Weddings are rife with
bullying – and its got to stop
Cram Brisbane Marriage Celebrant
| Wedding Planning | Wedding
Bridal and general
media are choc-a-bloc with stories about brides
bullying their bridesmaids. It’s a thing,
and something that seems to have escalated over
the past few years. I suspect that what is to
blame is the way wedding stress is ramping up
because of huge expectations and a competitive
mentality fueled by social media.
It’s a thing. And a problem. But it is also
obscuring the amount of bullying a couple is
subjected to. So it is time we called out
wedding bullying and name it for what it is.
Weddings have always been occasions where
appearances matter. A socially sanctioned excuse
to be over the top, to make a statement. And
given the origin of the big white wedding as we
know it, the weddings of the aristocracy
following the example of Queen Victoria, they
have become occasions on which there is an
expectation that the wedding party and their
guests will dress in a manner they usually can’t
afford, and the guests will be wined and dined
at a standard they usually aren’t used to. This
puts pressure on everyone and creates a climate
where multi-directional bullying rife and where
it is misread as advice, instead of what it is,
an attempt to control.
Bullying disguised as
The minute you tell people you’re engaged, it
starts; the advice about what you have to do in
order to be properly married starts flowing and just
doesn’t stop. Historically, the bride has been the
primary victim, and female relatives and friends the
primary perpetrators. So whether it is what sort of
wedding – church vs civil ceremony in the park; the
guest list; what everyone wears; even how to walk
down the aisle (yes, there are still people who
think that awful hesitation step is mandatory!), or
a thousand other things, everyone has an opinion and
they are not backward in bullying the poor bride
about it. In the 21st century, where there can be
two brides, or two grooms, both parties cop it,
and the groom in an opposite sex wedding is
copping a bit more now than he used to.
Etiquette is a codified set of “rules” that are
meant to make sure that no-one is embarrassed or
made to feel uncomfortable. When society was ruled
by etiquette, largely because it was a way of
defining who was of your class and identifying
anyone who was not, everyone stuck to the rules.
Today, really, who cares? So if your choice is not
unkind, is within the law, and makes the two of you
happy, go for it, and politely convey that to your
A way to fend off such advice is to have a
well-thought out plan for your wedding before you
discuss it with anyone. And think ahead as to what
their objections could be. Then armed and ready,
share the basic details of your wedding with them,
addressing possible objections head on. This is much
easier if you are paying for your own wedding. If
not, explain how going the non-traditional route
will actually save money (it virtually always
Bullying disguised as
Advocating for Tradition
Traditions are good ideas that someone had sometime in
the past that people have continued to repeat them.
But they do have their use-by date. Most people don't
know why people started to that thing, or you should
continue to do that particular thing. They only "know"
that you should! If the people around you are pushing
for certain traditions it could be because they’ve
never thought the issue through, or because there is
something in it for them. Couples armed with
information about the origins of traditions are best
able to refute arguments for them particularly when
those traditions have a dark history. Many traditions
are responses to beliefs in evil spirits that live to
ruin the nuptials, ways of ensuring that the groom did
not reject the bride at the altar, ways of signifying
ownership of the bride by the groom, or hacks to deal
with social conditions such as body odour resulting
from infrequent bathing. Counter the bullying and take
charge by using the situation as a teaching moment.
Bullying by Guests
For example, it is very common for couples to
decide to have a child-free wedding. Guest who
ignore that and go right ahead and write their
children’s names on the RSVP, or those who tell you
they won’t attend if their children can’t come, are
demonstrating that they believe that they can bully
you into either completely changing or decision, or
into relaxing your rule for them. Or, you’ve
decided that you are going to have an unplugged
wedding. Guests who ignore that are displaying a
form of bullying.
In the case of the children, stand your ground.
Sweetly. Express regret that they won’t be
celebrating with you. In the case of snap-happy
guests, let them know in the invitations that
devices aren’t welcome and word your celebrant up to
make an announcement before the ceremony starts and
request that he or she uses phrases such as “respect
their wishes” and “be in the moment with them” If
you think it might be a real problem with one or two
individuals, speak to them one-on-one ahead of time
and task someone to keep an eye on them on the day
and quietly intervene, if necessary.
Bullying as a Sales
It’s a technique that has worked for a very long
time in everything from cosmetics to underwear, so
why wouldn’t the wedding industry embrace it as
well? I’m not sure that it is always a deliberate
tactic. It is just the way advertising to women
Subtle forms of bullying can be used for making the
initial sale and for upselling once the initial sale
has been made. Promises about fixing something about
you are designed to make you feel inadequate and
therefore prompt you to sign up. Once you are aware
of the manipulation, it starts to lose its power.
Your best-beloved fell in love with you just the way
you are. Don’t forget that. And your friends and
relatives know who you are, what you do for a job,
approximately how much you earn and how you normally
entertain, so don’t forget that when deciding on
what sort of wedding to have and how much to spend
Bullying by or of your
Not nice, but not uncommon. Your wedding is one day.
Your marriage is for life. Negotiate your wedding
because that’s part of negotiating your relationship.
It doesn’t take anything but time and love to make
wedding decisions that make you both happy. And if
bullying continues, the problem is not the wedding,
but the relationship.
It is time to stop wedding bullying in its tracks –
one wedding at a time.
Thanks for reading!