Claiming Our Feminist/Alt/DIY/Indie Weddings

This weekend, David and I went to a bookstore and somehow ended up sitting on the floor in the wedding section going through piles and piles of wedding books. I’m not totally sure how it happened, but I think it was a little bit like how we sometimes watch Say Yes To The Dress and yell one-liners at the screen and laugh and laugh and laugh. Anyway, laughing at the wedding industry has it’s own punishment. Namely, it’s really really funny until suddenly it’s horrifying.

So there we were, sitting in the bookstore, reading wedding advice back and forth, and suddenly I started feeling really ill. Not, “Oh, this is making me nauseous, ha, ha, ha!” but more, “Oh dear God I’m going to lose it.” I think it was right after I had read a tip to David about how “It is critical to think of your wedding as a enormous theatrical event,” and while he was reading me a tip about how “Many brides waste literally thousands of their gift dollars by failing to register for the most lucrative items, forcing them to buy these items after the fact.”

Cue: nausea.

This bridal book hilarity (or lack there of) haunted me all weekend. Over and over what kept running through my head was “Garbage in, garbage out.” We went through almost every bridal book on the shelf, and almost every single one was explicit instructions on how to be a needy, self absorbed, demanding, obsessive bride. In fact, it was worse. Most of the books gently implied that if you didn’t start acting and thinking this way, you were a bad bride. (Seriously. It was that bad. It was much much worse that I had ever imagined.)

And this is the way women get trapped between a rock and a hard place. Almost everything in our culture screams, “This is how to be a BRIDE!” and then the minute women start following instructions, they get slapped with the label Bridezilla. No good.

So, because great minds never seem to think alone, after a weekend of pondering this, two excellent posts showed up on the subject. Over at Accordions and Lace, the thinking goes as such:

I wish that making feminist decisions about weddings was a total non-issue, I really do. But … being a bride is a performative role that is scrutinized by a shocking number of people who it is true, really shouldn’t give a sh*t. But the wedding world is even more conservative and conformist that the regular world (which isn’t exactly a friendly place for feminists in itself).

And Ariel at Offbeat Bride said:

But when you assume that anyone enthusiastically planning a wedding is automatically a victim of outside forces, you’re asserting that women can’t think for themselves and are powerless against the lures of taffeta and tiaras. That once we see something sparkly, it’s all white blindness GIVE ME MATCHING GARTER bridezilla bullsh*t. That if you’re planning a wedding, on a certain level … you’ve already lost your mind. Some people like big parties and are drawn toward extravagant weddings, offbeat or not. Some people hate big parties, and therefore plan a beautiful simple wedding. As long as it’s an honest reflection of the couple getting married (and that includes an honest reflection of their budget!) I’m all for both ends of the simple/extravagant spectrum.

Yes. Yes. Yes.

I think the internet is doing and excellent job of starting to allow women (and men) to grab on to the reins of wedding planning, and say, “This. This is mine. And you can eff right off with your double edged swords of crazy gendered rhetoric.” I think the internet is allowing women to claim items that, as a traditionally female province are trashed as not important – wedding dresses, cakes, flowers, dancing, whatever, and claim them as real and vibrant and ours. All of this is excellent news. But, I guess I just want to see this philosophy start extending a bit more beyond our computer screens. I want more books like Offbeat Bride or DIY Wedding that can be read and passed from daughter to mother to grandmother to auntie. I want to see a whole lot less garbage in, because I already see that when freed from the bonds of crazy, a whole lot of beautiful celebrations can come out.

So lets do this thing. Lets take back our weddings. Lets take back the way weddings are viewed by our culture at large. When someone asks us about our bridesmaids dresses, maybe we should sweetly say, “Oh dear, no. I’m having a bridal brigade.” When people ask us about our cake tastings, it’s time to start saying, “Oh, I went with a local bakery. No need to taste.” Or when people ask about our beautiful white wedding dress, it’s time to nicely say, “It’s so pretty and blue, you’ll adore it.”

Because this wedding stuff? This is ours.

