Wednesday, September 3, 2014

It's All About the Bride(smaid)

I was asked to contribute a guest blog post to a friend's wedding website (which you should check out, by the way, as she is a top notch event coordinator) about what it's like to be in a wedding when you're not the bride. As I have been an attendant in *counting on fingers* four weddings, I would consider myself a resident expert in the field.

I mean, it's not 27, but it's not zero either. So here it is, my thoughts on what you can expect when you are invited to be a bridesmaid...

Let the record show, I am not married, nor have I ever been married. My experience with weddings has been on the side of attendant, not bride. I've twice been a bridesmaid, once a junior bridesmaid, and once a maid of honor. I've also manned the guest book & gift table, but I don't think that really counts. And then there are the approximately ten weddings I have attended as a drunk guest. I have a large family, and the majority of my fifteen cousins have gotten hitched in the past five years, most of them locally with family in attendance.

Most recently, I was one of five bridesmaids in my cousin Kitty's wedding. She married her now-husband last June, on a day that happened to be a record-breaking seven thousand degrees in Portland. The bridal party spent the morning in an air conditioned salon, being groomed and plucked and primped, as well as showered with fruit platters and champagne, before heading outside to melt en route to the church. Once inside, we suffered through the pulling on of corsets and girdles and bras and straps and all of those things that tuck you in and squeeze your belly up to your breasts. Being that it was seven thousand degrees, we then proceeded to stand in front of large industrial fans, with ice packs between our thighs & down the fronts of our dresses until it was go time.

The things women do, right? Meanwhile the groom and his men were drinking beers and relaxing in another room down the hall; I think the biggest stress in their day was that someone forgot his socks. I know, the horror!

Finally, after hours of prep, after pulling the bride into her gown and laughing our way through a champagne toast as a bridal party, after helping her to the restroom - a girl to hold her dress up, another to guard the door, another to threaten the life of any groomsman who let the groom out into the hallway - it was time to go. Through sweat and some tears, we stood together in front of the crowd and watched as one of our favorite couples finally said their vows. After five years of waiting - sometimes patiently, other times not so much - they had their first married kiss, clasped hands, and were announced to the room as Mr. and Mrs. Stu Holdren. They exited the church arm in arm, and then each of us in the wedding party followed closely behind, bridesmaids being escorted on the arm of a groomsmen.

From the church, we watched with envy as our families piled into air conditioned vehicles to make way to the reception hall, then we hurried to the back room, where layers of make-you-skinny undergarments were peeled off under dresses, shoved in bags, and tossed into cars. And then the walk. The dreadfully hot, but ultimately amazing, wedding walk from the church to the ballroom, where we were all secretly no longer wearing our panties under our dresses but grinning ear to ear at the cameramen every time a breeze hit our legs. It was hot. So hot. Sweaty, clammy, anything-but-sexy hot. But no matter how not-sexy we all felt, the photos that came from this half mile walk through the streets of downtown Portland, were stunning. Movie star stunning. We all looked amazing, albeit hot.

Somehow, despite the chiffon floor-grazing gowns breathing far less than what anyone else was wearing, and despite being unable to get a buzz before sweating out our champagne, and even despite the makeup we paid $60 to have applied melting down our cheekbones, I would have had it no other way. I would never have wanted to be seated in the church, wearing a short, sassy, light dress and reasonable heels, never would have been content doing my own hair and makeup for the day. The entire day was perfect, and I was delighted to be a part of it - I even caught the bouquet!

Being asked to be a bridesmaid is something you are not obligated to say yes to, just because you are asked. Being in a wedding is expensive; it's a time commitment and a promise to attend bridal showers and bachelorette weekends and dress fittings. Being a bridesmaid is the promise to help stuff favors and fold paper fans and also to be at a salon at 6 in the morning, where someone else will tell you how to wear your hair and what color to put on your lips. You may not like your dress, and it may be a hundred degrees on the day you have to wear taffeta and a push up bra. It also may end up being subzero degrees when you are expected to wear a strapless gown and stilettos. When a friend asks you to be in her wedding, it's okay to be flattered and graciously decline. If you choose to accept the invitation and the responsibility, know that it will be a year of wedding talk, wedding plans, wedding events, all which will culminate in standing next to your friend the moment she goes from Bride to Wife. Know that you are standing there because your friend believes you are among the most supportive of her relationship, and she also clearly trusts the longevity of your friendship enough to allow you into her forever photos.

In the end, the cost, the discomfort, the impending heat stroke, were all completely worth standing next to my cousin on the happiest day of her life. Here we are, 15 months after her wedding day, still laughing over the record high heat wave that weekend, as I snuggle her brand new baby girl on the sofa, while her husband does the dishes and paces nervously whenever the baby starts to fuss. I was there through their relationship, I am here for their marriage and their daughter, and I was lucky to have been part of her wedding.

I mean really, what's a little thigh sweat between friends??