Why you should be judgmental about weddings

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Forever judging you cat patch

I've written before about how much the internet loooooves getting judgmental and snarky about weddings, and I've even written about how these judgments can be freaking awesome and how there's a benefit to winning the Judgey Olympics:

I got a new perspective on the issue recently though from both an awesome Offbeat Bride commenter, and a book I'm reading. Let's talk about why it's awesome to get judgmental, and how to do it ways that don't fuck over ourselves, or other people.

Why getting judgmental about weddings can be awesome

I'm reading a book that has an interesting perspective on judgments, both in terms of their value and the risk. The Language of Emotion by Karla McLaren touches on how, in our efforts not to be judgmental and to be tolerant of everyone and their awesomeness, we've lost touch with how judgment is a natural and even healthy expression. Judgment is just your brain telling you “that thing doesn't work for me”… which is an awesome thing to know!

McLaren contends that the issue isn't with having judgments… it's with reducing yourself to name-calling and insults. She gave a great example of judging a rug. She points out you can have opinions and even feelings about the rug, and make a fair judgment about it… for example that the rug is not good choice for a high-traffic hallway, as it's not holding up as well as a different rug would. Awesome! You can cast this judgment without name-calling or attacking the rug: this is the ugliest rug I've ever seen! who the fuck picked out this awful rug?. McLaren points out that when you go the former route, you're making a valuable decision that helps you move forward with future choices and intelligence.

When you go the latter route and insult the rug, you're just hurting yourself:

healthy judgement from The Language of Emotions by Karla McLaren

I love how she makes the point here that name-calling is not only abusive to the target of the judgement (no shit, right?), but is actually damaging to the name-caller. While it gives a quick hit of righteousness and shared mockery (FUCK THAT'S SO UGLY AMMIRITE, WORLD?!), ultimately it's an embarrassment and doesn't actually advance your intelligence or future decision-making abilities.

She's judging you right now. (Doll by Etsy seller Helinki2015)
She's judging you right now. (Doll by Etsy seller Helinki2015)

Getting judgmental about weddings can hurt other people — not even the people being snarked on!

Ok, so of course being snarky about weddings can hurt the feelings of those who like the things you hate. (“I hate floral crowns,” you holler, as someone who just fell in love with a floral crown backs away feeling shitty about themselves.)

But maybe you feel ok about going on the attack because you don't do it AT people, you just quietly do it with friends. I get it: it's understandable that group snarking can feel sorta satisfying at times, but it's not even just that it's bad for you or the person you're snarking about… it can be bad for the people you're snarking WITH. As Offbeat Bride commenter MinnaKelly commented recently:

It's a great social tool, negativity, because tearing things down together is a shared activity. It's just also very, very damaging – even if you're not depressed, the person you're tearing things down with might be, and they're not going to walk away from the conversation with the same little endorphin rush you got from it.

Even if your snarking squad agrees that yes: floral crowns are positively the worst, yes, just the worst… you've still just dumped a pile of negativity on someone who may or may not have the resources to handle it. So yeah: snarking has the potential to hurt not just the target of your snark (duh), and you (who could be growing instead of just festering), but it also has the potential to drag down the people you're snarking with. Oof.

…Getting judgmental about wedding is still awesome!

Offbeat Bride has at times been critiqued for being too Pollyanna, or enforcing a value of “if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all,” which has never been our actual goal. Our values are focused on supporting folks making decisions that feel like an honest and authentic expression of themselves… and trust us: we know that with a readership as large and varied as ours, different readers are going to make VERY different decisions about what feels right for them.

For some of us, no makeup on our wedding day is rad. For others, we want to go full-face vintage burlesque uber-femme. For some of us working with a small budget, we'll go for balls-out opulence for 10 guests. For others of us, we want to invite as many people as possible, so maybe we'll go for cake and punch or even (gasp) crowdsourcing.

Consuming any sort of wedding media is an exercise in judgment and discernment — although that might be especially true for folks who get up to their elbows in Offbeatland. Since we feature weddings all along the spectrum of aesthetics, budget, style, and even (yes!) acceptable “good taste,” chances are about 100% that you're going to see something here that you really, REALLY do not like.

(Hell, I've been publishing this site now for almost nine years and I've featured a ton of weddings that are SO not my style! That's part of the fun!)

The lesson here isn't that judgement is bad or that you can only have nice thoughts ever LA LA LA! Oh, excuse me for having opinions! I was JUST SAYING! God, get a thicker skin! Your opinions are awesome! Your judgments are fabulous! …as long as you share them thoughtfully and use them as a way to make choices for yourself.

…for yourself.


Not other people.

Judgments are awesome when they're used for shaping your own visions and clarifying what works for you and what doesn't. Judgements are less awesome when they're wielded as weapons of abuse or cultural control. Here on Offbeat Bride, we are 100% in support of you hating some of the stuff you see on our website — as long as you use the hate for your own personal development.

