On bacon fat, documentaries, and politics: why I’m marrying MOTL despite my misgivings about the wedding industry and “marriage”
Readers of my blog know that my impending nuptials has led to a lot of existential fretting and feminist critiquing (see this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this). In the weeks and the days leading up to the wedding, this blog has also become a way for me to roll my eyes over logistical issues (see this). Because of all of these issues, any reader would be inclined to ask the logical question: why bother getting married in the first place? Though I wrote this to explain why I’ve decided to get married, this doesn’t capture the crux of my decision to get hitched. I’m marrying MOTL because of love.
As a (pre?) millennial who is used to hiding her feelings behind a mask of irony and self-deprecation, admitting this - especially in a public forum - is difficult. I feel, though, that I owe it to those of you who read me regularly to admit that this is probably the biggest rebuttal point explaining why, despite my many misgivings, I’ve decided to get married: despite all the reasons I’ve already disclosed for why marriage and the wedding industry sucks - and because of my concurrent realization that patriarchal and outdated practices can be remodelled to fit our preferences - my love for MOTL and his for me ensures that for us, marriage makes sense.
And, readers, I love MOTL. We started as friends in the PhD program, during which we were co-survivors overcoming the tyranny of graduate school. We soon realized that our friendship had more than being “PhDs” as its basis. We both loved food! He didn’t think it weird that I keep a jar of bacon fat in my fridge to use for random recipes! We found joy in cooking together, from our disastrous attempts at replicating a genuine Chicago deep-dish pizza (our dough ended up as big as alien spaceships) to making various soups! He loves documentaries as much as I do - he is one of the few people I know who is willing to hit up three documentaries back to back during Hot Docs and together, we filmed a documentary short on immigrant hotdog vendors in Toronto that got screened in Toronto! He, well, speaks the way I speak and thinks the way I think! He is interested in politics (though we have key differences!) In our entire seven years of friendship, we have never ran out of things to say to each other, not once. Never have we stopped talking and doing things together. Back when we were friends, he is the first person I’ll call if I want to grab beers - this hasn’t changed, even today. When I’m having a shitty day, he is my go-to for drinks. This is also the case when I’m having a spectacular day and when I just want to chill.
And really, at the base of it, isn’t this what makes for a good basis for a marriage? There is no one whose company I enjoy more, whose compassion and kindness I draw more inspiration from than MOTL.
Marriage for me isn’t a leap of faith. It is, for me, a decision made with a clear head and a full heart: marriage to MOTL is the one life choice that I’ve made that I am completely certain about. We’ll definitely hit rough patches but I know that MOTL and I will bear it together with equanimity and trust. How can we not? In MOTL, I found a co-conspirator and true life partner. And that, for me, is why, ultimately, I am ok having undergone all of the aforementioned annoyances when it comes to wedding planning: the end result is that I get to marry my best friend.
And so the hairstylist I hired for the wedding just cancelled…
Even for someone who deliberately chose not to make elaborate plans for my upcoming wedding, for reasons I have already disclosed on this blog, it surprises me how much time and detail is involved when planning this event. MOTL and I have both, in our university days, organized debate tournaments and so we were under the impression that organizing a wedding with less people and only encompassing one day would be easer. The difference, as we soon realized, is that planning a wedding means catering more closely to people’s specific preferences. Put differently, there is a world of difference between booking classrooms over the course of a weekend on a college campus and feeding hungry undergrads cold pizza (and if they don’t like the pizza, they can suck it) and planning an event that entails talking to numerous “vendors” (to use wedding parlance).
With five days left, when everything is supposed to be planned and all I’m supposed to be doing is getting expensive spa treatments, there are more details we have to look into. It is mildly annoying to find that tasks delegated to other people have fallen by the wayside. It is also extremely exasperating to find that last-minute bookings now need to be secured. Specifically, I just found out at 10 pm last night that the hairstylist I booked can’t make it on Friday. Then there are other logistical matters..
The funny thing about all of this is that though I am stressed, I am not freaked out. Compared to preparing for a big dissertation committee meeting or, you know, preparing for my PhD defence, wedding planning isn’t the most panic-inducing task I’ve had to do. Besides, whatever happens, even if it rains (and weather forecasts say this is likely), the day for me will be perfect. I get to party with my loved-ones and marry my favourite drinking buddy.
