Category Archives: Wedding Planning Advice

I Do … & I Don’t: A Feminist’s Guide to Being a Bride – The Hen Do

We’re following Rachel‘s journey of planning her feminist meets rock n roll wedding; this month she’s talking all about having a feminist hen do.

A friend of mine once described a hen weekend she had just been on as ‘the cheaply-veiled death of feminism, marinated in prosecco’. Every time she’d watched one of the hens putting their lips to a penis-shaped straw to suck a drink through it, she’d pictured the suffragettes turning in their hunger striking graves. Admittedly, as she said this, her fingers were at her temples, still recovering from the effects of being marinated in prosecco herself. But it’s not exactly a unique opinion, is it? There are heaps of people who think the whole hen party thing needs a reboot.

I know the term ‘hen party’ isn’t used globally. In the States, the ‘bachelorette’ is the thing, but the term ‘hen’ is, in itself, irritating; a centuries-old name for a gathering of women that indicates a whole lot of clucking, preening and brooding over eggs, as if these are the only possible outcomes for a coming-together of females. I mean. Kindly cluck off.

I have been to one ‘traditional’ hen weekend in my life and made a decision that, for me, that was it. I witnessed the unnerving regression into the hierarchical, competitive friendships of our school years that can happen around a hen when I walked into a restaurant bathroom one lunchtime in my hometown of Bath, only to find women clustered around a hand drier, like students in the girls’ loos at school. They were telling one of their party— who was crying— that she had to go home because she’d upset the bride. ‘We’re not mean girls,’ I heard one of them say as she arranged a taxi to take the crying woman away.

I have received those minute-by-minute, spontaneity-intolerant emails from the Maid of Honour— the ones that Dolly Alderton tore apart so exquisitely in her memoir Everything I Know About Love— that tell the bride’s female friends what to wear, where to be and when to be there… and to send payment for this sequence of compulsory, often-mortifying activities ‘ASAP please, ladiessss!!!’.

I have seen intelligent women puckering up to ‘Kiss the Miss Goodbye’, as if once she’s married, they’re never going to see their friend/cousin/sister again. I have had a conversation with a female acquaintance at an engagement party, who told me that, during that year, she had five female friends getting married, and with the hen weekends, the weddings and various bridesmaid duties for some of them, she was looking at a cost of around £3000.

So, at the risk of ruffling feathers (or even starting a coop!), let’s just think about all this for a moment and ask ourselves… WHAT THE CLUCK?

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Being a Bare-Faced Bride: You Don’t Have to Wear Make-Up On Your Wedding Day!

For the majority of brides, the hair and make-up process is a really integral and exciting part of the wedding prep. But what if you don’t at all feel comfortable in foundation and mascara? Do you still have to wear it on your wedding day? Of course not! As we always say, you need to have a wedding that feels right for YOU, but we also know that sometimes, standing against the expected and status quo is easier said than done. Recently married reader Sarah Blake is here today to share her experience of being a bare-faced bride.

Everything was going well until the lipstick went on. I’d been OK with the foundation, even a little contouring, and the concealer to hide my spots made a lot of sense. Then came the dark mascara around my eyes. It felt a little clunky, coating my lashes in heavy goop which I wasn’t accustomed to, but as I looked in the mirror I still felt alright. After the lipstick was applied though, it all came crashing down and I completely freaked out.

All of a sudden my entire face felt clown-like. Every aspect of the make-up trial (which had always been an experimental process) abruptly became an issue and I put the mirror down in disgust. This wasn’t who I was. In an attempt to rectify the situation, we tried other lipstick shades aiming to match as close to my natural colour as possible, but I still felt unnerved by the dark-eyed stranger in front of me.

My make-up artist (who is also my oldest friend) had been brilliant, introducing me to the very subtle look slowly and gradually to make sure it wasn’t a shock. She expertly talked me through everything she was doing, telling me we were just trying to re-create me, but on a really good day, and giving me full control to veto anything I wasn’t happy with, including the whole idea of wearing make-up at all. As we assessed her work, we realised that without the lipstick, the “look” didn’t quite seem right, and with it, I squirmed uncomfortably at my own reflection.

Having decided to let things sit for a while, we took some photos for me to refer back to but however much I looked at them, I couldn’t quite fathom the alien staring back at me. At our second meeting I tried again to adjust my mindset as my friend struggled to reassure me, but questions kept flashing through my head:

I’d never worn make-up a day in my life so why would my wedding day be any different?

