It’s time to stand up for Bridezilla
It’s finally happened. My boyfriend put a ring on it. Then, in true fairytale fashion, Serena disappeared in a puff of smoke and Bridezilla took her place. It was a brief attack of highly strung schmaltz which left me reeling at the ease with which one, admittedly hugely impressive, romantic gesture had somehow managed to wipe out years of feminist protest against the “patriarchal institution” of marriage.
Prior to this knee wobbling moment in my life, I had pretty firm public views on marriage (although privately they have been slowly thawing since I met Mr Right three years ago). Engagement rings were “oppressive symbols”, women who changed their surnames were “weak” and weddings were a hugely expensive farce embarked upon when a couple ran out of conversation, or were pressured into by grandchild-deprived parents.
It started innocently enough with a champagne-fuelled post-proposal chat on a steamy Saigon rooftop (I told you it was romantic). While being serenaded by a trio of Vietnamese singing Santas, I found myself getting excited about everything from possible venues (it simply has to be a ruined castle in Wales), to bridesmaids (four, at least), and of course the dress (no meringues, obvs). Swept away on a cloud of hormones and Veuve Clicquot, I made the mistake of broadcasting the happy news on Facebook (as a result my feed is filled with adverts for everything from “how to be a skinny bride” to where to buy “ethical wedding rings”).
I rationalised the initial emergence of my inner princess on the grounds that how many feminists wouldn’t get carried away in the face of such a beautiful gesture. Someone actually wants to spend the rest of their life with me? That’s a mind-blowing thought for starters. Then, there’s the ring (yes, I know it’s a symbol of a contract and I might as well have “I’m taken” tattooed across my forehead), but it’s also elegant, sophisticated and so, very sparkly. The situation only got out of hand when I found myself sat on a tropical beach on Christmas Day, cocktail in hand, arguing with my new fiancé over whether or not guests should be seated during a ceremony which is over a year away! I still maintain that I was purely thinking of women in heels being forced to stand for a prolonged period, but it was a warning sign.
So, what are the social conditions which are fuelling the Bridezilla phenomenon? How can a former marital refusenik such as myself become a cringe-making caricature almost overnight? The term was first popularised in 2001 with the launch of an American cable TV show called Bridezillas. The Oxford English Dictionary, which first included it in 2011, defines it as “a woman whose behaviour in planning her wedding is regarded as obsessive or intolerably demanding.” A hybrid of “bride” and “Godzilla” (a fictional beast of Japanese origin), the word conjures images of a green, spiky monster dressed in a veil and tiara rampaging around, which is a good image to hold in your mind if you feel an attack coming on.
The pressure of expectation has a role to play. The wedding industry in this country is currently worth a whopping £10bn a year, with the average nuptial bill weighing in at around £36,000 (twice what my partner and I are budgeting). The pressure is on to make it not only the “happiest day of your life” but also to make it comparable to, and ideally better than, anyone else’s. I’ve been to a lot of weddings, been a reluctant bridesmaid and done a lot of eye-rolling but some part of my subconscious clearly bought into the idea that a fairytale wedding is an essential part of adult happiness.
Age is also a factor. If like me, you haven’t contemplated getting wed until your mid 30s, you’ve already lived an action-packed, technicoloured life. I’ve travelled to amazing places, been to some incredible parties, shared intimate moments with my family and romantic ones with my other half and now I’m expected to condense all those elements into one supposedly perfect day? Suddenly, eloping to Las Vegas looks appealing.
Author and journalist Rebecca Mead wrote a definitive book examining this phenomenon, entitled One Perfect Day. She said; “We live in a culture that is absolutely invested in the new and the novel and the up-to-date. One of the things that’s lost in that is what to do in these big, transitional moments. It’s tricky. It seems to me that the authority that is most aggressively supplying the rules is the wedding industry… for me weddings were an illuminating entry point into thinking about what our priorities are as a culture. The way we marry is the way we are.”
From the feminist perspective, the word “bridezilla” is yet another pejorative label for women who are in a position of power. It’s an amalgamation of the most negative of the “bossy bitch” and “hysterical psycho” stereotypes. “The stress of planning a wedding and all it entails, seems to bring out the very worst in some women and we should not laugh at them, they need our help,” says Kate Thompson, Features Editor of the leading bridal website Confetti.co.uk. With all the marketing, advertising and peer pressure associated with the wedding industry, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and go a little loopy, (and I’m not just trying to excuse my seating arrangement outburst). It’s time feminists learnt to sympathise with and stand up for bridezillas—in doing so we might just help brides everywhere feel a little more sane.
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