[Disclaimer: If you're a friend or family member who is getting married, I'm so sorry. Please don't uninvite me to your special day. I'll buy you a toaster and everything.]
Image: Jennica Hookstra Photos
When I was eight, I perfected my wedding dress. It was going to be long, obviously – I’d known it was going to be long for a long time. And it was going to have sleeves that flared out at the ends and a skirt that flared out at the bottom, but they’d be all raggedy – like I was a flower fairy who’d recently emerged victorious from a fight with a bear. I’d mulled over a belt for a while – a swishy one, made out of braided ribbons, I thought. But my wax crayon broke before I could draw it, so I gave up on that. It didn’t matter anyway. The most important thing had been decided: The dress was going to be tie-dyed in varying shades of pale purple, and navy blue.
Two decades later, and I’m not married – or engaged – and my dress design has yet to progress. I have a boyfriend, who once bent his knee into a puddle in the middle of an argument in the middle of the street, but he’s long since dried off. And there’s nothing quite like screaming ‘fuck you’ to drown out a proposal – trust me on that. Occasionally we do talk about it (marriage, not the puddle – we never talk about the puddle). Me, sleepy with wine: ‘You love me forever and ever, right?’ Him, resigned: ‘I love you most of all when you’re quiet.’ Me, indignant: ‘You’d definitely marry me tomorrow really’. Him: ‘Do I have to?’ Me: ‘No. I’m busy. And I hate weddings. They’re so sexist.’
And that’s where my problem lies. I love the idea of flower fairies fighting bears, and tie-dye dresses, and forever-and-everlasting commitment to being nice to one another and not yelling ‘fuck you’ in watery surroundings. But I can’t get my head around weddings.
THE PROBLEM WITH… THE PROPOSAL
Quite clearly, I like being told I’m amazing. I like the idea of somebody telling me they imagine sitting next to me on the sofa until we’re so old we can’t climb up off it without straining at least two muscles. And I like thinking that when I’m old and I lose my memory, Ryan Gosling will write me a story about all the times we almost had sex in front of a fireplace.
So I’m not opposed to being proposed to. I just disagree with the idea that I’m apparently not allowed to do it too, except on the 29th of February – which is a day which oddly enough only comes around once every four years.
Because as much as I like being told I’m amazing, I like telling other people that they’re amazing too. I like the idea of deciding, ‘this is the person I’m going to die on in my sleep one day,’ and telling them that, over a bottle of full-price champagne and a couple of rose petals. The idea of realising you’ve met the person you want to marry – but then still having to sit around and wait for the penny to drop for him as well just sounds torturous – and unfair. Whoever decides they want to get married first should propose first. It’s simple.
(Just to underline how ridiculous this whole thing is, this year, the 29th is a Monday. Who proposes to somebody on a Monday? You can’t even get one of those posh M&S ‘Meals For Two’ deals on a Monday. And you have to go to work again the next day! If anybody ever proposed to me on a Monday, I would break up with them on the spot.)
THE PROBLEM WITH… RINGS
Sorry to burst your it's-consumerist-not-sexist bubble, but engagement rings have been around since forever - it’s thought they were first introduced by the Egyptians, and they were definitely around during Roman times, when a woman was given a small, iron band on her finger to signify her betrothal, sort of like a tiny handcuff.
But engagement rings didn’t become extravagant diamond-encrusted examples of finger bling until the 1920s, when De Beers performed the single greatest piece of marketing since Red Santa by declaring women required tiny nuggets of highly organised carbon if they were going to be married.
'Great', you might think, eyeing up the platinum band with the fifty two small questionably-sourced diamonds, 'I'll start circling ones in the Argos catalogue immediately'. But woah there with your pen, Nelly. Isn't it convenient that rings are obligatory for women, and optional for men? It's almost like society wants to know at a glance whether women are ‘taken’ or not – and be able to define us accordingly.
Obviously if I ever do get engaged (a likelihood that’s decreasing with every sentence of this article) I totally want a pretty ring. I just want an equally pretty one for my partner.
