I was completely wiped out. It was almost two in the morning, and I was ready for the remaining guests to go home. Sleepy-eyed, I held the doors open with my co-worker. Once the sparklers were lit, the couple had driven off, and the lights turned back on, the party cleared itself. It wasn’t until then that I noticed my co-worker was a little annoyed.
“That guy just grabbed my ass,” she whispered.
Even though this was a few years ago, it happens more than I’d like. In the wake of a beautiful union, some people have a way of letting ugly insecurities and behaviors run amuck. Chief among them? Sexual harassment.
I don’t have an HR department to go to or anyone I can really call for help. Just like my former co-worker did, the only person I can tell is other women in the industry. Focused to a fault, she shrugged it off. It happened before, and it would happen again. Why make trouble? It wasn’t negative all the time, right? Maybe it was a compliment? There are all sorts of mental hoops you can jump through to justify the behavior, but it doesn’t make it any less damaging. Sometimes it’s harmless flirting or an invitation to dance, but at an isolated venue in the dark with maybe one other person on your team, things can escalate quickly.
To make it even worse, the large majority of men who’ve hit on me at weddings are married. Physical safety aside, there is an emotional cost to working so hard to plan a celebration of marriage and then witness someone else shit all over theirs. What is it about weddings that emboldens guests to act like they aren’t married? Is it the desire to feel in control? Or to assert power over a woman? Especially a woman of color? Is it simply because they’re A-holes?
It’s disorienting as a single woman to see the beauty of a relationship as it’s starting a new chapter and the horror of what it can devolve into all in a few hours. It makes me question all of it really. Will the couple I just sent down the aisle make it? Will the groom turn into some ass-grabbing piece of garbage? Will the bride just pretend not to see it? Will they be as happy as they are today in ten years?
On a day that‘s already emotional and grueling, an unwelcome touch or look has a way of snapping me out of the zone. It doesn’t make me feel like a powerful woman, but a vulnerable little girl in a place where I should feel happy and light. As a sexual assault survivor, it makes me feel terrified. As a black woman, it makes me feel targeted and fetishized. Even though I’m talking about it now, I do the same thing my friend did. I brush it off and go back to work. After all, what else is there to do? The wedding can’t stop. Security more than likely won’t do anything. They can throw him out, but if a man is already being violent by grabbing you, what do you think he’ll do if he’s angry?
I want to have an answer for it. But I can’t explain their behavior; I can only control mine. How can you protect yourself from situations like these? Add a harassment clause to your contract, and go over it in detail with your couple. If you can, make sure some of the security team are people you’ve worked with before. At the very least, exchange numbers so you can alert them of any situations that arise. The final thing? Carry mace. I hate carrying it around, but I’d rather have it than wish I did. As fun as our jobs can be, some people can be real assholes. You’ve got to protect yourself because if you don’t, who will?
Jordan A. Maney is a San Antonio-based wedding planner and owner of All The Days Event Co. She she started her company as a planning haven for all the couples the industry chooses to ignore. Instead of just making a brand, she's building a community. Find more of her sass, humor, and Southern hospitality at allthedaysweddings.com.