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Amplify: I’m not any less of a bride without bridesmaidsstock

“Will I have to take the dress off to pee?” I asked the saleswoman at David’s Bridal as I stared at myself in the mirror wearing the tight-fitting trumpet gown I had chosen months before.

"Maybe," she replied. "But don't worry about it. That's what your bridesmaids are for."

I smiled back and didn’t dare tell her the truth: That I won’t have any bridesmaids when I get married in August.

I’m Sarah Nolan, a content editor at The Globe and the new editor of Amplify. Something that I don’t discuss often, especially with strangers, is that I don’t have close girlfriends.

It’s not that I don’t have friends. I’ve developed friendships with people of both genders in my working life, but none are shoo-ins the way a best friend from childhood, high school or university would be. I’m also an only child, with no sibling card to play. I have cousins I was close with as a kid but over the years we’ve naturally grown apart.

I could have turned to Bridesmaid for Hire, a company started by Jen Glantz. After she got asked to be a bridesmaid by two friends in one day, another friend suggested she had become a professional bridesmaid. Glantz posted an ad on Craigslist and immediately got hundreds of responses from brides, mothers and fiancés asking if the service was real. In an essay for Cosmopolitan, she wrote that brides seek her help for several reasons. While some want to spare their friends from the work involved in being a bridesmaid, others, like myself, don’t have close girlfriends. Still, I decided the service wasn’t for me.

Wedding planning in six short months has been thrilling for someone as Type A as I am. Venue? Check. DJ? Check. Decor? Check. But if I’m being perfectly honest, it’s felt defeating at times. Along the way every vendor eventually asks the same question: How many bridesmaids are there? It can be awkward and embarrassing to tell the truth. When you do, you’re reminded that most brides have bridesmaids and then you feel a pang of loneliness.

I know I’m not any less of a bride without bridesmaids. So why do I feel that way whenever I see a mug that says #bridetribe or Instagram posts of brides drinking champagne with their bridesmaids while they all get ready together?

The wedding industry has sneaky ways of pushing that perception. Retail marketing and social media are designed to not just get to our heads, but to our bank accounts, too. According to WeddingWire’s 2019 Global Wedding Report, the average cost of a wedding in Canada is about $29,450, and it’s unclear whether that includes popular trinkets for the bridal party. “Will you be my maid of honour?” cards, silk robes and personalized hangers are strategically placed on Instagram and at cash wraps with one goal: to make you feel that asking someone to be your maid of honour over the phone, or getting ready for your wedding in clothes you already own, would somehow make the moment less special.

Being a bridesmaid can also be a huge financial commitment. A 27-year-old woman from Toronto recently asked an adviser for guidance on how to survive being in three weddings in nine months without turning to her line of credit.

That’s why Stefanie O’Connell has decided to forego bridesmaids. The author and personal finance writer didn’t want her friends and family to spend hundreds of dollars but she still wanted to be with them. So, she’s renting out a penthouse suite for the wedding weekend where all the women in her life can get ready together. "I won’t feel any less supported because they’re not wearing a new dress or standing behind me holding matching bouquets,” she writes.

That’s how I feel, too. And even though I don’t have close girlfriends, there are some who have risen to the occasion since my engagement in February. One coordinated a girls’ night out in lieu of a bachelorette and brought me her own “Bride-to-be” sash to wear. Another is giving a speech and has listened to me vent about the planning process more times than I can count. Multiple women have offered to help me pee in my wedding dress.

In my childhood, whether I would have bridesmaids wasn’t the question but rather who they would be. I imagined I’d have three or four bridesmaids standing by my side. Because brides always have best friends.

But as soon as my fiancé proposed, I knew my day would be different than what I thought it would be all those years ago: there would be no wedding party. Even so, I’ll be standing with – and marrying – my best friend.

What else we’re reading:

Several women, including CBC’s Piya Chattopadhyay and National Observer’s Fatima Syed, have tweeted their heartbreaking stories of being told to “go back to where [they] came from” after Donald Trump’s recent comments directed at Democratic congresswomen of colour. In this Globe column, Samra Habib writes about racism being reduced to a diversionary tactic and cautions that such outbursts in the U.S. can distract Canadians from recognizing the problem exists in our own country. Her self-reflection is a gut-wrenching reminder that racism lives in Canada, too, and is an everyday reality for our friends, neighbours and colleagues.

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