It usually starts with a text from your best friend. They tend to follow a formula. Something like:
“I said YES!”
“I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with my best friend!”
Of course, it’s accompanied by the picture of the ring on her perfectly manicured hand. Because you’re in her inner circle, you get the VIP “exclusive” on the news—a grand total of 15 minutes before her elaborate Facebook post goes live.
Your initial reaction is one of overwhelming happiness—assuming you like the fiancé—but as you text, call, “like,” and write something commemorative on her photo, it hits you. A new millennial bridezilla has been born, and you have unwittingly been signed into a year of indentured servitude. You are about to become a bridesmaid.
Weddings are no longer about the marriage. After prom and the risqué Halloween costume college days, the wedding is the third—and highest—pinnacle of shameless narcissism of the millennial woman. And nobody feels the brunt of it more than the millennial bridesmaid. After all, this event of self-aggrandizement comes at the cost of a bridesmaid’s bank account, vacation days, and free time.
At least, unlike the husband-to-be, we don’t have to participate in her engagement photo shoot. To these 20-somethings when scrolling through Facebook, it’s a mystery how engagements outlast this single God-awful day of blatant ego-stroking. The future grooms all have the same thousand-yard stare, and through it you can see into what’s left of his soul. Those eyes are dead as he leans up against a rustic barn, his arms wrapped up around his fiancée—a fiancée who grew up just outside Detroit, nowhere near a farm, but you better believe she is rocking her brand-new adorable cowboy boots.
The Struggle Is Real
For a bridesmaid, the average cost of a wedding is $1,695. They’re no longer a two- or three-day affair. They have become year-long traveling circuses with an outrageous entrance fee (and God help you if you’re in more than one). From the moment you receive your customized DIY gift invitation to be in your best friend’s wedding, you start to calculate what this all going to run you—and it hurts.
It starts with the dress. Sure, most of us have had a dress we’ve worn once and never worn again. They were called prom dresses. The upside to a prom dress: we got to choose it. They fit us. They were the right color for our complexion and they accentuated the parts of our body we wanted.
A bridesmaid dress is a whole different monster. Minus fees for alterations and shipping, the average bridesmaid dress costs $150. Again, this is for a dress you will likely only wear once—unless, of course, a clever group of friends throws an ironic party celebrating the single life where the dress code is ~*~BRIDE$MA!D DRESS~*~. Good luck with that. Most likely you’ll end up donating it for thrifty hipsters to cut up into something “reclaimed.”
Remember, the dress is just the beginning. Also going on your tab are the matching shoes, jewelry, and spanks so you can actually fit into the awful thing.
Bottom line, for all of these expenses you could have: made one month’s payments on your student debt; fed 200 African children; purchased 25 pumpkin spice lattes from Starbucks (YAASSS); got yourself five Make America Great Again hats or 21 haircuts in the finest Bernie Sanders style.
Brides, Ban DIY
As millennials, we can say with all certainty that J-Lo inspired us all to become wedding planners at some point—but that’s not the route most of us ended up going. Yes, this comes as a blow. Yes, do-it-yourself (DIY) sites like Pinterest subliminally message brides to force their bridesmaids into slave labor under the disguise “FUN BRIDESMAID PROJECTS.” But it’s time to break their hold. This has to stop. We are not all aesthetically brilliant craft queens. For most of us, the arts and crafts projects phase ended in fifth grade (our parents probably still have the crusty dry noodle wreath to prove it).
We don’t know how to twist and sculpt a hanger for your wedding dress into letters, and you know what? We don’t want to learn. No, we don’t want to help mail those awful engagement photo save-the-dates, we don’t want to be covered in glitter (the herpes of arts and crafts) after stuffing your invitations, and we certainly don’t need a slow death by a thousand paper cuts from failed origami attempts.
According to Costhelper, a day-of wedding planner will cost around $1,500. A full-service planner ranges from $5,000 to over $10,000, depending on experience and demand. Please, brides, stop making your friends do it for free.
