By Grace Stearns, VOGUE
The wedding planning process can feel like it was designed to torture those of us who struggle with anxiety. No matter how many updates or deviations we think we’ve embraced, it remains a minefield of triggers—a tsunami of attention from friends and family, the unavoidable focus on your physical appearance, a potentially massive sum of money spent hosting an event designed to please or impress others—the list of opportunities to overanalyze is endless.
I say this not to be dramatic, but because it’s how I experienced the wedding planning process—as a series of angst-inducing events and interactions to which I would never normally subject myself, but agreed to endure because I was conditioned to assume I must. My insatiable need to please clouded every choice, and I knew that no matter what decisions I made, I’d spend the next decade of my life fretting about whether they were the right ones.
I’ve been married for a year now, and rarely does a week pass during which I don’t spend at least one sleepless night wondering if perhaps I should have colored my hair closer to my wedding day rather than let my roots grow out so far, or whether my decision to wear suede, navy blue block heels at my September wedding was a regrettable, unseasonable mistake. Unproductive self-absorption? Maybe. A real and debilitating side effect of generalized anxiety disorder? WebMD can confirm. On nights like these, nearly everything related to my wedding is fair game—everything, that is, except for the one decision I’ve never questioned: the choice to forgo a bridal party.
For me, there was never any question about whether I’d have bridesmaids. As an excruciatingly self-conscious person (see above), I hesitate to ask friends to help me move, come to birthday parties thrown in my honor, or even make the trek to my outer-borough apartment only for me to serve them a homemade meal. I don’t like the idea of putting people out.
I’m sure there are lots to unpack there, and I’m sure my friends don’t care or keep track or feel burdened by one another’s birthday dinners. But the idea of asking six or seven friends to spend hundreds (if not thousands) of dollars not only flying to my wedding in New York City but participating in it as a bridesmaid? I’m getting rashy just thinking about it.
There were also the managerial considerations. Choosing a dress for the party to wear, or granting them the appropriate amount of sartorial freedom while maintaining editorial control. Crafting friendly but authoritative email updates. Selecting thoughtful and appropriately expensive thank you gifts. Dictating the order in which my sisters and closest friends should stand beside me at the altar. Deciding who needed to be where, when, and with what in tow—not only is being a bridesmaid work for the bride’s friends but having bridesmaids creates more work for the bride on a day when she likely has other things to worry about.
So I skipped it. I saved myself the guilt of asking my friends to spend and plan and book on my behalf. I chose to forgo the stress of wondering if they hated me for demanding too much. I proactively reduced the amount of shit talk related to my wedding and, in turn, eliminated what would have been a significant source of anxiety for years to come.
Now if you’re wondering what kind of horrible, judgmental friends I have, I’d ask you to stop and reflect on your own experiences participating in other people’s weddings. It doesn’t matter how much you love the bride. It could be your sister, your best friend from childhood, your kidney donor—no one has ever been a bridesmaid without feeling some degree of resentment. Is it fair? No. Reflective of some kind of ingrained misogyny? Probably. Are we all guilty of it? Absolutely.
Some brides recognize this inevitability and decide they might as well lean in. Others, like myself, lean as far back as possible.
And that choice—the choice to free myself from wondering whether my closest friends resented me for demanding their participation in an event that had already induced unquantifiable angst—that may have been the greatest gift I gave myself on my wedding day.
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