Maintenance-shaming: You don’t have to pretend you’re so cool that you’re “over” your own wedding

Guest post by LikeGraceKelly
Florals close ups

After my parents gave us a generous donation towards our wedding budget, I'll admit that I added some things that I had previously crossed off, like professional hair and makeup, or hiring an Etsy seller to do paper flowers rather than doing them myself. I don't wear a stitch of makeup in everyday life save for some tinted SPF and maybe red- or pink-tinted Chapstick if I know I'm going to be photographed. So upon hearing that I want my hair and makeup done, people say, “but you're so low-maintenance.”

So I have invented a term for what I'm going through: “maintenance-shaming.”

Here's the thing about “maintenance”… It has locked arms with “one-lowmanship,” and they are happily skipping off to see the Wizard.

You see this a lot in the beauty world: The “natural” face made with heaps of product you can only get at Sephora. The “bedhead” that took three heat styling tools and hair products made with unicorn tears. The hours spent making it seem like you don't care how you look. You definitely see it in the wedding world, where some people believe being anti-Wedding Industrial Complex means snarking on people who do make a big fuss about their big days: “Why not just get a white dress from Forever 21, go to the courthouse, and be done with it?” This, I think, is why a “rustic” aesthetic is so popular with weddings right now. It keeps weddings from being too girly, too glamorous, too… high-maintenance.

Maintenance-shaming is essentially telling a woman that she should not make a fuss about traditionally feminine things, or really that she shouldn't make a fuss about anything. It is seen as “cool” for women to be low-maintenance, the girl who is down for anything and chill about everything, as described quite colorfully in this infamous passage from Gone Girl:

“Men always say that as the defining compliment, don't they? She's a cool girl. Being the Cool Girl means I am a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes, and burping, who plays video games, drinks cheap beer, loves threesomes and anal sex, and jams hot dogs and hamburgers into her mouth like she's hosting the world's biggest culinary gang bang while somehow maintaining a size two, because Cool Girls are above all hot. Hot and understanding. Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want. Go ahead, shit on me, I don't mind, I'm the Cool Girl.”

I am partly this “Cool Girl,” this Millennial version of the “women should be seen and not heard” housewife. I live with three male roommates and my partner. They will readily admit to you that I drink more beer than they do and have the most raunchy, sarcastic, “Cards Against Humanity“-esque sense of humor. But I also love to go shopping, can bake up a storm, and will readily stop a woman on the street to tell her that her shoes are out of this world. I was a camp counselor for four summers in college and, though I lived in my Chacos, I also liked for my nail polish color to match the design on my Chacos.

That's the thing: my wedding is complicated because I'm complicated. It's not Wedding Industrial Complex, it's me complex. We're having a curated playlist in lieu of a DJ, and barbecue for dinner because I'm the Cool Girl, but I'm also wearing heels and getting my hair and makeup done because I am a Pretty Pretty Princess. More than one personality type can fit within a person—revolutionary!

Now, I understand that having a low budget kind of forces your hand in being low-maintenance (“maybe I WANT someone to do my hair and makeup but I can't AFFORD it, geez gah, Grace!”), but this philosophy still applies. If you want the “charming” pink teacups from Goodwill rather than the “cool” Mason jars marked down at Michael's, get the damn pink teacups. They sound bitchin'. My point is, you are not Maru the cat — you do not need to fit into a box someone puts in front of you.

You don't have to pretend that you're so cool that you're “over” your own wedding if you want to be excited about centerpieces and shoes. As Ariel said in this article,

“Engaged women don't need another voice telling them they're failing. It doesn't matter if it's a voice of tradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to have their wedding in the round, or a voice of non-tradition telling them they're wrong for wanting to wear a white dress — brides need encouragement and support.”


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Comments on Maintenance-shaming: You don’t have to pretend you’re so cool that you’re “over” your own wedding

  1. Ug YES. There is this weird thing with being a girl that you’re expected to like all the girly things, but not too much or you’re not a cool girl anymore. You’re expected to plan a perfect wedding and have opinions on all this stuff, but god forbid you’re actually excited about it or bring it up in conversation. Weirdly I feel this the most from my liberal, well educated female friends- wanting to be married or do anything traditional carries this weird unspoken shame. I have to remind myself constantly that it’s ok to have been dreaming of my wedding since I was 13. That’s not an anti – feminist position or whatever. That’s just me, I like weddings. And that’s ok.

