Our Story Doesn’t Come in an Email

Unsubscribing from the advertising industry's wedding dreams

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.

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  • Alyssa Waddill

    AdBlock Plus has become my very, very good friend since we got Facebook engaged. I didn’t used to care about all the embedded ads in my news feed, but I’m like you and apparently wedding ads are my weakness. One browser plugin later, and I don’t have to look at that ish anymore!

    • anon

      Ha! Was totally going to write something about AdBlockPlus. Been using it for years and am now horrified anytime I have to look at the internet without it. It won’t stop emails or direct mailing, but there is now an app (PaperKarma) which lets you take cellphone photos of your junk mail and they will do all the work of getting you off their mailing list. Haven’t tried it. Can’t vouch for it, but it seems like a great idea in theory.

      • Allison

        The direct mail was the worst for me at first. I may have stood in my kitchen and whispered, “how did they find me…?” I will have to research this!

        • Kayjayoh

          I know how they found me…the damn bridal show I attended last January. Why oh why did I give them any accurate info!

      • Another nod to PaperKarma. It is a free app and service. You take a picture of the item, share it to PaperKarma, and they do the rest. I promise your mail will be reduced.

        • M.

          One hundred million upvotes to PaperKarma! At this point we have a few/several days a week where we get no mail at all. It works!

      • vegankitchendiaries

        Another thumbs up for AdBlock here! PLUS IS MAKES YOUTUBE SO MUCH BETTER!!!

    • EmilyRose

      I also came down here to write about AdBlock Plus! It’s my best friend!

    • Bubbles

      Same here, except I had to install it because the instant I got engaged the weight loss ads started appearing incessantly in my feed, and those are TERRIBLE for my mental health.

      • Jess

        For a while, I was reporting those with explanations as to why. Maybe I thought I was going to make a difference in what kinds of ads they showed to people in the world?

    • Lisa

      I just downloaded AdBlock Plus, and this is AMAZING.

    • Its so creepy how internet ads target you. I haven’t heard of AdBlock Plus but I am definitely going to check it out!

  • Alyssa M

    I WISH I knew my secret to share… somehow I have magically evaded most of this… and I have no idea how. At this point aside from e-mails from the site I used for my wedding website and facebook really thinking I should register at bloomingdales (which is super odd and not at all good marketing) I’m not getting attacked by ads all over the place… I’ve never gotten calls or direct mail, only 2 unsolicited e-mails… I even gave David’s Bridal my (special wedding) e-mail address and haven’t gotten harassed… I have no idea what my magic formula is though…

    • JDrives

      Same here! I would be perplexed and annoyed if I got a wedding-related phone call out of the blue.

  • Laura C

    I’m not Facebook engaged and haven’t opened most of the emails from the invitation etc sites that somehow got my address (maybe through signing up to make a website?), and I’ve been resolutely, even mulishly, refusing to do all sorts of weddingy stuff, but even so, I’ve gotten shifted or rattled on various things I really never thought I’d do. For instance, I was totally anti-flower girl until suddenly I was like “fine, ok, let’s do it.”

    The thing that gets me is how quickly I acclimated to what seems to be a fact that $1000 is the standard unit of currency for wedding stuff. Everything we ask for a price on, it seems like it’s $1000-1500. And eventually you just start being like “I guess that’s what stuff costs…”

  • Emily

    Ugh, I didn’t learn until MUCH later that most brides make a totally separate email address for wedding stuff. I originally balked at creating a public name like EandJforever2014wedding!!!!!! or something; but now I see the light. Also, good luck getting off their lists, certain WIC sites have email ninjas I swear.

    • Jacky Speck

      The Knot certainly didn’t make it easy to unsubscribe and delete my account. Instead of having the usual “unsubscribe” button in e-mails and a “delete my account” option in the account settings, they make you e-mail somebody and ask them to unsubscribe and delete the account. It wasn’t exactly difficult… But not nearly as easy as it SHOULD be.

      • Allison

        Does this mean you keep receiving everything even after your wedding date has passed? I’ve been curious about this. Or did you simply want to unsubscribe during your engagement?

        • Jacky Speck

          I wanted to unsubscribe during my engagement… Just got too sick of the daily “X days to go, here’s what you need to buy next!!” No idea if they keep sending stuff after your wedding date, although I know they are affiliated with another site targeting “couples just starting out” called the Nest.

