It feels funny that I’m writing this post now, right as the feeling of “oh crap, there actually is rather a lot to do, isn’t there?” has begun to descend on me. Funny because, throughout this whole process, one of my most oft repeated lines – more than the whole money thing, even – is that wedding planning is not nearly as time consuming or all encompassing as the industry and the bridalsphere tell you it is.
And you know what? I stand by that. Even now, with Only Nine Planning Days to go, wedding planning is not the most time consuming thing in my life. It’s something I’m thinking about, sure – and to be honest, something that right at this moment, I wish I was able to dedicate more time to – but it’s something that comes after the articles and interviews and book revisions, and just a smidgeon before blog posts.
If I wasn’t conscious that I’ll end up using only about four of those “planning days” (due to the aforementioned workload), it would probably just be an enjoyable hobby.
Don’t get me wrong. Planning a big event is a big job. But is it such a big job that it needs to be the primary focus of your spare time for a full year (or even six months)?
Is it such a big job that, as some of the women I interviewed for my Bridesmaids story earlier this year intimated, you should expect to give up your weekends for that period even if you’re not one of the people getting married? Is it such a mammoth task that, as a blog post I read recently suggested, wedding party members should expect not to look for a new job, date or converse about anything other than your friend’s nuptials in the time of your “serving”?
No. No no no no no. In fact, I’d suggest that keeping things in perspective is as big a part of planning a feminist (or at least, thoughtful) bash as how much you spend on your dress or which traditions you decide to include and which you ditch.
Here’s why: so much of the work involved in wedding planning is what I call “imaginary work”. It is work that we take on not because it is required of us or even because it will enhance the final product, but because we are so terrified we will miss a detail that we go searching for details to deal with. I see this on forum posts where women will write things like, “It’s 8/12/18 months until my wedding and we’ve already got the dress, tux, venue, food, flowers, music, photography, rings, cake and celebrant sorted, but there’s still so much to do! What else should I be doing?”
In other words, wedding planning feels big – and a lot of the people around us treat us as if it is the most important thing in our lives – so we look for ways to make it bigger.
Here’s another reason. That imaginary work? It usually ends up being done by women. Who, when it comes to weddings, often end up doing the bulk of the non-imaginary work, too.
There was an interesting conversation on one of the forums I browse a few months back about how couples had split the cost of their weddings. In most (heterosexual) cases, the woman had contributed more than the man – usually to cover the cost of her dress. The gap is even more pronounced when it comes to labour: a 2005 US study found that “couple’s wedding planning work disproportionately falls to women” and that “[w]edding work, in many respects, is another form of unpaid and unappreciated women’s work, not that unlike housework.”
You see this all over the blogosphere, too. I read a post the other week that advised that the bride, mother of the bride and mother of the groom should be present at all key wedding-related appointments. The groom and maid of honour were welcome too, of course, but an afterthought. (And no mention of the fathers of the bride or groom.) When Mr Musings went hunting online for planning advice, he struggled to come across anything that wasn’t explicitly targeted at women.
In her book How To Be A Woman, Caitlin Moran suggests that this frenzy of planning and spending around the wedding day is tied to the idea that, as women, this is “it” for us. We get one day on which to be a “princess”, and then it’s all downhill from there.
My tip? Keep it finite. I found this list invaluable all those times when people would suggest I must be “busy with wedding planning”, I’d think I wasn’t doing much and wonder if I was missing something, and then realise that despite this lack of frenetic action, we were well on schedule.
Another tip: don’t take it all on yourself. There’s a reason most wedding info is targeted at women, and that’s because women usually do most of the wedding planning. But you don’t have to. You can choose not to devote your time to things that don’t matter to you, you can choose not to go searching for “imaginary work” and most importantly - you can divvy up the wedding associated tasks with the person you’re marrying. It halves the workload.
Finally, make it a hobby rather than a second (or third) job - like any other celebration you would throw. It’s more fun that way, and it’s the way it ought to be.