Bridechillas, Maidchillas, and times when you're not-so-Chilla.
Just over a week ago, my wedding-planning-nerd dreams came true. I got to experience and participate in a wedding planning podcast I have been following for some time now, chat with the founder of this incredible platform for Brides (and anyone else involved in planning a wedding!), and meet some pretty wonderful people in the process - all while enjoying some free food and booze, of course.
Let's be real. Free food and booze = I'm THERE.
Well, I guess it wasn't totally free. There was the ticket cost (maybe $10?), and I personally shelled out the extra $20 for the Bridechilla Survival Guide, written by Bridechilla Founder, Aleisha McCormack, with some great insights from real former Bridechillas - you know they have some serious wisdom. The Survival Guide is a great tool for anyone who is about to dive into the crazy adventure that is planning a wedding.
There is also the Bridechilla Field Guide, which I have not had a chance to get yet. Soon!
If you haven't heard of the Bridechilla Podcast and the corresponding Bridechilla Community Facebook group, I STRONGLY suggest you check them both out. For some context, a Bridechilla is the opposite of a Bridezilla (which is a problematic word in itself, but we won't get into that), and contrary to what you might have read in HuffPost, is NOT someone who has no opinions on anything or doesn't care about their wedding, leading to more stress and problems than intended. Please. The basic definition of a Bridechilla is someone (usually a bride) who cares more about their guests enjoying themselves, marrying the love of their life, and keeping their damn sanity than if the chair covers match the tablecloths.
Aleisha hosts the podcast, dealing out some seriously useful advice, having conversations with interesting and diverse vendors in the industry, and just generally exuding this attitude of, "Yeah, it's a wedding, and it's a big deal, but SERIOUSLY. Stop putting so much pressure on yourself to live up to the magazine standards, which are so so so so FAKE, and just do what you want to do. And anyone who tries to give you grief about how you want to celebrate starting your life with the one you love can SHOVE IT". She's pretty wonderful, and who I aspire to be as a wedding planner.
The Bridechilla Facebook Community is equally supportive and free-spirited. There are some rules to ensure inclusivity, civility, and general "don't be a dick" standards, yet it is full of different attitudes and opinions on every aspect of weddings WITHOUT the judgy-ness. The word "tacky" is banned. Lots of things end up in the FIB (F**k It Bucket) if they are deemed unnecessary and cause more stress than they're worth. Brides and Grooms from all over the world participate, asking for opinions on everything, from smaller details like color palettes or picking between two dresses, to big things like how to deal with negative guests or even reaching out for relationship guidance. And then sometimes people just share things they're excited about for their big day, like a DIY win or booking their dream venue. Every comment delivers honest opinions and advice with tact and kindness. It truly is a great community!
This particular shindig was something Aleisha and the Podcast had never done before - a LIVE Podcast Event! It was coordinated with Brideside, a company which specializes in Bridesmaid Dresses and offers a unique shopping experience for Brides and those she has asked to stand with her on her wedding day. They recently expanded their inventory to include gifts for your best gals - fun clothing, skincare products, and little things that have no real purpose but are CUTE, dammit.
Brideside has a location in Chicago called the Babe Cave. What. A cute. Name. It was a really nice space! Very chic-industrial with pops of color and fun vibes - the perfect place to hold a live taping of this podcast!
(Also, I would just like to point out their EXCELLENT use of balloons as decoration. Balloons have been a big trend recently, replacing lights, drapery, and even flowers in some cases. I personally think they are super cool as decoration, but if not done with care, they can come off looking like birthday party balloons - which is totally fine if that's what you want! But these balloons were PERFECT, adding just the right amount of fun while still remaining classy. Good work, Brideside!)
