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Authors: Siri Agrell

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“There was a lot of back-and-forth about the subject, and in the end Liz made it subtly obvious that perhaps Jane should bow out of the wedding party.”

By the time Jane did offer to step down, Liz had already lined up her sister-in-law as a replacement, but she could not rein in her own sister’s libido.

“Her sister Melissa ended up being an eight-month-pregnant Maid of Honor.” Mary laughed. “A little karma, I suppose!”

You know we have reached the point of Bridesmaid Overload when getting pregnant seems like a reasonable course of revenge.

Overlooked and Undertaken

Remember seven-timer Wendy H.? Even after years of insistingshe’d never agree to be a bridesmaid again, she admitted that she was hurt when a close friend didn’t ask her to join the party.”There was just this tiny feeling in the beginning of ‘We’re really
good friends; why didn’t she just ask me?’” she said. “I kept waiting and waiting when I kind of knew it was coming, and then when it didn’t happen, part of me was really put out.”

The Bride knew about her friend’s storied bridesmaid past, but Wendy had made it clear she would participate in another wedding if it was for a close friend. She began to worry that her friend didn’t understand how she felt, or worse, that maybe they weren’t as close as she had thought. In fact, The Bride eventually admitted that her bridal party was being carefully constructed through tense family negotiations, over which she had very little sway.

“She told me that because of expectations from [the groom’s] family, if she invited someone like me to be in the wedding party, they would expect her to include other people that they know,” Wendy said.

Anteing up to have her friend in the wedding would have caused The Bride’s mother-in-law to increase the stakes with a second cousin or a freakish family friend. It was a game of premarital poker, and Wendy’s friend had folded at the first bridal party bluff.

Deborah McCoy, a wedding planner in Boca Raton, Florida, and president of the American Academy of Wedding Professionals, says women are inviting lots of bad karma in the way they choose their bridesmaids. She advocates for selecting only immediate family members and close friends, and women who have the means to finance the bride’s desires.

“It’s not fair to ask people to spend an exorbitant amount of money on your wedding and also expect them to give you a gift and an engagement gift and a shower gift and every other gift,” she said. “It creates a great amount of tension.”

McCoy says she is constantly advising brides about picking their parties, but her words are rarely heeded, especially when she warns against adding to the numbers just to perfect the male/ female ratio.

“If your fiance has six groomsmen and you only have five bridesmaids, leave it,” she says. “Don’t invite somebody to even up the numbers, because that person will come back to haunt you. Because they know it.”

One such bridesmaid walked into a Toronto boutique last year, said Danielle V., a seamstress who specializes in custom-made designs. “I had been making bridesmaid dresses for six women, and this one name had changed three times,” she said. When the mystery bridesmaid turned up in the store, Danielle was surprised by her surly attitude toward the dress and the wedding as a whole, and eventually asked the woman if she was close with the bride. She was surprised to hear, “Actually, I thought we were best friends.” The disgruntled bridesmaid had chosen the current bride-to-be to serve as her own Maid of Honor, and assumed that there would be reciprocation of roles when her friend got engaged.

But she was not one of the six original bridesmaids named. The Bride had only one sister, so it was not as if the would-be BFF was passed over because of family obligations. Offered no role or explanation, she was left to nurse her wounded ego until one of the chosen bridesmaids discovered that she was pregnant. It turned out that the expecting attendant’s due date coincided almost exactly with the wedding day, and she knew the tight satin dress would never accommodate her swelling belly.

Again there was an opening for a bridesmaid and again the hopeful (but increasingly irate) friend was passed over. By this
point, the woman had mentally crossed The Bride off her list of friends and was trying to decide what movie she would go see on the day of the wedding, instead of sitting in the pews as a two-time reject.

“And then—and this is awful,” recalled Danielle, “but another girl in the bridal party actually died.”

The Bride finally contacted her twice-passed-over friend and asked her to sub in for the passed-away member of the bridal party, informing her that she had a similar body shape to that of the deceased.

“It wasn’t even like she was next in line. She was the friend who was closest to the dead girl’s size,” Danielle said. “She was literally filling a dead girl’s shoes.”

Largest Gathering of Overdressed Strangers

For one bride, the dearly departed were the only ones who escaped a bridesmaid designation. When Christa Joachim married her husband, Suresh, in 2003, she had seventy-nine bridesmaids walk her down the aisle and into the
Guinness World Records.

“It was my husband’s idea,” she said.

Christa had fallen for a man who loved breaking records almost as much as he loved her. He had broken more than twenty-seven
Guinness
records and hoped that his wedding would win him three more. Relieved, perhaps, that he had not opted to grow the world’s longest toenails or become the fattest man alive, Christa got married with the most bridesmaids, the most groomsmen (forty-seven), and the longest bouquet (197 feet, I inch), a category that defies all logic and explanation. Christa said she knew only about half of her bridesmaids, and considered a mere half
dozen actual friends. The rest she had culled from the neighborhood and through word of mouth, outfitting each in a matching red sari that, by
Guinness
rules, the couple was forced to pay for—also putting them in the running for the worlds largest monthly Visa statement.

“I asked co-workers and then they asked their friends and relatives,” Christa said of her bridesmaid-selection process. “It was neighbors, it was everyone.” The youngest bridesmaid was eighteen months and the oldest was seventy-nine years old. At least those two probably got to sleep through most of the ceremony.

