How-To Not Be a B-Word

The “b”-word is everywhere these days, screaming at you from magazine article headlines, coloring the annoyingly uncreative names of reality shows, being bandied about by everyone and their mothers as the perfect expression to describe a particular subset of women and I HATE it.

No, no, no, not “bitch.” “Bitch” is a great word, in my opinion; it is strong, it is forceful, it rolls off the tongue beautifully. No, the word I speak of is “Bridezilla.” I hate that the world has decided to embrace this word and the behaviors it suggests, but what I hate most of all is how fitting it is in many, many cases. There is an assumption that many women make around their weddings that it is their one perfect-special-awesome-all-about-me day and the people around her better step in line and pony up. Parents must be willing to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for everything from dresses and veils to passed canapes; friends must attend multiple bridal showers, destination bachelorette weekends, and future partners must bow to the every whim of the bride because it is HER DAY. Yeah. No. Quit it.

We’ve discussed the fact that weddings are high-stress events, no matter how big or small. When taking on the large volume of tasks that the planning requires, there are going to be moments where you may just lose it. This is to be expected and few people will hold a grudge if you have a moment of rage, terseness, or over-sensitivity. Those who love you will probably even allow you multiple moments. These are not the things that a Bridezilla make, in my opinion. What I want to address are the completely irrational, unreasonable and oftentimes downright rude and hostile behaviors of brides towards their loved ones, their vendors, and humankind as a whole. The world does not owe brides anything. People do not have to fall in line and obey because a bride requests it. I’d like to examine some specific areas that the bridal-industrial complex conditions women to expect and what we can do to be mindful of them either when planning our own events or dealing with others planning theirs.

Money

I’m not exactly sure when it became reasonable to people to think $20,000 (on the low end) was an average and acceptable amount to spend on a wedding, but it never ceases to amaze me. Look, if one comes from a wealthy family and their parents want to go all out throwing a huge wedding where they invite a ton of their friends, more power to them. I still think that kind of money could be spent in much better ways for a couple starting their lives together, but if you’ve got it, I say go for it. Where I have a problem (and become way too judgey for my own good) is when parents take out huge loans or max out credit cards to fund the weddings of their children. I have a friend who threw a giant wedding that her parents took out a second mortgage to pay for. Three years later, she was divorced. Can you imagine how it must have felt to write the check every month, paying off a wedding for years after it was over? I know another young woman (not a friend, as you will soon see that she is despicable and vile) who opened credit cards with her mom’s information and ran up over $15k in charges while she planned her wedding before her mom – who was dying of cancer at the time and a little preoccupied – figured out what was going on. While this is an extreme example of wedding craziness, the first example is pretty common. Women are conditioned from a early age that weddings are synonymous with excess. They have to have the perfect place, the perfect flowers, the perfect food, the perfect band, the perfect, perfect, perfect everything, no matter the cost. Father of the Bride with Steve Martin and Diane Keaton was on TV a few weeks ago and I remembered it being a cute movie, so I sat down to watch. What I saw was appalling. Steve Martin’s character is aghast at the mounting expenses of his daughter’s wedding but all the other characters treat him like he’s the one with the problem because he doesn’t realize that one can’t put a price on making his daughter’s day perfect.

My advice: think long and hard about what is really important to you about your wedding. I’m not advocating denying oneself all their girlhood wedding dreams for the sake of practicality; what I will press for is being reasonable. Does anyone remember when Sookie was planning her small wedding to Jackson on Gilmore Girls? They had decided on a modest celebration, but then Emily Gilmore got involved and before she knew it, Sookie was ordering tulips straight from Denmark and having little people dressed as cherubs, among other outlandish ideas? Lorelei had to smack her down and bring her back to reality, back to her original vision and, more importantly, her original budget. It is so easy to keep piling on the extras, to envision the spectacle that can be created, to get as close to princess perfection as possible, but all the extras come at a cost, and usually that cost is steep. I suggest finding yourself the Lorelei in your life, the person you can count on to tell you if you start to drift, or you can offer to be the Lorelei for someone you know. Everyone should have a Gilmore girl facsimile in their life.

