I have a confession to make. We didn't have bridesmaids at our wedding. And you know why? Because I think the wedding industry has this whole "Bridesmaid" concept all wrong. Even if Kristen Wiig has it all right. Thanks to years of indoctrination by wedding magazines and TV shows, it's easy to stop seeing our bridesmaids for what they are: a bunch of girls who we love so much that we ask them to stand up for us while we make enormous vows. Nope. That's not what bridesmaids are! (Silly.) Instead, we've come to view bridesmaid-dom as the ultimate friend contest. It's a time for our girlfriends to prove how much they love us by throwing us showers and bachelorette parties and dropping everything else in their lives to help us during the grueling 18 months leading up to our wedding day. Also, bridesmaids are accessories! Obviously! On your wedding day, they'll prove what good taste you have by standing up there arrayed in gorgeous outfits (though, obviously, not outfits that are prettier than yours, duh). Everyone will look at you, with your chic friends and know that you have a very, very great life.
You know how I know that the wedding industry has it dead wrong when it comes to bridesmaids? Because the number two tip you'll hear for cutting your wedding budget (after the loathsome "cut the guest list" tip, which deserves its own post) is "If you need to cut your wedding budget, cut your bridal party. You'll save money on gifts and expenses." As if you'd want one of your best girlfriends to not ask you to stand up for her on her wedding day because she couldn't afford to buy you a silver frame, or matching pearl earrings, or whatever gift you're going to be touched by, but probably never use again. All this leads me to believe that the wedding industry rather profoundly misunderstands the idea of friendship, because it looks at friendship (like it looks at everything else) as a commodity.
What we're being sold with the image of the perfectly arrayed bridesmaids and the perfectly matching groomsman, is the myth of perfect friendships. It looks something like this: The bride has a collection of best friends that support her in everything she does. She picks beautiful outfits for them (which they all fit in and love) and they all stand in a perfect row next to her on the happiest day of her life. The groom has his own group of best friends (ideally he has the same number of best friends as the bride does) who all look dashing in tuxes. They tease the groom, but not too much, and support him emotionally on his wedding day. And who doesn't want that? Who doesn't dream of that?
And over in indie-wedding world, we have made it even more complicated. We've convinced ourselves that we should have friends in mismatched outfits that reflect their different but equally hip personalities. These friends should be talented (so they can help with the wedding), generous (they are excited to help with the wedding), and stylish (we want them to lend their talents to the wedding). They should also own cowboy boots, have hip haircuts, and have time to shop for perfectly mismatched vintage prom dresses.
So, truth flash: I think most of us don't live lives like that. We don't have perfect best friends. We don't have all graphic-designer friends. We don't have all size two friends who look good in eggshell blue, or hipster outfits. Maybe we don't even HAVE piles of best friends. (Or gasp! What if our friends are boys?)
So stop. Just stop. Stop worrying that your friendships don't live up to the images of friendships presented in glossy wedding magazine's and blogs. Stop worrying that if you don't nail the outfits just right, people are going to judge you (or judge your girlfriends). Stop worrying about all the money you need to spend on your bridal party. Stop pressuring your bridesmaids to throw you the best shower and bachelorette party ever to prove their love for you.
Because in the end, your wedding day is just an extension of your very real, very imperfect life. And your job is to find a way to honor the important people in your life, while letting them wear clothes they look good in (Did you hear that? That they look good in. By their own definition of good). And please, if the word bridesmaid is screwing you up, drop it. Start calling them your Bridal Brigade, or your non-bridesmaids or your sisterhood of awesome. Whatever you call them, they are damn good ladies, and they are your friends. Their job is to be awesome and to provide you with a shield of back-the-heck-off sanity on your wedding day. So let them do it. And I promise they won't let you down.