In defence of Bridezilla

I was talking to a friend recently about a perfectly reasonable minor wedding-related annoyance, and as we spoke I felt the need to backtrack, to explain how I wasn’t really that annoyed, how it wasn’t a big deal. After all, what could be more humiliating than realising you’ve turned into a Bridezilla, right? The ultimate wedding faux pas.

But it got me thinking about the Bridezilla thing. It’s a nasty finger-pointing shaming stereotype, that accuses brides-to-be of being any number of things – selfish, thoughtless, controlling, greedy, short-sighted… And, strangely, there’s no equivalent nasty name for controlling, greedy, selfish grooms.

Wait. Let’s backtrack.

Being a bride is a role open solely to women, and it’s a role in which women are permitted to exercise control – in fact are almost expected to be the partner in control (see also the role reversal TV shows in which a groom hilariously attempts to plan a wedding! Can you imagine the hilarity of letting a man plan a wedding! Ha ha ha ugh). Miserably, it’s still the case that many women are brought up dreaming of their wedding day as the happiest day of their life, the pinnacle of adult achievement, a day they can feel like a princess. At the same time, this wedding-mythmaking is part of the same cultural package that tells women that for the rest of their time they should be less noisy, less controlling, less ambitious, that their options are smaller and more constrained.

So effectively, we have a system that tells many women (still) that for most of the time they are unimportant and should defer to others, except for on this ONE DAY when it is all about them, the most important day of their life. The ONE day when they can legitimately take control. I mean, ‘princess for a day’ – even that is about power and control. Literally, princesses have more power and control than most ordinary women will ever have – than most people will ever have.

But then, when they step up and put everything into their wedding (and take it too far), instead of recognising their response to an impossible situation, we berate them and laugh at them for doing it wrong.

If women are told that for most of the time their choices are constrained and they matter less, but that they have one opportunity to take absolute power and control – and then the moment they try and take it we poke fun at them for living in exactly the tiny space that society created for them – it begins to reveal what the Bridezilla stereotype is really about.

It’s a way of demeaning women, of diminishing female power. If women can be threatened with the ultimate wedding criticism, Being A Bridezilla, it’s a very effective way of saying ‘SHUT UP. Stop talking, stop caring, stop trying to make something happen, stop trying to be in control, SHUT UP.’

It’s a very old game with a new face. I see parallels to the dreaded Nag (a woman trying to exercise power in the incredibly limited domestic sphere by repeatedly asking a man to do something basic; when he doesn’t do it, she’s the one at fault for asking), to Hysteria (all these emotions women keep having, they’re so irritable, there must be something wrong with them), to Oi Love What’s Your Problem Can’t You Take A Joke (after all, you weren’t supposed to take it seriously when we said you could be a princess for a day…).

The Bridezilla stereotype seems to me to be an inescapable outcome of two things – imposed and restrictive gender roles, and the terrifyingly profitable wedding industry. Women who are told – as many still are – that their role in life is limited but their one opportunity to be in control is their wedding day, are especially vulnerable to the ever multiplying wedding industry that relies on convincing you it’s absolutely essential that you spend £5000 on the perfect table settings because it’s your special day and you want it to be perfect, don’t you? Why don’t you want it to be perfect – don’t you love each other enough?

Bridezillas are not evil, and they’re not monsters. They’re women who believe they have limited options, and who are overwhelmed by incredibly effective advertising, marketing, and peer pressure. They’re scared of getting it wrong – they think this is their only chance. And fear drives the very worst in human behaviour.

Give your nearest Bridezilla a hug today. She’s carrying more of a burden than any of us would like to recognise.

This post was written by a RWL Guest BloggerJo Breeze is getting married this weekend, is looking forward to a great party with amazing company, and still doesn’t know or care what her colour scheme is.