“Bridezilla”? Really?

The right-wing obsession with trashing women never ceases to amaze me. Kathryn Jean Lopez’s write-up of Feministing blogger Jessica Valenti’s wedding is no exception (and of course, Ace of Spades follows up). Lopez titles the piece “You’ve Never Met a Bridezilla Like a Feminist Bridezilla” — the implication being that Jessica is acting like a crazed, selfish bitch about her wedding (that’s what “Bridezilla” usually means, right?). And Ace writes:

Everyone who believes that she was seriously considering delaying marriage until “everyone could,” and believes she’s looking at her wedding as a “pro-active way to talk about same sex marriage among our friends and family,” rather than as Princess’ Special Day, please raise your hand.

The reality is… less entertaining. Jessica talks about deciding whether or not to change her name (she’s not going to), how getting hitched squares with her beliefs that marriage shouldn’t be a hetero-only institution (she’s using the wedding as a platform to raise both awareness and money for same-sex marriage rights), and what color her dress should be (not white).

There weren’t any Bridezilla or princess antics as far as I could tell — just a basic look at which traditions she and her fiancee want to keep, and which ones they want to scrap. Which is what most couples do, right? Even if it’s not from a feminist perspective?

Kind of amazing how even totally normal wedding planning, if it comes from a woman (and especially a feminist woman) is de facto evidence of selfish bitchitude.

And then there’s the “Bridezilla” concept in the first place. We place an incredible amount of pressure on women (especially women of certain social classes) not only to get married, but to make their wedding The Best Day Of Their Lives. Entire industries thrive because of weddings — because of the pressure to put on the biggest and best party, because of the pressure to match or best the other weddings in your social group, and because of the pressure to be the most “beautiful” bride (“beautiful” often couched in terms of conspicuous consumption). Women are still largely charged with organizing the wedding, because it’s supposed to be their day. Wedding planning, for a lot of couples, is a huge endeavor — for a lot of women, it’s the equivalent of a part-time job on top of whatever they already do for work. But if all that pressure ends up making them crack just a little, they’re crazed selfish biatches.

Not that I’m defending the bad behavior of some women in planning their weddings. Assholes are assholes, and there are a fair number of assholes who eventually get married and, unsurprisingly, act like assholes in the process. The ability to even freak out about your wedding is a function of socioeconomic and cultural privilege.

But when we get to the point where all we need as evidence that a woman is a selfish jerk who thinks of her wedding as Princess’s Special Day is the fact that she’s a woman, I think we’ve gone a little too far down Misogyny Lane.

All of that said, Jessica is asking readers for feminist wedding planning tips. Another friend of Feministe (and real-life friend of mine) is also getting married this summer, and has had a lot of trouble navigating the (thoroughly un-feminist) wedding industrial complex. Any suggestions or tips?

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75 comments for ““Bridezilla”? Really?

  1. March 11, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    More anecdote than tip: I had a real preference in wedding cake design and my spouse really did not. So when we went to the bakery, I started talking design … and my sister-in-law looked at me like I had three heads. Because men are not supposed to have views on that; we’re supposed to humor our wives and feign interest. So upsetting the gendered roles even in the small ways may be a teachable moment for some people.

  2. March 11, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Check out offbeatbride.com for a very do whatever you like approach to wedding planning.

  3. March 11, 2009 at 6:31 pm

    Sometimes I find it easier to maintain my faith in humanity if I limit my interactions with humanity. Note to self: click fewer links.

    However, I find it remarkable that one commenter has knowledge of Jessica Valenti’s “hgih maintenance life support system for a vagina”–that sounds pretty fucking rad. Rock on with your life support vagina, Jessica! Science has nothing on you!

  4. Kristen
    March 11, 2009 at 6:32 pm

    I agree that some of these shows can really cross the sexism line easily. In terms of tips, I would suggest finding like-minded folks online and in your circle of friends and sticking to your guns. Offbeatbride.com and indiebride.com are both treasure troves of information and support for all brides who do not identify within the expected/trashed “Princess” bride model who wants her “special daaaaayyyy.” Good luck to Jessica and your friend!

  5. AnnaBella
    March 11, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    Oh, for heaven’s sake. I can’t believe people are picking on her for this! I’d read her post already when she out it up, and there’s nothing princessy or preachy or bridezilla-y about it.

    I’ve never been married, nor have I been closely involved in planning anyone else’s wedding, but it sounds like she’s doing it right — that is, her way.

  6. Nicole
    March 11, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Hah I hope that Bride Godzilla still does their little happy victory dance after winning.

  7. chingona
    March 11, 2009 at 7:02 pm

    It seems the part of the negative reaction is that some of the things she’s particular about are unconventional (no white dress, stuff like that) – like how dare she try to have her cake and eat it, too, by both getting married and trying to be consciously feminist about it.

    I don’t know if this counts as a tip, but one thing that was important to me was that my father did not “give me away.” My father is still my father. My husband was already my partner. I was not being transferred from one party to the other. My husband and I walked out together to meet our guests.

    Now, with the way I was raised, this wasn’t controversial in my family. Our conversation went like this:

    Chingona’s Dad: You, uh, you didn’t want me to give you away, did you?
    Chingona: Oh God! No!
    Chingona’s Dad: That’s a relief. I would have done it if you wanted me to, but it would really weird me out.

    As for staying clear of the wedding industrial complex, we tried to be as DIY as possible about things and called in a lot of talent from friends and family in lieu of gifts – my grandmother did the flowers, my grandfather, who is a musician, played music, my sister-in-law did the photos, etc. I don’t know if that’s “feminist” but it helped keep down the craziness and the cost.