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  • To be honest I have heard a lot about these crazy brides who buy into all this stuff but dont think Ive ever actually met one.. Most Brides I know are pretty relaxed about the whole thing and keen to keep it low key.. However I love planning parties and fashion and all the details that go with it.. and I find myself playing down my enthusiasm for planning my wedding because of the dreaded B word!!

  • This and Ariel’s post really made me think this week. About the other side of things, not the WIC side, the side that seems to suggest enjoying wedding planning that spending money or time on it is wrong or anti-feminist. I think this is the side I’m less sheltered from, I avoid the WIC but I find myself playing down the wedding planning to friends and family and my excitement about it. Just quietly getting on with it surprised when friends are actually wanting to know things and help out! I don’t know where this influence is coming from though.

    My blog, and the wedding blogs I read, like this, and the OBT are my place to get excited about our wedding. And I’m so glad I have them. One thing I am determined to do when our day comes around, is to be proud of every single choice we made it and to spread the word. I will be buying Offbeat Bride for every friend that gets engaged and giving them a list of blogs :)

  • Amy

    I’m getting married in a month, and this made me feel so empowered for the last few weeks of planning. Thank you!

  • Adrienne

    I think you should write this book!

  • Amen girls. So glad I have this community.

    (I was about to feel nauseous just reading about your experience.)

  • Thank God we don’t have such books in France (or if we have, that’s not the ones I read). Maybe “Le mariage des paresseuses” (lazy girls’ wedding) ought to be translated. More full of sensible advice than bullsh*t.

  • Oh, and I went to this great local bakery to order my cupcakes last week, and when I mentioned a wedding, the woman’s voice became high-pitched and she went all: oh, do you want a tasting, do you want us to sit and discuss it for an hour, do you want to send us pictures of your colors and bring fabric swatches, do you want me to send you a detailed quote, do you want to think about it and get back to us? I was like: no, your shop smells great and this looks good to me and I just want to order three dozen cupcakes! It’s fine! The world does not depend on it!

    I haven’t been dealing with a lot of vendors, but all the ones I contacted seemed very scared of weddings and dreaded Bs.

    It’s time to change that!

  • sam

    So last night I was stressing a bit over flowers… mainly because one of the dreaded Lists said I should have that all figured out by now.
    I turned to mg and said something dumb like “I know we don’t care what kind of flowers, but we still have to make a decision.” I was laughing about it some 10 minutes later (we decided since we don’t care we just won’t do flowers) but this is a prefect example of why brides go crazy… you’re forced to think about and make decisions on all the little details, even the ones you don’t care about.

  • yesyesyes

  • Thank you for this post. My finance and I are planning a nice, smallish wedding at an inn in New Hampshire – perfectly lovely and perfectly reflecting of us, but our families are somewhat horrified over random details. (“What, no wedding cake!?!” and my personal favorite, “You CANNOT have a wedding at a place that uses a machine to cut their meat.” I confess that I don’t even know what that means.) I actually witnessed someone pull my future mother-in-law aside at Passover to say, “You have GOT to get control of this wedding.” But you make me feel strong and in good company. Thank you.

  • YES, DAMMIT! Go Meg go.

    By the way, the passage about wasting thousands of gift dollars gave me a nasty chill. Aren’t gifts even regarded as gifts anymore? It sounds like you’re supposed to feel entitled and unappreciative. What fun is that?

  • damn girl. you rock my world!

    “It is critical to think of your wedding as a enormous theatrical event”

    I think it’s safe to say I physically shuddered as I read that line. The whole theatricality thing? That’s what bothers me first and foremost about the wedding industry. I think it’s totally nuts. When did a wedding become a performance opportunity? If you want to put on a show, audition for a play.

    This is your LIFE. This is LOVE. This is not a matinee.

  • Dammit blogger ate my comment! To try again:

    What a wonderful post to wake up to! I feel like, over the top as it may sound, the whole process of women like us writing and reflecting about our weddings (and reclaiming them at the same time!) is a sort of mass consciousness raising exercise. It is surprisingly powerful.

