Growing up, my exposure to weddings was limited to Julia Roberts movies and my parents’ (super ‘80s) wedding album. Brides, as I knew them, in all of their fluffy, untouchable whiteness, made me a little uncomfortable. And their gaggle of friends wearing matching satin dresses? Well, that just straight up weirded me out.
I must’ve come around to the concept of traditional weddings somewhere along the way, because flash forward to now and I’m waist-deep in planning my own. I’m excited—and stressed—but mainly excited. I love parties and speeches and, most of all, the idea of all of the people I care about being in the very same room dancing to Bruno Mars.
What I never came around to is the whole bridesmaids thing. Not having a bridal party was probably the easiest wedding-related decision I’ve made thus far. It was an actual no-brainer, and this is coming from someone who can’t decide between two different glass candle votives.
To my surprise, people seem to find my choice to eschew bridesmaids disappointing. Since getting engaged last November, one of the questions I’ve been asked most often is how many people I’ll be having in my bridal party. If I had a dollar for every time someone looked at me strangely when I say “none,” well, I’d at the very least be able to pay off the florist. Everybody from family friends to the man supplying our chair rentals has expressed puzzlement at my answer. It’s happened so often, that it’s made me consider my knee-jerk no-bridesmaids preference. After about the tenth blank stare, I began to contemplate the real reason why I didn’t want my own gaggle of friends in matching (or artfully mismatching) dresses.
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Here’s the thing. I’m so lucky to have many close relationships in my life. Anointing a select few friends feels like it would be exclusive for the sake of being exclusive. Of course, there’s no technical limit to the size of a bridal party. I’ve been to ceremonies where the number of ladies flanking the altar seems to go on and on, like a line of kicking Rockettes. But that’s a little over the top for me.
Also, let’s consider for a second the fact that no one actually wants to be a bridesmaid (isn’t that the case?). Maybe I’m scared of my friends hating me, or at the very least quietly resenting me. Maybe I’m doing them a favor by skipping the whole charade.
But really, my aversion isn’t about fear of mean girl vibes or pissing anyone off. I never considered having bridesmaids because my gut feelings on the matter haven’t changed much since I was eight-years-old and flipping through my mom and dad’s leather-bound album. To me, the whole wedding party construct—especially in the instance where I play the role of bride—feels a little fussy, a little “queen and her ladies in waiting,” a little … awkward.
I respect the tradition and believe that it can be meaningful and impactful, not to mention visually beautiful. From an emotional standpoint, I know how special it is to participate in a wedding party. I have walked down my friends’ aisles, stood up during their ceremonies and felt that very real, intangible thrill of being in the inner circle. Plus, aspects of bridesmaid-ing are fun as hell. Being in a wedding party makes you a wedding celebrity, to use a term coined by Nick Miller in one very astute wedding-focused episode of New Girl. Everyone knows who you are and wants to talk and take pictures with you. It’s sort of a blast.
Also, aesthetically things have come a long, long way for bridesmaids. I applaud the prevailing “choose any dress within a given color scheme” move. I regularly double tap photographs of women in their nonchalantly coordinated gowns looking all glowy and nymph-like (bonus points if they’re haphazardly arranged in a field, a la Kate Moss and her billions of bridal angel children.)
But throughout my planning process, if I’ve learned anything at all, it’s that there’s no reason to force it. If something doesn’t seem right or natural—and especially if it feels straight-up uncomfortable—skip it. It’s a wedding, not the law. You’re allowed to, and you should, cherry pick your own traditions. Instate some, bypass others, make up new ones. If you don’t want the added attention of a first dance, skip it. If you hate cake, serve pies. If you don’t want a wedding party, opt out. Or don’t! Weddings are one of the more cookie-cutter of societal customs. Allowing for a little bit of choose-your-own-adventure feels liberating. It’s that unique amalgam of order and unpredictability that makes for the very best weddings after all. That, and a whole lot of Bruno Mars.