Why It’s Time To Stop Using The Word ‘Bridezilla’
The Debrief: As millennials, we have the chance to change the conversation around weddings.
Illustration by Jayde Perkin
We’ve all seen the stories over and over again. Whether it be the bride who put her bridesmaids on a strict rice cake diet so they’d lose weight ahead of the wedding or the woman holding an auction so her friends can bid to be her bridesmaids , when wedding season rolls around articles about ‘Bridezillas’ become pretty typical tabloid fodder – and I’m sick of it.
Yes, the examples above are pretty extreme, and while I think putting your friends on a strict diet before your wedding day or making them pay to follow you up the aisle is completely awful, we need to stop referring to the women in question as ‘bridezillas’. In fact, it’s time to cut our fellow women some slack, especially the ones going through the stressful and costly experience of planning a wedding, and do away with the horrible, sexist trope of the demanding, selfish bride altogether.
So where did the term even come from in the first place? You can blame a 1995 article by Boston Globe writer Diane White on wedding etiquette for all of this. The worst thing you could do before your wedding day – according to the wedding planners she interviewed – was becoming the dreaded ‘bridezilla’, a term people working in the industry had given to women who were very demanding and obnoxious.
White’s article literally created a monster – reality TV shows about mean brides, including one actually called Bridezillas, hundreds of Reddit threads and worst of all, yet another stick to beat women with. The phrase is inherently sexist – you never see this kind of language levelled at the groom. As girls, we are conditioned to think that getting married is an essential part of adulthood – we are told to build up to this day our whole lives, but then we get condemned for caring about it when the time comes.
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Another issue I have with the ‘bridezilla’ trope is that it’s recently created a rival genre of woman – the ‘bridechilla’ (ugh). Similar to the ‘cool girl’ in Gone Girl, this woman is apparently so laid-back about anything to do with her wedding that she’s basically horizontal. This type of bride is supposed to be unbothered about losing weight or wearing an amazing outfit to get married in – but has to still look slim and flawless on her Big Day. She’s not meant to give her bridesmaids any direction but needs to still have an incredible hen do. She doesn’t care about seating plans, the menu, and what the DJ is going to play, but she’s expected to put on the perfect party for her guests. Again, it just feels like unrealistic pressure put on women to behave in a certain way.
When my partner proposed last year, I naively thought that chill bride (to a certain extent) was going to be me. I was all about having a tiny registry office ceremony, just us two and a couple of witnesses, then throwing a massive party at some point afterwards. I don’t even really know what a Pinterest board is, I don’t care about what colour scheme the table cloths were, and I spent £98 on my dress in the Coco Fennell sale. Contrary to many of the persistent myths about millennials, I believe in marriage as a wonderful commitment if you want to do it – it’s something I’ve written about before for The Debrief – but I wasn’t really that bothered about the day.
Fast-forward to the planning stage and it feels like everything has got a bit out of control. My fiancé and I talked about things and came to the conclusion that we do want our loved ones present for the entire day after all, which means that suddenly we have found ourselves planning an event for over 100 people that is going to cost thousands of pounds (the price of catering for that many people is wild). We’ve left plenty of time to plan and save – which is good as other issues in our lives have taken precedent recently – but it doesn’t mean it’s not stressful or that money worries haven’t cropped up. And don’t get me started on trying to come up with a guest-list and seating plan or navigate the minefield that is deciding who, if anyone, will get a plus one, and on what basis.
A survey from 2013 found that 44% of couples getting married worried about the guest-list, compared to 38% who worried about money, and 35% of people were worried about keeping friends and family happy. Now that I’ve begun to plan my own wedding, I fully understand the stresses my married friends have been through trying to make the day perfect for all their attendees. Although the day is technically supposed to be about you and your partner, it just isn’t the case at all – and everybody knows it. As women getting married, we are supposed to pull together the perfect event that pleases everyone, but it is just completely impossible. It’s time this is acknowledged.
Although my fiancé, to be fair to him, has taken on a big share of the organising thus far, as a woman I am the one out of us who have borne the brunt of demanding guests and their opinions. Though we’ve not even sent out save the dates yet, I’ve had people getting annoyed at me about their lack of a plus one if it’s their boyfriend I’ve only met once, or telling me off for deciding I don’t want to pay for people I’m not in touch with anymore to come to my wedding. It’s tiring, it’s frustrating and yes, sometimes I’m behaving a bit badly and getting snappy and passive-aggressive. But that doesn’t make me a ‘bridezilla’ – it makes me somebody who is actually being perfectly reasonable but isn’t being listened to, and if I have a bit of an emotional meltdown about it then…fair enough?
As an adult, I’ve been to about 2 or 3 weddings a year since 2010. Though everyone I’ve seen getting married has been in their 20s or early 30s, the vibe of all of them has been completely different, from a massive fun party in a Hackney warehouse to a big countryside hotel event. Weddings have changed a lot from the ones I went to as a child in the 1990s, which were big, traditional church-based events. Now there seems to be a trend for more hipster, low key ‘DIY’ weddings, especially among us millennials – although ironically we seem to spend more, with the average cost of a wedding in the UK now being an eye-watering £26,989. My fiancé and I are having a DIY London wedding, and we are calling in favours from creative friends, but this still doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot to organise, and that costs have to be managed.
As millennials, we have the chance to change the conversation around weddings. Yes, going to your friend’s wedding can be very expensive – I don’t even want to think about how much I’ve spent over the years on return tickets to Newcastle – and if you have many in one year it can be a financial strain, especially given that the average cost per attended ceremony is £266.
My theory is that this is why some guests get annoyed about various aspects of weddings they’re attending and want things done their way. When you’re putting that much money into something then you will think you’re in your rights to have a say in how things are run, but maybe be a bit less negative about it?
If you can’t afford to go on an expensive hen do, then be honest about that from the get go. If you only have the money for a small gift, that’s fine too – and you don’t need to wear a completely new outfit either. Plus, think of all the times your friend who is getting married has been there for you – the emotional labour, the amount they’ve spent on your weddings/birthdays/etc, the bottles of wine they’ve brought over to your house when you’ve had a shit day, and so on. Now your friend is asking you to share and witness one of the most important days of their lives. It’s likely (in my case, hopefully) to only happen once, plus you’re getting a free dinner and probably a lot of free wine too.
At the end of the day, things are hard and expensive enough for women getting married as it is without having to contend with sexist name-calling. So just turn up to the wedding venue, share in the big day and enjoy the party. If us brides need your advice we’ll come to you – and if your bride-to-be mate is being demanding, don’t throw the ‘B’ word at her. Instead, ask her what you can do to help lighten the load.
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