The event started off with people checking in at the front of the room, grabbing something to drink and eat, and then kind of awkwardly milling about. Some people were with friends, others brought their future spouse along, and some came solo - myself included! But even when you know you're among "friends" (internet friends count, right?), it can be a challenge to start talking to people. Obviously everyone there is somehow connected to a wedding that is being planned, and you may want to gush about details with someone else who totally gets you. But you also don't want to seem self-absorbed or pry into aspects of people's lives they may not want to talk about.
Once people started to claim seats for the recording, that all changed pretty quickly. Conversations were started, laughter could be heard, and the energy in the room totally flipped. Everyone was happy to be there, and you could feel a real sense of camaraderie and excitement in the air!
I got to chatting with someone else named Sarah (and she spells it right, YES) and her fiance, Jordan - such lovely people! They're getting married in just under a year during the summer solstice - how cool is THAT??
After probably another half hour of chatting and getting to know each other, it was time for the main event! Aleisha's guests for this podcasts were the founders of Brideside, Sonali Lamba and Nicole Staple. They discussed how they got this business started by seeing a need in the wedding industry for a space for Bridesmaids to feel like they are part of this special day in a supportive and meaningful way, not just as dolls who stand next to their friend and look pretty (not as pretty as the bride, of course). Sonali talked about her experience as a bride with 14 Bridesmaids - yes, 14. FOURTEEN. I felt mild anxiety telling my future husband I wanted to have six. Personally, I say more power to her, not only for handling so many different opinions and feelings in her party, but for sticking to her guns and including as many of her friends as she damn well pleased.
But she felt like she actually didn't handle her bridesmaid experience as well as she could have. Sonali brought up a disagreement she had with one bridesmaid about having a plus one. Her parents had an opinion on the subject, and since the wedding was more traditional, she went with what her parents wanted. It negatively affected her relationship with this bridesmaid, and now they are not as close as they used be. "We're cordial with one another," she said.
Sonali definitely learned firsthand what's important between brides and her bridal party, and transferred that lesson to her business model - the friendship a bride and her party members have for each other is more important than any tradition, or dress color, or gift, and that should be valued above all else. Through the process of planning a wedding, the person getting married relies heavily on their best friends who are standing with them to provide guidance, support, love, and maybe a little alcohol or chocolate. Maybe. Probably. Most-likely. But through all of that, the friendship should not just be maintained, it should be cultivated. You should be able to look back on the your wedding day knowing you ended up with more good memories and a stronger relationship than before.
Of course, that isn't always the case. Not everyone can be a Bridechilla or a Groomchilla or a Maidchilla, and emotions run high during weddings. And, honestly, sometimes people are just jerks, and that really comes out in weddings. It happens. But, as Sonali recalled her Maid of Honor said during her bachelorette party dinner, "This friend of ours, this future bride, is a reflection of every woman here at this table". Maybe, if you're worried about your wedding party not getting along or someone starting some drama, that little reminder can help put things in perspective. Who you choose to include in your wedding party is an important decision, but in the end it is YOUR decision. If you feel like your party is a reflection of you...you'll be good to go.
And that was just a part of the interview! They touched on more subjects than just Bridesmaids, and even answered some audience questions! It was a super interesting and fun podcast, if I say so myself. Maybe I'm biased since I was there ;) The episode will be released on Monday, June 23rd, so give it a listen if you'd like, and definitely subscribe to hear past episodes and get updates on new ones!
When the recording wrapped up, there was still time to grab another drink and mingle. Everyone was definitely more relaxed now, and we all felt like we had experienced something awesome together, so the atmosphere was super chill. I managed to chat with Aleisha herself for a few minutes (*internal screaming*) and got a picture with her in front of the Bridechilla sign! Pinch me.
It was such a fun night. The Bridechilla community offers a fresh perspective on the wedding industry, giving brides and grooms confidence to do what feels best for them for their special day. I was thrilled to experience the magic first hand, make some new Chilla friends, and walk away with a rejuvenated spirit to tackle wedding planning with a smile - for my own wedding, and for my client's!!
Cheers to that, and Happy Days!