Planning a non-existent wedding
From the time we're little girls, hearing stories of princesses living happily ever after once they stroll down the aisle in a puff of white, women come to understand that marriage is a key part of the narrative of a happy life (even as the divorce rate tells us that this is only the case about half the time). For all that we achieve in other areas of our lives, many women remain under pressure, social and otherwise, to tie the knot; a wedding is the only day in our adult lives when we feel justified in commanding an audience of everyone we know to celebrate us.
With this in mind, I can certainly understand why so many people want to have weddings. But, I learned this week, there are limits to the enthusiasm with which women should look forward to what we're so often assured will be the biggest day of our lives: we mustn't get ahead of ourselves, or risk being the subject of a lightly sneering article in a major newspaper.
In a piece published in last week's New York Times, journalist Alyson Krueger took a look at women for whom wedding planning is an enjoyable pastime that doesn't require the detail of a man to marry.
"She began planning in her 20s as a single woman with no boyfriend and no prospects," Krueger writes of one of many women she describes as "searching the internet to plan a non-existent wedding".
Are you clutching your pearls yet? Or is it, perhaps, not such a horror that some women have the temerity to think that wedding planning is one more area in which they may engage and find joy without seeking permission from men beforehand? Yes: I think that planning a wedding without confirmation of a groom is a feminist act. When traditions are adhered to, weddings are rarely remarkable demonstrations of feminism. But if a woman is interested in having a wedding, asserting your right to engage in and be part of the process regardless of your relationship status is downright subversive.
I'm not pinning ideas for centerpieces myself. Having a wedding is a low priority for me, and not just because I'm not in a relationship right now: I wouldn't rule out getting married one day, but weddings just aren't my thing. I find it hard to imagine that even the greatest love of all could cause me to develop an overwhelming interest in tulle-adorned up-dos or table arrangements (as I write this, I realise that my belief that I'd never want more than a registry office and an open bar is a form of planning of a non-existent wedding itself).
But I also don't think that I will ever develop a strong interest in, say, learning to make macrame pot holders, or becoming really good at clog dancing. Long-term wedding planning, at heart, is a creative hobby that some people consider to be of the utmost importance, but a creative hobby nonetheless. Criticising the way someone else chooses to spend her leisure time seems like a pointless undertaking.
Unless, that is, her hobby seems like an implicit critique of your own life choices. Perhaps the real discomfort with uncoupled women who are interested in wedding planning is the way in which their actions may cast light on the intrinsic ridiculousness of so much of the process that people go through when they get married. If a woman who spends years considering the relative merits of different styles of skirt for a dress that she'll wear once for a few hours is ridiculous because she hasn't found a man for whom to wear it in honour of, the woman who is justified in doing exactly the same thing because she has a partner might just feel a little bit ridiculous, too.
Sometimes we sneer at the choices of others because we can't bear to take a clear look at our own.