We thought we’d close out “Beginnings” month with a post that goes straight to the heart of what starting the planning process can feel like (read: frustrating). There are so many ways our culture goads us into feeling like we’re terrible people for asking for things, or worse, that somehow if we play by all the (totally contradictory) rules, we can obtain the elusive status of being a Good Bride. And it sucks. And there is no way to win. And sometimes I just want to run around engaged folks and shout, “It’s a trap!“ Which is why today I’m delighted to have Kristin Bond calling BS on the whole thing.
After years of being a quiet observer of the bridal industry, I had ideas about the type of bride I wanted to be when the time came. I wouldn’t separate the wedding party from their dates at the reception. And I was totally going to write thank you notes right away. Above all, I would never make my bridesmaids wear matching dresses that they hated. I was going to be gracious, laid-back, elegant, and calm—the complete opposite of a “Bad Bride.” As I read message boards on that wedding-site-that-must-not-be-named, I smugly basked in my superiority of knowing that I would never ask my best friends to cover a tattoo or dye their hair for our wedding.
Then people started asking about our wedding plans, and I said that I was (gasp!) letting my bridesmaids wear different dresses. My bridesmaids don’t need to be clones, because I am not. A. Bad. Bride. And one of my bridesmaids would actually be my brother, and my fiancé’s sister would stand on the groom’s side. We weren’t trying to be different or shocking. It’s just what we wanted. Why should my sister get to stand with me, but not my brother? But other people seemed to have a hard time with it. There were multiple times when, in the same breath, I was told, “Well, it’s just not DONE that way. WHAT ABOUT THE PICTURES?!? DEAR GOD, THINK OF THE PICTURES!!!” and, “Remember, it’s YOUR day. Do what you want.”
So I defended my plans. I defended the shit out of them, for weeks. It became my giant act of rebellion against the wedding industry and anyone who even had the audacity to try telling me what my wedding should be. It’s my day, right? None of these ideas are new or groundbreaking, yet I still felt like I had to justify them to every single person who saw the diamond on my finger and felt that it was okay to question and criticize my choices.
I asked my two siblings and three close friends to stand by my side on my wedding day, and told them they could wear whatever they wanted; the only guideline was that it had to be peacock colors. I sent them peacock feathers and some paint swatches that had colors I liked, but left everything else up to them. I thought that would leave room for all kinds of interesting options, and no one would get stuck with something they didn’t like. I made a shared board on Pinterest, and we had a very fun time pinning lots of cute dresses. Since we were spread across the country, and everyone hadn’t met each other, I scheduled a group video chat for us to talk about everything.
I opened the chat with, “OMG! I’m so excited about this! Easiest bridesmaid gig ever! I don’t want a shower or bachelorette party, and you get to wear whatever you want! WOOH! Let’s drink champagne all day for the wedding!” Even as I was saying it, I felt like the cool mom from Mean Girls (“I’m a cool bride! There are NO RULES at this wedding! Want some alcohol?”). Unfortunately, that’s pretty much how I came across to the bridal party.
Then they asked me what I wanted them to wear. I responded something along the lines of, “Um…But…pick your own… I don’t know…. peacock? You’re the ones wearing it. Not me.” And they all looked at me uncomfortably. No one seemed to want to share any opinions, other than that they should all be similar lengths and fabrics. And maybe the same color, but, you know, different styles. And what about shoes? Those should all be the same, right? And how are we wearing our hair? What about accessories? We should all get our makeup done professionally so it looks good in the pictures, right?
I was completely floored. This was not at all how I had expected the conversation to go. If this were a work project, I would have no problem creating a game plan and giving clear direction so we could accomplish the task at hand. But these are my closest friends and siblings. I love them. I was scared that if I made a decision they didn’t like, they’d all hate it and resent me for it, and I’d be just another Bad Bride. My relationships with them are much more important to me than a dress, and I didn’t want to rock the boat. I was so worried about giving them freedom that I didn’t even consider that they might not want it.
As much as everyone keeps telling me that it’s my day (and some of the more thoughtful people add, “Well…and Andy’s”), I know that’s not true. Everyone else’s October 13 doesn’t cease to exist just because Andy and I are getting married. They all have feelings and opinions too. They all have to wake up, shower, put on a dress or suit, and mentally prepare for a very long, emotionally draining (in a good way) day. And I’m really grateful that they will.
At the end of the video chat, I knew we needed to figure something out, so I asked if it would be okay if I just picked a few specific colors from a popular dress website, and let them pick out a style from one of those. Later, Andy told me I should just assign a specific color to each person, or we’d end up with a weird mix of colors and more confusion. If anyone had a problem with it, too bad, because they had already had a chance to pick a color. (I didn’t like this idea at first, but he was totally right.) I also conceded on the length and fabric and gave them guidelines for that too, mainly because I just didn’t want to deal with it anymore.
Because I felt bad. I felt bad that I had worked so hard to defend my idea of not being a controlling bride, but in the end, I was still basically telling them what to wear and conforming to The Way Weddings Are Done. Despite how smug I had been about not being a typical bride, I now felt inadequate as a practical, modern, feminist bride. Why couldn’t I pull off a casual wedding free of everything the wedding industry tells me I have to have? Why is it so hard to be the “right” kind of bride (whatever that is)?
In the end, while I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of telling them what to wear (bridesmaids are people, not props!) I think everyone was relieved that I had narrowed down the options and given some direction. And I was thrilled that we had still accomplished the ultimate goal of having a happy bridal party that wasn’t going to resent me over clothing. And even if we did eventually go with The Way Weddings Are Done, doing so didn’t make me a Bad Bride. Or a good bride. And it certainly did make me a happy bride, and it made everyone else comfortable. So there’s always that.
Andy and Kristin’s engagement photo by JC Lemon Photography (APW Sponsor)