This summer’s TV line-up offers no shortage of airtime to watch women getting hitched. Of course if you don’t want to only watch wedding ceremonies (haven’t you seen enough of these in real life?), you can tune in to see the planning of every part of a wedding you never knew existed. Yes, everything from the engagement (cue music from ABC’s The Bachelor/Bachelorette), to finding the perfect bridesmaid dress (see TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids), to finding the wedding dress of your dreams (TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress, Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta, AND Say Yes to the Dress: Big Bliss), to even watching brides compete against each other for the perfect wedding to win the ultimate honeymoon getaway (TLC’s Four Weddings). Curious about the sort of wedding Gypsies might have? There’s a show for that too – My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding, also on TLC (I promise this is not a promotion for TLC, there are also a lot of wedding themed shows on Slice).
Even with the endless lists of shows on weddings and wedding planning, you still may find yourself hungry for more. Fear not, because every so often you may be fortunate enough to stumble upon those ‘once in a lifetime’ programmes like the Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries Wedding Special (FYI – after 72 days they decided marriage wasn’t their thing). So what does all of this TV wedding bliss say about women? There must be a reason why so many of these shows exist. Is this really all women care about? What about women who are already married? Are they supposed to watch with envy and fantasize about what their wedding should have been like? Do these shows set unrealistic expectations for women about what their weddings need to be?
The truth is, planning a wedding is usually a stressful and sometimes unpleasant process (trust me, I’ve been avoiding it for over a year). Most brides that I’ve spoken with say they honestly could not wait for the whole process to be over. While a lot of this stress comes from the exuberant amounts of money people are expected to spend on the ‘happiest day of their lives,’ much of it also comes from trying to please too many people. You know, the drama associated with not inviting a distant relative, or failure to incorporate some religious or otherwise common wedding tradition into the whole spectacle.
What do women really know about these oh-so-important wedding traditions we try to incorporate into our special day? Did you know that wearing a white wedding dress was not in vogue until Queen Victoria wore white to her wedding in 1840? Did you know that prior to this, most women wore bright colours to symbolize the joy they felt over getting married? Did you know that wearing a veil comes from a time when arranged marriages were the norm and were treated more like business deals between wealthy families? Brides and grooms often never met until they said ‘I do.’ The veil covered the woman’s face until the ceremony was over and it was too late for the groom to back out should he decide that she was too unattractive for him. Similarly, when a bride’s father ‘gave her away,’ it acted to seal the deal between families, symbolizing that the bride was now the property of the groom or his family.
When women look at the historic meaning behind some wedding traditions, they suddenly might not seem so important to include in the big day. Yet many of the wedding themed shows on television seem to promote these traditions as mandatory for inclusion in the ceremony and/or reception. So if you are planning your wedding, or are close to someone who is, try and think outside of the box. Don’t be concerned with all of these traditions or what TV insists you must include. Instead of having your father give you away at the alter, why not include both of your parents in the ceremony as a symbol that they both had a hand in raising you? Or instead, walk down the aisle solo to show everyone that you are a strong and independent woman, capable of making decisions for herself. Be bold and make a statement about who you are. Your guests will remember that more than some meaningless, old tradition.