Register Wednesday | June 26 | 2019

The Wedding Factory

It’s About More than Matching

I feel I can speak with authority on the aesthetics of weddings. There are a couple of reasons for this, but the main one is: I've never been a bride. In fact, I've never even been part of a wedding party. I have never been involved with picking the flowers, rubbing the swaths of satiny fabric between my thumbs or giving away my best friend with a tearful, mascara-ed hug. Maybe it will all happen to me one day-but if I become a monster- bride with poor dress sense, I hope my best friend will slap me out of it.

With wedding season almost upon us, now seems like a good time to discuss the unsettling phenomenon of the bride. It is always disconcerting to watch a friend who once dressed like a rocker take out her nose ring and buy a meringue of a dress. There is no accounting for this or her sudden affinity for tulle. If it was just the bride that would be one thing-but she often takes her friends down with her. Why is it that, once engaged, some girls think violet is a becoming colour for their friends to wear? And shiny violet at that?

There are other matters that brides do not seem to take into account. How, for example, a strapless dress and a massive bosom do not a good match make.

I don't know when the tradition started, but let's be honest: sticking your best friends, sisters and cousins in the same pastel-coloured dress is weird. It does not account for differences in body type, skin coloring or breast size. Why the uniform? I mean, a little colour co-ordination is fine, but couldn't we do it a less obviously? Though I hate to reference a TV show to make a point, I am going to do so here. In the third season of Sex and the City, Charlotte enlisted her three fabulous friends to be her bridesmaids (though they were loath to do so). Each wore a completely different dress-in shades of off- white and beigey pink-that was matched to the others through subtle ribbons and accents. It was quite tastefully done.

In the real world, I've heard more brutal accounts. Last summer, my sister was invited to be in the wedding party of a university friend. They had fallen out of touch somewhat and my sister tried to bond with her friend over the impending "big day." To no avail. The bride was too strung out to even return phone calls or be accountable. My sister was asked to do her part and drive into Toronto (from the countryside where she was living and working as a horticulturalist) and put $350 on her credit card for a bridesmaid dress.

That's a lot of money for a horticulturalist-or anyone. Maybe not for something you would pick out yourself-or, God forbid, wear again-but this was a strapless black-and-white, tuxedo-style ball gown (taffeta included). Not the most practical item, especially for an August wedding in Chicago. Apparently, the church was so hot my sister worried that all the bridesmaids would drown in their sweat in front of the congregation. A few years later, I tried the dress on for fun, but it had "bones"-a built-in custom-made girdle-so the dress could not be shared. It still hangs uselessly in the closet at the family cottage, and my sister has long since moved to England.

There are other matters that brides do not seem to take into account. How, for example, a strapless dress and a massive bosom do not a good match make. I am pretty sure that strapless E-cup bras exist, but whether they actually do anything is up for debate. Putting your bridesmaids in the same dress only accentuates their bodily differences. I think, as you get older, you learn an important thing about style and fashion: you'll look and feel good if you dress for your body type. Low-rise jeans aren't made for everyone. But if you put a tall, willowy type next to a curvaceous lady, these differences become obvious, and one's ego can take a serious lashing.

Is there any way to appeal to the brides-to-be out there? Please don't torture your friends and make them spend loads of money on something hideous and impractical. Please do not lose sight of the people you love.

A wonderful friend of mine was asked to be one of the bridesmaids at a wedding. She was sent to a local Greek tailor with three-hundred-dollars-worth of navy blue silk. The bride in question had wanted a rainbow effect, so the bridesmaids wore the same dress but in different colours, a simple strategy to help ensure the bride really stands out from the crowd. Even though the bridesmaids had similar bodies (read: large boobs), the maid of honour hated her breasts and preferred to cover them in cloth. And so my friend was made to wear an empire-waisted dress with what was essentially a priest's-smock neckline. Any girl with large breasts will tell you this is wholly unflattering and distressing. Mock-necks turn lovely breasts into a matron's bosom. Though my friend has a funny story to tell, at three hundred dollars and more, the joke was sadly on her.

It shouldn't really be a matter of money. My mother looked fabulous in a £30 Droopy & Brown's dress when she got married. Her bridesmaids (ages five and six) were in brown floral dresses, which, at least in the black-and-white photos, looked totally inoffensive. I think it is a matter of not losing perspective, whether that be the financial reality of your bridesmaids or, more importantly, their happiness or health. I recently heard an atrocious story of a bridesmaid who was in a serious car accident en route to the wedding. She suffered from whiplash and serious bruising. She was rushed not to the hospital but into "makeup" so that she could shellac her skin into an acceptable skin-tone colour for the photos. She mixed painkillers and champagne to get through the day.

Is there any way to appeal to the brides-to-be out there? Please don't torture your friends and make them spend loads of money on something hideous and impractical. Please do not lose sight of the people you love. They have already spent enough (emotionally and financially) on your bridal shower, your engagement party and the airfare to the wedding.
I find it funny that everyone looks forward to their "special" day, but that, in the end, they all churn out some variation on the same cliché.

I was recently told that there is a new place in Bali that really is a wedding factory. The company claims to be able to hold something like a hundred weddings at any given time. Though it looks suspiciously like paradise, this place is a machine that will take you and spit you out as Mr. and Mrs. Happily Ever After. Don't get me wrong-if I ever make it up the aisle, I also want a white dress and the happy ending. But there is no need nor is there an excuse for tackiness.

Emma Appleby (Poppy Wilkinson) is a fabulous force on the Montreal scene. Read more recent columns by Emma Appleby.