You know, every twice in a while it’s a good thing to dust off the cultural assumptions, take a long, hard look at them, and then have a good laugh. I do this pretty much every sunday afternoon/evening while sitting down with WETV’s WE Go Bridal Sunday.
Why do I subject myself to so many hours of Bridezillas, Platinum Weddings, My Fair Wedding (though in truth I find it extremely difficult to stomach much of that one), and all the rest? Because they are rich in the unspoken mythos of weddings and marriage.
So what are some of the top wedding/marriage myths dished out? What’s the reality behind them? Take a look beyond the cut to see.
1: All brides become completely insane. In fact, that’s the entire point of Bridezillas, but it’s also lurking in the background of many other reality shows about weddings. This buys completely into the outdated cultural script that all women are basically irrational creatures, but takes it to eleven. This pernicious concept means that a) nobody has to listen to a bride because she is acting from a place of deep insanity anyway, and b) however she behaves during the wedding process can be safely ignored since she’ll be a completely different person once the processional music begins.
The truth is that while planning a wedding can be stressful, it’s not usually enough to turn an otherwise rational person into a raving lunatic. It’s mostly a party. True, that party has huge emotional and legal consequences, and comes with more cultural baggage than most, but it’s far from impossible to stay sane while planning it. Besides, how a woman acts while getting married is generally more or less how she acts the rest of the time. If she’s generally rational, she’ll be rational in planning her wedding. If she’s thoughtful of others most of the time, chances are she’ll be concerned with the comfort of her guests and wedding party while getting married. By the same token, if she behaves horribly toward people while getting married, chances are she never was a particularly nice person to being with.
Who you see is probably who you’re getting. Who you are is who you are. A wedding may exaggerate, but doesn’t create a personality.
2: Money = Taste. It’s most explicitly stated in Platinum Weddings and My Fair Wedding, but it’s hiding in the background of nearly every wedding reality show produced. Bride after bride bemoans her tiny budget because she wants a ‘nice wedding.’ Low budgets are sniggered at. David Tutera swoops in and announces that his design is far better because he has good taste…and entirely sweeps under the rug how much more money his design cost than the bride could originally have budgeted.
The reality is that the things that matter most about having a good wedding aren’t necessarily about money. Thoughtfulness, consideration, good will…these cost nothing at all. A bit of imagination and native good taste can make a tiny budget more than enough. And just because you spent a hundred thousand dollars doesn’t mean it isn’t tacky. Taste is taste. Budget is budget. Don’t confuse the two.
3: Budgets are made to be broken. No matter how big the original budget, there’s almost always a scene in every bridal reality show where the bride goes ridiculously over budget because she wants a ‘nice’ or a ‘pretty’ wedding or because someone else had some extravagant detail that she’s decided is necessary to her happiness. In the end, it’s always just fine to have gone five, ten, even fifty thousand dollars over the budget, because no price is too great for a ‘nice’ wedding.
In truth, starting married life with a huge debt you don’t know how you’re going to pay off is a terrible way to begin. Assuming there will always be more money pouring in from someone or somewhere else magically is not a mature way of approaching any budget.
The fact is, you can get married for the price of a marriage license and an officiant’s fee. If you have more money to work with, that’s great. Have fun with it. Just remember it doesn’t grow on trees.
4: No woman is capable of planning her own wedding by herself. She may run a multinational corporation by day, create gourmet meals for one hundred by night, and build Habitat for Humanity houses by herself on the weekends, but when it comes to weddings just look how adorably befuddled she suddenly becomes! Weddings are just too complex for a bride to wrap her head around. Don’t think about planning a wedding without an army of planners, designers, and professionals…all of whom are worth whatever they cost no matter how little they do and none of whom are actually required to listen to that irrational, incompetent bride person over there drooling in the corner.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t think planning a party is exactly rocket science. It’s a party. Yes, there are logistics to be handled and work to be organized. Yes, a great many brides find professional planning helpful, and more power to them. But if you do hire a planner, that planner had darn well better be willing to pay attention to your needs and desires. And if you don’t hire a planner, chances are you’ll do just fine by yourself. Women have been throwing weddings with just the help of their families for centuries.
After all, as I said before, it’s hardly rocket science.
5: DIY is always doomed. It feeds into the irrational idiot bride myth to assume that she can’t make her own gown, bouquets, aisle runners, ring bearer pillows, invitations, or favors. When a woman starts to do something on her own, the goofy music of undoubted failure begins, the planner screws up his/her face in horror, and the voiceover artist chuckles indulgently. After all, we know this is bound to end in disaster.
Of course not every bride is a DIY diva, nor does she need to be one. Nevertheless many a bride manages many a project without any difficulty. It’s mostly a matter of knowing what you are and aren’t good at, and keeping time well in mind. If you’re going to self-cater, for instance, rely on things that can be made well in advance instead of trying to do all the cooking in the one hour you’ve got before your hair and makeup appointment.
Bridal reality shows gain viewers by reinforcing what ‘everybody knows’ about weddings. The thing is, sometimes what ‘everybody knows’ is wrong. Be aware of what’s propaganda.