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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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72 Responses

  1. Drahill
    Drahill January 28, 2013 at 2:41 pm |

    I just take stuff like this as proof that, when it comes to weddings, the onus (and the focus) falls to the woman. I’ll admit to looking at a few dresses before I was engaged, but that was largely the extent of it. I never took actual planning steps. In any event, I couldn’t have planned if I had tried. My husband is a Syrian Jew with a Muslim mother and an extensive Arab family. I’m a German Sioux American Christian with a much smaller family. If I had solely planned from my perspective, I would have slighted his entire family by not including any of their traditions or customs – which probably would have made for a pretty unwelcoming experience for them. I suppose the ability to plan one’s wedding is largely because some brides don’t really care about the other half to begin with, but maybe that’s just my cynism speaking. Though its hard not to be a cynic after going through the wedding planning process and the repeat insistence that its the bride’s “special day.”

  2. Kasabian
    Kasabian January 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm |

    I guess everyone needs a hobby, right? If that’s the sort of thing you find relaxing or otherwise cathartic, then who are we to judge? My playing video games for hours on end is hardly any more productive.

  3. JBL55
    JBL55 January 28, 2013 at 3:25 pm |

    My sainted mother was a pipe organist for over fifty years and helped plan many a wedding.

    She always maintained there was a direct relationship between the amount of time spent planning a wedding and the level of anguish experienced when the inevitable occurs and Something Goes Wrong.

    One of her favorite examples was a wedding where the priest got sick at the last minute. The substitute spent a full minute leafing back and forth through the prayer book to find the right page, he mispronounced the names of both the bride and groom throughout the ceremony, and when the time came for the soloist to sing her big number, the camera (of course this was all being filmed) panned up to the choir loft where my mother was waving her hands like a NFL ref signalling “no touchdown” because the singer had failed to appear.

    She was so pleased and proud when my husband and I planned our wedding in an hour over root beer floats a mere six months before the date.

  4. gratuitous_violet
    gratuitous_violet January 28, 2013 at 3:35 pm |

    Whenever anyone asks my mother why she was okay with eloping (because let’s face it, nobody ever asks my dad if he REALLY wanted a large wedding) she fixes them with a glare and says “Why? It was just something else I was expected to do all the work for!”

    I credit this with my lifelong aversion to ridiculous heterosexual production-wedding nonsense, because I’m a terrible planner and logistics give me anxieties, so any event I need a separate goddamn binder for is not a joyous event. I know other people enjoy it, so more power to them! (However, I do cast a serious side-eye at the, ahem, skewed division of labor in putting on the last few het weddings I’ve been privy to.)

  5. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune January 28, 2013 at 3:37 pm |

    Eh… I liked the getting married thing. I even liked my weddings, both the handfasting and the legal one! (Largely because I had the twin privileges of massive creative control, so to speak, and a spouse who had almost identical ideas on what was Yes and No and FUCK NO. Seriously, the only disagreement we had re: weddings was whether or not we were going to play one particular song.) But frankly, I like the simple, ordinary days where Valoniel and I get to, like, chill out and be people better than the days we got married, as significant and wonderful days as they were in my life. They’re just so much less fraught and stressful.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl January 28, 2013 at 3:46 pm |

      I wasn’t really into most of the wedding planning business, so I actually left about 80% of it to the spouse. I pretty much just picked out my dress and arranged for the flowers and cake (because I’m very picky about cake) and he did the rest. Oh, and I went to the tasting thing and helped pick out the food for the dinner, but only because the spouse was worried he wouldn’t get it all right on his own. I also had a extremely time consuming and stressful job at the time and didn’t want the wedding extravaganza thing at all. But the spouse did, so I had no compunction with telling him to do it himself if it was really what he wanted.

      It was a fun party though, and I got to wear a pretty dress and eat yummy cake with our friends and family. So, mostly a win.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl January 28, 2013 at 3:56 pm |

        I agree this is one of those things where women get it coming and going. The social pressure put on women (at least here in the U.S.) to get married and to have this gigantic, epic, extravaganza of a wedding is enormous. Except women are all supposed to play it cool and not act desperate, lest you scare away potential suitors, even while getting bombarded with the message that getting married is supposed to be this be all end all experience of a lifetime.

        The only epic thing about it really is how shitty and sexist the expectations are that are put on women.

        And really, for lots of people, throwing a huge party is a lot of fun. I’m not going to judge someone harshly for planning a pretend wedding in their head.

        1. H-nought
          H-nought January 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm |

          re: shitty and sexist expectations This is something I read in a blog-post (sorry don’t remember where); but within a general discussion of how ‘feminine’ things are generally devalued in society at large, the author compared the criticism of spending lots of money on a wedding with the lack of criticism or any sort of judgement on all the money that goes into the Superbowl (e.g. how much money advertisers pay for a commercial etc).
          Wedding discussions just seem to fall very well into the larger narrative of how anything ‘feminine’ is a waste of time/money (even as we are shown in movies/on TV the great importance of a big, expensive wedding) but exorbitant spending on something ‘masculine’ is totally ok and the norm.
          (I’m not married nor anywhere close to it, so I can’t say anything from my personal experience, but I hate huge parties and wasting money so I’m guessing that if I ever have a wedding it’ll be on the small size ;) )

        2. H-nought
          H-nought January 28, 2013 at 6:42 pm |

          @Jill: You’re right, not the most correct comparison/analogy but I read the author’s example as a more, general ‘what society says is ok to spend lots and lots of money on’ – Superbowl (or other such events) = ok, normal but wedding (or other ‘female’ things) = wasteful, frivolous
          I wish I could think of a better spending contrast example, but nothing comes to mind.

  6. Thalia
    Thalia January 28, 2013 at 3:39 pm |

    I think it’s incredibly hard to avoid (as a single, heterosexual woman-identified female) thinking about your [potential] wedding and the wedding industrial complex at large.

