“What's your bra, dress, and shoe size?”
I mumbled them to the attendant at the bridal store. I knew my shoe size, since it hadn't changed since high school, but given how frequently I shop for clothes, the others were guesstimates at best. The attendant bustles off, leaving me and my two friends with a stylebook to pick dresses out of. One of my friends had been the one to make an appointment here at the bridal store, since it had never even occurred to me that I needed to make an appointment to go clothes shopping.
The attendant bustles back. “All right, I have your shoes and underwear in your dressing room.”
“Your shoes and underwear,” she repeats.
“Underwear?” I was wearing underwear. I even made sure to wear my less-ratty bra and everything.
The attendant smiles a little. “To make the dresses fit right.”
“I need special underwear?”
“We'll explain,” my friend said, patting me on the arm. Apparently, to make some of the nicer gowns fit right I am supposed to wear a fluffy slip and something that appears to be a corset, but without the whalebone parts and the ability to shift my organs.
Over the course of a few hours, my (amazing, wonderful, lovely) friends chat easily with the attendant in what appears to be a different language: Ruching? Chapel trains? American bustle? (Is that a 19th century prequel to American Hustle?)
Other parts of the wedding process are not much better. While many vendors have been kind with my ignorance once I flat-out own it, there seems to be a constant, persistent expectation that I should have more of this wedding thing figured out, or that my double-X chromosome has given me fluency in this secret wedding language. What are your wedding colors? What season do you want to have your wedding in? Are you going to get a stationer? Would you like airbrush or mineral makeup?
I suppose many people who come to these vendors do have strong ideas about these things. They do know what an American bustle is and have preset expectations about season and wedding colors or at least knowledge that these are things you should have. While I am a cisgender woman, I do not always adhere to the expectations of my gender (like many women).
While I've come to terms with it in most parts of my life, there is something about the wedding process that shoves it in your face again and again and again…
What do you mean you don't know what kind of shoes you want? What do you mean you're not crafty enough to DIY your hair, your makeup, your chalkboard paint mason jar succulent centerpieces? What do you mean you don't really know how much you want to spend on a manicure?
It gets exhausting.
Thank goodness for the internet, because I can Google “wedding underwear” and “chapel train” in the privacy of my own home office with no one more judgey than my cat with me. But even then, it's hard to shake that irrational sense of guilt or shame that I don't have more of this figured out, that I should be better at being a lady, whatever the heck that means.
Slowly, I've realized I'm far from being alone. Away from the world of pink tulle, tissue paper pom-poms and wedding websites with whimsical fonts, there is a real world full of real, awesome women who are as clueless as me when it comes to styles of dress trains, but do know how to order a train ticket in Hindi, chop down trees, make a mean latte, cross stitch sassy tea towels, throw ninja stars, change car oil, bake amazing muffins, wrest order from complex statistics, or quiet a sobbing two-year-old.
So what if we haven't learned about how to plan a wedding yet? It's a set of knowledge, as specific as organic chemistry and complex as a figure skating routine. Just because we're women doesn't mean that it should have been a part of our education. We had other things to figure out. And just like any of the other things we've learned, we can learn this too — but only if we want to. It's not a requirement.