Family and Friends

One reason it is easy to get carried away in the madness of wedding planning is that other people have been conditioned to bow to the will of the bride by society, too. They seem to have accepted that unreasonable requests are par for the course and adjust accordingly, at least outwardly. Outwardly is the key here; how many friends have you listened to seethe about incredibly expensive bridesmaids gowns or the cost of airfare for destination parties? This is a touchy area I am treading here, and I don’t want to offend anyone, but I think often people are so excited for themselves that they forget that others aren’t in the same head space. Of course people are happy that their friends are getting married and they want to be as big a part of the celebration as they can. However, in these truly shitty economic times, people more often than not don’t have the ability to spend what little disposable income they have on another person’s wedding. Destination weddings are beautiful, destination bachelorette parties can be fantastic and fun-filled. However, if one chooses to opt for these options, they have to realize that their friends may not be willing or able to spend their money and vacation time on them. If one’s group of friends is lucky enough to be able to afford such trips, go for it, but be mindful of those who may be unable to attend and lay off the guilt trips. Giving people advanced notice isn’t a cure-all, either. It is hard for many brides to accept that everyone doesn’t want to fly to Hawaii for their wedding, but they have to be willing to own their choices and others. If one chooses events or items that are a stretch for people’s wallets, the bride needs to be open to people needing to opt out. This is something I see often, where a bride will take it incredibly personally if a close friend isn’t willing to go into serious debt to be a part of their day, but isn’t it better for everyone if there is openness and honesty from the get-go, as opposed to festering resenting that can poison even the dearest of friendships?

At the end of the day, don’t forget an incredibly important yet all too often dismissed emotion: empathy. Try to see the other person’s position, take yourself out of the bride mind-set and into the place of an outsider to the relationship. Rarely are decisions made easily in cases like these, so being able to empathize with the other person’s situation will be incredibly helpful in maintaining relationships that were around long before the wedding and will hopefully last long into the marriage.

Your Partner

Always remember – your wedding is one day; your marriage is the part that lasts. Don’t get so wrapped up in the party that you neglect or alienate the person you are choosing to share your life with. It is often the case that the bride is more into the planning and more into the details; that doesn’t mean that your partner wouldn’t want to be included in certain aspects and it definitely doesn’t mean that their own ideas and desires should be ignored for the sake of the bride’s “vision.” My mom gave me a talking to once about my incessant need for independence; about how other people like to feel needed sometimes and that it is okay to admit that you aren’t Superwoman all the time. I struggle with her words often because I typically get an idea in my head and want things my way, which usually leads to me wanting to do things myself so I make sure they are done to my specifications. This is not helpful for stress levels, particularly when planning a large-scale event. Take a step back and figure out ways to involve the person you are pledging to grow old with. Does this mean you may end up with an armadillo-shaped red-velvet cake (sorry, Steel Magnolias was on the other day, too)? Maybe. Is it really going to be the end of the world? No.

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: nothing is ever perfect, no matter how hard you try. Instead of nit-picking every single last detail, pin down the big stuff, take a step back and a deep breath, and let the rest fall where it may. Enjoy the madness, the kookiness and the fun. Weddings are elating; they make people hopeful, they are great for getting your stuffy friends and relatives sloshed and dancing like buffoons. If one gets too wrapped up in an unattainable ideal and staggering expectations, they will always end up disappointed. If you leave some stuff up to chance, you will always, at the very least, have room to be surprised.

 

9 thoughts on “How-To Not Be a B-Word”

  1. I think for some of my friends, having a wedding just like is “normal” now–in a hotel, with catered food, etc.–was the easiest option. Like, they didn’t have strong feelings about those details, or their strong feeling was that they wanted drunk people to have a place to stay and they wanted food brought to them, or whatever. I totally see paying more for those conveniences, and I think in that case you’re probably not being crazy controlling anyway, though your wedding might be pretty standard (inasmuch as a wedding can be “standard”). But a DIY project OR an over-the-top elaborate affair can both involve a lot more of YOU, doing YOUR work and putting YOUR personality and heart into it, and I think that’s where strong bridezilla-y tendencies are more likely to come out, if you’re inclined that way. But yeah, sometimes you just have to put your foot down and say “I need it this way.” That’s an important part of everyone’s sanity, too.
    /pointless musing
    I like your posts, Kym!