    The problem is that even small, simple weddings require dozens of decisions, and it can be even harder to decide when you aren’t particular. It’s hard to go to a baker and say you’re getting married and you want a cake that tastes good and looks nice and that’s your only specification. Having some opinions can actually make the process a little easier.

  8. Andrea
    March 11, 2009 at 7:21 pm

    My only reaction to the whole “bridezilla” meme has been to seriously propose a rampaging Gojira stencil on my tux.

    The hubby outlawed it, but told me that he wouldn’t stop me from making a gojira-themed bride’s cake (instead of the normal “giant wedding cake” + tiny groom’s cake, we decided to go with parity in the wedding, and get equally sized cakes, with silly designs). I eventually went with a crocodile theme instead, but it was nice to think about appropriating the misogynist meme in a fun way.

  9. March 11, 2009 at 7:30 pm

    “Kathryn Jean Lopez’s write-up” What write up? What I clicked was basically a reprint of Jessica’s blog post.

  10. The Opoponax
    March 11, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Having seen this earlier, my guess was that for denizens of The Corner, anyone lacking a Y chromosome who is engaged to be married is assumed to be a bridezilla.

    Of course, I’m not sure what they’d do with my friend who got so fed up with the wedding crap she just told her mother “oh, just do whatever you want” and is staying the fuck out of it. But I’m sure they’d find some way to brand her a bridezilla, too.

  11. The Opoponax
    March 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    Thomas, I’m glad you posted that, because it raised my consciousness a little. I’ve been helping some hetero friends of mine with some of their wedding planning, and when he turned out to be the one who got a little difficult about things, I said some less than fair things about his bridezilla ‘tude. And I’ll admit that half of it was just not expecting the drama to come from the guy – aren’t you supposed to sit back and say everything looks nice so we can finish this and move on?!

  12. Cat Ion
    March 11, 2009 at 8:17 pm

    I love how K-Lo titled her post “You’ve Never Met a Bridezilla Like a Feminist Bridezilla” while at the same time wishing Jessica well. Hmm. I have a feeling she’s not being sincere.

    Also, since Jessica will soon be wed (which is the pinnacle of feminine achievement according to wingnuts) K-Lo and Ace took it upon themselves to assure their audiences that feminists are still unlovable wretches. No need to get antsy and start questioning stereotypes!

  13. norbizness
    March 11, 2009 at 8:39 pm

    Annabella: There are “people,” and then there are “National Review columnists.”

  14. March 11, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    My feminist wedding regret is that we didn’t write our own vows. I didn’t take the vows part too seriously. I wanted the party, and the day, and the promise. So we just said what everybody says, minus obey, and then got on to the fun part. My egalitarian marriage still totally rocks, seven years later, and I’ve always regretted that I didn’t have the guts to stand up in front of my extended family and put into words what marriage really means to us.

  15. March 11, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    The skills required to run a wedding are the same as any contractor. Start with a budget and a rough plan, coordinate the work of a dozen or two different vendors, watch the details but don’t micromanage.

    Anyone who can do this effectively the first time they try it deserves a medal. But hey, it’s just women’s work, so while a man who yells at the guy who brings the wrong lumber to the construction site is just being responsible, a woman who complains to the caterer about bringing the wrong sandwiches is being unreasonable.

  16. March 11, 2009 at 9:35 pm

    Oh, and as to advice.

    Omit anything you don’t want rather than including it for tradition’s sake. Spend your money only on what you want.

    Get people you feel you can trust and give them as much freedom as you can.

    And if you are lucky enough to have a friend doing any of the work for you, pay them their regular rate, so they don’t feel pressure to overperform while being underpaid.

  17. March 11, 2009 at 10:10 pm

    I avoided the wedding crap by just going to the courthouse, which was stressful enough in itself trying to arrange time for a judge and getting the local family organized and present, and rebuffing the two bouquets that were given to me even though I’d explicitly expressed I didn’t want one. But feminist wedding planners, take comfort, I pissed off everyone around me, friends and family both, for not having a wedding or party to attend. What I did have was an awesome not-honeymoon which we never would have been able to afford if we’d done the gown and ball extravaganza.

  18. exholt
    March 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    As someone who has attended several weddings of family and friends…..I’ve never seen anyone act like assholes or freak out. Have always wondered whether this “behavior” is a Hollywood invention for lazy media writers to gain desperate reality show ratings in an increasingly competitive market.

    As an aside, I’m not sure Godzilla appreciates his trademark and fame being abused and maligned in this matter. Then again, that posted photo may help him gain new roles beyond the ones he’s usually typecasted in. And I’m not talking about a certain purple dinosaur…..

  19. March 11, 2009 at 10:12 pm

    Also, I guess it’s too much to ask for Ace and Lopez to let go of fifty year old myths and all, but I want to know which one of them did the blood-on-the-sheets performance they’re asking for?

  20. March 11, 2009 at 10:13 pm

    there are a lot of good feminist bride info out there. antibride.com, indiebride.com, the aforementioned offbeatbride, a book called the conscious bride, there’s so much out there.

    There are a lot of books about it too- antibride’s got a book, there are a ton of books about how to design your own weddings, handfastings, etc.

    if you want it feminist, you can have it feminist.

  21. e.
    March 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Use 200dollar wedding:

    Sara, the blogger, is intelligent, committed to feminist and progressive ideals, and addresses every issue I could think of. It’s anti-commercialism, anti-sexism, pretty much just awesome.

  22. emjaybee
    March 11, 2009 at 10:17 pm

    Having done a fairly traditional wedding, I can tell you it’s exhausting. Ours wasn’t super elaborate, but until they do it, does anybody ever give much thought to what goes into a large ceremonial party for 300 people or so, that you yourself are the centerpiece of? I would have had every right to go Bridezilla…and I did contemplate ripping the throat out of my brother in law when he was a real asshole to me about one part of it. Still hate that guy. But I didn’t, we had the wedding, and I remember very little of it. We *slept* much of our honeymoon, because we were both so exhausted from the damn wedding!