There should be a website for Lazy, Reluctant Brides and Grooms
In exactly three months’ time, MOTL and I are supposed to be married. Between now and then, I am supposed to:
1. Mark 100+ papers
2. Mark 100+ tests
3. Be halfway through the GATES project
4. Be closer to a complete, final draft of my dissertation (I hope this won’t be too hard because all of the chapters, except the intro and conclusion, have been written; though I am still waiting for final comments, I hope I won’t get completely eviscerated).
5. Finish edits for a book chapter I agreed to write
6. Present in two academic conferences
It is telling that seeing the aforementioned list doesn’t stress me out. Marking papers and tests? Easy. Conducting more interviews and collecting more surveys? Fun and exciting. Beginning preliminary data analysis for said project? Bring it on. Editing a book chapter/dissertation? Painful but totally do-able. Presenting in conferences? Let’s do it!
What actually causes me a great deal of anxiety is thinking about all of the tasks that need to be done for the wedding. As I’ve blogged about here, and here, and here, the wedding industry seems to be a cesspool of avarice and misogyny. As someone who didn’t even really contemplate marriage until MOTL, I am a neophyte when trying to come to terms with the tasks associated with wedding planning. While MOTL and I are, for the most part, staying clear of the ‘industry’, we still have to plan the event. After all, even the most reticent brides and grooms have to think about wedding logistics.
This brings to mind a constant source of frustration. Why is it that there doesn’t seem to be options for those who don’t want to go down the ‘traditional’ bride route and those who aren’t cool enough to be ‘indie’ brides?
On one hand, you have websites such as Wedding Bells and The Knot, whose forums seem designed to shame prospective brides into holding luxurious weddings, Martha Stewart style. People who post in these forum either have countdowns until they become “Mrs. X” next to their handles or have tallied the number of days since their wedding. These, then, are the Kate Hudson of wedding websites: sweet, fluffy, and oh-so-princessy it makes me wonder whether the editors of these sites have thought about what comes after the wedding, which, after all, is supposed to signify the beginning of a marriage.
On the other hand, you have websites such as Off Beat Bride, which proudly exhorts its readers to “altar your thinking.” Next to this slogan are pictures of non-traditional brides: some with tattoos, others with short cropped hair. Now, in all honesty, these sites actually provide much needed respite away from the insipid chatter of Wedding Bells and the Knot. I also confess to reading a lot of articles from Indie Bride, which provided useful tips; that Indie Bride has now been bought by Huffington Post weddings makes me sad because this, to me, indicates that even websites that try to go off-the-beaten track get co-opted. That said, folks, the sad fact is that I am just not cool enough and off-beat enough to be an indie bride. Some of the ideas given in these sites, such as having a bat-themed wedding with guests drinking from specially made goblets and dancing to the tunes of obscure German socialist punk bands, are just too, well, hipster for me. I just don’t have the time or the inclination to, you know, crochet cute little coasters that go with said goblets or to make homemade jam to give guests to take home after the party. Hence, these sites are a hybrid of Zooey Deschanel and Chloe Sevigny: yes, they’re pretty cool but they are a bit too precious. Ironically, in trying so hard to be different and edgy, they end up generically affirming the prototype of manic pixie girl hipsterism.
What’s missing from the market are sites for Lazy, Reluctant Brides and Grooms. I would argue that my friends and I occupy this niche market that has yet to be catered to - we’re not princesses of either the Disney or Indie variety and we’re too busy and too frugal to partake in a lot of the suggested activities and purchases made by the websites listed above. Thinking about my closest female friends, it strikes me that weddings aren’t really something we’ve ever talked about. Sure, any one of my female friends can write a book/undertake research with marginalized groups/kick ass in a deposition/organize a protest. But planning a wedding? Figuring out ‘colours’? Choosing flowers? Buying dresses? Nope, this has never crossed our minds. Ever. Given a choice, any one of these women will be able to ‘execute’ a wedding but by no means will doing so come naturally. In fact, the thought that MOTL’s guy friends are better suited to the task of helping with wedding planning than my female friends amuses me greatly.
