Category Archives: Gender Issues

Reading Bridal Magazines from a Critical Discursive Perspective

Bryel white dress

A friend of mine from my old media literacy reading group passed this on to me the other day. When I saw what it was, it was one of the moments when you make a discovery and feel like “I should have done that” however I’ll promote it anyway.

A slightly more academic take on the wedding industry’s constructions of beauty, gender, sexuality and kinship – Bridal Magazines from a Critical Discursive Perspective by Ewa Glapka is really hot off the press from Palgrave Macmillan. From their website:

“Offering a critique of contemporary wedding discourse, this book marries together analyses of media texts and their reception to propose a new approach to media discourse. The analysis richly illustrates how women are invited to embrace not only the stereotypical idea of bridal femininity but also a consumptive way of experiencing it.”

So if you’ve enjoyed reading this blog as well as other critiques of the mainstream wedding industry, this could be a really nice addition to your book shelf. Also available as an eBook for those of you conscious about the environment. Enjoy!

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Our top 20 tips for planning a low maintenance wedding!

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Two weeks after our beautiful wedding day, which (apart from an especially cretinous registrar) went incredibly smoothly, we have had some time to reflect on what really made the day a success. Without giving too much away on what we actually did for our special day, we’re here to offer 20 tips to couples following this blog and finding that its message resonates with them.

Beauty Tips for Brides (by Bel)

So much of the media is dedicated to telling brides how they should look and feel on their special day, be it through television shows, magazines or advice columns on wedding blogs. Although much of this “advice” marginalises non-white, non-Western, non-Christian and so-called “plus size” women, as well as anyone who isn’t prepared to break the bank to plan a wedding they picked out of a magazine. In short, unless the bride is a skinny, white European, in a long A-line, Queen Victoria inspired wedding dress, she is not represented very often in wedding media, sending the message that “alternative” brides’ experiences do not matter. There has been some resistance against this however, and a large part of this blog’s aim has been to highlight those efforts as well as provide some sort of antidote. So without further ado, here are my own personal bridal beauty tips, based on what I found worked for me!

  1. If you are not the type of person to wear a lot of make-up on a regular basis or on special occasions, don’t feel pressured into changing it up on your wedding day. People from left to right will begin questioning you on whether or not you have a make-up artist booked, if you’ve bought your wedding make-up yet as well as what kind of “look” are you planning on going for. The thing is, no one thinks to ever ask the groom these questions and I became increasingly stressed about needing to mask my imperfections, especially when a colleague pointed out to me that a professional wedding photographer would be able to pick up everything with their camera. After a mild panic attack in a Boots with my best lady, I realised I had been putting to much pressure on myself and especially after watching this video was inspired to go (almost) make-up free on my wedding day. Instead I opted for a “tinted” face moisturiser before applying the same amount of eye make-up that I would for any other special occasion. I was very happy – and comfortable – with the look!
  2. There was a bit of walking and dancing at our wedding, so I opted to wear flats instead of heals. This was much better for my feet as I was able to keep partying all night long, blister free. Also, I have a beautiful pair of shoes I can keep and continue to wear for the rest of my life! You don’t need to wear sky-high heels to look like a princess ladies, so if you don’t normally like wearing heels or your outfit would look better without them, then just don’t!
  3. Linking in with the above point, I also opted to wear a short (knee-length) and manageable dress. You can read more about my wedding dress dramas here, the main point was in the end I didn’t look like every other bride – I looked like me. It was exactly the kind of really special dress I would have picked out for a really special event rather than something I’d been programmed to want. Also, all through the day, I didn’t have to worry what I was dragging the dress through or if I would trip over it. Finally, I didn’t spend a bomb on it (because it wasn’t labelled as a wedding dress) and due to its style, I’ll be able to wear it again! So if you intend to be quite active on your special day, think about this when picking out a dress and be sure to choose something that reflects you as a person.
  4. Once you’ve figured out what you’re going to wear, choose your bouquet (if you’re having one of course). This way you can choose the flower(s), arrangement and colour(s) to fit in with your outfit. This hadn’t actually occurred to me before ordering my bouquet, until my florist asked me what kind of dress I was wearing. When explained the dress was quite short and colourful, she advised me to keep my bouquet small so as to not take away focus from the dress. In the end, this was really great advice!
  5. Last but not least, if you’re not big on manicures and/or can’t find the time during your busy wedding week to get one, you can do a quick buff & file at home. It’ll give your nails a really healthy and natural look, save you time and money!

