Saturday, January 07, 2006

SIT! STAY! BUY ME PRESENTS!: BRIDESMAIDS’ OBEDIENCE 101 (PART II)

The second installment of this topic not only has to do with bridesmaids, but the female guests who are part of the bachelorette party and wedding shower.

When asked to help/assist a bride-to-be, it's certainly difficult--if not impossible--to say no. However, when women are made to feel uncomfortable--or even humiliated--along the way, I think there's an obligatory line that MUST be drawn.

Take, for example, the story of my friend Leigh. Much to her relief, Leigh had not been asked to be a bridesmaid in her sorority sister's wedding (Kim). As she had been a part of many other weddings, she was happy to be able to sit on the sidelines for this particular event. However, she was invited to the bridal shower and excited to take part in the festivities.

When Leigh arrived at Kim's shower, she saw some familiar faces (including sorority sisters and old college roomates) and a few unfamiliar ones. As Leigh mingled, chatted, and discussed "this" (how beautiful the tea house was, Alice's Teacup on the UWS), "that" (what was on tap for plans that evening), and "the other" (politics and the latest dirt in People magazine) with the women at the shower, she realized that the known and unknown all had one thing in common: they were all bridesmaids and she was not.

While Leigh wasn't particularly uncomfortable with this observation, she began to feel her "odd girl out" status more acutely as all eight women left the table and began to flank the bride-to-be as she opened her presents (which included a cake plate, a blender, and the obligatory ice cream scooper). As the bridesmaids began to participate in the shower festivities, including cleaning up the wrapping paper and making the "bouquet" out of the ribbons and scraps left over from the fray, Leigh was left at the table by herself. Although Leigh was somewhat uneasy, she continued to smile and clap, hoping to feel a part of everything. Although she had initially been happy not to have been a bridesmaid, the dearth of other guests at the shower (actually, the lack of any others!) made her feel slightly out of her element.

However, just when the thought crossed Leigh's mind that she was feeling left out, Kim's mother called out: "Hey Leigh! Could you help us with the videocamera since you aren't doing anything?"

For the next hour, Leigh became the videographer -she sat at the empty table by herself, holding the video camera and feeling her arm, as well as her stamina for dealing with the entire situation, starting to tire. Although she was initially self-conscious, Leigh told me that the discomfort turned into anger: "I just didn't get how I was sort of left to my own devices--and then was asked to basically be the one who wasn't partaking, but was actually just watching everything going on..."

For the rest of the shower, Leigh became the lone observer/voyeur, rather than an active participant in her friend's event.

I believe the lesson to be learned from Leigh's experience is that it's extremely important to remember that everyone who is invited to the wedding, shower, bachelorette party, and anything else bridal-related, is first and foremost, a GUEST, and that brides-to-be must be sensitive to their needs as well.

First, it was an uncomfortable situation for Leigh to have been the only non-bridesmaid at the shower, given that she was left at the table by herself.

Second, when Leigh WAS asked to "participate," it was an unreasonable request - acting as the videographer at someone's shower inevitably alienated Leigh even further and made her feel even more isolated and removed. However, even if Leigh WERE a BRIDESMAID, it would have been a silly thing to ask a guest to do. Sure, it's great if your mom or a close family member helps with something like that, but guests who are there for YOU should be able to celebrate with you--not run around performing tasks the entire day or evening like a lapdog. How can anyone enjoy a wedding shower if they're simply filming it?

Bottom line: whether it's a bridesmaid or a random shower guest, it's important to make each and every person feel comfortable and at home. Everyone wants to make your day a special one, and do whatever they can -- but when requests become unreasonable or inappropriate, or guests are made to feel out of their element (i.e. left holding a videocamera at a table by themselves), it's time to reevaluate.

Stay tuned!

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

At showers and bachelorette paties, the bride is also a guest. How about putting this one under "Don't be that Mother of the Bride?"
How does Leigh know that she was the only non-bridesmaid invited? Maybe other's couldn't attend.

Why is it the bride's fault that at a party at which she was the GUEST of honor, her mother made a rude request?

the wedding fairy said...

I agree that a bride IS the guest of honor at showers and bachelorette parties, but everyone that is invited to these events is there FOR THE BRIDE.

Although brides certainly shouldn't have to overanalyze every situation, I do believe they should be cognizant of their surroundings, making sure everyone seems comfortable and at ease (PARTICULARLY if their mother is the one throwing the shower).

Here, it was patently obvious that her friend was holding the videocamera. Clearly, the bride could have done something in this situation to alleviate any discomfort her friend may have been feeling, or she could have asked one of her bridesmaids to relieve Leigh as the videographer, trying to include her in the festivities.

Bottom line: brides have to keep their eyes open and protect the people who are there celebrating with them.

Perhaps, one of my next posts will deal with inappropriate behavior on the part of brides' mothers.

Anonymous said...

Okay, I am a little confused.

I haven't been to that many showers in my life, but I don't understand-- this seems like a rather small intimate shower, so I don't understand why she could not have joined in with the general flanking/cleaning up/messing with ribbons?
Is that not proper shower etiquette? Is it only bridesmaids who get to hang around the bride and do festive things, or even clean-up duty? I usually try to help with cleaning up when I'm at a present-giving occasion, such as when I was at Christmas with my future in-laws and was, I might add, the Only non-member-of-the-family there. I would definitely have felt left out if I'd stayed sitting on the couch while everyone else was playing with tissue paper and whatnot.

And couldn't the request to videotape be a well-meaning (if poorly executed-- and I DO agree it was poorly executed, and being a videographer sucks-- very good points there) way of trying to include the person who was sitting alone with nothing to do?

I'd like some clarification, because I'm sure her feelings of being left out had more basis than I'm reading into what you wrote. And in particular I'd like not to do something like that to my shower guests without even realizing it. If I had been the bride in this situation, I would have been sort of bemused, and maybe even a little hurt, that Leigh had not also left the table and hung out while I was opening my presents.

Perhaps the moral of the story is that the hostess should make sure to gather everyone 'round and make sure no one is sticking out or sitting by herself?

the wedding fairy said...

You're right that Leigh's continuing to sit at the table by herself could be construed as anti-social or even rude... I think Leigh felt that the other girls "took over." While not an extremely shy person, she felt as if there were too many people surrounding the bride. As the table arrangement/surrounding space wasn't that large, she didn't want to get in the way.

It's true that her feeling left out because she was the only non-bridesmaid was probably all in her head, so to speak, but as the only non-bridesmaid, she was less apt to encroach on what are typically thought of as bridesmaid responsibilities.

I, too, was surprised by this story -- I always have heard of larger showers, so this was a unique scenario. Because of the small size, I think you're right that the moral is that the bride (or the hostess) should have tried to gather ALL into the festivities, and that way no one (bridesmaid or not) would feel left out, or even have to worry about how their behavior (i.e. sitting at the table vs. going up to where everyone else was) would seem.

Anonymous said...

Ok, thanks for answering my question! I appreciate the tips on this, especially because my wedding is going to be relatively small and with a bunch of out-of-towners, so the shower is likely to be quite small (around 10 people)... i'll try to make sure no one is in Leigh's position...