The Legend of Bridezilla

One of the questions I get often when I tell people that I do makeup for brides, is some variation of "Ooh! I bet you get a lot of CRAZY brides." They appear shocked when I tell them that in 10 years of working weddings, never ever have I had a "Bridezilla." The stereotype of an emotionally-unstable, demanding and self-centered bride is one I can't help but think was created for the simple fact that a woman's wedding day is one of the few times in her life that she appears to be able to make all the decisions and everyone else has to follow her lead. Do I really think she does? No, I don't. In fact, with a majority of the brides I've worked with, there was pressure for her to be the cool, laid-back, accommodating type so that she didn't piss off anyone else (who by the way, was not getting married that day).

You may remember the "reality" TV show in the early-2000s called "Bridezillas" which hilariously and dramatically portrayed brides-to-be as raging, meltdown-prone drama queens. Well, that seems to have sent a strong message to a lot of my clients (who were in their adolescence or teens when that show aired). It was a warning to girls and young women: "don't be an unhinged, crazy bitch just because you're getting married." I wonder if the thought would have ever entered their minds to do that in the first place.

Being a bride has become about so much more than just marrying the one you love while surrounded by your friends and family. Weddings now carry an average cost of over $35,000 (even more if you're having an interfaith or multicultural wedding with multiple traditions or more than one ceremony). While the cost continues to rise, the number of guests continuously lowers, potentially meaning that brides and their partners are trying to create a better experience for their guests than weddings of years past. On top of that, fewer and fewer couples getting married have financial contribution from their parents or relatives, and enter into their relationships with student loan debt. Eloping and courthouse weddings are often far less expensive (even if they are elaborate or in exotic destinations), but sometimes judged as impulsive and selfish. And of course, there's bound to be a handful of people offended if you don't invite them because you've decided that you're keeping your wedding small. Brides must also now be social-media perfect and "Pinterest-worthy" in their presentation and wedding photos. While the myth of Bridezilla depicts a woman using her wedding as an excuse to throw a "What I Say Goes" party for herself, the truth is that brides are becoming reluctant to say what they want for their own weddings. Nobody wants to be a Bridezilla, and for some women, it feels worth it to let a few people walk all over you, surrender a few lifelong visions of what you always imagined, or keep your frustration inside for the greater good.

For women under this kind of pressure, there is also the age-old pressure to "not be like other women" who showed emotion when they were frustrated or reached a breaking point when someone they care about stepped over boundaries they could no longer ignore. In the words of Liz Moorhead, who penned the Washington Post article Devil in a White Dress, "Now brides face a sexist, impossible double-standard: You want a memorable day, but don't you dare show how much you care... We've moved away from 'what will reflect us best?' to 'what will inconvenience everyone least?'"

I love my work as a bridal makeup artist because brides are fun and meaningful to work with. To further answer the inquiry about whether I've had "lots of crazy brides," I like to challenge people why they ask that question in the first place. Do we like to see women humiliate themselves out of a desire to make something their own? Do we enjoy hearing about one of us fail? I have never had a "psycho" bride. I've had nervous, stressed brides who are under a shitload of pressure to please everyone but themselves. And without someone having their back, they're going to eventually show some kind of emotion. It's called being human.

During one of my first weddings ever, the bride's mother stood watching me replicate the look that the bride and I had practiced during the bridal makeup trial (she wanted a 1920's-inspired "Gatsby" look with a smoky eye and darker lip color). Five minutes before she was set to walk down the aisle, her mother said to her with zero reluctance, "you look like a whore." As the bride began to tear up, I had to run interference and very tactfully explain to her mother (who was writing my check that day), that this was the look her daughter wanted. I had to further legitimize this desire by pulling several bridesmaids and other service providers to provide testimony about how this was an "acceptable" wedding makeup look. This kind of thing is unnecessarily cruel to say to any woman ever. To add into that a power imbalance created using money AND the desire of a daughter to be what her mother wants her to be, was a recipe for disaster. I ask: if this woman had flipped out on her mom, would she have been a "Bridezilla?"

I use this example often (please know that this was the most extreme case I ever encountered, but I've seen and heard countless heartbreaking stories in the same controlling, mean-spirited vein), because it incites an internal desire to stick up for that bride. No reasonable person would blame that bride for crying, panicking, or outright yelling at her mother. During the wedding planning process. brides become aware that one "wrong" move on their part could result in this kind of crushing scenario, and if they react in any way, the blame will fall on them. What bridesmaids, guests, family and even wedding vendors may fail to understand, is that this happens ALL THE TIME. It just usually happens behind closed doors and with varying degrees of severity. Some examples brides have relayed to me:

"I'll pay for your wedding cake... IF I get the final decision on what it looks like."

"I want to help decorate... and I've decided I don't like your country-chic burlap table runners, so I've replaced them without telling you."

"I don't like strapless dresses. I won't be your Maid of Honor if you make me wear one."

"If you don't invite your uncle [who molested you] to your wedding, his feelings will be hurt and it will make future family gatherings awkward."

"You have to serve [alcohol, meat, or something else that conflicts with your values] or everyone is going to be annoyed. They're coming to have a good time, not to have your lifestyle choices forced onto them."

"Your boobs are too big for a dress like that. You're getting married in your family's church and people will judge them if you show too much skin."

Folks with a loved one who is about to be a bride, seem to feel that wedding planning is a time to fling the doors off of empathy and support, and be extremely blunt about how they think things should be. Brides have shown up to my studio with an entire entourage of people they love so that they know each one will approve. It has become part of my mission to not just do the makeup and get to know everyone, but to ask the bride, "what do YOU want?" When getting ready is running behind schedule because the bridesmaid that was supposed to be first to get her hair and makeup done, opted to sleep at home instead of the hotel and got a flat tire, it's somebody's job to remind the bride that its her day, every wedding runs late, the itinerary can be adjusted, and people are not going to die if they have to wait.

Reading all of this, it becomes clear why a bride might drink five mimosas and have a panic attack because her personalized, guaranteed-next-day-delivery cocktail napkins did not arrive. That is not a drunk, crazy Bridezilla. That is a person who is coping the best they can, and is directing distressed emotions toward something because they weren't "allowed" to express it in the appropriate place. You're seeing a person who wants someone to tell her everything is okay.


    © 2020

     Angela K Morris