Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The Bridesmaid Manifesto

I've been working on a song for an upcoming performance, and it got me thinking.  The song is "Always a Bridesmaid, Never a Bride" from I Love You, You're Perfect, Now Changeand it's a woman recounting all of her horrible bridesmaid dresses.  Cute, funny, and there's a fantastic YouTube video of what looks like a community or regional theatre production here.

Now, I'm a wedding singer.  No, not like Adam Sandler.  I'm the chick that stands in the back of the church and sings Ave Maria while the mothers are seated.  I'd guess that, on average, I do about a wedding a month.  That adds up to a lot of weddings, and the one thing that always surprises me--even after a decade, or so, of doing this--is just how God-awful ugly bridesmaids' dresses can be!

Yes, I know, it's a cliche that bridemaids' dresses have to be hideous to make the bride look even more beautiful, but really, I'm starting to buy in on it.  I've been in several weddings, and while I might joke about the "ugly bridesmaid's dress", they've never been that bad.  Some have been downright pretty, and they've certainly never been embarrassing.  Apparently, I've just lucked out, and for that, I'd like to thank every bride I've ever stood next to.  You guys are a minority:  The Bride With Taste and a Conscience.

I did the best I could picking out my maids' dresses.  I tried to account for each girl's personal taste/body type/budget first, then focused on finding something that would work with the color and aesthetics of the ceremony.  I'm not saying I nailed it (and I certainly never promised they'd wear the gowns again), but I hoped that the ladies would, at least, be comfortable, not financially burdened, and not totally hate the dresses.  Now, I have sweet friends, so I'll never know for certain if I succeeded, but I sure gave it the old college try.

From what I've seen lately, though, most brides either just don't care, or they're so wrapped up in a theme, or they have vivid imaginations that warp reality into what they want it to be.  Maybe it's like what the kid says in The Sixth Sense, "They see what they want to see".  Whatever the reason, I have composed a list of guidelines--based solely off what I've witnessed over the years--to, hopefully, help brides-to-be gain a little perspective.  I'd say that names have been changed to protect the innocent, but I have no idea who any of these people are, anyway.  Also, please note:  This is not about taste.  Taste is subjective, and every wedding is different.  This is about manners and consideration.

1) These People Are Your Friends.  Please, first and foremost, remember this.

2) Soap Operas Aren't Real.  Your maids aren't from Central Casting, and the gowns aren't by Adrian.  Just because those blinged-out skin-tight satin numbers looked amazing on The Brazen and Attractive, or whatever daytime show you referenced, with their professional stage lighting, flattering camera filters, and enough silicone and collagen that, in an emergency, some maids may be used as flotation devices, doesn't mean they're going to look as amazing on unforgiving videotape, or in Aunt Harriet's candid shots.  The same goes for Bridal Magazine pictorials.  Spanx are great, but you can't Photoshop real life.  You can, however, see #1.

3) Maids Over the Age of 15 Reserve the Right to Wear Ruffles.  I'm not saying ruffles should be outlawed.  In moderation, they can actually be quite flattering.  What I am saying is please don't ask your girls to look like human cupcakes or refugees from Ringling Bros.  If it looks like a clown, or your Lady Gaga-loving tween junior bridesmaid would squee, please think long and hard before making a decision, and see #1.

4) All Maids Are Not Made Alike.  I know, the dress you like looked breathtaking on your Maid of Honor, the 25 year-old model/ballerina/pilates instructor.  Please bear in mind that the same dress might not look so hot on your cousin, Fertile Myrtle, who will be approximately 15-months along the day of the wedding.  There's also the chance that it might look a little odd on you middle-aged, mother of three office mate.  It's not a crime to have more than one dress design, as long as the styles mesh.  For more info, see #1.

5) Money Is Most Definitely an Object.  You might look at the price tag and not flinch, but that may not be the case for all your maids.  These girls have to pay for a dress, shoes, bridal shower gift, maybe the shower itself, possibly a bachelorette party, and probably a wedding gift, as well.  There may be hair and nail appointments, and on top of that, maybe plane tickets, hotel accommodations, rental car...well, you get the picture.  Being a bridesmaid is an honor, but one that comes with a bill.  I'm not suggesting you choose a bargain basement gown.  I'm simply asking that you keep budgets in mind.  If you can't live without your super-pricey dream bridesmaid's dress, you might want to be prepared to chip in a bit to help out a friend.  Maybe gift the trip to the hairstylist, or pick less expensive shoes.  Whatever the solution, remember that you love these girls, and see #1.

6) Make 'Em Look Good.  I don't care if your Aunt Harriet told you that it's tradition to make the bridesmaids look bad so that you look better by comparison.  Your Aunt Harriet's wrong, and just plain cruel.  For one thing, you will be in your amazing gown, and glowing like crazy.  You are going to be the center of attention, no matter what.  Let the girls look nice, too.

I left a wedding not long ago, picked up the phone, called my mother, and told her, "this time the dresses were on purpose".  I didn't know this bride.  I didn't know the maids.  Even so, I could tell that these dresses were purposely horrid.  There's no other excuse for clown ruffle necklines (see #3) or squished busts.  All I can say is, if you do this, people will know.  They won't think less of the maids, but they will think less of you.  Also, see #1.

I know that some of these examples may seem extreme, but they're in here because I've seen them.  It's a challenge to pick out clothing for someone else, especially something that will be prominently displayed and photographed.  Just bear in mind who will be wearing it, and more importantly, why they will be wearing it.  They may never wear it again, but they'll appreciate all the thought and care that you put into the decision.  Afterall, they're your friends and they love you (see #1).  It shouldn't be so hard to return the favor.


  1. PREACH. and two more things:

    1) i appreciated your bridesmaid dresses - they were universally flattering (and a nice color!).

    2) i'm glad mine weren't embarrassing. (and i think your solution to the lack of re-usability was GENIUS.)

  2. Thank you!! Yours were actually very pretty. We teased you mostly because you were the first of us to get married, and we were going with the cliche. Well, that, and the country music star hair, but that wasn't your doing. It wasn't right, but we were young and stupid, and I apologize. Of course, I can't take credit for the awesome re-use idea. That was solely our tiny-mite friend. I did get a kick out of it, though. :)


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