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Bridal Party: Disney's Got You! Or Does It?

screen shot from the Great Gatsby movie showing a couple dressed all in white walking on a roadGuess what! I'm about to go to a wedding. That's right! I don't just talk about weddings, I GO to them, too! Two awesome friends are about to get married in an adorable desert town outside of LA. These two friends have been together forever, and have already been through thick and thin, better and worse. They're one of those couples that you truly feel happy for when they decide to permanently pair off; the type of couple that you really DO want to celebrate. Furthermore, their attire theme is my favorite of all wedding attire themes: garden party/Great Gatsby. Why?

Because you can do ANYTHING with that theme. And it's an opportunity for well-done white linen suits, something that's very difficult to pull off in most other scenarios. Their attire theme is also perfectly suited to their individual personalities and their couple personality. Hurray!

That was a bit of a digression, but the point is that I've been thinking about what I'm going to wear to their wedding that fits within their theme, which has me thinking more broadly about theme weddings in general. Now, I love a good theme. For anything. Parties, Christmas morning, weddings, birthdays, vacations (I often pull together an outfit theme that I think complements my vacation locale), and everything in between.

Themes are an excellent way to incorporate some imagination and a little wonder into adult life, which is maybe a couple in wedding attire standing near a large sawwhy theme weddings have become a bit of "thing" in the last couple of decades, with people getting married on the ocean floor, while rock climbing, etc. I've had friends whose weddings followed the theme of their first date, or a particularly meaningful trip taken together. It's fun! But, more importantly, theme weddings are a great way to reflect something special about the couple—to aesthetically, visually, and atmospherically reinforce what makes a relationship unique. 

To clarify: Theme weddings are different from package weddings, which are like the psychologically predatory/Capitalism-to-the-max/factory system version of wedding planning.

And nobody does psychologically predatory Capitalism like Disney! (How's THAT for a segue?) 

Did you know that Disney does weddings? Of course you did, even if only intuitively. But it goes beyond a simple extravagant wedding at Disneyland, Disney World, or Epcot Center. Disney takes the whole "be a princess on your wedding day" thing all the way, having developed a comprehensive wedding industry around its fleet of princess characters. Pause and think about the far-reaching, complex implications of this. 

A still from the Disney movie Cinderella next to a photo of a couple in wedding attire mirroring the image
The Cinderella Gown, designed for women who want to emulate a woman who had a really rough childhood before getting rescued by a rich guy at a party.

AN EXTREMELY SIMPLIFIED FRAMEWORK:

  1. Girls are fed the princess story nearly from the time of birth: baby princess gowns in pink and purple, toddler princess costumes for Halloween or an eccentric trip to the grocery store, princess toys, castles, books. All of it. 
  2. Disney steps in around the age of 5 with princess movies (only recently have they begun depicting more self-sufficient female characters), and girls are fed "rags-to-riches" princess tales throughout childhood. They develop connections to Disney princesses, buy the products, make up imaginary games around the products, and so on. The emotional childhood connection is sealed.
  3. Girls get older and the princess theme continues with a bombardment of princess wedding day messages, courtesy of Dominant Culture—that old cad.
  4. Some girls become women, eventually some of those women then get married, and some of those women getting married want to be a princess on their wedding day. Disney is there once again to step in and let you fulfill the childhood princess dreams you co-developed with Disney and Dominant Culture by giving you a start-to-finish Disney princess wedding!
  5. Disney walks away with A LOT of money. Even MORE if you count all the money it made on a variety of childhoods.

Ariel from the Little Mermaid wearing a dress with the Alfred Angelo version right next to itFor example: Alfred Angelo designed a whole series of wedding gowns that take their inspiration from Disney's princesses. Priced in the lower thousands, the Disney Fairytale Bridal options "reflect the style and sensibility of Disney's iconic princesses fit for today's sophisticated bride in sizes 0 to 30W, at amazingly affordable prices." Excuse me! Excuse me, Alfred Angelo! A one-time-only dress for $2K is not the definition of "amazingly affordable." Words have actual meanings, Ange.

You know what's so ironic about the whole Disney princess thing? Nearly all of their princess stories are taken from fairy tales that can easily read as cautionary allegories. The Little Mermaid was originally a gruesome story written by Hans Christian Andersen, wherein the Little Mermaid sells her voice in exchange for a life of physical and emotional pain (the sea witch gives her legs—an excruciating process—as well as an ability to dance well, but warns her that she will experience stabbing pain everytime she uses them) so that she can be with the Prince she apparently fell in love with in the brief moment that she saved him from a shipwreck.

The Prince in the story is physically atttracted to the mute Little Mermaid, likes to see her dance, and so she silently dances for him despite the physical agony she feels. In the end, the Prince marries some other woman, the Little Mermaid falls into a deep depression, considers stabbing him to death, and instead throws herself back into the ocean where she dies. 

A statue of the Danish Little Mermaid, dead under the waves

LET'S GET MARRIED! YAY!

Of course, Disney cleaned it up so it could be another story of a girl being romantically rescued from a less appealing life by a rich guy she barely knows. Let's see... hijinks with awesome friends under the ocean, or a life of domesticity and foreign social graces with a man who is essentially a stranger? OBVIOUSLY NUMBER TWO! C'mon, Ariel. You're so personable! You could do ANYTHING!

