The act of publicly claiming our intelligence and accomplishments is a gendered act. Whereas men are oftentimes rewarded for bold ideas, I've often found that women who celebrate their brash smarts and myriad accomplishments are subtly punished. We're somewhat less datable because we're "threatening." Women are "supposed to" be nurturing, supportive, coalition builders whereas popular concepts of masculinity celebrate strength, bold action, and individual initiative. Men are taught to intellectually strut. There's a reason that women still earn about 11 percent less than men with the equivalent experience and work histories, and much of it could be bound up with salary negotiations, or not knowing how to effectively demand our worth. Asking for raises is complicated because, at some level, we've been taught not to brag about how amazing we are, which is absolutely imperative in making our case for salary negotiations. But it's also complicated because women who negotiate are often perceived more unfavorably than those who continue being nurturing, supportive and agreeable about the status quo.
This is certainly a simplification of modern North American gender expectations. And I know a discussion of how women often downplay their accomplishments, salary negotiations, and gender isn't what you necessarily expect from a wedding blog, but bear with me here, because I think it's relevant to our weddings. It's relevant because the act of planning a wedding is culturally undervalued, in part because it's dismissed as "women's work" and in part because none of us are standing up and cheering for our wedding-related accomplishments. We've learned to keep quiet. And, much like with our temerity in salary negotiations, our accomplishments therefore remain undervalued.
Last week, Petite Chablis wrote about a recent job interview, in which was asked about her conference planning experience. She replied by describing her skills and her experience planning small workshops. When the interviewer asked her to describe anything she'd done on a larger scale, she immediately thought of her wedding. But she didn't immediately mention her wedding, because she was smart enough to know better. But then she was brave enough to actually stand behind her incredibly relevant accomplishments and take pride in her wedding planning experience:
"I immediately froze in horror. Oh. My. God. I just mentioned my WEDDING in a JOB INTERVIEW. I am so not getting this job. I could hear the skepticism in the interviewer’s voice. “So … you’re organized because you planned your wedding?”Well yes, of course these wedding planning lessons are helpful and relevant for a conference-related job, as anyone suffering through wedding planning can attest (and you should really go read the rest of Petite Chablis' post here, because she shares some very smart lessons-learned from her wedding.) We're all taking a crash course in event planning and learning first-hand why "event planner" is a professional category. But we're generally still too embarrassed - logically so, given how weddings and bridezillas are depicted in popular culture - to publicly take pride in our massive accomplishments here.
But I gamely soldiered on, explaining that the event had had almost 150 guests, that I’d made spreadsheets accounting for all RSVPs and meal choices and dietary restrictions, and that the caterer had called us the most organized couple she’d ever worked with.
If I had to take it back I’m not sure I’d mention the wedding again, based solely on the skepticism in the interviewer’s voice. But I got the job. And damn it, in retrospect I kind of resent that skepticism and I resent myself for thinking that my experience planning a 150-person event somehow didn’t “count” because it happened to be a wedding. The truth is, I’m now starting to plan an event for my job and the lessons I learned while wedding planning really are helpful."
Make no mistake, planning a wedding is a huge accomplishment. If I told you that I was coordinating a multi-day offsite event with catered meals, shuttle buses, out of town logistics, event design, a marketing campaign, entertainment, equipment rentals, and collateral materials for 150 people, all for well under $30,000, most people would be impressed... because it's impressive. And if I told them I was managing wildly competing event visions from various Event Advisory Committee members, someone would nod sagely and buy me a stiff drink. In fact, I've done this sort of work for 200-500 attendee corporate events on which I have actual staff support and boss feedback, so I know it's professionally impressive. But it's only impressive until I mention the word "wedding" and clarify that the "Event Advisory Committee" is comprised of us and our parents, at which point most people would dismiss me as a flighty spendthrift woman with tulle-for-brains.
While I understand the impulse to shove our wedding work under the proverbial rug, keeping quiet only further allows our culture to diminish these accomplishments. It further allows people to think that our momentary breakdowns about decor are proof that women are weak and can be broken by silly things like centerpieces, instead of looking deeper at the way this second job (ie planning a wedding) finally got to be too damn much and how escort cards can just be the final straw in a haystack of impossible expectations and undervalued efforts that finally broke my wedding planning back.
We should be bragging. We should be strutting. We should be taking pride in our weddings as massive accomplishments that speak to our creativity, our thriftiness, our prowess (or at least newfound experience) at diffusing tense family discussions, and our complex logistical know-how. Planning a wedding is huge, and not just because getting married is a huge emotional step and process. It's huge because planning a wedding itself is a huge responsibility, challenge and accomplishment. And I, for one, am tired of downplaying just how huge this is.
In the past few weeks, I checked off a major goal on my life list: my work was honored in print. And it didn't just happen once, it happened twice. In the first instance, I was interviewed by an industry trade journal. The article just came out and I read it over and over, marveling at how impressive my professional projects look in a news story. The journalist even wrote back to let me know how "quotable" I was and that she expanded the article to accommodate our conversation. In the second instance, I was contacted by Southern Weddings Magazine to tell me that they wrote about my blog in this month's issue: they included A Los Angeles Love on their list of "the best and brightest prospects in the blogging world." The listed me, ME!, in with Brooklyn Bride, Snippet & Ink, Merci New York, Non Pareil, and Utterly Engaged in their list of top blogs for the Modern Bride. My blog is in print, on the shiny glossy, beautifully printed pages of a stunningly curated national wedding magazine that is trying to re-imagine the visual inspiration and landscape of today's wedding magazines. In one case, my professional work is being publicly praised and, in the other case, my passion-project work is being publicly praised. In both cases, I am still a little bit in awe and feel the shock of my raw accomplishments laid bare, with no real ability to pretend they don't matter or to quickly talk past any reference. Because the references are there, for anyone to see, in print.
I started this blog because I wanted an outlet for my writing. I started this blog because my soul needed something more than the technical aspects of my job to keep me personally nourished and fulfilled. In my job, I am driven to create projects that will move the country from imported diesel and onto clean energy alternatives (really, that's my day job.) But in my life, I was driven create something with words that mattered on a personal level, and hence this blog was born, just as I was embarking on our wedding planning journey. And now I'm at a strange parallel point where both are getting publicly recognized. And I'm at the strange point where both are possibly "resume worthy." And yet, for a moment, I hesitated to include both on my updated resume. Like Petite Chablis, I know that weddings aren't culturally valued. But also like Petite Chablis, I'm going to be brave enough to claim this accomplishment. Because our weddings are accomplishments. And well-written blogs about weddings are accomplishments. And getting printed in Southern Weddings Magazine is a huge accomplishment.
I am ready to take pride in my wedding, and I hope you're ready to join me too. Because this process really is huge and we all truly deserve three hundred and five pats on the back. At least.