  • Peonies has a point, you know ;)

    I am so glad I steered clear all wedding books except my trusty “Bridal Bargains.”

  • Sometimes reading your posts is like breathing one deep full breath of oxygen for the first time after holding your breath to stop having the hiccups … its such a relief.

    I needed this big time today.

  • midwestelle


    Thank goodness for the internet.

    Were things this crazy in the 1980s/early 1990s? What did those poor women do without wedding blogs to bring them back to Earth?

  • We’re getting married August 1, 2009, and will have a 10 month engagement. We are also both in grad school, and spending 3 nights a week apart because we go to different campuses. When we first announced our engagement in November, EVERYONE said, “Oh no, that is not enough time. You need to change it to August 2010.” But we thought, Do we really want to be finishing our theses AND planning a wedding at the same time? Because, let’s be honest, sometimes school’s on the back burner, but often, the wedding’s on the back burner. We didn’t want that hanging over our heads for 2 years, so we went with the “insane” 10 month engagement, then I did nothing. For months. We picked a venue and a caterer. Then more nothing for months. Because I didn’t know where to start.

    I quickly realized that I was not one of those girls who had dreamed of her wedding since Kindergarten, so I was VERY MUCH at square one. I mean I was asking questions like, “To picnic or not to picnic.” “To have a wedding party or no wedding party.” Square. One.

    So, one day, I sat down and googled, “Wedding inspiration,” because that is what I so desperately needed. I expected to be taken to Martha Stewart’s site and click through some impossibly expensive weddings that maybe would inspire a “color palette” or solve the “indoor vs. outdoor” question.

    But, I was taken to Snippet and Ink. From there, I came here.

    It was truly unexpected, and I’m so glad it happened. Because I was already going into this thing with my fists up, already thinking I’d have the anti-wedding, simply because I couldn’t pull off the Elegant Bride wedding/ Broadway event.

    But that’s not me. Rented tables covered in my mom and aunt’s tablecloths, that’s me. Dish garden centerpieces planted with clippings from our garden, that’s me.

    And, this whole community was such a pleasant surprise. I was prepared to try and fight everyone off, just cover my eyes with one arm and keep swinging with the other. But I’m not alone, and thank you all for making me realize that. And it’s not a zero-sum game, either.

    We are all going to have (or have already had) AMAZING weddings, I’m sure of it.

    Three cheers for the internet!
    No fist fights required.

  • I love that you’re talking about this. I feel the same, that no one is talking about this, and then you’re plunged into a crazy wedding world where logic and reason have no place.

    I think I gave up on bridal magazines around February. (The engagement began January 5th.) When I realized that nothing, I repeat, NOTHING in the bridal mags is affordable, I was disgusted. There wasn’t a single dress in those pages that was under $1,000 – and my budget was $500!

    I feel lucky to be a part of a community of women who are excited about their weddings, not because of the extravagent parties they’re spending tons of money on, but because of the extravagent parties they’re putting lots of love and creativity into.

  • Thank you, Meg, for continuing to be a voice of sanity in the Wedding Arena. I’ve been astonished by how many people (and which people) have automatically expected me to do or want certain things simply because I’m getting married.

    Wedding culture is so, so insidious. Whether it’s my mom asking me if I wouldn’t be happier with a long engagement (so I could plan a wedding during my first year of teaching?!) or my friend, who is making our wedding pies, asking when we’d like to do the first tasting and insisting that, no, we HAVE to have one.

    I’m still trying to figure that second one out.

  • K

    What’s interesting for me about this topic is that I spent a lot of time claiming the marriage “part” of our wedding, but I did not anticipate how much I would reclaim the wedding once it was all said and done. I think focusing on the actual task at hand (getting married) allowed a real celebration to come to life for us. It’s just an odd shift when, as time passes, you really begin to cherish the marriage AND the wedding. I’ve had some inner dialogue that made me feel like cherishing the actual wedding meant something I didn’t want to be, and I’ve had to accept that being proud of our wedding doesn’t make me A Bride. It doesn’t make me anything at all…it just IS.