I am, of course, excited about the wedding. I can’t wait to see people who I love and who I haven’t seen in years. Friends from abroad have already bought their tickets! It will be an awesome party. As a foodie, I am pleased with the food we’re serving. As a budding oenophile, I am excited because our venue allows us to bring our own bottles of wine. I suppose at this stage, though, all the different tasks that we still have to do is beginning to daunt me. And the lack of sites catering to Lazy, Reluctant Brides and Grooms isn’t really helping. If any of my readers wants to create such a site, I guarantee that there will be a market for it!
Being racially fetishized while visiting a potential wedding venue
It’s a sad, sad day when I have to write the following letter to the wedding coordinator for one of the venues MOTL and I visited:
How are you?
My partner and I visited _____ on Saturday. We liked the facilities but are still considering different venues. Thank you for making arrangements to have X give us a tour. That said, I have to admit that my partner and I felt a bit uncomfortable with X’s approach. He seems like an extremely personable and jovial person but we did not know how to react when X’s very first question to us was to ask us about our respective “ancestral backgrounds.” When we told him that we were Filipino and Chinese, he told us that he was “disappointed” that we weren’t Korean because there was a Korean celebrity who had filmed in the venue previously. When we left, I thought we’d be given a brochure giving information on rental costs; instead, we received a hand-written note containing his favourite You Tube videos.
While this is not at all a formal complaint, perhaps next time, it would be helpful if you could give prospective clients a call informing them that you would be unable to give tours of the venue? I would have liked to talk to you about the venue itself and gotten more information about rentals. Had I known you wouldn’t be able to make it, I would have happily rescheduled. Also, perhaps someone from your office can have a gentle word with X on how asking prospective clients about their ethnicity may be perceived as offensive? I am certain X is a very nice man and he seemed more eager to ‘connect’ with us. That said, such an approach is entirely unprofessional and may even detrimentally affect your venue’s ability to rent to different couples, and most especially couples of Asian descent.
I hope this email isn’t out of line. I debated on whether I should send you this message but I’ve been feeling bothered by the incident the entire weekend. I also wouldn’t want another couple to feel as uncomfortable as we did.
Everything that I wrote in this letter happened, although I decided not to tell the wedding coordinator how X also engaged me in conversation about his love for Fil-American pop star Charise Pempengco, his opinion on how she performed in Glee, and other bits of “Filipino” trivia he has amassed over the years.
Look, in certain circumstances, I get why some folks are eager to show their knowledge of someone’s culture by making cultural references that they think will give them an opening to talk to you. Sometimes, some folks just don’t get that people of color are just like other Canadians - they don’t know that when looking for ways to engage us in small-talk, a smart move would be to NOT talk about stereotypical cultural markers but to instead talk about, say, the weather or how Rob Ford is doing as mayor or how the Leafs suck. Automatically, they see you as a POC first, a Canadian second, and strive for ways to make that connection with you, oftentimes leading to a great deal of awkwardness. I get that and while it annoys me, I play ball, follow the script, and steer the conversation to more neutral ground.
I am also sympathetic to how a lot of these folks are usually old folks, whose social boundaries differ when it comes to discussing issues of race and culture. My beloved grandmother, for example, has lived all of her life in the Philippines, surrounded by Filipino-Catholics; in a previous conversation, she asked me a lot of questions about my non-Christian friends and inquired about their beliefs and practices in a way that may potentially be construed as ignorant by others but which I know stems from genuine curiosity. Thus, I almost always respond politely when I am confronted with questions on where I’m “really” from or what my ethnicity is or different traits that are associated with Filipinos and/or Asians because I like to think that these questions aren’t ill-intentioned. These, along with the occurrence of what I call “genial racism” (i.e., random, unwittingly ignorant/racist comments coming from different people that make you give them the side-eye - see “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls” as a reference point), is just a fact of life for people of color in North America. Sure, it pisses me off. And in my own activism and writing, I try to shift perceptions. On a daily basis, though, what can you do?
