Bridesmaids face faulty culture stereotypes, friendships at stake

This May marks the anniversary of when I was kicked out of a friend’s wedding party.

No, I’m not airing dirty laundry. And no, I’m not trying to slander anyone. I’m simply sharing this experience because there are two important lessons to be learned with this story, so listen up.

A little over a month before the wedding — after I helped capture the memory of their proposal, purchased my bridesmaid’s dress, attended the bridal gown selection process, bought the gifts and assisted with the showers — I received an email from the bride-to-be informing me I had been replaced as a bridesmaid for not fulfilling my duties and for being out of town during the weekend of her bachelorette party. I suppose you could say I gained membership into the Association of Jilted Bridesmaids, but I won’t put that on my LinkedIn profile.

I was humiliated. I was hurt. Many tears and several weeks later, her wedding day arrived. I was planning to drive down from my summer job in Georgetown, Ky., for the wedding, but after my dismissal, I spent the day at King’s Island in Cincinnati with my summer camp staff. I sent her a text message wishing the best for their wedding day. Two years and a couple of superficial messages later, we still haven’t talked.

The healing powers of time have made me wiser, and I’ve gained clarity about what happened that day in May.

There are two reasons for my jilting. Reason number one: communication, or a lack thereof. I knew couldn’t afford her bachelorette party weekend, so I let her know months in advance.
But that weekend, I had the opportunity to visit my fiancé’s (then boyfriend) great aunt and great-grandmother. My mom found a dirt-cheap plane ticket to Atlanta (way cheaper than a weekend bachelorette excursion), and I spent the weekend with those wonderful women who will not see us get married. Both ladies have passed away since then.

I probably should have talked to the bride in depth about why I was out of town that weekend. I’m sure her side of the story explains how cruel I was for blowing her party off for my boyfriend. My intentions were never to hurt her. I did try to tell her during our phone conversation, but I doubt she was listening.

During her engagement, I often asked if she needed help with anything. She’d say something along the lines of, “No, but when I do, I’ll let you know.” To this day, I can’t remember refusing to do anything for her unless I had a prior commitment. The words exchanged among some of her other bridesmaids must have said otherwise.

If she had been open and honest with me during the planning process, I wouldn’t have been so blindsided by her reasons for my replacement. If I knew being a part of her wedding meant I had to make sure I “did enough” for her, I may have reconsidered my answer to her asking me to stand beside her on her wedding day. She never hinted toward replacing me. I never saw it coming.

If I had communicated to her more, maybe things would be different. But, in the words of my dad, “If ‘ifs’ and ‘buts’ were candy and nuts, then we’d all have a merry Christmas.” Just trying to lighten the mood, folks.

With our society’s constant communication, we’ve lost the basics. Picking up the phone and calling someone — or worse, having a face-to-face conversation, can be avoided if the subject may be awkward or difficult. We’re letting the skill of human interaction slip away.
Maybe proper communication could have saved our friendship.

Reason number two for our falling out has to do with our differing opinions of what a bridesmaid does.

Our culture brainwashes women into believing a wedding revolves around the bride only, and “bridesmaid” really means, “slave to the bride’s every wish.” Bridesmaids are expected to postpone their lives separate from the wedding and attend every shower, dinner or wedding-related function.

Not attending such things or volunteering hours of free manual labor to prepare for the wedding sends the message, “Well, she doesn’t care about me because she’s not doing enough for me.”
If you need a visual perspective about the bridesmaid stereotype, check out any reality TV show with “bride” in the title. If you’re like me, you can’t help but think about the plot of “Bridesmaids.” The main character fails to fulfill the obligations of the stereotype and is replaced as maid of honor. Luckily, the bride in the film comes around and realizes the friendship outweighs the “duties” of a bridesmaid.

To me, a bridesmaid is the person who helped the bride get to where she is today. Bridesmaids are the people who influenced the bride into becoming the woman she will be going into marriage. Bridesmaids are friends who love the bride unconditionally — the loyal, life-long friends. Being a bridesmaid is an honor for the bride, not the bridesmaid.

In May, I will marry my best friend, surrounded by people standing on the church steps and sitting in the pews who have loved me unconditionally. I’m honored to have such a blessing. I expect my bridesmaids to stand beside me when I commit to spending my life with another person, the least selfish thing I’ll ever do. That’s all. No hidden agendas, no mandatory shower or bachelorette party attendance. I’m not keeping score of how many of them can do or buy things for me. I just want them to stand beside me on our wedding day.

The more I think, the more I realize maybe my old friend never had that same unconditional love toward me. If she did, replacing me wouldn’t have been as easy as it was. Don’t get me wrong — being a bridesmaid isn’t the ultimate status of friendship. Some of the best friends I’ll ever have are people outside our bridal party. My relationships with my friends aren’t hinged upon whether or not they’re bridesmaids. If my old friend didn’t want me to be a part of her wedding party in the first place or if she had to choose between several girls and decided not to pick me, I would have understood. If she wanted someone else in my place, she should have talked to me.

Take a look at the people in your life. Are you grateful for them? Do you hold close friendships? Don’t let petty, trivial pressures from society take their place. After the horrible experience of losing a friend, take my advice. Talk to them. Have the hard conversations. Say the things that need to be said. And above all, show them unconditional love.

When you do, you’ll have a wonderful, lasting and worthwhile friendship in return.


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