The Vagenda

Eight Things I Learned While Planning a Wedding

There are many things that baffle about the modern wedding. There’s the cost, obviously; the fact that your old university friends will occupy the same room as mad uncle Roger; and, if you’re a feminist, why some arcane symbols of patriarchal oppression make you furious while others leave you strangely unmoved. Oh, and fascinators. But there’s a further layer of insanity to the whole business, which can be roughly characterized as ‘general sexism gone nuts and deemed acceptable because it’s a wedding’. Here are eight things I learned while planning a wedding:
1. There’s a magazine called You and Your Wedding. Yes, YOU and YOUR wedding. That pretty much sets the tone of the whole affair: this union between two people is women’s work. (I suppose it’s possible there’s a male readership for YAYW, but if so, they’re doing their very best not to appeal to it.)
2. ‘Did he have to ask your father’s permission to propose to you?’ Unless it was a joke I didn’t get, at least one person thinks this is a normal question. I was so flummoxed, I didn’t know how to respond. In the end I only managed to mumble, ‘No he didn’t have to’, leaving ‘–because I’m an adult’ to hang awkwardly in the air.
3. ’Wear a little more make-up than is perhaps comfortable (it’ll look better in photographs, I promise)’. This piece of advice on bridal beauty comes from Sali Hughes at the Guardian. Giving SH the benefit of the doubt, I assume she means ‘comfortable with’ rather than ‘makes you physically uncomfortable’, though neither interpretation is exactly encouraging. And by now I’ve heard enough about corsets and heels and beauty regimes that start when you’re engaged to realise that comfort should be pretty low on the bride’s list of expectations. Originally I’d planned not to wear any make-up to my wedding, since I almost never wear it day-to-day, but after imbibing a couple of bridal magazines, I began to feel that this was the most radical idea since Emily Davison and the horse. I might as well go to my wedding done up as a Femen protestor.
4. Real men don’t do invitations. ‘I’m not being funny’, the woman printing the invitations said to my fiancé, ‘but you never see men doing this.’
…Right then.
5. You can make it yourself. Anything. There is nothing that can’t be handcrafted given the right amount of lolly sticks and internet forums. This initially seemed like a nice idea but after the several hundredth account of a woman indulging in back-breaking labour wiring her own marquee lighting system for ‘her special day’, I started to feel a bit exhausted. In the end, I became so inured to it that when my sister began the sentence, ‘You can make Portaloos really nice’, I genuinely thought she was going to start telling me about digging a hole in the grass and fabricating a sewage pipe out of jam jars and tealight holders. Turned out she meant expensive soap.
6. It’s a good moment to act like a child. Although getting married is a significant legal transaction with serious emotional and financial implications, it’s also an opportunity to go to a bridal boutique and behave like ‘a five year old by endlessly twirling, then stubbornly refusing to take the dress off’ according to You and Your Wedding, which sounds more like going through a breakdown than preparing for marriage to me. Never have I heard the words ‘princess’ and ‘fairytale’ as many times as in the last six months.
7. Brides are solipsistic monsters – and if you’re not one, then you’re doing it wrong. In a feature called ‘Help! I’ve been upstaged!’, Bride magazine’s website is full of tips to ensure no attention is ever diverted from you: set a dress code and then ‘brief your bridesmaids to look out for potential off-pisters’; tell your mother what to wear; scan the guestlist for anyone who might announce their engagement and then seat them as far away as possible from you (‘You can always drop the pregnancy bomb at their wedding’ – an excellent reason to bring another human being into the world, AND it’s pretty easy to time pregnancies, I’ve heard.) However, if your husband is in danger of making a particularly entertaining speech there’s nothing you can do: ‘Just sit back and smile . . . and wait for normal service (all eyes on you) to resume.’ In short, be an insane harpy. Congratulations.
8. But it’s all been worth it to learn of the existence of these beauties. Rarely has the father/daughter relationship been so explicitly framed as incest. Germaine Greer would weep.


You’re welcome.

11 thoughts on “Eight Things I Learned While Planning a Wedding

  1. Christ, this ‘princess for a day’ shite that bridal magazines spread around like slurry on a farm really pisses me off. Maybe, just maybe, if brides were encouraged to behave like reasonable grown-ups and not ‘princesses’ weddings would return to being seen as the precursor to a far bigger event (i.e. the marriage) that requires a lifetime of work and love and mutual compromise.
    Oh, and those cufflinks? My Dad would have vomited over my wedding dress if I’d given him those. For which sensible attitude, I salute him every day. But not in a slushy way. Over a pint, usually.

  2. The entire ‘walking down the aisle thing’ has always repulsed me 9or at least, when I heard of it two years ago; people in my country don’t do that). ‘Your father will give you away’ – er, no? A woman will enter a legal union with someone else. She doesn’t go from her father’s possessions to her husband’s.

  3. Ugh! My sister’s getting married after 2 years of being engaged. Bridezilla isn’t a strong enough word. She’s fallen out with her half-sister who’s accused her of copying her ‘hand made shabby chic’ theme even though my sister did exactly the same to our brother’s wife and accused her of stealing the DJ and her photo booth idea. Weddings are far too stressful, I’d have a tiny ceremony and splash out on an amazingly luxurious honeymoon.

  4. my mum did ask my fiance as to why he didn’t ask my dad’s permission, to which my fiance, my dad and i all looked with a look of “wtf?!”

    my fiance didn’t understand why i feel so stressed about the wedding bit. i had to tell them that people don’t “trust” him with a wedding and that people presume he is disinterested. “well that’s not true,” he said, “if i didn’t want to get married, i wouldn’t have asked.”

    i feel like some friends of mine nailed it well though — they had a private ceremony, them, a celebrant and a witness, and then during the reception, repeated the best parts of it. there was no entering separately, giving away, blah blah — they were already a family. now they’ve got some legal status on their side. (it also meant they didn’t have to publicly say the vows, which in Australia are still particularly vile and actually have a “to the exclusion of all others,” line in it).

    tl;dr, i love you vagenda and i’m glad you’re on my side. i’m on yours!

  5. Ha, sounds like exactly how we felt about our wedding. Although we skipped the whole proposal thing altogether leaving some of my partner’s female acquaintances unable to believe he hadn’t crushed my dreams.

  6. it is amazing at how many things you learn that you never really thought about when you actually have to do something. When things went awry with my friends wedding I found out that I could get ordained online through the Universal Life Church. It really lead to some fun times and memorable stories

  7. One of the dress shop women said to me ‘does it make you feel like you’re 6 years old??’. Err no. And why would that be a good thing anyway? Surely my husband wants to marry a grown woman not a child? YUCK. She got quite stroppy with me when I mentioned that, didn’t buy a dress there….

  8. Planning a wedding was a very interesting process. For the first time people would address me first rather than my husband (which actually made a refreshing change)….