My Best Friend’s Wetting

There are no etiquette books that discuss whether it is worse to ask every person you know to be in your wedding, or none of them. In 2005, a British woman named Sonia Wile opted for the latter option and sought permission from her local vicar to have her dog, Lucy, act as her one and only bridesmaid. It was unusual for an animal to participate in a religious rite, but the church eventually granted permission for the pooch to make its way down the aisle.

“I can’t think of anybody else I would rather have as a bridesmaid,” she told the media at the time. “Lucy’s my best friend, and you want the people you love by your side on the big day.”

Obedient, faithful, and willing to wear mauve chiffon, Lucy just may have been the perfect bridesmaid. It’s no surprise, then, that Sonia is not the only woman to pass over friends and family for her furry friend. Designers have even started to sell bridesmaid dresses for bulldogs and tuxedoes for terriers, outfitting pets for their owners’ big day. For her million-dollar wedding, Tori
Spelling had her puppy as a bridesmaid. Too bad the marriage didn’t last long, even in dog years.

It may be depressing to see a place of matrimonial pride occupied by a creature that will probably mark its territory as the bride kisses the groom. But I, for one, take comfort in the fact that I’m not the only bitch who’s ever been in someone’s wedding.

Masturbating to Martha Stewart

As your wedding day approaches, demands on your time will be great. On the following pages we give you a personal calendar where you can fill in appointments month by month, week by week and, finally, hour by hour.

The Wedding Planner,
by Martha Stewart

L
ike many modern-day deviants, it was the Internet that first led me astray. I received my initial Bad Bridesmaid designation months before being kicked out of the actual bridal party, after posting a message on The Bride’s self-created wedding Web site.

According to Peggy Post’s
Wedding Etiquette,
bridesmaids are expected to understand their duties, follow instructions, and “arrive at specified times for all wedding-related events.” In reality, though, the average engagement period in Canada is now ten months long (sixteen months in the US), and bridesmaids are
actively involved from the moment the ring is appraised to the last nibble of mini-quiche at the post-wedding brunch.

In between, there are meetings, consultations, lunches, and field trips. Magazines are dispensed and pages earmarked, with brides and their friends single-handedly supporting the market for pink Post-it notes and prescription uppers. Today, bridal parties must not only sign the wedding Web site but also help decide whether there will be a martini bar or champagne fountain, fireworks or smoke machines, Bible verse or Beyoncé song. For the bridesmaids, indoctrination is swift and merciless, and attendants are expected not just to help out with that one day, but rather to commit as much time and effort as one would to the average undergraduate course or rehab program. And I’ve never been one for studying or sobriety.

Months before my bride’s wedding, she e-mailed her attendants instructing us to immediately sign the guest book on her Web site, an Internet oasis of love where her engagement photo glistened beside a handy link to her registry. Her grandparents had already checked in, and it would be bad form if more guests logged on to the site before The Bride’s own trusted bridesmaids had left their mark.

It was not a major request, granted, but I could not bring myself to do it with a straight face. I had clipped pictures of dresses I liked to bring to a wedding parry working lunch and had discussed the various pros and cons of indoor versus outdoor ceremonies. But typing my name into her guest book seemed forced and silly, with no real payoff, like leaving a message on a movie star fan site or forwarding an e-mail in the hopes that a Nigerian refugee would immediately deposit a million dollars into my checking account.

I read the other bridesmaids’ sincere missives: “So excited!” and “Can’t wait til the big day!” Part of me wished I could write something kind and unsarcastic like that, but a larger part found it strange that, after months of tangibly demonstrating our excitement, we were also expected to release our joy into cyberspace, a realm I believe should be reserved purely for pornography, eBay, and videos of young men doing incredibly stupid things. So instead of simply signing my name, I opted for a joke.

“I give it six months,” I typed, beginning my Bad Bridesmaid career in earnest, then added, “Just kidding. So excited.”

After months of wedding parry training, I had not yet learned that when it comes to assigned tasks, bridesmaids have little room for improvisation. It was the beginning of the end of my stand-up wedding career.

Dr. Jekyll and Mrs. Bride

Being involved in every aspect of bridal planning can take an emotional toll on women who do not know how to help, or who don’t care to be of much assistance in the first place—the hallmarks of a Bad Bridesmaid’s character.

Many attendants develop a ringing in their ears from the constant white noise of wedding chatter, and find it difficult to weigh in on whether Mariah Carey’s “Vision of Love” makes a better first-dance song than Josh Groban’s “You Raise Me Up,” if in fact they can listen to either without instantly contracting diabetes.

Offering advice to friends in the midst of major life decisions is never easy, even when the results will not be judged by two hundred guests and the couple’s chosen deity. If you tell your girlfriend that her live-in lover is an asshole, chances are they’ll
be engaged within the year. Give a bride a definitive opinion on anything from hair to heirloom jewelry, and you’re just begging for a Bridal Backhand.

Francine K., a four-timer, had just returned home from work one night when her friend The Bride called her from a wedding boutique, crying. She had found a wedding dress that she loved but required a second opinion before deciding if it was The One.

“She absolutely
needed
me to come and give my opinion, because she knew I would be honest and the decision had to be made that night,” Francine remembered. “It was this whole big thing. So of course I went down.” So far, Good Bridesmaid.

There was added urgency to the mission because another bride-to-be had tried on the dress in question earlier that day and was returning the next morning for a “second visit.” Convinced it would soon be snatched up, Francine’s friend had refused to take the gown off until her bridesmaid appeared, the wedding equivalent of Charlton Heston declaring his weapons could be pried from his “cold dead hands”—only, in this case, the dress would have been clutched in a death grip featuring a lovely French manicure.

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