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Consumer feminism? Say Yes to the Dress
May 17, 2014 2:40 AM   Subscribe

The AV Club argues that Say Yes to the Dress is quietly bringing feminist TV mainstream. Are the wedding consultants 'accidental feminists' as they stand up for the brides' desires against family and friends? Others disagree strongly. The Onion sums it all up with Woman Takes Short Half-Hour Break From Being Feminist To Enjoy TV Show.

SYTTD is hitting its 11th season and has spawned five spin-offs and a podcast by Atlanta's main host, Monte Durham (who married his husband last year in gorgeous matching soft grey suits), and dominates its Friday timeslot on ad-supported cable for women 18-34. Maybe because SYTTD is wish fulfilment, co-operative instead of competitive, includes a diverse cast?

One spin-off, SYTTD: Big Bliss has especially invited criticism and praise for focusing on plus-sized women.

The original store is now 'too popular' for the high-priced New York brides. NPR explains why wedding dresses are so expensive (fabric, detailing and emotional overcharging) making a SYTTD pricetag of US$4,000 seem reasonable.

And because this is Metafilter, learn how Margaery's wedding dress was designed in Game of Thrones. (Bonus Sansa!)
posted by viggorlijah (93 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
I checked out the first Atlanta episode after reading the AV Club article and knew I had to post when I started sobbing happily during the fourth episode at "Pinky promise?" by the Booty Magic bride - and I bought my last wedding dress on sale for less than $100.
posted by viggorlijah at 2:41 AM on May 17


The AV Club seems to be trying its hardest to make the show look horrible. Almost like they're saying that maybe if you sift through the piles of eleven (11!) years worth of mud, there's some feminist gold there.
posted by Yowser at 4:09 AM on May 17


AV Club is usually ok but this article is completely bonkers!
Shopping for a wedding dress is female empowerment? what the hell kind of nonsense is that?
posted by mary8nne at 4:29 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


When my daughter was planning her wedding, she watched a worrying amount of SYTTD. What I saw of the show was about as far away from empowered feminism as could be and still have women on the show. Unless, you're defining feminism as "spoiled, entitled rich girls with $35,000 to burn on an ironically white dress."
posted by Thorzdad at 4:36 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I've only watched one season of Atlanta (which is apparently a lower price range) but the point in AV Club and the other positive reviews is the role that the consultants play in supporting the bride, even if she's not the one paying the bill, against the pressure of family and friends. There's a lot of discussion about body image in different contexts (wheelchair user, breast cancer survivor, someone who recently gained a lot of weight etc) where the clear goal is to find a dress that makes the bride feel wonderful in, rather than to wear a dress that is appropriate to other people. And yes, all those dresses are 99% white satin still.

A friend of mine who is quite plain in her dressing and deeply feminist got married a year ago and ended up writing about what a surprise it was to her how much pleasure she and her partner took in organising the wedding. She said it was essentially organising a small theatre production in which their family and friends took part, and she got to be director, principal actor, designer etc. and create a day full of good memories exactly as they wanted.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:39 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]


Earlier, on The Onion...
posted by verb at 4:48 AM on May 17 [15 favorites]


"Consumer feminism"
posted by Pope Guilty at 4:50 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]


You'd have to pay me a significant amount of money to watch Say Yes to the Dress.
posted by orange swan at 4:53 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Hi, I'm a feminist and I've watched this show.

Believe it or not, the Onion article rings true - it is pure fluff brain candy background noise if it's on my TV. Sometimes it's just nice seeing people be happy about things. And I'm pleased to report it hasn't changed my attitudes towards wedding, dresses, or female roles in relationships in the slightest - I still think that the only part of my wedding, if I ever have one, which will matter is if the groom says "i do" at some point.

However, the notion that it is a feminist show itself is just crazy talk.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:59 AM on May 17 [9 favorites]


Oh yes the 'if a woman (any woman) say or does it it must be feminism' school of argument. Most people can see through this with about two seconds of serious consideration.

That Onion article doesn't know what it's trying to say. I think the writer was going for the 'feminists, like all women, love patriarchal gender norms really' angle, but bottled it.
posted by Summer at 5:04 AM on May 17


That Onion article doesn't know what it's trying to say. I think the writer was going for the 'feminists, like all women, love patriarchal gender norms really' angle, but bottled it.

I think the writer was going for more of the "this shit is everywhere and it is exhausting and wouldn't it be nice if we actually could just 'click off' that part of our brains every now and then" angle. The last two sentences wrap it up:
“And given the state of modern media, momentarily suspending my feminist ideals is the only way to get through a night of TV without becoming totally livid or discouraged.” As of press time, Jenkins’ sense of relaxation and contentment had been entirely undone by the first 30 seconds of 2 Broke Girls.
posted by Etrigan at 5:41 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


I like SYTTD, but I can't binge-watch it, because more than an episode or two at a time will make you sick. The extravagent spending (most by people who probably should not be spending multiple thousands on a dress)! The myriad ways families are nasty to each other! The narrative shaming when a woman dares to "leave the salon empty-handed". To quote Falsettos, I like the ball-gowns but Jesus Christ.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:43 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


I think it's overstating the argument of the AV Club article to say that it argues that the show is feminist; the article says it's "near feminism." To the extent that the show counters the "bridezilla" trope, I think the article is right. Treating women's desire to have their weddings be what they want them to be as legitimate rather than crazy, vain, or unreasonable is something approaching a feminist act in a culture that typically treats those desires as tantrums. Are there better feminist acts out there? Of course, but I think the limited point the article makes its valid.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 5:43 AM on May 17 [13 favorites]


To the extent that the show counters the "bridezilla" trope, I think the article is right. Treating women's desire to have their weddings be what they want them to be as legitimate rather than crazy, vain, or unreasonable is something approaching a feminist act in a culture that typically treats those desires as tantrums
I guess? But these particular desires don't emerge out of thin air. They're part of a culture that treats the wedding as the culmination of a woman's life. I grew up reading stories in which the wedding is the end, and after that there's only Happily Ever After. They're encouraged by an industry that has figured out how to make vast profits off of the idea of the fairy tale wedding and which puts tremendous pressure on women to have that kind of wedding, whether they can afford it or not. (A friend of mine is getting married a week from today, and she's had a really hard time resisting the pull of the fairy tale wedding, even though she and her fiance have no interest at all in it and can't afford it. Their families are invested in it and see anything less expensive as somehow a reflection on their investment in their relationship.) SYTTD takes place within that framework. It can't escape it, because people who are having more modest, alternative weddings aren't shopping at Kleinfelds. And I don't think that framework is feminist or near feminist or in any way feminist, even if it's not quite as antifeminist as demanding that women embrace the fairy tale and then condemning them for embracing it too much.

