News flash: Being a woman doesn't mean I know how to plan weddings


Guest post by Jen Barr
Photo by Lovesick Inc
Photo by Lovesick Inc

"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."

"Sorry, what?"

"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.

  1. Oh this brings back memories..
    This is something that would have caused me a lot of anguish in my 20s when I was much more unsure of myself. Now I take a more relaxed view. Even when somebody really is being condescending, I don't let it bug me. I actually move in the opposite direction and start peppering them with questions. The way I look at it, everybody likes to have their "know-it-all" moment now and again. Why not indulge them?
    But I didn't have the "it's a specific set of knowledge" realization as young as you have so I spent a lot of years torturing myself. Kudos to you!

    • Thanks! And thanks for reading! I swing back and forth between feeling super confident and super self-conscious. The joy of my mid-twenties. 🙂

  2. Glad I'm not the only one! I had dreamed — in a far off kind of way — of my wedding, but never had a clue what went into them. Never been a bridesmaid, so I haven't gotten the second hand knowledge, either. After our engagement sunk in a bit we started looking at typical wedding checklists and quickly realized all the things we don't know… Holy crap. Luckily (hopefully?) for the most part, my stance has been "If I don't know it's a thing, it must not matter" so it's helped balance the to-dos so far.

    • Aren't the checklists kind of stunning? I found one in my mom's wedding scrapbook from 1983 which was just hilarious. But good luck planning!

  3. Yes! Thank you! I am a (female) aircraft mechanic. I can put together a cute outfit, but all this wedding stuff is over my head. Makeup? Nails? Wedding colors? Ceremony specifics? Plus, what on earth should I do with my super short blue hair? Who could decide on all that stuff, or even if we should do some of those things? Only thing I know is that I want to have fun and look pretty and wear a floofy dress. Luckily my boyfriend (we decided to get married but aren't engaged yet) knows some things he wants for our wedding, so it isn't all on my shoulders.
    Just glad to know that there are others like me out there!

    • I'm always glad to find other people out there who are as befuddled as me! I always feel like there is some handbook out there that I missed out on the distribution of. But it sounds like you're ahead of me–I'm barely able to pull together a cute outfit. :-p

  4. Oh good iam not the only one!!!!?
    I am a gardener so iam totally clueless about all of this stuff wich has pretty much resulted in me saying that i want something small and a dress that i can ware again! My hubby to be is totally loving the idea……..being 6"2 and well a skinny i hate dress shopping with a passion yes i know sounds odd but i cant get anything to fit right so doing the big dress shopping thing with shop attendants looking at me odd just scares me silly!!

  5. Thank you so much for this post! I was right there with you. A wedding planner was well outside of our budget, and the DIY pressure was intense. I sort of played to my strengths. I study and teach medieval literature, so I made woodcut invites and tried to show off my fancy medieval manuscript hands at every opportunity. I bought old books from library sales for center pieces and made bookmarks for favors.
    Of course, then I had to admit that I'd never had my nails done in my life and can't sew, craft, knit, apply make up, or apparently use glue sticks for a simple seating chart. Since we couldn't pay professionals, I found awesome friends to help when I could (arranging flowers, baking, doing my make up and nails, dress shopping). Other things, like the seating chart or my hair just ended up being really simple and it worked out just fine. People only really remembered the awesome stuff, like the hand lettered invites and no one even notice that the seating chart was lopsided :).

  6. This. This is so me! "Welcome bags? What the #$!@ are welcome bags?" Everyone seems to automatically assume I've been dreaming of this day my whole life when I've honestly never given it a thought beyond "Wedding. It's a thing." After flipping through more traditional bridal magazines and websites I finally threw up my hands and said, "Forget this. I'll do things how I think they should be done." Now my search engine is filled with terms like "godzilla photo booth" "donuts as flying saucers" "wedding vows + Batman".

  7. Amen! I have felt this way for a while now. You put it into perfect words for me! Pressure from family/friends to make appointments that aren't important to me. I don't place the same priority as they on the dress or any of it for that matter. I would be happy with a backyard quiet wedding. 🙂 Thank you for sharing because now I don't feel so alone!!

  8. Oh I got so lost when it came to weddings to the point where I probably started offending people, mostly when it came to things involving others. "You're meant to buy your bridesmaids dresses" excuse me? I'm spending enough money as it is and I don't even currently have that – sounds mean but it balances out with "sometimes your bridesmaids do so much for you and organise showers and engagement dos and help on the day and pay a lot of money in some cases" well none of us knew that, I just chose them cause they were my closes friends and it's more an honourary title than a role. So neither of us are spending money on each other, it works. And I don't have a colour scheme either (I got so confused when someone told me i should) so I don't need matching dresses! None of me or my friends really know anything about supposed roles and traditions when it comes to wedding details so a lot went out the window that I never even realised was in the room.

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