Style Tips for Grooms/Brides wearing Suits (by Toon)

  1. To be honest, I felt a bit of pressure to try a new look for our wedding, especially since I knew that the bride would be making an extra special effort. Although not so much emphasis is placed on how the groom looks, I felt the wedding was the perfect opportunity for me to try something new. I’ve more or less had the same hair cut for the last 10 years so it was really nerve-wracking to try something new and I didn’t know where to start. It really helped me to check out the hairstyles of male celebrities with a similar face shape to mine and once I saw something that I really liked, I spoke to my barber about how feasible it would be to grow and cut my hair into a new style. It was really great for me to try something so different to have a really new and special look for the wedding, and yet it was such an easy thing to do, so I would really recommend it to others.
  2. A wedding day is one occasion to wear a really nice suit. Suits (for men) can be quite expensive so unless you’re quite wealthy or need to wear one each day at work, you – like me – might not have a closet full to choose from. Therefore, this occasion provided me with a great excuse to look really sharp in a brand new suit. A lot of wedding media advises grooms to rent their suits, usually because they want to match with their groomsmen. This wasn’t the case for me so I could go all out on a new suit for myself and not only did I feel really great on the day but I now have a really stylish suit in my closet for special occasions in the future. Additionally, for the colour scheme I would suggest trying to be a bit more adventurous than normal if you usually play safe with dark blues or black suits.
  3. When deciding on the colour or style of your outfit, you should ideally take into account what your partner is going to be wearing. This is not necessarily so that you will match, but so that you complement each other and really emphasise the pair that you are on your special day.
  4. If you are intending to get a button-hole for your suit jacket, florists may advise you to take a white rose or orchid as the stems are stronger. As a result, both flowers are now considered to be “traditional”. However, it was more important for me to choose a flower that would match the bridal bouquet and when we explained our ideas to our florist they gave us some tips on how to keep our flower of choice looking perky and happy throughout the day. Generally, you should avoid a very large flower for practical purposes – if it is oversized it is likely to get in the way or start sagging as the day progresses. In addition to choosing a flower that matches elements of the bridal bouquet, you may wish to have a little something extra added to yours to differentiate your button-hole from other guests who may also be wearing one if they are part of the “wedding party”. Finally, we would really recommend based on our experience that you ask for your florist to make you a mock-up of what your button-hole(s) will look like so you have an idea of size & sturdiness ahead of making your final order.
  5. One really good piece of advice we got from a wedding magazine was to wear our wedding shoes around the house a few times ahead of the wedding, in order to break them in without getting them dirty. It really works! Neither of us had heel or toe complaints throughout the wedding day and we were really able to dance the night away too!

Keeping Costs Down in a Tasteful Way

The first thing everyone thinks about when they start to plan a weddingis the budget. Even if this isn’t your first thought, wedding magazines and blogs will quickly remind you that you need to sit down with your intended and both sets of parents to agree on who will be paying for what. We had already decided that we would pay for our wedding ourselves and put into savings toward our honeymoon any contributions our parents made. However, even though we had no intention to splurge, our parents not contributing to the wedding itself had little to do with this choice. We wanted something simple, low-key and personal for our loved ones, rather than an event plucked out of a magazine.

We also didn’t want to spend upwards of €15K simply because it is the expected and promoted cost of the average wedding, according to so-called experts anyhow. For example, wedding planners will tell you that you should pay the extra costs added onto catering, flowers, venue hire, cakes, etc because of the added quality and experience it will provide to your day. Judith Johnson claims that the “wedding markup” is due to paying for the expert or vendor’s time and attention to detail. Conversely, when we’ve been to large, expensive weddings in the past – especially ones that followed a very manufactured formula – we found the event to be staged, boring and awkward. We did things our own way and found that not only did we avoid major costs but we produced a really magical day for our guests and most importantly, ourselves.

Therefore, if you are trying to keep costs low but still achieve that very special moment, we have a few tried and tested ideas for you!

