Authors: Siri Agrell
Unfortunately, when The Bride was addressing the package, she accidentally wrote the wrong zip code.
“The dress never arrived,” Gemma said.
She returned from vacation, but the package had not turned up. Every day she would run to the mailbox, getting more and more worried that it wouldn’t show up for the big day. The Bride began calling the postal service on a daily basis, begging them to find the dress and even offering a reward for information on its whereabouts.
One day, Gemma’s husband asked the postman if he had seen a package with their names on it kicking around the mail room.
“He said, ‘Oh gosh, are you guys the bridesmaid-dress house?’” Gemma recalled. “She had everyone looking for it.”
Five of the other bridesmaids had picked up their dresses by now, and the sixth, who lived in Seattle, had received hers in the mail two days after it was sent from the East Coast bride. Gemma held out hope until the last moment, thinking she could still get the outfit altered on the day of, if necessary, but ultimately resigned herself to the fact that if she had nothing to wear, she had no claim to be in the party
“The day before, I said, ‘Well, I guess I’m not in the wedding,’ and [The Bride] said, ‘No, I guess not,” Gemma remembered.
The Bride felt bad about the mix-up, but Gemma said she was not as apologetic or upset as she could have been. “She said to me, ‘If this is going to be the worst thing that’s going to happen at my wedding, that’s not so bad. I was like, ‘Oh, thanks.’”
After the wedding, Gemma kept checking the mail hoping that the wayward gown would arrive and she could donate it to charity, claiming the $150 price as a tax write-off. It never did.
“I truly believe that some twelfth-grader in Ohio wore my bridesmaid dress to her prom,” she said.
Tina M. was also expecting a delivery when she was asked to stand up as a bridesmaid for a life-long friend. The twenty-four-year-old was newly married and ready for her first child. “I explained to her that I was trying to get pregnant and that the timing wouldn’t be right as far as sizing the dress,” she said.
The Bride assured Tina that it would be no problem, invoking her sister-in-law, who had just been a bridesmaid while she was nine months pregnant. When the time came, Tina explained to the saleswoman that she needed to order a much larger size than would fit her current measurements.
Instead of saying congratulations and suggesting a good maternity bra to match the dress, the saleswoman did her best impersonation of the scene in
where Julia Roberts is expelled from a Rodeo Drive boutique. Store policy prevented women from ordering anything more than two sizes too big, the saleswoman explained haughtily, an arbitrary and nonsensical
rule that she refused to bend for the sake of a baby.
“So I measured at a size ten and plunked down ninety dollars for a size-twelve bridesmaid dress that was made of the unforgiving fabric of chiffon over satin,” Tina said. “I remember thinking, ‘I can’t wait to see how this is going to turn out.”
In June, Tina was five months pregnant when she went for her last fitting at the bridal boutique. Her stomach was swollen with child, the elastic waistband on her pants as tight as the saleswoman’s ass. She pulled the dress over her head, knowing deep down that the zipper would not close. The snobbish saleswoman stood there for several minutes, her hand on her chin, and for a moment Tina was convinced that she was going to tell her that she would have to lose the baby. In the end, the woman coldly and unapologetically informed her that there was nothing to be done, because they had built in only half an inch of extra material even though they had known she was pregnant.
“I had two more weeks of growth to go before the wedding,” said Tina. “I stood there looking at the dress hanging on my bloated body, thinking, ‘Oh, I’m so screwed.’”
The store said it was too late to order another dress, and Tina was forced to call The Bride and explain that she literally had nothing to wear. The Bride did not take the news well, nor did she take out her frustrations on the store and its size-ist attitude. “She told me that she’d had a list of the bridesmaids and ushers professionally printed that was to be placed on all the plates on the tables of the wedding guests,” she said, “and now they couldn’t be used, and that it was a waste of money.”
Tina, of course, still had to pay for her dress.
It’s easy to blame Bad Bridesmaid experiences on dressmakers and store clerks, but just imagine the number of dysfunctional bridal parties they have had to deal with in their time. Deborah McCoy, a wedding planner who owns her own bridal store in Boca Raton, Florida, said she nearly stopped stocking bridesmaid dresses because of the drama it entailed, and changed the policy in her boutique to contend with imploding wedding parties.
Originally, when brides ordered their attendants’ gowns, McCoy asked for a 50 percent deposit up front and the rest of the cost when the dresses came in. She discovered, though, that bridesmaids frequently went bye-bye before the dresses were even sewn, with a bride throwing her friend out of the wedding or the attendant storming off in disgust.
“I’d be stuck with the dresses,” McCoy explained. “So I said, ‘I want all of it up front.’ That’s how bad it got.”
A bridesmaid-dress designer named Sadie. T. witnessed a
bridal party meltdown when a bride changed her mind about the gowns at the last minute. The woman had come into the store weeks earlier with three of her five bridesmaids, and they had all happily settled on the idea of selecting individual styles in the same color and fabric.
“The girls were going to end up in a dress that they were comfortable in, in a color that they looked good in, and they were so excited,” Sadie said.
She should have known it would never be that easy. On the day of the groups first consultation, The Bride swept in with all five bridesmaids in tow, and while they selected the style of their individual dresses, she was busy putting a kink in their plans. She
sidled over to a rack of last season’s styles and zeroed in on a strapless gold brocade number from the store’s fall/winter collection that screamed of fabric-induced heatstroke. “It’s beautiful, but the wedding is in the middle of August,” Sadie said. “The dresses are made from heavy, heavy synthetic brocade and are lined in acetate. I don’t care if it’s strapless, you would die in that dress in the summer.”