What was different about the incident above was that this all took place in a professional setting, where one can reasonably expect to be treated, well, professionally. MOTL and I were visiting a wedding venue and were potential clients. We expected a tour of the venue and answers to our questions regarding costs, logistics, etc. Consequently, we expected that staff members would be trained to - you know - not make overt references to people’s cultures and ethnicities and treat us just like regular people. That X seemed especially excited when he saw that me and MOTL were Asian was extremely weird. Maybe he really wanted to talk about Korean celebrities and Filipino pop stars? Regardless of his intentions, his behaviour was off-putting. No, we weren’t crying or feeling violated afterwards but we did feel racially fetishized.
Needless to say, MOTL and I won’t be going for this wedding venue.
Why I’m Getting Married: A Feminist Defence
I’ve talked before about how my aversion to the wedding industry. This, coupled with my bullish Marxist-feminist beliefs that have led me to despair over the way weddings have been taken over by capitalistic and patriarchal imperatives, make the entire planning process agonizing. In response to that, a few people have rightly pointed out that if I find the entire wedding planning process so abhorrent, why not forgo it altogether? Two friends actually expressed their ‘disappointment’ in my decision to get married, which they felt was quite unfeminist. I have to admit that stung a bit. So let me clarify that when I make pointed observations about marriages and weddings, this isn’t because I don’t want to get married. I very much do.
Let me start by saying that criticizing people for deciding to get married for being unfeminist is actually, bizarrely, falling into the same patriarchal trope that leads one to think that all marriages and all weddings are, by their very essence, sexist. It’s an observation not corroborated by empirics but by the hasty desire to judge. If two (or, heck, multiple) people decide that they want to signify the next stage of their relationship by getting married, then who is anyone else outside the couple to judge their decisions to do so? They might have a traditional relationship defined by traditional gender roles or they may not. Who knows? Who cares? If this is the arrangement that works for them, then more power to them.
I prioritize the symbolism that defines weddings. And no, when I say symbols, I don’t mean the veil, or the white dress, and any of those tropes. I think that the symbolic value of weddings is in how they enable different communities to come together to support a new partnership. For me, having a ceremony surrounded by family and friends that affirms this new chapter in our lives is meaningful. Being in the same room with all the people who we love and who love us - and having them bear witness to us beginning our lives together –is crucial to both of us for this shows that MOTL and I have a support network of people who are there rooting for us.
I can definitely intellectualize arguments against what I just said: weddings and marriages are but economic arrangements each partner enters into to bolster their economic security; communities of trust and support don’t really exist and being altruistic was never man’s “natural” state in the state of nature; blah blah blah. However, I won’t give them credence in this blog post. My decision to get married and to have a wedding is primarily emotive and is perhaps ultimately illogical but having emotions trump logic doesn’t matter to me. If we find reason to complain and to nitpick about every single decision that others make - if we base all of our life decisions on logic and reason – then what’s the fun in that? Having children ultimately isn’t logical, but people have them anyway. Doing this PhD was probably the least logical thing I could have done with my life, but hey, I did it, and despite my incessant whinging, I love it.
The key thing for MOTL and I at this point is to not get swept up by the industry and to keep telling ourselves that the wedding isn’t about anything else but forming a foundation of community support to set the stage for our marriage. This is obviously easier said than done. It’s hard to plan the wedding when the entire industry is based on regressive ideas of gender relations. These ideas inform how different things, like wedding dresses, wedding cakes, wedding venues, etc., are packaged. For example, when trying to assess our options, I stumbled upon a website called “Babbling Brides,” which is but one off-shoot of similarly titled websites like “the Knot,” “Canadian Bride,” and “Wedding Belles.” In clicking through the forums giving information on venues, I was appalled to see the anonymous posters end their messages with the following taglines:
“Enjoying the rest of our lives together! I’m a Mrs!”
“LLL is all married up!”
“We are man and wife.”
“Countdown to being Mrs. X: 14 months and 7 days!”
Because the wedding industry seems to be entirely based on catering to women (never men!) with these sentiments, it makes it even harder for those of us who don’t want any of this sexist drivel. Do you know the number of times I’ve had to clarify that I do not want to be a princess during the big day or that my goal isn’t to be the most radiant person in the room (if I did look ‘radiant’ on the day, it’s because my cheeks will be flushed from all the wine I’ll be consuming)? I’ve lost count.
