August 2017, The Pool

Behind every bride, there is a group of exhausted women in coordinating dresses, forcing smiles while they wonder where the last 10 months went. Just ask any woman who has been asked to be a part of someone else’s special day: weddings aren’t kind to our female friendships. There’s no solidarity to be found in delving into your overdraft so you can attend a hen; being asked to dye your hair because your natural shade doesn’t match the aesthetic; or finding out that your cousin didn’t include you in the bridal party because you wouldn’t fit into that strapless number. We’ve all seen Bridesmaids; there is nothing like a wedding to tear a friendship apart.

It’s why the results of a new survey will likely be greeted with a sigh of relief by women everywhere. The Pinterest 2017 Wedding Report revealed that brides are opting for fewer bridesmaids, or just foregoing them altogether. It’s not especially surprising. When it came to asking my closest friends to be my bridesmaids, I was reticent; I’d started to believe the horror stories, and question whether our friendships could take the strain. But I want to stand up in defence of having your best mates at your side on your wedding day. It doesn’t have to be as hard as the horror stories would have you believe – and, rather than drive a wedge between us, planning a wedding has actually brought us closer together.

Is it odd to think that having a good time with your friends in the lead up to your wedding is a controversial statement? A bit. But, against the tide of negativity, I think it needs saying. Because if anything, wedding planning has moved the focus away from my fiancé and onto the other loves in my life. Sod the groom; for me, weddings will always be about the women at the heart of them – my first, longest and most enduring loves who got me here in the first place.

It can become easy to take friendships for granted when life, and work, and just keeping up takes over, this year has reminded me over and over why my closest friends are the ones I’ve always turned to, whether our friendships were forged at playgroup or falling out of clubs in our early 20s. The same people that were there to console me when a guy I was dating dumped me for my ‘bourgeois ideals’ with the soothing words, “He was a Leo, it would never have worked anyway,” are now the ones cheering me on in this new step.

We might not need a reason to get together, but being scattered in different cities across the country, we sometimes need an excuse – and this year has provided endless ones, as well as a chance for me to bring some of my favourite people together. Instead of plotting an awkward set up between that one single usher and the bridesmaid without a plus one, I’ve introduced old school friends to new friends, cousins to future in-laws. I’ve drunkenly gushed more times than I can remember.

The WhatsApp hen do group has gone from sharing boozy pictures to bringing together a collection of women who are there for each other. They have travelled en masse abroad, danced into the night and reunited back at home to celebrate all over again. They’ve also come together to help each other through some of the hardest times in their lives. The old friend helped my sister through her anxiety; two close friends who had never met went from planning the hen to consoling each other through recent break ups; and another confided in me she’s never felt so close to a group of women as she does now with the other hens. When I look back over this year, these will be the highlights.

As I drunkenly announced while teetering on top of a bench at my hen do, they are all my family, whether it’s by blood, marriage or years of friendship. And when I stand up there on August 19, a part of me will be reaffirming my love for them as much as I will be to my partner. Even if it’s done via tequila and a conga line.