Always a bridesmaid -- who can afford that?

It's not merely the cost of weddings that's out of control. It's the cost of being a part of them.

Published June 9, 2008 6:10PM (EDT)

You know, whenever I read an article about brides demanding this, that and the other thing, I try to remind myself that these stories do not represent the majority of engaged American women, who are no doubt humble, delightful and considerate. But sometimes, I still can't stop myself from screaming, "What the hell is wrong with you?" at my computer screen.

Today's Bridezilla watch entry, from CNN, is about the high cost of being a maid of honor -- what with showers, destination bachelorette parties and weddings, $500 dresses and about 84 extra parties that women of my mother's generation certainly did not consider de rigueur. It's the kind of article that makes me feel like a woman of my mother's generation, and a cranky one at that, because of anecdotes like this:

"Ma'ayan Geller, a part-time student and assistant physical therapist in San Francisco, was glad to hear her friend wanted to be sensitive to the financial constraints of her wedding party. But when Geller, one of the bridesmaids, suggested a cheap Las Vegas package for the bachelorette party, the bride gave her the boot, saying she wasn't being serious enough about her commitment to the wedding."

Are you freakin' kidding me? How does a woman who can say, "You're not taking your commitment to my wedding seriously enough" with a straight face have any friends to say it to? (Shockingly, Geller says she and the bride in question have drifted apart.) And on the other side of the coin, how do you get close enough to someone to be chosen as her maid of honor without also being close enough to say, "Hey, I can't afford that, and p.s., you're totally out of control"? Why do so many women go along with their friends' ridiculous demands, even to the point of going into debt, instead of speaking up? When did weddings become so all-fired important -- weddings, mind you, not the marriages that follow them -- that they're worth trashing friendships over? What is wrong with kids today?

Anna Post, Emily's great-granddaughter and spokeswoman for the Emily Post Institute, blames the extensive coverage of celebrity weddings for blowing the average bride's expectations ludicrously out of proportion. And although she tries to point out that etiquette does not, in fact, dictate that the maid of honor bear the cost of a shower -- or even that she attend all the prenuptial parties, for that matter -- it seems that this ship has sailed where modern brides and their maids are concerned. I was once invited to a bachelorette party without being invited to the corresponding wedding (because I barely knew the woman), and when I said I couldn't make it, her maid of honor asked if I'd "like to take the opportunity to contribute anyway." Contribute. As if we were talking about defraying a friend's medical bills, not the cost of a "Suck for a Buck" T-shirt.

The more I read about weddings as fundraisers, the more I realize I must be the real freak, not women who think weddings are a terrific excuse to hit up everyone they've ever met for cash and prizes. And I suppose the real reason many women go along with it, then, is so they can enjoy getting it all back from their friends when they get married. Ain't love grand?

By Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

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