In sum, MOTL and I have decided to forego these expectations and keep reminding ourselves of why we are getting married in the first place: we want a community of loved ones around us. We want to have a kickass party with family and friends from different stages of our lives. Off the top of my head, I have my family, my high school friends, my undergrad crew, my PhD crew, my UN/human rights crew and my London crew – having everyone finally meet each other and spend the night eating and dancing will be such good fun. And MOTL, I am sure, feels the same way about having his different groups of family and friends gathered around him. Celebrating with our respective people will be what will make it a good day, and not, say, the presence of expensive linen or china, or the availability of a string quartet during the reception or any of the other things being peddled to us by assorted wedding salesreps.
Body Image and Wedding Dress Shopping
My friends and I were on a diet at the age of 9. Even at that age, we understood the message that being thin is good and being fat is bad, a sentiment which is reinforced by the compliments we received when we didn’t finish our food (“good – you’re learning portion control!”) and when we lost weight (“you look so good!”) The books I avidly consumed at that age also reinforced these beauty ideals. Jessica and Elizabeth Wakefield, as everyone who came of age in the 1990s know, were a perfect size 6; nobody wanted to be fat and frumpy Mallory Pike in the Babysitters Club but instead sought to be like cool California girl Dawn or artsy, skinny Claudia who never gained weight despite all the junk food she consumed daily; ubiquitous references to being slender abounded in Ann of Green Gables, Pollyanna, and Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm. My desire to lose weight, coupled with colonialist worries regarding how ‘dark’ I am and how ‘flat’ my nose is (a preoccupation that merits another blog post, I swear), made me unhappy. My diaries written from grades four to six painstakingly documented my desire to be thin and pretty.
It was only when I hit puberty and became angry and awkward that I shook off these influences. Reading the “Beauty Myth” by Naomi Wolf, “Backlash” by Susan Faludi, and “Reviving Ophelia” by Mary Pipher made me identify as a feminist at the age of twelve. These books taught me that beauty standards were socially constructed and that the best thing to do was not to partake in the beauty race prevalent among teenage girls. Though I admittedly became a bit too militant in my feminism as a teenager by refusing to wear make-up and wearing, like, overalls and boots (!), for the most part, I’ve succeeded since then in maintaining a healthy body image. In addition, working for a women’s health organization, where one of my tasks was to do interviews with in-patients of an eating disorder clinic, showed me first-hand the health problems caused by anorexia and bulimia and reinforced my belief in the necessity of prioritizing good health rather than losing weight.
My healthy(ish) perceptions of my body, however, were nearly shattered when going wedding dress shopping. I’ve written previously about my ambivalence to wedding planning and mentioned the insults I’ve been subjected to when trying on different dresses, emphasizing how peculiar it is to be exposed to an industry where insulting customers in order to upsell them is a common practice. Last week, over two days, I looked at no less than three more wedding dress stores in Vancouver because I was determined to just get this ordeal over and done with. Within those two days, I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland trapped in a world of chiffon and tulle. Along with my mom and my cousin, I tried on several dresses, always with a ‘wedding dress’ consultant dispatched to attend to our needs. While doing so, I was subjected to two additional insults: first, that I had “midget legs” (said because I was apparently too short to fit into one of their sample dresses) and second, the ever ubiquitous observation that I would look better if I lost weight (with one attendant helpfully suggesting that I would look good if I lost “ten to twenty” pounds). After being exposed to these sentiments, even I began to demur and to think that I was hideous, so much so that poor MOTL had to be subjected to the most self-pitying, most self-aggrandizing conversation where I sought reassurance that he thought I was, well, pretty and that I wasn’t hideous. Thinking in this way made me more apt to think that perhaps it would be worthwhile to fork over more money for the more expensive dress which had more “structure” because it would successfully hide my ‘deficiencies’. Pathetic, no?
It was only when I started thinking about it further that I slowly got over it. For those of you who’ve gone to wedding dress shops, think about this with me. Isn’t it interesting that the saleswomen are called “consultants”? This ensures that their feedback is rendered more legitimate because the term “consultant” evokes the idea of expertise.
