How my engagement turned into a feminist hell

Flicking through a weddings magazine, I found a feature on advice about "what to do if your bridesmaid won't cover up her tattoos". The solution? "Find a new bridesmaid."

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The Independent Online

I’ve never dreamed of getting married. The idea of a big white wedding makes my toes curl. My dad marching me down the aisle like livestock on its way to the slaughterhouse in order to hand me off at the altar to my new owner? No thanks. The first time I aired this view – which was in the pub, after being asked by a complete stranger why I’d reached the spinsterish age of 25 without someone taking me down the aisle – I was patted patronisingly on the shoulders and assured that “all of that will change” in good time. I doubted it.

Then on the beach by our house, my boyfriend of ten years goes down on one knee one day and I nearly drop dead from the shock.  Despite the aforementioned marriage ambivalence, I didn’t hesitate to accept. My feelings about the institution of marriage have nothing to do with my feelings about him, after all.

But once the excitement settled down, reality started to sink in. This meant I actually had to get married. Would I take his name? Would I have to pick bridesmaids and decide on the ‘bestest best’ of my friends to be the Maid of Honour? Oh god, did we have to do one of those ‘hilarious’ first dances and put it on YouTube?

Thinking it over, I thought I could just have a big party. I could live with that – and it sounds pretty cheap, right? Wrong. Do you know how much marquees cost? (Anywhere between 3 and 10k, FYI). Do you know how much an empty field costs to hire if it’s specifically for a wedding? I wish I didn’t, because it gives me a heart palpations every time I think about it.

I soon realised that reading wedding blogs and magazines for research purposes was guaranteed to make me feel inadequate for not wanting to bankrupt myself for a wedding. There were a few (unintentionally) hilarious gems that I came across, however, such as a poll in one magazine asking how brides felt about their dads being asked for permission to propose: 71 per cent said they would be horrified if no permission was sought. Who answered that poll? The 1950’s? Go home, wedding magazines. You’re drunk.

These mags also covered vital topics such as ‘What to do if your bridesmaid refuses to cover her tattoos’ (the advice was mostly: get another bridesmaid. Because photos > friendship.) Looking through the ‘budget’ ideas in one magazine, I was amused and terrified in equal measure to see that the cheapest wedding bouquet started at £75, and cake prices from £850. In what universe are those cheap options? That’s right – the wedding universe.

My favourite example of wedding industry insanity was when we received a quote to hire a local youth hostel for the wedding as I liked the idea of having a marquee outside and then everyone being able to stagger 50 feet to their bunkbeds afterwards. However, the quote for hiring it was an astounding £6,800. After picking up my jaw from the floor, I sneakily emailed from a different email address, asking how much it would be to hire the same venue on the same date, but for a birthday party. The answer this time was £3,000. I had assumed it was a myth that the word ‘wedding’ sent prices skyrocketing, but clearly not.

I appreciate that people are in the wedding industry to make money, like any other business. But it seems to me that this is an industry which thrives off the idea that women are so desperate to get married we won’t notice or care that we are being totally fleeced. Every magazine feature, every saccharine Pinterest, every patronising pat on the shoulder down the pub works to reinforce this.

So, thanks, society, for creating this sinister behemoth by selling us the idea that we get one special day so we better make it count by spending 20k. One day of happiness before our new husbands start ignoring our presence and referring to us among friends as ‘the old ball and chain’. Well, guess what? I’m not buying it - literally. I’m going to do this one party my way, £850 cakes be damned, and then my husband and I are going to have all the days. Because marriage may be a ceremony soaked in sexist traditions, but the one we do plan to uphold is being happy together for the rest of our lives. If the wedding magazines don’t go straight in the bin, I  don’t know how we’ll ever achieve that.