From showcasing a baby bump to organising The Big Day, there are certain life stages that society regards as the peak of female happiness. But what if your experience doesn’t live up to the hype?
When Sarah Cowgill*, 31, got engaged she couldn’t wait to get married. But by the time the nuptials hit, she’d had enough.
‘Looking around the room at everyone’s boozed-up, smiling faces during my dad’s father-of-the-bride speech, I made eye contact with my friend Kate. “B-r-e-a-t-h-e,” she mouthed. “I c-a-n-t,” I mouthed back. My dress was too tight.
‘To the rest of the guests, everything was f-i-n-e. The sun was shining, the ceremony had gone down without any glitches, the band had arrived on time and now Dad was regaling people with stories of my youth. But inside, I was counting down the hours until I could take off my gown and exhale. Deeply.
‘From the moment we got engaged, people had been crazy- happy for us. “Perfect couple” cards flew in, loving Facebook messages filled our inboxes and we got invitations to dinner from people we hardly knew. I found my sudden popularity a bit strange, but dealt with it. All I wanted was for my dad to walk me down the aisle. He hadn’t been well for over a year and even though he was better now, it was still early days; I wanted that moment more than anything.
‘But I hadn’t realised that there would be so much to get through first. The morning after Tom* and I announced our engagement, my mother-in-law sent us a gushy email with a list of 30 names. Tom didn’t recognise anyone. “No, those are my pals,” she replied. A week later, a big box of wedding stationery arrived at our house. She’d only gone and chosen our invitations – and they were awful. It marked the first of a series of fights.
‘Meanwhile, I was attempting to get my friends together for their dress fittings. They’d barely entered the fitting room before the whispered words “gross”, “ghastly” and “I’m not wearing that” hit my ears. My maid of honour stepped out, wincing. “I’m sorry,” she said, “but I speak for all of us when I say we don’t feel at all special in this dress.” Then my brother rang, asking if he could bring a girl he’d met on Tinder – but, crucially, hadn’t actually met in person yet. By this point, I was simply too exhausted to say no.
‘When The Big Day arrived, I floated around in my rib-crushing dress like a tragic heroine on steroids, while Tom grew increasingly stressed out by the photographer. After the speeches, people started rowing. There was an activist arguing with a politician, a bridesmaid hurling abuse at an usher and a strange man nobody knew who vomited all over the floor of the ladies’ toilets. By 10pm, my newly wedded husband was so agitated by the whole situation that he, in turn, got mind-bendingly drunk and fell into a small fire. (He was fine, by the way.)
‘We lay in our hotel room the next morning in shock – a whole year of planning and it was finally over. Did we enjoy it? The uncomfortable faces in our photos say it all. There was just far too much pressure. In fact, we’ve already agreed that if we divorce, we’ll run away to do it.’