Furthermore, isn’t it disgusting the way dressing rooms aren’t just dressing rooms and that women trying on dresses have to stand on top of these platforms in front of full-length mirrors, with chairs and couches positioned behind them for the family and friends who’ve gathered to witness this spectacle? When my friend SK went with me to a dress shop in Toronto, I jokingly commented that I felt like I was being put on sale and that she was my buyer because whenever I tried on a new dress, my consultant threw open the curtains with a flourish to present me to SK, who was sitting on a chair in front of the stage/dressing room. The pomp and circumstance surrounding this procedure elevates dress buying to a nearly religious experience. Funnily enough, one shop I was in only had one podium, so all prospective dress buyers had to wait their turn to stand on the podium. It made me feel even more like a piece of meat because when it was my turn, everyone, not just my mom and my cousin, examined me and gave their opinions. Because people can be bitchy, one of the other dress-buyers snidely commented that she didn’t know “why some women choose to show skin” when trying on a Kate Middleton inspired dress, which made me feel terrible because I came after her, clad in a dress with a sweet heart neckline. (This, by the way, was the same shop that said I had “midget legs”. The consultant made this observation with everyone else watching).
The way podiums are arranged also fosters competition between buyers. There was an especially distraught woman who kept glaring at me every time one of the attendants helped me put on a dress because this drew attention away from her - I was seriously afraid that she would shove me off the podium. That she kept yelling at the attendants and at her mother for not catering to her needs also made me feel sorry for her for surely no wedding is worth this amount of stress?
Finally, it is worth noting that reinforcing hierarchies is the modus operandi of a lot of wedding dress shops. Obviously, dresses that are more expensive are presented more favorably while cheaper dresses are routinely dismissed. More than that, though, there are dress shops that actually prioritize thinner customers over their more heavyset ones. One particular shop arranged its dresses by size. Dresses that are sized 0 to 8 are prominently placed in the center of the shop while dresses that are sized 10 to 14 are placed at the sides. What about dresses that are higher than size 14? Readers, I kid you not. These dresses are placed at the back of the shop, in another room altogether, away from the main store.
In the end, I didn’t buy my dress from any of the stores that insulted me. I bought it from one of the stores that didn’t seem to think that insulting their customers was key to doing good business though of course, there were cursory statements on how certain dresses had a “slimming” effect. I also quite like it because it is a Filipino-style dress, and honoring my culture is important to me. Now that this milestone, ehrm, ordeal, is over, I can now happily ignore questions of dress size and thinness.
Operation Dissertation v. Wedding Planning
Being neither a sister-wife nor a Kardashian, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I view this whole wedding thing. It is difficult for me to reconcile my feminism with weddings for all the obvious reasons, most of which have to do with how to “negotiate my beliefs with a traditionally sexist institution,” as Feministing’s Jessica Valenti aptly puts it in her seminal blog post.
It is also hard for me to purge myself of the sinking feeling that getting married signifies the end of “my” story. I remember thinking, even at the age of 5, that it was a damn shame that Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and all their princess counterparts had their stories effectively end after marriage; though the books and the cartoon movies I watched then were clear that all these princesses lived “happily ever after,” I couldn’t, even at that age, reconcile myself with the fact that marriage meant that their adventures were over. I also remember being a militant and obnoxious baby-feminist clad in my “I love my Vagina” t-shirt during university and talking at 3 am with AKE about the senselessness of wedding traditions; “why bother getting married?,” we huffed in the middle of drinking tepid cups of English breakfast tea and eating chicken souvlaki pitas from the Pita Pit, “why not have renewable marriage contracts where you decide to be together for a set period of time and then renegotiate after?” We then made a pact that the minute one of us got married, we would each make sure to dress in mourning clothes, put coal on our cheeks, and play a dirge during the festivities. (AKE, if you’re reading this, I give you full permission to do this during the wedding. I’ll even supply the coal).
Thus, when MOTL unexpectedly proposed, I said yes because it was MOTL, not because I’ve had visions of myself clad in tulle. The reality that the two of us are getting married to formalize our relationship and to show our commitment to each other doesn’t make it any easier for me to reconcile myself to the idea of weddings and matrimony. Every once in awhile, I run across articles saying that women who are married are considered negatively in the job market, which makes me petrified. I’ve also read several studies over the years that show, among many findings, that women’s quality of life decrease after marriage and the proportion of household tasks that they do gets higher. And of course, there are examples of failed or struggling marriages that abound everywhere, which make me think, well, how do I know that MOTL and I are the exception to the rule?