    If I did it again, I would spend all that cash on the honeymoon and a party *afterwards* and make the ceremony small and intimate. I hope weddings move much more into the “fun” category and further away from the “display of family’s wealth and woman’s virginity” category that wraps so much of it now.

  23. Ellid
    March 11, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    The sheer level of venom in that second link is horrifying.

  24. aldea
    March 11, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    What I did for my wedding that could be considered feminist, since I was condemned by many for wearing an engagement ring (the hatred on some feminist blogs was so intense I stayed away for months), was simple:

    I spoke my mind, framed my reasons, stood my ground.

    Jessica – You have a voice. You remind me of why I’m here, why I marched, why I continue not to argue but speak clearly about what’s important for women.

    So have a wedding. Wear a ring. Change your name. Wear a big fouffy dress. Whatever. In the end, after the party – your voice is what counts and your ability to be legally married doesn’t make it less audible or important for our cause. Marriage doesn’t make you less a feminist.

    Please don’t forget that..

  25. March 11, 2009 at 10:46 pm

    Yeah, you know what, Ace, that bastion of pro-queer rights, can go defenestrate himself. Of the many things that I wish straight people would do more of, abstaining from getting married themselves isn’t one of them, as in itself it doesn’t do squat.

  26. Laurie in Mpls.
    March 11, 2009 at 11:20 pm

    As part of the dreaded wedding business complex (I both alter and *build* wedding gowns) all I can say is: Jessica, you GO! Rock. On. :) I’m delighted beyond words that she’s picking a dress that won’t be white and is doing things her way.

    As for advice, my one piece of advice is to bring along someone who can keep you grounded, whether that’s your guy, your mom, your best friend (of either gender), or a planner who takes your budget seriously. It is SO easy to get sucked into the “Dream Wedding” schtick. And I have to admit — I enjoy helping folks put together that special day “look”, if for no other reason than there will be *pictures*, dammit! Pictures that could conceivably outlast the marriage! You really ought to like what you look like when that many pictures (whether taken by a professional or your obsessively doting family) are going to exist.

    My other piece of advice (I know I said there was only one. I was wrong) is to not spend more than you can realistically afford, even if that means having a much smaller wedding than your Dream Wedding. Seriously. You’ll thank me when you wake up on the honeymoon (if you take one) and realize that your credit cards are no more maxed out than they were before The Day, and you can maybe afford to look into getting a house. (Honestly, some of the weddings I hear about, even here in thrifty MN, make me want to scream “That’s a down payment, you idiots! What are you thinking?!?”)

    Last thing, I promise. I get asked all the time, sometimes ironically and sometimes seriously, if I run into Bridezilla a lot. I don’t. I DO run into Momzilla — the woman who wants everything perfect for her baby girl and she’s going to see that it’s all perfect because her mother did that for her and she never really had the wedding SHE wanted….. Yikes. To all Momzillas out there: I’m really, really sorry that you didn’t have much of a choice about how things were done when you got married. And I’m really, really sorry if your mom took over and it wasn’t the wedding you wanted. But can we try NOT to perpetuate that on the next generation? And yes, I’ll fix that tiny little thread that really has nothing to do with *anything* and shouldn’t be seen by anyone but her new husband, and if it is — they’re too damn close to the bride and need to back off.

    Thank you, and Good Night. ;)

  27. March 11, 2009 at 11:25 pm

    Of the many things that I wish straight people would do more of, abstaining from getting married themselves isn’t one of them, as in itself it doesn’t do squat.

    Well, it offers an opportunity to talk about marriage equality. Which you can do in other ways, like incorporating it into your ceremony as Jessica apparently plans to do. So yeah, she can do what she wants, and “that bastion of pro-queer rights” should really just shut the fuck up.

  28. Honest Questions
    March 11, 2009 at 11:32 pm

    Isn’t the entire institution of marriage misogynist? The entire tradition comes from a practice whereby a woman basically loses her identity – the ability to own property, make her own decisions, even the most fundamental aspect of all by losing their name! How can marriage even be defended in a feminist worldview?

  29. Amanda
    March 12, 2009 at 12:04 am

    Oh my god. I’ve just been reading comments in the second link and I’m beyond horrified. Some of the comments have been about marital rape, advocating domestic violence, homophobia, Jessica’s looks (I don’t know what she looks like but this is important how?), questioning Andrew’s gender for being ‘pussy whipped’ into it, and other very very hateful comments. I’ve never read crap like this before because I generally stick to feminist blogs. I didn’t realise that there were still people out there who thought this way!

  30. Amanda
    March 12, 2009 at 12:07 am

    And to make it worse this guy was a 2007 Weblog Awards Winner. WTF? It was for ‘Best Conservative Blog’, but I didn’t realise conservative equalled hateful. I must be living under a rock.

  31. March 12, 2009 at 12:23 am

    I think Jessica should wear a Godzilla costume, and then put a veil on. Sort of like that picture up there.

    (the hatred on some feminist blogs was so intense I stayed away for months)

    Have you been reading my diary?

  32. orlando
    March 12, 2009 at 2:40 am

    I am very fond of my dad, and so I wanted him to be involved in the ceremony, but cringed at the sentiments behind giving the bride away, so what we came up with to get around it was this: the celebrant said to me “who brings you here today?” and dad said “she comes with me, her father, and carries the blessings of all her family” and then the celebrant did the same for my bloke, and his father gave the same reply. (Also red dress, own vows, good band.)

  33. tiffany
    March 12, 2009 at 3:00 am

    Wedding Tip 1: When you are planning for a wedding and talking to vendors never say the word wedding. That makes them automatically jack up their prices. Tell them you are planning a family reunion or an office party.

