Over the last few decades, there has been a seismic shift in the way society perceives “traditional” gender roles. Once expected to solely land a man and start a family, women are choosing to get married later in life in order to focus on their education and career. Last year, the average age of a bride was 31 years old.
Yet, while women these days are way too busy to sit around all day fantasizing about their dream wedding, the industry continues to focus on females because when it comes to heterosexual couples, wedding planning is still widely believed to be a woman’s job (hello Bridezilla!). In addition, wedding planning is a field closely associated with femininity. Even in films, planners are almost always female characters (The Wedding Planner, Bride Wars) or if it is a man, he must be gay (Father of the Bride).
“The wedding industry’s appeal to outdated name-change practices, not to mention notions of ‘tying the knot,’ confirms how out of touch they are,” Chrys Ingraham, a professor and chair of sociology at SUNY Purchase, told The New York Times in 2019.
And women are taking notice. Many have complained that the wedding planning social media accounts they follow solely post about what the bride needs for the event—the gorgeous gown, hair, and makeup—while planning sites send frequent reminders about what the bride should be doing to prepare for the big day.
So what can the industry do to change?
Toss away the idea of “the bride’s day”
Yes, guests love that moment when the bride walks down the aisle, and all eyes are definitely on her. But the notion that a wedding is all about the bride is dated—and wrong, says Becky Kerr of Becky Kerr Photography. “In fact, it’s not even just for the couple; it’s for their wider family and friends too, and that responsibility shouldn’t all fall on one person.” It also assumes that all couples have a female-identifying person and a male-identifying person. It's all based on heterosexual and cisgender assumptions and excludes LGBTQIA+ communities.
With that in mind, both partners need to step up and do their part in the planning process. Couples can either divvy up the smaller responsibilities, while completing all of the important tasks—choosing a venue, coming up with the menu, hiring the band, etc.—as a team. And planners should absolutely encourage couples to work together to create their dream day. When scheduling visits or calls with clients, make sure it is a time that is convenient for both, and be sure to cc both partners on all emails and correspondence.
Don’t make assumptions
Planners can help break down gender roles by asking questions of each couple instead of making stereotypical assumptions. For example, don’t assume that the bride will be taking the groom’s last name, or that the groom won’t be interested in certain aspects of wedding planning like the floral design or choosing invites.
Change your wording
Many wedding planning sites have taken the step to be more gender-neutral with wording, which means throwing away the word “bridal” when appropriate. Instead of bridal party, bridal attire, bridal suite (you get the idea), change it to the more inclusive wedding party, attire, suite, etc.
Create new traditions
If you have a couple interested in tossing away the conventional gender roles, help them come up with some new traditions. Both can walk down the aisle with their parents, so it’s not just the bride being “given away” by her father. In addition, allow anyone to participate in the bouquet toss, do away with opposite-sex pairings in the wedding party, and plan couples’ showers instead of just one for the bride.
And as Kathryn McDavid, the CEO of Editor's Pick, a beauty and wellness eCommerce company, pointed out “the path to change starts with acknowledgment. As a society, we have to ask the question, ‘what drives us to associate weddings with femininity?’” Once that question is brought to light, the topic can be further broken down.”
Hero photo courtesy of Captured by Martina