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Real-life bride wars: How I coped with planning a wedding at the same time as my two best friends

What happens when engagement announcements and stationery designs turn into a competitive sport between BFFs? One bride-to-be tells it like it is.

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I’m standing in London Graphic Centre staring at the rows and rows of assorted cards like some weirdo with a stationery fetish. A5, B7, DL… up until today, I had no idea you could get the stuff in so many colours, let alone sizes or “grammage”. On the hunt for the perfect save the dates for my wedding at the end of the year, I’ve been lingering in the same section for the last 15 minutes. Eventually, I take a photo with my phone and text it to my friend, Marie, who’s also getting married, with the caption, “This thick enough for ya?! #weddingwars.”

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Days earlier, we had each received a wedding invitation from our mutual friend Fiona. Since we were both in invitation-designing mode, we were naturally curious about what she had opted for. (Read: we were ready to compare notes on everything from her font choice to her “flimsy” material.) Honestly, I never imagined two women could be so opinionated about a piece of card. But that’s the thing about weddings. Everyone has an opinion. And when you’re getting married at the same time as your friends, those opinions, that scrutiny, and the judgment in the air, is tenfold. Whether you’re willing to admit to it or not. It’s like competing against each other in a race when you should be cheering each other on from the sides.

Pre-papergate, Fiona, Marie and I had never been competitive – beyond who could drink the most shots of Aftershock, that is. We met 15 years ago, on our first day at university, where we lived next to each other in halls. We bonded through shared experience (and have the fancy dress pictures to prove it) but we’re very different; in personality (Fiona’s the silly one, Marie is very chilled and I like a good rant) and in taste (we’ve never fancied the same boys, which is handy!). But that was all before we started planning our wedding days … within six months of each other.

Marie was the first. She’s getting married this summer after an 18-month engagement. He proposed casually, sans ring in a pub on NYE, and she bought the first dress she tried on. Fiona and I, both bridesmaids, were beaming with pride when she told us the news. So far, so happy for you! – until Fiona suddenly started using Pinterest all the time. Needless to say it wasn’t only bridesmaids’ dresses she was browsing. She made no secret of the fact that she wanted her boyfriend of three years to propose. At first I found it funny, until her anxiety actually started rubbing off on me; I had also been with my boyfriend for three years. Why hadn’t he proposed yet? I’m not someone who has dreamed about their wedding day since they were a little girl and I’m quite proud of that. But in a matter of months, at the grand old age of 33, I became that girl; neurotic and, well, practically choking up every time a “special occasion” didn’t result in a big, fat, glistening diamond.

Months passed. And before I got a ring on my finger, I got a message from Fiona: “We’re getting married! Save the date!” Her wedding was in six months time. Three months before Marie’s. My first thought was: “How rude, upstaging Marie.” My second was: “How tacky, sending a save the date via WhatsApp.” Yep, it had all gone a bit Bride Wars. And the very next day, in a bizarre turn of events that can only be described as a scene straight out of the film, my fiancé told me to pack my bags. He was taking me to my favourite hotel in London. He pretended it was to celebrate our (then) four-year anniversary, but actually presented me with a beautiful vintage diamond ring. He had been planning it for months and posted a photo of me crying on Facebook to let people know. (Take that, WhatsApp save the date.) Messages of congratulations came flooding in, along with a post from Fiona. “We are engaged in the same week!” she wrote. Yeah, thanks for comment-bombing my Facebook page.

Overnight, it felt like everything from our proposal stories (hers had been quite casual; I got the dramatic “the sun was setting over a hill” version) to the choice of ring (I sent her a picture of mine; I couldn’t see hers yet because he was “designing it”) was a dig at each other. She’s having 10 bridesmaids and I’m not one of them. And here I am today, obsessing over the thickness of card, and for what? To show that I have better taste in stationery? Because I think I’m better than her? Of course I don’t. And neither does she. Just where will this game of one-upmanship end? Sabotaging each other’s fake tans? Boycotting each other’s ceremonies?

It dawned on me how completely pointless all this is. It’s turning me into the bridezilla I never thought I’d become, not to mention a mega bitch. Why are we even trying to compete with each other?

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Let’s not make the run-up to “the best day of your life” more stressful than it needs to be; let’s make the most of being in the same boat.

For me, competitiveness stems from insecurity. We look to friends for validation on a daily basis – “Should I cut my hair?” “Did I act like a dick last night?” – and we trust their opinion. So there’s no reason why that shouldn’t still apply when we decide to get married. Let’s not make the run-up to “the best day of your life” more stressful than it needs to be; let’s make the most of being in the same boat.

A mate of mine was recently offered a pair of Jimmy Choos to wear on her big day from a friend who got married just months before. Because sharing is caring, people. And it’s also financially savvy. I’m not suggesting all wearing the same veil, but practical things (spare cake stand, anyone?) could help to keep the costs down. My best friend from school, who married just before I got engaged, has been invaluable for advice – sharing everything from her venue spreadsheets (saved me scoping out that overpriced warehouse!) to tried-and-tested tips on what food really goes down well.

Above all, when you’re bickering with your fiancé about the canapés or something equally “trivial”, it’s incredibly reassuring knowing there are pals on hand who just get it; who actually don’t think canapés are that trivial (OK, they are, but right now, they feel very important indeed) and yes, there’s a world of difference between a mini Yorkshire pudding and a mini toad in the hole!

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As for the weddings, since Marie, Fiona and I are as different as chalk and cheese, our big days are naturally going to reflect that. Marie’s having a wine-pairing tasting menu and I’m bringing in my own booze. I’m getting a friend to DJ and Fiona’s having a brass band. But they’re all going to be fabulous weddings. And we’ll all be there, cheering each bride – our friend – on from the sides.