    Wedding Tip 2: Elope. Planning my wedding was probably the most horrible time of my life, and if I had it to do all over again I would have gone to a court house. But maybe Jessica doesn’t have a momzilla, so hers will go more smoothly.

  34. AndiF
    March 12, 2009 at 6:30 am

    Delurking to add some geezer perspective.

    What I remember from my wedding 37 years ago: all the lox was gone by the time we got out of the frigging reception line.

  35. March 12, 2009 at 6:33 am

    I got married in Vegas, by Elvis. I get three reactions to this: 1) cool! 2) what?! and 3) were you pregnant?

    I could pretty much pick my friends by by which reaction they have.

  36. preying mantis
    March 12, 2009 at 6:59 am

    “As someone who has attended several weddings of family and friends…..I’ve never seen anyone act like assholes or freak out.”

    If you’re just attending, you’re unlikely to witness a freak-out moment. As was pointed out upthread, organizing for even a relatively small wedding is a shitload of work, all that pressure tends to be more or less focused on one person (generally the bride), and it tends to get ridiculously stressful. If freak-outs are going to happen, it’s probably going to be before the day of the ceremony, at which point most everything is going to be settled one way or another and the couple getting married aren’t expected to personally supervise every detail. Same thing with assholery, really–if somebody’s going to be a giant dick about something, it’s probably going to come up during the planning, when being a dick might get them their way, rather than at the ceremony.

    The only bit of practical advice I can offer is: if people are going to do the rice-throwing thing, make sure the birdseed they’re supplied with doesn’t contain sandspurs.

  37. March 12, 2009 at 7:07 am

    Ace was complimenting Jessica. He wasn’t accusing her of being selfish, but of being a romantic who more likely looks upon her wedding as a celebration of private love rather than (yet another) forum for social justice.

  38. prefer not to say
    March 12, 2009 at 7:58 am

    I planned a wedding last year. My partner helped where he could but was having significant health problems. I hated every minute of it. I get anxious for a few days beforehand if I’m having 11 people over to my house for drinks, although that level of anxiety is tolerable for me, because I like it when everyone is there. Wedding planning was like waking up every morning for a year knowing that 11 people were coming over that evening. Except it was 130 people and it was supposed to be “the best day of my life.”

    But you know what I hated just as much as the stupid-ass wedding industry? I hated all the discourse about “making the wedding your own” and “really expressing yourselves as a couple.” People, I have an f*ing full time job. I don’t need to spend seven weeks trying to come up with a cake that really says something about my personality. In fact, I don’t need to spend a week trying to figure out what dress will express my feminist credentials (my full time job expresses my feminist credentials just fine). Sometimes the pressure to REBEL against the wedding industry is just as much work as the pressure to really white-dress-and-centerpiece it up. My wedding felt plenty fake, but it was less work than trying to concoct something more original.

    We threw some money at it, we threw a big party for our guests and it was pretty conventional. That was enough work in itself. I’m not slamming anyone for the choices they make, but really if you want to get a bunch of people together for a wedding — unless you live in the same town as your very supportive and loving parents and their warm and creative network of loving friends — you’re going to wind up having to spend money and compromising.

  39. The Opoponax
    March 12, 2009 at 8:27 am

    And if you are lucky enough to have a friend doing any of the work for you, pay them their regular rate, so they don’t feel pressure to overperform while being underpaid.


    The idea of getting friends and family as your vendors is cute and all, but please respect the fact that this is their WORK, which they usually get paid MONEY for. This is especially true if there will be materials costs or expenses, of if the nature of the contribution will require your friend/relative to be on the job during the wedding rather than getting to relax and enjoy themselves.

  40. Michelle
    March 12, 2009 at 8:29 am

    At that time, sixteen and a half years ago, I didn’t quite think of what I was doing as particularly feminist but more me and my hubby expressing our individuality but in retrospect, especially for the early 1990s, it was pretty feminist.

    My dad did walk me down the aisle and give me away but right after the minister asked who was giving the bride away we had the minister ask my husband’s parents who was giving him in marriage. We tweaked the vows, left out the bits about obeying and adding things like “feeding each other when we’re hungry, making each other laugh”, the things that are far more important today.

    I never thought of it as “my special day” nor “the best day of my life”; I thought of it as the day our families were celebrating our wedding. I wanted quiet country elegance where people left having been well fed and had had an enjoyable time. (I’m from a rural southern Virginia farming community, we couldn’t afford fancy.)

    From the photos and what I remember, it seems as if everyone had a nice time, we didn’t spend a god-awful amount ($3000 for 100 people in 1992) and we’re still married, so I count it as a success.

    One of the things I left out was alcohol. It was a dry wedding. Primarily because I knew there would be people with long drives ahead of them and I didn’t want anyone to even think about driving under the influence. I can’t even contemplate how much that saved.

  41. March 12, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Have your own wedding, not the wedding your mom (or Momzilla!) or mother in law wants you to have. We got married in a bar; it was the weekend before Hallowe’en, so we had a costume party for the reception. My mom hated the idea at first, but ended up having a great time.

  42. Zelda9
    March 12, 2009 at 8:53 am


    A friend of mine from graduate school, many years ago, chose to marry in the following way: She and her SO (who had been living together for years, anyway) made a grand game of it. They were both atheists, and found out that the Chapel of Love (then at the Mall of America) would do an entirely non-religious legal service for them. They competed to see who could wear the cheapest thrift/garage sale/closeout sale rig (she won — under $10 for a black velvet sheath, some fascinating black platform heels, and jewelry and makeup. I think the shoes and the makeup were the highest-ticket items she wore, IIRC). He broke out the winner from his collection of Ugliest Ties Ever. The ceremony was short, populated mostly by family. When it was over, they ate a meal there in the mall and everyone played at the former Camp Snoopy. She didn’t change her name, and he didn’t expect her to do so. They were in it for the shopping, really.