Why was the world telling me I should change this fundamental thing about myself just because I’m a bride?

How come there wasn’t anywhere near that much pressure for the groom to look perfect? No one told him he would look washed out in the photos without make-up on so why was that comment constantly being directed at me? Was it my pale skin or was it just people’s expectations?

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Saying Yes to the Dress Without Feeling Shit About Your Body

Wedding dress shopping should be fun an exciting and empowering experience, but what if you have body hang ups (so, erm, that’s all of us then)?

So, you’re getting married, yay! The excitement of saying yes, telling your friends and family, finding a venue and finding something fabulous to wear. It should all be so… magical… right?

Truthfully, and perhaps you’re in this phase right now, wedding planning can be a bitch.

It’s not unusual for equal measures of (if not more) tears of frustration to feature alongside the tears of joy in the run up to the big day. The pressure of ‘the PERFECT day’ is intensely, and sadly, oh so real.

Perhaps nowhere is the stress higher than on what brides ‘should’ look like. Grooms, you sort of got it covered in the suit department, although I recognise that this doesn’t mean that you don’t also feel stressed out by your wardrobe choices. There just isn’t the level of expectation on masc folx as there is on femmes.

We live in a society saturated with ‘diet culture’, this is every message that tells you that you must look a certain way to be happy, successful and valued in this life. Currently, we have a beauty standard that is *obsessed* with thinness. We cannot move without being told that our bodies need to change. We’re sold products, services and lies that we need to take up less space, be small and get our bodies in check.

Diet culture is grounded in patriarchy, ableism, healthism, colourism, colonialism, euro-centric BS beauty ideals, gender-normative stereotypes and capitalism. Diet culture is linked to Instagram ‘wellness’ culture, gym culture and every other sneaky sub-category around that places a certain type of body as having more value than another. Diet culture needs to die.

Sadly, it’s alive and kicking and making us all feel shit about ourselves every goddamn beautiful day. While we should be #feelingblessed for simply existing as one of nature’s greatest marvels, that’s to say, just being here being you is a rad AF miracle. It’s waaaaay too easy to compare yourself to an Instagram post by one of the Kardashians’ (seen in society as the pinnacle of our current beauty standard), look in the mirror and decide that you and your body aren’t measuring up.

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How to Make 2022 Your Best Year EVER (without the added pressure)

Oh, 2021, what a YEAR! But did you know, historically, periods of catastrophe have inspired celebration and exuberance once they’re over? After the 1918-19 Spanish flu pandemic, for example, came the Roaring Twenties! Ready to leave the shitshow of 2020-2021 behind you and forge onto 2022, making it the best year EVER? Read on…

Well, I don’t know about you but I can quite easily say that the last two years was like being repeatedly hit in the face with a wet fish (and I’m vegetarian, so this image is deeply unpleasant.) It’s safe to say that there’s been unprecedented plans cancelled, events ruined and moments of joy stolen in a whirlwind of chaos that is the pandemic.

Whether you had a date to tie the knot in the past two years and need to rearrange, or whether you had hoped to get married and need to rethink, or whether you had hoped for a big wedding and now you’re considering eloping… there’s certainly been a LOT of replanning happening!

This feeling wasn’t just confined to getting married either, there’s few people I know who have been asking themselves really big questions about their lives. If there’s one thing that Covid has done, its strip back pretty much everything to its bare bones.

Suddenly, there’s space to look around our homes and ask ourselves whether we actually like the colour of the living room? Or do I like my job enough that it’s worth the 3-hour commute each day? How good are my friends really? And ultimately, are the goals that I’ve been setting for myself the ones I really want?

This feeling of ‘WTF am I doing with my life?’ is prime fodder for this time of year. January is miserable for a few reasons 1. It’s dark 2. It’s cold 3. All the ‘New Year, New You’ BS. The shelves of bookshops are straining under the weight of self-help advice and magazines are awash with the latest fad diet which will profess that all your feelings of dissatisfaction will go away if we could drop a dress size (or three). It’s not that goal setting is inherently bad. Setting goals can motivate us to achieve a new hobby, set a savings target or even get us across a marathon line (you legends).

However, goal setting can also be a recipe for focusing too much on one area of our life and setting us up for nothing but self-flagellation, critical thinking and feelings of failure. Yikes! And this was before a pandemic where everything fell out of our control!