And I say this as someone who has watched and enjoyed SYTTD.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 6:09 AM on May 17 [17 favorites]


Say Yes To The Dress is a show that has a canny understanding of the predicament many women face—which is that choice, especially consumer choice, is often the best way to assert enfranchisement or empowerment.
Well, that's an upsetting and probably-very-accurate observation. At least, insofar as assertions of power are perceived by individuals.

For my money, that seemed to be the point of the article. It strikes me as a much more self-aware reading of this New Yorker Post on Sex and the City.
posted by graphnerd at 6:13 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


A friend of mine is getting married a week from today, and she's had a really hard time resisting the pull of the fairy tale wedding, even though she and her fiance have no interest at all in it and can't afford it. Their families are invested in it and see anything less expensive as somehow a reflection on their investment in their relationship.

I had an unpleasant moment after my brother's wedding; my sister-in-law's family is pretty well-off, and they had a really lovely wedding. Mom and I were on the phone discussing it after the fact, and talking about how great it was.

And then she suddenly said that she hoped I understood that she and Dad wouldn't really be able to give ME a wedding like that because it was more than they could afford.

Now, at no time had I ever expressed to her the wish that I could have a wedding like that. Actually, at no time have I ever expressed any desire to my parents about the nature of a possible future wedding. But that really, really stung, because my mother was more worried about saving money than she was worried about even wanting to know what I might have wanted. And if she'd asked she'd have found that I wouldn't have wanted anything like that anyway, and that i've always considered the most important part of a wedding to be the choice of the groom; she'd have found out that I have always fantasized more about the marriage than the wedding anyway and don't even want the whole fancy-ass princess thing and may even go the route of asking my close friends with talents to consider it their "gift" to me if they tackle some of the various wedding arrangement things for free. (One of my best guy friends is a photographer, another cooks, another was nearly a priest and would rock as an officiant, etc....)

She was so caught up in the whole wedding complex thing that it was more important to her than my actual wishes, and that hurt.

She doesn't know that this was my reaction, but if I ever do find myself planning a wedding she and I are going to have a bit of a chat about that before we start, about how she maybe should take the time to find out what it is actually do want before she says "no" to it because hey, maybe she won't need to.

Sometimes I wish that they'd do a show about boho/DIY weddings to kind of offset things. Although, actually something that does offset things is this weird show that sometimes runs with SYTTD - "Four Weddings", where four brides attend each other's weddings and rate them and whoever wins gets an all-expenses paid honeymoon. Some of the weddings are modest, and sometimes they're still lovely and people remark on that; sometimes they're tacky which serves as a palate cleanser. But they also feature the actual wedding where you get to see each bride and groom and how happy they are and it's kind of an underscore that "yeah, you know, THIS is the real point right here."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 6:26 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Sometimes I wish that they'd do a show about boho/DIY weddings to kind of offset things.

Considering how many online craft- and DIY-related articles and blogs postings these days are linked to DIY-wedding Pinterest boards I expect this is already in the works on multiple fronts.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:01 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Sometimes I wish that they'd do a show about boho/DIY weddings to kind of offset things.

The DIY weddings I've seen are usually heavily unpaid-female-labor based. "My sister-in-law sewed all the bridesmaid dresses, and my college besties made all the food, and my aunt and mom spent hours making favors, and my brother-in-law picked out a couple songs on the Ipod." As far as feminism goes, I prefer a wedding-industrial-complex affair any day, where I don't have to feel guilty about partying with the guys instead of worrying about the little baskets of twigs on the tables.
posted by Ralston McTodd at 7:12 AM on May 17 [35 favorites]


It's not a show that I've ever watched and I can't imagine ever doing so. But I've had to go to a lot of weddings and by far the ones I've enjoyed the most were the simplest. Not DIY/crafty pseudo-simple, where as mentioned above it's free labor doing the flower arrangements instead of overpaying a caterer, but genuinely simple or unadorned. A big group of friends at a gazebo in a park, or in someone's back yard, is a wonderful celebration in a way that a fussy and elaborate affair never will be for me.

That's my personal aesthetics more than any prescriptive stance, but it definitely shapes my thoughts about, and interest in, the portrayals that focus on the consumption side of weddings. I know a lot of people who went into significant debt to pay for elaborate weddings, and to me that is flat out crazy. I don't think it's particularly feminist, either, in that the women in question end up materially worse off than if they had spent less, but I can see a path to the opposite conclusion as well.

One of the real strengths of capitalism is its adaptability, and one of the ways it does that is to convert all sorts of things into opportunities to consume (preferably lavishly). Feminism has largely been resistant to that process, but that dam may be breaching.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:22 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Sometimes I wish that they'd do a show about boho/DIY weddings to kind of offset things.

Considering how many online craft- and DIY-related articles and blogs postings these days are linked to DIY-wedding Pinterest boards I expect this is already in the works on multiple fronts.