  1. Instead of going to a professional wedding florist for all of our flowers, we had the bouquet and corsages made at our local, neighbourhood florist and bought the rest of our arrangements at a local garden centre. We thought of colours and the preferred size of our arrangements and picked out what we wanted the day before our wedding. From two large, fresh flower bouquets, our mothers arranged all of our table flowers the morning of the wedding. So – we supported local businesses and provided our mothers with a no-stress role in the wedding as well as a bonding moment. For vases, we used little vases and large recycled jars we had laying around the house. It gave our reception room a cozy, natural feel and was very “us”.
  2. We did hire someone to take our pictures earlier in the day and for the second part (dinner and party) we gave a few disposable cameras to our guests. We would advise couples to only do this if they don’t mind too much about not getting many photos of their party as there is obviously a lot of risk attached to this. But we found it a lot of fun anyway and gave our party a super retro feel to go with our playlist.
  3. Instead of hiring a band or DJ, the bride (who was an award winning radio DJ in her university days!) made a playlist and plugged in an iPod. The main draw back of this in our experience was the venue didn’t have a very impressive sound system, so this is something other couples should look into. However we are still glad we did it this way. At one wedding we attended, in spite of being given a very clear playlist, the DJ played whatever he wanted, leaving the bride and groom super pissed. At another, the band took really long breaks, the lead singer read the song lyrics to the couple’s first dance from his phone and again played a lot of music that the couple hadn’t asked for while they completely ignored song requests from the bride. We – on the other hand – made our perfect playlist with all our favourite songs and had a great “Soul Train” style boogie with our friends!
  4. In addition to making our own playlist, we made our own stationary. We designed our own invitations online and used a sample picture taken by our photographer. We also order our own personalised stamps to give it an extra, quirky feel. For our place cards, the bride’s mother put in a lot of work. She had our thank you message printed on the cards by her friendly new neighbour and hand-wrote all of the names out for us to ensure they matched our invitations just enough to look familiar and not too much to seem tacky. We used them as doubles for the favours too, which the bride’s mother also put together for us the day before the wedding. In short, she was our wedding detail superwoman! Thus, there were no markup prices for ordering wedding stationary and everything looked exactly like we wanted it to.
  5. As our wedding was quite an international affair, with family and friends travelling in from all over to be with us, we had quite a few people staying at our house on the days surrounding the day. So getting a “honeymoon” suite for our wedding night was essential. We shopped around and found that many hotels will have a honeymoon package but it’s much more expensive than their other packages without offering much more in return. In the end we had a really wonderful night that was quite costly but definitely worthwhile. So we would advise other couples to scout out a good deal and ask to see rooms first before booking.

Finally, we have a few more little tips to help you keep your day truly about the two of you!

  1. Ditch the wedding planner, who might get on your nerves trying to act out their own vision of the day (for a hefty price no doubt). By doing (almost) everything yourselves, you will spend a lot of quality time together and practice making big decisions together. It is also really nice to sit and think about what you and your guests will enjoy and to go on a joint quest to find it. Of course, if you are really lucky like us, you’ll have friends and family who will spare a lot of time and energy to help you out. Bel’s best lady was amazing throughout the whole process, while her brother saved the day upon arrival with his charming but effective crowd control techniques. Toon’s best men were also really great and kept the whole affair fun!
  2. As soon as you do more things yourselves you’ll begin to lose the frumpy wedding formats are still being peddled throughout wedding media. Our mantra throughout was that we just wanted to host a really great party for our family and friends and that’s all we did really, making everything a lot more simple and fun.
  3. In addition to planning a party, the ceremony itself was obviously a preoccupation for us, but much like the rest of the day, we kept it as simple as possible. Having said that, we realised that in publicly declaring our love and commitment to one another, we needed to do something that was special to us. The main highlight that we added and were really focused on was our “jumping the broom” ceremony. It was especially nice for us to include something historically relevant to us and our family and it was a moment that moved our guests, mainly because it was really our moment.
  4. You should also take time during the day to do something as a couple apart from your first dance and saying your vows. This may sound a little obvious but you’d be surprised at the amount of couple who don’t think of this. It would be giving a joint speech or greeting your guests together throughout the night. The main thing is to be a united front in whatever way works for you two!
  5. Along with avoiding traditional formats, avoid themes. It’s too restrictive! We wanted to combine rural and urban elements into our day and so we did and it was great! We enjoyed ourselves and our guests were constantly caught off guard, which they loved. Furthermore, all agreed it was really “us”.

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The 14 Stunning Photographs of Couples in Love!

Truly inspirational, beautiful and one of the many reasons I believe(d) a blog like this needed to be created. Photographer Braden Summers describes (in the clip below) his quest to compile a series of portraits of same-gender loving couples from across the globe.

 

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His quest is complete now, so you can already see these remarkable and moving images celebrating all kinds of love!

Enjoy and happy wedding planning, whoever it is you’re marrying 😉

Lord of the Rings? The untold story of engagement ring hunting.

