I got married last year. I’ve never been one of those people who dreams of getting married and has a Monica Geller wedding binder stashed under the bed. But I love a party, and when the opportunity came up it seemed like a pretty good idea. So I did it – and I loved it. I loved it so much that not long after the wedding I started my own company and joined the wedding industry.
So that’s the back story. The fact is, the wedding industry can be a wonderful place. It’s packed full of amazingly creative people – many of them female entrepreneurs – who are working like troopers and creating truly gorgeous things. It’s not all like that, though. There is another side, a darker side where, unfortunately, our old foe lurks: misogyny.
I recently attended one of the UK’s largest wedding shows. It was great; I met dozens of wonderfully talented suppliers, and the air was electric with prosecco and anticipation as brides-to-be milled around with their mums and bridesmaids (other than exhibitors, there were virtually no men there). But I was heart-sinkingly disappointed to discover a large area of the vast exhibition hall that was dedicated to ‘beauty’. The stands were offering tooth whitening (which people were having done there and then), laser skin treatments, chemical peels and skinny-making ‘detox’ programmes.
Not only that, the event programme featured a double page spread sponsored by a Harley Street clinic, telling us which treatments we ‘had’ to have done, and when, in the 12 months leading up to a wedding. Now, I get it, it’s business. If I ran a Harley Street clinic, I’d be marketing my services too – after all, a girl’s gotta eat. But it is beyond depressing to see the wedding industry embracing – nay, promoting – this kind of message and these services as something inextricably linked to weddings.
It’s not just our looks that come under scrutiny – it’s our behaviour too. The tabloid press love weddings. They LOVE them. They publish wedding related stories on a daily basis. And the most common theme for these stories is the terrible behaviour of women. Mainly brides, but also bridesmaids, mothers-of-the-bride and mothers-in-law. Weddings give them free reign to criticise women. To expose us as silly, overly-emotional, mentally unstable creatures. In Victorian times, they said we were suffering from hysteria – now, they call us Bridezilla. After all, these articles imply, it’s just a party. What are you getting so worked up about? Calm down, dear is the ultimate message.
That’s just the tabloids though, I hear you say – that’s not the wedding industry. But the problem is these stories are popular, they’re guilty pleasures which get huge numbers of hits – so the mainstream wedding industry adopted the bridezilla narrative. Look at any of the leading wedding magazines or websites and there are quizzes asking ‘How Much of a Bridezilla Are You?’ and articles telling you how not to become the dreaded Bridezilla.
These articles do well too, so smaller publications – like blogs belonging to wedding venues or suppliers – write their own ‘funny’ posts about Bridezilla. And like this, the myth spreads and through sheer ubiquity the monster is made real. Suddenly, almost without us noticing, she’s everywhere.
This idea of Bridezilla has become so pervasive that as brides-to-be we’re actively having to avoid being tarred with the label, even by our nearest and dearest – even by ourselves. Get engaged, start planning a wedding and you’ll see she’s there, she’s on the tip of everyone’s tongue. She’s ready to pounce the minute you show any kind of passion or emotion or stress about this hugely personal – and expensive – event that you are expected to plan, despite never having planned anything bigger than a boozy Saturday night dinner party that was really just spag bol and cheap red wine.
I don’t want chair covers, you say. Or, I don’t really like buffets. Or, I want peonies in my bouquet. Here she comes. She’s edging closer. Everyone is thinking it. It’s only a matter of time before someone utters the B word.
Well, I call bullshit on Bridezilla. Let’s slay the monster and say it loud – she doesn’t exist. Do some people behave badly when they’re planning a wedding? Of course. Some brides do; some don’t. Some grooms do. Some parents do. Weddings are packed with emotion in a way that few other events are. They are important – and they can be stressful.
There is a name for people who sometimes behave less than perfectly when they are under pressure – it’s PEOPLE. That’s just what we do. It’s not unique to women, it doesn’t make us hysterical and it certainly doesn’t make us Bridezilla.
So what’s to be done? How can you avoid the misogynistic underbelly of the wedding industry? My first piece of advice is – share the load. A big part of the problem is that wedding planning is often another example of women being expected to spin infinite plates without complaint. We are expected to take the lead with wedding planning – magazines, wedding shows, wedding TV programmes are all aimed at a predominantly female market. And we’re expected to get thin, whiten our teeth and laser our skin at the same time. Without drama, without becoming the monster.
But most of the men I know, including my husband, want to be involved in planning their wedding. Involve them in the process and share the emotional stress with them. Get friends and family to help too. Tell them if you’re struggling. Admitting you’re finding it difficult or stressful does not make you Bridezilla. Remember – she doesn’t exist.
Secondly, and this is just good life advice – stop reading the tabloid press, particularly anything they write about women. Just stop. Don’t give them your money, or your web clicks. They are not serving you.
Thirdly, find the publications and suppliers who support and encourage you. The wedding industry is bursting with amazing businesses who never bride bash and are helping couples to create beautiful, modern weddings without the side order of misogyny. Read those blogs, attend the smaller, independent wedding fairs. If you need me to suggest any just tweet me @TheWeddingAList and I’ll point you in their direction.
Finally, and most importantly, have whatever kind of wedding you want. It’s your wedding so do it your way. Get the peonies. Cancel the chair covers. And if anyone calls you Bridezilla, just send them my way.