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Comments on Why you should be judgmental about weddings

  1. Well stated, as ever! I fully admit to be super judge-y about weddings … I think I always have been. I distinctly remember flipping through a bridal magazine when my cousin was getting married and I judged all the dresses in it with the keen eye and harsh tongue of a 10 year old!
    But seriously, judging other weddings doesn’t have to be mean or an exercise in snark. One thing that I didn’t like about my cousin’s wedding all those years ago was that we (the bridal party) had to stay outside in the sweltering heat of 4th of July during cocktail hour to get pictures taken. At my wedding this past Halloween that didn’t happen. We limited the number of posed photos to around a dozen taken at the ceremony space and then hightailed it to our cocktail hour. Was it a trade off? Sure. We don’t have many photos of the whole bridal party together, there is not one photo of me and my grandmother, etc. But what was important to me was socializing, eating awesome appetizers, and making memories with our guests. Having photographic evidence that people were present wasn’t worth missing my cocktail hour.
    That’s just one example of how judging another wedding affected how things ran at my own. I don’t think my cousin was wrong for having photos during cocktail hour, it just wasn’t for me! Judging simply means to form an opinion and whether we like it or not everyone has opinions about everything and they’re not always going to match up. Besides, how boring would life be if everyone agreed all the time?

  2. I’ve been on the giving and receiving ends of wedding judgment. I’ll admit that when I was on the “giving” judgment side, I was really dealing with other issues I didn’t want to publish on the Internet and seeking validation of feelings I wasn’t putting out there, kind of the classic “bully” narrative. So I snarked at things that I perceived as “WIC,” thinking I was “punching up,” i.e. making fun of something that you perceive to have a lot of power. But doing this is a dicey line to tread in the wedding world, because when you complain about the WIC, are you “punching up” at Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, who won’t read the thousands upon thousands of tweets about how “their wedding could have paid my college tuition several times over” or whatever? Or are you complaining about Joe and Jane Schmoe (or Joe and Joe or Jane and Jane) who decided to treat themselves on their special day and are really excited that they got featured in Martha Stewart Weddings, only to come across a snarky article on a widely-read wedding blog about how they’re “hipster try-hards”? Both are “WIC” at face value, and the Internet notoriously only cares about face value.

    What got me out of this mindset was, what bearing does a “tacky” wedding strangers had hundreds of miles away from me have on my life? I wasn’t invited, I didn’t spend money on it, they’re not hurting anybody. The deed is done by the time their wedding pictures have reached my eyeballs, so what could I REALLY do–go to the courthouse, shred their marriage license, and make them start wedding planning all over again to suit my tastes? A hate-read is still a read, and the most valuable thing you can give a thing is your time, whether you like the thing or not.

  3. Actually, I do think if a rug, for example, is something you think is ugly, you can have an opinion about that too. There’s nothing wrong with looking at a butt-ugly rug (at least in your opinion) and thinking “WTF that is hideous”.

    The issue at hand is whether*, when** and how*** to say so.

    *usually not, but if it’s a comment you make in privacy to someone else that you happen to think the rug is ugly, as long as you don’t go mocking the buyer of the rug etc. I think it can be OK

    **usually never, but there are situations in which you could (e.g. if your bestie comes out of the dressing room in a butt ugly dress and asks your honest opinion, I think it’s OK to say it’s ugly as long as you don’t insult HER)

    ***if you say anything at all, as nicely as possible and careful not to mock people even if you are open about not liking a thing. Generally framing it as “it’s not to my taste” – making it clear that this is your personal opinion and not an objective judgment – is a good way to do this.

    It really is OK to think the rug is ugly, and under very limited circumstances, to say so!

    One close friend’s wedding had elements I thought were ugly (most notably, a huge flower arrangement in various shades of pink with crystals hanging off of balls of flowers in a crystal stand). I chose not to say anything, and even said it was ‘impressive’ and ‘very you’ when she showed it off to me. Why? Because the fact that I honestly thought it was the most horrid thing I’d ever seen rendered florally didn’t matter. She liked it, and my dislike of it was just my personal taste. In that moment, my personal taste did not matter, so I said nothing.

    But let’s say I’d passed a store whose window display had such an arrangement. As long as I didn’t mock the florist I think it would be OK in such a situation to say “wow I think that’s ugly”. It doesn’t make me a bad person.

    • Especially the friend in a dress one: I pull a card from my mother’s deck and say “it doesn’t do anything for you”

      This doesn’t insult your friend or the dress (insulting the dress could insult your friend since she in theory picked it out), but still steers your friend away from a bad fashion choice.

      You could also say something like “I think something that would highlight your waist more would be better” or “I don’t think that neckline works well with your hair”

  4. Great perspective! And not just for weddings either. What a constructive way of looking at differences of opinion….

  5. I think you can think snarky thoughts about pretty much anything but there should be a filter between the brain and mouth or in many cases the brain and fingers typing on the keyboard, Everyone has a right to their opinion but they don’t have the right to destroy someone else’s happiness by being mean and insensitive about something very close and personal to them, Too many times on certain sites I see that happening,

    • Here here! I used a couple different sites during my wedding planning and there were some vicious comments thrown at me because ours was so non-traditional. Not liking or agreeing with everything another couple does is natural and understandable, people are different! But before speaking or commenting people should really stop and think “I don’t like this, but is it hurting me or affecting me in a negative way? No? Then I should just keep my mouth shut or my fingers still.” There are plenty of weddings I’ve seen that are not to my taste, but it’s MY taste. If the couple is happy with their choices then that’s what truly matters.

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