How Real Is ‘Bridesmaids’? A Wedding Planner’s Insight

“Bridesmaids” is up for some big awards at Golden Globes ceremony tonight: Best Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) and Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture (Comedy or Musical) for Kristen Wiig. The comedy is a bona fide critical darling and commercial success — most likely because the subject matter hits close to home for many folks (myself — four times a bridesmaid — included).So how real are the situations and sentiments in “Bridesmaids”? And what exactly can people do to avoid becoming like Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph’s characters? Not to mention the burning question: Puppies as wedding shower favors — is that a thing?I called upon Sarah Pease — owner and creative director of Brilliant Event Planning — for answers. Sarah has professionally planned high-end weddings for five years, and she demystified — and confirmed — plenty of the plot points to this year’s most celebrated ensemble flick.As rewarding as your job can be, I’m sure it’s really stressful.
Imagine if every day of your job was the most important day of somebody’s life. That’s a pretty big weight on your shoulders!Have you ever witnessed anything even remotely as crazy as what happened in “Bridesmaids”?
Well, there are a lot of things that sort of bubble up to the surface. The role that I play as far as my clients are concerned — a lot of times I am their confidant. One of the worst ones that sort of crushed my soul a little bit was the bride had her bachelorette party and one of her bridesmaids, who was — I can’t remember if she was married or engaged — ended up hooking up with some person who was not her fiancé or husband. On the bachelorette trip! And she was thinking, “Oh my God, of course that’s awful and what am I gonna say — how am I gonna act when I see her husband at the wedding?”You’re out helping your friend celebrate the fact that she’s entering into a union with someone she’s going to be faithful to, and then you go and cheat on your own partner. That’s kind of a downer!
Right? I was literally just struck. I had one wedding where the bridesmaids were definitely on something. The girls were literally in a daze, every single one of them. And I don’t know what kind of drug they had taken, but they definitely had taken some. I would say, “We need you over here for a photo — can you come over here with your bouquet?” And she would look at me, smile, and turn around and walk the opposite way. Not in a, “No, I’m not coming” but in just in an “I’m in La-La Land” kind of thing.That sounds like the scene in “Sixteen Candles” where Molly Ringwald’s sister takes painkillers on her wedding day and walks down the aisle all strung out.
That’s exactly what it was like! I was like, “There’s nothing I can do about this. So we’ll just have to corral them.”Are the breakdowns and strained friendships in “Bridesmaids” indicative of things that you’ve seen?
Well, the reason why the movie is funny is because it has an element of truth to it. We’ve all been there — I have been a bridesmaid many times — and we’ve all been in that situation where you’re sort of thrown together and have this kind of mishmash of people that maybe wouldn’t hang out at any other time together. And I mean, yeah, look at what happens to brides when they’re planning their weddings: normal, friendly girls turn into bridezillas. And certainly there are bridesmaidzillas — that is an absolute fact.And so often, as in “Bridesmaids,” you see your friend moving on to this new step in her life and it makes you take stock of where you are, and sometimes that stings.
That too — and I think the one-upping in that movie is very true as well. Especially from the perspective of a planner — there have been some clients of mine who’ve said, either jokingly or not, “I want to make sure that none of my bridesmaids look prettier than me.” Or like, who was the one character who was great at everything and planned everything?Rose Byrne’s character — she and Kristen Wiig totally butted heads.
Yes! There’s always sort of that competition, absolutely. Even when it’s a group of girls that all get along together. I mean, throw in a bridesmaid dress and they all sort of lose their minds.There’s a movie called “Bachelorette” debuting at Sundance this year. It stars Kirsten Dunst and Isla Fisher, and it’s about a group of girls who get asked to be bridesmaids for a girl they teased in high school. It’s interesting that all of these female ensemble comedies about the subject are emerging. What do you make of the sudden fascination?
It was only a matter of time until something girl-related, like a girl “Hangover,” came out, so I’m not surprised one bit. The wedding industry has already seen a tremendous amount of success in the TV arena.It’s also interesting that the women in “Bridesmaids” are older. Not so long ago, brides on film were always in their early or mid-20’s, and these women are in their mid-30’s. Is that pretty indicative of real life, too — with your clients?
You hit the nail right on the head – especially here in New York City. People who live in large cities probably get married at a later age than those maybe in smaller towns. I mean, I’ll tell you as somebody who’s born and raised in Green Bay, Wisconsin, that most of my friends back home are married and have babies already. And I’m just about to turn 31, so I’m behind the times. I’m actually getting married myself, in June.Ah, congratulations! Have you ever found yourself being the nightmare bridesmaid — or even now, bride?
Gosh, you can interview my friends and ask them if I was a bridesmaidzilla — I might have been! [laughs] I don’t think I’ve been a bridezilla too much. Just by virtue of being a wedding planner, I don’t think I get wrapped up in it as much as the average bride would. I think a lot of times the people who have a tendency to be a bridezilla are those that — they’re getting wedding’d, they’re not getting married.In “Bridesmaids,” I don’t think Maya Rudolph’s character was as much a bridezilla as she was the omega to Rose Byrne’s alpha. At a certain point she just took a back seat to her own big day. Do you see that happen often?
Completely! I think that the people who have the most success are those who are really clear on exactly what’s important to them. So for example, “It’s important to me that you have this dress. It’s important to me that you have these earrings and these shoes and get your hair done.” But keeping in mind that requiring your people to do all those things might be an investment that many times is a huge financial commitment.That’s also touched upon in the movie — Kristen Wiig’s character simply didn’t have the money for all this stuff. The bridesmaid dress, the flight to Vegas, throwing the shower. That’s happened to me before, too — I know it’s not unusual. How should real-life brides avoid becoming like Maya Rudolph’s character?

Yeah, I think that the pitch that I would give someone who’s wanting to make sure that they keep the peace — No. 1 is communication. And I think opinion polling isn’t a bad idea, in a non-confrontational way. I would recommend giving each one of them a call one-on-one as part of a wider conversation.As opposed to what happened in “Bridesmaids,” which was a mass email about the bachelorette party that turned into an out-of-control conference call.
Exactly! I feel like sometimes bachelorettes are a lot of societal pressure — like, you have to go to Cancun. And it doesn’t have to be like that.That’s another reason it’s so fascinating that Hollywood has finally peeked behind the curtain. Women are so polite about all this stuff — they don’t want to rock the boat, even when the demands are completely out of line.
Absolutely. And I really think before you pick up the phone and call any of your bridesmaids, one thing that you should absolutely do is write down everything you want to do — your desires for them as far as dress goes, shoes, hair and make-up, earrings, jewelry, bridal showers, bachelorette, travel and accommodations, wedding gift. Put all those numbers down on paper and see how much it adds up to and ask yourself, If the tables were turned, would you be comfortable spending that much money for your friend?You mentioned the wedding shower — which makes me think of the movie and the fact that it had those outrageous invitations with live butterflies, and they gave puppies away as gifts. Have you dealt with any equally ostentatious favors or invites?
Well, there’s all different kinds of interpretations of what’s over the top and elaborate, but certainly we’ve never given away a puppy. Invitations are just one piece of the puzzle for me, but there’ve been mirrors and embroidered silk folios with crystals tied around it and strings of pearls. The sky’s the limit when it comes to these kinds of things. I think I read somewhere that there was a celebrity wedding where the favors were all iPads.Woah. Sign me up for that shindig!
Right? Exactly. I’d like to be on the guest list!

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