A guest post by Sarah Graham talking about the Facebook ads which have appeared against her account since she changed her relationship status to ‘engaged’.

A subvertised media photograph of a woman dressed as a bride, with a sad clown's mouth and tears drawn on in red pen This is a guest post by Sarah Graham, who can be found on Twitter @SarahGraham7.

I’ve long had a love-hate relationship with Facebook but when my boyfriend and I got engaged in April it was a very easy way to let all our friends and relatives know with one simple click.

As feminists we’d already discussed all the patriarchal implications of marriage, so I was prepared to deal with our parents’ expectations and I’d already planned out some of the conversations, like why I’m keeping my name and won’t be “given away”.

The one thing I, perhaps naively, didn’t expect was the barrage of targeted ads Facebook started throwing at me – daily attacks to chip away at my self-esteem, remind me of my inadequacies as a “proper” traditional bride, and indoctrinate me into the pervasive wedding industry rhetoric of “THE HAPPIEST DAY OF YOUR LIFE!”

So, how do these ads propose that I prepare myself to be the “Ideal Bride” on the so-called “Happiest Day Of My Life”?

The Wedding Day Diet

The first advert that really irritated me was for a wedding diet, advertised by a dieting brand known for their “meal replacement” products. As a keen foodie, there’s no way the “Happiest Day Of My Life” is going to be preceded by months of hunger and pretend “replacement” food. If anything, it would probably only result in the grumpiest day of my life. The advert almost had the desired effect though – I came home and cried in front of the mirror about the weight I’ve put on over the course of my final year at uni (affectionately known as my Finals Belly) and the state of my exam-stressed skin. And to add insult to injury, the day I saw this advert my fianc√© was sent one about wedding cakes!

Being a Princess

A recurring theme in the language of these self-esteem attacking adverts is the insistence on the words “Princess” and “Diva”, which I’m convinced are just nicer ways of saying “Bridezilla” while shoving the “Fairy Tale Wedding” propaganda down your throat. It’s your perfect day, they remind you. You can have everything you want, and you must look perfect, because you’re a princess! But will guests actually judge me an inferior bride if I don’t have a sparkly enough tiara? The whole “fairy tale” image pedalled by the wedding industry is unrealistic and expensive; it’s oozing with consumerism and lazy, heteronormative gender stereotypes, and it’s the reason I’ve already had to disillusion my younger sisters of their fantasy about me arriving in a horse-drawn carriage!

Wedding Day ESSENTIALS

I’ve been blown away by the enormous number of apparent essentials that previously hadn’t even crossed my mind. It seems there are loads of things I “need” in order to make my day the “perfect day”, and me the “perfect bride”. A chocolate fountain, for example – what wedding is really complete without one? When I was a child my mum used to say, “do you really need it, or do you just want it?” The wedding universe could take lessons from my mum, because there’s no way in hell that a wedding needs a chocolate fountain, or those colourful little paper cranes that are all over Pinterest, or wedding souvenir keyrings. And what exactly is the point of chair covers?

Within about a week of getting engaged, I’d complained so much about these adverts that several different friends had recommended AdBlock, which is now saving me lots of stress. But I’d also seen how quickly the bullying of the wedding industry can start to get under your skin and convince you that, if you’re not conforming to their patriarchal, capitalist notion of a wedding, you’re somehow failing at womanhood.

It’s all bullshit, of course – cunningly designed to make women spend thousands of pounds on achieving “perfection” in the form of decorative birdcages, fad diets, and designer shoes. It’s all very shiny and alluring, like a big theatrical performance of femininity, but there’s also something very impersonal about having these choices dictated by a constant stream of Facebook ads. I can totally see why so many brides-to-be get sucked in, but I’ll be giving the hungry Princess bride routine a miss and getting married on my own terms.

[The image is a subvertised media photograph of a woman dressed as a bride, with a sad clown’s mouth and tears drawn on in red pen. It is called Bridezilla, it was taken by Shallom Johnson and is used under a Creative Commons Licence]