Bridesmaid-dresses-photo-by-Janine-on-Flickr

’Tis the season, ladies! Chances are good that you will be attending/participating in one or more nuptial celebrations in the coming weeks. In honour of this fact, we here at SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS are devoting a series of Concessions to the Patriarchy to all manner of wedding-related acquiescences. It’s our version of TLC’s Bride Day, if you will. This is the fourth installment. Read the first three herehere and here.

Concessions to the Patriarchy is a regular feature about the battles, big and small, we women choose not to fight. Today’s topic: being a bridesmaid. 

So your friend is getting married and has asked you to be one of her bridesmaids. Boy, are you lucky! Being selected for this role is truly an honour. A special, special honour.

A time-consuming and expensive honour. An honour you can’t refuse.

Oh sure, in theory you can say no. In reality, however, you can’t — because if you did, then you’d forever be known as the selfish bitch who refused to participate in her BFF’s big day OMG HOW HEARTLESS AND MEAN I GUESS YOUR ENTIRE RELATIONSHIP WAS ALL A LIE.

Of course, it’s worth noting that some women very much enjoy being bridesmaids. (In fact, some women would be personally offended if they didn’t get the ask.) That’s really not the point. As we’ve articulated repeatedly throughout this series, many aspects of marriage and weddings are concessions to the patriarchy not because people hate them or because they are inherently bad but rather, because they’re treated less as choices and more as non-negotiable expectations.

Being a bridesmaid definitely fits this bill.

Let’s start with the financial commitments associated with this honour. As one of “the chosen ones,” you get to shell out gobs of cash on all sorts of things, including (but not limited to):

– A dress you will only wear once, plus the cost of altering said dress. Bonus points if your dress is hideous and/or you are required to match 79 other people who have also been chosen to share this honour.

– Various other necessary accouterments such as shoes, gloves, jewelry, hair accessories, parasols and/or special underwear (like the strapless bra on which I spent more than $200 that I had to purchase. Why yes, I’m a tad bitter).

– Hair and makeup services on the big day. (What, you thought you’d do yours yourself? FOOL.)

Tally these “choices” up and conservatively we’re at, what, $500?

BUT WAIT — THERE’S MORE!

Bridesmaid status also confers on women certain expected duties — especially if you’re the maid of honour (SEE WHAT AN HONOUR IT IS? THE WORD IS RIGHT THERE IN THE TITLE!).

Some of these duties are relatively easy/painless/cheap — hold the bride’s bouquet, write and present a speech, help wrangle her in and out of her dress when she needs to pee, etc.

Other duties require significant amounts of time, effort and money.

Members of the wedding party, for example, are usually heavily involved in the planning and executing of the social — if not entirely responsible for throwing it. (For readers who reside outside of Manitoba and are therefore unfamiliar with this tradition, wedding socials are fundraising events for the soon-to-be-married couple. They’re usually held in community centres and involve a multi-generational range of guests, cheesy dancing, tables of cold cuts, cubed cheese, pickles and rye bread, and silent auctions for multiple prizes. This helpful blog post, written by an outsider who moved here, explains the phenomenon in greater detail.)

Female members of the wedding party, meanwhile, are also responsible for throwing both a bridal shower and a stagette — two social gatherings which are very different stylistically, yet which share similar associated costs such as food and drink (fancy sandwiches and wine for the shower; shots for the stagette), entertainment, décor (PENIS-SHAPED BALLOONS DON’T COME CHEAP, PEOPLE), transportation and, of course, presents.

Speaking of presents, in addition to contributing to the social in some way and buying a shower gift and covering the bride-to-be’s stagette costs, you’ll also be expected to give her and her groom a wedding present — be it a gift one buys in a store or, as is more common in my social circles, the gift of cold, hard cash, aka ‘presentation.’ (Note: Good wedding-guest etiquette suggests you give, at minimum, enough to cover the cost of dinner and drinks for both you and your guest.)

Tally these costs up — easily a few more hundred dollars — and this special, special honour, which you cannot refuse to accept, is now costing you upwards of a cool grand.

God help you if your friend wants a destination wedding. Or if your friend is the person who wrote this insane list of demands email.

To be clear: I recognize that being a bridesmaid can be really fun. You get to take part in multiple important life events that your friend will likely remember with great fondness for the rest of her life. You get to share in special, behind-the-scenes insider bonding moments (like the brisk November day when I drank warm rum and coke out of coffee mugs with my bestie and her sister as we ticked down the minutes until go-time in her wedding venue’s staff room — love you, J!). You get a front-row seat to all the loving feelings and tears, and you get an array of VIP perks that mere guests don’t (see: limo rides, getting to eat first).

But I also recognize that being a bridesmaid can be a lot of work and a lot of money and, in some cases, a lot of stress — and that women are expected to rise to the occasion and perform any and all tasks demanded of them with a smile and without objection.

Because it’s an honour to be chosen, don’t you know. A special, special honour.

Photo by Janine via a Creative Commons License on Flickr.