As a wedding advice columnist, I get a peek into those stresses. Concerns and doubts fill my inbox as women fret over whether they are coping in the correct way.
“Am I being a crazy bridezilla?” asks one, writing because she’s frustrated that a guest is bringing uninvited friends.
“I swear I’m a laid-back bride,” says another, who suspects her friends would prefer she just elope and save them the hassle.
Even when fear of being labelled a bridezilla isn’t so explicit, it’s tucked into the details. “Will my guests be mad that we’re having a destination wedding?” (Maybe, but they don’t have to attend.) “Will people be upset if we don’t serve meat?” (They’ll eat what you serve.)
There is, in these queries, an overriding concern - not wanting to put anyone out, not wanting to upset guests by requesting too much of them.
“Bridezilla” was first used in 1995 by Boston Globe writer Diane White in an article about tacky brides and the horrors they inflict. The term caught on in 2004, thanks to reality shows featuring brides as ridiculous caricatures, stomping around and making demands.
Plenty of movies rely on the trope, too, including Bride Wars, in which Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson throw away a lifelong friendship because their weddings are accidentally booked on the same day at the Plaza Hotel.
An unhinged bride makes for irresistible storytelling, which is why Bridezillas is still airing, 11 seasons later, with more than 900 000 viewers a season.
But what makes a bride into a monster worthy of a one-hour television spot? The word has been applied so broadly, it no longer just means being selfish, demanding, obsessive or difficult. Now a woman who has opinions or expectations (often mistaken for demands), gets upset or angry or otherwise emotional, and inconveniences anyone in any way might earn the title.
Martha Stewart Weddings magazine, for instance, identifies “signs that you might be a borderline bridezilla”, including calling your wedding planner too much and having expensive items on your gift registry. (“A registry should never make your guests feel uncomfortable.”)
It’s no wonder brides don’t know where the line is between a reasonable expectation and one that calls to mind a giant reptile trampling villages. It’s easy to label someone a bridezilla instead of acknowledging that wedding planning is tough. And it’s an impossible charge to defend against - any opinion, any request that can be cast as a demand fits the stereotype.
In that way, the bridezilla accusation isn’t so different from the day-to-day sexism that follows women everywhere. Opinions and demands are the earmarks of a shrill, bossy bitch. Emotional women have been accused of “hysteria” for ages.
Of course, it’s impossible to avoid having opinions or expectations or when planning an event as complex as a wedding. As the default wedding planner, a bride is responsible for communicating requests to vendors, the bridal party and family members. How do you do that without seeming “demanding”?