It’s her big day (so why do you pay?)

Bridesmaids is a good movie for so many reasons. But one of the film’s best subtleties is the quiet critique of the financial expectations we place on our loved ones when we decide to get married.

Annie (Kristin Wiig) is in the shitcan, as far as life goes. Her business went bankrupt and she’s flunking her jewelry store job. Her best friend Lil (Maya Rudolph) is far from Bridezilla, but there’s still the expectation that Annie fork over cash in the name of her friend’s wedding day. The tension comes to a head when the women are dress shopping, and Annie tries to steer the group towards a cheaper dress while her nemesis Helen (Rose Byrne) manipulates them into a ridiculously overpriced one.

I have a big problem with this.

I’ve been a bridesmaid three times, and each time it cost me. Once, it cost me $700. Not an insane amount of money, for sure. But I was a student at the time. A pregnant student.

Each time I was asked, it was an honour, of course. But why did it have to cost me to receive this honour? In our wedding obsessed culture (just turn a TV, every freakin’ reality TV show has something to do with someone’s Big Day), we often consider the huge sums of money that couples shell out for their weddings. But what about friends and relatives of the happy couple?

And don’t let yourself believe that only women have this experience. A man recently told me it cost him $2,000 for a tux, limo, bachelor party, drinks, etc. when his friend got married. He said he was happy to do it, but he winced when he relayed the total. It was like he was reliving it, PTSD-style.

I know a lot of Canadian brides are in the process of planning their summer nuptials, so here’s what I’d suggest for both bride and attendant to keep it on the cost-effective side (and to keep friendships in tact):

1) Bride pays: Sure, she has a zillion other things to pay for, but so what? It’s her wedding. If she’s having trouble staying on budget, refer her to this piece (quite possibly the best thing ever written about inexpensive weddings). The hope is that the bride will adhere to a more reasonable sum if she has to pick up the tab. That is, she’ll choose a $100 dress for three bridesmaids instead of a $300 dress for three bridesmaids. The caveat is that the dresses belong entirely to the bride after the wedding, and need to be treated as such (no jumping in the hotel pool or hiking it up around your waist for a little one-on-one time with the best man, ladies!). If the bridesmaids LOVE the dress (ya, like that’s ever gonna happen), they can purchase theirs from the bride. If not, the bride now has three (or six, yeesh!) dresses in her closet of varying sizes. What does she do with them all? She can a) save them for the fluctuating weight gains and losses inherent in womanhood OR b) sell them on eBay, kijiji or at her local consignment store.

2) Bridesmaid’s choice: Here’s how it works. The bride picks a colour, offers several different options of varying price ranges and lets the bridesmaids choose. The only problem with this is if one girl (read: the broke one) picks a different dress than the rest. Then, it’s like spot the cheapskate. In this case, the bride can secretly pay the difference.

3) Boycott the bridal shop: They charge exorbitant prices for dresses that look like something my seven-year-old outgrew (in terms of both their immaturity and size) about three years ago. I understand the concept of a fairytale wedding, but who says a fairytale is tacky? Alternatively, try hitting up the second-hand stores or going online. I once found the same dress in three different colours and sizes in a consignment store. Someone was clearly thinking along the lines of Suggestion #1.

4) No one pays: I was a groomsman once. It was fun for a number of reasons (well, as much as it can be fun to pretend to be a sweaty, beer-swilling boy for a few days), but one of the best things about this wedding party was how both bride and groom approached the attire. The bride picked black for her attendants (and me), and we were allowed to wear WHATEVER we wanted. She didn’t try to control my selection at all. Because she chose black, I just pulled my standard-issue LBD from the back of my closet and Voila! We also got to wear our own shoes (black), and I applied my own makeup (also black) and did my own hair (strangely, also black, at the time). The wedding cost me nothing in terms of attire. (It also cost me nothing in terms of a gift too, but that’s another – somewhat sad – tale.) No Bridezillas need attempt this one, because it means surrendering total control. You gals See #1.

5) Cut corners: As a bridesmaid, your duties include a shower and a bachelorette party – which sound like the same thing to me except one comes with strippers and fake penises, and the other comes with dish towels and Pyrex. I stand by the fact that you don’t need a limo or even a night out at a bar. Stay in. Mix martinis and play Sex in the City drinking games. And grind up on each other instead of sleazy dudes in the club. At least you know no one will get roofied.

Photos: Universal Pictures

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One thought on “It’s her big day (so why do you pay?)

  1. Sonia Ulmer says:

    Also remember that when a friend asks you to be in their bridal party, you can say how honoured you are but you just don’t think you can commit to the amount it’s going to cost for what ever your reason is. I know many ladies who have politely turned down their friends and performed other roles in their wedding – being their MC, doing a reading at the wedding ceremony, helping her with some of her DIY project. Don’t feel obligated to say yes when you’re asked if you know you can’t afford it. The bride may then let you know that’s she’s letting everyone wear their own LBD dresses, etc.

    There are also a lot of stores that carry inexpensive bridesmaid dresses such as RW&Co. Our bridesmaids found their dresses at Lauras! So think beyond the bridal salons.

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