It's meeting time at BA — Bridesmaids Anonymous — and each member tells her own sad story.
"Hello, I'm Ronit. I'm 28. I've been a bridesmaid for six years now. … My last serious boyfriend turned out to be gay. … My 90-year-old grandmother recently asked me, 'When are you going to get married so your life can begin?'"
Some women treat husband-hunting as a full-time job. Ronit Ray only wishes it was. After years of frustration playing the New York singles game, she turned her pathetic dating life into a cabaret show, and then into an ad- hoc support group for perpetual bridesmaids.
Now, it's too late for Ray to marry. Her one-woman show, Altar Ego, is ending a successful run at New York's Don't Tell Mama nightclub but will return in the spring. So finding a soul mate might ruin her act.
"Maybe," she says. "But I'll take my chances."
A Singing Zombie With Big Dreams
As a 10-year-old girl in Cherry Hill, N.J., she dreamed of starring in Annie on Broadway, and even got a callback when she auditioned. Now, she keeps the faith with parts in off-Broadway productions like Zombie Prom and works a day job at Morgan Stanley Dean Witter & Co.
Still, this zombie dreams of love, and Bridesmaids Anonymous is an idea for the times.
At BA meetings, women put on their most horrible, overpriced bridesmaid getups. It might be a $400 sequined periwinkle gown with creampuff sleeves. It could be a frightful frock in incandescent lavender.
How could your best friend saddle you with this overpriced nightmare on her wedding day? It's more proof that love is blind.
"It's hard not to laugh, and of course, that makes you feel better," Ray says. "So often, you hear women swear that they'll never wear their bridesmaid dress again. Well, this gives you an opportunity to wear it and enjoy it."
Add up the cost of the gown, shoes, alterations, the bachelorette party and let's not forget the present. BA members say the cost of being in a bridal party is easily $700. And for BA ladies, that's not a one-time cost.
"I've been a bridesmaid six times already," says one BA-er.
"I had three [weddings] within six months," says another. "And I had to travel."
Fabulous Prizes for Hideous Dresses
The corporate world is certainly aware of the growing market potential for disgruntled bridesmaids.
Do you have a hideous bridesmaid dress? Want to win a trip for four to Puerto Rico?
DeKuyper Pucker Schnapps is flying women into New York for a "Worst Bridesmaid Dress" fashion show. The bride will undoubtedly hate you forever when she finds out. But she's married. Isn't that enough?
As schnapps is a prime ingredient in the oh-so-trendy apple martini, the liquor maker is sponsoring the contest to raise its image on the bachelorette party circuit. (To enter, e-mail photos in JPEG format to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
According to company research, 51 percent of bridesmaids donate their dresses to charity. Another 21 percent will later wear their outfits on Halloween. The rest just let their dresses gather dust in the closet.
For those of you interested in what happens at a bachelorette party, the company claims the most popular party activity is going to a strip club or hiring a private stripper (71 percent), followed by going out for a nice dinner (54 percent) and playing drinking games (45 percent) that involve shots of liquor or fruit-flavored cocktails, presumably mixed with DeKuyper Pucker Schnapps.
A Song and Dance of Self-Respect
Ray's cabaret show has potential as a bachelorette party stop. But don't expect dancing boy toys in bow ties and thongs. "I brought my grandmothers to this," she says.
As Altar Ego begins, we find Ray at Saks Fifth Avenue, trying on a $9,000 wedding dress and sporting a $40,000 engagement ring from Tiffany's. "The same one Jerry Seinfeld bought for Jessica," she gushes. Ray has everything … except a groom.
Luckily, this is musical comedy, where a woman can sing and dance her way to self-respecting singledom à la Irving Berlin — with the sun in the morning and the moon at night.
Like Alcoholics Anonymous, the message of BA is straightforward: You are not alone. But the two groups are hardly affiliated. Don't expect formal therapy, just a chance to put on that dress and swap horror stories over sushi. I wondered if these ladies even needed to be anonymous.
"You bet," said a 30-something bride-in-waiting. "If my best friend knew I was passing around pictures of the ugly gowns she picked out for her wedding, and complaining about it to ABCNEWS, she'd just die."
Buck Wolf is entertainment producer at ABCNEWS.com. The Wolf Files is published Tuesdays. If you want to receive weekly notice when a new column is published, join the e-mail list.