Dispatches

Sunday, November 26, 2006

THE GRUMPY BRIDE




I am the grumpy bride, or if you prefer, the grumpy-bride-to-be.

I'm not sure whether it's normal to be grumpy or not. If television, movies and magazines are to be believed, I should be floating on cloud 9 with my giant diamond engagement ring daydreaming about my future husband and the silver pendant necklace I will buy to match my designer couture gown of white satin and lace.

I don't want to seem self-centred in my suffering, but I believe that many brides really are this happy, daydreamy and cheerful. Or rather, I don't think every bride has the same problem reconciling different aspects of herself with bride-dom as I do. Other people seem to embrace bride-dom with graceful joy, or at least with stoicism. But not me. I'm the grumpy bride.

I don't mean to say that I don't enjoy looking at beautiful gowns and jewellery the like of which I have never owned or worn. My personality is fraught with contradictions (as most interesting personalities are). I like wedding magazines. They are a feast for my senses, being all full of glossy photos and fun ideas to inspire my crafts and dress-making. They let me see creatively- designed dresses that hang as they are meant to hang on a professional model. I love to look at shiny things like satin, sequins, taffeta, ribbons, jewellery and beads. And I love to see dresses with interesting cuts, gathers, textures and fabrics.

I enjoy being creative and making cards or matching colours or textures. The idea of coordinating a wedding, choosing colours and decorations to be enjoyed by family and friends, actually appeals to me (I think everyone is hiding a little Martha Stewart inside their head somewhere). But the wedding fever takes over without warning and spirals out of control all too quickly. Going through websites, catalogues, stores and magazines has sucked the joy out of all of it. There are already so many things to buy. And these magazines, catalogues and websites are all telling me that to be a proper bride and have a proper wedding I really need to buy more, more, more.
Pretending to be happy about spending reams of money (when every day
I pass people panhandling on the streets to
pay for their evening meal),
fighting with your affianced over the aspects of planning you will never
see eye-to-eye on, and coordinating with family and wedding party to find
a day where all the required bodies can be present,
is enough to send a confused bride like me around the proverbial bend.

How could I dream of getting married in anything less than a $2,000 white, strapless gown? And haven't I shopped around to figure out which salon I shall use to do my hair, makeup and nails? And man, I should really have started getting regular facials and manicures to prepare for this years ago.

As many magazines do, wedding magazines teach me that I am going to be a half-assed bride, at best. I am also getting the message that I'm a pretty half-assed woman, what with not knowing (or caring) about makeup, facials and manicures.


Then there are the social and religious aspects of weddings. These are more important to me, personally, than the mechanics and aesthetics of the day. But this, again, puts me in an awkward position, vis-a-vis, being a "bride." I think it is important and significant to have a ritual where loved ones witness me and my spouse-to-be profess our commitment and love to one another. (It's the only time it'll probably ever happen in front of people, as I'm a pretty private person.) All of this bride baggage is a lot to tote out to the ceremony though.

So many people and all of the media tell me that a bride wears a white dress and a smiles, enjoys shopping and drops money left, right and centre to ensure that the wedding day is a rollicking success.
However, it seems to me that a white dress is just asking to be stained, dress-shopping is self-esteem crushing and there are far too many other people involved in every part of this event to be able to make everyone happy.

And then there's the engagement ring. Are diamonds really a girl's best friend? Not for me. If there is one aspect of getting married that is a pure construction of capitalism, I think it is the diamond. Wasn't that just something De Boers cooked up to sell more expensive jewellery? Not to mention that the diamond and gold mining industries have a terrible reputation for exploiting land and workers and
funding violence around the world (http://www.amnestyusa.org/). There are Canadian diamonds that are supposed to be okay, but they are still expensive and unecessary. Nope. No diamonds. It's hard enough to find jewellers who sell wedding bands that aren't made of "dirty gold."

If not having an engagement ring isn't enough to send me into an identity crisis (am I not a bride?) then this is: I am a woman and I proposed. Yes, even into the 21st century it is still rare for a woman to propose. There are no wedding magazine articles about how she should pop the question or what he should feel and when he should start planning now that he's sporting that shiny new rock on his hand.

To combat the constant grumpiness brought on by my bridal identity crisis, I am devising a plan to keep myself from being enshrined in the family history as The Grumpy Bride. I have to keep in mind the aspects of getting married that are important to me and try to let go of the unimportant trimmings. Once I am immersed in the world of dress shopping and venue hunting it becomes difficult to keep my perspective though. So I need to be reminded of this list or litany of things that will help me keep the focus. (Feel free to use these if you are a sister or brother spouse-to-be who feels the pressure to conform to the bridal/bridegroomal mold.)

1.) While it's a good idea to plan ahead and look good, there is no perfectly cut dress/suit or outfit of the perfect shade of whatever that will make me look out-of-this-world sensational. If I spend some time planning and longer than usual primping, I will look sensational to everyone else. The key thing is to make sure that I will be reasonably comfortable for the whole, long, fun day.

2.) There is no perfect reception venue. There is no formula for finding one. We just have to look at what is available in the time we have to look at places and do our best to settle on something that won't stress both of us to the max.

3.) We don't have to spend a lot of money on looking good or look good in the way that is expected of a bride and bridegroom.

4.) We cannot accomodate everyone. A wedding has too many moving parts. All we can do is plan for things to be as convienient as possible for the largest number of people.

5.) In a wedding, it is important to me to have a ceremony with loved ones in attendance. I want to have a chance to say hello to people and let them know I am glad they are able to share the day with us. I want to marry my best friend and best love in a ceremony surrounded by people we love. At the end of the day, that is all that is important to me (even if I do want veto power over those hideous purple and white carnation flower arrangements, if possible).

6.) I can't always get what I want.

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