    • I hear ya on the shame. It’s unfortunate that in feminist circles feminine things are looked down upon (as with society in general). The woman who builds her own bridal fashion empire is just as feminist as the woman who is a kick-boxing rocket scientist. We should celebrate ALL women who kick ass.

    • “You’re expected to plan a perfect wedding and have opinions on all this stuff, but god forbid you’re actually excited about it or bring it up in conversation. ”

      Oh THIS. THIS so hard. I am so lucky that my friends are sympathetic to my desire to talk about wedding stuff (I love weddings so talked about other people’s to them incessantly before we even started planning our own). Nevertheless I feel so conscious that wedding talk is deemed dull but pulling off a wedding that is perfect, classic, unique, personal, meaningful, rich in tears in laughter, aesthetically pleasing, highly styled and traditional in all but one tasteful positive-conversation-provoking respect is Expected. Le sigh!

  2. I love, love, love this post. I’ve unexpectedly bumped up against “maintenance shaming” with someone I would never have expected-my dad. In my attempts to find a dress that is uniquely me (now being made for me and it’s going to be AWESOME) he told me that I was buying into the Wedding Industrial Complex because of pushing for something tailored to my specifications in the color and style I wanted. I patiently explained to him that underneath my everyday lack of fuck-giving, I’m actually a fashionista who wants to look fabulous at all times and that my wedding is as good an excuse as any to really go all out.

    I actually think this post applies to so much more than just weddings-it’s valid for everyday life, too. We’re all multifaceted, dammit, don’t put us in boxes!

    -a fellow sarcastic, beer-loving, “cool girl”, baking, shoe-lover

    • My dad is kind of maintenance-shame-y as well, but then again he just generally gripes about how different weddings are today than from when he got married 30 years ago and, of course, how much everything costs. PREACH PREACH PREACH on the “I want to look fabulous at all times and that my wedding is as good an excuse as any to really go all out.” When you look good, you feel good!

  3. “I also liked for my nail polish color to match the design on my Chacos.”

  4. YES! Kind of like Lee said, I think this stems from the bigger problem of people thinking they’re progressive and shaming women for liking traditionally feminine things.

  5. Amen sister! Just because I am a camp counselor/horseback riding instructor/lifeguard certified/beer drinking girl whose day job is dispatching truck drivers- doesn’t mean I can’t have a love affair with all things glitter and a poofy dress! Why should I ever choose to fit one mold when my cupcake trays have a dozen!

    • “Why should I ever choose to fit one mold when my cupcake trays have a dozen!”
      Erica, 2015

      May I steal this quote please? It is just perfect

  6. Loved it, but especially this: “you are not Maru the cat — you do not need to fit into a box someone puts in front of you”

    Also why do I have to justify what I want? It drives me nuts that “because I like it” isn’t good enough for some folks. Not being frivolous has been drilled into me my entire life, but I don’t see why indulging myself with something nice I’ve coveted for decades is wrong. Right? Right!

    • I think that’s especially amplified with weddings, which are so steeped in personalization and “meaning.” Like, what do these twinkling lights say about me and my FH? Uh . . . that we like twinkling lights? Yes, but how do they represent who we are AS PEOPLE? That . . . we’re people who like twinkling lights, dammit.

  7. I love everything about this post. I don’t need to justify that I want greenery everywhere, can’t it suffice that I want the damn greenery? And I’m not justifying the boat other than hot damn! We’re on A BOAT! IT’S GOING….not fast at all, but WE’RE ON A BOAT!

  8. Even as someone who is not particularly “girly,” I completely agree with you. What this all really comes down to is that in our society, feminine=bad and masculine=good. When people object to women doing more feminine things, they are essentially expressing their internalized misogyny in a sort of round-about way— ie, “How can this woman who is “good” (masculine) be doing these “bad” (feminine) things?” This kind of comment tends to show up more in liberal circles because they tend to be less overtly sexist, but they are still not immune to the concepts of our sexist society. They want women to progress, and to be seen as “good,” but in doing so, they feel they have to reject everything that is feminine-coded, because society does not deem women who are very feminine to be capable of pursuing masculine-coded positions of power. Hence, if they want to get women into positions of power, then women must not be too feminine, or society will reject or eject them from those powerful positions. That concern, conscious or not, is not unfounded; as we are all aware, women make up a very low percentage of those individuals in powerful positions.

