I was in my sister’s wedding this past weekend, and is was joyful and delightful. Between this wedding, two other weddings in June, and my and Josh’s wedding coming up, I have gathered some Thoughts On Weddings and I’m here to share. When I say “you” in this post I don’t mean you, Raiah.
Let’s talk about bridezillas and crazy mothers-in-law.
When Josh and I got engaged, people started asking what the theme of our wedding was, what our colours were, where we were thinking of having it, and so on and so on. Largely, these questions were aimed at me and not at Josh. People would ask him the more logistical questions such as date and place, but most of the rest was asked of me. After a little while I found myself saying “my wedding” instead of “our wedding” and thinking of it more and more as my responsibility and my “burden”. This is not a fun way to think about weddings! Here’s what I want our wedding to be: a joyful, relaxed, beautiful gathering of friends and family celebrating our marriage. I want it to be equally mine and Josh’s; it’s not “my day”, it’s our day. Turns out, the cultural conditioning to care about weddings that I somehow thought I was immune to has indeed had an impact on me.
Women (and I’m talking about straight relationships because that’s my experience) are told from a very young age that weddings are important, weddings are life-changing, weddings are something to be dreamed about and planned for from a young age, and if one thing goes wrong it is a complete and utter disaster. And so when women start trying to plan and organize a very large party with a lot of (mostly bogus and made up) tradition surrounding it while also fielding expectations and feelings from all kinds of people around them, it is easy to become stressed and overwhelmed. Unfortunately, if women care in the wrong way about their wedding, they are immediately condemned and laughed at as a bridezilla. This precarious tension between caring enough and caring too much carries over to mothers-in-law. For these women, if they are helpful or concerned in the wrong way, they are immediately labeled as “crazy” (there is a LOT to be said about women being called “crazy” but I don’t have time for it here).
Let’s say you’re at a wedding rehearsal and the officiant mentions the mothers-in-law in the past who have held up proceedings with their deranged interest in the wedding going smoothly. Do they also mention fathers-in-law or disinterested groomsmen? Most likely not, and this is a problem. Talking in this broadly negative way says, to all the women in the room, “if you act in a way that I consider to be wrong or fussy or crazy, I’m going to talk negatively and condescendingly about you later to other people, but I’m disguising this threat as a joke accompanied with a knowing nod.” Heaping shame in this way on women in the past is a tool used – knowingly or unknowingly – to control the behaviour of women in the present. And what if you’re at a rehearsal and the person who is insisting the wedding party walk at the right pace or that the groomsmen are standing wrong or that the bride is the most important is the father-in-law? Will he be gossiped about later? Probably not, partially due to remembered experience vs actual experience and confirmation bias.
Human brains love patterns. When we see something that fits into an established pattern (in this case, culturally imbued from all kinds of angles (anyone remember watching Monster-in-Law?)) that the brain has already accepted. So when a mother-in-law acts “crazy” (read: cares in the “wrong” way), it fits into an accepted pattern and is more easily remembered and encoded by the brain. A father-in-law who displays these same behaviours will not be remembered in the same way. Guess what! Memory is not infallible.
Back to bridezillas. How insulting is it that my phone accepts “bridezilla” as a word but tries to autocorrect “groomzilla” to “groom ills”. In my mind, this is connected back to using “like a girl” or “stop being such a girl” as an insult. If you do this, you need to check yourself for obvious reasons and if you can’t see what those reasons are then please read at least one (1) book. It is also linked to the idea of the “cool girl” who “isn’t like the other girls” and oh my word can we please stop tearing other women down to build ourselves up? I am not better than anyone who likes pink nail polish because I like black nail polish. Did we not learn this from Legally Blonde.
The idea of bridezillas is, similarly to “crazy mothers-in-law”, a veiled threat to women designed to keep them in their place. Don’t do that, or you’ll be a bridezilla. Don’t act that way, or you’ll be a bridezilla. Don’t insist on things being a certain way, or you’ll be a bridezilla. “Bridezilla,” along with “crazy mother-in-law,” is unkind at best. Once again, why is it okay to a) use an entire gender as an insult, or b) tear women down to build other women up. There are so many other issues I could link this to like who gets to take up space, the trend of being very rude to grooms at weddings, and the perception of people as members of a group vs as individuals, but the key thing I want you, gentle reader, to think about is how women are coerced into acting in a certain way through societal threats, and that men are not subject to the same coercion.
Basically what I’m saying is think for two seconds before you speak and I just want my and Josh’s wedding to be free from misogynist bullshit.