Every woman knows what she wants to be on her wedding day: bright, glowing, surrounded by loving people as she begins a new stage of life.
But there’s something just as important that she doesn’t want to be: Bridezilla.
For years, I personally agreed with societal ostracizing of girls who fell into this category.
“She didn’t want her mother-in-law’s help. Such a Bridezilla.”
“She sent them out to the store at the last-minute for different decorations. Can you say Bridezilla?”
The only sub-category of the wedding industry that might see one of these women coming and not have the painkillers on hand is, of course, reality TV. Whether it is Say Yes to the Dress or the simply named Bridezillas, we can’t seem to resist brides who throw bouquets, break off friendships and have tantrums over the color of the groom’s tie.
Netflix’s series, Diva Brides, follows in this tradition with a British twist. The featured brides are billed as “perfectionists,” “materialistic” and “determined to have their day their way.”
Pretty much, it’s a more pleasant way of saying, “These women are Bridezillas.”
As a wedding show addict, I happily settled in, but it didn’t take long for me to start questioning my own complicity in a trope that might not be as fair as it looks at first glance.
Yes, these brides are determined to have it their way. But what’s wrong with that?
What is wrong with being a bride who anticipates with immense hopes and dreams, and expects it to be tailored to indulge her lifelong fantasies?
It isn’t as though stress management is a considered aspect of the marriage process, either. If anything, young brides are tossed headlong into planning with a mountain of responsibility on their shoulders. Looking at it that way, who can be surprised when it starts becoming too much to handle?
This isn’t to say there aren’t brides who take it too far. But the majority of Bridezillas seem to be overwhelmed young women who just want everything to go smoothly.
Diva Brides really hammers the point home – in spite of itself – by presenting brides who are, for the most part, ordinary women. Many of them come from backgrounds where they have been strapped for cash and denied luxuries. Their meticulous planning and checkbook balancing comes off heart-wrenching and desperate rather than entitled.
Their stories and lives are presented as cautionary tales for girls like me who may have to plan a wedding in the future.
We don’t want to be a Bridezilla. We are supposed to be the cool bride, joyous on her wedding ceremony, smiling with her partner in every picture taken. We are the epitome of what calm and composed brides are, despite irritating relatives and irrational bridesmaids.
But is expecting the desired wedding too much to ask? It feels like another way in which society hems in our emotions and punishes us for acting out what we’ve already been socialized to accept: the wedding should be perfect. We should make sure it is perfect.
This worsens for women of color, particularly Black women as in the case of bride Clarissa on Diva Brides. Clarissa, an accountant by profession, approaches her wedding with touching efficiency and determination.
Rather than praising her spreadsheets and commitment to frugality, though, the show’s host pokes fun at her passing on a removed bridesmaid’s gown to a friend who stepped in to take over. Her emotions over the decision in asking the other bridesmaid to step aside are painted as cold-hearted and snobbish.
The real breaking moment for me was when Clarissa went for a makeup trial with a white woman makeup artist. You could already tell it was going to go south, but when Clarissa is justifiably upset at the heavy-handed bronzing where she wanted a natural look, the artist and narrating host deem her too “picky.”
Even her own sister asks her if she’s really going to be “like this” about it. Like this, of course, is “like a Bridezilla.”
Maybe I feel strongly about this because I know society would deem me a Bridezilla. After witnessing friends inviting toxic people against their better judgment, or enduring haphazard ceremonies that resulted in their feeling uncomfortable, I’m already determined not to settle.
My guest list will be pared down to suit my comfort level. I’m already plotting out how to best accommodate my introverted tendencies and limited energy for social interactions. To a lot of people, those choices will automatically be entitled.
Are they right in saying so? Perhaps, but if it is my day, it should be the day on which I can be as entitled as I want.
I am also aware, that as a woman of color, by not placating a surrounding community in its expectations will deem me loud, angry and ungrateful. If that’s the difference between me having a panic attack in front of guests versus enjoying my wedding with my spouse to the fullest, I’ll take the latter.
Perhaps Diva Brides is the right type of cautionary tale in a way. Rather than making me hate the featured brides, it makes me more defiant for the future. If whatever I do will label me a diva bride, why shouldn’t I have the day I want for me and my partner anyway?
At the end of every episode, when the selected two brides smugly rest back in their seats and enjoy the fruits of their labor, I am relieved for them. In a society that pressures us to break down over every small detail of our wedding days, while insisting that we do not deserve to have exactly what we want, I’m glad if they can have their cake and eat it too.
Sympathy for the Bridezillas might not be what Netflix wants from me, but that’s what it’ll get.