wedding industrial complex

(un)convention 2015 recap

Photo by Betty Clicker Early last month I had the honor of attending (un)convention Brooklyn - part business development workshop, part community-building/networking, part inspiration overload, ALL feminist bad-ass wedding vendors. As their site explains it, a "coalition of progressive, equality-minded wedding professionals, who love working with cool, creative, crazy-in-love couples." YES.

I was asked to speak on a panel about "How to be a Wedding Space Disrupter" - an overwhelming, but fab topic near and dear to my heart. I was joined by Kellee Kahlil of Loverly, photographer Oriana Koren, and blogger Kate Schaefer of H&H Weddings.


Photo by Betty Clicker

I struggle with the fact that my seemingly practical and down-to-earth way of doing things - from my website design, marketing, business practices, and actual wedding planning itself - is seen as disruptive or revolutionary. Yes, it felt that way 5 years ago. It sometimes still feels that way when I run into the odd vendor here or there who responds with a thinly veiled reason as to why they don't work with LGBTQ clients. But I couldn't help feeling disbelief that so many of us around the country still feel alone in the industry, feel odd for wanting something new to be reflected, feel scared to express our true feelings. It's like when my roommate and I were called "alternative" by a preppy douche in 2003 for having short hair. Whaaa???

So the room filled of 60 wonderful vendors both gave me hope and inspiration and also made me shake my head in disbelief that it's 2015 and we need a convention to discuss this. But we do. We so obviously do. And I was so glad to be there because it re-inspired me to do more to truly change the industry - while my blog posts and my leading by example are great, I could be doing more. I could be asking those vendors who refuse to work with LGBTQ clients - Why? I could be submitting more of my diverse weddings to blogs (blog submitting in general is something I... just don't do. But now I feel like I have more of a purpose for doing it!). I could be brainstorming and partnering with more like-minded vendors to create new content, new events, and new ideas.

Mostly, I was struck with this idea that actually hit me when I became a new mother. A couple months after having my daughter, I told someone "I could hear 'you're a good mom' every day and it still wouldn't be enough." Now, I'm not saying I actually think I'm a shitty mom. But I was talking about all of the constant jabber in our ears about being the perfect mom, and you have to do this and be this and don't do that and must do that. It's tough. I like to think of myself as a fairly strong person, and those doubts seep in on a daily basis.

Now take that and apply it to the wedding industry. Couples are hearing and seeing a barrage of must-do's, have to look like this, need to do thats. It's endless. And despite way more opportunities to feel supported than we had even five years ago (like Catalyst Wedding Co, A Practical Wedding, and Offbeat Bride, to name a few), I believe those couples need the constant reminders, much like "you're a good mom," except in the form of "you do you" - you have the wedding you want, here's what really matters, stay grounded and stay real and stay you. I used to think I could do just one blog post expressing my discontent or trying to remind couples of what their true motivation should be (um, marriage anyone? That thing that happens after a wedding?). But I'm realizing now I need to consistently disrupt. I and other wedding vendors like me need to consistently add our voices to shout through the wedding industry's incessant drone.

Trying to wrap all these ideas up into a neat little package, I find myself thinking of feminism in general. That at ALL of these big life moments - adolescence, dating, getting engaged, married, buying a house, having children (or none of the above!) - we often doubt ourselves based on what society is telling us we are supposed to do or supposed to be. The only way to combat that is to remind ourselves and each other that we have choices. That you can be childless and blissfully happy. That you can propose to your boyfriend. That you can wear a yellow wedding dress. Seeing and trusting that those choices are available and valid and real are essential to change. It's incredibly hard to trust in yourself without support. If I can help one person feel confident in their choices and supported at a very stressful time of life, I may not start a revolution, but I can at least be part of one.

Photo by Betty Clicker

Photo by J McCallum

Photo by Betty Clicker

The Bachelor: when you don't conform

I have a confession to make. I watch The Bachelor. And The Bachelorette. I think it might be my guiltiest pleasure, but I just can't help myself. Mindless, crazy, reality television is sometimes awesome. Glad I got that off my chest.

This season of the Bachelor was one of the most controversial. Juan Pablo is pretty much a d*ck. I won't go into all the details, but over the course of the show he's shamed the women he hooked up with, repeatedly used his daughter for questionable decisions and behavior, said "vulgar" things to women, and generally came across as an emotionally stunted boy-man.

All that being said, the finale really struck me (I swear this is going somewhere). For those of you that missed it, he didn't propose. He gave the woman who had professed her love for him the rose, and told her he liked her a lot. On the "After the Final Rose" he was repeatedly pressured to tell his girlfriend that he loved her - questioned over and over about what his real feelings for her are, whether he loves her, why can't he just TELL HER THAT HE LOVES HER?? The hysteria and panic that accompanied this obsession with love really creeped me out.

Here's the thing: he was a d*ck. He wasn't a great man. He used the excuse "I'm just being honest" way too often to excuse bad behavior and mean comments. BUT. Can we stop for a moment and respect the fact that he didn't succumb to the pressure to propose? That sometimes real love stories take years to develop? That it's actually way more offensive for a man to propose because he's "supposed to"?

I love The Bachelor. It's ridiculous. But the extent to which the producers cling to this fairytale, this quest for love, this perfect ending is really quite frightening to me. Hopefully audiences know better than to trust in it. But when a host is looking at a couple who are dating, with one person who has said "I love you" and the other who hasn't and says in all seriousness "I don't know what I'm looking at!!" - what does that tell people? Are you kidding?? There are probably thousands of couples around the world experiencing and living that situation. Relationships are very often unbalanced. They continue to function. They continue to be happy. They're valid.

I guess where I'm going here is that I get really sad when the wedding industry (including wedding reality shows) so strongly perpetuates this fairy tale. That things have to be a certain way. That love looks a certain way. That love has to be clean, black & white, in love or not in love. I think it makes those in uncertain situations feel even worse, or doubt themselves. It makes the people who want a proposal from their partner anxious. It makes the person about to say "I love you" even more fearful that it might not be returned. More broadly, it plays into all these notions of perfection when it comes to weddings - the perfect day, the perfect dress, the perfect ring. I'm so tired of it.

I get that I'm talking about a really silly reality show. But it's on national television. And I think even ridiculous shows should draw the line somewhere and recognize that the world (and your crazy show) won't and doesn't fall apart when relationships are messy, unbalanced, and imperfect.

Juan Pablo, you're quite the d*ck, but I'm glad you didn't propose if you weren't feeling it.