    For instance, my mum and I watch wedding shows on TLC because it’s neat to see how they come together (the same way that we watch cooking/baking shows – it’s amazing to see the work that goes in and the product that comes out) and of course, we end up discussing the aspects we like. I also have many friends and family members who have gotten married in the last five years and are gearing up to get married – it means that weddings are a near-constant topic of conversation. Even if I didn’t enjoy it (I think it can be fun and it shows support), avoiding those conversations is almost impossible. If I try, I’m labelled as ‘jealous’, ‘bitchy’, ‘grumpy’, ‘rude’ or any number of negative adjectives.

    It also goes back, I think, to the idea that females (again, heterosexual woman-identified) are validated by having a male partner. Being one half of a whole, right? You aren’t complete until you have someone else completing you.

    There’s a judgey article on Jezebel that I read just before this and it really turned me off. Because I tend to agree with Jill, it comes across as sort of sad, maybe, but instead of judging perhaps we can think critically, discuss and advocate for change instead?

  7. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve January 28, 2013 at 4:05 pm |

    In my opinion the MOST IMPORTANT thing about the wedding is the thing that always gets overlooked, particularly for a majority of people, who, like myself and Mrs. Fat, get married at position in life where you’re not financially stable and you’ve not got bags of life experience.

    What I’m referring to, and what seems to me the most important function of the wedding is giving the young couple an opportunity to see if they can work together on a massive project. And if that couple examines all the evidence and they come to the conclusion that the best thing for them is to ignore the family and elope, then that may be an example of great decision making. Also, if a couple can work together and make a big wedding happen on a small budget without any fights, I do think that speaks well for the marriage. Same wedding handle by a wedding coordinator just isn’t the same IMHO.

    1. Virginia
      Virginia January 28, 2013 at 7:49 pm |

      YES, and thank you for pointing this out. I learned a lot about myself, my spouse, and how we work together in the process of planning our wedding. My spouse has been heard to say that if you can’t make it through a wedding, you probably won’t make it through a marriage. Not to mention that my personal wedding-planning experience has come in handy for helping to organize other events for school, church, and family.

    2. Dante
      Dante January 28, 2013 at 8:04 pm |

      So, wedding-as-hazing-ritual? Intriguing perspective.

      Mine has been the Miss Manners position for a number of years – plan the guest list and wedding party first, and then choose venue/menu/etc based on your budget and given the number of people you need to invite. If you need to serve Cheetos in order to be able to afford dinner for everyone you love, then go with the Cheetos – loved ones should not be ditched in order to fit in fancy food or decor. The most important part of the wedding is the group of people who share it with you, not the number of tiers on the cake.

      I find myself liking the idea that a couple’s capability to make hard decisions, together, about the wedding is a good indicator of how well they will be able to make other decisions, though.

      I also agree that it is horrendous that women are trained to want X and then mocked for wanting X.

    3. rhian
      rhian January 29, 2013 at 12:07 pm |

      I get what you’re trying to say, but I think this idea is taken way beyond its reasonable limits. For one thing, for me, it hasn’t been true. My partner and I are planning a wedding right now. We are not super young, we live together, we manage our finances and our household and our careers. We long ago figured out how to work on big projects together, and so this process has not really taught us anything about working with each other.

      Further, because I am The Bride, I am bombarded with messages that I should care a lot about the details of wedding planning, that I should be good at it, that I should love every moment of picking out gorgeous flower arrangements and adorable wedding favors. And I don’t. I have other skills, but this is not one of them. And it sounds silly, but because I am surrounded by wedding insanity, I do need to actively remind myself that not liking or being good at planning our wedding does not mean I am not a good and successful human being. But then people often tell me this idea, that this is practice for the future, that surviving your engagement is a test of your relationship, etc. I actually find it really infuriating, because it is just another way that the “this is the MOST IMPORTANT day of your life” message is packaged to me. And I find it even more objectionable because it is implying that not only my worth as a person, but the worth of my chosen life partnership now and forever, is based on my freaking party planning skills.

      (I say “I”, because my partner does not get these messages. He is expected to not care about any of this.)

  8. Schmorgluck
    Schmorgluck January 28, 2013 at 4:11 pm |

    Full disclosure: I’m a middle-class French man, and as such my representation of weddings is probably very different to what it’s talked about here. In fact, to be honest, most representation of weddings I got through US media has always seemed a bit… excessively formal and ceremonial? The weddings I’ve attended were far more relaxed events. Less pageantey, so to speak, even among my upper-class relatives. The two most formal weddings I attended were 1) a couple of friends who set up a Breton procession of their families, with traditional attires (most likely an idea of both of them – and it was awesome), and 2) a friend who married a Arizonian woman, and even then the ceremony was in the form of a handfasting, which is both very formal yet loose, and I found very moving (I discovered handfasting at that occasion – I must add this wasn’t the actual wedding, which took place in Arizona, it was a replay of the wedding for the benefit of the grooms’ kith and kin who couldn’t afford the trip – they still chose a very nice place, the castle of La Turmelière, birthplace of Joachim du Bellay, which not only is very classy, but since two of our friends, one as an historian, the other as an arts historian, knew the place very well, we got to have pretty educative improvised visits of the domain).

    Okay, I just made a full disclosure that will end up being far longer than my actual point.

    My actual point is that I find it tragically ironic that the time the women in question spend planning their wedding is time they don’t spend meeting people and maybe find the life partner they’re longing for. And your pinning this on the Pretty Princess mythos is spot-on in my opinion. The idea came to my mind before reaching the point where you mentioned it. They seem to work on the idea that it’s up to Prince Charming to find them. I find it actually pretty sad, and I find tasteless to mock them.