By that point, unfortunately, The Bride had abandoned reason along with the promise that her attendants would be comfortable. She pulled the dress off the rack and instructed one of the bridesmaids to try it on. To show that they were willing to be good sports, all of the women tried on the dress, hoping to demonstrate how bad it looked and how much each of them truly hated it. The gold hue did not suit anyone’s coloring and the conservative cut made them look like a women’s choir about to perform at an abstinence convention.
“A couple of them were kind of okay with the shape but none of them liked the fabric,” Sadie said. “But the bride just made the executive decision, ‘You’re all going to wear this dress.’”
With those seven little words, the store descended into chaos. The girls asked The Bride why she had abandoned their original plan, begged her to reconsider, and even threw down a trump card when they felt they were cornered, pointing out that she would now have to change the color of their bouquets, which had already been ordered.
Unmoved, The Bride told them her decision was final, and that her bridesmaids would wear brocade. It was then that things turned ugly. The bridesmaids starred screaming profanities at their friend as she yelled over and over, “It’s my day! It’s my day!”
The wedding attendants called her selfish and The Bride told them if they were really her friends they would do as she said. Throughout it all, the Father of the Bride sat in a corner at the back of the store, smiling serenely. He did not intervene or offer an opinion, chastise his daughter, or apologize for the ruckus.
“He just crossed his hands, like, ‘Whatever my baby wants, my baby gets,’” Sadie recalled with dismay.
With no chance of a third-party intervention, the bridal party broke off into groups to plan their next move. Two of the bridesmaids consoled The Bride, smoothing her hair and telling her that everything would work out fine. The other three gathered in a huddle at the front of the store, the defensive line planning their last, desperate Hail Mary pass. It was clear no one was going to back down and, like Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie, each would forever blame the other for the demise of their relationship.
Finally, the disgruntled bridesmaids asked The Bride flat out to make a decision between them and the dresses. Her response came without a pause: “If you were really my friends, you wouldn’t make me choose.”
“They said ‘Okay, that’s all we need to hear. Find yourself three more fucking bridesmaids,’” Sadie remembered. “And they left. They stormed out.”
By this point the other two bridesmaids were sobbing, The Bride was pale, and Sadie held her breath to see what would happen next. She expected a tearful apology, for The Bride to run after her friends or apologize to her for creating such a disturbance in the store. Instead, to everyone’s surprise, The Bride reached into her purse.
“She took out her Visa,” Sadie said, “slammed it down on the counter, paid for two gold brocade strapless dresses, and walked out.”
Whatever baby wants, baby gets.
The Golden Shower
I did a little mental addition, and over the years, I have bought Keira an engagement gift, a wedding gift—then there was the trip to Maine for the wedding—and three baby gifts. In total, I have spent over 52,300 celebrating
Sex and the City
he Bride wanted patio furniture.
This was the news that filtered through the bridal party in the early weeks of April, as we began planning the requisite shower for our friend’s impending nuptials.
My own patio furniture came with the apartment I share with my boyfriend—an assortment of cheap white plastic covered in a film of grime, booze, grease from the restaurant downstairs, and the deposits of various urban creatures that have visited the sixteen-square-foot deck in the past decade.
It was, in other words, the least romantic thing I could think of and also the last thing I could have imagined being bothered to ask for. Much like a wedding shower, come to think of it.
Thankfully, patio furniture was deemed by my sister attendants to be suitably uninspired, expensive, and difficult to wrap and thus warranted an executive bridesmaid veto. The Bride suggested a bedroom set; we settled on lingerie.
Like most things that start out as a good concept and end in humiliation—high school dances, for example—bridal showers are often organized around a theme that the bridesmaids must conceive, develop, and stringently enforce.
It is one of the cruel twists of female life that you can demand a specific list of presents only if you simultaneously agree to parade yourself around dressed up as a virginal cupcake, and while brides rightfully relish this opportunity, I live in constant bitterness that I cannot similarly declare my next birthday to be shoe-themed, therefore requiring all of my friends to pony up for a closetful of new heels.
Bridesmaids are rarely asked to help the bride acquire truly necessary items, like stilettos, but rather to create a surplus in her fantasy world—one that boasts a perfectly stocked kitchen (who really uses egg slicers?) and a thrilling boudoir.
For my friend’s shower, I was given a piece of paper with The Bride’s measurements and found myself spending an afternoon contemplating how she would look
in flagrante delicto
in a variety of expensive lacy accoutrements. On the day of, she unwrapped enough underwear to pull off a solo Victoria’s Secret lingerie show, encouraged by the earnest nods of her friends and co-workers,
who confirmed to one another knowingly, “He’s really going to like that one.”
The absurdity of outfitting a friend like a high-class call girl is not to be acknowledged by polite bridesmaids, who must steadfastly ignore the fact that in teal life the bride wears flannel jam-mies and shouldn’t be able to keep a straight face wearing white down the aisle, let alone in the sack.
To this day, I can’t help but imagine my friend walking seductively into her marital bedroom wearing nothing but five inches of black silk and whispering softly into her husbands ear, “This one’s from your mom.”
Jodie G. woke up on the morning of her childhood friend’s bridal shower hungover and already running late. The party was being held at a cottage several hours outside the city, and she knew there was no way to get there on time. It was the sixth in a string of pre-wedding happenings, and this bridesmaid had learned that the bride’s mother hewed to stria schedules and unbending etiquette. Punctuality is a virtue brides are told to look for in their wedding attendants, and being late (even with a good reason like having just enjoyed a wicked night of draft beer and karaoke) is classic Bad Bridesmaid behavior.