        • ElisabethJoanne

          I’ve been married 18 months. I’m not getting stuff from TheKn*t anymore. TheKn*t was never an issue for me. I can ignore stuff when I recognize it. I still seem to get dress-related spam daily.

          I’ve heard we’ll start getting baby-related spam and junk mail soon based on our wedding date. That will be painful.

  • https://unroll.me/ is MAGIC for those annoying emails! It scans your inbox and lets you unsubscribe from hundreds of lists at once!

    It’s great even for the emails you do want, but you’d prefer to read all in one fell swoop instead of getting distractions in your inbox several times a day.

    • Lisa

      Just joined this one as well! I got rid of at least 40 of the over 100 lists I was on. (Most of which were wedding things that happened because of the stupid wedding show I went to a few months ago.)

      Thanks for recommending this!

    • K.

      The only thing that might be a deterrent is that they ask you to ‘share’ that you like or use the service after 5 unsubscribes. I have a fake Twittter account for stuff like that, but it might be a turn-off for some people.

      But otherwise, TOTALLY AGREED. It is a really, really awesome way to get rid of old subscriptions without going throug your whole inbox.

  • Manya

    Oh yeah. The question all of the clever marketing asks (with puppy dog eyes) is this:
    Isn’t your love WORTHY of the very BEST [insert wizmajig of choice]???

    They are trying to make you feel like the amount of money you spend on [Whatever] reflects the value you place on your relationship. The truth is, your love is way better and more valuable than the most expensive cake knife/dress/band/venue/wizmajig. And what you spend on The Stuff has exactly zero relationship to how much you value your marriage.

    That said, wedding stuff is pretty and some of us (me) are seduced by the sparkly/pretty in normal times. (I swear I am like a crow—I WANT ALL THE SHINY!!!!!) When I was planning our wedding, I got a little window of permission to go as crazy as I maybe had secretly always wanted to with some sparkly/pretty shit.

    Stay strong ladies! And know that pretty is pretty, no matter what the price point is!

  • KimBee

    I feel the same weight about EVERY decision, but not due to advertisers. Instead, I find it’s my friends and family who suddenly have opinions about everything. At this point, I often avoid talking about our decisions because I don’t want to deal with the second-guessing and re-hashing it introduces.

  • Valerie Day

    My family used to use a frequent misspelling of our name when signing up for certain things. It made it easier to spot callers and mail from companies that had bought our information. Now its easy to know because some of the targeted mailings don’t recognize we’re a same sex couple. In fact, Macy’s has us listed under my partners name and “groom groom”. Which is now my new nickname.

  • I had quite subscribing to various women’s magazines a year or so before I was engaged because I was so sick of all of the advertising and feeling like I had to have this or that product, even though I knew it wasn’t a true need or want on my part. I never missed the magazines when I cancelled my subscription and it was a relief to not have the additional pressure to buy crap I didn’t really need.

    When I did get engaged I explicitly told my friends no bridal magazines! Its a little bit harder on the internet, but once I found APW and quite looking at the mainstream wedding sites, wedding planning became a lot more peaceful.

  • Lauren

    This post made me super glad that it’s illegal to add people to emailing or mailing lists without their permission in Australia. I’m installing adblock today. :)

  • CC

    Thanks for the paper karma links. I live in an apartment complex that has a sliding scale based on income rent, and have noticed a particularly strong presence of targeted ads and plastering of our doors with deals such as “lease your furniture!” and yellowpages.

    This article really hit home for me about how we need to be aware of what ads end up telling us and affecting us. I’m definitely sharing this article with my fiance and talking it over with my mom because they aren’t as aware of how marketing can affect their expectations of what they want our wedding to look like.

    Something that I do with each of these product ads is I ask myself what the tradeoff is in my head, and if there’s something else I would like to purchase with that money. Today that tradeoff involves my friend, and I hope you all will take a look at a movie she’s making. http://igg.me/at/soar/x/2386551 . She’s running an indiegogo campaign so that she can take her animated movie to Sundance. I hope this is ok to share here.

  • Anon

    This entire article, I kept wishing for stronger editing. Anyone else find irony in the placement of the last paragraph and the sponsor link? I get that it’s how APW functions, but…

    “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.

    This post includes one or more of our sponsors, who are a key part of supporting APW. Check out the Directory page for Corey Torpie Photography.”