  • Anonymous

    “This bridal book hilarity (or lack there of) haunted me all weekend. Over and over what kept running through my head was “Garbage in, garbage out.” We went through almost every bridal book on the shelf, and almost every single one was explicit instructions on how to be a needy, self absorbed, demanding, obsessive bride.”

    Oh, gosh, here’s my 50-year-old self back in comments again.

    Actually there was once a hilarious book on weddings.

    It came out about 1991 and the title was “A GROOM OF ONE’S OWN: AND OTHER BRIDAL ACCESSORIES” by Mimi Pond.

    It’s out of print, but you can order it used from Amazon. It is well worth it. I recall standing in the bookstore and laughing out loud. She even includes bridal freakouts on the “wedding check list”.

    From Library Journal:

    “Since June is “bustin’ out all over” with brides and weddings, it’s a good idea to catch up on all the details involved in making sure the Big Day will be one to remember. It will be, but not for the reasons you thought. Pond tells the truth about what wedding days are really all about. Essentially, she lets the prospective bride know that she will have absolutely no control over the course of events for the special day. Since the beginning of bridedom, certain forces have been in place that cannot be disrupted.”

    I’m telling you, this book provides the comic relief you’re looking for.


  • I shudder at the WIC (thanks, by the way, for giving me something to call it!). I hate all things Wedding. I don’t like perfect Wedding Cakes, I don’t like Perfect Flower Arrangements, I don’t like canned ceremonies, I don’t like ball gowns with lace and trains and embellishments.

    But here’s the thing. I am having a BALL planning my wedding.

    You’ve hit the nail on the head here. The fact that this seems like it must be some kind of contradiction shows just how insane weddings have gotten. The whole hoopla around weddings — the supposed-tos and should-dos — convinced me that I would hate planning my own wedding, and made us seriously consider eloping, even though it would break our mothers’ hearts and the thought of throwing a big party is kind of right up our alley.

    But we’ve decided that we love OUR wedding. I am having the time of my life rejecting the things I hate or don’t care about and choosing — saying YES — to those things that make me (or someone else I love) deliriously happy. I adore my satin emerald green heels. I’m thrilled I found a to-die-for $200 ivory gown. I can’t wait for the pig roast reception, the locally-made pies instead of a cake, the loony-yet-touching ceremony that will be officiated by my cousin and my fiance’s uncle (who both got ordained online). CAN’T WAIT.

    So THANKS to this blog for verbalizing it all. I get happy all over again every time I read this (as opposed to anxious and depressed when I read the more traditional wedding sites). It ISN’T a contradiction to feel icky about “Weddings” but to adore every last detail of planning your own! And yes, I will spread the word :-)

  • Anonymous
  • I secretly love the look of bewilderment some people get when I tell them that we are doing our own flowers, buying a bunch of cakes from a local bakery, and that we are having wedding warriors (who will wear whatever the heck they want) instead of a bridal party.

  • Book book book book

  • Ellie

    Why did I suddenly get the image of a thousand women in white dresses storming the streets in true “Take Back the Night” style saying, “Take Back the Wedding!”
    I plan and participate in a lot of charity fundraisers for work and school, and the only difference for me is that I don’t have to sell tickets to our wedding. But I enjoy the planning. I do. I enjoy the picking a drop dead outfit and reserving a venue and planning the food. So since I enjoy event planning, it doesn’t surprise most of my friends that know me that I’m enjoying the planning. But for people that don’t know me well, that background automatically made me a bridezilla – as in Ellie spends so much time on events, of course she’s going to go crazy making this one perfect.

  • Peonies and Polaroids

    You know, there really is a gap in the market for a *sane* wedding book.

    Just sayin’


  • Word, woman. Word.

  • I’m getting married this September, having a Friday afternoon ceremony followed by high tea. Guest list will make out at maybe 18 peeps. Maybe. Even the fiance doesn’t really get it, I showed him some dresses I liked and he said “that’s not very bridey.” ummm I’m a bride so automatically the dress is bridey.
    Thanks for this post! The more we talk about it the more “normal” it will become!

