Welcome to Wedding Guest Wednesday, an occasional feature in which Solo-ish explores the joys and woes of attending other people’s weddings. Because it’s not all about the happy couple — it’s a big day for guests as well.
Congratulations, you’re one of the bride’s closest friends! She wants you to be intimately involved with the biggest day of her life. It will only cost you lots of money, time and travel. (The average cost of being a bridesmaid is about $1,700.) But that’s what friends are for, right?
Serving as a bridesmaid can involve a lot of joy and angst. And now, Mindy Kaling has a gift for anyone who’s ever been through it: Some wedding #realtalk in her book “Why Not Me?,” which comes out in September.
“Asking your best friend to be a bridesmaid is one of the modern paradoxes,” Kaling writes. “No one actually wants to do it, but everyone would be offended if you didn’t ask.”
Kaling is very open about her love for romantic comedies and love stories in general. “But the truth is,” she writes, “I really, really don’t like weddings.” The ritual of bridesmaiding is her top complaint.
When I asked Jen Glantz, who works as a “professional bridesmaid” in New York, for her tips on choosing a bridesmaid, she made quite a stressful analogy. “My trick of choosing bridesmaids is: If you were trapped in a elevator for four hours, who would you want to rely on?” Glantz says. “Choose people who want to support you and who want to be there. People that you want to give tasks to, because you know that they’re going to do them. Who do you want to surround yourself with when you’re having anxiety, stressed out and hungry?”
Once you’ve accepted the position, the real work begins. I predict that Kaling’s description below will be shared among commiserating bridesmaids everywhere, amid long e-mails chains about bachelorette-party-planning and day-of logistics:
“When you are a bridesmaid, you are required to be a literal maid for the duration of the ceremony, not the fun parts, such as providing emotional support, making music playlists, offering fashion advice, and gossiping about which people from college got fat,” Kaling writes. “The only difference between you and an actual maid is that you aren’t getting paid and you are supposed to love every second of the job. You even have to wear a uniform: a dress in the same color as the other maids so everyone at the party knows who to ask when someone is looking for a fridge in which to put her breast milk.”
Thank you, Mindy Kaling, for speaking the truth. Bridesmaiding can feel like a job because in some ways it is.
If you’re asked to be a bridesmaid and want to say no, Glantz suggests doing so right away. Don’t say maybe and think about it for a while. “Have a bullet-point list,” she says. Maybe a potential bridesmaid doesn’t have the money or time to take on the role, she adds. “Maybe they have a big milestone of their own and can’t take on another life event at this moment.”
Kaling has a lot going on in her life, but she still says yes to the bridesmaid dress. “If you’re my best friend,” Kaling writes, “and the only way I get to have dinner with you is by traveling thousands of miles, selecting a chicken or fish option, and wearing a dress in the same shade of lavender as six other girls, I will do that. I won’t love it. But I love you.”
This is that joy-angst paradox in action: We want to be close to our friends on the biggest day on their lives. We just don’t love every second of it.
And if you happen to be bummed about not being a bridesmaid? “Just enjoy yourself at the party,” Glantz says. “Sometimes that’s even better.”