I wrote an article for Catalyst last month. Jen Siomacco, the editor of Catalyst, didn’t like it.
“Your writing still leans towards being very bride-centric,” Jen told me. “We have a lot of nonbinary readers and male readers and we always want to make sure our advice includes them, too!”
Jen’s feedback made me angry — trying to make my industry more inclusive is why I do the work that I do! I’m a wedding coordinator and one of my biggest issues with the wedding industry is how it hyperventilates over brides. There are so many problems with “bride-centerism,” the biggest being that not every wedding has a bride (welcome to 2019, people!).
I want to change this industry, and one of the best ways I’ve found to do this is to write about what I see as a wedding coordinator. That’s why I wrote about my experience with wedding decorations. Specifically, I talked about the pressure I see couples buckle under as they attempt to make their weddings look a certain way. In the story, I mentioned something I call “the hand-off,” or the time when I pick up the decorations for a wedding. I explained how relieved a bride looks after she gives me all of the decorations. They’re no longer her problem. They’re mine. Jen had changed this section to say that I didn’t meet with the bride. I met with the couple.
The edit pissed me off because it just wasn’t true. If the couple is straight, I never meet with the groom. It’s always the bride.
I could have done a better job clarifying this in my story — and the edits Jen and I eventually made do, I think, clear things up — but the experience got me thinking. What are all the unacknowledged ways that a bride labors over her own wedding?
A big part of it is emotional labor. I see this all the time as a coordinator. More often than not, the bride is the wedding’s emotional referee. She fields dozens of requests, needs, and opinions (so many opinions!) from family, friends, and other guests. The stakes are high, too. If she messes up and shows any sign of frustration or anxiety or stress, there’s a nasty word to put her back in her place (it rhymes with “Godzilla”).
It’s not just emotional labor, either — though, of course, just emotional labor would be more than enough. In my experience, brides do a ton of physical work, too.
The physical work of a wedding takes a lot of different forms, but for many brides it means touring venues, filling out and mailing invites, shopping for an outfit (and maybe their partner’s outfit and their friends’ outfits and their mom’s, too), making decorations, writing thank you notes — the list goes on. This stuff may seem inconsequential but it adds up. On average, it takes 10 hours a week to plan a wedding. That’s a part-time job — an unpaid part-time job.
So, how do we change this nasty status quo?
Acknowledge Wedding Planning Takes Work
First, we have to talk about it. We have to acknowledge that planning weddings is WORK. It’s not “just a wedding.” It’s a 100-person event with a dozen vendors and a multi-thousand dollar budget. Planning it takes time, money, and brainpower.
Stop Blaming the Bride
Take the term “bride-centric.” There’s a lot to love about that word. It quickly captures the rampant sexism in the wedding industry and it drives home the fixation society has around Her Perfect Day. But “bride-centric” also has a dark side. It makes it sound like it’s her fault that things are this bad when in reality she’d really love if everyone stopped asking about her colors. If we want to help relieve the invisible burden that brides carry, we have to stop blaming them for carrying it in the first place.
Tell Women They’re Doing a Great Job
Third — and most importantly — we need to tell every woman who’s actively planning a wedding that she’s doing a good job. Because guess what? She is. I don’t care if she hasn’t done a damn thing to actually plan her wedding. As long as she still wants to share her life with the person she’s picked — and that person with her — she’s done it. She’s won wedding planning.
Women work so hard to make their weddings work. I see it again and again and again. A bride visibly relaxes when I tell her that no, she’s not missing anything. She’s not behind. She’s not messing up. She’s planning a wedding and it’s a lot of work. No wonder she’s stressed.
The very least we can do for brides is give them some credit. Even better, we can tell them the truth: You’re doing a good job.