A couple of years after I got married, my husband’s youngest sister decided to also take the plunge into matrimony. She asked me to be a bridesmaid in her wedding party, which was very nice of her.
I was really excited. You’ve heard of those women who are always the bridesmaid and never the bride? That was not me. I have been a bride exactly once. Up until my sister-in-law married, I had never been a bridesmaid.
Let me give you a little background. I love weddings, despite my relative inexperience with them. I also loved the idea of being included as part of my husband’s family. Coming from a family with only two children, I was kind of excited when I married into a large Catholic tribe. I did not have a sister by birth, so I was joyful at the idea that I was acquiring two by marriage. For many reasons, this sister thing never really happened. I actually felt lonelier and more isolated within the family than I did before I was part of it. When my sister-in-law asked me to join the wedding party, I was ecstatic. I could see this step being the beginning a whole new sisterly relationship.
The complication is that weddings are costly affairs for everyone involved. My in-laws, despite appearances to the contrary, were not particularly affluent. My father-in-law would not be paying for my bridesmaid gown. My own financial situation was pretty marginal, too. My brand-new husband, who required brand-new food every brand-new day, was a full-time student. I had an entry level government job that would eventually fund a pretty good life for me. At the time, however, my earnings were barely enough to cover our basic expenses. We had only one car. I rationed how much I spent at the grocery store. I stretched spaghetti sauce for days. Our idea of a splurge weekly “date night” was when we picked up Wendy’s fast food instead of McDonald’s. We had no cable television. Our rabbit eared reception was pretty much my only source of entertainment. I do not think we even had a credit card at that point. Where I was going to get the money to pay for a bridesmaid dress, I had not a clue. Still, it seemed too good an opportunity to miss.
Enter my mother. My parents, a few days after my wedding, had gone off the grid, dragging their 27-foot travel trailer behind them. Their dream had always been to forgo a stationary house and travel the country, camping as the spirit moved them. They did sell the house about a year before I graduated college and married. The three of us and our two basset hounds lived in the travel trailer for a year. After I married, I was on my own. Momma and Daddy were on the road again. They called me from a pay phone about once a month. In between times, we exchanged letters and audio cassettes. It was not exactly a real time two-way dialogue. A year or so later, they settled in a campground in the city where my brother and I lived. My mother offered to pay my bridesmaid dues.
My sister-in-law took us bridesmaids with her to select a dress, but the final decision was, of course, the bride’s. I was young, but my sister-in-law was far younger in just about every way. Her choice reflected her level of sophistication. It was a rose pink satin ballgown number with a basque waist and big puffy sleeves. I did not object to her choice. For someone who had never been a bridesmaid before, something princessy fit my fantasy. On the hanger, it reminded me a bit of Princess Aurora’s gown in Sleeping Beauty.
However, I was much fatter and much more short-waisted than Princess Aurora… or any other Disney princess. When I tried on the dress in the largest size the salon offered, it was a pathetic moment. The experience reminded me that the reason no one had ever asked me to be a bridesmaid was probably because I was never going to fit into a standard size bridesmaid gown and I certainly was not going to be ornamental in the wedding pictures. You would think brides would have been happy to have a misshapen bridesmaid. It would make them shine in comparison. It seems, however, that beautiful photographic memories of the special day are more important to most people.
The wedding consultant looked distressed at the sight of me spilling out of the sample gown. My sister-in-law had another bridesmaid, her future husband’s sister, who was also a little bigger than the dress. Her situation was not as dire as mine, but it was clear the two of us spelled t-r-o-u-b-l-e. The wedding consultant asked a seamstress to join our little party. Together, they decided they could make the other bridesmaid’s dress work by letting it out a tiny bit. In my case, however, that was not going to work. I was so embarrassed, standing in the middle of the shop being fretted over by the consultant and seamstress. The seamstress finally agreed she could put in a gusset… no two gussets… to make the dress fit around my considerable girth. Relieved to finally have the experience over, I squirmed out of the gown and paid the deposit with my mother’s credit card.
Several weeks later, I returned with my mother in tow to get the altered dress. After the last experience, I was not going into that shop without moral support. I am glad I heeded that instinct. The moment I got into the dress, it was clear that it was, in no way, going to match my fantasy. The gussets distorted the proportions of the bodice of the dress. There was more material in the skirt than anyone without a shape (oh wait… I did have a shape… round is a shape) needed. I could have had several small children hidden in the folds of the skirt. The sleeves and bustline bunched together in a way that made me look like I was wearing a cape that did not quite cover my boobs. The point on the basque waist in the front of the dress bunched up right at my belly and my butt pushed out the point on the back as if I had grown a pink satin tail. All in all, I looked like a pink cupcake that had been sliding around in a bakery box on the floor of the back seat of a car over a very bumpy road. It was terrible.
Ready to burst into tears, I looked at my mother. She looked horrified. Like most mothers, seeing her child in pain was not one of her favorite pastimes. She struggled for something positive to say. She finally blurted out, “at least it is pink.”
Yes, at least the dress was pink. I love pink. I guess if I must look like a worse-for-wear cupcake, it might as well be a pink one.
I got through the wedding. I bobbed down the aisle with as much grace as I could muster. I kept my head down. I managed to keep myself covered while not suffocating in the massive yards of material at the shoulders. I think I fidgeted with the basque points, fruitlessly trying to keep them lying flat. You know how brides tend to try to justify the cost of a bridesmaid gown by telling their attendants that “you can wear the dress again?” The only saving grace in this situation was that I could NOT wear the dress again.
My husband and I left the wedding as soon as we could. When I got home, I immediately took off the dress and threw it in the dumpster behind our apartment. I have never been a bridesmaid since. I am also still kind of leery of pink cupcakes.
Scarred for life.
Do you have a nightmare wedding story? Please share your perspective by leaving a comment. In the alternative, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Have a shiny pink day!