  • nice, as usual, sweet meg.

    thanks for the shout out. i love that the brigade is your model for the alternative/feminist/indie bridesmaids! hooray for the mixed-gender bridgade!

    just *having* a wedding made me doubt my feminist {lesbian} street cred. but you know what? as long as we made it our own and were true to ourselves, all the books and chatter and outside world didn't matter. i mean, heck, just living my life & being true to myself, i have to ignore the mainstream critiques everyday…

    so, hooray to you for staying true to your {feminist} self…

  • Laura

    I’ve been lurking here for awhile, but several posts in the past month or so have really hit home to my wedding which is now 6 months away.

    I’ve shared the same sentiments as some others have voiced in that I feel guilty when I make choices that seem too “wedding-y” (which is the term I’ve been throwing around, although it fits in line with the WIC concept). It’s almost like I feel I’ve given in since I’m wearing a long dress (which my mother is making – yay for homemade dresses), after I toyed with the idea of short or tea length because it was “different”. But you know what, I think I looked great in the long dress. The same thing has happened with practically every other element involved in the planning process. But reading your blog every morning keeps me in check, and it helps to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

  • April

    Brilliant, once again Meg!

    And I’m next in line to kiss the person who wrote in from “the unwedding” for saying these profound words:

    ‘When did a wedding become a performance opportunity? If you want to put on a show, audition for a play.

    This is your LIFE. This is LOVE. This is not a matinee.’

  • Marie

    you know, when I read those books it causes me major anxiety. Do I really need a wedding binder with a 30 page list? Do I have to interview 4 caterers, dj’s, bakers, tailors, photographers etc if I’m really happy with the first person I looked at? It feeds this idea in North American society that nothing (that includes you, your dress, your husband,your wedding) is ever good enough.

    I don’t have a long list: rings, photos, attire, flowers, food/drinks, transportation, location, officiant, invites, favours (because I really like the idea of giving people some seeds, and they are cheap and my fiance and I love to garden), music

    That’s my whole list, and most of the time I figure, if I left it off (either as a conscious decision or because I didn’t think to put it on the list), then it can’t be that important to me.

    Then I read those books and I’m like What?! 12 months to go and I haven’t started a skin care plan, I haven’t started hair treatments, I didn’t book any laser treatment (because what if you forget to shave or you miss a spot on your wedding GASP) etc etc.

    I think we all need to PUT THE BOOK DOWN, take a deep breath and then write our own lists. If it is not something you immediately think of then chances are whatever IT is, it’s not important to you and doesn’t matter. If your wedding reflects you, and you have loved ones around you, then it’s bound to be a blast and nobody is really going to care if you have bathroom or welcoming baskets. (if those are your thing, then go for it).

  • Brian Andreas

    Most people she never tells
    about the tightrope
    because she
    doesn’t want
    to listen to
    their helpful
    the ground.

  • Thank you for this post! I always have to un-do all this nonsense these books claim when I meet with my clients. I’m pretty sure, showing up and saying “I do” is really all that’s required.

  • Anonymous

    Laura said:

    “It’s almost like I feel I’ve given in since I’m wearing a long dress (which my mother is making – yay for homemade dresses), after I toyed with the idea of short or tea length because it was “different”.”

    As much as I love alternative weddings, I sometimes feel that people start feeling they have to reject everything on the grounds that it’s “traditional”.

    It seems to me that traditions should only be rejected because one truly feels that a specific traditions is distasteful.

    Keep what you love and toss what you don’t, I say.

  • Meg

    Amen, Anonymous, Amen.

    Rejecting traditions out of hand is as bad as embracing them without thought.

  • Yeah!

    I pretty much took this approach, just ignoring the strange looks when I said things like, “nah, we’re not having bridesmaids” or “I don’t really see the point of favours.”

    Six months later, people are still talking about our wedding, saying things like (quote from my friend just this weekend), “I just loved how straight to the point it was: get married, have a lovely dinner, PARTY!”

    So take heart, girls, people will remember if they have a good time, so just focus on making it a good time.