    The beauty of that wedding, for them, was that it reflected the couple’s preferences, interests, and priorities, and they were actually able to enjoy themselves instead of feeling compelled to look out for everyone else’s enjoyment of the event. They didn’t want gifts, they just wanted to spend a good time with family and friends.

    I’m a musician (and a sometime part of the Wedding Industrial Complex). I play dozens of weddings a year, and by far the best ones (in my experience) are those in which the family and the couple relax and try to plan a cool way to enjoy each other and their families and friends. I played at the wedding of another friend where the officiant was also a friend, the families were a HUGE part of the very simple ceremony, and the biggest part of the day was a reception/family open mic (and no gifts, just a request for donations to the couple’s preferred causes). It was so much fun for everyone! It was personal and fun. I dig those, myself.

  43. Wednesday
    March 12, 2009 at 9:05 am

    Honest Questions – if that’s all that marriage still were and ever had been, yes, it would be indefensible. However, the nature and meaning of marriage varies both across cultures and within cultures.

    Patriarchy isn’t a cultural universal – there have been matriarchal societies and societies with matrilineal succession and inheritance. The nature of marriage certainly varies – some cultures practice polyandry, and there has been at least one culture where a widow could marry another woman.

    In the US and other Western countries, present and in the recent past, there are women who didn’t change their name; couples who jointly decided to hyphenate or create a new name; men who took their wife’s name. Sometimes women are the bigger earners or bring more financial assets to the partnership, some men use marriage as a way to break ties with their old family. There are relationships within marriages are relatively egalitarian.

    And if you believe that in a patriarchal society it’s impossible for a man-woman partnership to be egalitarian (a debate I’d rather not get into), then note that marriage is NOT a purely heterosexual tradition. Legal same-sex marriage has been a reality in part of this country for years. Religious same-sex marriages have been a reality in this country for much longer, through liberal religious denominations like the UU, UCC, Reform Jusaism, etc.

  44. Kwachie
    March 12, 2009 at 10:00 am

    My suggestion to any one who wants to get married and can legally do so is simple. Get married. Get married any way you want to, wherever you want to, wearing anything you want to wear in whatever kind of ceremony has the most personal meaning to you. Don’t have the wedding your mother wants, don’t have the wedding the magazines want you to have, have the wedding that reflects the committment between the two of you, because your wedding (in the long run) doesn’t mean diddly. What matters, since you do have the legal right to marriage, is that you use your wedding day to celebrate and solemnize that committment to each other, and then honor it.

    Please don’t use your wedding as some kind of political statement about gay marriage rights. We’ve heard way too many people (celebrities included) take some big stand and say they’re not going to marry until everyone can get married. The truth is that a marital relationship without the legal standing is hard and frustrating and expensive in terms of taxation and lost benefits. The committment to voluntarily pay higher taxes and do without health insurance and risk losing everything if your partner dies is hard to maintain if you don’t have to. Get married and enjoy your wedding, and then go on working for equal rights after your honemoon. I promise you, if my partner and I can ever get married, that day is going to be for us.

    Just don’t get married standing on our backs, okay? We’ve got enough to carry without being your wedding cake, too.

  45. March 12, 2009 at 10:21 am

    The wedding industiral complex is HORRIBLY unfeminist. I was asked/told to want many ridiculous things that I had no interest in, and when I expressed that politely I got goggle-eyed looks and “but why?? it’s tradition!” I flat out refused to wear a veil. It just seemed so creepy and a too-blatant parallel to the giving-away-virginity thing. But I think the main deal is- if you like veils, think they look nice or whatever, you should do and wear whatever the heck you want without worrying about it. To me, the point of being a feminist is for women to do whatever they want without feeling policed into (or out of) anything. If you have qualms about some wedding tradition that is being foisted on you, put your foot down and just don’t do it.

    I had a hard time with my planning because of that, and also because my fiancee and the people in my wedding party were busy with school and work and not all that helpful. As much as I love them dearly, I was busy with school too and resented the lack of help. Because I was the bride, I was implicitly expected to care more and do it all. That put a strain on our relationships, was costly and stressed me out. Basically it is too much work for one person. My sister stepped up to the plate after her highschool got out and even having one other person made a huge difference. If I could do it all again I’d elope. I mean, it paid off and it was great to celebrate with fam & friends but yeesh.

  46. March 12, 2009 at 11:01 am

    “And if you are lucky enough to have a friend doing any of the work for you, pay them their regular rate, so they don’t feel pressure to overperform while being underpaid.”

    Hear, hear! And thank you so very, very much for mentioning it! :) I have been privileged to construct the wedding gown of a dear friend, and it was a joy. She was totally up front about her budget, we worked within it, we were creative with the design, and the icing on the cake was that she tipped me at the end because “everyone else gets a gratuity and you should, too”. :) One of the better experiences I’ve had, actually.

    If you do have a friend/family member doing something for your wedding that is part of their real job/business and not just a favor to you (and PLEASE don’t assume it will be), be *really* up front about your budget. If anything, keep some of your budget in reserve for unexpected costs, and I mean that overall — I can point out how fabric prices have changed over the last few years as an example of things beyond my control — if you have a bit of a reserve the last minute things you forgot to budget for won’t break the bank.

    If you are honest about what you can spend, your friend/relation can probably suggest some ways to creatively keep the bill within your limits. You will NOT be able to get the totally out of season flowers for the same price as the type that are year-round or really, really plentiful RIGHT NOW, for example, but you may get a really creative arrangement that makes the most of the one or two of the out of season thing that still stays in your budget.

