I can’t believe she wore white!

The one industry that has not experienced a severe economic downturn since Sept. 11 is the bridal industry. Brides and grooms all over the nation felt the same feeling that life could end tomorrow, so they decided to tie the knot. As an aside, I’d really be interested in tracking divorce rates from these weddings (fatalistic feelings do not a solid relationship make).

The Portland Bridal Show was this weekend. I went because I am someone’s maid of honor (and I am trying to get fired). I don’t know what my purpose as an attendee was. I’m not in charge of anything but a bridal shower and the bachelorette party. I don’t even get to choose my dress.

I was there anyway, but I wasn’t that excited about it. In fact, I brought along my buddy Jim Beam, just to help out. It’s not like you can go to a bridal show sober and expect to come out with your senses intact.

I walked in the door and it looked as though someone had vomited thousands of balloons, wedding photos, silk flowers and white tuille. Some DJ booth blared “Macarena,” apparently a wedding reception standard. There were brides of all shapes and sizes and ages, all whipped into wedding frenzy. I came to the awful conclusion that I wasn’t nearly as drunk as I needed to be.

Right away the bride and groom I was accompanying got down to business. I don’t know how any business could be transacted in that crush of lace and hyper brides. They appeared to get tense with one another as they discussed the details of tuxedo rental. In my diminished state, and out of enlightened self-interest, I decided to get the hell away from them if they were going to argue about stuff.

This was a bad move. You see, every vendor there took on the role of a street hustler, only their wares usually cost no less than $500 and had lots of nonrefundable deposits. They pushed glossy brochures under my nose and made me sign up for raffles. I am sure it’s just a way to get mailing addresses out of people, so they can fill our mailboxes with crap about limo services.

I signed up for several of those raffles. I was powerless to stop them. I was afraid they’d smell Jim Beam’s cologne on me and have security manhandle me for being drunk in public. I’ve already won a free tuxedo rental, but what I really want is the $18,000 Dream Wedding. I know I’m not getting married on or before Nov. 6, but it would be really cool to win.

I wandered in and out of the aisles, becoming quickly immune to the tacky horror that is floral preservation. I cannot imagine Martha Stewart hanging an enormous glass-enclosed glob of dead flowers over the fireplace in Turkey Hill.

Speaking of Martha Stewart, you can get lots of free food samples at bridal shows. Caterers bring their best and bakers lay out their tastiest recipes. You can taste everything from raspberry layer cake to a frozen drink extruded from a machine that purports to be “strawberry margaritas,” but my seasoned palate told me that there was no tequila in those margaritas. It was definitely white wine.

I didn’t sample any of the food. I’m deeply suspicious of cuisine that’s been out in the open for four hours without refrigeration. I’m also convinced that no one is as vigilant at washing their hands after they go to the bathroom as I am. Dirty fingers touching food – that will not touch my mouth!

There are other kinds of free samples. I got bubbles, which I now entertain myself with in the kitchen. J.C. Penney gave out free eyeglass cases, oddly enough, I also got a regional bridal guide, which made me really popular.

Bride: Where did you get that?!

Maid of Honor (me): At some booth.

Bride: What? I had to pay 10 dollars for that book and you got it for free? You’re not even getting married!

Should I tell her about the free tuxedo rental I won?