Advertisers would like their products to be telling our stories. They would like for their perfumes to make us fall in love, their crackers to be the ones to fill our children’s’ bellies, their gadgets to be the ones playing the soundtracks to our lives. The send us messages that say, if you have this, your story will have a happy ending.
As marketing professional, I always thought of myself as a savvy person who could see through the commercials. You know like, “Aw, that commercial made me tear up, but that doesn’t mean I will be purchasing that toilet paper,” or “Wow she certainly does look like she has her sh*t together, but I seriously doubt it was because of her shampoo choices.”
But then I got engaged six months ago. Suddenly, I was being flooded with a type of advertising I had never seen before. It seemed that the moment I changed my Facebook status to that “engaged” setting, I was no longer your typical-consumer-who-may-have-some-dispoable-income-to-spend-on-a-dress. I was now a bride-to-be. My page, my newsfeed were now flooded with chiffon dresses and honeymoon destinations, venue ideas and photographers I had to have.
At first, I was all, “LOL, personalized napkins?! Who wants their guests to wipe their faces with something emblazoned with their initials?”
But after a few weeks, I was not so “LOL.”
After my fiancé and I dutifully sat down and wrote out a budget based on the generous gifts from our parents and what we could contribute, I had a good idea of where I could splurge and where I should keep it simple. But the advertising would not have this version of the story. Oh no, they would not have it at all.
Along with Facebook, I was now also magically on bridal mailing lists and email subscriptions. I was receiving phone calls and being remarketed to with online advertising at every turn. The messages were everywhere. You need this. You must have it. If not, why even bother having a wedding? Why even bother getting married?
At first, I couldn’t figure it out. Why was I suddenly stressed about whether or not my guests would like my centerpieces? Why am I being overcome with panic attacks about not being able to afford a videographer when I had so breezily decided to leave it out of the budget a few months ago? Why did I now want nothing more than napkins, with my initials in swirly fonts, grazing the lips of my friends and loved ones?
Finally, it came to me. I—the previously self-proclaimed savvy marketing know-it-all—was letting the messages get in my head. All those perfectly crafted words and the beautiful pictures were wiggling their way into my subconscious. They were convincing me my wedding would not be the perfect day if I did not have these things. And it worked. Because after all, if they didn’t make me think that, those advertisers aren’t doing a very good job.
I realized that being surrounded by these messages and being constantly bombarded was truly sucking all the fun out of planning when my older sister, who is also one of my maids-of-honor, innocently asked me what I was thinking for invitations one day. After I snapped back at her that I didn’t want to talk about it and subsequently saw the look on her face, I knew it was time to back away from the ads and emails.
These messages were making every last decision seem like it was The Decision. Every time I came across an ad for favors or bridesmaid dresses, I was feeling I must click, bookmark, pin. It was truly maddening. So I started sending all of the emails to a different folder, out of sight. Mail is going directly in the recycling. Facebook ads are being scrolled past quickly.
Now, at last, I feel like I can make a decision. I finally picked a dress for my bridesmaids yesterday, without the fear that the “perfect one” might be on the next website. And it may have been a small step, but man, was it liberating.
I can finally feel the joy coming back into the process. I am sure there are still stressors in my future, but I can only work on what’s on my plate today. And right now, that includes my fiancé and our now-weekly planning date. Because we should be the ones writing the story of our wedding—and more importantly our marriage—not the advertisers.