In Family and Other Catastrophes, I featured wedding stress heavily, partially based on my own experiences. The protagonist, a young bride-to-be named Emily, has her hair destroyed in a salon visit gone awry (this happened to me), argues with her mother about spinach pies, and discovers that her four-year-old nephew (largely driven by his mother) has decided last minute that he wants to be the “flowerperson,” as opposed to the ring bearer.
Ask any engaged woman what type of wedding pressure she feels, and she will cite nagging advice that sounds like it came from a dogeared wedding magazine from 1955. She will say she is tired of the pressure to have the perfect day, tired of worrying about whether the centerpieces will be just-so, and tired of all this bogus wedding planning when really what should matter is that she’s marrying the love of her life, and why can’t she just elope?!
Well, she could elope, because she’s an adult, but that aside, something about this complaint feels a bit…humblebraggy…to me. I can’t help but feel it’s an opportunity to show just how non-materialistic and enlightened the woman in question is. And, dare I say, there’s a whole other societal pressure that encourages her to behave this way, which nobody feels like mentioning.
“Sure, some women might want to wear a nice dress and take photographs next to an arch of roses,” she says, her face coated in no-makeup makeup, “but I’m a real girl and I just want to watch TV and eat pizza and who cares about weddings!” Well, lady, I’ve got great news for you: you don’t have to do any of that! You can eat pizza! Nobody is stopping you! The idea that women are being forced to have lavish weddings (which really, they couldn’t care less about) is just another trope that feeds into our unnecessary hatred of women who are actually excited to plan their weddings. The women with the decked-out Pinterest boards before they even met their future husband. The women who gleefully look forward to their first dress fitting. The women who get mildly sexually aroused looking at color palettes. You know, women like me. (Just kidding- I refused to plan anything until my husband had proposed, but that was a wedding-obsessed superstition, which I’m sure these brides would also look down upon.)
Go to any Reddit thread that asks women about their weddings, and the top-voted comment will read something like, “My husband and I didn’t even have a wedding. We eloped in our sweatpants and then got Taco Bell and watched Rick & Morty.” Everyone will applaud this woman for denouncing weddings, and she will probably receive an inbox full of Imgur links. (For you non-Redditors out there who need it spelled out: they’re penises.)
Right now you’re probably thinking “Well, what’s wrong with not liking weddings? This is the judgment they’re complaining about!” And to you I say: that’s totally fine if they don’t like weddings. If staying in and watching Doug reruns in a pair of ugly Christmas sweaters is what a couple really wants to do to celebrate their matrimony, that’s fine. All the more power to them. But let’s at least admit that there is societal pressure on women, now more than ever, to not give a shit about weddings.
God forbid you admit you tried to lose weight to fit into your dress, especially if you were already thin. God forbid you admit you’re terrified that your skin will look like an old orange peel in all the close-up photos (just me? lol ok.) God forbid you ask for a gluten free wedding cake (I got married in 2014 okay? IT WAS A THING. Also, the cake was amazing.) Sure, you’ll have a few delusional acquaintances tell you “You can’t really find a good wedding dress for under $8,000” (actually something someone said to me) but the majority of people will shame you for caring at all, or for getting your wedding dress from anything other than your little cousin’s discarded white bedsheet (how whimsical! Look how little she cares!)
You know the “I’m not like other girls” meme that we’ve all grown to hate? Well, for some reason it’s still allowed when it comes to weddings.
This obviously stems from the fact that every bride-to-be is afraid of being branded a “bridezilla.” I’m usually pretty critical of myself (mostly my nose, which is another topic entirely) but I really don’t believe my behavior during my ten months of engagement qualified as bridezilla behavior. There’s a difference between being excited about your wedding–or even caring a little too much–and screaming at your wheelchair-bound mother-in-law for wearing the wrong shade of seafoam. Sure, I was in tears on the eve of my wedding when I discovered a “severe weather alert” was scheduled for my big day, but come on! Am I not allowed to care that a literal blackout might happen on the day of my wedding, forcing guests to shit in the woods? (I’m not joking when I say we actually researched porta-potty options “just in case.” As it turns out, the storm passed us, but my point remains.)
I even found myself settling into the comfortable “I’m a cool bride” mantra during my wedding planning. I would hear stories about brides forcing their bridesmaids to pay $700 for a dress, or worse–purposefully putting them in something ugly, to not be upstaged. It was easy to listen to those stories and tell myself that I was morally superior because my bridesmaid dresses were from Etsy and cost $80 (see? Look how cool and down to earth I am!) But at the end of the day, I’m also the person who called my wedding photographer ahead of time to warn him about my severe under eye circles.
At the end of the day, weddings are stressful–but it’s not really because the wrong centerpiece is going to ruin your entire life, it’s because marrying the love of your life is a big deal. And if you signify this big deal with your idea of a perfect wedding, that wedding is a big deal, and that doesn’t detract from how much you love your spouse. Not to mention that this is probably the only time, other than your funeral, that all your loved ones will be in one place. How can we honestly vilify someone for caring about that?
So if any brides-to-be are reading this: have the wedding you want to have. If that means it’s an affair befitting of the Kardashians, go for it. If that means renting out the back room of an artisanal brewpub, go for it. Don’t let your second cousin from East Hampton convince you that you’re less than her because you can’t afford a Vera Wang dress–but also don’t let your NPR-listening old college roommate tell you that you must not really love your spouse if you want a grain-free option at the buffet so you don’t bloat.
And speaking of bloating, drink a homemade smoothie with mint, pineapple and ginger on the morning of your wedding–you’ll thank me later.