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The Bridesmaid's Dress: Your Survival Guide

Whoever this bride is? You can skip this article. Also, dancing girl on end -- call me. I want to be friends with you.
Whoever this bride is? You can skip this article. Also, dancing girl on end -- call me. I want to be friends with you.
Photo by Sherry Main

I was a 36-year-old bridesmaid, and I lived to tell the tale. I'm telling it now, risking discovery of this article by the bride and the dissolution of our 30-year friendship. Shhhh. Quiet.

Anyone who has ever been in a wedding has horror stories to tell. Tyrannical brides, unexpected guests, terrible caterers, photographers who don't deliver the promised $3,000 worth of photos, mothers of the bride (or groom)...but this isn't a therapy session. This is an open plea to brides everywhere regarding one very specific, very expensive issue: the bridesmaid's dress.

PLUS! Tips to survive a bad one.

There is a reason that the phrase "bridesmaid's dress" conjures up hilarious images. The badness of bridesmaid's dresses has become its own zeitgeist, inspiring countless articles, slideshows and Web sites dedicated to the topic. Nordstrom has a page of instructions on how not to pick a shitty bridesmaid's dress. There's even a movie about it (kinda).

I have purchased seven bridesmaid dresses over the last 15 years, and every time the bride has uttered the words: "And I really did pick one you can wear again!"

I have never worn any of them again. Not even on Halloween.

The thing is, I know these wearable-again dresses are out there -- I see them all the time on nice girls' blogs; nice girls who let their bridesmaids buy pretty, simple, plain dresses from J. Crew and Nordstrom. I know what brides are thinking: "But this David's Bridal faux-satin gown is only $150! The J. Crew dresses are $200 or more!" At first glance this is excellent math -- cheaper is better. Except paying less for a gown you'll only wear once is less awesome than paying more for a dress you'll wear at least a few more times.

Are you a future bride? Be nice -- pick the expensive-but-wearable dresses.

I refuse to accept the commonly held belief that brides choose ugly dresses for their bridesmaids to ensure that they themselves look the prettiest. When I got married, I told my friends, "Just wear whatever black dress you want -- long, short, sleeveless...whatever." My reasoning was based largely on the fact that most women have a little black dress and if they don't, it's a good investment, AND my bridesmaids would be free to pick a dress that was both flattering and affordable within whatever budget they were on at the time.

Nicest bride in the world! No bias.
Nicest bride in the world! No bias.
Photo by Jayne Clemenson Moskal

Also, I'm lazy and hate making decisions. But still, it worked out.

 

I feel for you girls who are bridesmaiding for brides less cool than me, I really do. I've been you, as recently as a month ago. Let me help get you through it with five simple PROTIPS, which I did not develop directly from my most recent bridesmaid experience, I swear.

Rule One: Complain Bitterly but Quietly

Feel out the other bridesmaids to see if they hate it, too. When one (or more) takes the bait, schedule time for phone conversations during which you can drink wine, sneak the occasional joint cigarette and keep the resentment burning as you continue to spend money on things like matching belts and over-the-top alteration costs because the dress has a fucking crinoline, for chrissakes, yes, a crinoline..

Rule Two: Make Yourself Happy with Accessories

If the bride doesn't force you to wear rhinestone necklaces and earrings better suited to an eighth-grade dance than a wedding (lucky!), buy yourself some amazing jewelry to wear. If you are forced to wear eighth-grade dance rhinestones, carry an awesome purse and/or wear awesome shoes. If that bitch makes you buy matching shoes (especially if they are going under a long dress), deduct the cost of the shoes from the wedding boost.

Don't my hair and makeup look great? And yes, that's a matching wrap. Also, giant glass of scotch.
Don't my hair and makeup look great? And yes, that's a matching wrap. Also, giant glass of scotch.
Photo by Tracey McLaughlin

Rule Three: Pretty Makeup and Hair

Science fact: Eighty-six percent of brides go overboard with their hair and makeup, rendering them almost unrecognizable in photos. Make all of your parts not covered by the dress look as amazing as possible -- this usually means your head and face.

Rule Three: Intoxicating

Oh, so you're wearing a dress that burns your retinas every time you glance at yourself in a mirror? That's okay, because of alcohol. And if another bridesmaid has Xanax, take one and remember not to drink booze. But since you're at a wedding, you might totally forget and drink booze, but at least don't smoke pot, too, because then you might have to lie down and take a nap between dinner and the cake, and this is all hypothetical and did not happen to me just a few weeks ago in New York City.

Rule Four: Take Hilarious Photos

As long as you're wearing an insane dress, you may as well mug it up for the camera. Take as many photos with as many people as you can -- especially strangers. And if those strangers are hands-y groomsmen and other relatives you have never met/will never see again, so much the better. If you are a writer, these photos may become useful later when you write a thinly veiled but cathartic article about the whole event.

Rule Five: Ditch the Dress and Party

You packed a bag with a change of clothes, right? Because after the wedding is over, you could theoretically -- along with another bridesmaid -- change your outfit, wad up your dresses, and leave them shoved behind a couch at the reception venue and then go out partying until 4 a.m. Sure, maybe the bride will call you a few days later and freak out because the venue called saying they found dresses wadded up and hidden under furniture, but it will be a great opportunity for you to revisit all the other batshit-crazy diva behavior you had to deal with the weekend before, so awesome! You didn't really want the wedding to end, anyway!


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