  9. Planning Your Wedding Before Meeting Your Spouse, and Other Subtle Narratives Rejecting Love  Dark Politricks

    [...] I have a minor disagreement with Jill. I agree with her that most people who read the weird New York Times story about women who spend [...]

  10. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte January 28, 2013 at 4:44 pm |

    I agree with the post, largely, but don’t think the story was disapproving of the women it profiled. More thoughts:

    http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/01/28/planning-your-wedding-before-meeting-your-spouse-and-other-subtle-narratives-rejecting-love/

    1. Laura C
      Laura C January 28, 2013 at 5:51 pm |

      I think this is closer to how I read it — as being part of the “every girl has been dreaming of her wedding since she was four” narrative. Placing these women at the extreme of that narrative, obviously, but in at least some ways normalizing the general view that women reach adulthood already having given tons of thought to their weddings, with the groom semi-irrelevant to that.

  11. Esti
    Esti January 28, 2013 at 5:07 pm |

    If anything, the NYT piece seemed sympathetic to/encouraging of this phenomenon. And I don’t think it can be written off as the Times finding some tiny group of weirdos and then trying to blow that up into a pronouncement on our times — there are a sizeable number of people, as those website statistics in the article demonstrate, whose pre-engagement wedding planning goes way beyond just watching Say Yes to the Dress while hungover.

    I think the interesting/sad part of this is that there is so much defense of this kind of fixation. If someone spent hundreds of hours clipping pictures and talking on message boards and contacting caterers and bands for a child’s first birthday party even though they did not have children and didn’t have any plans to have them in the immediate future, I think most people would see that as REALLY odd behavior and something you might encourage them to speak to a professional about. If someone spent ten years planning their thirtieth birthday party, that would equally be seen as unhealthy. But with weddings, this is somehow not just normal but defended as smart in many ways — look at the quotes in the article from people who were willing to admit in the NYT that they did this and from their husbands or wedding professionals talking about how helpful it can be. I don’t think the problem is that these women are being held up as examples of how bitches be crazy — it’s that they’re being held up as encouragement to do what they did.

    1. Rachel
      Rachel January 28, 2013 at 11:10 pm |

      I think the website thing might be a bit overstated. Lots of people end up going to these sites before they are engaged because of a friend or relative is getting married. After all, if you are a bridesmaid you are supposed to be helping with the planning somewhat. I first found theknot when I was maid of honor for my sister and trying to help her find something or other.

      Not to say that what they’re talking about doesn’t happen.

  12. Tenya
    Tenya January 28, 2013 at 6:15 pm |

    I can’t imagine planning my wedding before getting the engagement, the wedding I might have planned with a particular ex would have been so different from the one I went through with my husband, which may have been different if say, we’d decided to wait more than few months and could have been living somewhere different, etc. I know when I was getting married venues etc. were constantly like “we know you’ve been planning this since you were a little girl!” but no… actually I didn’t really want the part-time job of wedding planning and if I could have afforded to make someone else do it, I would have. And there was certainly a feeling of “but… what is wrong with you?” when I said things like I really didn’t care what people in the wedding party wore. Or about music. Or flowers.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah January 28, 2013 at 8:23 pm |

      Yeah, agreed. Wedding with dude I was seriously dating before dating husband? One hundred percent different. As in: with the ex the reception would definitely have been in a barn and would have involved several kegs and most likely alcohol poisoning for him and many of the guests…and with my husband the biggest issue was accommodating his parents’ expectations that each and every person they have ever met (all considered “family”) would be invited, despite the non-existent amount of time to plan and small budget. The two men have COMPLETELY different personalities and come from two totally different cultural backgrounds so I’m not sure how you plan a wedding without any knowledge of those types of considerations.

      Also, I hate planning things, especially parties. I hate deciding on things that are supposed to be Most Important Decisions Ever, so I pretty much checked out on that. My only requirement? That pizza be served and the cake be of the “ice cream” variety. My wishes were granted.

  13. The Kittehs' Unpaid Help
    The Kittehs' Unpaid Help January 28, 2013 at 6:21 pm |

    Doesn’t all this planning-down-to-the-last-detail leave out something important – like, the person you’re marrying? They might just have ideas of their own and expect input into the wedding too – even (gasp) if they’re a man.

    Makes me glad my marriage marker (it was more an announcement and chance to frock up/eat pastries than anything else) wasn’t an earthly thing – no money involved at all. Besides, Mr K and I were doing things arse-about-face as we usually do. He started to think of us as married in the April, I started to the following January, then he started wearing a ring and I bought a $12 silver one (don’t much like gold and it’s too flaming expensive), then we had our family “Hey look we’re married” gathering across the veil, and a few months later he proposed. Now a friend on this side has found a cool ring (stainless steel fleur-de-lys on a blue stone) so I’m gonna wear it as an engagement ring.

    Planning be damned, ad-hoc is way more fun! :)

    1. FYouMudFlaps
      FYouMudFlaps January 29, 2013 at 3:21 am |

      You rock!

    2. igglanova
      igglanova January 29, 2013 at 10:42 am |

      Doesn’t all this planning-down-to-the-last-detail leave out something important – like, the person you’re marrying? They might just have ideas of their own and expect input into the wedding too – even (gasp) if they’re a man.

      My thoughts exactly.

  14. Jennifer
    Jennifer January 28, 2013 at 6:30 pm |

    I can understand the urge, I guess, but I can’t help but think, what if you don’t get married until later in life? Or MUCH later? I mean, odds are high that I wouldn’t be able to catch a man until age 60 at the rate I’m going, and the dresses I’d pick out now aren’t going to look so great on my old, fat bod come the day. Plus the whole “oh yeah, I guess I have to accommodate what the dude wants too” thing.

    It just seems to jinx things to spend this much time on planning something that you can’t do by yourself. Unless you throw yourself a solo wedding, anyway. Maybe these women should do that and get it out of their systems or something?

