Wedding Trashers and the People Who Love Them
This summer, the wedding of a close family member was postponed - for the moment, at least, and for a variety of reasons. Plans (and deposits) had been made, shower invitations sent out, honeymoon tickets bought - for an event that wasn't going to happen after all.
The days and weeks surrounding and especially following the decision were tough. Friends and family searched for the appropriate things to say and do - trying to guess when to be there and when to step back, and how to provide the best kind of support. It was an emotionally demanding time for the couple, but also for those of us who cared about them.
It seems that wedding-related strain can be overwhelming. Two other weddings in my extended group of friends and family have been called off in recent months. Again, for different reasons, and also with difficulty. This whole "pledging your life to another" business is weighty, and although the logistics of such a change of mind and plans can be challenging, it's actually reassuring to see people who are willing to reevaluate, and in many cases to value their lives enough to be willing to switch things up if happiness, intuition, or even plain old common sense don't seem to dictate going with the program.
Last night, I saw the movie "Evening" with Claire Danes and Mamie Gummer (daughter of Meryl Streep, who has a few scenes also) playing best friends in 1954 flashbacks. Gummer's character Lila was getting married, and it doesn't give too much away to say that after sensing that she is less than a blissful bride-to-be, Danes's Ann offers to spirit her away from the rehearsal dinner/ceremony madness to find her bliss elsewhere.
What a risk. And what friendship and love, I thought, the best of which do sometimes require such risks. What do you say in a situation like this if a best-selling author or Hollywood screenwriter isn't putting the words in your mouth? Do you take the chance that you're articulating what your friend and loved one is really feeling, giving her the space and freedom to say it too, and maybe even act on it? Or are you just risking her (or his, for that matter) wrath in the name of trying to nail down happiness - an elusive thing, to be sure - or even just good mental health?
Ann took the road - arguably - less traveled by reassuring Lila that if this wedding wasn't what she wanted, that she didn't have to do it, and the world would keep turning.
With these recent personal events and the movie both fresh in my mind, the article that Salon.com ran this weekend on a new trend of "wedding dress trashing" really resonated (and perhaps not for the reason that the writer intended.) The slug line claims this practice of being photographed post-wedding in the dress, in some state of disrepair, "taps into a new vein of bride rage."
A Website created by photographer Marc Eric, Trash the Dress, offers galleries of brides, ostensibly after the wedding, getting their dresses wet and in some cases torn. The site suggests it's a new trend in wedding photos, and insinuates high art while they're at it.
After a peek at many of the photos, I'm with Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon, who says
Well, I got all excited at the idea of new brides taking their dresses out and destroying them photogenically. I had mental images of women tossing fluffy white dresses on bonfires or spray-painting them. I hoped that at least one picture on this Trash The Dress website would show someone taking her dress out to the range and riddling it full of bullets. I set my hopes way, way too high. Mostly, â€œtrashing the dressâ€ is just another paean to femininity, and the pictures show the women in the dress, lolling around looking fuckable. The dress is trashed both by getting wet and having someone vamp in it, just screwing with the iconic virginity of the whole thing.
Salon's article went deeper:
Of course, the emphasis on perfection goes beyond the gown. Couples struggle to please family members, satisfy their own fantasies, and fill the requirements of tradition -- often contradictory goals. Dealing with all these constraints on their behavior can make people feel trapped and enraged. Wedding magazines and Web sites make things worse by constantly reminding the bride that this is her one shot for fairy-tale romance; life will never get this magical again. That kind of pressure often leads to New Year's Eve syndrome, wherein it's completely impossible for the event to live up to the hype. After the wedding, the stress ends, but often there's a sense of letdown: The party's over, the vows have been said, so now what? This can be especially hard on women, who exchange the culturally exalted and powerful role of bride for the ho-hum role of wife.
In April, TrashtheDress ran an essay by a bride named Andrea Santos, who called her experience therapeutic. "There's something about taking such a strong symbol of the wedding and destroying it, that liberates you ... frees you from the residual stress from the wedding ... There is nothing holding me to the wedding anymore. I have the pictures, I have memories -- that's all I need. I'm done with it, ready to leave it behind and move forward."
I know that I don't want any of the people I care about to have that much stress related to a relationship, or an event commemorating it. I've been involved in and involved with enough weddings to know how deep it can get, but does it have to? And if it does, how can family and friends help? As I mentioned, families do have a significant role in most weddings, with various degrees of involvement and a wide range of priorities. Some of them have blogged about this article, from whatever side of the wedding they were on.
Clytemnestra wasn't buying into the dress wars in the first place when her daughter got married.
My daughter wanted a $1,700 wedding gown . . . if we were to get it for her (which we are not) I would kill her myself if she trashed it.
My sister had the big too doo weddingâ€¦ with gown to match â€¦ itâ€™s interesting that we both are telling my daughter that the wedding is over so soon itâ€™s much better to spend the money on the honeymoon than a dress.
There are certain treasured items that family members pass on for generations: Christening gowns, pieces of jewelry, top secret recipes, family portraits, and wedding gowns. I wore the same dress my great-grandmother wore to her wedding in 1909, which wouldn't have been possible had she participated in Trash the Dress Day.
Why were the scissors so transgressive? Much more than fire, water or mud? I dunno. It just seemed so much more angry, somehow. And while those other trash the dress shots certainly can't be good for a dress (and in some cases will obviously destroy it), the destruction is of a whole object.
Phoebe Fay got lots of specific advice from her female relatives, with no indication as to whether anyone warned her away from a wedding, or a relationship, that might not have been the best idea:
I listened to all the advice from both mother and mother-in-law about how I was supposed to store my wedding gown, even down to somebodyâ€™s insistence that it had to be wrapped in blue tissue paper. No other color. Blue. Goddess knows why.
A couple months after the wedding, I dutifully took the damned dress to the dry cleaners and then didnâ€™t pick it up right away because I was broke, and the dry cleaning bill was going to be something like $100. Thenâ€¦ I just never picked it up. Passive-aggressive of me, I suppose, but itâ€™s not like anybody ever asked about it, and the more time that went by, the less interested I was in ever having it back. I felt guilty about it, but by the time I was getting divorced a few years later, I figured the cleaners had probably sold the dress and came out okay. (Oddly, they never contacted me - who knows, maybe theyâ€™d lost the dress and were relieved I never showed up.)
Emjaybee brought her dress full circle for her mom:
You know, I have often been made to feel weird (or cheap) for immediately taking my dress to a resale boutiqueâ€¦partly so that my mom (who bought it) could recoup some expenses from it. I was supposed to preserve it for my future daughter and Cherish it Always.
But you know, I liked it, but it was just a really nice dress I would never wear again. And my mom needed the money more than I needed the â€œprecious memory.â€
That's some love, with a little less risk this time.
I'll admit that I've been in shoes similar to Ann's in "Evening", but only once have I opened my mouth, because I thought the stakes were high enough. I'd definitely do it again. And I'd also stand by any woman in my life who wanted to trash her dress - or a guy who wanted to burn his suit. But I'd hope it was for fun, not rage - and if it was the latter, we probably should have had a talk awhile ago.
Laurie White blogs at lauriewrites, and has several cast-off bridesmaid dresses that prove she can keep her mouth shut - except for when she can't.