Heather Crumley was hardly naive about wedding fairs being one big sell, but she wasn’t expecting her face to be negged to her face.
Since my partner and I got engaged at Christmas, time has passed in a blur of questions. Dresses? Bridesmaids? Colours? I genuinely can’t remember what people used to speak to me about.
I’ve never had particular ideas about what my wedding might be like, and while I’ve found the planning process to be fun so far, it has also been a real eye-opener. And few things are as eye-opening as the wedding fair.
I had assumed wedding fairs would be ridiculous events designed to relieve couples of as much money as possible, and they are. (I’ve been assured by more than one photographer that positively everyone is having their weddings filmed by drones now, and I can too for a mere £3,000.) But I had, perhaps naively, thought that the stallholders would be trying to make their prospective clients feel good during the gouging, emphasising the positives of including their service or product in their meaningful celebration.
And while I’ve met plenty of friendly, helpful stallholders at the fairs I’ve attended over the last couple of months, the approach of some has been genuinely troubling. For a relatively small but significant proportion of salespeople, the pitch isn’t hire us because we’re wonderful, it’s hire us or you’ll embarrass yourself.
“She leaned in, lowered her voice and asked, ‘Well, what are you going to do about your skin?'”
At one wedding fair, a representative of a high street department store stopped me to try to get me to sign up for various services. When I politely declined, she leaned in, lowered her voice and asked, “Well, what are you going to do about your skin?”
I’m in my 30s and I still get spots. It’s not one of my favourite things about myself, but it’s not something I lose sleep over. However, the speed at which the neon orange woman from their make up counter ran over to join the inspection suggested I needed immediate surgery. I was offered a specialist consultation and told that there should be just enough time between now and the date of my wedding in late 2018 to sort out what’s going on, with a circular wave indicating the offending mess where my face should be.
At a different event, a woman selling slimming supplements made no attempt to hide that she was looking me up and down to work out if I needed her product or not. She seemed to decide not, but stressed that I could get in touch any time.
I’ve told these stories a lot, and I’ve laughed them off, rolled my eyes and said how dare they. But after meeting the pore inspectors, I also went home, looked in the mirror and wondered what I should do about my skin. I considered actually going to the consultation. It would, of course, be different if I had approached them for advice. But I didn’t – they weren’t invited to comment.
Though fashion and cosmetic brands are increasingly taking a body positive approach to marketing, the wedding industry still demands impeccable standards. Even the language of weddings tolerates no flaws: you organise the perfect day, and say yes to the dress, not a dress. We don’t seem to have let go of the idea that brides should fit into a particular mould: slim, graceful, immaculate. But it’s an exaggerated idea of femininity that most of us simply don’t meet.
“Why does deciding to make a legal commitment to your partner place women in this strange arena where they are expected to listen to a stranger tell them what’s wrong with the way they look? And why did I nod and smile when it happened to me?”
The other common stereotype of the bride – the stressed-out monster – is, sadly, more relatable. You are planning an event for a large number of people, who are going to be looking at you for most of the day. It’s not only stressful, it’s almost inevitable that it will throw insecurities into sharp focus.
Being openly reminded of how we don’t measure up, then, is at best rude and at worst devastating. These comments are made without knowing anything about the recipient and what mental health or body issues they may be dealing with. It’s an extremely dangerous game to be playing.
I can’t imagine that my experiences are unique, so on some level, this approach must work. But why are we tolerating it? Why does deciding to make a legal commitment to your partner place women in this strange arena where they are expected to listen to a stranger tell them what’s wrong with the way they look? And why did I nod and smile when it happened to me?
Of course, the idea of what a wedding should be is very personal, and if you want to search for the perfect dress and have the treatments to give you perfect skin, go for it. Hell, get the drone if you fancy. But please, please do it because it’s genuinely what you want, and not because you feel you have to meet someone else’s impossible standards. Because whatever you do, your wedding won’t be perfect, and that’s ok: it’ll be yours.14706 Views
Heather enjoys writing about music and things that make her happy or furious.