We Don’t: The Bridesmaid Burnout

This story is part of our cover series We Don’t: The Bridesmaid Burnout, in which we explore the role’s often absurd demands, astronomical expenses, copious amounts of unpaid labor, and ways to change the tradition that benefits everybody involved. Read all our stories here.

There’s a type of woman who, right before she’s about to say something controversial, will apologize, launch into a throat-clearing preface, or at least sputter a meek “no offense.” Allow us to come right out and tell you what she’s been stumbling to say: She doesn’t want to be your bridesmaid. She doesn’t want to wear sage-green chiffon. She doesn’t want to look down and see 349 unread WhatsApp messages. She doesn’t want to use the little vacation time she gets this year to travel to Vegas for your “low-key” bachelorette that will cost more than a real vacation. She doesn’t want to be told low buns are great but ponytails are a no. She doesn’t want to drink Pinot Grigio out of penis straws. She doesn’t want to “settle up” on Splitwise. She doesn’t want to risk damaging an important friendship over something as ridiculous as this. And let the record show we wholeheartedly agree with her. As do you—admit it.

Before you scoff and say we’re baiting clicks or making sweeping generalizations, consider this: During a snap poll, the Glamour staff was asked to say the first thing that came  to mind when hearing the word bridesmaid. Responses included “annoying,” “obligations,” “expensive,” “tacky,” “stress,” “overwhelming,” “ugh,” “help,” and—yes, really—“jail.” Maybe a little theatrical, but what’s worth noting is that the respondents’ ages span four decades, and they are varied in terms of race, ethnicity, marital status, and provenance. The replies of this sample group of women indicate on some level that the clichés surrounding being a bridesmaid are often true—the job is kind of a drag. It doesn’t mean we won’t ever do it, but it does mean that weddings (and postwedding relationships) might be vastly improved if a bride had frank conversations with her friends ahead of time before she’s had a chance to mentally book a Tulum Airbnb for 24 of her best girlies or assign all her friends various planning duties. But until that happens, it’s on us to speak up before the demands get out of hand.

“You should only be saying yes to what you truly can commit to with integrity,” says Lizzie Post, etiquette expert, author, and copresident at the Emily Post Institute. “Meaning that you’re going to participate well and be a part of the experience, not solely doing it out of obligation.”

Read more

To All My Friends, This Is My Bridesmaid Resignation Letter

Three weddings down, and I’m bowing out at the peak of my bridesmaid career because, really, who needs 27 dresses to figure out their limit?

It can be uncomfortable to ask a friend to estimate what your participation will cost—talking about money and generally saying no to things is difficult for many women, and the tradition of being a bridesmaid has veered toward us just nodding and swiping as the requests come in. But it’s vital to get ahead of the situation before you find yourself overspending and performing copious amounts of unpaid (and resentment-building) labor. 

“It’s so important to quash the internal and external narrative that we have equating boundary setting, asking about costs, or inquiring about expectations with a lack of care or compassion,” says Leigh Hall, ACSW, a registered clinical social worker at A Good Place Therapy. “It’s a sign of self-respect and authenticity. A great girlfriend will meet your vulnerability with compassion and understanding, not write you off because you didn’t bend to every beck and call.”

Post also points out that anyone being asked to spend excess time and money should realize that we face a particular challenge that was nonexistent even a few years ago. “We all just went through a global pandemic, and we’re living through an insane amount of inflation,” she says. “It’s really hard to financially commit and to commit time because I’ve got to be working harder than I was four years ago to afford the basic things I’m used to buying with my salary—that has to be more important than your friend’s wedding.”

Read more

Brides Who Say ‘It’s My Day’ Should Pay for Everything. It’s That Simple.

Custom dresses! Jaunts to Tulum! Hair and makeup! Stupid sashes! Gift after gift after gift! The financial demands that come with being a present-day bridesmaid have veered from suboptimal to full-on psychotic. It’s time for engaged women to reframe their expectations, but also for bridesmaids to start speaking up.

Women are burned out, and being a bridesmaid isn’t helping. Let’s be clear: We’re not whining about being there for our friends or to give them gifts that celebrate their life—of course we want to do that. But we also want to get back to basics and normalize making the role of a bridesmaid less about kowtowing and more about the very special type of bond between friends. 

And so we’re looking forward to you enjoying this series, in which you’ll find practical advice (how to say no to being a bridesmaid without fracturing your relationships, how to be a considerate bride, how to ask up front about what your commitment will cost), unique perspectives (why one editor is resigning from being a bridesmaid having performed the role only three times, and why another believes brides should be footing all the bills), relatable tales (anonymous bridesmaid horror stories), and some cute and affordable dresses to consider if you’re not ready to hang up your (metallic) bridesmaid heels for good. 

It’s a small contribution, but we hope that these stories will help open the doors of communication for women who feel stuck doing things they don’t want to do. Let’s make being a bridesmaid great—or at least tolerable—once and for all.

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