Ladies (and Gentlemen), Can We Finally Retire the Term "Bridezilla"?

Yes, it's easy to let what we'll just call "the b-word" slip out. But there's no time like the present to change that

Updated 03/08/17

Getty Images

Brides, why are we still using the word "bridezilla" anyway? It's sexist, dated, and possibly a result of grooms not pulling their own weight.

In 1995, a writer for The Boston Globe named Diane White interviewed an etiquette columnist about the evolving faux pas of wedding planning. While the perils of cash bars (bad) and money trees (worse) were considered typical pitfalls of mid-'90s society, the worst of all was becoming the dreaded "bridezilla." According to White, wedding consultants often gave the name to "brides who are particularly difficult and obnoxious."

Likely little did White know, she had unleashed a monster.

One reality series, a formal introduction into Merriam-Webster, and a million headlines later, the term, albeit dated, still gets thrown around to great effect. Just the other day, I overheard an older man inform his companions that his son was marrying "a bridezilla" who (gasp) requested that their groomsmen's tuxedos match.

When tensions are high and perspective is lost, it's easy to let what we'll just call "the b-word" slip out. However, at a time when costs associated with the average wedding have reached a record high of $35,329, why are we still using this ugly, gendered trope to belittle women who are planning what is likely the most expensive, high-pressure, heavily documented event in their life?

There's no de facto excuse for all brides who behave badly. But we put "bridezilla" in the same sexist category as "she was crazy." It's vague enough to dismiss circumstance yet cartoonishly flippant enough to incite snickers.

So how do we eliminate it forever? For starters, we can stop using it ourselves. But if it were as easy as that, we'd have a lot less other ugly words in the world too. Instead, let's consider why we're so quick to box women into the category of matrimonial madness in the first place.

The Weight of the World

A 2008 study looked at heterosexual couples and their gendered roles within wedding planning. They determined that women often took on the brunt of planning because both parties had been conditioned to believe all women have been planning their big day since childhood. Thus, both partners often made the assumption that women were expertly equipped to plan a wedding at the drop of a hat.

And even in the Pinterest-happy world we live in, we know that's simply not true.

The reality caused some discontent between the couples in the study and likely causes the same frustration in any other woman who finds herself hemorrhaging tens of thousands of dollars in a single day. Worse, the study found some couples who believed that a woman has been envisioning her wedding since birth also considered the day "her day" and, therefore, her responsibility. (Cue spiraling into madness.)

The study loosely concludes that the choices we make while planning our weddings may "establish a foundation for a couple's gender careers," or, rather, determine our later hierarchy within a family. So what can we do about predetermined patriarchal inequality? Well, there's no time like the present to start delegating responsibilities to the groom and rejecting gender expectations.

The wedding-advice market for men has been booming since gay marriage was legalized, and straight men should take note. Remind them that a wedding is an equal-opportunity learning experience, not a secret blueprint for ceremony success passed through generations of women. Explain: "That feeling of panic? It's normal."

So why does "bridezilla" continue to linger among other women? Possibly because most "bridezilla" altercations are the result of miscommunication. With the wide circle of family, friends, wedding-party members, and vendors involved, it's not unlikely that at least one person will feel the burn and both outsiders and insiders are left to draw their own conclusions.

"The only time the term ['bridezilla'] might have been appropriate is when I've been treated like a personal assistant instead of a planner," said Jennifer Edmon, creative director of Something Blue, a high-end design and wedding firm in San Francisco. While Edmon says she rarely hears the word used these days, she thinks it's often a result of brides not being honest or straightforward about expectations.

"Don't leave anything up to assumption," she continued. "Be clear about your expectations and your needs—with both your vendors and your family. Even if it's your mom and you want her to be totally involved in the creative process, or you just want her to show up as a guest, lay it out there from the beginning. You'll build a better foundation."

Related Stories