Interestingly enough, my friend Ashley (who you might recognize as a consultant from some of the Atlanta seasons of SYTTD) has started her own company in North Georgia called Flower Child Weddings, which is almost exactly that: specializing in weddings with a lower-cost, naturalist, Etsy/DIY aesthetic.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:23 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


"Proto-feminist pioneers like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony could never have imagined that female empowerment would one day come in bar form."
This is brilliant.
posted by deathpanels at 7:25 AM on May 17 [8 favorites]


It's not a show that I've ever watched and I can't imagine ever doing so. But I've had to go to a lot of weddings and by far the ones I've enjoyed the most were the simplest. Not DIY/crafty pseudo-simple, where as mentioned above it's free labor doing the flower arrangements instead of overpaying a caterer, but genuinely simple or unadorned. A big group of friends at a gazebo in a park, or in someone's back yard, is a wonderful celebration in a way that a fussy and elaborate affair never will be for me.

I think this kind of statement is the type of thing that is being argued against, although from the opposite side; I had a fairly elaborate wedding, I guess, and I suppose we "overpaid a caterer" and it might have been "fussy and elaborate" but that's because it's the wedding my husband and I wanted. It was in a fancy church, sure, but it's the church I attended as a kid and where my parents got married and where my mother was ordained. We had the reception in my grandfather's club because it had a good space for dancing and a nice outdoor patio area and a bar and food and it was a space we liked and it was beautiful and practical and we didn't have to coordinate too much ourselves. Yeah, it was "elaborate" but it was also really meaningful to us and we were still surrounded by friends and family who loved us which was the most important part.

This kind of statement is something I see or hear a lot. Although I see how it's well-intentioned and trying to remove pressure instead of adding it, is still telling women what they should do and want in exactly the same way that people telling women they should want huge fancy weddings is doing, and I think things like that just serve to shame and confuse women by telling them they're wrong for wanting what everyone has told them they should want. I totally understand wanting to increase the number of options that are considered "acceptable" for weddings and to re-set the cultural narrative and make sure we're letting people do what they want, but statements like this are still prescribing how other people should live their lives and plan events that are important to them and telling people they're wrong for wanting a certain thing, even if it's done with the best of intentions.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:34 AM on May 17 [38 favorites]


As far as feminism goes, I prefer a wedding-industrial-complex affair any day, where I don't have to feel guilty about partying with the guys instead of worrying about the little baskets of twigs on the tables.

How are you getting "little baskets of twigs on the tables" from "my bestie who's a photographer has already said he'd do the pictures as a favor"? There's a difference between the twee DIY aesthetic and people who genuinely are doing things as a gift.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:50 AM on May 17


but statements like this are still prescribing how other people should live their lives and plan events that are important to them and telling people they're wrong for wanting a certain thing, even if it's done with the best of intentions.

The very first sentence of my next paragraph starts with "That's my personal aesthetics more than any prescriptive stance." Your aesthetics are different, you had a celebration you enjoyed, and that's fantastic. It's also orthogonal to the question of the relationship between a more consumptive wedding and feminism.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:51 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


And I know a lot of people who would be genuinely thrilled at the notion of "oh thank god I can actually do something for you rather than trying to shop for a gravy boat" or whatever.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:52 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


"It’s intersectionality with the lofty goal of selling dresses to any and every woman under the sun."

In other words, it isn't intersectionality. This article is bonkers.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:52 AM on May 17


The very first sentence of my next paragraph starts with "That's my personal aesthetics more than any prescriptive stance."

Sure, but using terms like "overpaying" and "fussy" are inherently judgmental; I'm not trying to attack your preferences and I agree that small/simple/whatever weddings are absolutely lovely as long as it's what the people getting married want, but I'm trying to convey that the statements you made and the language you used felt judgmental to me and that when you make those kinds of statements you are still putting pressure on people to conform to a certain type of celebration. Defending yourself with "that's my personal aesthetics more than any prescriptive stance" when you've used some judgmental terms feels like the equivalent of "just sayin'".
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:57 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


Traditionally, big fancy weddings were the father of the bride's way of showing off his elaborate wealth. Then it evolved into a meme virus so that the daughters bought in, so there's some analogy between the entrenched patriarchy and naming the equality movement "feminism" here.
posted by aydeejones at 8:04 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Which is not to say that big weddings are intrinsically bad though I'm biased against them, but it's back story to why so many are reactionary about them.
posted by aydeejones at 8:06 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Yeah, and I totally get that and see why it's problematic, I think it's just frustrating because it feels like yet another example of ways in which women are told to be a certain way (Be thin! Wax your bikini area! Have a big wedding! Wear makeup! Have big breasts!) and then when we do these things we're asked "why are you supporting the patriarchy like this?". There's just no way to win and it's super frustrating.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 8:15 AM on May 17 [26 favorites]


Every time I see wedding themed posts I breathe a small sigh of relief that in PA you can have an officiant free wedding and this allowed my wife and I to have a guerrilla marriage in this room

After the boat themed nightmare (there's no escape, you're on water!) that was my sister-in-laws wedding, we wanted the polar opposite.

Not to say that there's anything terrible about a big fancy wedding, but it certainly wasn't for us.
posted by Ferreous at 8:29 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Mostly, I avoid mainstream T.V. because it's pretty hateful to women across the board. But my twelve year old daughter and I watch this show together on occasion. We roll our eyes at the beginning of each segment when the dress budget is announced. Twenty minutes later, we're snuggling together with tears in our eyes over the bride whose mom died years earlier and is struggling with missing the bonding moment of dress shopping together, or the "dumpy, backwoods" dad who is crying because the dress he picked out was the one the bride ultimately loved, or for the bride whose body image is shamed by her own mom but buys the short dress anyways because empowerment, or because one feminine bride convinced her bride-to-be who hasn't worn a dress in twenty years to try a dress on...and she felt surprisingly beautiful in it. I come for the bling, I stay for the moments of sweet humanity. I don't know that I'd call this show feminist, I don't know that I'd call it anti, either. But I've surprised myself--a rather radical feminist--with how much I like watching an episode here and there and how positive it feels, even within a consumer narrative.
posted by weeyin at 8:32 AM on May 17 [10 favorites]


I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say the show is feminist, but it does have a fundamentally kind outlook toward a lot more women and kinds of women and kinds of families than a lot of other shows do.