  15. TomSims
    TomSims January 28, 2013 at 7:07 pm |

    “And yes, I actually agree that spending large chunks of your free time planning your own wedding when you aren’t actually engaged to be married is… a tad bizarre, and kind of sad.”

    Spot on

  16. roro80
    roro80 January 28, 2013 at 7:10 pm |

    When I was a kid, my sister and I used to plan out weddings on rainy days — looking through magazines to cut out dresses and flowers, making mixed tapes for the dancing afterwards, looking through poem books for pithy and poinant readings. But it was just an art project for a rainy day. Sometimes we’d do “Halloween Spooky Witch Wedding” or “Santa and Mrs. Claus renew their vows”.

    When I actually got married, I did have something of a traditional big wedding. The reason for that, though, was that my husband and I, despite our rather dry corporate jobs, have a simply amazing group of highly artistic friends that had become like family to us over the previous 5 years. Still are, 4 years later. Among our dearest friends are a formalwear designer/dressmaker, a wedding planner, the owner of a catering company, a graphic designer, an event designer/florist, two members of a band that regularly did wedding gigs, and the manager of a venue that was planning to start doing weddings. It was amazing and overwhelming (in the good way) to be a couple so surrounded with love and support that everyone wanted to lend their amazing talents to celebrate our impending nuptuals.

    So it’s kind of fuzzy for me from a feminist perspective. We loved our wedding, loved planning it. Hanging out with our best friends while picking out decor? Yes please! But it was mostly because all the details and planning represented a close-knit artistic community we are lucky enough to be a part of. So the wedding industrial complex is pretty nasty, fully supported by our misogynistic culture, but support and love and fun parties are awesome.

  17. LuckyLady
    LuckyLady January 28, 2013 at 8:43 pm |

    I’m all for having a big party to celebrate an important commitment and show support for the new couple. It seems to me that something that requires years to plan, binders of documentation, and a huge outlay of cash detracts from this. I had the huge church wedding my parents expected and I look vaguely nauseous in all the photos. We got married on the Saturday before the Super Bowl and my favorite part of the whole weekend sharing the left-over keg of beer with friends while watching the game. Both of us would have been quite happy to get married at the JP with the people that matter most to us, but there is no way our respective families would have gone for that.

    Perhaps we need to take another look at the cultural expectation that makes it seem completely reasonable to spend a decade planning an event that is over in a few hours, perhaps before entering into the relationship the event is intended to celebrate.

  18. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll January 28, 2013 at 9:07 pm |

    I started planning my first wedding about 2 months before the day.

    The 2nd was at the JP, and I bought the outfit I was going to wear the day before.

    Never even occurred to me to plan a wedding when I was young.

  19. DouglasG
    DouglasG January 28, 2013 at 11:18 pm |

    I basically agree with the OP and got almost all the references, but – Eat Steak? why would that be a rare or last time occurrence?

    Wednesday will be my married sister’s 20th anniversary, and I haven’t been to another wedding since, though it would be possible to be fond of such events if they really were what they ought to be.

    The only inexpensive thing about the day would have been the place cards (calligraphy by yours truly). On the plus side, the marriage is still going, my nephews don’t appear at all homophobic, and the chance during the reception to introduce The One Who Loved Me Back to The One Who Could Finish My Sentences was worth at least ten years.

  20. robotile
    robotile January 29, 2013 at 12:03 am |

    This piece is so vintage NYT Style: faux trend, flimsy research, and both essentialist and scare-mongery. At least no one quit their day job to purchase a $30,000 couch.

  21. Donna L
    Donna L January 29, 2013 at 12:15 am |

    The only thing that any of the women mentioned in the article said that really bothered me was the apparent position of one woman that she has every detail planned out, and that’s how it’s going to be, and her as-yet-nonexistent fiance will have no say in it. I understand the societal influences that make some people think of weddings as “the bride’s day” alone, but the expression of that opinion still made me shudder. It brought back bad memories of feeling like something of a supernumerary at my own wedding, feelings perhaps compounded by certain other feelings that were then largely under the surface (because I had already been actively suppressing them for 20 years or so at the time). None of this has anything more than an academic interest for me at this point, since I’m certainly never going to be a husband again (thank God!) and very much doubt that I’ll ever be anyone’s wife, either.

    My son, who’s 22, does have an idea already of where he’d like to hold his future wedding (if any) — a particular spot in a park near where I live now, with a view of the River and the Bridge — but he understands quite well that his as-yet-nonexistent future husband/spouse (whatever term he decides to use) will have a say in it.

  22. miga
    miga January 29, 2013 at 1:28 am |

    Don’t know if this is true for everyone else or if this just popped up for me, but when I click “Read More” I get a bad link. I had to click into the comments just to read the rest of the article.

    Just letting yall know!

  23. Bunny
    Bunny January 29, 2013 at 8:48 am |

    Kinda seems like it’s just part of the same spectrum of Impossible Expectations we’re required to dance around in the rest of our lives.

    Be slim and curvy! But if you are “too serious” about dieting and exercise you’re shallow.
    Be beautiful! But if you spend “too much” time and money on hair and makeup then you’re vain.
    Be as beautiful as a model but either manage this effortlessly, or give the IMPRESSION that it’s effortless.

    Don’t be a prude! But don’t be a slut, either! Exact definition of prude and slut are determined by the person judging you.
    Dress sexy! But not TOO sexy! Look appealing to every man who sees you, but if you get raped it’s your fault for dressing that way. (as if rape had anything to do with clothes!)
    Want kinky sex, but be a virgin. And only want kinky sex that matches exactly what your (male) partner wants.

