March 18, 2004

Is This Any Way to Treat Friends?

My friend went to a wedding last year and wound up spending well over six hundred dollars on a dress, shawl, and shoes. Who knows how much she spent on getting to the wedding, staying overnight and buying a gift, but it was not an inexpensive endeavor.

Stories like hers are common among bridesmaids, but there's one catch. My friend wasn't a bridesmaid. She was a second-tier "attendant" who did little more than pose for pictures before the ceremony. Although she was honored to participate in the wedding of a good friend, she wasn't thrilled about spending a month's rent to stand on the sidelines for less than forty minutes.

Of the many things men might not understand about weddings, it's why anyone in their right mind would subject their best friends to tacky, expensive dresses no more likely to be used again than a paper suit after a rain storm. That's not to say that men aren't also complicit in subjecting their friends to absurd expenses all in the name of that event known as "My Wedding." I've seen grown men forced to buy matching expensive suits or designer ties that look no different than their off-the-rack Filene's Basement counterparts.

Recognizing that people alread have to fly to Wisconsin and pay to stay there - although it is considerably cheaper than staying in New York or Chicago - L and I are not asking our wedding party to go above and beyond the financial call of duty to celebrate with us. We are asking our friends to honor us and our families by participating in our wedding. Holding them upside down by their ankles to shake out loose change wouldn't be in the spirit of that honor.

My groomsmen, all over thirty years of age, own tuxes. Do I care that some of them might have traditional lapels and others will have shawl collars? Not enough to make them rent one for the weekend. I'm also not making them buy special ties or vests, and, in light of our recent trip to Las Vegas, have told them they don't need to buy us a gift.

Considering that fashion trends are shorter lived than most celebrity marriages - and I've been told bridesmaids dresses are dated before you even try them on - L isn't going the traditional route with her friends either. She has told everyone to wear a below-the-knee dress within a palette of blues easy enough to find in all types of stores. If the women want to spend four hundred dollars on a new dress at Barney's, it will be their decision to do so. But if they happen to find - or already own - a ninety dollar dress from Ann Taylor, then they are more than welcome to wear it. With friends of varying body types, no woman will get stuck wearing a dress that isnt' flattering. L got the idea from a friend's wedding in which she participated and I applaud both L and her friend for ending the madness of bankrupting one's friends and making them look ridiculous.

L and I have a simple philosophy: our friends are not props to be used in our wedding. After all, do Broadway producers ask their actors to pay for their own costumes? If having your friends wear the right dresses, ties or other accessories is so important to you, then figure out a way to either pay for them entirely or at least keep the cost as low as possible.

My friend, however, will get at least one more use out of the dress she spent so much money on last year. She's having it made into pillows.

Posted by The Groom at March 18, 2004 12:56 PM

Good for you! I highly applaud your efforts! We feel the same way. I'm definitely all about not charging people to be part of your wedding. What is that, a wedding cover? We are catching a lot of attendant expenses as well.

Posted by: Malinda ('s bride) at March 18, 2004 11:53 PM

I made my nightmare purple bridesmaid dress into our Halloween costumes last year. Pat, my boyfriend, was "The King of Beers" - he wore front panel of my dress as his cape. I was his Queen and used my wrap as my cape. The best part was getting busted on the reuse of the dress by a random girl in a corner store. I don't think Pat's ever been asked if he was wearing a dress before - or at least parts of a dress!

Posted by: Alison at March 19, 2004 12:46 AM

never understood the whole dress thing. never seen one that looks good. i'll have my guys wear tuxes, but nothing special.

Posted by: alex at March 19, 2004 10:50 AM

My bridesmaids got their dresses from Banana Republic...definately something they can wear again, and all 3 got them during the "end of summer" sale, about $75!!

Posted by: E from Michigan at March 19, 2004 10:55 AM

My bridesmaids are wearing their own black cocktail dresses. They need another ugly dress like a hole in the head. I want them to feel lovely.

Posted by: Lucy at March 19, 2004 04:40 PM

Hurrah! Everyone looks like me like I have a hole in my head when I told them I just asked my bridesmaids to find a dress in a solid color that was floor length. My sisters and best friend don't share skin tones either, so I wanted them to also be able to find a color they liked. My florist is going to work with me to pick out flowers in the tones they pick to pull everything together. They all love me. :)

Posted by: Heather at March 20, 2004 12:27 PM