So, before you start buying a new bullet journal, putting up that wall planner and cutting up those magazines for a vision board, hear me out.

Perhaps the secret to a happier, healthier, more joyful 2022 is not to set 100 new habits or plan the big day of your dreams… but to throw away the end point all together?

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New Year, Not So New You: Give The Middle Finger To How Brides ‘Should’ Look

It’s January – that joyless month when we pack up the tinsel, hoover up the pine needles, brush the crumbs from our mouths and invariably promise that this is the year we’ll become new people.

There’s genuine pressure to try the latest fad diet or set some unrealistic resolutions for everyone. But add an impending wedding date into the mix and suddenly the stress of ‘new year, new you’ is very REAL.

Sadly, we live in a society where looking a certain way is placed at a higher importance than almost anything else. It’s more important than how kind you are, how many things you’ve accomplished, what a good friend you or even reaching your career ambitions.

Reaching a goal weight or achieving killer abs is seemingly be placed over and above anything else. We live in ableist, diet (read: thin) obsessed world that holds up one standard of (westernised) beauty. Ooph. And as a result, it’s very difficult to escape the message that maybe you aren’t measuring up.

When you’re planning your wedding it’s normal to want to look your best. But when traditional magazines are full of tall, thin, white women with glossy hair, spray tans and Ken Doll looking grooms, it leaves us thinking that we need to erase all our quirks, lumps and bumps. This is on top of the added pressure from family members or friends with their ‘helpful’ comments on what a bride ‘should’ be like. I can’t tell you the amount of people who asked me if I was really going to keep my pink hair on the big day. *Eye roll* Yes, it was never in question.

At the time we’re about to walk down an aisle to say the big ‘I DO’, you’d think we’d all become MORE secure in our worthiness of love – but because of all noise from friends, family, partners, trad bridal magazines and society – it’s easy for quite the opposite to happen. Just notice how much messaging there is around weddings being ‘perfect’ … ‘the perfect day’, ‘the perfect dress’, ‘the perfect bride’. Yikes.

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Silver Linings from a Year of Upheaval

What do you get when you mix weddings with a global pandemic? A massive ball-ache. So massive it makes you cry, yell, stare at the wall, shout ‘NO YOU CALM DOWN!’ at your partner, mother, the postman and your dog. So huge it makes you chuck in the towel, then retrieve said towel dozens of times a week.

It’s been exhausting, scary, weird AF. It’s created clowns out of usually-sane people. Suddenly we’re over the moon about seeing our oddball neighbour for a socially distanced chat. We’ve doomscrolled our quarantine days away, made highly questionable online purchases (glitter jelly sandals for everyone in your extended family?!) and faced one of the darkest times in our lives.

But the human condition is one that rallies, finds the rays of hope and keeps on keeping on. So, with that in mind, here’s a bunch of silver linings from a really hard year that I hope will bring a wee smile to your face.

  1. Love is not cancelled even though your wedding might’ve been

As hard as it’s been for couples who’ve had to postpone their weddings (and the poor vendors too, whose hearts are broken and their businesses on shaky ground) it’s important to remember that you’ve found your person and have that sweet lover to hold onto, even if you can’t be married right away. To go through something of this magnitude together is a pretty special thing.

I’ve also heard of LOTS of couples who’ve taken this big, mean old lemon they’ve been dealt with (mixing metaphors is fine during a global pandemic, OK?) and made the proverbial lemonade. Consuming all that alcohol they’d already purchased for their postponed weddings and feasting on the personalised cookies meant as favours.

  1. Romances have started, babies have been born, friends have started a new degree or job

Yes, it’s been a monumentally shit time. We’ve lost loved ones, jobs, homes, security. There’s been so much to process that we’re all so fucking tired, sad, scared and repeat, repeat, repeat. There’s grief not only for the people we’ve lost, but for the things in life we’ve lost too (like celebrating weddings and special events, the general lack of agency over our lives, the ability to do ‘normal’ things like hang out with friends, the sudden insecurity we’ve felt or being able to buy bras in person in an IRL shop).

But also, life has continued on. Love has blossomed for many, tonnes of cute corona babies have been born, friends have started master’s or doctorates, people have gotten better jobs, friends have left bad relationships and are thriving and many new business ventures have begun during this turd-nado of a time.

Seeing hope and being hopeful creates even more hope. Somehow, life always prevails, which I’d like to apologise for saying because of its sappy meme overtones, but you’ll forgive me won’t you?

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