Trust me, you don’t want me to be your bridesmaid.
Which isn’t a reflection on our friendship. I’m not making a social or political statement and I don’t have a great origin story about how I decided this. I just know who I am: a terrible bridesmaid. I’m bad at being selfless, horrible at group activities and I don’t have any desire to plan a shower or bachelorette party. And it’s not that I’m self-involved, I promise: it’s just that I’d rather sit around eating a shrimp ring over going to a bar decked out in penis paraphernalia. In 2016, one of my best friends asked me to co-helm maid of honour duties with another one of her close pals, and I agreed only when she promised that the only thing I needed to worry about was delivering a speech. (And to hang out over the course of a few months which, well, happily.)
And of course, as one of the people on this planet who knows me best, my friend was well-aware that I’m a self-proclaimed bridesmaid failure. Which was part of her pitch: Neither she nor the rest of her bridal party expected anything but for me to show up to a few relaxed and food-filled activities, so expectations were realistic and even after the wedding everybody still liked each other.
This approach to bridesmaid duties was new to me. In 2011, one of my close pals from high school asked me to be in her wedding party and for a little while, I was actually psyched. With a year to go before her nuptials, I began looking forward to the upcoming adventures and hangouts, and couldn’t believe anyone would object to dress fittings and girls’ nights out. But then over the course of the following months, my own world began to fall apart. I wasn’t making enough money to keep my apartment, I was struggling to take care of myself and I was still another two years away from sobriety. I was miserable, and I was a mess. And instead of telling anybody the truth, I morphed into the worst person alive. I became the bridesmaid who didn’t want to do anything, who didn’t want to make anyone else’s life easier, and who complained as often as I rolled my eyes.
And I felt justified in my angst since I’d started to relate so well to Bridesmaids, the greatest movie on earth (which came out around the same time). To me, Bridesmaids was less a tale about a woman who needs to learn to “fight for her shitty life,” and more about how difficult being a bridesmaid can be. Because like the lead character Annie (played brilliantly by my best friend, Kristen Wiig), I was surrounded by women who could afford to splurge on trips and parties and, also like Annie, I resented those women for thriving in adulthood when I wasn’t. How dare my friend be a reasonable, low-key bride? And how dare the rest of her wedding party want to go out to a club for her bachelorette despite me, personally, not wanting to? How dare this group of women not live their lives exactly like me?
Related: How to Say No to Being a Bridesmaid
But one of the most confusing things about weddings is the expectation that despite a group of women having nothing in common, they are supposed to form a short-term family. I absolutely needed to explain why I was acting like a spoiled toddler (and owed it to my friend who was getting married for why I was being so petulant), but I was also among glorified strangers; women I got along with and knew to an extent, but no one I was comfortable enough to be myself around. And they likely felt the same way about me.
Especially since most of us enter weddings making assumptions. If you’re well-off, you may assume the rest of the bridal party can afford what you can. If you’re married, you may assume that everyone else prioritizes traditional marriage in the same way. Hell, if you’re a cynic, you may be like I am when I feel frustrated and think that anyone nearby shares the same “marriage is a sham” point of view. (Which, for the record, is a buzzkill if you’re participating in a wedding. Because even if you think the sham is real, not a soul wants to hear it during the rehearsal dinner. Also, shut up.) And it’s even worse when you’re subscribing to the belief that you’re supposed to foster friendships and create the perfect wedding experience, forgetting that personality clashes are normal in every situation, that differences of opinion are more common than not, and that if you’re going to agree to stand up for a friend or family member, they need to come before your likes and dislikes.
To an extent. When I think about the way I’d acted as a bridesmaid in 2011, I wish I’d been honest about the way I was feeling and explained that I was barely holding myself together. I could’ve given my friend the option to appoint a new bridesmaid, or to understand why I was being so weird about money, or to, well, be a friend. Because the thing about being a bridesmaid is that it hinges on friendship. Nobody asks a person they hate to hang out with them regularly leading up to the wedding and nobody assembles a party hoping their bridesmaids will hate each other and implode.
But I didn’t think about this. Instead, I’d begun seeing my friend as just a bride, and not as a person. And the more I began to lose my grip on my own corner of adulthood, the more I began to see her and her friends and their together-lives as symbols of how much I had lost. So I got bitter, I got mean, and I got jealous. And while I’ve grown up enough since then to know why that was, I’ve also come to understand that if that’s my default while working with a small group, I might be better suited as the MC. Or a guest. Or someone who gets to smuggle shrimp to the bride if she needs a minute away from everybody in the bathroom.