  • This is a great post, I am with everyone about the book too :)

  • Amen!!! I couldn’t agree more :)

  • It's Everywhere! An article on MSN today (
    "Then there are some brides who want their bridesmaids to look just perfect, going so far as to ask their wedding party to get Botox treatments, Lasik eye surgery or even liposuction.

    The bridal-party Botox trend began a few years ago, and the recession isn't getting in the way, says spokeswoman Tiffany Hodges of Chelsea Eye & Cosmetic Surgery Associates in New York.

    "When you're getting married, money is not the first thing on your mind," Hodges says. "The first thing on your mind is to have an awesome wedding and to look your best. I think that's the place where, recession or no recession, they still want a fabulous wedding. They want to look great." "

    Really?? There are women out there asking their friends to have lipo and botox!
    cue nausea. big time.

  • Amen. We have a small budget and we are decidedly offbeat people in general. But the wedding industry starts to make you wonder… Our wedding is affordable and sometimes I ask myself, am I cheating my guests? Is it going to be “too simple”?

    And, on the other end of the spectrum, we bought our wedding bands last weekend and I’ve been doing nothing but freaking out over them. I wanted to get a simple white gold band, but when I saw this simple (also affordable) diamond band, it just kind of spoke to me. And I’ve been thinking, will people judge me for having a diamond band? Will I come off as prissy or too girly?

    I’ve been second guessing myself on both ends. Is my band too ostentatious, is my wedding too simple, will people find it tacky that we’re not getting seat-covers and we’re using disposables for the food/drinks??? AGH! I have been way more worried about what other people will think than what I actually think. It’s enough to make your head explode. I have to remind myself every day to not let the wedding drive me nuts and to stick to our instincts on what it important to us.

  • holla!

  • yeah! amen! rah rah! and all the other things i could say to say that I agree.

    Thanks for this post! I for one am sick and tired of white wedding dresses all over the place. I’m going with dark chocolate!

  • Anonymous

    Before Queen Victoria, brides wore whatever color they wanted to wear. And they continued to wear it afterward.

    The white wedding dress didn’t catch on until Queen Victoria started the trend at her wedding in 1840.

    The white dress was an extravagance that only the wealthy could afford – white dresses were very hard to clean. To wear a dress only one time was a sign of wealth. There was no symbolism attached to the color at the time.

    For a long time, only the wealthy brides copied Victoria.

    Thus the old rhyme:

    Married in white, you have chosen all right.
    Married in green, ashamed to be seen.
    Married in red, you will wish yourself dead.
    Married in blue, you will always be true.
    Married in yellow, ashamed of your fellow.
    Married in black, you will wish yourself back.
    Married in pink, your spirits will sink.

    The rhyme was just a bit of fun.

    White dresses did not become THE standard until the 1950’s – not very long ago at all.

    Wouldn’t it be great if the tradition was that a bride got married wearing her favorite color?

  • 1. I would buy a book written by Meg. And then buy multiple copies for anyone else I know who gets married in the future.
    2. I think "No fist fights required" is going on my list of mantras. Good one, Tris!
    3. By the time my little sister (and co-bridesperson) gets married–if she does–I am going to have such a great list of web sites for her to do it her way. You guys have helped me so much to just be chill and not worry about how doing it our own way is somehow "wrong". We're still over a year out from the wedding, and I am so not worried about it; y'all have given me strength and calm.
    4. Meg, you really should write a book. <3 (And, I'm a copy editor, I could help you out!)

  • I’m seriously a little teary reading all these comments. This community is so f-ing awesome. We should start meet-up groups in our various cities and get drunk together and talk about how much we love planning out feminist weddings!

  • It is so great to know that there are so many like-minded people out there with helpful advice like this

    Keep it coming!

  • I've been working on pulling my wedding back from my mom's expectations. Nearly every step along the way, she has thought I was insane or rude or weird. I've been telling her that brides are different these days & besides all of that…this is MY wedding, not hers. I love her opinions, but it has taken some time for her to get on board with all of my strange ideas!

  • thanks for this. as always.