There are many things that baffle about the modern wedding. There’s the cost, obviously; the fact that your old university friends will occupy the same room as mad uncle Roger; and, if you’re a feminist, why some arcane symbols of patriarchal oppression make you furious while others leave you strangely unmoved. Oh, and fascinators. But there’s a further layer of insanity to the whole business, which can be roughly characterized as ‘general sexism gone nuts and deemed acceptable because it’s a wedding’. Here are eight things I learned while planning a wedding:
1. There’s a magazine called You and Your Wedding. Yes, YOU and YOUR wedding. That pretty much sets the tone of the whole affair: this union between two people is women’s work. (I suppose it’s possible there’s a male readership for YAYW, but if so, they’re doing their very best not to appeal to it.)
2. ‘Did he have to ask your father’s permission to propose to you?’ Unless it was a joke I didn’t get, at least one person thinks this is a normal question. I was so flummoxed, I didn’t know how to respond. In the end I only managed to mumble, ‘No he didn’t have to’, leaving ‘--because I’m an adult’ to hang awkwardly in the air.
3. ’Wear a little more make-up than is perhaps comfortable (it’ll look better in photographs, I promise)’. This piece of advice on bridal beauty comes from Sali Hughes at the Guardian. Giving SH the benefit of the doubt, I assume she means ‘comfortable with’ rather than ‘makes you physically uncomfortable’, though neither interpretation is exactly encouraging. And by now I’ve heard enough about corsets and heels and beauty regimes that start when you’re engaged to realise that comfort should be pretty low on the bride’s list of expectations. Originally I’d planned not to wear any make-up to my wedding, since I almost never wear it day-to-day, but after imbibing a couple of bridal magazines, I began to feel that this was the most radical idea since Emily Davison and the horse. I might as well go to my wedding done up as a Femen protestor.
4. Real men don’t do invitations. ‘I’m not being funny’, the woman printing the invitations said to my fiancé, ‘but you never see men doing this.’
5. You can make it yourself. Anything. There is nothing that can’t be handcrafted given the right amount of lolly sticks and internet forums. This initially seemed like a nice idea but after the several hundredth account of a woman indulging in back-breaking labour wiring her own marquee lighting system for ‘her special day’, I started to feel a bit exhausted. In the end, I became so inured to it that when my sister began the sentence, ‘You can make Portaloos really nice’, I genuinely thought she was going to start telling me about digging a hole in the grass and fabricating a sewage pipe out of jam jars and tealight holders. Turned out she meant expensive soap.
6. It’s a good moment to act like a child. Although getting married is a significant legal transaction with serious emotional and financial implications, it’s also an opportunity to go to a bridal boutique and behave like ‘a five year old by endlessly twirling, then stubbornly refusing to take the dress off’ according to You and Your Wedding, which sounds more like going through a breakdown than preparing for marriage to me. Never have I heard the words ‘princess’ and ‘fairytale’ as many times as in the last six months.
7. Brides are solipsistic monsters - and if you're not one, then you're doing it wrong. In a feature called ‘Help! I’ve been upstaged!’, Bride magazine's website is full of tips to ensure no attention is ever diverted from you: set a dress code and then ‘brief your bridesmaids to look out for potential off-pisters’; tell your mother what to wear; scan the guestlist for anyone who might announce their engagement and then seat them as far away as possible from you (‘You can always drop the pregnancy bomb at their wedding’ – an excellent reason to bring another human being into the world, AND it’s pretty easy to time pregnancies, I’ve heard.) However, if your husband is in danger of making a particularly entertaining speech there’s nothing you can do: ‘Just sit back and smile . . . and wait for normal service (all eyes on you) to resume.’ In short, be an insane harpy. Congratulations.
8. But it’s all been worth it to learn of the existence of these beauties. Rarely has the father/daughter relationship been so explicitly framed as incest. Germaine Greer would weep.