    Above all, I see it this way — if you are really ready to be married, you are already joined in your heart. The rest of it is just the legal stuff and the party stuff. Have a nice party to celebrate your togetherness with the people you love, but keep it in perspective, eh? In 10 years, no one is going to remember what flowers you had or if you had a signature cocktail, and the dress will likely be snickered at unless it was REALLY classic. They’ll remember if the food was good, if the band/DJ was good (if you have a dance), and if anyone fainted, vomited, or lost clothing. ;) Try to avoid the latter bit there, and everything will be great. Even if your mother does insist on inviting the cousins you barely know and couldn’t pick out in a crowd. ;)

  47. RP
    March 12, 2009 at 11:38 am

    I’m way introverted and the dude was changing careers, so he was the one with the time and the energy to plan the wedding. The best move we made was to do the premarital counseling and plan the wedding before we told anyone we were “engaged”.

  48. March 12, 2009 at 12:00 pm

    Isn’t the entire institution of marriage misogynist? The entire tradition comes from a practice whereby a woman basically loses her identity – the ability to own property, make her own decisions, even the most fundamental aspect of all by losing their name! How can marriage even be defended in a feminist worldview?

    Historically, yes. So is childbearing/parenting, inhertance, and most forms of law, just to name a few things off the top of my head. But I have never once heard someone say a woman should not, for example, accept inherited property or take her landlord to small claims court because inheritance or law are historically sexist institutions. Times change, institutions change, especially when actively remade by those who participate in them.

  49. March 12, 2009 at 12:03 pm

    My wedding cost less than $500. We asked the friends who performed the ceremony if we could do it in their backyard (Wiccan handfasting). My mom made the cakes, my best friend made the dress, his mom made his kilt. My maid of honor and one bridesmaid were male. I didn’t have a bouquet. We did have flowers on the cakes.

    I told people to wear whatever they wanted. My “Maid of Honor” wore a traditional Mongolian outfit, my other male bridesmaid wore jeans and an Eddie Bauer button down shirt. We had people in full SCA Medieval garb, suits, drag, jeans and t-shirts, shorts, everything.

    The weather was gorgeous. 40 people RSVP-ed and 80 showed up. It was a glorious disaster. Not enough food, but no one cared. It was a great party, everyone had a marvelous time, even the photographer had a blast. He told us that it was the most fun he’d ever had shooting a wedding.

    What’s important is to do what YOU want, not what society or your parents or anyone else says you should want. And the pictures? I think I look at them once every two or three years, mostly if someone I’m now friends with asks about them.

    Fifteen years this coming May, and we’re still disgustingly smooshy with each other. What’s important is the MARRIAGE not the WEDDING.

  50. Chris
    March 12, 2009 at 12:12 pm

    Good God, those Ace of Spades comments made me physically ill. What the hell is that awful place, and why are the people there so sad?

  51. CTD
    March 12, 2009 at 12:14 pm

    Ace wasn’t criticizing her for the reasons you seem to think. He didn’t have any problem with her having exactly the kind of wedding she wants. He was just pointing out how she felt the need to engage in absurd kabuki theatre of feigned sanctimonious hand-wringing in order to placate her readers and assuage their fears that she was having one of “those” weddings.

  52. March 12, 2009 at 12:20 pm

    On “father giving the bride away”: I read about one couple where both fathers had evidently been planning the moment when they got to walk down the aisle with daughter, and weren’t about to give it up to the other dad – so the wedding went ahead with two aisles, one for each bride. Cute.

    The rephrasing “Who do you bring” rather than “give this woman to be married” is really sweet, though.

  53. Laurie
    March 12, 2009 at 12:22 pm

    I know I shouldn’t be shocked by the Kathryn Lopez headline, but WTF??? Apparently, daring to want a wedding that actually reflects your values makes you Bridezilla?

    Also, why does she assume that issues related to planning a feminist wedding are “uncommon?” Does she think feminists never get married?

  54. umami
    March 12, 2009 at 12:23 pm

    I clicked on the Ace of Spades link, and I was expecting that I was going to get upset from reading the comments, because I usually do when people start spewing misogynist hate. Instead I stayed completely calm because I felt really sorry for them. They expose their own pathos so well in those comments. It’s hard to take their hate seriously, because it’s quite dramatically clear to me that these are people whose opinions I wouldn’t care about if I met them IRL. I know this is off-topic but it’s so nice to suddenly feel completely unaffected by something like that, that I thought I’d share. I hope it lasts.

  55. preying mantis
    March 12, 2009 at 12:35 pm

    “Does she think feminists never get married?”

    And also that women who don’t identify as feminist or with overtly feminist sensibilities never have qualms about particularly sexist/patriarchal traditions like the father giving away the bride, the white dress, classic-style vows, garter-tossing, etc. You don’t have to be particularly feminist to, for instance, feel like it’s a bit stupid, creepy, or weird to have your father symbolically transferring ownership of thirty-year-old you to some other guy or to have the color of your dress symbolize publicly, in front of a gathering of family and friends, the state of your vagina.

  56. Alice
    March 12, 2009 at 12:54 pm

    Thirding (or wherever we are in the count) indiebride – the kvetch forums made my life SO much easier. Other advice:

    – pick a few things you really care about, and let much of the rest fall by the wayside if need be. As someone said above, the pressure to ‘really make this day yours‘ is insidious, and it’s a crazy holdover from the days when the wedding day was IT for many women. That, and the conspicuous consumption/ capitalist equating of things with life.

