Google “bride” and you’ll get approximately eleventeenmillion photos of what appears to be the exact same woman. The shade of her dress may vary a bit; she may opt for ivory, pearl, or if she really goes rogue, a hint of blush. But basically, we have one official image of The Bride: a lithe, probably blonde, usually white woman, in a long white dress. She’s not too sexy, not too prim, a veil atop her head, a bouquet in her discreetly manicured hands.
Just so we’re clear, there are a lot more women getting married than the ones who look like this woman. But I think the obvious is worth stating here, because, having spent a few months in the bridal bubble myself, I get the idea that we’re all supposed to be cramming ourselves into this very specific mould. In a way, it makes sense. We’re reminded all the time that fashion models and movie stars don’t typically represent the average person, physically. Their entire job is hewing to cultural beauty standards, and even if we can’t help but emulate them, we know in the back of our minds that we will never wake up looking like Naomi Campbell, no matter how much Pilates we do.
But we don’t talk about The Bride as much. She exists within a specific context. While weddings are an incredibly common life event, you as an individual (presumably) don't get married every day. So, if and when you find yourself in the bridal bubble, it’s not immediately obvious that there is more than one way to look, dress, and even behave as a bride. Plus, you’re caught up in a whirlwind of appointments, traditions, expenses, and other people’s expectations. Sometimes it just seems easier to go with the flow, suck in your gut, and wedge yourself into that bridal mold, promising yourself you’ll be able to breathe again once the big day is over.
Call me crazy, but I’d kinda like to breathe on my wedding day. I’d kinda like to, dare I say, feel like myself, at least a little. It’s not easy to sidestep the old compare-and-despair trap when Google and 90% of the internet (not to mention wedding-dress shops) are telling me in no uncertain terms that myself is unacceptable — no, it’s more than that. Myself is simply incompatible, it does not translate to bride-dom.
Scratch the surface, though, and that 10% of sanity emerges. Underneath the heaps of Bridal Barbie images, there is a growing faction of “alternative bridal” resources, guides, and women leading by example. And now that I’ve gotten my own reality check, I’d like to pass it on to you. What bride-to-be (or bridesmaid-to-be, or even guest-to-be, frankly) couldn’t use a healthy dose of no-nonsense in the utterly nonsensical world of weddings?