And it is absolutely, positively, unmissably true that reality shows are approximately a century ahead of scripted television when it comes to diversity (including diversity of class and region, at which scripted TV is wretched), and they have been for years and years. TLC and HGTV were fixing up gay couples' (including gay parents') houses like it wasn't even a thing, years before broadcast scripted television even considered foregrounding that kind of relationship.

So I'm not sure I'd necessarily credit SYTTD for feminism, but everything that's said about how the consultants encourage women to make themselves happy and not to obsess over what they consider the flaws in their bodies is absolutely true. There's much to like on that show, whether I'd go quite as far as Sonia does or not.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 8:44 AM on May 17 [24 favorites]


I'm a feminist who comes from a family not into weddings (my parents have repeatedly told me that they'd pay me to elope) and I'll occasionally watch marathons of the show. Yes, the budgets are often insane. And I had no idea that people would bring, like, 7 people dress shopping with them.

But--and this is especially true with the plus size women (of which I am on) and the, er, trashier tastes (which I hope I'm not)--I really enjoy seeing the women treated with dignity and support by the consultants. I have to say, the Big Bliss spinoff was probably remarkable advertising for the stores, regardless of the women could really afford a dress like that or not. I can definitely see how plus size women, so used to being fat-shamed while shopping or simply told that there is nothing for them in a store, would suddenly feel like an $8,000 dress was worth it to be greeted with excitement and respect in a salon which promises to find them something they want that suits their body and style, whatever it is.
posted by TwoStride at 8:49 AM on May 17 [4 favorites]


My wife is a 70s era feminist and abhors most reality shows except for those forensic shows but heaven help us if she hits a marathon of SYttD because she is locked in for the duration. "Look at this, these bridesmaids are total bitches" "if my mother did that I'd be walking out the door" "oh that's the dress, pick that one, pick that one" and on it goes.
posted by Ber at 8:54 AM on May 17


After the boat themed nightmare (there's no escape, you're on water!)

Can't swim, huh?
posted by axiom at 8:58 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Not well enough in a full suit to get back to shore.
posted by Ferreous at 9:06 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


All you need to know about reality TV are the two words ''creative misrepresentation''.
With those words what you are watching has about as much truithiness as CSI.

Is it feminist? :/ I tend to think not. I think it's consumerist first, last and formost. I really disliked Djanjo Unchained, but as that movie hammers home, even the most vile of human beings will act civilized if enough money is offered.
posted by edgeways at 9:13 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


There's just no way to win and it's super frustrating.

With luck you will give up and discover accidental Buddhism.
posted by srboisvert at 9:14 AM on May 17


I caught an episode of the original flavor SYTTD a few years ago, and mostly I remember being amazed at the high-pressure sales techniques they were using -- it was like a car dealership or something. Maybe I caught an atypical episode?

The variation I will (sometimes) watch is SYTTD Bridesmaids, which is more interesting -- the conflicts between bridesmaids and the brides, the pressure the "Bridezilla" label places on people, the different types of female relationships featured. The different budgets between the bride and the bridesmaids. The pressures non-bridal party relatives can place. (And they talk about pretty dresses, but almost never about men. Hey, every episode passes the Bechdel Test, let's give them a cookie!)

Also I'm increasingly frustrated at seeing TV shows celebrated for crossing a low bar. I want to live in a world where TV shows don't get cookies for including POC, people with disabilities, people who are LGBT, etc., because I want to live in a world where that is the default, and it's exceptional to find a show with mostly white characters. But I guess I don't live in that world.

I also agree that the "low budget" Pinterest weddings people are having these days rely heavily on unpaid female labor. Sure, some friends and family are delighted to help, but maybe not everyone? There's a lot of social pressure around weddings. I'd rather see people making the choice to have non-Wedding Industrial Complex (WIC) weddings than see people replicating WIC weddings at a lower price point by having their family and friends put on all the work for free. Question the WIC, don't replicate it!
posted by pie ninja at 9:18 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


there are places in nevada, you don't even have to get out of your truck, and jesus witnesses the ceremony from your dashboard.
posted by bruce at 9:29 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


There's just no way to win and it's super frustrating.

I agree and wasn't intending to contribute to that frustration.

But at the same time, making the commodification more inclusive does not make it less problematic. The answer, however, isn't to increase the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" pressure on individual women, and it's easy to have criticisms default to that path.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:33 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


And I know a lot of people who would be genuinely thrilled at the notion of "oh thank god I can actually do something for you rather than trying to shop for a gravy boat" or whatever.

Yeah, but then all too often their ideas don't line up with your ideas, and you can't just say "no, do it my way instead" because it's a gift and it would be bratty to respond with anything that looks like you're questioning the gift-giver's taste or professional judgement. I speak as someone who had a professional wedding photographer relative generously offer to do the photography for free as his gift - trust me, a gravy boat would have been easier.
posted by Catseye at 10:01 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Thanks, Dip Flash; I may have gotten a little defensive. I totally see your point and I really appreciate you saying that.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 10:02 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


I've found Sonia Saraiya's perspective in her AV Club reviews has been getting much more towards, 'If I enjoy it there must be redeeming social value in this somewhere.' A show like SYTTD can't just be a manipulative but still enjoyable look at women choosing a wedding dress, it has to say something more positive because otherwise it's as if she can't be enjoying it, and since she does enjoy it, she'll struggle mightily to establish that value.

Which, sure, it's not a show I like and if she needs to write an article that struggles to cohere how her thoughts on the wedding-industrial complex butt up against the pleasure the show provides, I'll roll my eyes but it doesn't end up being any skin off my nose.

I don't like how her reviews seem to be increasingly of a quite different episode of a show than I watched, or when she reverses the above 'redeeming social value' sentiment to write articles about things to say that she didn't like it, but she can't have just disliked it because it didn't suit her tastes, it must have been because it was demeaning or socially destructive in some way. It's a tendency that seems to have increased even in just the last year of her writing for the AV Club, and it really reinforces for me the Metafilter Mod adage that saying something nice is rarely as bad as saying something negative.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:04 AM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Feminism hit mainstream TV long before this show. Probably when AV Club's editor was in jr. high.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:05 AM on May 17 [1 favorite]


Man, I love SYTTD. I've probably spent a whole week watching it (and its cheaper, more friendly cousin, I Found the Gown.) It did, however, convince me that the way to go was a preloved dress off of EBay, which came with a handy $5000 discount.

