’Tis the season, ladies! Chances are good that you will be attending/participating in one or more nuptial celebrations in the coming weeks. In honour of this fact, we here at SCREAMING IN ALL CAPS are devoting a series of Concessions to the Patriarchy to all manner of wedding-related acquiescences. It’s our version of TLC’s Bride Day, if you will. This is the second instalment. Read the first here.
Concessions to the Patriarchy is a regular feature about the battles, big and small, we women choose not to fight.
So, you’ve decided to get married and you’ve decided, for better or worse (WEDDING PUN), that you’re going to have a wedding to celebrate that fact.
Now it’s time to start planning YOUR BIG DAY! Nay, THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE!
Basically, you, girlfriend, get to spend a year (or more) planning a wildly expensive party that REFLECTS YOUR TASTE/SOCIAL STATUS/YOU AS A PERSON, so it better be perfect, lest you be judged by everyone you’ve ever met and maybe even by people you’ve never met.
And you better look tight and toned in that pricey strapless (ALWAYS STRAPLESS) virgin costume of yours, pal. Brace yourself for months of unsolicited dieting advice, regardless of your size.
During your planning — which will suck all your time, energy and money — it’s important to be decisive (remember: it’s YOUR DAY) but not too decisive because then you’ll be a Bridezilla, and no one likes a bitchy, entitled bride (real or perceived). Your job is to be a bastion of taste, grace, beauty, humility and purity (real or perceived). YOU ARE A BRIDE NOW.
DOESN’T THAT SOUND LIKE FUN?
Now, let me be clear: I know not all weddings are the worst because I’ve been to several that have been just delightful. In fact, I’ve put off writing this piece for a long time because I seem to be all YAY MATRIMONY! at the moment.
I was recently at some wonderful nuptials in Heaven — aka Minaki, Ontario (congrats again, C & R!) — and I have another one coming up in a few weeks that I’m extremely excited about (shout-out to SIAC’s most faithful reader/my so-organized-she-could-run-a-country BFF, CT).
It’s pretty hard to rag on a bash that celebrates people I love AND serves booze AND gives me an excuse to wear fancy clothes. I love a good wedding. I WILL PROBABLY EVEN HAVE ONE. This is one feminist who will have her wedding cake and eat it, too, while recognizing her choices don’t exist in a vacuum and that sometimes feminists make un-feminist choices!
Besides, I think we can all safely agree that weddings — no matter how lovely, how personal and how perfect they are — come with varying degrees of sexist bullshit (see examples above) that require some steely resolve to wade through.
Wedding traditions come with plenty o’ baggage we will unpack in future installments (see: wearing white, changing your name, being given away, etc.) and, much like getting married itself, having a wedding is a concession to the patriarchy because it’s less of a choice and more of a societal expectation for women, something all women MUST aspire to.
It’s also an increasingly lofty/expensive expectation to live up to. THANKS REALITY TV / PINTEREST!
Just as all little girls apparently grow up wanting to be princesses, all little girls apparently grow up wanting to be brides — I guess because being a bride is the closest they’ll come to being a princess (unless, of course, their name is Kate Middleton).
“I’ve been planning this day since I was four,” says every rom-com leading lady ever. (UM. NO YOU HAVEN’T. Four year olds don’t plan anything. You know what I was into when I was four? Unicorns and books on tape.)
ANYWAY, the whole cultural narrative of THIS IS THE BIGGEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE has put a tremendous amount of pressure on our brides-to-be. We have reality shows — COMPETITION reality shows*, no less — about weddings. Who can throw the best wedding? And, more importantly, who is a tasteless, tacky bitch? Let’s all gather ’round and rip into Bride No. 3’s spectacularly fugs dress!**
And then we have a festering underbelly of nuptial-based reality TV populated by garbage-monster shows with names such as Bridalplasty, Bulging Brides and, OMG I CAN’T, Shedding for the Wedding. Because, you know, the dude you’re marrying couldn’t possibly love you the way you are. You need to lose weight and/or have PLASTIC SURGERY for your BIG DAY.
It’s not just TV sending the message that you’re not good enough to be a bride. Every year, the Winnipeg Convention Centre plays host to The Wonderful Wedding Show, which, if you’ve never been, is essentially a sparkly post-apocalyptic wasteland of chair covers and centerpieces in which a gaggle of glassy-eyed, overwhelmed-with-choice women stumble around seemingly mumbling in code: “June 10, 2017” “September 17, 2016” “July 18, 2015.”
At this year’s, amid the planners and decorators, were booths for plastic surgeons and weight loss companies. After silently screaming “FUCK THIS, I’M OUT,” I mostly just felt sad.
While I definitely don’t subscribe to the belief that a woman’s wedding day is the most important day in her life, I do think that it’s supposed to be a special day — or, at the very least, a fun, happy day.
Not a day for which women pay millions of dollars every year to feel like shit about themselves. (Some stats: the U.S. wedding industry is a $40-billion empire; Canada’s is $4 billion.)
At this point, I’ll acknowledge that the groom also gets into massive debt having a wedding, too (see: the expectation of presenting his bride-to-be with a massive rock because DIAMONDS ARE STILL A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND/FOREVER).
Still, from my armchair perspective, a lion’s share of the planning — and all of the pressure — falls on the bride’s shoulders (and that’s not always by choice, p.s. Not all women live for this shit, contrary to pop culture). It’s never really billed as THEIR or OUR big day, is it? (And as an aside, it seems like bridesmaids also get the short end of the stick when compared to groomsmen, whose roles basically consist of (a) show up; and (b) don’t get too drunk. MUST BE NICE.)
Still, just because you’re making a concession to the patriarchy by having a wedding doesn’t mean your wedding needs to make concessions to the $40 billion industry that essentially invented both the concepts of ‘Bridezilla’ and ‘back cleavage.’ Don’t want to spend a trillion dollars on a cake? Don’t. Don’t want to shed before you wed? Don’t.
After all, it’s your big day, right?
*Allow me to step off my soapbox for a sec and fully admit that I totally watch these shows but I AM FILLED WITH SHAME AND GUILT THE WHOLE TIME.
** All brides are beautiful.