Shortly after my engagement, a friend who was also planning a wedding gently dragged me to a big bridal show in Atlanta. I knew it wouldn't be the most exciting experience for me. While we didn't have many things planned at the time, we definitely knew it was going to be a little untraditional. We know we weren't getting married in a church, we'd have a mixed-gender bridal party, and a big poofy dress was simply NOT happening. Plus, our budget was small. Not mainstream bridal magazine small — like, actually small.
Still, I figured what's the harm? Maybe I'll find a booth that inspires me. Maybe it'll be a little fun, expand my horizons. Maybe there'd even be free champagne?
There was no free champagne. And it wasn't fun. I will say that my friend had a fabulous time. This show was perfect for the dream wedding she had in mind. And of course I was happy to see her face light up at the booths. But it wasn't my thing. More than that, it left me some major knots in my stomach. It almost ruined the magic of wedding planning for me.
There are three big things about the wedding industry that I learned from the one and only big bridal show I attended…
1. No idea is too offbeat… unless it's an offbeat budget
Vendors will entertain any wedding concept you can dream up. Want a green dress instead of white? Not a problem! (But if that dress is not designer? Well, that's just “tacky.”) Going for the “rustic feel?” GREAT. We have adorable mini Mason jars at $15 a pop. (Getting the same Mason jars at Goodwill? Well, that's just “in poor taste.”)
Vendors seem very eager and very interested in hearing all your unique little ideas about doing an original wedding. But they want to leave you with that one-of-a-kind “special order” bill. If you're not willing to pick up the tab, they'll quickly look past you to the next dazed bride-to-be.
2. You're not pretty enough to get married (yet)
So your partner has decided to commit their life to you. They love you more than anyone in the world. Well, hold on there! Whether you knew it or not, you just can't walk down the aisle looking like that.
Among the booths were multiple vendors for weight loss and breast augmentation. And it wasn't enough that the booths were there for women who might approach them with interest. Pamphlets were shoved into my hand as I passed. I felt like someone was telling me, “Congratulations! Let me make you feel body-conscious on what's supposed to be one of the happiest days of your life!” The feminist in me wanted to rip the pamphlets into tiny pieces and throw them in the air yelling about why their social construct of beauty was sickening! I didn't do that. I sheepishly explained that I'm actually really comfortable with my body how it is.
There is something really wrong with telling a bride she isn't good enough while simultaneously slapping a tiara on her head.
3. It's not really about the wedding day; it's about the souvenirs
Every wedding photographer and videographer had the same sales pitch: I wouldn't remember my wedding day. I would be far too stressed and far too nervous and the next day it would be like a dream. Apparently the real joy would come from having a perfectly packaged wedding book and video.
To be fair, I'm sure there are things that are missed on the big day. With all the talking and music and drinking, many things will go unnoticed that will be lovely to view in the post-wedding photos. But actual wedding amnesia? Hmmm. Seems a bit unlikely to me. And if I can't remember a moment of my wedding, well, I'm not so sure I want to have one then!
I'm sure there are things about big industry bridal shows that are appealing to some couples. I'm glad they exist for those couples. But for offbeat couples, a mainstream bridal fair can really leave you feeling like you're doing everything all wrong.
But you know what? You're doing everything exactly right! As long as you stay true to your authentic self, your wedding will be a success.