CLEVELAND, Ohio — About five years ago, months before I was to be a bridesmaid in the wedding of two of my best friends, I came across an article in the New York Times that struck me like a lightning bolt. I went back to find it before writing this column, and to me, the headline is still evocative: “Make the Friends Happy. Don’t Have a Wedding Party.”
As much as I love this couple – I was friends with each of them in college before they began dating – I was getting increasingly frustrated with the process. They live on the West Coast, and the cost of flying, celebrating a bachelorette party, housing accommodations, a wedding gift, etc. was weighing on me, a 25-year-old who lives roughly 2,400 miles away. Oh, and I got anxious just thinking about being part of a day filled with nervous, excited energy with five other girls (plus the bride), not to mention the groom, groomsmen and wedding guests. I don’t like to admit it, but I became resentful in the months leading up to their big day.
In the end, their wedding day was a ton of fun and not super stressful. But the weeks and days leading up to it definitely influenced how I felt about bridal parties going forward.
(I should say, please don’t worry that these friends may read this and be completely shocked. I have mentioned this to them in the years since their nuptials.)
Anyhow, this New York Times article resonated with me deeply. Was a bridal party really necessary? The article showed me that, these days, the answer is no, not really.
I feel like I could pull so many excerpts from the article to share here, but I won’t. Yet this one encapsulates how I feel. It’s from a woman who was about 30 years old when she married in 2017:
“I wanted our wedding to feel like a really big party,” she said. “I didn’t want anyone to feel like they had a role, or a responsibility to fulfill. I don’t even like the idea of telling someone what color to wear. I wanted our friends to be free and unique, and be themselves.”
Another aspect that factored into my decision was the cost of being a bridesmaid. The New York Times article quotes Dr. Angela L. Thompson, a sociology professor at Texas Christian University, who said that the average cost of being a bridesmaid ranges from $1,200 to $1,800. That cost includes things like a bridesmaid dress and accessories, a portion of the bachelorette party cost and bridal shower and wedding gifts.
I searched around to see if this figure has changed in the past five years, and as far as I can see, this average (surprisingly) remains the same. Regardless – no matter how much disposable income someone may have, I still feel like this is a big expense.
I knew years ago that I did not want bridesmaids. I made that clear to my friends and family long before my now-fiancé Tom and I were even seriously dating. They all seemed understanding. And even after our engagement, I made sure to be totally, absolutely, completely clear with my two future sisters-in-law that this wasn’t something personal against them. It’s simply a choice that I made on which I am standing firm.
I will turn 30 not long after our wedding day. My fiancé and I are among the last to marry in our group of close friends who are in serious relationships. Many have, or will have, young children of their own by the time our wedding rolls around. Keeping this in mind, asking any girlfriend to be a bridesmaid at this stage in our lives seems to me like more of a hassle than an honor.
I was perfectly content with standing without attendants on my wedding day, while Tom would have his brother as his best man. That plan has since changed, but in the best way; Tom will still have his best man, but I will have one attendant – my brother, with whom I am exceptionally close.
When discussing our wedding choices with others, my fiancé often says that if COVID taught us anything about weddings, it’s that anything goes. The pandemic messed up so many well-laid plans for brides and grooms worldwide – including some of our friends. Traditions were thrown in the bin, and couples did the best they could with the options they had (hello, “micro-weddings.”) We don’t have to have a large wedding party just because it’s what’s popular.
This column is part of a series I’ll be writing on my wedding planning adventures ahead of my summer 2023 nuptials. If you have a topic that interests you; an anecdote you’d love for me to read; or thoughtful words of encouragement, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter at @janemorice.
Read previous columns:
Compromises big and small: the highs and lows of planning a wedding ceremony
Bedazzled or simple? Straps or strapless? Keeping an open mind while searching for my wedding gown
Playing Goldilocks: finding our ideal Cleveland wedding venue