Bride vs Host: the root of the bridentity crisis

Guest post by yngmadeline
Bride, Groom, Family & Friends Cheers!

As I was watching Say Yes to the Dress (a show that I have hugely ambivalent feelings for) I had a bolt of clarity on why the Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) is fundamentally flawed and dangerous. The problem is that the WIC skews how people negotiate personal identities.

Not an episode of Say Yes to the Dress can go by without someone uttering the phrase “feel like a bride.” In the mainstream wedding media, this is why people plan weddings, so you can have this day where you “feel like a bride.” It is a fleeting moment, just 24 hours long, that will never be replicated. Therein lies the key to the WIC fantasy: you will never get a chance to feel like a bride again so make the most of your wedding day. Since this is a one time thing, if you do it wrong, you never get a chance to do it right. Well, I want to call bullshit on that idea.

Weddings are overwhelming because they ask individuals to fulfill two identities simultaneously: the first identity is a bride and the second is a host.

Weddings are overwhelming because they ask individuals to fulfill two identities simultaneously: one identity is making an emotional and personal relationship transition, and the other identity is someone who is throwing an amazing celebration. To make it simple, the first identity is a bride (anyone who is getting married goes through the exact same thing regardless of what you call yourself, but for the sake of sticking to a theme, I'll just refer to this identity as a bride) and the second is a host. Because these roles are assumed simultaneously in modern weddings, people conflate them. Not just the wedding industry folk, but everyone — although I do blame the WIC for perpetuating this conflation.

The way I see it, the term bride is really a relationship moniker. It denotes a person who is getting married indicating a shift of relationship types from engaged or dating to married. This is a fairly universally acknowledged shift: dating/engaged is different from married. This means that people act differently in the two situations. This means that at the simplest level, being a bride is about your relationship. It refers only to your willingness to negotiate and change your relationship with someone else. So, to feel like a bride, you just have to feel like you are in this transition. There is absolutely nothing material about being a bride — there isn't even a time length. You can take as long as you want to transition. Most people will stop calling you a bride after the wedding, but you don't have to give up that transitional identity yet. In fact, this transitional identity may begin during the engagement as well. It all depends on how a person negotiates this change.

On the other hand, being a good host is about 75% material and 25% attitude. Someone can definitively be a good host or a bad host. There are some behaviors that make you a bad host. Did you promise dinner to all 150 guests but only ordered enough food for 30? That's a bad host. Did you ignore the comfort of your guests? That's a bad host. I don't think there is much disagreement on what makes a really bad host. As for being a good host, I think there is only one real rule and that only applies to attitude: a good host also enjoys the party. If a host is engaged with the party and the guests, the guests will probably feel more engaged. As long as that one aspect is taken care of, the party can take any form imaginable. There is no real template, except bad examples, of what to provide to make a good party. I think this is what all of us face when planning a wedding, having to imagine and produce a party that will make us feel like having fun and that will make a crowd of our friends have fun as well. This is an incredibly difficult and daunting task. No wonder weddings are gigantic balls of stress.

Within the wedding industry there is a confusing morass of egos, capitalism, and genuine desire to help. There are now specialists, i.e. vendors, on various aspects of wedding planning. Unfortunately, the way the majority of vendors advertise and sell their wares is as experts on how to be a bride and feel like a bride on your wedding day. I get why this shift happened: business people need to sell a package that people believe in and romantic weddings are things that people believe in. Unfortunately, too many wedding vendors now believe that they can tell you how to be bride. They fully believe their marketing BS.

I wish that more people paid attention to this bride/host divide. I do think that some wedding stress would be alleviated if vendors just talked about their usefulness in terms of their experience in how to throw a party, NOT on their experience in defining what it feels like to be a bride. This would take the pressure off of all of us to fit into an identity that has vague parameters but apparently still has a clear definition of how to be a bride or not. I think they would still be able to maintain their businesses, and in the end would make their jobs easier. After all, stressed out people are not that fun to work with.

Comments on Bride vs Host: the root of the bridentity crisis

  1. Oh my gosh this chimes so closely to what I feel – though you’ve expressed it better and more succinctly than I ever could. I think that’s what I need, someone just to be practical, down-to-earth, and help me throw a good and well-organised party. Only then will I relax and see if I can start to “feel like a bride”. And another thing, it’s not helpful, when trying to feel bridal, to have someone continuously telling you to “FEEL LIKE A BRIDE! FEEL LIKE A BRIDE!” Nothing’ll make me feel LESS like one than that!

  2. If I am getting married to my love on the day, I can damn well assure you that I will feel like a bride, regardless of whether I am in gorgeous silk duponi ballgown, or shorts, flip-flops and a tube top. I will feel like a bride because I will FEEL happy, elated, overjoyed and full of WIN at being able to start this new journey with the one person I believe is perfect for me. All the rest of the trappings that they try and push on me so I will “feel bridal” can get shoved directly up the WIC’s azz.

