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Wedding Party Problems And Celebrations

The best and worst of the bridal brigade.

Two weekends ago, I went to Chicago to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my best friends. In September, I’m heading to western Michigan to be a bridesmaid again, this time for another best friend. In February, both of them will stand beside me at my wedding (along with two more of my best friends, one of whom will be my sole bridesman). Though we’re thousands of miles apart, I’ve been by each of their sides as they’ve gone through the planning process and have learned so much about being a bride and being a bridesmaid as a result.

As a bride, I understand the desire to honor your friends, to have them close to you the night before and the day of your wedding, and, yes, to have them help with some last-minute to-do items in the days before the wedding. As a bridesmaid, I know what it is like to feel honored and appreciated, and that while showing up in a pretty dress and fancy shoes isn’t exactly work, it’s not exactly not work either. I’ve learned that being in the bridal party, like being somebody’s best friend, is neither one hundred percent responsibility nor one hundred percent honor; it’s a little of both.

As I write this, it is laundry day and I am wearing a black Hanky Panky thong that spells out “bridesmaid” in rhinestones. Does that make me feel appreciated? Honestly, yes. This gift is our version of the BFF heart necklace and it makes me smile. I actually felt most appreciated when the bride ordered breakfast for us via room service the morning of the wedding. (What? You guys know how I feel about breakfast.) The gifts and the little treats made me feel appreciated, but what made me feel honored was the way so many other guests came up to me at the shower, the rehearsal dinner, and during cocktail hour to introduce themselves to me; that I was a bridesmaid made them make a point to get to know me.

To be completely honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted a wedding party when Eric and I started planning. We’re having a pretty small wedding and I have seven best friends; could I really have them all up there with me? Who would that leave in the seats? What was even the point? But a bridal party was important to Eric, and the more we talked about it, the more I got it. I see the bridal party as the people who I want to stand up for us, both literally and figuratively, to be like godparents for our marriage. But I also came to see the being in the bridal party as an all-access pass to the wedding. The dresses, the bouquets, the shoes… they are less about looking a certain way and more about donning a costume that says to the other guests, “She’s in the entourage.”

But I’ve also seen that while a bridesmaid dress may be a badge, it’s definitely not a superhero cape. Putting that dress on doesn’t change who someone is at the core. It doesn’t automatically make flaky friends get their shit together or negative friends less of a drag; even in the right dress, a bridesmaid can still disappoint you. Because friendships are complicated, so, too, are bridal party relations. And because everyone feels appreciated and honored differently (I’m told not everyone feels loved via thongs and brunch foods), figuring out just how to show people we care—or to accept someone’s display of friendship and love even if it’s not the way we would have done it—is tricky business and the stakes feel so high.

So today’s open thread is about dealing with the good and the bad parts of the bridal party: how to honor friends and show your love and appreciation, and how to deal when they let you down. How are you guys honoring your friends at your wedding? Is it a bridal party? A bridal brigade? Non-bridesmaids? Something totally different? What gifts (if any) are you giving to your wedding party? Do you have problems with your friend group and your wedding that you’re trying to solve? (Like, hey, what gifts you want to give your wedding party?) In this last post of friendship month, it’s open season. Ask questions, answer questions, or just give links to the pretty stuff you’re having your ladies wear. Have at.

Photo: Rachel’s Personal Collection

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