14 bridesmaids and no one to talk to

How does a 32-year-old woman have 14 bridesmaids scheduled to show up to bear witness at her wedding and she decides that she can’t talk to ANYONE about her nerves and jitters?

I feel an immense amount of pity for Jennifer Wilbanks. I also want her prosecuted for her stunt last week and the false police report, but I’ll deal with that later.

Weddings are supposed to be about the start of a new life together, the commitment of a man and a woman to become one flesh and go forward to become a new family. Now, Jennifer Wilbanks and her fiancee, John Mason, have been shacking up for a few years now (and yet their pastor is out defending her – what kind of church do they attend?), and planned an incredibly lavish wedding (he’s been described in some Atlanta media as being from a wealthy family, and her family is obviously well off too, if they can cough up $100K for a reward fund) with 600 guests, 14 bridesmaids and 14 groomsmen. In my opinion, this elaborate wedding was probably her idea, and she freaked out.

Recently, the Food Network did a series of wedding-themed shows, which also featured a special on weddings at Walt Disney World. The show was a giant ad for Disney, showing off all the special things one can have with a Disney wedding. Castle cakes, characters showing up for bridal showers and receptions, weddings at Cinderella’s Castle – if you can pay for it, they will do it. One particular couple was followed from start to finish, and Daddy’s Little Girl pulled out all the stops (she was 20 and her fiancee wasn’t much older) and the parents shelled out $80,000 for this “dream” wedding.

(insert gagging sound here)

I personally believe that the wedding industrial complex in this country has gotten really out of hand. I had a large wedding (300 guests), but it cost less than an eighth of what the Disney one cost. But somehow, girls are told from the time that they can dream about a white dress and a veil that they are ENTITLED to all of this hoopla, so Daddy had better refinance the house or get that cash, because she NEEDS that $10,000 cake. It drives me insane – this is a wedding, the celebration of a marriage, and it shouldn’t become a cash drain. I know I’m in the minority here, but back to the original story.

A 600-guest wedding takes a great deal of planning. If Jennifer Wilbanks had put as much effort into preparing for marriage as she did planning her wedding, she might be on her honeymoon right now instead of potentially facing criminal charges. But she, like so many others, got caught up in the dress, flowers, cake and favors… and then started to panic. And sadly, she ran. 14 supposed friends right there or coming into town, a pastor who is acting as spokesperson for the family later and knows her oh-so-well (did he do ANY marriage counseling for these two?), loving parents who found $100 grand in an offer for information on her whereabouts, and a fiancee who she made look like the next Scott Peterson, and she couldn’t talk to anyone about how she felt. Now she’s in a world of hurt. Her reputation is trashed, she will have more of a challenge living this down than anything else in her life, and she’s got an angry community to live in.

So, what should happen now? Charge her with filing a false police report, convict her and sentence her to probation, a fine covering the cost of the frantic search for her and give her community service cleaning up parks with a litter bag. Her fiancee says he still wants to marry her. He’s a brave man. She needs serious counseling, and they need to attend some intense premarital counseling. And they SHOULD NOT be living together while this all happens. She needs help, a reality check, and at least a year to get straightened back out. And then the wedding should be a private, family-only affair – she proved that the bridesmaids weren’t even necessary. One attendant apiece to sign the marriage license, parents, grandparents, siblings and other close family at hand – and maybe this whole awful episode can be forgotten. And hopefully, her story will serve as a deterrent to other women – if you have to get away, TELL SOMEONE – and don’t call 911 later to cover your tracks because of your foolish embarassment and mistakes.

After all, what were those 14 bridesmaids supposed to be there for? Other than to make her look good, I mean.

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