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When I got engaged a year ago, I told my then boyfriend, that I wanted our wedding to be as hands-off as possible. I didn’t want to get bogged down by the details no one would remember. I didn’t want to spend excessively on flowers. I didn’t want to bend to the demands of family members. We were going to have a “cool” wedding and I was going to be the “cool” bride who didn’t care about the things that I thought didn’t matter.
Now that I’m freshly married, I can say that I broke almost all of these resolutions. Weddings are special and beautiful, but I’ve learned, they’re also pretty basic. They are the pumpkin spice lattes of celebrations: full of stereotypes and clichés, no matter how much you try to make them unique. And, I’ve learned, that’s okay.
I’m Sherrill Sutherland, a content editor in the Opinion section at The Globe. At the end of January, I hopped on a plane and headed to Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, to get married. Many thoughts were spinning through my mind: Will the cactus salads I chose as our dinner starter be too “adventurous” for some of the guests? Will the white flower centrepieces be fancy enough? Did I do the right mathematical calculations to make a perfectly harmonized seating plan? What if my wedding dress in that airplane overhead bin gets sucked out and destroyed leaving me with nothing to wear on the big day?
And, the biggest one: How did I become this person? This person who worries about minor details and impossible nightmare situations? It turns out (surprise!) that planning a wedding can bring out anxieties you never thought you had.
Writer and comedian Laura Willcox documents this descent in a piece for Refinery29: “The list of relatively unimportant decisions was seemingly endless … and I was totally overwhelmed. I wasn’t born a bridezilla, but I was becoming one.”
The wedding industry can easily turn anyone into a bridezilla. In the past 40 years, weddings have grown both in extravagance and in cost (the average Canadian wedding can run you $30,000-$50,000, according to various websites – depending on where you look). And saying “I do” has become a type of “performance art,” as Megan Garber explains in her 2017 Atlantic piece. She writes that this can all be traced back to one book from 1987: Martha Stewart Wedding. Profiling more than 40 celebrations, it created the blueprint for what a wedding should be; the flowers, the decor, the table settings, all the details that Stewart is famous for. As Garber notes, Stewart “understood that weddings were marketable specifically because they were meaningful.”
Over 30 years later, add in reality TV shows (Say Yes to the Dress, anyone?), celebrity nuptials and, of course, social media. These all fuel the wedding industry frenzy.
The performance aspect is especially true online. According to The Knot, from the moment a bride gets engaged, her social media posts and usage increase. The survey showed that 70 per cent of brides used social media to plan their wedding, with Pinterest being an overwhelming favourite.
Overwhelmingly, the bride is the one who feels the wedding planning pressure. Marriage, as a 2014 article points out, “is still a sign of validation for women, just as it has been for generations before.” In that same article, Emily Fairchild, an associate professor of sociology, states that "by having a wedding, you prove your worthiness, your womanness, in a way that a man doesn’t need to. A man can be a man by having a job, in ways that aren’t tied to his family.”
This isn’t to say that men aren’t involved, and in fact the term groomzilla is becoming more common. But, anecdotally I’ve spoken to a number of women who wished their partners had offered more than a “whatever you want” answer when they were planning their own weddings.
As for me, I got sucked in. Yes, I too joined Pinterest. I also started following dozens of bridal boutiques on Instagram even after I bought my dress; I stressed about making the wedding day perfect for all ages; and maybe I did need that unique, handmade silk flower hair piece that cost $500?
But I stopped myself. I didn’t buy that hair piece and I really started thinking about what was important: my husband, and having our friends and family stand witness to our commitment to each other.
I embraced the basicness, and realized I didn’t need to spend a fortune on the details to make my day stand apart from any other bride’s. I stopped stressing about those the little things I knew everyone including myself would forget.
When my dad not-so-subtly started sending me YouTube videos of father-daughter choreographed dances, I got the hint and I made up a choreographed dance. And my DJ list had some of these “annoying songs you shouldn’t play at your wedding,” but the guests had a blast and still danced the night away.
A recent New York Times piece shared some tips and tricks from former brides and grooms. “All the wrong things make the best stories” and “if it’s fine, it’s good enough” were two of my favourites. Being more than a month removed, I couldn’t agree more. Sure, there was an unfortunate red wine spill on my wedding dress. Sure, my sister fainted because we spent too much time taking photos in the hot sun. But these are the things that will make strong unforgettable memories (and don’t worry, my sister is okay and had a great time after recovering). The decorations were minimal and I didn’t spend $10,000 on flowers. It was fine – and good enough. I had my amazing husband and 43 of my closest people with me and I couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day.
What else we’re reading:
I recently read, Queen Bey, a collection of essays edited by Veronica Chambers, which came out this week. The book calls itself a celebration of the power and creativity of Beyoncé Knowles-Carter. I am a big fan of Beyoncé, and I found the essays both personal and powerful. They touch on her career from the very beginning: from Girls Tyme, to Destiny’s Child, to her work on Lemonade and, of course, Coachaella, a.k.a. Beychella. I particularly liked Carmen Perez’s essay on Beyoncé’s “radical ways” which goes into the star’s brand of feminism and how she has brought her activism to the mainstream and to people who are not engaged “in conversation on feminist theory.” Authors in the book also explore her importance as a black female superstar and what impact she is having on our culture at this moment in time.
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