A regular woman became a princess the other day. The wedding became, as expected, the biggest televised event of the year, not just in the UK, where it occurred, but the world over. We all love a wedding, and when it combines itself with a Cinderella story, we love it even more. Of course, Meghan Markle was far from the mistreated young girl who had her moment of glory when a fairy godmother came along to turn pumpkins into chariots and mice into footmen. She was a successful actor, with a thriving career that she chose to put on ice in order to become the bride of a prince. She was raised by a strong mother, one who sat in her chair through the ceremony, uncaring that her emotions were spilling out of her eyes, and that the cameras were zooming in. The ceremony and the sermon saw an unprecedented 40,000 tweets being sent out per minute while it was on. If there was a global spectacle that made a million hearts sigh, this was it.
An American girl of mixed race, a girl with a career, had actually met, fallen in love with and married Prince Charming. Fairy tales do come true. There is a Prince Charming, and the fairytale wedding perhaps isn’t that much of a dream away.
But for all that we swoon over the royal wedding, there is a rider. A fairytale wedding is but a precursor to the rough and tumble of marriage, in its raw gritty mess of love and tears, and umpteen adjustments. And this grittiness is far from the pomp and splendour that wedding ceremonies and the celebratory functions that follow would have us believe. The happily ever after is not something that begins when the I dos are said and the rounds taken around the holy fire. The happily ever after is a happily right now that has to be worked on day after day, minute after minute in a marriage. But this isn’t a part of the convenient romantic trope that gets the eyeballs, the spectacle of the grand ceremony is what does.
A fairytale wedding is but a precursor to the rough and tumble of marriage, in its raw gritty mess of love and tears, and umpteen adjustments.
The popular narrative continues to feed off the fairytale wedding from time immemorial when all the stories for little girls ended with her walking down the aisle to her Prince Charming. So when you do have a right royal wedding, what does the average audience do? End up being completely besotted by the ethereal vision of perfection that is presented to them.
The emphasis on the fairytale wedding is one of the reasons we have, what are impolitely called the bridezillas, namely women who are so fixated with their version of the perfect wedding that they become quite unbearable in the run up to it. Some women even begin the planning of their wedding, with picture boards and venue research long before they’ve even decided who they’re planning to get married to. The entire build up for them, is the wedding ceremony, and the perfection they will create with the outfits, the decor, the music, the setting. The wedding is Instagram perfect, as it must be in this, the age of social media. Whether the marriage will be Instagram perfect as well, is anyone’s guess.
The entire build up for them, is the wedding ceremony, and the perfection they will create with the outfits, the decor, the music, the setting. The wedding is Instagram perfect, as it must be in this, the age of social media. Whether the marriage will be Instagram perfect as well, is anyone’s guess.
The aftermath of a wedding can come as quite a letdown and a crash to the euphoria that gets built, in the lead up to it. The saving up for the fairytale wedding, the insanely expensive lehenga that will be worn perhaps once in a lifetime, and then be consigned to mothballs for the rest of its existence, or perhaps repurposed many years later when one looks at it and knows that even if one shoehorns oneself into it, it would be impossible to wear. Then there is the exquisite decor that will be so much trash the next day, the floral arrangements that will be beautiful for that day and wither as the night draws to a close, thrown out into the garbage the next day, debris that is perhaps indicative of how temporary everything is, the pomp and the celebrations. Then there is the documentation of the celebrations beginning with the pre-wedding photo session, the videos, the hashtags, the Instagram stories, and drone cameras swooping over the lavish receptions to capture candid shots of the guests.
Never has it been as incumbent upon one to have the picture perfect wedding. For all that we lean in as professional women, we have a fashion designer somewhere declaring that the wedding dress is “the most important dress of a woman’s life,” reducing everything we do in our lives as mere run ups to the hallowed altar of holy matrimony, and gendered role play.
The fairytale wedding, we must tell our girls, is not the marriage. The marriage will be far removed from a fairy tale. There will be love, if you’re lucky, faithfulness if you’re lucky, mutual respect, also if you’re lucky. There will also be spats, outright arguments, cold wars so unfreezing that a trip to the Antarctic would seem like a relief.
Let’s not focus on the fairytale weddings, but perhaps the fairytale endings. Let’s celebrate them too. Slogging out the everyday, struggling to hold the marriage together through the ennui of the day to day, the stressors of raising small children, the money fights, the egos raising their bristly selves, the tiredness, the moments that make you wonder if it was worth it all, the other moments when you wouldn’t trade what you have for anything in the world, the sticking together through illness and health, poverty and wealth, the misunderstandings, the disagreements, the arguments, the love, all that goes into a marriage is what you will never see on a Pinterest board. Because that is no fairytale. And at the end of the day, for all we kid ourselves, we’re no princesses. And the happily ever after we seek will always be just that little bit further down the horizon of the right now.
Kiran Manral is Ideas Editor at SheThePeople.TV