Though I ended up with two dresses, which caused a weird amount of tumult, even though I did it just so I could actually walk around the party. Whoops! This feminist also bought four pairs of shoes, just in case. No regrets.

I also agree that the "low budget" Pinterest weddings people are having these days rely heavily on unpaid female labor. Sure, some friends and family are delighted to help, but maybe not everyone?

Yeah, I actually felt kind of judged by some friends for having a quirky-but-catered-big-city wedding, in which the only DIY I was going to do ended up being half-assed and half-done by my MOH because I got second degree burns on my hand weeks before the wedding. And also because frankly: I suck at crafts. Scotch selection? All me. Flowers? Done by a highly paid professional so that we both supported a local business and also didn't end up dead from the pricks of a million floral wrap pins. I still ended up with basically a part-time job for a couple of months doing research, managing vendor contracts, meetings, and contacts, and developing lists for various aspects, and I'm a little sad I can't disguise it and put it on my resume as event planning experience. Watching SYTTD is actually way more fun now because now I never have to plan another wedding ever.
posted by jetlagaddict at 10:13 AM on May 17


I think it would be more correct to say that the show reflects how feminism in the popular consciousness has changed the expectations a still-patriarchal society has for women. A show can depict something like feminism or its effects without actually being feminist.

SYTTD is pretty obviously not a "feminist" TV show. But in watching it, you can see how, over the last 50 years, patriarchal rites of passage like the wedding have adapted in the face of feminist social change.

The "it's my day" school of thought re weddings is a bizarre offshoot of second wave feminism. Sure. Probably. Why not.
posted by Sara C. at 10:19 AM on May 17 [5 favorites]


Yeah, but then all too often their ideas don't line up with your ideas, and you can't just say "no, do it my way instead" because it's a gift and it would be bratty to respond with anything that looks like you're questioning the gift-giver's taste or professional judgement. I speak as someone who had a professional wedding photographer relative generously offer to do the photography for free as his gift - trust me, a gravy boat would have been easier.

Ah, I see the disconnect - I actually genuinely have no "ideas" about any potential future wedding photos other than "make sure you don't get pictures of me with my mouth full or get me mid-sneeze or anything". I just want pictures, I don't want them with specific poses or anything dippy like that, I just want to be able to identify who people are.

Honestly, the only thing I've planned for my wedding is what song my father and I would dance to (I'm springing a joke on him because neither of us are "daddy's little girl" types and he'd love it if we made that a moment that was a laugh), and other than that I sincerely don't have any ideas. So anything that comes free or cheap would be right on the money.

Also, the bulk of the people who'd been offering stuff to me are guys anyway (male photographer, male potential-future-officiant) which blows the whole unpaid-female-labor thing out of the water too. :-)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 10:41 AM on May 17


I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say the show is feminist, but it does have a fundamentally kind outlook toward a lot more women and kinds of women and kinds of families than a lot of other shows do.

In many contexts,fundamental kindness is more important than "feminism". It's certainly not incompatible with it, and I think that gets lost, especially when the feminist narrative gets every bit as prescriptive as the patriarchal traditions it's trying to overcome.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:44 AM on May 17 [7 favorites]


I actually genuinely have no "ideas" about any potential future wedding photos

I think it's one thing if we're talking about a specialist skill like wedding photography. If you have a wedding photographer friend, and you like their work, and they give their services as an (extremely generous*) gift, great!

It's something else if we're talking about 20 handmade centerpieces, or 200 favors, or all those piddly little pieces of decor that are so popular as craft projects on Pinterest. Because chances are you don't already know someone who is a professional floral designer or prop maker or food stylist or scenic artist. You're enlisting grandma and cousin so and so and your sorority sisters, often for something that will literally not be noticed by a single guest. There's a lot of labor there, it's under-appreciated labor, and the effect is really not any simpler or humbler than the elaborate affairs it's meant to be an alternative to.

*What would be better would be to hire your wedding photographer friend, because it's a job, and that way your wedding is trickling paid work down to the creative people in your community. But sure, a photographer offers her services for free, why not?
posted by Sara C. at 10:53 AM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Let's just turn this into a confession thread: I have often appreciated SYTTD in the past and will hopefully continue to do so in the future!
posted by zscore at 11:10 AM on May 17


Ah, I see the disconnect - I actually genuinely have no "ideas" about any potential future wedding photos other than "make sure you don't get pictures of me with my mouth full or get me mid-sneeze or anything". I just want pictures, I don't want them with specific poses or anything dippy like that, I just want to be able to identify who people are.

Ha. Yeah. This was my attitude, too. It did not help.

Our photographer relative had very firm ideas. His wedding photography was specific poses, and it involved spending a lot of time - a lot of time, out of the middle of the day, when we were really hoping to spend that with all the guests - arranging everybody into formal line-ups. Except it wasn't everybody, it was everybody he considered relevant, which meant immediate family and bridesmaids etc. but not other guests. Any deviation from this - wandering round taking more candid photos, taking different line-ups including other people, being amenable to being tapped on the shoulder and asked to get a photo of Uncle So-and-so dancing with the kids because omg cute, was Not How He Did Things.

Likewise, I did not care about flowers, so long as they weren't huge formal fancy mega-expensive centrepieces that meant nobody could see across the table. So when my mother and best friend offered to choose the flowers, I said yes, great, thank you! And they chose... huge formal fancy mega-expensive centrepieces that meant nobody could see across the table, and then we all got ratty with each other because there is no tactful way to say "uh, that is not what I or my budget had in mind" to a kind and heartfelt gesture without it coming across as "your gift is not appreciated and btw your taste sucks."

And I did not care about seating arrangements, so long as everyone got to sit next to people they'd be happy sitting next to and there was not a big formal Top Table. So when friends offered to help with the seating plans, I said yes, thank you, great!, and... you can see where this is going.

