Always the Bridesmaid: Do You Struggle to Feel Like the Bride?

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 . . .

The Bridesmaid

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.

Marrying Jesus? I didn’t get it. Isn’t that just for nuns?Feel like you are always the bridesmaid than read this encouragement from Compared to Who?

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.

4 Comments
  • Carole
    May 27, 2016

    Great post! Thank you.

  • Misty
    May 29, 2016

    Thank you for this I know exactly how it feels to not feel good enough compared to my bride friends. What makes it worse is I haven’t even gotten to be special enough to be a bridesmaid either. My best friend told me I could not be in her wedding because I was newly single. So I felt even worse than being a bridesmaid I felt as though not only was I not good enough to be a bride and find a man who wants me but also not good enough to be a bridesmaid and find friends who want me. I was always an onlooker in the weddings. It got to become so bad that I did not attend most of my friends weddings just to feel left out of all the fun and I even got severe depression and decided to leave God because of it. I am still in this place today where I not only feel like I do not matter to people here on earth but also that I serve no purpose to God. So thank you for this to help me realize that marital status doesn’t determine how God views me because that is all my friends ever made me feel is that I am not Christian if i don’t find a Christian husband.

    • Heather Creekmore
      May 30, 2016

      Misty -thank you so much for sharing all of that. I’m so sorry for your hurt and pain. As an older sister in Christ let me encourage you that God does have great purpose for your life and that even though people can make us feel bad, He is there to comfort us. Turn to Him. He is enough. You are certainly not “not a Christian” if you don’t marry a Christian husband, but I would encourage you to not settle for someone who doesn’t love God. Marriage is very hard. It was the biggest struggle I’d ever experienced. And, when I think about all the men that I could have married who weren’t Christians, I think about how much harder marriage would have been. You have great value. Work on strengthening your relationship with him and pursuing His purpose for your life and God will bring you a man that wants to pursue God’s purposes too. That makes for a much better marriage! Here are two pieces I wrote about my single life. Maybe they’ll encourage you. A letter to a single woman on looking hot And this one: How not to marry a loser.

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