During my current brief stint in the apocalyptic landscape that is the contemporary wedding industry, an insidious pressure has latched itself onto my consciousness. This pressure comes as no surprise, really, when you consider the commodities-based approach to women's bodies that tells us we are more valuable and powerful people if our packaging is attractive. Consider the average woman, most likely under persistent and unrelenting pressure to present her best self in an over-commercialized wedding industry. The result is a population of women who believe their wedding day should be the day they reach their Pinnacle of Beauty. This, by any definition, is the most impractical crock of shit I have ever heard.
Peruse the variety of mainstream wedding websites. Regardless of the nature of the product on offer, likely the words you read more often than any others are “timeless” and “classic.” Conversely, you'll find vilified the dreaded D word: “dated,” or even more nauseating, the T words: “tasteless” and “tacky.” Why do these words terrify us so much? As if bad taste is a death sentence. As if it is somehow the ugly, hulking gatekeeper that stands between ourselves and an idyllic married life. But on many months of tortured reflection, here is the terrifying secret I've come to discover…
Bad taste is almost entirely subjective
My aunt might find plastic cutlery at a picnic reception the ultimate transgression against divine wedding law. My father might think a yellow wedding dress is simply in bad taste. Even you, dear reader, may reflect on your own knee-jerk reactions to these wedding realities. But I have an even scarier wedding secret to share with you, one that the wedding industry would not confess to even if they were tied down and tortured…
Bad taste changes with fashion, and is, as a concept, entirely unreliable
When I decided I wanted a crop top wedding dress and took to the internet for inspiration, I discovered a vocal protest in the venomous voices of internet commenters: “TACKY!” they screamed. “CHEAP!” “YOU'LL REGRET IT!” (No, really. Have a look at the comments section of this Buzzfeed post). One of the more atrocious ones read:
“If I ever try to wear a crop top to my wedding, I believe that I do not really love the man I'm marrying, because I didn't want to be as elegant and beautiful as I could have been.”
I hold no grudge against those who are repulsed by the sight of a bare sliver of midriff. To expect everyone to be attracted to the same things is utterly ridiculous. But I take issue with this progression of subjective to objective. There are many things I don't like that others might, and these opposing opinions do not devalue each other (barring genuine moral objections). The fact that I prefer wine does not mean you can't enjoy beer. Another commenter offered this advice:
“Don't waste your money preserving your gown after the wedding. Your daughter won't want to wear it.”
This comment is indicative of the unhealthy idolatry that pervades our wedding attitudes. The day of your wedding is not impervious to the qualities of time. It is a day like any other, with a historical context that cannot be separated from contemporary culture. It is a day that will look different in retrospect.
My mother wastes no time considering if her wedding dress would still be fashionable today, because she was happy THEN.
My mother was married in the early nineties, when visions of Princess Diana inspired the burning desire in women everywhere for puffy sleeves and silk. My mother, however, wore a sexy, skintight minidress with a detachable mullet skirt that she could take off for dancing. She looked fierce, confident, and beautiful. She looked beautiful because she FELT beautiful. I'm sure there were those who told her it was an ugly and unsophisticated idea, but she had little time for those opinions. Yes, the skirt was of the appliquéd, shimmering, and voluminous variety that these days has fallen sharply out of fashion. But does she care? Absolutely not.
She and my father have been married for more than twenty years now, and they have built a rich, full life together that has taken much hard work and has begotten much celebration and happiness. They look back on their photographs and celebrate the fact that my mother's favorite flowers were blooming in the church garden that day. My mother wastes no time considering if her wedding dress would still be fashionable today, because she was happy THEN.
When I was a teenager, the only shoes I ever wore were my dad's old army boots. My head was half-shaved. I wore only black. Would I wear this now? No. But do I look back on that time with shame and embarrassment? Absolutely not, because those clothes made me happy. I was a shy and awkward teenager, and dressing the way I did allowed me some power and confidence. If I had dressed then to impress my twenty-two year old self, my life would be very different. As humans with fallible hearts, we dress to express our identities. The clothes we wear give us strength in that they allow us to present our ideal selves.
On my wedding day, I hope to look like nothing more or less than myself, whatever that may be at this time in my life.
There are many who care very little about clothes or style, but even that rejection is an expression of their character. But as humans, our hearts cannot avoid change. Our identities will evolve as we walk through this life, and the way we attempt to express them will evolve also.
On my wedding day, I hope to look like nothing more or less than myself, whatever that may be at this time in my life. My fiancé's expectations are largely the same. I will bear my scandalous sliver of midriff proudly, and I fully expect to look back on my photos and find one day that my dress is not fashionable or stylish. That our brown paper programs and flower crowns have become unbearably passé.
But you know what? I'm completely happy about that.