It is easy to think that having plans and ideas about your wedding looks like, I don't know, wanting some big formal choreographed extravaganza, or some DIY planned-to-the-last-detail crafty themed experience, so as long as you're not one of Those Women you won't run into problems. That is what I thought - hey, I don't care about this stuff, I'm not into weddings, I just want to get married! I'm not one of those women! But looking back, I have a whoooooooole different approach to the intersection of feminism and weddings. I am not even convinced that those women exist at all in significant numbers - just a lot of totally normal not-really-that-fussy women who are tearing their hair out trying to keep everyone else happy while spending somewhere less than a fortune.
posted by Catseye at 11:38 AM on May 17 [21 favorites]


Unless, you're defining feminism as "spoiled, entitled rich girls with $35,000 to burn on an ironically white dress."

What's ironic about the dress's color?
posted by shakespeherian at 12:01 PM on May 17 [13 favorites]


I can't help but wonder, Catseye, how much you knew about your friends' taste beforehand? 'Cos I also am reasonably confident which among my friends I should not be offering such duties to so as to avoid such incidents. (Another one of my besties has also said the "i totally want to help you plan your wedding if you ever have one" thing, but I'm going to subtly dissuade her as she's a bit on the twee side.)

But we're already derailing this anyway and I don't even know when my next DATE is, so feh.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 12:02 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


What's ironic about the dress's color?

because these women are all clearly painted jezebels!

idk man im as confused as you
posted by elizardbits at 12:12 PM on May 17 [18 favorites]


You mean people haven't heard of the old fashioned rule that says that a bride can only wear white if she's a virgin? This is good. Good riddance to that nonsense.
posted by eye of newt at 12:34 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


So my sister had one of those DIY Crafty Weddings complete with semi Unpaid Labor and all, and it actually worked out pretty well for all of those involved.

1. She is SUPER ORGANISED. Like honestly the Most Organised Person I Know. She had this whole wedding planning thing down to a science; I'm surprised she doesn't make it a career. (Apparently trying to manage someone else's wedding would drive her nuts, but I'm not sure.) When we got to her place a couple of weeks before the wedding I saw an intricate colour-coded chart of the seating arrangements organised by how the guests knew the couple.

2. As EmpressCalliipygos notes, the friends that provided the unpaid-labor part were people she and her husband knew for ages, and so they already had a good sense of the desired aesthetic. The photographer usually did art photography, not weddings (he was a regular at Burning Man before he sadly died) but his style suited the couple and we got some great photos out of that. My sister and her husband are part of close-knit communities of swing dancers and jugglers, so some of them offered performances as gifts - free entertainment! About the only time this could have been more random was when they asked people to bring cakes in lieu of wedding presents, but it worked out really well - lots of yummy cakes from across flavours and borders and dietary restrictions.

3. They had pretty detailed and specific instructions for those of us helping with setup and decor. They had picked out all the decorations themselves - some of it were things they made or designed - and our job as helpers was to just put it together. Knowing what they wanted helped with mitigating potential mishaps: for example, I knew they had planned a rose-petal-confetti toss but because of the weather things had to move indoors earlier than expected. No matter! I picked up their rose-petal basket and distributed it all in time for their entrance. They were pretty surprised and didn't know how it happened so quickly until some people told them.

4. Whether it was things they paid for or things they got for free, they had a very definite sense of their aesthetic and planned accordingly. The food was their selection, the rings they made with a friend who does ringmaking, etc etc. The entire wedding was very them, including the support given by friends and family, and it was pretty obvious.
posted by divabat at 12:38 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


You mean people haven't heard of the old fashioned rule that says that a bride can only wear white if she's a virgin?

yes that is why it is hilarious and confusing

as surely no one in this thread is privy to that kind of personal information about these women and can only make assumptions based on their "spoiled and entitled" behavior
posted by elizardbits at 1:07 PM on May 17 [9 favorites]


Just yesterday I declined to watch an MSTK3000 episode with mefites because I was bingeing on SYTTD: Bridesmaids on Netflix. AND I AM NOT ASHAMED!

(my own bridesmaids wore whatever they wanted so it was a mishmash which would have horrified Lori from the Bridesmaid's show but whatever...)
posted by vespabelle at 1:52 PM on May 17


Coming this July from TLC: Say Yes to the Job!

Say Yes to the Job will feature women applying, interviewing for, and deciding between career-track and often executive-level positions in their chosen field. Watch as women agonize over their self-presentation, weigh the pros and cons of their myriad options, and question the new life that each job offers. Weep with joy as, at long last, the ladies each settle into their corner office, tenure-track research position, or editorial suite!

Say Yes to the Job will air on Thursday nights, between Tarted-Up Toddlers and Rumspringa Death Match.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 1:59 PM on May 17 [17 favorites]


I would watch the hell out of Rumspringa Death Match.
posted by TwoStride at 2:10 PM on May 17 [7 favorites]


All of this quibbling about DIY details is a total derail. The point, as perfectly stated the first time by Ralston McTodd, was this:

The DIY weddings I've seen are usually heavily unpaid-female-labor based.
posted by dialetheia at 2:29 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


You mean people haven't heard of the old fashioned rule that says that a bride can only wear white if she's a virgin?

Lumping in the 'irony' of a white dress with a bunch of other disparaging language is pretty blatant slut shaming, is all.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:43 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


So, one of my issues with the wedding-industrial complex, and especially these shows that rely heavily on the "it's her day" trope . . . what about the guys? The fancy wedding for her, as was mentioned, is a patriarchal throwback, proof of the worth of the bride expressed in what the father can offer. What about the joining of equals?
When my wife and I got married, we agreed early on that it was OUR day, and all of our decisions emerged from that (except when her parents said that it was happening in THEIR backyard, and so we had to have a real official present). SYTTD seems seems anti-feminist in that regard if none other . . .
posted by pt68 at 2:45 PM on May 17 [1 favorite]


All of this quibbling about DIY details is a total derail. The point, as perfectly stated the first time by Ralston McTodd, was this:

The DIY weddings I've seen are usually heavily unpaid-female-labor based.


