Being a Bridesmaid....The Beauty and The Beast.

“I mean, no one likes being a bridesmaid.”

Those are the immortal words I said to my very best friend one balmy summer night. It was just weeks before I donned a yellow taffeta dress to stand beside her at her nuptials. I regretted this statement the instant I said it. Fueled by one too many glasses of red wine from our local tasting room and the strength of a friendship that knew no bounds of verbal restraint, I had said the un-sayable to a bride.

Of course I apologized profusely the next day, and, being the great friend she is, she forgave me immediately. 

The longer I am in my twenties, and asked to be in wedding after wedding, the more I’ve become aware that Katherine Heigel’s character in 27 Dresses was probably based on a very real experience. I had my first bridesmaid gig at 24, and in a few weeks I will be a bridesmaid for the 10th time, followed by number 11 in June.

Every bridesmaid gig is a little different.  I’ve had dresses chosen for me, or have been asked to choose my dress. Some brides are very laid back and unconcerned with details and others have specified my hairstyle or even the color nail polish I wore.  I’ve been in destination weddings and hometown weddings. Each have their charm. Destination weddings become the trips you’ll never forget, laughing with your friends until the wee hours of the night in your adjoining hotel rooms. Hometown weddings are characterized by morning pancakes and coffee with the bride’s parents and the true “Father of the Bride” magic that can only ensue when things are inherently traditional.

For better or worse, being a bridesmaid is a huge financial and time commitment. When I think of what I’ve spent on each blessed event, and what that number is multiplied by 11, it’s enough to buy a Ford Focus. The trips for showers and bachelorette parties have been a lion’s share of the traveling I’ve done in my 20’s.

The lunch hours I’ve spent in a poorly lit “bridesmaid salon” getting measured for an expensive gown by a surly saleswoman are hours I’d rather forget. After they take your measurements and consult a chart created by someone truly evil, they point to a size about 17 sizes bigger than your normal dress size and shrug their shoulders while looking at you with a mixture of judgment and indifference. “I don’t know what to tell you, that’s what the chart says.” When the dress arrives and it appears as though you could fit another human in there with you, you curse said surly sales lady while forking over 10% of your bi-monthly paycheck to the alterations place.

Mid-way through my bridesmaid experiences, I began to feel as though the “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” adage was representative of my own life. With each passing wedding, I wondered if it would ever be me as the leading lady, rather than the supporting role.

And therein lies the really important thing about being someone’s bridesmaid. What you are really there for is support. Support of their decision to enter into a life-long commitment. Moral support when their veil tears, or their hair looks more 80’s prom that bridal chic.

My favorite part about being in someone’s wedding is the hours leading up to the ceremony. Hours of mimosas and girly chatter, makeup and gallons of hairspray.  Some brides have been frazzled with nerves, and others have been calm and easy going. With all of the cons that come along with being a bridesmaid, these few hours remind me of the ultimate pro. A group of women have been carefully selected to propel the bride into the next stage of her life.

I don’t think I fully understood this until the months leading up to my own wedding.  My sister acted as my maid of honor and my only bridesmaid and I had 12 girls in my house party---really whom I treated as bridesmaids. My sister was the driving force of the entire week leading up to my wedding, and there is no way I could have pulled it off without her. The morning of my wedding is one I will not soon forget, it was more than I could have ever hoped for. I cried on and off a lot that day, happy and sentimental tears---and it struck a real chord that I had 13 of the most important people in my life there to support me.

Like many of the best things in life, being a bridesmaid has its good and bad moments. No one likes spending money on a dress they’ll never wear or using the majority of their 10-14 vacation days on events for someone else’s wedding. But in the end, it’s the memories you create and the bonds you share that make it all worthwhile. Standing beside your friend on those church steps, or teetering in the grass under the warm afternoon sun, you realize that it is not only an honor, but a privilege.

And hey, after it’s all said and done, you get cake and champagne. Not a bad deal.