NO MATTER HOW level-headed you are, the lead-up to getting married involves a fair bit of stress, both in terms of planning the wedding and emotionally. On the one hand, you’ve got the monster that is the wedding industry, existing solely for the purpose of convincing you to spend more money on 8-10 hours of your life than you spent on your university education. On the other, there’s the fact that deciding to get hitched is most certainly one of the biggest decisions of your life.
On top of all this, the 20- and 30-somethings getting married today are dealing with a completely new social and political landscape, making useful examples from previous generations fairly few and far between.
When my mum and dad got married in 1970, my grandmother said, “A wedding is a party thrown by the bride’s parents for their friends.” This couldn’t be further from the truth now. Not only are our parents generally more laid back about this stuff (they’re giving us now what they wanted then), but our generation is also getting married later in life, often paying for some or all of the wedding ourselves.
This is liberating, this is great, this is… really quite daunting, actually. With the rulebook out the window, every decision you make about your wedding is that much more significant. You can’t blame mum or God anymore – you decide to have a bouquet. Or not. Or wear an engagement ring. Or not. Or be given away. Or not.
But let’s start with the emotional aspects. Promising to spend the rest of your life with someone, regardless of the fact it’s a happy decision, does impact your relationship – you need to be prepared for this fact.
After you get engaged, it’s easy to become bogged down with planning the wedding, if you choose to have one. But while being bombarded with emails about chair covers (seriously, never give your email address to anyone in this industry), occasionally it dawns on one that hey, one is going to be married after all this! And that’s a pretty big deal for one, is it not?
This concept can be frightening for some, which I think is part of the reason couples can freak out over planning the party (remember, it’s only a party): focusing on chair covers (according to that email, it’s a really key issue, OK?) is a lot easier than examining the pretty heavy stuff that’s going on in your life.
Together forever: hurray!
Together forever: wow, *gulp*…?
It goes without saying that I love my fiancé and truly believe deciding to marry him is the best life decision I’ve ever made (I’m sorry, stick-blender-margarita-and-soup-making-thing, buying you just has to come second now). This being the case, committing the rest of my life to him has still been something to get used to. We lived together for two and a half years before getting engaged, and during that time I didn’t focus on certain aspects of our relationship as much as I do now.
It’s not just cutesy things like that fact that I’m going to have to hear him blow his nose incredibly loudly every morning for the rest of my life (every. morning…) – a lot of it’s deeper than that. We’ve always had a very stable, equal relationship, however since getting engaged, I’ve seen both of us examining this balance with greater scrutiny than ever before.
Suddenly, doing the washing up when it isn’t my turn isn’t just an inconvenience that I’m sure will balance out at some point, it’s a potential precedent-setter. With marriage approaching, every argument is amplified as we examine its potential life-long implications. I’m finding it harder to laugh things off like we usually do – this is the rest of our lives we’re talking about here.
Pink cowboy hats
My fiancé and I both recognise this change in our perspectives for what it is and nothing has come close to a deal-breaker, but it’s certainly something to get used to and approach with care.
So while you’re dealing with this at home, outside, everyone and everybody seems to expect or demand you to act in a way completely counter to your personality and principles – simply based on the fact you’re getting married. In my experience, one of the most disheartening examples of this has been the discussion of stag and hen dos.
The mere mention of these get-togethers makes me lose faith in humanity. Admittedly, I lose faith in humanity fairly easily and often (just last week, a clip from Jackass: The Movie nearly reduced me to tears over the futility of existence). But nothing – nothing! – has compromised my faith in humankind as much as the barrage of information out there about bachelorette parties/hen dos/whatever other pink, sparkly label you wish to place upon this soul-destroying conceit.
I try to stay open-minded and receptive to the tastes and feelings of others, I really do, but there is a certain breed of bride-to-be to whom I simply refuse to relate and I fear what follows is a bit of a rant.
I’ll begin with the aesthetics of these events, which range from gross to simply confusing. Why are all the decorations and party favors for these functions penis-shaped? Don’t get me wrong, I am a fan of the phallus, but who wants this to make an appearance at their party? In their lives? In the world?
And what’s going on with these and these? It’s all deeply psychologically concerning – do we want to eat them or hit them? Hit them and then eat them? And why does it have to have a face like some demented Disney character? What are we saying by anthropomorphising and therefore infantilising the male genitalia? Again, deeply worrying.
But then, not every bachelorette party involves pink cowboy hats, tequila shots and daddy issues. There’s also the twee, tea-party route that many choose to take. While less off-putting, I can’t help but puzzle at the impulse to celebrate a friend’s transition into married life by playing at being housewives, decorating cupcakes, delighting in finger sandwiches and dressing like twits. Add a dose of crying in the shower and the 1950s picture of matrimony is complete. Congrats, sister, and welcome to a future of wasted college degrees and repressed rage!
Why is it that so many seemingly sane women revert to one of these two extreme stereotypes when it comes to these parties? It’s back to Sandra M Gilbert and Susan Gubar’s analysis of female characters in literature: must we be reduced to either angels in the house or madwomen in the attic (or, in the case of hen parties, in the night club)?
And what’s this about ‘celebrating your last night of singledom?’ Unless there’s a Green Card involved, by the time you get married, chances are you’ve been in a relationship of some kind for a fair amount of time. Even when I was just my fiancé’s “girlfriend” I didn’t go gallivanting about with male strippers and cock-shaped balloons, so what on earth would inspire me to do so now? Also, if that’s what really floated my boat, getting married wouldn’t necessarily prevent me from continuing to carry on as such.
And since when is being married so bad? Bachelorette-themed websites consistently spout crap like, “You’re losing one of the girls to the married life and it’s up to you to make sure that she has one last great night of being single!” and, “Make sure she gets a proper dismissal from singlehood!” It’s the twenty-first fucking century, people – if I didn’t want to get married, I wouldn’t.
But then I calm down and remind myself that it doesn’t have to be this way. The purpose of a bachelorette party, regardless of taste or style, is to celebrate a happy occasion with friends. And it is, arguably, an equalising effort against the hideous male counterpart, bachelor parties/stag dos (my word count is not long enough to begin to share my thoughts on those).
And perhaps I’m being unfair – perhaps some women are just dying for an excuse to wear a penis-shaped lollipop around their neck and this is their only chance. It takes all sorts, right?
Me? I’m not sure what I’ll do. I mean technically it’s up to my maid of honour, but she knows me well enough not to plan something atrocious. I wouldn’t say no to a nice meal out, perhaps a wine tasting… and then, there’s always the shooting range.
Boston-born and Brixton-based, Molly Garboden is a freelance journalist, solely for the purpose of having a press card that gets her free admission to museums in Paris.