    Part of the problem is gender coding in the first place. If we remove gendered associations with certain behaviors, modes of presentation (such as clothing), and so forth, then we are only left with the valuation of people as individuals. Removing gender associations from behavior means that we either have to simply come out and say that women=inherently bad (which is what those associations do indirectly), OR we will have to start treating everyone as simply human. Of course, removing such associations is next to impossible when it comes to other people, but everyone can always work on this for themselves. I’m still trying to work on it for myself.

    In terms of gender, I am non-gendered, but I choose to use feminine pronouns due to my sex and otherwise not really caring one way or the other. I enjoy fashion and makeup, but my personal taste tends to run towards deep jewel tones, large geometric patterns, and jewelry (almost exclusively earrings) made of interesting metals, glass, or wood. So my enjoyment of fashion is feminine-coded, but my personal style is more masculine-coded, and I tend to really dislike things that are pink, poofy, and sparkly (a big reason being that these tend to draw attention, and being very tall, I already get a lot of attention, and it’s not something I particularly enjoy). But people still often think I *should* like pink sparkly things because I like fashion. I guess what I’m trying to illustrate here is that people will always try to put you in some sort of box, whatever that box is, because then they don’t have to challenge their ideas about what people are like. And getting people to break that habit is hard.

    • Can I have my hammer back, because you hit the nail on the head.

      One point that I made in the comments in the Tribe version of this piece is that people use “high-maintenance” to police women in the same way people use “bridezilla” to police brides. We’re just very uncomfortable in general with women having opinions. And I agree, society rewards masculine traits in people of both genders due to internalized misogyny. It shouldn’t be revolutionary in media and in real life that women are complicated characters, but alas, it is.

  9. It was SO the opposite for me. I’ve always been pretty high-maintenance and LOVE merchandise and all things glitter. Everyone was expecting me to be this out of control bridezilla and, to prove them wrong, I tried to please everyone and became this major push-over. I was actually really over it by the end and I think we were just engaged long enough for everyone else to be over it also. I get more excited about my brides now than my own wedding I think lol. If I could do it again, I would use the money and take my fiance and a fabulous photographer off to Paris and that’s it haha. 😉


  10. This really, really hits a nerve with me. I’ve always been interested in traditionally “feminine” things, like make-up, jewelry, dresses, etc. and have also always been really interested in “scholarly” things like history, writing, classic literature, etc. The message that was reinforced as I was growing up was that I could care about my looks or I could care about my books, but if I were to embrace high heels and eyeliner it had to come at the expensive of my academic interests. And I really, really struggled growing up, feeling like a fraud for being interested in the “‘feminine” (I really hate that word as a descriptor) and feeling like a fraud for passing myself off as a “smart-person” when clearly I was not because sometimes I snuck away to the makeup aisle of CVS and stared longily at the lipstick, or left the TV on fashion week instead of changing it to Discovery. In high school I channeled this in the way of being “subversive;” if I got a lot of piercings I could wear a lot of jewelry but I wasn’t doing it in a way that was traditionally seen as feminine so I was safe. If my high heels and skirts were purchased at Hot Topic, I could still be smart. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Goth aesthetic but for me personally I only fell into it as a way to get a taste of what I really wanted.

    Although my wedding planning right now is very passive, I am already bracing myself for this kind of maintenance-shaming when I kick things into full gear. Thank you so much for sharing this post.

    • I feel your pain, and I didn’t really get into makeup or clothes until I was in college. Once I did, though, look out! Anyone who doesn’t think I’m intelligent because I’m wearing eyeshadow and lipstick gets a rude awakening. Thankfully, this is not a much of a thing as it used to be, and if lipstick be your thing, then rock it, lady!

