Before I go into great detail about why I chose to go sans bridal party for my upcoming wedding, we should talk about my high school prom. After all, the experience of a girl's first big dress-up event, prom, can directly impact how she feels about the second updo of her life: Her wedding.
For most girls out there, prom is like a dress rehearsal for your wedding day. It has all the same elements: A dress you obsess over, some false eyelashes, high heels that hurt your feet after the first hour and an awkward collection of people who have you (or biology class) as a common thread, all being forced to stand beside each other and act like they're best friends. Both nights include people you know -- and some you don't -- engaging in some of those non-touching, sweaty slow dances.
I attended my prom with my nerdy drama club partner after getting dumped by my high school sweetheart one month before the big date. I wore an orange spandex dress created for me by the woman in my hometown who made the figure skating costumes. (I added the rhinestone straps myself. Nice.)
But prom wasn't just about the hair and the dress. It was all about who was going to be in the limo with me. There was only room for five girls and five guys. Your entire social status depended on which people chose you to be in their limo, showing the world that you were important enough to be included in someone's entourage. It was almost impossible to not hurt somebody's feelings along the way.
Fast-forward 10 or so years, and I find myself thinking the same thoughts when planning my wedding. My fiancé and I have decided on a lighthearted, Mexican-themed affair, set in a small backyard and infused with music. We're music lovers on a budget and knew that we didn't want to have a "typical" wedding.
When it came time to pick a bridal party, we quickly realized that we simply couldn't decide where best friends ended and where less-than-best friends began. I've been blessed to have many different types of friends and many great friendships in my life. How was I to decide who was the best? Was there some sort of score card or an Olympic committee that could help me decide who would be standing up with me at my wedding? Ten points to the friend who played wingman with me the night I met my future husband; 10 points to the friend who calmly talked me through the first time I had laser hair removal on my bikini line; 10 points to the friend from high school who held my hair when I threw up the first time I drank vodka. I have a whole crew of loyal, wonderful, brilliant friends -- and because we chose to have a smaller wedding, our entire guest list could have been considered for our bridal party.
Don't get me wrong -- I am by no means anti-bridal party. I'm not. I've had the honor of standing up beside many of my friends on their wedding days. I loved talking them to sleep the night before the biggest day of their lives. I cherished being beside them as their dress was zipped and they saw their beautiful reflection in the mirror for the first time. I love looking at magazine spreads of huge matching bridal parties, and I obsessed for weeks over the collection of little angel children that supermodel Kate Moss surrounded herself with at her wedding. I love the idea of a bridal party, but when it came to picking my own, I felt totally different.
When I think of all that my friends have given me -- couches to sleep on, black market Latisse from India, hand-me-down clothes, mix-tapes, Internet cat videos -- repaying them with a taffeta dress and a to-do list feels dishearteningly insincere. Forcing them into a pseudo-coupledom for the day with my fiancé's groomsmen feels even stranger. It's kind of like saying, "Thanks for being my best friend on the planet! To repay you, I'd like to force you to you slow dance with a stranger in a $400 dress you won't ever be able to wear again -- no matter what the people in the store said." I really like my friends, and I want them to be able to dance with whoever they want, to wear whatever they want and to truly enjoy the party that we are so excited to be planning.
Instead, as an alternative option for a bridal party, I am asking my friends to "stand up" for me by using their talent to help me out on our wedding day. In lieu of gifts, showers, morning mimosas and that awkward prom date recessional down the aisle, I am asking each of our friends to just be my friend, and to put their extraordinary talents to good use. One of my best friends is a make-up artist who has painted the faces of Hollywood royalty, and was ecstatic to be in my glam squad rather than in my bridal party. Another of our friends is an acclaimed filmmaker, who was thrilled to be behind the camera filming the ceremony rather than standing next to us while we exchanged vows. And another of my non-bridesmaids happened to write the love song between Bella and Edward on the "Twilight" soundtrack, so she's going to sing me down the aisle rather than walk down it with me.
I love the idea that the moment we say our vows being truly just about us. For me, my wedding isn't about picking who's important enough to ride in my limo. It's about including everyone in my special day and all the glorious days to follow.
What do you think? Are bridal parties an integral part of a wedding, or is it okay to go without?