Gender Equality and Marriage

With many placing blame on the rape victim in the Steubenville rape case I have thought about how women are viewed in our society and what traditional views guide the way women are perceived in various circumstances. I have also questioned how important women’s rights and gender equality are to me. What I realized is that, despite some baby steps toward progress, women are still unequal to men, both financially and socially.

By accepting Jesse’s proposal last November, I acknowledged that I was ready to get married and spend the rest of my life with him. Until recently, I had not given much thought to marriage in the context of gender equality. I now realize that this topic should be discussed by all couples who are considering getting married.

Same glasses

We believe in equality–even in eye wear!

A good friend of mine is a bridesmaid for one of her closest friends whose wedding is this summer. My friend has confided in me about her concerns about her friend. She has told me that her friend’s fiance is very controlling. This friend has to ask her fiance for permission to do practically anything. This couple already shares a bank account and this friend has, in so many words, told my friend that they probably will not see one another very much once she gets married.

I share this story because it is, in my opinion, an all too familiar case of a woman who is limiting her potential in order to be with a man. I will acknowledge that, in her view of reality, her relationship probably seems logical and she may not even feel like she is being controlled. (And, if she does, maybe she thinks that is how all relationships between a man and a woman are supposed to be.)

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How TLC uses social media to engage with wedding program viewers

With at least ten shows dedicated to weddings, TLC is one of basic cable’s most noteworthy providers of wedding-themed programming. Friday is officially “Bride Day” on TLC. Shows like Say Yes to the Dress (and its iterations, Say Yes to the Dress Atlanta and Say Yes to the Dress Bridesmaids), newcomer, Something Borrowed, Something New, and Four Weddings dominate the evening’s programming. Weekly programming is scattered with other wedding-themed shows including My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding, Randy to the Rescue, and I Found the Gown.

Below I explore how TLC is using social media to engage with viewers of Say Yes to the Dress (SYTTD).

Hashtags

In the last year or two networks have been eager to capitalize on hashtags (popularized by Twitter) as a promotional tool. Networks encourage viewers to use hashtags during programming by placing the show’s hastag somewhere on the screen. For example, TLC places the hashtags “#syttd” (Say Yes to the Dress) and “#fourweddings” in the upper-left hand corner of the screen while these programs are being broadcast. Below is an example of how some Twitter users used the SYTTD hashtag during and after the March 15th episode.

#syttd Twitter

Hashtags are a simple promotional tool. They enable viewers to identify and interact with one another and they have the potential to increase awareness of the program.

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“I promise to love and support”: Part 2

In my last post I discussed compromise in a relationship. I reflected on how challenging it can be to accept and support your significant other’s wants and needs if they conflict with your own. In this post I want to further reflect on the importance of support in a marriage.

I love the Practical Wedding blog because many of the posts address the difficulties couples encounter in a relationship and marriage. I think one of the biggest challenges I see myself dealing with is supporting Jesse when I am unhappy or not finding much success in my personal ventures (jobs, friendships, etc.). Already, I have spent a lot of time worrying and getting upset about moving with Jesse. Going to law school, Jesse will be embarking on this new, exciting journey that he’s been anticipating for years. Meanwhile, I am going to be searching for a job (not fun) and figuring out how to adjust to my new role as the sole financial supporter in our relationship (also not fun). Then there’s the stress that comes with adjusting to a new city and making new friends. And the cherry on top is not knowing how much time I am actually going to be able to spend with Jesse. Where is my silver lining in all of this?

Jesse and dolls

Support in a relationship comes in many different forms, including making one another laugh. Here, Jesse enthusiastically poses with some weird dolls at my house. (Summer 2011)

Support has been at the heart of a number of discussions on a Practical Wedding. The posts I’ve read on this topic have helped me look at my upcoming situation with a more positive outlook.

In “Reclaiming Wife: Making Your Own Luck,” Emily reflects on the importance of setting yourself up for success and how having a supportive spouse makes the journey into an uncertain future easier to confront.

