With the arrival of the summer wedding season comes two conflicting thoughts for most single women:
1) I’m really happy that my friend is getting married. And,
2) Why am I still single?
Or, as put another way: “Why am I always the bridesmaid?”
I walked through my twenties checking “single” on my tax return. Every. Single. Year.
Of course, paying taxes was nothing compared to what I spent to help others’ change their status. I paid for gowns I’d only wear once. I paid for airplane tickets, hotel rooms, bridal showers, and uncomfortable shoes. I knew what a bridesmaid had to do. She had to spend her time and money to watch someone else’s dream come true.
I gushed over gowns and nodded with discernment when shown hand-beading versus manufactured. Being a bridesmaid required patience, a decent bank account, a flexible schedule and the ability to refrain from dizziness while watching another woman make multiple 360-degree turns in rooms full of mirrors.
Wedding after wedding, I learned my place. This was her day, her event, her moment. She was the bride, and I was only . . .
Part of the unspoken bridesmaids’ vow is the willingness to traipse along to every bridal store within a 20-mile radius. One Saturday, I served my hard time—following my bride-of-the-month all over town on her quest for the perfect attire. As she explained that the dress must match a vision she had held since childhood, I felt around in my purse to make sure I had enough snacks to make it through a full day. This was going to take a while.
It wasn’t all for the bride though. I knew the benefits of being the bride’s shopping buddy. If we found her dress, then we could search for one for me (and the bridesmaids gaggle). Lest someone decide I needed a peach taffeta bow on my bottom or a sea foam green mermaid dress to “accent” my pear shaped figure, skipping my chance to be a part of this process seemed downright foolish.
At the sixth bridal shop of the day, we finally found Cinderella’s gown. Time to turn the spotlight on me. (Well, it wasn’t so much of a spotlight, as a key chain, mini-flashlight from the dollar store.) The question wasn’t really what kind of dress I wanted to wear. Instead, it was what the bride wanted me to look like for her very special day.
She pulled out a few dresses. With her smile–glued on since engagement day–she chirped, “Isn’t this so fun?” Steering me into the dressing room she added, “Promise to come out and model each one, OK?”
I half-smiled then escaped into one of the stalls.
I took a deep breath. These didn’t look bad. I can do this!
I stepped into the first full-length dress, zipped it as high as I could reach and then stood back from the mirror. This could work.
I walked out, eager for her stamp of approval. “What do you think?”
“Hmmm . . . ” Her expression turned serious.
Was it that awful?
She looked me up and down and back up again. Finally, her eyes landed on my thighs.
“I don’t think that’s the one. We need to find a dress that hides your problem areas.” She stated glibly.
I returned to the dressing room defeated. I didn’t want to be a bridesmaid anymore.
Always the Bridesmaid
Eventually, my day came, several years after my problem areas were a dress shopping obstacle. Yet, in some ways, I never stopped feeling like a bridesmaid.
I beamed through most of my own engagement (while I tanned, dieted and exercised myself into the thinnest version of me, ever) but my inner bridesmaid struggled to heal. The morning after my wedding, I woke up–hair disheveled, make-up and dress no longer pristine. Everything special about me—my bride status—had disappeared. Now, I was just a wife.
Those feelings of not being enough raced back.
The bride: She radiates beauty. She shines because she’s been chosen. She knows she’s loved and feels secure because he has pledged forever to her.
The bridesmaid lacks that luster.
She may feel alone, uncertain that anyone loves her. She doesn’t stand out from the crowd in an elaborate white gown. Instead, she’s dressed just the same as the five girls next to her—meant not to be recognized as an individual, but rather to be an accessory to the bride, her wedding colors and theme.
The bride confidently smiles, greeting the world with a wave because she feels like the queen. While the bridesmaid dutifully shows teeth for all required photographs and then begs to take off her required foot attire because these are not the shoes she would have chosen.
The Bible uses the imagery of Christians as the “bride” of Christ. That analogy used to feel strange to me.
Becoming the Bride
Now I wonder if God wants us to think of ourselves as His bride so that we can overcome our bridesmaid complex. If we can truly see ourselves as His bride, won’t that change the way in which we hold ourselves and perceive our own value?
Shouldn’t our status as His bride be far more phenomenal than marrying into any royal family on earth?
Would we worry about our body’s problem areas or have lapses of insecurity if we were certain of our place as his chosen one?
I wonder …
The next time you feel like you’re just a bridesmaid, like you’re always playing second fiddle to a world filled with cover models, I hope you’ll remember this. You, my friend, have been chosen.
You are deeply loved—just as you are by a savior who gave everything to be with you.
Married or single. Wearing white silk or tangerine taffeta. You are his bride. Shine bright.