The Bridezilla Trope: Why Brides Get Labeled “Difficult”

It’s her big day, and she’s making it everyone’s problem. The Bridezilla is everywhere on screen, throwing tantrums and making threats – she’s posited as the exemplification of everything bad about brides-to-be. But if we look just a little bit closer, much of her rage starts to make a lot of sense. Here’s our take on why maybe we shouldn’t judge the bridezilla quite so harshly, after all.

The Bridezilla Lurking Within Us All

Weddings can be the most beautiful and the most stressful day of your life. You’ve invited possibly hundreds of friends and family members to a location you probably paid a hefty sum to rent, so they can congratulate you on your blissful union with a partner you are definitely going to spend the rest of your time on earth with. As a bride, you’re under so much pressure: the pressure to have the most aesthetic, Instagrammable wedding, the pressure to smile, wave, and dance for hours in uncomfortable hair, makeup, outfits, and shoes like a Barbie doll, and the pressure of putting your relationship under the spotlight, so your loved ones can watch and scrutinize your choices. But if you happen to have strong opinions about how your big day is going to go down, or if your smile cracks just a little bit and you snap at someone, you’re branded a monster, way worse than Vecna from Stranger Things or Voldemort from Harry Potter. You’re a bridezilla. This term pops up over and over in movies and TV shows, usually to put female protagonists down for not being chill enough while trying to put together an event that society tells her is the most important one of her life.

Many classic movies and television shows are about a woman who falls in love and eventually ends up married by the end. And this goes back hundreds of years: Shakespeare’s comedies were often defined as such by having a marriage at the end of them. Women are brought up surrounded on all sides by the idea that your wedding is the most important day of your life – that it will somehow define you more than anything else you ever do, that if your wedding isn’t perfect, then your marriage will never be perfect. This, unsurprisingly, leads to intense amounts of pressure to get everything just right. And the way weddings are so often portrayed as perfect, beautiful events between perfect, beautiful people on screen doesn’t really help assuage those fears. All of that stress can have a huge impact on one’s mental health, as licensed marriage and family therapist Brenna McGee notes, when planning a wedding “Anxiety of living up to expectations—whether yours or someone else’s—and a simultaneous confusion of what is within your control and what is not, can be overwhelming and feel isolating.” While Bridezillas may be fun to laugh at on screen, getting put under that kind of pressure in real life is enough to make any of us feel like we’re spinning out of control.

Bride To Be (Shouldering The Burden Alone…)

Even weddings between real people sometimes get treated like they’re straight out of a movie: Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s wedding was broadcast all over the world and captured the eyes of 29 million people in the US alone. And other celebrity weddings, like Sofia Richie and Elliot Grainge’s, set fashion trends all over TikTok and Instagram, with blogs and group chats cooing over their “royal wedding vibes.” But, like many movies where the wedding is the happy ending, we don’t often see all of the stress that can go into making these big days such fairytales. On the opposite end of the spectrum, we run into reality TV shows that frame weddings as the most hostile and anxiety-inducing events you’ll ever experience in your life. Reality shows like Say Yes to the Dress and Bridezillas seem like they’re preying on women under a lot of pressure, almost goading them into freaking out about their big day. And on the scripted side of things, it can seem like weddings are just carefully crafted torture chambers. The societal notion is that, for a woman, this is the one, single day of your life that gets to be “all about you,” and so you had better make it count.

Yes, a wedding is the ultimate “main character” moment, but what gets glossed over is the sheer amount of work that can go into organizing one of these events – work that often falls on the bride (and, extremely rarely, the groom.) While the groom is expected to set up a big proposal with a huge engagement ring, stereotypically a lot of his involvement with the actual wedding begins and ends with extremely simple tasks like “finding a suit” and “showing up to the ceremony on time and sober.” Like childrearing and doing chores around the house, women have often been expected to shoulder a majority of the planning, feeling like unpaid project managers. Fast Company spoke to wedding planner Cindy Savage, who argued that by letting brides make the decisions about the flowers or the centerpieces, grooms think they’re letting their opinionated loves get what they want. But the constant need to decide what the table number holders are going to look like or what canapes to serve, with no helpful input from the person that’s supposed to be sharing this big day with you, can be incredibly taxing on the brides and makes them feel like they’re doing all of the work. And on scripted shows like Scrubs, the brides often are most upset over tiny logistical issues like the font on an invitation before they eventually get to the real meaty questions they’ve been trying to avoid like “Am I marrying the right person?” (Which in Elliot’s case was no. Who liked Keith anyway?) The stress of making one thousand (very expensive) decisions alone while also battling existential questions about your life and future is enough to set anyone on edge. Does that make it okay to scream and throw flowers across the room? Of course not. But it does make it a little more understandable.

