Grace Kim has accrued some horror stories only a four-time bridesmaid can tell — in one wedding this summer, she'll be forced to wear a flapper dress; for another she'll have to show up five days early, per the bride's request.
A 27-year-old marketing manager who lives in New York City, Kim attended her first wedding of the year in April, and another this month. She has three more in August and September.
And because Kim has experience in event planning, she has become the go-to strategist for her engaged friends, spending one to two hours a day consulting with the brides.
"I'm exhausted," she said.
Kim, who's in a relationship but not ready to get married, estimates that by the end of the year she will spend around $6,000 on other people's weddings.
"When you become a bridesmaid or any part of the wedding, people think it's an honor — but you quickly realize that it's not," she says. "There's a lot of work involved that's not really divulged when you get into it."
It used to be that a wedding took place over the course of an afternoon, or maybe an evening. Now it often stretches over months or even years, beginning with engagement parties, followed by bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette weekends, ladies luncheons, golf tournaments, welcome parties and rehearsal dinners. And then, if everyone is still standing, we get to have a wedding.
Judith Martin, better known as Miss Manners, and her daughter, Jacobina, are fighting an uphill battle to stem the tide of wedding lunacy. Together they co-wrote Miss Manners' Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding, in which they argue that engagement parties are a farce, shower gifts should be simple tokens rather than $400 toasters, and that registries (or, as Jacobina calls them, "shopping lists") should be wiped from the face of the Earth.
"We had hoped that it hit its saturation point," Jacobina says of the ever-increasing wedding fervor. "Then I heard about a friend going to a destination bachelorette party."
The friend was asked to be a bridesmaid even though she wasn't particularly close to the bride. Eventually the showers and obligations got to be too much. After seeking Jacobina's guidance, she bowed out of the wedding.
"And the bride just found a replacement. She was completely unfazed and said, 'Your dress is about the same size as this other girl, so I'll just give it to her,' " Jacobina says. "It goes with our theory that it's becoming show business, with people cast in parts. It's everyone's Oscar night."
It's not just the women who get sucked up into the wedding hurricane, says Mike Arnot, founder of GroomGroove, a website for grooms and their entourages.
Best man obligations, he says, amount to more than any guy ever anticipates. "There's a whole grocery list of duties," he says. "Not the least of which is making a wedding speech in front of 150 people who are staring at you."
The best man also may have to organize the bachelor party, coordinate the schedules of a dozen friends, be the groom's errand boy and stay sober — at least through the toast.
It could be worse. "Know when a guy will grumble?" Arnot says. "When it's his girlfriend who's a bridesmaid and he gets dragged along to everything. We're happy to do a favor for one of our buddies. Are we happy to do a favor for our girlfriend's friend? Ehhhh."