We’ve Saved Money AND Dignity Not Being Bridesmaids But We’re Rueful Anyway: A Chat

Ester: Happy Almost July 4th Weekend!

Nicole: Happy Almost July 4th Weekend to you too! Do you have any fun plans?

Ester: I am ashamed to say we have almost no plans at all. We had a five-party weekend last weekend, although we only made it to four of them, and I think we’re still recovering. But we’ll probably do something with our parent friends at some point? FRANCIS SCOTT LOW-KEY is the name of the game.

How about you? How does Seattle celebrate Independence from the Brits? I’ve never been in America but off the East Coast on July 4th, I don’t think. I only know Yankee celebration customs.

Nicole: Well, last year Fourth of July coincided with our annual family reunion, so I haven’t yet gotten to see the Seattle display. But I will tell you this: when you grow up in a Midwestern state where they let you shoot off as many fireworks as you can handle in your own driveway, every other celebration is a disappointment.

Ester: Ha! I’ll bet. Doesn’t that get dangerous, though?

Nicole: Yes! I am quite sure it gets dangerous, and we had our moments, like the time one of my best friends decided to fire a bottle rocket under my car. But nobody got hurt, which is to say nobody I knew got hurt.

Ester: Holy lord. We did not do fireworks ourselves, growing up in DC; we let the government handle that. A couple times I’ve watched from right in front of the White House, which is always memorable, getting to see the fireworks with the President (hidden, but still) in the foreground. Also one time I saw them at Wolf Trap while an orchestra played the 1812 Overture, which you probably know how to play, since we’ve all learned you were a teenage band geek.

Nicole: Did you literally just say you watched fireworks at the White House while the Bushes were hiding in the bushes?

And yeah, of course I know 1812. I’ve even played it. You know you’re an adult when you don’t plug your ears before the cannons.

Ester: Nice! Yes, having grown up in Washington I have lots of weird political memories. I was nearly trampled at Clinton’s first inauguration! A rite of passage for any DC kid.

Nicole: I was at the first Obama inauguration, which was not a trample situation but I do remember that long, long line off the National Mall.

And to answer your question, I think I stopped plugging my ears around puberty. You know, when you start assuming everyone is watching your every move and judging you for it.

Ester: OMG, I was there too, at the Obama inauguration! Nearly freezing to death on the Mall. A nice man from CNN saved my toes by letting me come into his trailer for a few minutes and giving me hand and foot warmers. I was with a much braver friend at that moment and yet I was the one who was like, “I’m just asking him, what’s the worst that can happen?” It was one of the best decisions I ever made to approach that nice man from CNN for help, and he rewarded us with hot chocolate, and my friend was seriously impressed with me for maybe the first time ever.

Nicole: Making An Impression On Your Friends: Life Goal. And on that note, we’ve both… um… never been bridesmaids, have we. How is this possible?

Ester: I know, right? We’d be such GOOD bridesmaids. We’re responsible! We’re trustworthy! We would hide liquor in our purses or stashes of Xanax or Kleenex or whatever was required!

Nicole: Ester, there are snacks and Kleenex in my purse right now. I am like a bridesmaid waiting for a wedding.

Ester: Hahahahhaa ME TOO. Also Klonopin, so we’re all set! I feel like I’m the last girl in middle school to go through puberty, having never been tapped to be a bridesmaid, like everyone else is complaining about their periods and I’m looking at them, shiny-eyed, just wishing I could share their pain.

Nicole: Someday we will have a Billfold Chat about our periods, but it will probably devolve into a conversation about menstrual cups, as these things tend to do.

I am not sure I regret not being a bridesmaid — and hey, it could still happen! — because I have heard the role is both cost- and labor-intensive.

Ester: I mean, yes, you’re right. We’re both lucky. I’ve gotten to do other important things for my friends and family to show my love: I’ve done readings at weddings, and given lots of toasts, and I’ve signed Ketubahs; I’ve even co-officiated with a drunken Israeli rabbi because he only spoke Hebrew and the groom only spoke English. I should feel grateful, and I do, mostly! It also feels like I haven’t gone through this one formative feminine thing. It’s like never getting to go to prom or something. Prom was terrible! But terrible in a way I’m glad I experienced.

Nicole: Well, an ideal bridesmaid sitch is like the best parts of a slumber party plus the best parts of alcohol (if that’s your jam) plus Cotillion. Like, they literally put you in a fancy dress and say, “Here is an eligible lady, please stare at her for the next 90 minutes. She is also available for dancing.”

Ester: Oh my god. Is that what being a bridesmaid is about? I have honestly never thought it that way.

Nicole: Have you not read the one billion Cosmos that are all “how to snag the best man at the bridal party?” Weddings are where you go to find eligible single people, in theory. That’s why bridesmaids are supposed to be single (a tradition that has gone out the window, thank goodness).

Ester: Thank you for teaching me this. I thought they were there to be ornamental and occasionally helpful / subservient to the bride. Most of my friends and family members have eschewed wedding parties altogether; I’ve gone to way more hippie-type and non-traditional weddings than the regular kind I see in movies, so I’m a little undereducated. Plus, I got married at 25! My wedding was the 2nd wedding I went to as an adult.

Nicole: The whole deal about how you’re not supposed to be a bridesmaid for more than three weddings — the actual saying “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” — is about how, after three turns on display, you’ve had your chance. If you aren’t picked by then, it’s a one-way ticket to Spinster Town. [Edit: okay, so “three times a bridesmaid, never a bride” is the folk saying. “Always a bridesmaid, never a bride” apparently derives from “Often a bridesmaid, never a bride” which is a Listerine slogan from 1925.]

Ester: Holy lord. Picked? I love it. Marriage as dodgeball teams. So yeah, I guess we have both saved a lot in both money AND dignity by never having been bridesmaids.

Nicole: Which is a shame, because I really wanted to try out that Cosmo article about how to make over your bridesmaid’s dress into an attractive cocktail number. (Does Cosmo still actually write pieces like that? I feel like I’m thinking of my mother’s generation.)

Ester: Yeah, I think it has a more Jill Filipovic vibe these days. :) I still remember the Cosmo that was left in the apartment I lived in when I studied abroad. It had an pullquote that said, “Remember, hair on your feet is as unacceptable as hair anywhere else on your body!” I slammed it shut like it was The Monster Book Of Monsters from Harry Potter.

Nicole: There is no way I’m shaving my toes.

Ester: I know, right? Life is too damn short.

Nicole: I am glad that both weddings and toes have moved on to more enlightened phases. Also, #LOVEWINS. Happy Fourth of July, America, because love wins.

This story is part of our Wedding Season series.