    Don’t be a gold-digger, have your own income! But don’t earn more than the man (because queer folk don’t exist) or he’ll feel threatened!
    But stay at home with the kids! Because if you’re working “too many” hours or take your career “too seriously” you’re a bad mother, but if you work fewer hours and accept the financial hit to care for your family you’re a welfare queen and lazy.

    Have children! But not “too many” or “too few! children.
    Sacrifice everything for your children and spouse! But don’t be a Stepford wife!
    Your children must do well at everything in order to succeed! But don’t be a helicopter parent, a tiger mom!

    Want a wedding! It’s the most important day of your life! But if you treat it like it really IS the most important thing that will ever happen to you, you’re a spoiled princess and possibly a bridezilla.

    Ugh.

    1. Schmorgluck
      Schmorgluck January 29, 2013 at 4:16 pm |

      Spot on, but you forgot a few.

      One that comes to mind:
      Be feminine, because a woman who isn’t feminine is appalling. But don’t be “girly”, because “girly” is sooo lame and ridiculous.

      Catherine Dufour, a French science-fiction and fantasy writer (and really one of my favourite authors ever) put in the mouth of an obvious author stand-in an awesome rant about Impossible Expectations, “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t” etc. Hard to describe. I wish her work were translated to English. I may rant about that kind of things in the next Weekend Open Thread.

  24. Julia
    Julia January 29, 2013 at 9:24 am |

    I think it’s upsetting when I see women going whole-hog about their weddings, because it’s possibly the only time in that woman’s life when she is expected to be the boss, expected to behave like a CEO. That’s really sad.

    And then we mock them? I’m getting mightily pissed at the NYTimes these days…

    (And did anyone catch the parenthetical bit in the beginning, how it’s usually “the” woman? How about they just state that it’s a piece about heterosexual marriage, instead of just assuming we were all on the same page?)

  25. ruggers
    ruggers January 29, 2013 at 10:19 am |

    I really like the recent piece on thebillfold about weddings/marriages. A short quote:

    “But rather than marking that formality with a huge break from the everyday, I wanted to fold it into our daily lives, to integrate the act of getting married with the business of being married. For many people, a wedding serves to signify the start of something new, something different. For some people, a wedding declares, “We are adults now.” For others, it announces, “We’re getting serious about this relationship.” And for a lot of folks like us, it says, “Let’s stop what we’re doing for a moment and recognize the relationship we’ve been building.””

    (From here.)

    The writer also acknowledges that certain legal and financial benefits do follow.

    But I like that article as a counterpoint – because, at least among my friends/family/social circle, in South Asia huge weddings are the norm, and I find them so unnecessarily costly, extravagant and also stupid. None of the brides or the grooms ever said afterwards how much they enjoyed themselves, or had a good time – they were bored, tired, and hungry, sitting by themselves on a stage, having food brought to them ages after. The brides get made-up for huge sums to just sit there for a few hours, there are cheesy and contrived photo-shoots, and moving is so difficult because of the intricate and heavy clothes. It’s horrible. There are many good parts of these weddings as well – lots of people, food, sometimes music and dancing (on the mehndi only though). But too much is “tradition” and “culture” and neither of those is inherently worth anything, and often are just symbols of status-based-on-oppression, of women, and people from lower ses, and so on.

    Sorry that went on so long. I think it’s been on my mind for a while.

    TL;DR – huge costly weddings are stupid, throw rocks at them :P

    1. macavitykitsune
      macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 4:24 pm |

      AAAAAAAAAAH YESSSSSSSSSSS.

      99.999% of the reason I didn’t have a Proper Iyengar Wedding was because I’d have been panicky and miserable sitting in front of a fire (fires scare the shit out of me) for 8 hours in the middle of a large crowd (which would also scare the shit out of me). So instead I had 30 people in a spacious house/15 people in a large lounge depending whether you’re asking about the handfasting or the legal ceremony. And I felt wayyyyy better.

      If I’d been born Punjabi or Bengali I’d just have taken vows at puberty and had done. THe gods only know how those poor brides survive.

      Of course, I was lucky I had family that understood (hello, claustrophobic spouse and parents who also had a 30-person wedding at Guruvayur…)!

  26. Olivia
    Olivia January 29, 2013 at 11:28 am |

    @julia
    “I think that planning before I get engaged is just practical.”

    Julia I wanted to respond to what you were saying because I agree. What I see as problematic in this article, is the fact that women who plan their weddings meticulously and care to make sure that every detail is perfect, are considered “Bridezillas.” This brings up the age-old dichotomy of women being told that they are not detail and task- oriented but when they are assertive and take initiative on projects that are important to them, they are called bitchy and crazy. However, if a man was to plan a wedding in the manner that a woman did, he would be called efficient, focused, and task-oriented. I believe that this is an example that highlights the double standard that women have to endure.

  27. Guilty
    Guilty January 29, 2013 at 11:59 am |

    Uggggh. I’m actually guilty of planning my wedding. But it was when I was 23 and extremely stressed out about relationships and men and I actually did it because it was the greatest stress reliever of all time. (For me, at least at that time.) AND it sure beat doing other harmful things. And now all of that planning means nothing and is irrelevant but when I was crafting it, it was the one thing I felt like I could control at that time. And it felt good.

    I’m actually not the “planning my wedding type” (as opposed to my best friend who has been planning her wedding for at least 15 years with no boo in sight.) but I wanted to just offer that perspective and be less about bashing women who do it. I think it’s bad (a complicated) practice but sometimes the ridiculous engagement can come from a real (and human) place.

