So I have hobbies and interests. Some are mainstream, like art and music, some are a little esoteric (I’m a medieval reenactor, and I cosplay steampunk). And some… well, I don’t like using the term ‘shameful secret’ because I’m not ashamed, but it’s certainly not something I put out in ‘about me’ profiles.
You see, I have a deep and abiding love of all things… wedding.
Now, to clarify… I’m not married. I’m not getting married (probably never?). I’m not engaged. I’m not even dating (my last boyfriend was in 2009, last actual date from early in that relationship, even). And I know that wedding =/= marriage. Even still.
Weddings fascinate me. I love the frippery, the personalization, the celebration of love that’s involved. That said, there are some things about wedding advertising, absurdity and targeted promotion from the Wedding Industrial Complex that baffle and irritate me.
Wedding advertising is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious. Beatific brides in flowing white gowns grace page upon page of magazines, websites and reality television, giggling and bounding through whatever inappropriate (or unlikely) situation seems to befall bridal advertising. It seems that so many brides tend to find themselves fully gowned, coifed and primped while up on ladders, changing light bulbs, in dusty old barns (not the lovely converted or cleaned & decorated ones in which they might actually marry, but decrepit, manky old run down wrecks), or leaning on walls (so much leaning). Brides and their bridesmaids are always smiling, laughing, with someone glancing come-hither at the audience. Roving packs of brides cluster together in empty houses, looking somewhere between lost and wistful.
Real Life Wedding headlines like ‘Barefooted Boho Bride Bonds with Bowtied Beau in Barn’ implore us with their alliteration to find the beauty, the novelty and the interest in someone else’s idea of perfection. And so many websites, interest boards and planning tools all too lovingly oblige us in our quest for mental and emotional recreation and gratification.
When it comes to dresses, modern wedding dress (and bridesmaid dress) shopping has become a circus of appalling proportions. And I do mean circus. If you are any kind of curvy and wear anything over a size 8 street size, you’re treated like a side show. Mocked, belittled, treated poorly, and generally made to feel like you belong in a giant tent. This, thankfully, isn’t standard in ALL shops (some of them work hard for all women), but there are websites and message boards dedicated to horror stories, better business bureau entries and urban myths that speak to the horrifying experiences that curvy and larger sized women have had in bridal shops. The utter humiliation that comes of being told your size is not your size, having monikers attached to you like ‘plus size’ (I’m not plus-sized, I’m just sized thank you very much), being treated as less than other women whose genetics happen to have gifted them with thinner (or taller) body types. You’ve never known humiliation or anger until some chirpy, oblivious (or malicious) salesperson asks you how much weight you intend to lose before someone agrees to marry you. Or tries to sell you on some sort of ‘bridal booty bootcamp’ exercise plan, because obviously you don’t want to try and squeeze your fat ass into a dress that’s sized in such a way that your street size number is actually 2 sizes smaller in Wedding World. So if you aren’t forewarned and you ask for your size, you receive a dress that makes you feel like you’ll never fit anything. And then the selection for women over a certain size is smaller and usually populated with the Dresses That Time Forgot. As women in general, we’re supposed to want to ‘earn our white gown’ (more on that momentarily) while dieting to suit the ‘bridal silhouette’ and fit into a dress that makes us look naked but for some feathers and spangles, that will make everyone gasp and maybe make our partner cry when s/he sees us approaching. That’s a lot of weight to put on a dress.
On the topic of the white dress specifically, this is one idea that puts my hackles up the most. So many brides on a certain southern-flavored dress show spout the words ‘I’ve earned my white dress!’ (Or worse, one of her parents will). Now, I’m all for making your own choices in terms of sexual partners and activities (or lack thereof). I support waiting until you’re absolutely ready AND understand there why’s, the wherefore’s, the how’s and (very importantly) knowing the who’s better than, say, a teenager might know a chosen partner. Do it for more reasons than ‘my hormones said so’. But I also believe you should do it for more reasons than ‘I’m married now.’ because that road leads to disappointment (and possible abuse, also creepy and inappropriate topics). Historically, the white wedding dress, despite popular belief, does NOT denote a virgin bride. Up until Queen Victoria, a girl would marry in her best dress (and the middle and lower classes after Victoria would still do so). It wasn’t until Victoria decided she wanted a white dress to go with some special lace she’d received that a mimicry trend began. And even then, she didn’t do it BECAUSE she wanted to state she was virginal. (She was virginal at her wedding because it was her duty as royalty to produce heirs with a royal spouse that had no hint of illegitimacy, but that’s beside the point).
Television tells us brides have to be either rapturously ecstatic, shyly happy or full-on guano crazy. We’re meant to envy those women, to root for the hard luck cases, to wonder what the hell about the crazy ones and to maybe feel hope for ourselves with those ‘At Last’ stories. Magazines tell us we’re meant to have voluminous white gowns, giant diamond rings, exotic honeymoon plans and no other thought in your head except your checklist (which begins a year and a half before your wedding, because everyone has a long engagement and time to plan, right?)
We’re meant to remain cool and not be a ‘bridezilla’ (but if you are you’d better go full-bore, cake smashingly, dress tearingly, groom haranguingly crazy) all while planning every single tiny detail without assistance (because it’s YOUR special day, not yours and your partner’s, JUST YOU), multi-task, never complain and craft a specific and beautiful event without actually looking like you planned it that evokes a combination of byte-worthy words: bespoke! DIY! Rustic! Romantic! Upscale!
And when it comes down to it, it’s all just words. Everything you’re told as a girl from the time you can understand speech is that you’re a girl, you get married in a big white dress, with a ring that cost your husband 2 months’ salary, you want a big party that looks just so and you have to Fit The Mold.
Break the mold. Defy conventions Be yourself. Get married or don’t. Wear jeans. Wear a bikini. Wear a suit. Go naked (even if you’re not Betazoid, I don’t judge). Just be yourself. Do what you want with your life and don’t let any part of society tell you you HAVE to look/act/be a certain way, in any aspect of your life. You are a unique creation.
Now excuse me while I go bury myself in a Martha Stewart Weddings mag. Oooh, shiny!