    • A lot of offbeat people can relate to this battle in their formative years: choosing “intelligence” over “beauty” as if the two were mutually exclusive. If you had revealed to my nerdy friends in high school that I had a secret subscription to “Seventeen,” I would have been mortified. (I’m certain I would have been mortified had a lot of things been revealed to my friends in high school.) But when I got to college, I saw med students posing for the campus fashion magazine and I realized that it really doesn’t matter. Yeah I like fashion, and that doesn’t make me any less smarter. In fact, one of the reasons I like fashion is all the art history courses I took on color theory!

  11. This might be the best post I’ve read on this blog ever! And there have been some good ‘uns.

    While the idea pertains to wedding planning; I felt the concept had a wider meaning for me, and so perhaps it might for others as well. I wanted to cheer for the line ” More than one personality type can fit within a person—revolutionary!”

    Our society has trouble with the idea that people are complex rather than straightforward, that you can like fancy, expensive, foreign, organic cheeses, and domino’s pizza.

    I do like both, incidentally.

    And I am also by no means ‘over’ my wedding and its planning. And frankly, I don’t actually want to be. I have no desire to be bridezilla, but I am only getting married once and so being absorbed in and having fun with the planning process and journey to the altar (well, book arch, because I too am a Pretty Princess as well as a Cool Girl, and a Lit Nerd too boot) seems to be one of the best ways to get the most out of this chapter of the marriage -oh yeah, that’s the point, the marriage, not the party in and of itself, except of course that it is a redletter day in the story.
    I told you I was a lit nerd.


      And thank you, you’re so sweet. 🙂 I think this piece struck such a cord with offbeat brides because on the one hand, you have your traditional wedding media that says “it’s your special day, treat yourself with this exorbitantly expensive thing!” and on the other hand, you have indie outlets that say (in much, much meaner terms than OBB does; the particular website I had in mind when writing this piece is a certain feminist Gawker media site) “weddings are dumb and you are dumb if you get swept up in it all.” There’s no denying that stuff the WIC is selling us is pretty silly, but I am against denying women an opportunity to pamper themselves. We spend all day every day fighting the patriarchy, after all, and shit’s exhausting.

  12. A thousand times THIS. There are some things we run into that I am like “There is no way I feel comfortable spending that much money!” and then I turn around and spend it on a different aspect, and then I berate myself for being “wasteful.” I like that you pointed out we are supporting small businesses and women, that is a great point. Our photographer and food budgets are so out of proportion with the rest of the wedding costs but our photographer is a woman who owns her own business and our food is going to be local and healthier fare.
    I am in a tizzy about my dress right now and how I SHOULD just get a random dress from a cheaper store and call it a day, but none of them speak to me and how horrible am I for wanting a dress that SPEAKS to me when it will cost hundreds (I still can’t fathom thousands) of dollars and I’ll wear it for a day???? BUT I WANT IT!
    I am my biggest critic.
    Thank you.

    • I’m going through exactly what you’re going through. I felt guilty for buying a wedding dress I LOVED because it was at the higher end of my budget and I felt silly trying on a bunch of dresses. There was always that nagging voice in the back of my head that was like, “laid-back brides don’t try on dozens of dresses, cool brides don’t spend this much money on something they’re only going to wear once.” So long as you’re shopping within your budget, treat yo’ self and find the gown that DOES speak to you. It will be worth every penny. Punch that nagging voice in the face.

      • @likegracekelly Word! I also went higher on my dress budget end and surprised myself also in choosing a full length dress that wasn’t green -my favorite color. Shocker; getting married in white (well ivory). And it felt totally right, and I cannot wait to wow everyone in the dress. But I definitely had all these rationalizing thoughts in my head, “it’s still way cheaper than most bridal gowns,” “I can resell online and recoup money that way,” “I can dye it and get more use out of it.” Each brides’ choice is whats right for her, and I just hope we can all feel more at ease in telling that pesky, nagging voice to take a hike.

  13. Love this!! I think if one more person imposes their opinions of how I should do MY day, I may very well implode. My husband and I are celebrating our 10th anniversary by renewing our vows, and doing the wedding we actually wanted, not the one we got, due to budget and opinions. So far, I’ve been told that I shouldn’t wear a big white dress, that I should make my attire (and my girl’s attire) less formal, since we’re planning our ceremony in a rose garden, that we should just have a party instead of wasting our money on such ‘silly’ things, oh, and my favorite, “Why would you waste your money on a dress like that?!” THIS article definitely made me feel better about some of my choices. I’m girly… but I’m also a huge geek, in love with all things sci fi, fantasy and anime. Put me in front of an MMORPG, and don’t get made if I don’t speak to you for two days… lol! NOw I know, some of MY ideas of combining my girliness and geekiness aren’t completely ‘out there’.. they’re just me.