    – don’t try to be all things to all people – I fell into this trap, wanting to make the commitment ceremony ‘worth’ it for people who were flying out, and defending it against people who expressed the opinion that it wasn’t ‘real’ since we weren’t getting married. Now, I have to perspective to offer a loud, vitriolic “FUCK THAT!” in response, but at the time I allowed myself to get caught up in the idea that I had to make the reception super duper awesome. Again, fuck that noise. People will be there for you, or they won’t – it’s their call, despite the WIC’s repeated assertions that a couple has to put on a crazy performance.

    – Find people who will bring you back to reality, harshly (but lovingly) if need be. It can sometimes feel more like a burden than a celebration, but with the right perspective, you’ll be able to get back to the important pieces of this – why you’re celebrating in the first place.

  57. AshKW
    March 12, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I flat-out refused to be married by anyone religious, and so my very secular wedding was held in a beautiful garden-type park with 30 members of family and a few close friends. I wore an ivory dress and a double veil — but that was my choice. My father walked me down the aisle, but that was mostly because I was terrified I’d trip in the thick grass (seriously, I’m a klutz) and wanted an arm to hang onto. There was nothing about “giving me away,” we wrote our own vows, and it was beautiful. A friend of my mom’s made the food, we got a cake from the grocery store, my flowers were fake and we didn’t dance into the night.

    I did hyphenate my last name, but I did it because of my pride in joining myself with the man I married. I don’t and never have been ashamed of my choices for my wedding, and I would never dream of shaming anyone else. There is nothing wrong with wanting a wedding your way. Do what makes you happy.

  58. March 12, 2009 at 2:26 pm

    It’s more that a little weird that Kathryn Jean Lopez would expect these issues to be rare (what, no one she knows keeps her own name or wears other than a white dress?) or that she’d see a civil response to readers’ questions as being Bridezilla.

    The only thing I can think of is, maybe Lopez is imagining Jessica has a bunch of wedding guests as opposed to same-sex marriage as Lopez is, and is therefore being Bridezilla for suggesting her guests donate to her should-be-unpopular cause. But it seems more likely to me that Jessica’s guests mostly share Jessica’s views on same-sex marriage, and are perfectly happy to get a suggestion of where to donate rather than a suggested bridal registry to shop at.

  59. ldragoon
    March 12, 2009 at 2:28 pm

    Fifty bucks, court-house, the marriage is still good eleven years later.

  60. Justin K.
    March 12, 2009 at 2:42 pm

    My wife and I grappled with some of this stuff in planning our own wedding. It helps, I think, to ignore all the received wisdom about weddings and remember two things:

    1. You want to do what’s necessary for your marriage to be legally, personally, and/or religiously legitimate and meaningful.

    2. You want to throw a good party with your family and friends.

    And a corollary to these:
    3. If any tries to pressure you into traditional wedding things you don’t want, politely but firmly remind them whose fucking wedding it is.

    The rest is utterly optional. Have a meaningful ceremony, combine some good food, good drink, and good company at the reception, and you’re done.

  61. March 12, 2009 at 3:29 pm

    I’m just curious: what is K-Lo’s relationship/marital status?

  62. Zak
    March 12, 2009 at 4:21 pm

    My tip:

    New England Clam Bake/lobster boil wedding dinner. Unless you’re vegetarian, of course. We hired a local guy who showed up with some big pots and a couple cajun cookers and fed us all the lobster we could eat, with sides and fixings, for far less than the cost of a caterer.

  63. March 12, 2009 at 4:32 pm

    Ace wasn’t criticizing her for the reasons you seem to think. He didn’t have any problem with her having exactly the kind of wedding she wants. He was just pointing out how she felt the need to engage in absurd kabuki theatre of feigned sanctimonious hand-wringing in order to placate her readers and assuage their fears that she was having one of “those” weddings.

    This is actually just as sad, isn’t it? Ace and the commenters there are engaging in some classic psychological projection there. They can’t imagine anyone being sincere about wanting to use their wedding as an opportunity to say something about how marriage in this country is unequal, or being sincere about caring where their wedding dress comes from. This is because they could care less about that kind of thing themselves — or at least, they don’t care enough to weigh it against the personally-chosen specialness of their special day. So they can’t imagine that anyone else would either.

    They perceive political concerns like marriage equality, or the sexism of traditional rituals, as being “pushed onto” individuals (them) by some kind of political orthodoxy machine that nobody could really believe in — because what people REALLY want and believe in is something traditional. So anyone who actually acts like they’re taking this stuff seriously must be putting on a fake show. Or as you yourself put it — engaging in “absurd kabuki theatre” and “feigned sanctimonious hand-wringing.”

    Unfortunately, you’re completely wrong about this — there are a whole lot of people who are just as sincere about representing their honest-to-gosh political beliefs in a wedding as any devout Catholic would be about having an ordained priest perform the ceremony. It’s not any less emotionally honest or sincere an expression of belief, and calling it out as “fake” is just as silly as going up to the Catholic and saying “What? You don’t really believe that this priest is the only guy who can marry you, do you? I’ll marry you and it’s just as good!” Projection of your own beliefs onto others and assuming they think the same way doesn’t really make them any less sincere — it just makes your comments a sad joke.

    I know plenty of people who feel the same way about their own weddings as Jessica, and I have no problem at all believing she’s sincere. The idea that it’s all a put-on seems to have been manufactured out of whole cloth, and the cloth out of some fairly silly notions about “liberals” and “feminists.” Secretly, every last straight female feminist wants a garter pulled off her leg and a white dress and her daddy to giver her away! Secretly, every last straight guy wants a red juicy hamburger and a bachelor party with strippers! Yeah yeah, tell me another.

  64. Katlyn
    March 12, 2009 at 5:47 pm

    Holly couldn’t have said it better.

    These people have such a problem with believing her sincerity because, frankly, those issues are not a priority to them. They want to focus on “tradition” and when they see someone else who rejects it, they want so much to believe that the person is just secretly masking their true desires for a traditional wedding.