Yes, that was one person's personal experience and there are at least two other people in this thread relaying positive experiences with friends offering to help and/or donate their talents. There are some tight-knit circles of friends and families that would see this as a positive, bonding experience even if you and yours would not.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:15 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


There are some tight-knit circles of friends and families that would see this as a positive, bonding experience even if you and yours would not.

That's getting a bit personal. I guess it means my family is insufficiently tight-knit, though, thanks for that. I just think it's worth pointing out that a model in which the bride's mom gets stuck doing dishes for free while everyone else parties is not necessarily the feminist solution it's been held out to be.
posted by dialetheia at 3:38 PM on May 17 [12 favorites]


That was not meant to be personal and I apologize for that; all I meant is that it might not be the particular way your friends and family would bond. What I was objecting to was the implication that the only way friends and family could help out would be under duress as unpaid female labor, as if asking for or accepting help from your friends and family could not be a positive experience.
posted by Room 641-A at 3:45 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


I hate weddings. I hate pretty much everything about them. I wish we could shift the gift-giving traditions around weddings to put them on more needy life moments, like moving out on your own for the first time, or starting a new job in another city, or something. Those are the kinds of points in life when you actually needed a new toaster and a set of dishes.

I can't get behind the idea of buying a dress you only intend to wear once, no matter how much it costs.

Say Yes to the Dress is easy to binge-watch, but I've never considered it feminist in any way. In spite of the article, I still don't.
posted by Hildegarde at 3:50 PM on May 17 [4 favorites]


Yeah I would want to get married in comfy pajamas that I can continue wearing for many years.
posted by elizardbits at 3:58 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


Hmm. I mentioned that my friend is getting married next week, and she's doing a modest wedding. I wouldn't totally deny that there's some unpaid-labor-of-female-friends involved. Her friends (but not his) are bringing desserts. I'm honestly fine with making a dessert, though. I like making desserts. We have a couple of friends who don't like to cook, and they aren't bringing anything. But mostly they're not having their friends pitch in. They're just not doing certain things that the bridal magazines would tell you were required. They're not having flowers, aside from the bride and her attendant's bouquets. They're not serving alcohol at the reception. They're having the reception at a really low-key, inexpensive venue. It's going to be more like the weddings that our parents had than the weddings that the media these days tells you you're supposed to have. And it's sort of weird how much the expectations have ratcheted up in just a generation. In 1966, my mom went to the department store and bought a cute white minidress off the rack. Can you imagine doing that today?
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 4:06 PM on May 17


Say Yes to the Job will air on Thursday nights, between Tarted-Up Toddlers and Rumspringa Death Match.

I was actually almost convinced that "Say Yes To The Job" was gonna be a real thing.

Although before letting this derail go - a roommate and I once cooked up the idea for a reality cooking show, where a different family would participate each week and the chef would break in at some point while they weren't home - the family wouldn't know exactly when - and would have to prepare a full dinner for them using only whatever ingredients were in the house at that exact moment, and they had have finished preparing everything and would have to be gone by the time the family got home. I think we called it "Ninja Chef." And I don't know about you, but I'd watch the HELL out of that.

In 1966, my mom went to the department store and bought a cute white minidress off the rack. Can you imagine doing that today?

That's actually precisely what i'm contemplating. (Okay, maybe not a minidress, but something really super-simple and possibly just off a rack because seriously it is just a dress.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:28 PM on May 17 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah, something I didn't mention about my sister's wedding was that she didn't force anyone to help out for free - some people offered help with what they can, especially since they (sister, husband, friends) are not particularly well-off. Some of it was probably "hey can you help with X because we like your style" but I don't think they'd be deliberately exploiting their friends.

and dude, I would totally sign up for Say Yes To The Job.
posted by divabat at 6:46 PM on May 17


EmpressCallipygos, wasn't that basically the premise of Door Knock Dinners?
posted by The Gooch at 6:55 PM on May 17


Sort of, only with the added " don't let the family catch me" element.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:19 PM on May 17


My wedding is going to be super fancy and I'm going to wear a million dollar dress and there'll be chocolate colored pretzels and horseback rides and balloon animals and a bounce house for adults and Lional Ritchie will be officiating and I'm making my list right now based on this thread to see which Mefites will be invited (not Thorzdad).
posted by discopolo at 8:18 PM on May 17 [6 favorites]


My wedding is going to be super fancy and I'm going to wear a million dollar dress and there'll be chocolate colored pretzels and horseback rides and balloon animals and a bounce house for adults and Lional Ritchie will be officiating...

Omigod, you just reminded me of the only other thing I've ever thought about wedding planning - at my best friend's wedding she blew off the rice toss, and a bunch of us were discussing alternatives to rice and a passing kid suggested "Nerf balls," and ever since I've kind of wanted to use that idea.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:54 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


the old fashioned rule that says that a bride can only wear white if she's a virgin? This is good. Good riddance to that nonsense.

I'm pretty sure that if this was still a thing, they wouldn't make wedding dresses in white anymore.
posted by Sara C. at 9:26 PM on May 17


Thanks, guys. Now I've watched 10 episodes of "Say Yes to the Dress." Ostensibly, it was to follow up on this discussion, but in reality? It was just so....positive. Consumerist! But postive.

I watched the Atlanta version, per peoples' recommendation, and it was super sweet. The dresses were between $1500-5000, the drama was relatively mild, and there were just...moments. Like the woman whose only wedding day requirement was that she wear her grandfather's watch, and the lady who really wanted to pick out a dress that her two new stepdaughters would like. Oh! And the the woman who couldn't afford the dress she loved, so her friends chipped in. And of course, every moment where a family member saw the bride in the dress and teared up, contrasted with every bride who said something adorable about a family member that had passed away and couldn't make it to the wedding.