The beginning of Emily’s story sounds a lot like my own:

“Before graduation, my post-college plans were incredibly vague. I was going to get like… a job….When getting married became the new plan, I embraced it.”

Despite having almost six years of higher education under my belt I don’t know where to begin my job search. Sure I have latched onto a job idea here and there, but none of my ideas spark my enthusiasm (most likely because I am not ready to grow up). I am more eager about marriage because it will provide me with stability in an otherwise uncertain future. This uncertainty is scary because I have always been a planner. These past few months have been difficult because I have had to accept that there are circumstances that are out of my control and cannot be planned for. Emily points out that

“…it’s okay to not have a plan. It’s easy to get discouraged if you set a goal for yourself and you’re not quite sure how to achieve it.”

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“I promise to love and support”: Part 1

Confronting adulthood is scary. But, what is even scarier is confronting adulthood when you are in a serious relationship. Approaching major life decisions together can challenge both your relationship and sanity.

Since I started dating Jesse, he made it clear that he would be going to law school after college. I remember lying on his dorm room bed in the fall of 2011, crying because I was so overwhelmed by the thought of having to leave my mom, and all the comforts of living at home, behind. I also felt like he was not considering the impact this decision would have on both me and our relationship. He did not seem to understand why I was so upset. He said, in so many words, “I don’t understand….You knew I was planning to go to law school.”

In this moment I felt helpless. I realized that, sometimes in a relationship, compromise, in its most equal form, is not possible.

Graduation day

My future lawyer! Graduation from the University of Mount Union, May 2012

While your love and respect for one another unites you, you are still two different people. Each person has their own unique life experiences and personal goals. This is what often causes friction in a relationship–when one person wants or needs something that is not conducive to the wants or needs of the other.

As blogger Liz states in her response to question posed by A Practical Wedding reader, if you are truly invested in the success of your relationship you realize that

“…you’re stuck considering someone else’s feelings every time you make a major decision. That same team that makes you capable of conquering the world, is the reason you need to call home before you set off to do it.”

In “Ask Team Practical: Sharing the Sh*t,” the aforementioned reader is concerned with how to “make it work” when a couple’s life goals do not seem to match. In this post, the reader feels that her husband is

“…generally more concerned about finding the perfect job and furthering his career. I’m generally more concerned about living in a place I like and having friends.”

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Wedding marketing: From the bridal show and beyond

Listen. I’ve got the bridal-show blues. I’ve had them for over a year now and I can’t seem to shake them.

My first bridal show was the Bertram Bridal Show at the Bertram Inn last January. I went with my mom and best friend/maid-of-honor, Allison. (Yes, I did go to a bridal show before becoming engaged. And yes, it was awkward.) We hopped from booth to booth. Each vendor was as excited as the one before about being a part of my special day. There were a multitude of raffle opportunities. (I became a pro at writing my name, email address, and phone number down on those little orange tickets.) Most vendors also offered special deals on their services (most with the stipulation that you had to book them that day or by a certain date in order to enjoy the deal).

Landerhaven Bridal Show

Me with two of my best friends, Alli and Shannon, at the Landerhaven Bridal Show 2013 (Jan. 6)

When I got home, plastic Bertram Inn bag filled with business cards, free samples, and brochures in hand, I felt both overwhelmed and disappointed. But mainly I was disappointed. While each vendor made you the center of attention and showed enthusiasm about your engagement it was clear that the objective was to persuade you to book their services. There was something forced and inauthentic about the conversations I had with each vendor. I did not really feel like I was making personal connections with these individuals.

Billions of dollars are spent on weddings each year which makes the wedding industry highly competitive. Instead of having the opportunity to form meaningful relationships with their clients, wedding vendors are forced to focus on the bottom line. On her “about” page on her blog Christine Boulton, wedding marketing analyst and consultant, says that

“the wedding industry today is overcrowded. In most categories, there seems to be more vendors than brides.”