    Yeah, I said it!

  3. Completely agree! I could not be more sick of the WIC selling me things to that are supposed to make me “feel like a bride.” And I hate the way it feeds into itself, well you spent this much on the dress so now you have to buy these shoes, and since you spent this much on the venue you have to by these centre pieces. And telling you things like “its only happens once” – lots of things only happen once, how does this necessitate dropping 30g’s?
    And somehow if I don’t have those damn expensive centrepieces and flowers the day won’t be perfect and I won’t “feel like a bride.” That parts all me, my love/commitment is not contingent on elegant chair covers.

  4. I can tell you as a woman who has a large amount of anxiety over just having more than 3 people visiting her house at once, the whole idea of hosting a huge party for EVERYONE WE KNOW actually makes me want to vomit a little with nerves. We havent even set a date yet, because I’m so worried that after all that planning and worrying and money spending, I wont be able to relax and enjoy myself anyways. I’ll be so consumed with worrying if my guests have had enough to eat/drink, if the DJ is entertaining enough, if everything is going to be cleaned up and returned on time, etc etc etc that I will forget what the party was for in the first place.
    At this point, I am curled up in the corner with my hands over my ears screaming ‘I dont wanna, I dont wanna!! Leave me alone!!’ So damn you WIC…. you got to me. Well I’m not coming out and you can’t make me!

    • You sound like the perfect candidate for having someone ELSE plan your wedding! It can be done! It might just be amazing because you can totally relax and giggle to yourself as someone else does all the work, and still have a wonderful day where you get married and have an awesome party! Not sure who exactly is out there that could do it (I know my cousin told her mom to just plan the whole thing, and her mom was thrilled and it turned out great, but I feel like in general it’s too much work for someone who is just wanting to help out). Anyway, something to consider.

      Personally, I’d kind of like to see an OBB post about having someone else throw a wedding/party than the bride/groom. I think this is a thing that should start happening.

    • Elopement is always an option. So is heading to the courthouse with the parents and dinner afterward at a nice restaurant 🙂

      Seriously, no party is worth curling up in a corner having an anxiety attack.

  5. Thank you for this, it’s such a struggle to overcome those feelings of measuring up to people’s expectations, while still remaining true to yourself. The whole wedding industry takes that and twists it so we feel we must do all these unnecessary things and if you aren’t strong enough, you can get swept away in it and ultimately it ruins your day because it will never live up to your expectations. Great advice to remind us to enjoy our day and not buy into all that wedding hype.

  6. I kinda understand where they’re coming from with the whole “feel like a bride” thing, even though I usually chuckle at them. When I was having dress woes, nothing fit right, and I didn’t feel confident (or pretty, but confident is a better term because as I’ve heard before, “every bride is beautiful”). Even if it’s for that brief moment during the ceremony (when it comes to the reception, I’ll be in full-on host mode), I think I will “feel like a bride”, or whatever that means to me. When I went to DB’s, the consultant did that whole schtick (cause that’s what they’re trained to do) and I just smiled and said “honey, I’ve been with him 10 years and we’ve known we’d get married, the question was when”. I don’t think I’d feel like a bride as the WIC defines it, but I think I do feel like a bride, because to me, feeling like a bride doesn’t mean you feel like a princess (unless someone else is paying for, planning, and executing your perfect wedding…and that doesn’t happen very often), it means stressing about the little things that won’t really matter in the end, getting excited about the day, gushing to your friends about the silly details you’re doing, making decisions with your soon-to-be spouse, that kind of stuff. This is stuff I’ve felt and I honestly never thought I would if you had asked me a few years ago, or at the beginning of the engagement.
    Is the whole “feel like a bride” thing silly? Hell yes. But yeah, for about 15 minutes, the world will stand still for me and him and and I’ll feel like a pretty sparkling bride and it’ll be great. And then when the reception starts, I’ll be regular t-shirt wearing me again, and that’ll be great, too.

  7. Thanks for this post! I it touches upon a really practical issue as well: I just realised that’s a major reason for picking our vendor/venue. A good vendor knows how to be a host and helps you host your day, but will not butt in on how to fill it in or how it feels to be a bride.

  8. Although I do watch “Say Yes to the Dress” (why is it so addicting for even non-girly women??), I do not base any of my wedding attitude off of that show. None of this, “OMG! This is my dress! I’m going to cry…” or “I don’t FEEL like a bride yet.” I’m getting married, dammit, that makes me a bride. I bought my dress on Etsy, tried it on and said, “Good enough! Now I need to reserve a bouncy house…”

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