  2. Love this post, and I have to say that I was lucky that for the SIX weddings I’ve been in, all brides-to-be were awesome. I tried to return the favor on our wedding. I’m really glad destination weddings weren’t the norm then, and that most of my friends have had their weddings already, because with 2 kids at this point, we’re not traveling too far or staying too long!

  3. Love this. I am getting married in about 6 months and it will be at the courthouse, just the 2 of us. Afterward we are having a small dinner with family. Some of my friends and coworkers are driving me crazy trying to convince me that it’s “MY DAY” and I need to do something bigger and better. I’m so sick of it. One of my friends called me a few weeks after I got engaged and said her feelings were hurt that I hadn’t asked her to be a bridesmaid yet! So I told her that’s because there will be no bridesmaids, just Mr. Lizzie and I. She was genuinely sad about this because SHE wanted to be a bridesmaid. Another friend from work seemed offended that the dinner will be family only: “I’m not trying to be rude, but seriously, how could you not invite your friends? I think that’s a little selfish.” Funny how some people can go on and on about how it’s my day and then try to make it about them. And no, it’s not “my day” – it’s just one day of OUR life together. I got married over 10 years ago and being very young and stupid I let my ex mother-in-law bully me into making it bigger than I wanted. It was too much, and obviously the marriage didn’t work out either. This time I am so happy and super excited. Just wish some people would get off my ass.

  4. I’ve never been married, but I’ve been in weddings many times. The best wedding I ever attended was modest, small, and in the backyard of my friends in-laws. They cleared out the living room for dancing and everyone suggested 5 songs they wanted to dance to, they made a play list and everyone boogied. I had the best time. she probably spent the least money out of all of my friends and had one of the most elegant and fun weddings I’ve attended.

  5. I actually started having panic attacks trying to plan a wedding. People I didn’t want there had to be invited due to family politics. The event kept getting bigger and bigger, and more expensive by the day. Finally, I just confided to my best friend, living 11 hours away, how I just wanted to elope. The only reason we hadn’t? Family. Family we liked.
    So she planned my entire wedding. She even kept it a secret from us. We flew to Chicago and got married on the Ferris Wheel… FIRST COUPLE EVER!!!
    We saved thousands of dollars, had a thrilling surprise wedding, and have a better story to tell than most “bridezillas.”

    1. I guess I should fess up that my doctor did kick down some Xanax for pre-wedding panic attacks, and they did come in quite handy in a pinch. It is overwhelming as all hell. Your best friend is flipping AMAZING!!! What an awesome thing to do for you guys, and a ferris wheel wedding?!?!?! So jealous. That story rocks my world.

  6. I agree with everything you wrote here, but if I could I’d like to offer a bit of an alternative perspective.

    The B-word is, indeed, everywhere. And some brides deserve the title. But others are so afraid of that label that they now find themselves having to walk a thin and frankly impossible line between doormat and bridezilla. Yes, a lot of people, from the in-laws to friends, are really helpful and happy. A lot of them also have their own expectations and will try to force those expectations on the bride no matter what she actually wants, then brand her with the b-word if she dares to disagree.

    Obviously I’m coming at this from a personal perspective… :)

    1. And I agree with everything you’ve said, as well. I told my husband last night that I felt like I was writing a “get off my lawn” piece, but then we discussed the various points and realized we could see people close to us in many of them, so I plowed on with my griping. However, the points you made are absolutely true, and something we dealt with as well. We tried to keep everything SUPER simple, but some people really, really wanted to make things much more complicated than they needed-or we wanted them- to be. After stating my piece with these usually very good intentioned loved ones (I stress the word usually), I had to just let them do what they felt they needed to do. Perhaps we need to come up with a catchy little name for buttinsky friends and family that we can throw around and offend people with like the b-word? I’m totally down with that!

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