Monday Postcard #77 – The Best Day of Our Lives
“Will you wear a white dress at the wedding?”, I was startled. Which wedding? “Well, I’m a guest at a wedding in June, so I will definitely not wear white.”, I answered, still not knowing what the person was talking about. “No, I mean at your wedding!” I started to laugh out loud and asked if they knew something I did not.
Obviously, because I have been in a long-term relationship, a wedding naturally has to be on my mind all the time. What my conversation partner obviously forgot – or did not deem important – was that this conversation happened in one of the busiest weeks. I had to juggle multiple projects and went from one meeting to the next. Much to my counterpart’s surprise, a white dress for “my” wedding was not on my mind at all. (On a side note to avoid questions flooding in after that postcard: no, at the moment, there is no wedding on the horizon. 😉 ) This is not a unique case, questions like this one have been popping up for quite some time.
I recently watched the German equivalent of the TV-show “Say Yes to the Dress”. The bridal shop assistant confused the bridesmaid and the bride. When he apologized he said to the bridesmaid: “Oh, honey, don’t you worry. You will be lucky soon. Don’t be jealous, your prince is somewhere out there.” So, of course, my major mission has to be how to get my boyfriend to marry me and host “the best day of my life”.
While I do think that getting married is a big event and I hope it will be a great day and memory, I do have problems with calling it THE best day of my life. I think throughout our lives, there are so many great things to celebrate. When I finished my PhD, my friend Mahboobeh said to me: “Promise me to throw a crazy party. Anyone can get married but not everyone has a PhD.” Of course, I listened to her and even seven years later, I look back to that fun night. If my wedding will be as much fun one day, I am happy.
In one of my postcards last year I wrote that getting married and having babies is the major topic for most of my friends at the moment. I guess it is a natural thing after turning 30. The past few years I have attended a wide range of weddings – really cool parties, small and intimate ones, extravagant ones, those where you know they would get divorced soon after and quite a few traditional ones. Especially the last type often shocked me. Not because they were traditional per se. It was more that the brides used to be hardcore feminists. But when it came to their wedding, they chose a very traditional path.
“Of course, he had to call my dad and ask for permission. That is a tradition.” Well, a sexist tradition assuming that you are your fathers “property”; a property then passed on to your future husband. Pardon my cynicism. Furthermore, I was surprised about how many badass women gave up their own names without even thinking about it. Needless to say, it is a personal decision and I do not want to say there is a right or wrong. Just the lack of reflection surprised me sometimes.
The biggest shock was when a close friend engaged in a traditional game at her wedding. This “tradition” is so sexist, my mother refused to do it at her wedding in the early eighties: The guests start singing “Oide, oide, oide ziag ma die Schuach aus.” (It is in Austrian dialect. “Oide” is a derogatory word for woman. The rest means “Take off my shoes”.) The bride needs to kneel down and take off her husband’s shoes. Then she gets a broom and the wedding guests throw coins on the floor which she needs to sweep together and collect… When I asked to the bride about it weeks after the wedding, she said: “Oh come on, don’t be silly. That’s just the way it is.” But is that not an implicit agreement to being treated inferior to your partner? Why do we fight for equality in the workplace if we then do not strive for it in our own personal relationships?
It is paradox that on the one hand we see the feminist movement turned into a kind of pop culture. T-shirts with a “feminist” print can be ordered for a few Euros, the “metoo”-hashtag went viral and female entrepreneurs call themselves “girlbosses”, “bossbabes” or “badass women”. On the other hand, a lot of those fighters suddenly apply a very conservative – in my opinion even backward – mindset when it comes to their wedding. Extravagant engagement parties, princess dresses, diamond rings. Speaking of the latter: I have quite a few friends who never wore their engagement or wedding rings at work because they were worried about the image they could project: either of being a gold digger or risking to not get promoted, or worse even getting fired. These rings could be (and very often are) interpreted by employers that the woman’s priority has shifted from her career to family. While a man’s career is not impacted by getting married, a woman’s very often is. It is considered natural that one day we take on the roles we were “born to fill”.
The point I want to make is the following: taking into consideration the sexist stereotypes and sometimes even professional disadvantages which come with weddings – is it really “the best day of our lives”? The wedding industry is a money printing machine and, of course, we are pushed into the best, most beautiful and extravagant party which nobody will ever forget. I do not know what the future holds. But I do know that if I ever make that move, I want it to be about me and my partner. Not about a dress, a ring or what other people think about. Because if it is really supposed to be the “best day of my life”, or at least one of the ones to remember, it should be about a couple making a commitment and celebrating their love. Nothing more and nothing less.