For the first 24 years of my life, I didn’t give a shit about getting married or having a wedding. I hated parties, soppiness of all kinds, spending money and making a fuss, so I couldn’t imagine a situation where I’d ever want a wedding. Then, my boyfriend proposed and I immediately became the kind of woman who cries over canapés.
It didn’t happen straightaway, to be fair. It happened when, over the following six months, two of my other friends got engaged and planned their weddings for three months before and six months after mine respectively. It happened when I started having coffee with them to chat wedding stuff and realised, with increasing horror, that these friends were Doing It Properly. They were adults – the kind of women who have career plans and wine racks and skincare routines – and they were applying similar diligence and planning to their weddings. They had money, elegance, parents who were very keen to be involved and a general sense of propriety; I was a stupid child whose first thought was genuinely, “Can’t everyone just come back to mine for sandwiches afterwards?”
But, more importantly, these other two women cared. They cared about things like colour schemes and flowers and favours, whereas I really didn’t, but as I spoke to my friends about their plans, I started to care about the fact that I didn’t care. So many of my friends would be going to one or both of their weddings and I became consumed with the idea that my crappy, homemade wedding wouldn’t be able to compete with their beautiful, thoughtful, elegant ones, and that everyone would hate it, and me, for being so crap.
And so, slowly but surely, I slid into bridezilla territory. I hired a photographer, scrapped my plans to make my own cake and re-donated the original £50 dress I’d bought from a charity shop and went to a proper bridal store to get one instead. I spent hours artfully melting candles into glass Coke bottles and using a heart hole punch and old maps of London to make themed confetti. Eventually, I was so stressed that I had a breakdown over WhatsApp to my bridesmaids nine weeks before the wedding when I discovered that, due to my wedding being held in a public place, there was going to be a 5ft statue of Shaun the Sheep – a charity "sculpture" – in the middle of my dancefloor and there was nothing I could do about it. I didn’t want my wedding to be perfect – I just wanted it to be as good as my friends’ and as good as I thought a wedding needed to be.
There was just under a year between getting engaged and getting married, and I spent the entire time terrified that I was going to fail at having a wedding
This is why I always find it hard to laugh at bridezillas. Let me be clear here: I’m not talking about the ones who make their friends adhere to strict diets or all dye their hair the same colour so that they look good in the photos. I’ve heard stories of women “firing” their bridesmaids because they’ve not been excited enough, didn’t cry at the dress fitting or didn’t post a photo of the bridesmaid proposal (yes, this is a thing now) on Instagram, and there is absolutely no excuse for being so rude to the people you love over what is essentially a party.
But the women who start crying because the printers got the colours wrong and the blue is two shades lighter than it should be? My heart bleeds for them. It bleeds for the ones who create minute-by-minute plans of what needs to happen on the day and printouts for the wedding party with everyone’s contact details on it – and, for that matter, the ones who use the phrase “wedding party” with 100 per cent certainty in what it actually means – and the ones who stay up late into the night, glueing lace on to Mason jars to fill with vanilla-scented candles to put on the tables along with the handmade confetti and spray-painted gold twigs. They’re not doing it out of some desperate belief that their wedding is the most important day in the world, but because, the second you get engaged, the entire world makes you feel like, unless your wedding looks and feels a certain way, you have failed.
There was just under a year between getting engaged and getting married, and I spent the entire time terrified that I was going to fail at having a wedding. The pressure to get it right was intensified by the fact that it would be both enormously public and captured from a thousand angles by a hundred camera phones. While the rational part of my brain was telling me that the only way I’d fail is if Garry and I didn’t actually manage to get married, when my friends were showing me photos of their beautiful elegant dresses and the beautiful barns they were covering in fairy lights, I would think about my ramshackle homemade wedding and want to cry.
Pinterest, wedding magazines and everyone I met who found out I was engaged and would excitedly tell me about how great their/their sister’s/their best friend’s auntie’s boyfriend’s dog’s wedding was was telling me that my wedding had to be a certain way, and the pressure turned me full bridezilla. It’s not a part of my life I’m particularly proud of but, when I look back, more than anything else I feel sad for putting myself under so much pressure to have a perfect wedding when I should have been looking forward to the happy marriage I’d be having with the man I love.
My wedding day did not go perfectly (my bridesmaids and I were locked out of my flat in our pants at 9am, there was the aforementioned giant sheep statue in the middle of our dancefloor and, halfway through the reception, a bunch of bagpipers turned up and started playing full blast just outside) and it was still a gloriously fun day, but for any future and current bridezillas reading this, I know me saying that won’t help. Until society stops putting pressure on women to be perfect in every aspect of their lives, but especially their wedding days, there are always going to be bridezillas and the best thing we can do is listen, smile and support them, just like we’d do with a friend who was being irrational about a problem at work or with their family.
Oh, and stop putting 5ft sheep statues in the middle of our wedding venues. That’d really help, too.