  28. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll January 29, 2013 at 12:25 pm |

    Is that “planning your wedding since you were a little girl” thing really that widespread? Because I do not recall any of my girl friends doing this. I remember my bestie and I had plans to dance on Solid Gold, but we were too busy riding bikes,climbing trees, jumping on the trampoline, skating and dancing. Even when I was old enough to actually start real dating (and not the X is my boyfriend, we sit together at the cafeteria but that’s the extent of it) getting married wasn’t even a blip on the radar. None of my girl friends talked about it either, we were busy trying to talk our mothers into allowing make up, agonizing over who would ask us to dances, planning our tactics for the annual Halloween Hay Ride and worrying about the math quiz..and of course, still dancing. HS was full of HS drama and boyfriends were musical chairs, but I still don’t recall any of us planning weddings. We’d plan the kegger next weekend and that was as far into the future we looked.

    So when I read these articles or watch those movies that have the montage of the characters starting their wedding plans at the age of 8, I have absolutely no idea who these women are. I’ve never met one. I grew up in a pretty conservative small town in Texas, so it’s not like I wouldn’t have been exposed to it, but I never was.

    Even my barbies didn’t get married. They had lots of sex and a few children out of wedlock…one had a particularly gruesome barbie car accident but I can’t recall a single instance of holding a barbie wedding.

    I don’t know if I’m weird, or if it’s everyone else.

  29. anna
    anna January 29, 2013 at 12:41 pm |

    I think it’s a pretty lousy start to a marriage to have a woman expected to slave away to produce a gorgeous ceremony and reception while future hubby kicks back and relaxes because men “just don’t care” about this stuff, sorry honey!

    That said, are these unengaged women planning their weddings actually hoping to have a wedding exactly like they plan? Or is it more like, “I’m not even close to being engaged, but planning my wedding is like planning what I’d do if I suddenly moved to Spain. Just a little daydream.” And if they had an actual wedding to plan for they’d take the groom’s wishes into consideration and expect him to be involved?

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl January 29, 2013 at 1:25 pm |

      Or is it more like, “I’m not even close to being engaged, but planning my wedding is like planning what I’d do if I suddenly moved to Spain. Just a little daydream.” And if they had an actual wedding to plan for they’d take the groom’s wishes into consideration and expect him to be involved?

      I think this explanation is actually pretty spot on. Some other commenters have also pointed out that it’s pretty easy to go down that path, especially while attending other people’s weddings or watching one of the dozens of wedding porn shows on tv these days. Like noticing that your friends chose to have a casual afternoon wedding and thinking, this is pretty cool, but maybe I would do these various things differently, and then you’re off on a whole wedding related fantasy that has no basis in reality.

      Or maybe it’s because I plan pretend vacations to places like France and Italy and Spain all the time like Anna mentioned, even though I will probably never get to have those imaginary vacations?

    2. Violet
      Violet January 29, 2013 at 5:26 pm |

      I agree totally. It’s all just fantasy and there’s no reason that fantasies of the wedding you may someday have should be any less acceptable than fantasies of what your dream home would look like or what your dream vacation would consist of.

      Why should we look down on fantasy wedding planners but not on people who play fantasy sports? There are people who spend immense amounts of time on sports teams they don’t actually own or manage (and never will) and no one cares about that, why should we care about women planning out weddings they may never get to have?

  30. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 4:43 pm |

    Just a question for people who think planning a wedding for funsies, hypothetically, is such a loser deal: why? I mean, no, seriously, why? Sure, it becomes objectively fucking irrational if they spend more time doing that than sleeping, or expect Future Partner X to fall in with these plans perfectly, or turn into screaming messes if any deviation occurs. But as a sort of random wish-fulfillment fantasy, I don’t see how it’s more or less harmless than imagining the perfect house, which, fuck knows, I did ALL THE TIME as a kid. I even had the furniture set out and stuff. Now, 13-odd years later, my perfect dream house requires subtracting a few dogs (down to one) and adding a wife and kid, and her pair of mildly psychotic cockatiels, and a kitten. Sure, shit changed, I’m on a different continent, married, kid, etc, etc, but I wouldn’t give up the house-dreaming hours for anything. Or the hours I spent planning out my future dog-boarding business as a tween. And I may or may not have a three-month itinerary of What Valoniel And Kid Need To See In India tucked away on my computer somewhere. It’s stress relief, harmless and fun.

    Of course, if it’s no longer harmless and fun, but compulsive and emotionally draining, then it’s an addiction, not a hobby. That’s just objectively unhealthy no matter what you’re addicted to. I just find this insistence on writing articles about HOSHIT WOMEN THINK ABOUT PARTIES AND PRETTY EVENTS SOOOO WACKY AMIRITE ridiculous, when nobody’s writing articles about guys who give up sleep to watch cricket matches live on TV from across the world (no offense, grandpa, wherever your soul is now), or ones who play fantasy football every weekend instead of spending time with their kids.

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl January 29, 2013 at 5:03 pm |

      HOSHIT WOMEN THINK ABOUT PARTIES AND PRETTY EVENTS SOOOO WACKY AMIRITE

      I’m curious to hear the answer too, Mac, because I think you actually hit it right on the head with the above!

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 5:37 pm |

        Heh, Lola, anna above even beat me to the punch…you guys are totally my brain twins on this!

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl January 29, 2013 at 8:07 pm |

          JFC, the effing fantasy football nonsense is the most annoying thing in the world

          Yes, I went there. But really, men having and running a pretend, made up football team is all just fine and not something to criticize from a sociological or feminist perspective, right? It’s nothing like those silly women who fantasize about pretend weddings they want to have. I mean, football is so very masculine, the very paragon of USian masculinity really, while weddings are so girly and silly and utter proof of how vapid the women who fantasize about them truly are.

          Oh, no, wait, that’s not right. Because fantasy football is way dumber. Btw, the spouse was briefly into the fantasy football when we first met, and I totally put the kaibosh on it once the kids came along, because it took up way too much time and money. Yep, that’s me, the harpie shrew fantasy football ruiner!

        2. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl January 29, 2013 at 8:08 pm |

          Bah, longer comment stuck in mod. Shorter version, we most definitely are, Mac!