The Party That Never Ends
Fewer things in life are more humiliating than shopping for then being forced into donning bridesmaid attire. Until this moment, you’ve successfully managed to avoid joining a sorority. But now you’re out in public, among an entire party of women wearing crowns, boas, and customized matching t-shirts that read something like “BRIDE’S ENTOURAGE” and you have no sense of identity left.
Your sense of self-worth slips away as you realize you’ve ordered, drunk, and publicly posted a photo of your eighth tropical drink. As you type the horrible hashtag the bride assigned to the weekend, you wonder whether Hefe or Valencia more successfully convinces yourself and the rest of Instagram that you’re having a good time.
Sending a “congratulations” card isn’t enough anymore. When your friend gets engaged, part of your job is to plan different mini-celebrations for every mind-numbing step in the bride’s wedding process. Since when did the entire bridal troupe sign on for this odyssey? Why should we be applauding a man for doing the right thing and putting a ring on it?
There is one great thing about the engagement party. It’s the first time you and the rest of the bridal party can get together for alcohol-fueled commiseration. You’re all stuck on this wedding roller coaster together (one you can barely afford to ride).
Another new problem for bridesmaids these days is the requirement to show up to multiple events no matter where you live. Members of the bridal party are often scattered around the country, but still get the guilt-trip Gchat from the bride about how it would “mean a lot to her” if you were there for her special day.
But guess what? That “special day” isn’t the wedding itself. It’s the full-blown wedding dress shopping adventure to Kleinfelds followed by an all-you-can-drink brunch to talk about how beautiful the dress looked on her (even though you probably hated it).
The Vacation You Never Wanted
The average American worker receives 10 days of paid vacation per year. If being a bridesmaid is at least a part-time job, shouldn’t we be entitled to at least a handful of breaks? The answer is no. The tortuous bridal party email chain begins, and you cringe as you read the first line: “Hey Ladies!” Already, you’re wishing for an “unsubscribe” option.
It’s time to plan the bachelorette party. This is no longer about a funny girls’ night out. It’s a full-fledged vacation where you’re expected to spoil your friend rotten. You will spend hours scouring vacation package sites for the best price on a plane ticket then argue with the 13 other bridesmaids about the most “affordable” AirBnB. And there’s always someone who wants to argue for the upgrade.
But the flight and room are just the beginning of your expenditures. This obnoxious control-freak fest is planned down to the minute with bottomless brunches, elaborate dinners, themed shopping sprees, and other “super fun” activities during the day that will suck your wallet and your spirit dry.
Just when you’ve almost forgotten the point of all this, you come to the actual wedding. The low-key hometown event is a thing of the past. Today, it’s all about the “destination”—tropical islands or obscure places like Martha’s Vineyard where only three airports in the country provide direct flights. It’s likely a venue that will leave you wondering when the BFF you met in middle school lunch detention joined the ranks of Chelsea Clinton.
The wedding is almost always planned over a major holiday weekend where travel costs are the highest. Did you think this was going to be the year you were going to find yourself backpacking through Europe? Think again. The wedding plane ticket alone has you trying to figure out how you’ll be able to avoid living off ramen noodles for the rest of your life.
Then, of course, tack on the hotel. But not just for the wedding night. There are more Pinterest-inspired activities to complete, and the bride demands your presence and participation for two additional days. Don’t forget the wedding gift, either. She’s registered at Williams Sonoma, and because you were busy arguing with the lady at Check ‘n Go, the only things left are the $25 Pottery Barn eco-friendly monogrammable hydro-cotton bath towels.
The upside? At least the wedding is open bar.
We Love You, Brides!
Listen, brides. We love you. We are happy for you. We want to play a major role in your wedding. We want to help make your special day everything you want it to be! But we’re broke. We have our own lives. And your list of demands has become over the top. If you find yourself sending countless emails about mandatory lingerie parties, bridal showers, DIY project planning brunches—STOP. Look at yourself. Couldn’t you use a break, too?
Remember, these girls are your closest friends who want to give you the world for your wedding—but unfortunately, not all of us are Helens with bulging pocketbooks. We’re more like Annie and we’re here for you. Not the bridezilla version of you.