THE PROBLEM WITH… BEING GIVEN AWAY
Bear with me here, but I don't believe I "belong" to either of my parents. I owe them a hell of a lot - 18 years of food, drink and a decade’s worth of phone calls that were made before the 6pm discount rate - but I don't belong to them any more than the tree that I planted when I was four belongs to me. (Admittedly, that tree never threw a tantrum because it wasn't allowed to watch Never Been Kissed, but let's gloss over that.) Nevertheless, I really do understand the sentiment that as you're moving your focus away from your family to start a new, nuclear unit, it's nice to acknowledge your parents’ involvement in your life.
I do not understand, and never will understand, why that acknowledgement has to be performed as a transaction between two men, while the woman who carried you in her womb - was physically connected to you for nine months, and probably ripped up her vagina in order to give birth to you - just sits on the sidelines. Her only mark of acknowledgement being an oversized hat.
THE PROBLEM WITH… THE VEIL
YOU HAVE SEEN HER BEFORE NOW, GUYS. Granted, she’s probably wearing more makeup than ever before in her life, because everybody kept whispering in her ear ‘the photos, the photos’, until she had a small panic attack into a foundation bottle, but this is not a ‘big reveal’ kind of moment. Similarly, why make the whole experience even more nerve-wracking by forbidding the bride and groom from seeing each other ahead of the ceremony? It's like the whole experience was designed by Dale Winton in the name of entirely unnecessary drama and suspense.
THE PROBLEM WITH… THE DRESS
I adore dresses. My style icon is Kate Moss’ youngest bridesmaid, I felt jealous when JLaw tripped over her ballgown, and I recently made my friend Jodie take 23 photos of me while I skipped through a meadow because I wanted somebody, somewhere, to see one on my Facebook profile and think, ‘wow, isn’t she effortlessly ethereal’. But when it comes to wedding gowns, it’s all so limiting.
If I’m going to spend upwards of £200 on a dress (or upwards of £1000 if the national average is to be believed), I’d like to wear it again, I’d like to be able to pee in it without leaving the cubicle door open, and I’d like it to be a colour that allows me to drink two bottles of red wine and then sit on the floor whenever my feet get tired. Personally, I've never quite got my head around the fact that we associate white with virginity, while The Virgin Mary - the ultimate example of a woman defined by her sexuality (and honoured for her lack of it with a series of stained glass windows) - got to wear blue.
But to put it even more simply, even when white isn't being associated with virginity, it's associated with surrender. So while you may not think taking your gown off at the end of the night and waving it over your head (before falling over) means anything other than the fact that you drank too much prosecco, it's actually a centuries-old symbol of giving up your independence. And nobody ever invaded a country with a tie-dyed flag.
THE PROBLEM WITH… THE RECEPTION
Putting aside the myriad questions surrounding chair covers and naming your table after a place you once went on holiday, receptions are fine. They’re great, in fact! There’s a free bar, a free cake, and a free DJ with a back catalogue of the best B*Witched songs. Plus, receptions keep the tablecloth industry in business, which is an improbable success in itself. (And you don’t even have to wash them yourself – SOMEBODY ELSE WILL DO THAT FOR YOU.)
So if it wasn’t for the speeches, receptions would be wonderful.
Unfortunately, once upon a time, somebody somewhere apparently decided that women would wield far too much power if they were able to speak in public. I mean, imagine that – being able to create life, and express an opinion. What would men be able to bring to the party - besides the capacity to draw smiley faces in the snow with their urine and reach the top shelf of the bookshelf without standing on a small box? It doesn’t bear thinking about.
No. Until the groom, the bride, the bride’s father, the bride’s mother, the best man and the bridesmaids get equal airtime, this entire tradition is an ego-massaging, patriarchal sham, designed to let drunk men spout off in public while their female friends, family members and newlywedded wives Google annulment criteria on their smartphones under the aforementioned tablecloths.