All these random ‘facts,’ I tell MOTL, in a somewhat accusatory manner. MOTL, to his credit, patiently rebuts my concerns (a running theme in our relationship it seems) and remains staunch in his conviction that the two of us will be okay. And I believe him. Despite the admonitions of well-meaning lawyer friends, who have insisted that the two of us sign pre-nuptial agreements because “most marriages fail” and despite the criticisms of friends like BL, who reacted with detached disapproval when I told her about my decision to get married because of her disdain for the institution, I know that I want to marry MOTL. It carries a lot of symbolic weight and signals our commitment to each other. Although I get and, in many ways, agree with how ‘marriage’ as a concept is outdated and unnecessary in light of the fact that many of the benefits marriage confers are also given to couples in civil partnerships, for me, I would like the opportunity to publicly affirm my commitment.
But just when I am getting my head wrapped around the idea of marriage, then comes wedding planning, which is made triply difficult because I am also currently gestating a dissertation. In fact, truth be told, my dissertation – my baby who I’ve been carrying for 6 whole years – is my priority over anything else. It is difficult to conceive of planning anything else when my entire existence is devoted to making sure my baby/dissertation gets to the stage where I am confident that she will live. The last thing I want is to have a miscarriage when I am so close to the finish line. (Ok, end of analogy). Trying to nurture a fledgling academic career while planning a wedding is difficult, as the movie the 5 Year Engagement, shows precisely; when MOTL and I watched it, there were far too many instances when we would exchange glances inside the dark theater and laugh in commiseration.
Also, can I be honest for a second? The wedding industry sucks. It is a parasitic cesspool of gross misogyny whose sole intent seems to be to bleed as much money out of you. In the few times I’ve gone wedding dress shopping, I have been body-shamed more times that I care to remember; I have been told that my figure was too “boxy,” that I was “fat,” and that I was “too dark to wear white.” Attempts to negotiate with wedding venues have also fallen flat because prices seem to magically increase upon viewing the proposed contracts. Salespeople seem to renege on what was verbally agreed on when visiting venues when it comes to the signing stage. Emails of inquiry with wedding photographers have stunned both us. One email from a photographer/videographer demanding that his team stay at “no less than a 4 star hotel” during the event, in addition to an extra $1,500 on top of the $6000 he normally charges because ours is a destination wedding, made me and MOTL snicker because this man seems to fancy himself the Scorsese of wedding productions. The pictures we’ve seen of standard couple photos are also, well, so eager to promote the couple’s “love” that it just seems distasteful. Why the heck would I want to have a photo-shoot while wearing period outfits/posing with teddy bears/skipping on the sandy surf and have these photos compiled in a leather bound ‘book’ that I can then apparently show my grandchildren; if my grandchildren are anything like me and MOTL (which is to say, judgmental and snide), my grandchildren will likely see this as a ridiculous waste of time and money and wonder why the two of us indulged in such a narcissistic exercise.
What’s worse is reading wedding articles designed to force couples into thinking about how to make their day ‘unique’ and ‘special.’ Though I agree that writing your own vows makes it more personal and more meaningful, I can’t help but jeer when watching videos where the following vows are said with the utmost sincerity:
1. Bride: “Every girl’s dream is to find a prince but today I am a princess who just found her frog. He may not be the best looking guy but he has a good heart.”
2. Bride: “Together, we make a shawarma. You are the white sauce to my meat.”
The plan then is to see whether Operation Dissertation can continue unabated while also organizing the wedding. Thankfully, I have family and friends who seem eager to shoulder a lot of the legwork, which means that snarky, feminist me is excused from being subjected to a lot of these contrivances. Is that a cop-out? Oh most definitely. Once I’ve reconciled myself to the idea that for me and MOTL, weddings are every bit a celebration for our families as they are for us, then I’ve become more than happy to devolve responsibility. That’s the only way I can keep Operation Dissertation going.