'I resigned as bridesmaid'

27 DRESSES: Katherine Heigl was put to the ultimate bridesmaid test, over and over again, in this movie.
27 DRESSES: Katherine Heigl was put to the ultimate bridesmaid test, over and over again, in this movie.

I'm sure there is a special place in wedding hell for people like me. You see I once resigned as a bridesmaid.

It was a decade ago. Toni (not her real name - oh what the hell, actually, yes it is) anyway she and I were close friends at uni but as soon as I graduated I moved from Brisbane to Melbourne then London and finally settled in Sydney. I only came back to Brisbane once a year. We were still friends but we only spoke on the phone maybe twice a year.

I was surprised when she made a big deal about catching up for a coffee the next time I was in Queensland. I was more surprised when she asked me to be her chief bridesmaid. 

But it's the sort of thing you can't say no to. So I awkwardly said 'yes'. I was excited for her to be getting married. I was happy she was in love. I just focused on that.

I thought 'what the hell', I'd get a new frock and because I lived in Sydney I figured I'd provide support over the phone.

Ummm no. She expected me to fly up to Brisbane to go dress shopping, then again for shoes, then again for final fittings. Plus she wanted me to throw her a hen's party.

Now if she was my best friend who I spoke to most days I would do all of this without question. But, I didn't know a single one of her other friends and the thought of male strippers at a tacky hen's party made me want to gag. I had also only met the groom once.

At the time I had a very demanding job at Channel Nine. It was massive in terms of hours but paid peanuts. The thought of the time off and cost of the flights had my mind swirling.

Two months out from the big day I finally got the courage to tell her it was all getting too much. I would have rather stuck a fork in my eye than have that conversation. There were tears, accusations and anger. And I deserved it all.

It seems I'm not alone in my reluctance. But I had this massive sense of relief. Which is not the emotion a bridesmaid should feel.

Being a bridesmaid is expensive business. A list of possible costs covered by a bridesmaid may include; the bridesmaid dress, the wedding shoes, accessories, hair and makeup, pre-wedding beauty such as manicures and pedicures, pre-wedding parties such as the bridal shower and hens party and a wedding gift.

Maddie, 28, was bridesmaid for a high school friend in November last year and says it cost her almost $3000. Having never been a bridesmaid before, Maddie was honoured to be asked and didn't feel she could complain about costs after she had said yes. She says: "Now, after talking to other girls about my experience, I feel like I was taken advantage of. I should have spoken to the bride and come to a fair agreement about what I was willing to pay for. If another friend asks me, I'll be saying 'no'."

Another problem is it's a big time commitment.

Kristen, 30, found it near impossible to balance the various commitments associated with the role and her job as an accountant. "There was a fitting or event on every week for the last two months leading up to the wedding. I struggled to find the time to attend every occasion and had a row with the bride when I missed a ceremony rehearsal when I couldn't get out of work."

Between fittings, rehearsals, meetings, kitchen teas and hen's parties there is a big time commitment involved with being a bridesmaid. Kristen says, "I didn't want to sound ungrateful for the job - because I was thrilled to be a part of her wedding - but as the date drew closer I kept thinking how glad I would be when it was all over and I didn't have to do anything anymore."

For some it's more fun being a guest. 

Stella, 29, told her friends straight up that she had no interest in being a bridesmaid because she would prefer to be a guest. "I would rather wear my own choice of outfit, arrive when I want, enjoy cocktail hour instead of being photographed with the wedding party and not have to do anything official on the day."

As a bridesmaid, your duty is to assist the bride in anything from helping her get ready to making a speech at the wedding.

Kate, 27, shares the same opinion as Stella, "I don't like being in the spotlight, I would much rather be on a table with other guests than walking down the aisle and sitting up with the bridal party."

Always the bridesmaid, never the bride? For Prue, 31, that has been the case seven times. She has always enjoyed being a bridesmaid for family and friends but after the last one she is hanging up her pale pink heels. "I've had a little bit of teasing from family - aunts and my grandmother, joking that surely it will be my turn next time. It doesn't really bother me but I have had enough of being a bridesmaid. I don't really want to do it again."

Sometimes it happens in reverse and the bridesmaid can be sacked.

Miriam, 26, was thrilled to be asked, along with three other friends, to be a bridesmaid at their high school friend's wedding. They bought dresses, planned a kitchen tea and a hen's party and then eight weeks out from the big day the bride decided she had changed her mind and demoted all but one of them.

"I was shocked when the bride organised a dinner and in the middle of the meal announced to the three of us that we were no longer her bridesmaids and that she was only having one now. It got worse though - three weeks prior to the wedding and all of a sudden she had decided to have a small reception and we found ourselves uninvited from the party altogether!"

After that experience Miriam claims she would definitely think twice before accepting the job again. Jodie, 22, agrees. "I wouldn't rush into it again. There are only a few friends I could tolerate being a bridesmaid for - there are just too many opportunities for potential friendship-breakers."

Well it was a friendship breaker for me. And karma bit me hard. My boyfriend at the time got called to work the weekend of the wedding so I had to turn up alone. The bride hardly spoke to me, the bride's mother kept shooting me death stares and the new chief bridesmaid looked strangely smug.

We've never been in touch since. Horrible situation, horrible outcome, everything just horrible.

I honestly hope she's happy. I wish I'd just been brave enough to say 'no' at that first coffee.

Additional reporting Bree Player

Is being a bridesmaid more of a burden than an honour?

Have you ever said yes then regretted it?