    • Man, people are persnickety about vow renewals, aren’t they? I think your naysayers have a bad taste in their mouths from lavish celebrity vow renewals, coupled with the fact that etiquette says vow renewals are “gift grabby.” Yeah, because you’re throwing this awesome party to break even. No other reason. Barf.

      To quote Tina Fey in “Bossypants,” “Do your think and don’t fucking care if they like it.” Get your hairstylist to do your hair while you sit in front of an MMORPG, lol. 😉

  14. When I was 12 and I refused to wear pink and skirts that was the attitude I had – girly anything is evil. But as an adult I love some girly things, I love cute and fluffy things and I believe you can never have enough sparkle. But I also love gears of war and feeling like a badass, ripping locusts apart with a chain-gun. Also on a day to day basis I hate wearing makeup (I’d rather have the extra time in bed) but for our wedding I I always wanted full, professional make up. I enjoy excuses to dress up, but I’d hate to maintain every day.
    Luckily my family have embraced my geeky side and are celebrating the return of my girly side. So both are included in the wedding with minimal fuss. I feel my biggest difference to a more traditional bride is my want for this wedding to be about me and the groom, not just the bride. I saw some gorgeous pastel pintrest boards which I felt fit with my fairytale dreams well. However Mr M hates pastels (so do I usually) which means we have a brilliant bright and colourful palette instead. We have a zero tolerance policy on being told what we can and cannot have, what must do and need. We’re individuals, our wedding will individual to us and ultimately that’s what we want.

    • When I was in middle school, my geeky tomboy friends and I thought we were SO SUPERIOR to the mean girls in our class who cared about fashion. And now these friends are my bridesmaids and they all elected to have their hair and makeup done. My MOH in particular, the one who considered herself the most tomboyish of all of us back in middle school, told me she was excited to have a reason to dress up and be fancy. At some point you just give fewer fucks and do what you like. 🙂

      That’s also a good wedding philosophy. Two people are getting married that day and the day should reflect that, not have it be all about what the bride likes and then the groom’s interests are relegated to his cake, and only his cake. So many of my relatives have told my groom to “shut up and let her do what she wants,” which saddens me. Sure, the bridal magazines come in the mail addressed to me, but at least once daily my groom plays a song that he says “HAS to be on our wedding playlist,” which makes him so happy that I . . . shut up and let him do what he wants. 😉

  15. I love this post so much, not just as a wedding post, but as a life post. Girls need to know that they can be whoever they are, even if who they are doesn’t fit someone else’s image of them.

  16. I feel this all the time. We were trying to elope and failed epically! Now our families are helping us and some things are nicer but we don’t have a HUGE budget and some things we are skipping out on. It seems every two seconds there is someone telling us we spent money in the wrong places or saved in the wrong places. I’m both too high maintenance for wanting a nice local and too low maintenance for not spending more on decor. As if this isn’t stressful enough! Glad to know we aren’t alone.

    • Oh my goodness, yes. People do seem to make it their business to tell other people how they should spend their money. I’ve never been to a wedding where someone fainted or something because there was less décor than they would have liked.

  17. This post was exactly what I needed to read. Every conversation I have with anyone in my life right now about the wedding Ends up with them “consoling” my “anxiety” and telling me that I don’t need to worry about all those “extra details”. “Keep it simple”. “You don’t need to entertain the kids”. “Don’t worry about the vegetarians.” Yes I do and I will.

    And don’t ever let anybody tell you that you don’t need hair & makeup people. If you can’t afford it or don’t want it, fine. But as a makeup artist who’s done a million weddings for girls who don’t wear makeup, you won’t regret it.*

    *Provided you hire a decent makeup artist who doesn’t push their personal style on you.

  18. I am so happy to have read this. This woman is basically me and this is an incredible article!! Thank you for writing this and sharing your story you are not alone!!

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