Wait, Weddings Cost HOW Much?

Another reason brides can feel the urge to act out like a so-called Bridezilla is the sheer cost of a wedding. The average price of a wedding is between $28,000 and $34,000 (which, to put into perspective, is the same price as the average amount of student loan debt for a bachelor’s degree!) Couples can expect to spend a third of their savings on their nuptials, with almost a third of couples going into debt to have their wedding. If paying the price of a new car isn’t enough, 45% of couples go over their wedding budgets. And all of this financial pressure is making people consider if their supposed happiest day of their lives was really worth the money after all. Due to inflation, vendors are raising their prices too, Pair that with pent-up demand from having to call off weddings in 2020 and 2021, and that ratchets up demand even more. National wages haven’t caught up to inflation, so people are feeling the financial pain as well. There’s even what’s known as a “wedding tax”, where getting the same service (like hair or makeup) costs more when it’s for a wedding than a normal party. So if you’re getting married but all you can think about is how much you’re spending on cake decorations or tablecloths, it’s probably much harder to dance the night away and truly enjoy yourself at your wedding.

Sky High Emotions

Even if you get to the wedding finish line, the entire day can feel like a blur with a constant inner monologue. Many brides in fact feel like they’ve been sold a lie. And while everyone else is living it up at a wedding, dancing to Sweet Caroline or pounding cocktails, the bride and groom who are supposed to be feeling special and happy might instead feel somewhat lost.

Being surrounded by friends and family would be a salve to the stress, and sometimes they are. A kind word from a loved one can help pull you back from the brink of madness and get you back on track. But those closest to us can also sometimes cause the biggest problems. You’d think that everyone would be on their best behaviors for a wedding, especially the bride and groom’s friends and families. But those are also usually the exact people who know how to push the bride and groom’s buttons. Film and TV loves the meddling mother-of-the-bride or mother-of-the-groom, who’s dead set on making the wedding all about her. And on shows like Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Gilmore Girls, and Friends, friends, and family tend to push the bride (and sometimes the groom) too hard, sending them sailing into Bridezilla territory no matter how hard they might try to avoid it. They bring their emotional baggage to the event – and it’s even worse (and possibly dangerous) if the bride and groom’s families don’t like each other.

And it’s not just family and close friends who can majorly mess with your feelings about your wedding. Emily Gilmore wasn’t even Sookie’s mother and yet she managed to completely stress her out before her wedding on Gilmore Girls. The normally bubbly and easygoing Sookie, like Elliot on Scrubs, freaked out about her wedding invitations. After suffering under so much stifling pressure, even the happy-go-lucky Sookie just couldn’t take it anymore. Thankfully in the end, with the help of her best friend Lorelai, she does end up getting her happy wedding with Jackson. Phoebe on Friends faces a struggle that many brides come up against: just wanting a simple wedding when everyone else thinks you should go all out. She, at first, allows Monica to take over the planning, but Monica becomes a planner-zilla and tries to make everything too perfect and too grand. It ends up nearly ruining the day for Phoebe. But after Monica is removed from her post of wedding planner and placed back into the much more important role of friend, the entire gang comes together to make Phoebe and Mike’s simple wedding magical.

How to Defeat The Bridezilla? Try Giving Her Some Support!

The most important factor in helping brides-to-be avoid the “bridezilla trap” is (surprise!) giving them support. If we’ve learned anything it’s that getting married is really hard. It’s expensive, emotionally draining, and time and labor-intensive just to profess your love for another person in front of your loved ones. After being told since childhood that this is the most important of all days and you only get one shot at it, it’s no wonder some women might freak out a bit about getting every little thing just right. But if we as a society work to take the pressure off of weddings as the singular day in a woman’s life where things get to be about her, it’ll help make these days a lot less stressful. A wedding shouldn’t be seen as a fairytale ending or an ending at all, but a joyous new beginning that everyone involved in the partnership should be involved in from beginning to end. So instead of knocking the Bridezilla, maybe lend her a hand (or at least rent her a couple of minutes in a rage room.


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