    On the subject of Jessica’s comments about same-sex marriage, one commenter said “it must be so exhausting to care about stuff all the time.”
    Exhausting? To care?
    Yeah, I guess it must be so nice to never have to worry about little things like equal rights. It’s better to just pity all of those poor suckers trying to change things for the better.
    It’s very obvious that these comments would only come from someone who never gives a shit about anything, and therefore, believes no one else would give a shit either.

  65. ahunt
    March 12, 2009 at 6:46 pm

    Late to the game here…but of all the petty, mean-spirited, offensive, hypocritical drivel spewing from right wing conservative commentators…the Ass of Spades crowd is unrivaled. There is simply no excuse .

  66. The Opoponax
    March 12, 2009 at 9:13 pm

    They perceive political concerns like marriage equality, or the sexism of traditional rituals, as being “pushed onto” individuals (them) by some kind of political orthodoxy machine that nobody could really believe in — because what people REALLY want and believe in is something traditional.

    This is an interesting point. It’s as if there are two choices: Bee-weeeve in stuff, the only option for which is 100% lock stock tradition, or be jaded and above it all and believe in nothing but some kind of Randian narcissistic self-interest. This isn’t limited to the commentariat at Ace of Spades, either. I think it’s something that happens across various “rebellious” sectors of patriarchal culture . I know it’s something I myself battled with when I was younger and trying to figure things out.

    The great thing about this false dichotomy from a patriarchal perspective is that it renders invisible the very real alternatives that exist, resulting in a mentality like that quote from Ace about how Jessica couldn’t possibly believe in any of that feminist garbage.

  67. March 13, 2009 at 7:51 am

    Regarding name changes, I think “Valenti” would make a kick-ass first name, or maybe “Valentina”.

    Certainly, if I felt I needed to shed one of my names for the sake of conciseness or whatever, I’d drop “Jessica” by preference.

    Just a thought, and just my thought, but hey….

  68. March 13, 2009 at 9:59 am

    Just to add my two penneth worth. Do your own thing, have enough to make the wedding legal, then add the bits that will make it meaningful for you both then as then as far as the budget will stretch have the kick ass party/honeymoon/deposit for a house that you want.

    However within that do your own thing don’t get too wound up about the less relevant details.

    As both my husband and I are atheists there was no way we would get married in a church so having a civil ceremony was important to us. We omitted the statement that marriage was an institution between man and woman because we believe that it should be open to all adults no matter what their sexual orientation and there were a few other things that we were firm on having.

    For things that were less important we were quite happy to compromise, especially if the goods/services were being provided by family and friends, the wedding cake I didn’t really care. I would have quite liked having a carrot cake or sponge but my mum who was making the cake had the final call and make a spicy fruit cake instead. I could have insisted but it didn’t seem worth the hassle for something that I wasn’t too fussed about. It was still stressful but it cost a lot less than many weddings both in financial terms and in sleepless nights.

    Our wedding was wonderful even the dreadful dj made the evening for some people. He is the only thing I would change from the day if I could re-run it.

    We were lucky in that our parents were all very laid back about our plans they didn’t insist that we do anything because it was tradition.

  69. March 13, 2009 at 11:15 am

    Isn’t the entire institution of marriage misogynist?


    How can marriage even be defended in a feminist worldview?

    Marriage is the only currenlty available mechanism for spreading some of the financial love onto mothers.

    Men earn more than women; that’s a given.

    Women don’t get paid anything for the toil and care of motherhood; another given.

    There are no acceptable and sufficient provisions for childcare outside the home: given.

    So the only viable option for a woman to raise her children out of poverty is to tie her financial future to a man, whether she is able to work or not; it is virtually impossible to bring up a family on one part time salary anyway, but chances are that when the children are very young she won’t be able to go to work anyway because that would involve essentially abandoning them.

    However if the relationship breaks down and the man’s income is no longer available to her and her children, she’s stuffed – *except* is she was legally married to him.

    In that case the state will make at least nominal attempt to force the man to continue supporting his children and keep them out of, as it were, the workhouse. Unmarried mothers, however, have no legal recourse whatsoever in these circumstances.

    Feminism isn’t all about overthrowing old traditions. It’s also about protecting women and girls. And the insitution of marriage, while abhorrent it in principle as a legalised form of domestic servitude bordering on prostitution, is a necessary evil to protect mothers from the full impact of the fact that the state takes no responsibility for them whatsoever while expecting them to unilaterally make immense sacrifice in order to continue populating the tax paying classes.

  70. Andrea
    March 13, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    I’ve been planning my little feminist wedding of around 25 people, and even though I’ve had full support from my family about keeping god, gender biased language and the objectification of yours truly out of it, my fiancé’s family has been nothing but horrible. Making up excuses not to come, things like “I’ll be breast feeding that weekend” or “I might need to baby sit some other kids.” shit like that. If I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t give them a wedding to use as a weapon in the first place.

  71. March 14, 2009 at 5:27 pm

    One of the things that made the PhysioProf/PhysioWife wedding process really fun for everyone involved was the realization that what we really cared about was that our guests have a really fucking good time. Taking the focus off self-aggrandizement was a really healthy thing to do, and enabled us to have a really good time too.

    When we did the stupid little cake-cutting-feed-each-other dealio, all of the guests were so busy shaking their asses on the dance floor that no one paid any attention to our “big moment”, and we were just really happy that everyone was drunk off their fucking asses and having fun.

  72. Jennifer
    March 16, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    TheLady: hear, hear. My mom’s neighbors…well, they didn’t get married and had six kids and she doesn’t work. The guy has decided to dump her. Yeah, “screwed” doesn’t even begin to describe it.

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