All’s Quiet at Running of the Brides

A few months ago I saw an advertisement for an event called The Running of the Brides. It is an annual event that takes place at Filene’s Basement stores around the country and gives brides-to-be free reign to scratch one another, poke eyes and pull hair just to get a bargain on that perfect wedding dress.

It had been a few years since my last trip to the zoo, so I thought I’d go see what all the fuss was about.

I looked up some information beforehand. Several websites offered tips on the best ways to manage this day. One site suggested that brides get a team of friends together and give them instructions on what to look for in the store. Another advised women to wear sports bras and swimsuit bottoms underneath loose fitting clothes so they could easily try on dresses in the middle of the aisle. And the one key component that all of the websites suggested was for groups to arrive early, some said as early as 4am so they could get in quick when the store opened at 8.

I ignored all of that advice and showed up in my work clothes at 5:30 that evening.

When I arrived it looked like a normal day at Filene’s Basement. People were filtering in and out of the entrance in a normal fashion and I couldn’t make out any frantic women shoving one another into the glass windows of the store. Did I have the wrong location? Wrong day?

I took the escalator up to the store and when I entered, saw rows of white dresses on racks. There were a few groups of women milling about, but nothing too extreme. As I started to browse the white dresses (a color I will not be wearing) I passed a group of women in bright pink t-shirts that said “Bridesmaid” or “Maid of Honor” to identify their role in the team. Another group was in pajamas and each of the girls was holding a wand. I felt sorry for them. Maybe if they had been here on time like all of those other devoted brides and friends of brides, their efforts would have been appreciated. At this hour though, the sentiment was lost on people like me who really didn’t care about paying $499 for a Vera Wang wedding dress.

Of course, there was also the possibility that I was wrong. Maybe people weren’t as hyped up about weddings as the advertisements would have you believe and these poor girls were victims of a marketing tactic. Maybe for once people were starting to realize that it wasn’t worth it to get excited about a dress that spends most of its time in an attic. Maybe Filene’s Basement was trying to hold on to the last vestiges of an industry that is past its prime.

And then I saw a woman struggle out of a wedding dress in the middle of the aisle. She stood in her sports bra and panties waiting for a member of her entourage to return with another dress. The half empty dressing rooms were a mere 20 feet away, but this bride-to-be didn’t care about that. Nor did she mind the strange men looking at her while pretending to browse ties and polo shirts in the aisle over. She was on a mission to find the perfect wedding dress and nothing was going to crush her enthusiasm.

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About JadedBride

Amy Kraft is a print and radio journalist based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including Scientific American, Discover, Popular Science, The Week, Psychology Today, and Distillations, a podcast out of the Chemical Heritage Foundation. She is currently working on a book of humor essays. View all posts by JadedBride

One response to “All’s Quiet at Running of the Brides

  • Patricia

    Hi Amy – Thanks for blogging about the Running of the Brides at Filene’s Basement. I am the PR person for Filene’s Basement, and a big part of my job is promoting and publicizing the Running of the Brides. Yes, the morning is crazy, with brides trying on in the aisles and helpers carrying signs and trading dresses. Some people absolutely love this part of it. But it’s not everyone’s idea of fun and when that’s the case, I tell brides to arrive later in the day, when most of the gowns are back on the racks and she can go through them one by one, try on in privacy (or not), etc. What’s great about this event is that it’s organic–all the behavior–the running, the grabbing, the team uniforms, the signs, the trading, and the cheering–just evolved over time. The event was created by the brides and helpers themselves, not by some PR agency that concocted a clever PR stunt. In fact, more and more people tell us that this event is on their ‘bucket list.’ I spoke to at least two teams last week in Chicago, who didn’t find their bride’s dream dress, but they had a blast, and it was an experience they will remember fondly. I eloped and wore something out of my closet. I’m not exactly the ROTB customer myself. I personally hate all the contrived drama on those wedding TV shows. But I love seeing the teamwork, the bonding, and the joy on the brides face when she finds THE ONE.

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