        3. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 9:46 pm |

          I mean, football is so very masculine, the very paragon of USian masculinity really

          WHY DO YOU EVEN CALL IT FOOTBALL

          THEY CARRY THE BALL ALL THE TIME

          CALL IT HANDBALL OR FISTBALL

          *frustrated Asian*

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 9:48 pm |

          Anyway, rant done, to address your point seriously: yes, this. I see this all the time in fandom, too. Fanfic writer? Pah, you’re a silly girl! (Even if you’re not, even if you’re writing something published writers would cry to emulate.) Maledudelybro pontificating at an academic conference? LET ME WORSHIP YOU AND NAME YOUR SCRIBBLES FANDOM STUDIES.

          (When seriously, if a “fandom studies” professional has three words to string together than a fan hasn’t done better before him/her, I will buy a hat and eat it. Unless the pro’s in fandom. I will make that allowance.)

        5. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 29, 2013 at 9:49 pm |

          *that, not than

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl January 29, 2013 at 9:54 pm |

          FISTBALL

          /Snort

          My dirty mind went somewhere else entirely with this one. Ha! fistball, too funny!

      2. Colin
        Colin January 30, 2013 at 5:45 pm |

        Perhaps it should be renamed ‘headbrick’: http://www.smbc-comics.com/?id=2778

        1. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 30, 2013 at 6:07 pm |

          BRB LOLING 4ever.

          …it’s also severely Notfunny. D:

    2. Nanani
      Nanani January 30, 2013 at 12:25 am |

      “Just a question for people who think planning a wedding for funsies, hypothetically, is such a loser deal: why?”

      Because of the expectation that every woman has been doing this since childhood, really. Weddings are filled to the brim with sexism unfair, gendered expectations, and planning for fun sounds an awful lot like playing along with poisonous ideas. Which isn’t actually fun.

      This of course, is from my perspective as someone who wants no wedding at all, and would only get married if the (not currently existing) partner provided a good reason to do it. I don’t relate to the fun part at all and see a LOT of problems regardless.

      1. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune January 30, 2013 at 12:42 am |

        Weddings are filled to the brim with sexism unfair, gendered expectations, and planning for fun sounds an awful lot like playing along with poisonous ideas.

        But…every aspect of any woman’s life is filled with sexist expectations. What makes playing along with X expectation moral and Y expectation immoral? For instance, there are far more poisonous and damaging narratives around dating than there are around a wedding (which, at its worst, can only leave you in debt, not in hospital or a women’s shelter). But why is discussing an ideal partner okay, but discussing an ideal party an awful taint?

        I don’t relate to the fun part at all

        See, the thing is, I don’t relate to the fun part either. But I also don’t set myself up as the Fun Appropriateness Police, and declare that liking X (when X is a thing that women are overwhelmingly involved in and responsible for) is just haha so loser lol, but throwing expensive weekly baseball-watching parties (in which an equivalent time/energy is invested as these women spend on Pinterest or whatever) is totally cool? Isn’t that just privileging “male” things as Cool and “female” things as Loser, albeit with a Zany Feminist Twist?

        1. Nanani
          Nanani January 30, 2013 at 12:52 am |

          “But why is discussing an ideal partner okay, but discussing an ideal party an awful taint? “

          At this point in time, it seems to me that more progress has been made in terms of dating expectations than wedding expectations. Discussing an ideal partner could definitely fall into the same awfulness, but is less likely to thanks to said progress. So, I could see the badness around wedding planning falling with MORE FEMINISM!! applied.

          This will require a massive overhaul or elimination of “wedding porn” type media and probably crack the industrial complex around weddings into tiny pieces, so a lot of work is needed indeed.

          As for the rest, I totally agree that it’s not OK to play the fun police. But to the extent that fun is going to be criticised at all, “it’s loaded with sexist poison” is a valid criticism to make.

          I’m also against separating things into “male” and “female”, so there’s that.

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 30, 2013 at 1:22 am |

          At this point in time, it seems to me that more progress has been made in terms of dating expectations than wedding expectations.

          Has it? How long has it been since the last article on Rihanna that practically commands girls to make nice with abusers? How long since The Rules came out?

          I mean, seriously, I hate to oppression olympics here, but I think that shitting all over some random woman’s private pastime is a little less important (and maybe a lot less feminist) than trying to attack the situation on a systemic level, as you suggested.

          And see, I think there’s a difference between how I perceive this and how others do. I look at someone with a wedding-related Pinterest and no partner and go “oh, wedding fan”, not “boyfriend-craving pinkwashed junkie”. It strikes me as a fandom, not as an act of desperation (and most of the women in the article seem pretty content overall), and maybe I’m reacting from the point of view of a fan who’s had so much shit chucked at her for being a fan – from “it turned you gay” to “you need a man, that’s why you write about men” to “you’re secretly trans(?!)” – that this just makes me empathise instinctively with those women.

          But to the extent that fun is going to be criticised at all, “it’s loaded with sexist poison” is a valid criticism to make.

          But to the extent that fun is going to be criticised at all, “it’s loaded with sexist poison” is a valid criticism to make. feminists might as well direct it at the easy targets of Women With Womanly Interests, right? It’s such a novel shtick.

          I just really hate this idea that somebody has to be a gay male fashion designer in Paris to maybe appreciate a pretty dress and a good party without being called vapid suckers of the patriarchy’s soma-feed. And while you haven’t done that, that’s certainly the trend among people who do.

          And you know what, even if those women are vapid and buy into patriarchal shit, I’m glad they’re obsessed with The Perfect Wedding(TM), as sick as that personally makes me, rather than The One(TM).

          I’m also against separating things into “male” and “female”, so there’s that.