A bride doesn’t have just three or four photographers to choose from in her area, she has oodles! With so many options, how can a wedding business be set apart from the competition while still making the bride feel like her happiness, not her pocketbook, is what matters most?

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You’re engaged. Now what?

After an engagement I think it is very easy to get overwhelmed by all the decisions you realize you will be making when planning your wedding, especially if you are going to be planning most of your wedding on your own. Where do you begin? How soon should you commit to a venue? Who should you invite? When do you ask your closest friends to be your bridesmaids? Should your wedding have a theme? Should your reception meal be buffet style or plated? There are an indefinite number of questions that arise when you realize that actual wedding planning is not as fun as pinning ideas to your “My Future Wedding” board on Pinterest.

Wedding Ideas Pinterest

With so much inspiration it can be difficult to know where to start

Since my engagement I have realized the importance of defining my own expectations of how I want my wedding to be. I reflected on this topic in my last post. This mindset has helped relieve a lot of my worries about planning a wedding. It can be difficult to find your own bridal voice when there are so many sources dictating what a wedding should look like. On page 3 of her book, “A Practical Wedding,” Meg Keene suggests that wedding magazines, among other resources, dictate the expectations of a modern bride.

“Every book or wedding magazine has lists—lists ordering that you immediately do this, lists forcefully suggesting that maybe you should start doing that, mile-long lists of activities that you to complete if you want to be a Proper Bride.”

Even though I have spent very little time reading wedding magazines or articles on wedding websites I have seen these lists and expectations Keene is referring to. In the months since my engagement my best friend, mother, and future mother-in-law have all purchased wedding magazines for me. I haven’t taken a serious look at the content because I am more interested in finding inspiration from the colors and images. However, I did mark “The list: Your wedding to-dos—And when to do them” in the December 2012 issue of Brides magazine. Included is a checklist of what to accomplish 12 months before your wedding, 10 months before, etc. For example, 8 months before your wedding you are supposed to: “Book the caterer, florist, band/DJ, ceremony music, and photographer; order your dress; block hotel rooms for out-of-town guests; and register your wedding” (p. 54).

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Wedding fever is worth the wait

Whether in a relationship or single, many young women find themselves getting carried away with thoughts about their future engagement and wedding. (In fact, some women claim to have dreamed about their wedding day since they were a child.) It is hard to avoid thinking about (and planning for) these momentous life experiences when pop culture emphasizes the importance of being in a relationship and getting married. With television shows like “Say Yes to the Dress” (and 90% of all of TLC’s programming) and David Tutera’s “My Fair Wedding” it is hard to resist catching wedding fever.

When Jesse and I started dating in late 2010 I knew that he was going to be my husband. After being friends for so long I was already familiar with some of his good qualities. Within months we were talking about our Future. (The big “F”-marriage and spending the rest of our lives supporting one another.)  In January 2012 I attended a bridal show at the Bertram Inn in Aurora even though I was not engaged at the time. I’m not going to lie, it was a little awkward to go around to each of the vendors and answer questions like “when did you get engaged?” (I’m not engaged yet but I will be soon) and “when is the wedding?” (We don’t have a date set yet since we are not technically engaged). I had caught wedding fever and I allowed myself to get wrapped up in the excitement of being a bride and preparing for a wedding.

I joined both Pinterest and theknot.com in early 2012. I spent hours pinning wedding ideas that inspired me, such as bouquets and “save the date” invitations. I visited the websites of various gown designers and pinned my dream dresses. I watched “Say Yes to the Dress” and enjoyed critiquing the gowns the women said “yes” to. After joining theknot.com I browsed their list of northeast Ohio vendors (photographers, reception sites, etc.) and searched for wedding up-dos that worked for women with bangs.

By summer my enthusiasm for wedding planning faded, especially since I had yet to be proposed to at that time. Eventually, I lost interest entirely and I began to develop more negative feelings about the getting engaged and planning a wedding. When my mom would approach me with certain wedding ideas I would tell her I didn’t care since I wasn’t even engaged. I refused to get sucked into the wedding culture.

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