids horror stories, my friends agreed we would all do it again. Nothing can replace that beautiful moment of standing at the altar and watching one of your best friends walk down the aisle. Consider yourself lucky if someone appreciates you enough to ask you to be a bridesmaid. Marriages sometimes end and dresses no longer fit, but your girls are likely to be there. Being a bridesmaid is a life-long commitment.
I think I’ve found the answer to my own question about why there isn’t a tell-all book about bridesmaids.
Antionette Kerr is a syndicated writer and author of “Just Sayin’: Conversations My Mother Would Never Let Me Have at a Southern Dinner Table.” You may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.