How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Embrace the Wedding Industrial Complex (With My Fist)

White Wedding (song)

White Wedding (song) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What’s that, you ask? Why yes, I am in fact planning a wedding! It’s on the 4th of July. I know! It’s only like two months away! No, sorry, you can’t come. Unless we invited you, of course, in which case have you sent back your RSVP yet? Well why the hell not? I’m trying to plan a fucking wedding here! I need numbers for the caterers! Jeez!

So anyway, I’m planning a wedding, which is really quite exciting because, holy crap, I’m getting married! To a really awesome guy who I love more than anything and who also makes the best nachos ever (and who found us a really great reception venue after I cancelled our first one without much warning), so I’ve totally scored! And I get to wear the most fabulous dress I’ve ever worn and we get to have a party with booze and music and Indian food! What’s not to like?

Well, the planning, mostly. And all the requisite bullshit that tries to interfere… just like your meddling-yet-well-meaning future mother in law! *zing!*

Let’s talk about the Wedding Industry, and how, pretty much from the moment we’re capable of semi-complex thought, we’re bombarded with images and ideas of what a wedding looks like, what it entails, all the specific little elements — all of them very necessary — that comprise the perfect wedding. And that’s the word most often bandied about on wedding-planning sites or in wedding vendor literature or, you know, in pretty much anything to do with weddings — perfect. It’s annoying. And daunting. And ridiculous. And all of it has become ‘tradition’. You must have the dress, the veil, the flowers, the cake, the centrepieces, the cute little wedding favors — you can’t possibly have the perfect wedding day without them. So thank god these wedding vendors are here to sell you those things.

But even if you decide that you’re not that fussed about perfection, even if you might actually want something a bit different that involves fewer fugly chair covers (can someone please ban those?) and more rocking out to a certain Billy Idol song, even if you think you’re cooler than all those Bridezillas on TV, the WIC can still creep up on you and infect your brain like some kind of zombiefied simile. What if you really do need a special silver cake stand for your wedding cake (and you are having cake, right)? Will your guests be scandalised if you wear a red dress instead of white? Will people think you’re cheap if you make your own invitations? Have you picked your colors?! IT’S YOUR WEDDING AND THIS SHIT IS IMPORTANT!

It’s not difficult to see how one might get just a teeny bit anxious and stressed out. (I mean, have you visited The Knot?) And so the foundation of freak-out is laid. But something even more sinister is embedded within, further muddying the waters of this terrible mixed metaphor…

There’s sexism in them thar hills. And I’m not even talking about the really obvious stuff like how marriages used to be (and in some cases still are) business arrangements and the women merely traded property, providing a cheery historical background story for many of our beloved wedding traditions. It’s more about how most of the planning (and pretty much anything else to do with weddings) is assumed to be The Bride’s territory, how that affects her (read: mega stress) and how she is viewed (by others as well as herself) because of it. The basic formula goes something like this:

Planning + WIC – outside help + stress ^10 + thinly-veiled misogyny = Bridezilla!

In the midst of wedding-related googling, I stumbled upon The Plunge, a wedding planning website for grooms, no doubt conceived of and written from within the comfy, bearskin-lined environs of the author’s man cave. The site hasn’t had any new content since around 2011, so it’s a bit of a relic in terms of both timeliness and gender stereotypes, but it’s also a perfect example of the common ‘game over’ idea of marriage. The hypothetical grooms seeking advice from The Plunge seem to have found themselves in the unenviable position of being engaged (most likely after having been given an ultimatum by a nagging harpy of a girlfriend), and they just want to know where to get a tux and how to successfully avoid doing anything else whilst their crazy, chiffon-and-organza-obsessed fiances do all the boring shit. Except for when she can’t be trusted to do it properly, in which case The Groom needs to step in. Oh, and he gets to plan the honeymoon, because that’s actually fun.

Though it does have a shockingly progressive view on women choosing not to take their husband’s names.

Perusing a site like this leaves one with a pretty sad mental picture — that of an anxious, stressed-out bride, trying to put together the ‘perfect wedding’ she’s been told she should have (and, of course, has been dreaming of) since she was a little girl, without any input or help from her future husband, so the pressure mounts and she freaks out a bit, thus earning the title of Bridezilla. She is essentially mocked for her interest in ‘girly’ wedding stuff and then mocked again for becoming a little un-hinged when the stress finally gets to her (because you refuse to help). Sounds win-win to me!

What we need to do — what I’ve tried to do as I plan my own wedding — is refuse to go along with this. Decide to have the wedding you (and your partner!) actually want, not the wedding someone is trying to sell you. Get rid of the stuff you think is bullshit and keep (or add!) the things that are important. Ditch the stereotypes! And plan it together — this is, after all, for the both of you.

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