*dabs eyes.*
posted by redsparkler at 9:49 PM on May 17 [2 favorites]


Historically wedding dresses are white because it is an impractical color for a dress , not because of virginity: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/White_wedding


Royal brides before Victoria did not typically wear white, instead choosing "heavy brocaded gowns embroidered with white and silver thread," with red being a particularly popular colour in Western Europe more generally.[1] European and American brides had been wearing a plethora of colours, including blue, yellow, and practical colours like black, brown, or gray. As accounts of Victoria's wedding spread across the Atlantic and throughout Europe elites followed her lead. Because of the limitations of laundering techniques, white dresses provided an opportunity for conspicuous consumption.
posted by discopolo at 1:20 AM on May 18 [3 favorites]


Discopolo, we had a pinata and face painting at our wedding, so I would totally go to a wedding with a bounce house (as long as it wasn't just for the kids! and it was also, safely staked down and not in a high wind area.)

I'll memail you my address.
posted by vespabelle at 8:52 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


My boyfriend and I love watching this show almost specifically so we can root for the bride's taste. Which usually ends up winning the day! Sure, it's probably an effective sales technique to make sure the bride is happy and focused, but for many brides (who are not blessed with super supportive friends and family) it's probably one of the only pieces of truly positive reinforcement and recognition in the whole wedding planning shenanigans. The saleswomen also seem like genuinely kind, charming people besides, so it's hard to be 100% cynical when they use their charms to make sales. There is a little haterade in the situations where a bride's mom is all YOU'RE GOING TO WEAR THAT or something where we can get our "betch plz" on, but on the whole it is a really heartwarming show and even though we are 24/7 snark machines at times we even feel ABASHED when we prematurely make fun of something that turns out to be sweet and touching. Yes, friends... SYTTD has made us better people.
posted by stoneandstar at 11:39 AM on May 18 [1 favorite]


So I kind of maybe mainlined the first two seasons of this on Netflix yesterday (IN THE BACKGROUND WHILE I DID OTHER STUFF I SWEAR) and I'm now at the point where I keep recognizing this one particular hideous $11K dress. Every time one of the brides is all ITS SO DIFFERENT AND SPECIAL, I think "No, it's not, some other chick was wearing that piece of shit sample dress like 20 minutes ago. You are not unique. Nothing about your wedding is quirky or different. You're at Kleinfelds for crissakes. And that dress is the worst." And then their mother cries tears of joy and they buy it.

I am also thinking a lot about how many of these brides are divorced now.
posted by Sara C. at 2:44 PM on May 18 [1 favorite]


But, just to clarify, brides who don't end up with The Hideous Special Snowflake Dress are fine in my book. I just like to imagine that one particular godawful piece of shit is cursed.
posted by Sara C. at 2:46 PM on May 18


Pnina! Everyone wants a Pnina dress, which are like $35,000 and garish as can be. But I'm sure the Pnina-loving brides would think my taste in clothes was terrible, so I'm not going to judge.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 2:54 PM on May 18


I think "No, it's not, some other chick was wearing that piece of shit sample dress like 20 minutes ago. You are not unique. Nothing about your wedding is quirky or different. You're at Kleinfelds for crissakes. And that dress is the worst."

You sound fun!
posted by stoneandstar at 3:42 PM on May 18 [4 favorites]


The thing I find fascinating is that, for the most part, all of the brides dress very similarly in terms of their street clothes style. In two seasons, I've seen maybe two women featured who seemed particularly stylish. Neither of them went with garish dresses (though one of them wasn't something I would personally pick).

The women who want to look like a ship's masthead/beautiful dessert and the women who want to look like... whatever one looks like in that Hideous Special Snowflake Dress... all mostly seem really ordinary in their choice of street clothes. They're all sort of wearing the NYC bourgie uniform of 2007-2008.

My takeaway from the show is mostly that the market for a Kleinfeld Wedding is conservative in outlook, in general. I doubt I would notice any of them on the street, and I doubt they would want to be noticed on any other day. Which is why that outrageous dress fascinates me so much.

I should go watch the Atlanta one now to see what the brides are like. Who wants what kind of wedding dress (and why, and why it matters, and how you can even tell the difference) is fascinating to me from an anthropological standpoint.

My favorite episode so far was the one where this girl goes to try on dresses with her sister and a friend, who seem vaguely hipster-leaning, and they obviously do not give a shit at all. Whereas the bride has bought into the idea that the dress is really important. The saleswomen really have her back, and despite being a hipster who doesn't give a shit about wedding dresses, I felt like the sister and friend were being total shits. If anyone ever takes me wedding dress shopping, I'm going to make sure to get as into it as humanly possible and really emote a lot. Because the casual disdain thing sucks.
posted by Sara C. at 3:44 PM on May 18


Pnina! Everyone wants a Pnina dress, which are like $35,000 and garish as can be.

They are they are! Some have see-through bodices, for goodness's sake. It's definitely a look.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:30 PM on May 18


Sara C: I think "No, it's not, some other chick was wearing that piece of shit sample dress like 20 minutes ago. You are not unique. Nothing about your wedding is quirky or different. You're at Kleinfelds for crissakes. And that dress is the worst."

stoneandstar: You sound fun!

She does! If you can't say something good about someone, sit right here by me.
posted by gingerest at 6:02 PM on May 18 [2 favorites]


It's really just that one dress, to be honest.
posted by Sara C. at 6:08 PM on May 18


I want all those head & shoulder jewels the Pnina model has.
posted by divabat at 6:55 PM on May 18


My cousin had a bouncy castle at her wedding, for real. She was jumping around in it for a good half hour in her gown. She's awesome.

I would never buy one, but I like looking at the Pnina Tornai gowns. Then again, I also absolutely love crazy fashion shenanigans, like when high-end designers send their models down the runway in giants mittens and with head-dresses that are one-fourth their body-weight. Understated good taste has a very low entertainment value.
posted by LindsayIrene at 6:58 PM on May 18


And if I had found this earlier, I would have included it in the post: Here Come the Brides, the V&A museum blog on wedding dresses. Historical to present day fashion and textile HEAVEN.
posted by viggorlijah at 7:27 PM on May 22 [1 favorite]


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