          But…it doesn’t matter if you, personally, are against separating things into male and female or not. The general trend (yes, even in the critical slant on it that feminism takes) is to separate things into male and female things, and it is in a background of femmephobia that these criticisms are based, inevitably. (e.g. I oppose racism; India’s government is racist. Thus saying “I personally am not racist” is both accurate and irrelevant on my part when discussing racist Indian policies.)

        3. Past my expiration date
          Past my expiration date January 30, 2013 at 7:16 pm |

          Mac, please stop, please, before I persuade myself that I Mr. PMED and I have to go get divorced so that we can get remarried with the big wedding that I have really never ever dreamed about ever but will have anyway just to stick it to the WOMEN THINK ABOUT PARTIES AND PRETTY EVENTS SOOOO WACKY AMIRITE people.

          (Or maybe it’s ok to just go enjoy other people’s weddings? I sure hope so.)

        4. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 30, 2013 at 7:40 pm |

          (Or maybe it’s ok to just go enjoy other people’s weddings? I sure hope so.)

          I think so? TBH, Past, I’ve been to, like, 7 weddings in my life and two of them were mine! I really don’t like weddings, largely because they manage to club together so many things I hate (crowds, spontaneous matchmaking, wasteful feasts, bling competitions, snobbery, asshattery and slut- and fat-shaming galore. …and then they’re all just so TWEE on top of it!). The only wedding that was not mine that I enjoyed was my cousin, who did a tiny legal ceremony in the morning with like 10 people and then threw a kickass party in the evening, rather than make people suffer through the interminable pomp(osity) of a full-on Hindu religious ceremony.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 30, 2013 at 10:30 pm |

          But why is discussing an ideal partner okay, but discussing an ideal party an awful taint?

          The less I think about the phrase ‘awful taint,’ the better, but I don’t think the two are at all comparable. Doesn’t it show a stunning lack of forethought if the ideal partner is of equal importance as the ideal party?

        6. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 30, 2013 at 10:57 pm |

          Doesn’t it show a stunning lack of forethought if the ideal partner is of equal importance as the ideal party?

          You seriously don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way society’s structured conversations about ideal partners? You know, the one that isn’t about healthy, mutually fulfilling and loving relationships, but “I want to marry Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Batman because he’s so sweet and sensitive and romantic”?

        7. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve January 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm |

          You seriously don’t think there’s anything wrong with the way society’s structured conversations about ideal partners? You know, the one that isn’t about healthy, mutually fulfilling and loving relationships, but “I want to marry Edward Cullen/Christian Grey/Batman because he’s so sweet and sensitive and romantic”?

          I was thinking more of the ‘is this person massively douchey and am I going to end up hating them in less than a year?’ conversation, but I wouldn’t dream of disagreeing with you that society’s structured conversations about ideal partners and/or everything is bullshit.

        8. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune January 31, 2013 at 1:19 am |

          I was thinking more of the ‘is this person massively douchey and am I going to end up hating them in less than a year?’ conversation

          This conversation is perfect.
          This conversation should be mandatory.
          This conversation should be had with no less than six (6) people who know both parties, at least one (1) of whom has been involved with the prospective spouse in a retail industry capacity on a Saturday.

  31. PeggyLuWho
    PeggyLuWho January 30, 2013 at 11:01 pm |

    I am, in no way, designed or destined for marriage. I have known this from an early age. But I feel that pressure to be arm chair planning a wedding. I mean, just a fact that all those wedding shows exist on TV is proof enough. They make even me want to go for a dress fitting, and who doesn’t love a decadent wedding cake.

    But if you need any further evidence that these shows and the wedding industry and TNYT are targeting white middle class American women, just watch a single episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on The Leering Channel. The whole point of that show is “OMG, Look at how tacky those other people are. I would never wear that, eat that, dance like that.” Those shows are carefully crafted to make you want to buy stuff. Really expensive stuff that you probably can’t really afford. And then TNYT will highlight how weird you are for wanting what you’ve been carefully manipulated to want, instead of examining the complex that makes you want it. Hard hitting journalism, folks.

    By the way, if anyone’s interested in a no nonsense wedding ceremony in the Bay Area, I’m ordained.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve January 30, 2013 at 11:03 pm |

      I am, in no way, designed or destined for marriage. I have known this from an early age. But I feel that pressure to be arm chair planning a wedding. I mean, just a fact that all those wedding shows exist on TV is proof enough. They make even me want to go for a dress fitting, and who doesn’t love a decadent wedding cake.

      But if you need any further evidence that these shows and the wedding industry and TNYT are targeting white middle class American women, just watch a single episode of My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding on The Leering Channel. The whole point of that show is “OMG, Look at how tacky those other people are. I would never wear that, eat that, dance like that.” Those shows are carefully crafted to make you want to buy stuff. Really expensive stuff that you probably can’t really afford. And then TNYT will highlight how weird you are for wanting what you’ve been carefully manipulated to want, instead of examining the complex that makes you want it. Hard hitting journalism, folks.

      By the way, if anyone’s interested in a no nonsense wedding ceremony in the Bay Area, I’m ordained.

      I would love to see a post like this on a Rush Limbaugh type website just to watch people’s heads explode (metaphorically of course.)

    2. gratuitous_violet
      gratuitous_violet February 1, 2013 at 12:44 am |

      Hey, another Bay Area “reverend!” I was ordained so I could preside over a ceremony that the couple wanted done entirely in pirate, and another couple who just wanted “Do you? Yes. Do you? Yes. Woo-hoo, let’s get drunk!” Now, those are ceremonies a bitter atheist can be proud of!

      1. PeggyLuWho
        PeggyLuWho February 5, 2013 at 2:25 am |

        I officiated this wedding – http://offbeatbride.com/2009/10/8-bit-wedding

  32. Mina
    Mina February 1, 2013 at 12:03 am |

    May I just say, Jill, that you have hit the nail on the head. This has to be one of my favourite feministe articles ever.

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