Society seems awfully obsessed with putting women into one of two categories. “Virgin” or “Whore”. “Maiden” or “Mother”. “Girly girl” or “Tomboy”. “Bridezilla” or “Chill Bride”.
The wedding industry (and as a result, the rest of us) have absolutely ridiculous expectations of brides: Brides are expected and assumed to do the vast majority of the actual labour in planning a wedding. Brides are expected and assumed to care about a plethora of details, from the large-stroke decisions to the tiniest, most minor aspects of their wedding. Brides are expected and assumed to care about these things to such an extent that marketing inconsequential or over-the-top luxuries as “wedding essentials” is seen as perfectly justified. Brides are expected to take all of the destructive messages being thrown at them- “you’re not good enough, your wedding isn’t good enough”– and run with it, making an effort to lose weight to fit into their dress, or whiten their teeth, or spend way too much money on something they “need” to validate their wedding.
Planning a wedding is usually a gargantuan task. And when one or two people are responsible for coordinating everything on their own, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if they get a little snippy. Even if you don’t care about something- for example, the exact shade of your wedding party’s outfits– you can snap when something goes wrong with it. When you put so much time and effort into something, whether you actually care about it or not to begin with, you start caring about it because of how much work you’ve invested into it.
Think about it this way: How many times have you had to complete a chore you didn’t really want to do, or a task at a job you didn’t even like, only to get annoyed when someone else comes by and undoes everything you just spent minutes (or hours) completing? Sure, you may not have been emotionally or intellectually invested. But the feeling of your expectations being crumpled up and thrown back at you was probably enough to upset you. The feeling of your time and effort being wasted was probably enough to give you a spark of anger or panic, however brief it may have been.
This doesn’t mean you’re high-strung or that you care too much. It means that you’re human. And that one some level, you realize that your time and your effort is valuable.
By calling someone a “Bridezilla”, not only are we infantilizing grown adults for knowing what they want or advocating for themselves… we’re conveniently devaluing their time and their effort. We’re putting them in a box or on a pedestal, and trying to shame them when they show an emotion that makes us uncomfortable. “Bridezilla” is forcing broad and unforgiving expectations on women, then effectively calling them “bitches” when they don’t just quietly and gracefully abide those expectations.
It’s also worth mentioning that, while this affects all women and femmes in the wedding sphere, this mindset is even more nuanced and insidious for racialized people- especially Black women and femmes. Western society as a whole still has a problem when it comes to Black women being assertive or direct. We’re all too ready to categorize someone as an “Angry Black Woman” when their decisiveness, firmness, or passion makes us uncomfortable. Having to navigate not one label (Bridezilla), but two (Angry Black Woman) can make the process of planning and executing a wedding even more exhausting for Black women and femmes than their white counterparts.
Of course, you could fall onto the other side of the dichotomy: The Chill Bride. She isn’t bothered by the small things. She doesn’t get upset when something goes wrong. She’s cool and laid-back. She’s not like other brides.
Granted, if you are very laissez-faire about your wedding, that’s totally valid. But you’ll likely still have to handle all of the pressure and assumptions thrown at you by the wedding industry and your loved ones. “You NEED this for your wedding.” “You’ll WANT to treat your wedding day like this.” “If you want your wedding to be any good, you’ll need to budget X-many dollars for this.” “The wedding is all about the bride!” “We better have this done exactly to her specifications… we don’t want to upset the bride!”
Even when you’re a Chill Bride™, there will still be people who find ways to make gross jokes or treat you like you’re a sleeping dragon: a Bridezilla waiting to happen.
What might also happen with this made-up dichotomy is a tendency to engage in self-betrayal: Maybe something is important to you. Maybe somewhere down the line, you are upset with someone or something. Maybe you run into a problem and you do want to vent to someone. But because you’re scared of being labelled a Bridezilla, you keep those feelings to yourself. You pretend something isn’t that important to you when it actually is. You let things slide instead of advocating for yourself or your partner(s). You keep your tone light and friendly and noncommittal because if you don’t, someone might gaslight you into thinking you’re overreacting, or present you to other people as unreasonable and difficult. And it’s absolutely not fair. But people might react that way, anyways, because Bridezilla.
Thankfully, people seem to be picking up more and more on the misogyny behind the “Bridezilla” trope. But like any other social attitude that’s rooted in how we perceive marginalized groups, the attitude is complicated and sneaky, and comes out in a myriad of subtle and not-so-subtle ways. It’s up to everyone to stop viewing brides-to-be as fragile or entitled, and start viewing them as diverse, fallible humans who are under way more pressure than they should be to meet expectations that they never asked for.