Toon Kerkhoff

 

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I’m pretty sure that anyone who’s ever been out looking for an engagement ring knows it can be a lot of  fun. It’s your own personal secret with (hopefully!) a happy ending and smiles all around. It’s fun to hunt for something special, something that will show just how well you know, love and admire your “intended”. At the same time, there’s not much to be found about this stage in the marriage process either on the web or elsewhere in other marriage media. Wedding magazines don’t seem to pay much attention to it, and in movies people just seem to always have the perfect ring in their pockets as they propose.

I find it odd that few feel the need to share their experiences. After all, the engagement ring is an important part of getting married. Just imagine a similar lack of attention in the case of, let’s say, finding the right wedding dress? I believe part of the reason it is so difficult to find stories about getting an engagement ring, is that it’s not at all as straightforward as many people think, or at least it wasn’t for me. No matter how exciting the search for that one as yet unspecified but special ring, it required a lot of perseverance and meant dealing with A LOT of judgment, stereotyping and (not so hidden) assumptions about marriage, weddings, love and relationships.

A first difficulty I encountered was getting a ring I could reasonably afford in an industry eagerly awaiting a poor sap, hoping to impress their bride or groom to be. While it might sound paranoid and cynical, I did a little test in the beginning of my search. During my first visit to a jewellery shop (yes, I have been to many and seen several more than once) I pretended I was looking for a ring, not an engagement ring. The response was usually flat. That might be down to Dutch customer service (admittedly not the best in the world), but – as I am now convinced – was also because it meant a lower price for the product. However, as soon as I told salespeople on a second visit the real purpose of the ring, eyes sparkled, hidden drawers of rings were uncovered and – of course – prices went up. Unfortunately, with money being a little tight, I turned out not to be the kind of customer most jewellers wanted after all. The looks were quite often plain disapproving, as if to say: “Surely she’s worth more than that?!” Certain salespersons even went as far as attempting to try and guilt-trip me into committing to a ring I could not afford. To me it was proof of the entanglement of money and marriage: “love” with a hefty price tag and the exclusion of the “have-nots” from social events such as marriage.

A second issue was finding the right ring. Determining size was a nightmare. I often wondered if anyone ever really bought an engagement ring that fit immediately, as portrayed in movies? I snatched some of my girlfriend’s rings and took them to the shops to determine her size. In my ignorance, I forgot the fact that the size of the ring finger is only half of the story; the material the ring is made of also plays a part. So, there I was, with several rings that all fit my girlfriend’s finger but all of them a different size! In the end I chose a ring that was too big and had to have it tailored as soon as she had said “Yes!”, which took a few more weeks. This all would have been fine, however part of the romance of delivering the wonderful news of your impending marriage, is being able to show the long sought after ring to loved ones. This may come across as a little ostentatious, but it is also a symbolic statement for the couple, to indicate their commitment to the marriage as well at the proposer’s taste in jewellery.

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Sapphire ring

Which brings me to the next problem: the kind of ring. In general I found salespeople quite condescending as they lectured me about gold, jewels, carats and stones. Several times I believe salespeople attempted to make me feel cheap, uncaring or ignorant, only to try and sell me something expensive they thought I did not understand. However, I knew what I wanted: a simple band with a colourful stone. When I investigated various stones (rubies, sapphires, emeralds, etc) it struck me how culturally predisposed many jewelers were. I was told by three independent jewellers for instance, that only “Asians” (it remained unspecified) buy red rubies as stones for their rings. Therefore most jewelers apparently do not stock them. Another jeweller referred to a section of his shop filled with brightly coloured rings and stones as his corner of “ethnic rings”. I still don’t know what he meant by “ethnic rings” but I left straight away.

A final issue concerned me not wanting blood diamonds or stones that had not been ethically produced. I visited around 12 different jewellers (5 in Amsterdam and roughly 7 in The Hague) and only one shop (where I bought my ring in the end) knew anything about this and had the right stones. The others were essentially ignorant of such matters. One woman told me I was the first to ever ask about ethically produced diamonds in roughly 30 years of running her shop. Either way, nobody stocked diamonds with a Kimberly certificate.

So, there you have it – the awkward truth about finding that all important ring prior to proposal. Finding your ring is a great experience, not just because it’s exciting to ask someone to marry you, but also because you will most likely be confronted with some pressing questions, dilemmas and difficulties. In the meantime, happy ring hunting!