The XX Factor

Sean Parker, Nerd Groomzilla, Is Doing His Wedding Right  

Sean Parker is not actually a Groomzilla.

Photo by Michael Buckner/Getty Images for SXSW

Over at The Atlantic, Megan Garber shares the news of Napster-founder-turned-respectable-tech-investor Sean Parker’s impending nuptials, on which he reportedly plans to spend $9 million, in part to get his guests kitted out in fantasy-inspired costumes, an investment for which she dubs him perhaps the world’s first recorded groomzilla. To be fair, Garber acknowledges that Parker is unusual in part for flipping the gender script, noting that “Per most portrayals—particularly those in the media—the groom is not so much the equal partner in the celebration as the excuse for the celebration to happen. He is the altar-waiter and then the aisle-escort and then the cake-feeder.” But even if the scale of Parker’s wedding is ludicrous, the whole event has more positive lessons than Garber gives it credit for.

Parker may have a specific vision for his wedding, and he may be spending an awful lot to make it a reality, but does that actually make him a groomzilla? None of the coverage of his upcoming wedding suggests he’s spending money he—or someone else—doesn’t have on his special day. And none of it indicates that Parker’s future wife, singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas, with whom he has a daughter, is perturbed by the plans or was railroaded into it. If Parker is a groomzilla, he doesn’t seem to be stomping on much of anything. And if we’re going to judge women for getting super-into wedding planning, it would be nice to separate out having opinions and preferences from the actual sins of hurting family and friends to get what you want.

Beyond that, sure, Parker bought into the wedding-industrial complex, but unlike a lot of other people who get obsessed with the idea of their special day, he can afford it. And given that he isn’t causing damage to himself or his finances, it’s actually kind of sweet that he has such specific things he wants to happen at his wedding. The idea that women are obsessed with their own weddings isn’t just irritating because it sets up a situation in which overconsumption and persnicketiness become associated with femininity, but because it shuts men out of the decision-making process. Weddings should be a reflection of both partners’ values, which they can’t possibly be if men passively turn the process over to the women they’re marrying.

And I’m charmed by the idea that Parker’s wedding is going to reflect his actual interests. The union of nerd culture and nuptials isn’t unprecedented, of course, from these amazing zombie attack engagement photos to a TARDIS that opens up to reveal an engagement ring. But the scale on which Parker is throwing this thing, combined with his success in the business world, and his apparent personal happiness, are a nice reminder of how much we need to mothball the stereotype of the anti-social nerd once and for all. And for any of us who are sick of the white dress traditionalism that surrounds weddings like an oppressive fug, Parker’s pursuit of his fantasy wedding day, and his decision to throw business to talented costume designers rather than to Vera Wang, should be a lesson that—within very different budget constraints—our weddings can actually be whatever we truly want them to be, as long as we end up legally hitched at the end of them.