Gawker on Thursday published evidence of a new mutation of betrothed monster: the ironic bridezilla. In the kickoff email to her coterie of bridesmaids, this bride presented a 10-point list of requirements for participation in her destination wedding, ranging from “Weigh-ins will begin in 3 weeks” to “I would like everyone to wear matching bikinis that have rhinestones on the tushie spelling out ‘maids’ ” to “Sunscreen: We need to make sure you ladies look lovely and radiant and not red and reptile like.” She signed the email: “Just kidding bitches, well, sorta.”
As the bride’s big day grew nearer, subsequent email blasts to the bitches revealed that this was no joke. (“I hope everyone is on a water and rice cake diet from this point forward,” a later email reads. “I would also appreciate it if everyone incorporated arm workouts into their daily routine… Remember no pashminas, just long and slender arms!!!”) The “kidding” part of the original email is that it would be objectively horrifying for a bride to enforce her bridesmaids’ weights to the pound, bedazzle their asses, then slather sunscreen over their reptilian husks. The “sorta” part kicks in with the alarming realization that even an objectively horrifying bride can appreciate the absurdity of her own demands. And yet the terms of the ceremony stand. Whether half-kidding or not kidding at all, when she writes, “we will begin weekly weigh-ins on Jan. 17,” her point is clear: Lose weight or else.
The bride in question deserves to live out her days shrouded in a dark cloud of Internet shame, breathlessly whispering soooooorta to the princess-cut diamond clutched between her bony fingers. But this “just kidding, but seriously” attitude toward one’s own wedding ceremony is not confined to the bridezillas who lumber among us. Young Americans are more ambivalent about marriage than ever, but sooner or later, most of us will eventually tie the knot. Four out of 10 Americans now believe that “marriage is becoming obsolete”; nearly half of people under 30 think that the “growing variety of family arrangements is a good thing.” Marriage is a silly vestige of an outdated social order, but it’s one that many of us still hope to access someday. It is socially unimportant and personally significant at the same time.
That makes for challenges in the wedding planning department. How do we align the social expectation to be kind of meh on marriage while orchestrating the most significant social event of our lives that, by the way, also fulfills the expectations of several generations of family members? Some millennial brides and grooms focus on aesthetics, banishing virginal white dresses, matching bridesmaid monstrosities, and daddy-daughter dances in an attempt to create distance between their own events and the traditional marriage visuals. Ironically, these bespoke indie weddings can end up being more expensive, time-consuming, and stressful to pull off than the traditional wedding package. When every detail must be “non-traditional,” wedding planning that at first feels laid back can take an unexpected turn into the obsessive. Mismatched bridesmaids dresses are all cool and casual until your friend makes a horrifyingly inappropriate choice.
Others deal with the ambivalence by making jokes. For the better part of my 20s, the only experience my friend group had with marriage came in the form of us pretending to be married to one another on Facebook between posting keyboard penis drawings. Now that some of us are getting married for real, we’re still leaning on those old jokes to make sense of our suddenly serious commitments. When a close friend from college got engaged a couple of years ago, the subject line of her announcement email was “Umm, so, big news, I guess.” The email clarified that her announcement was “serious.” It was kind of hilarious.