It seems kind of twisted then, doesn't it? To get married in a package deal that thematically connects your relationship to a tragic tale of sacrifice, or even to a watered down version where the bride only achieves agency by "marrying up"? That's not romantic so much as it is deeply troubling. Deeply troubling AND expensive.

Even the Disney Weddings YouTube empire send the troubling and antiquated message that a woman's only truly fulfilling moments in life are marriage and birthing. 

ACK!

If you watch multiple videos you'll notice how infantilizing the whole shebang is, too.

So it's for these reasons that I'm forced to put Disney Weddings on notice. I'm sorry, Disney. I liked how you made Belle literate, and I've had some great times on your rides at Disneyland—in particular, the Indiana Jones ride crushes it every time—but I just don't think people should keep feeding you money to let them live out oppressive fantasies that perpetuate disturbingly sexist themes that I assume have nothing to do with the actual nature of their coupledom. 

Though, hit a girl up if you decide to create an amazingly affordable Disney Nemesis Weddings line. That would be kind of boss. The Disney nemesis witches are the most interesting of all the characters.

A still of Milicent from Sleeping Beauty

I'M MARRYING!!!!

A still of Ursula from the Little Mermaid

ARE YOU MARRYING???

Previously: Scooch Over, Gender Binary!, Surprise! Misogyny is Here!

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Comments

30 comments have been made. Post a comment.

make it count!

ARRRGGGGGHHHHHH! I am boycotting Disney at the moment because of this crap that they push on people. How insulting - a woman only gets two glows in her life. What if you don't want to get married and have kids. Are you shit out of luck? That 'make it count' idea has gotten so completely out of control that women put so much pressure on themselves to have the most perfect wedding they could possibly have that they don't really even enjoy it or care about the marriage. It's just about the most perfect wedding. They go into debt, they lose friends, they alienate people - all because of this pervasive pressure to 'make it count'. And Disney is right on board with that - I don't think people realize what they are telling their girls when they let them partake in this princess crap. When I got married, my sister-in-law said to her l5 year-old girl - 'look Auntie has found her prince and now she gets to be a princess'. I said to her 'no sweetie, I'm not a princess. I'm just a woman like anyone else and this white dress (that I paid $185 of the rack for) does not change that. Your uncle is not a prince, he's just someone I love and the two of us want to be a part of each other's families.' My sister-in-law didn't like that at all. She wants her daughters to believe in fairy tale fantasies. It's not good for them.

I had the same reaction to

I had the same reaction to the video! Also, why do those 51 seconds exist!?!? I was expecting it to at least introduce some kind of sales pitch for particular dresses. Baby glow and wedding glow, my ass. Not that those aren't valid glows, but the ONLY ones!? I expect to at least get a glow for completing a graduate degree, or getting a great job, or something else related to success/meaningful work. (I'm sure there are a few that don't have to do with work.)
I loooooved Disney when I was a kid and managed to get beyond the princess/prince myth, but I'm still so disappointed! I'm having trouble resolving my love of Ariel with the valid points of this post.

2 Glows?!

I try to make a point of getting at least one "glow" per day...

I can see the points, but. . . .

Yes, women are people and should have standing and agency on their own and can excel in any arena of responsibility they choose, and you CAN get a glow from succeeding at your responsibilities, indulging in pursuits you enjoy, and maintaining a healthy body (that "two glows" statement was unbelievably stupid) and no, I don't want to return to the days when women were pearl-strand-wearing, apron-sporting, laquer-haired feather-duster-wielding walking sitcom repeats with sappy perma-smiles, but a bit of fairy-tale enchantment is nice -- and yes, there is a sense of enchantment and fairy-tale fantasy when one falls in love, (when even the most mundane things one does for one's partner takes on a special sparkle that they didn't have when one did them for oneself as a personal responsibility) and yes, in a way, the partner is a prince or princess or hero or fair maiden in the other partner's eyes. I do refer to my future partner as "the emperor of my heart." Yes, the USA may be a democracy, but I would gladly make the nation of my heart a monarchy as soon as I find a suitable emperor. ;)
So, to me, Disney illustrates romance and beauty and the magic of love.

No Prince But-

They did just come up with the movie Brave with a really strong Princess but of course she was so strong and self reliant that she had no love interest at all. Totally the other direction.. Would have at least liked to see her have a boy as a best friend that supported her with the hint that it may turn into something later but no... In the Disney world strong girls don't fall in love and must be alone.

I don't know if you noticed

I don't know if you noticed at the very end of Brave, but in the scene just before the clans are leaving, the dopey young blonde prince who had declared earlier that he wasn't interested at all in Merida is now on the dock, kissing Merida's hand and wooing her like crazy. It only lasts a moment, but it's there. I loved the message that, if you stand up for yourself, you're suddenly lots more attractive (even if it's just a dopey prince guy). And keep in mind that none of those princes were really worthy. It's a good message to send young women that it's better to be alone than with someone who isn't worthy.

"Though, hit a girl up if you

"Though, hit a girl up if you decide to create an amazingly affordable Disney Nemesis Weddings line."

Ok, now who wants to bet that Disney will do this in the next few years? Well, maybe not the "affordable" part.

I would just like to point

I would just like to point out that there are a lot of reasons why someone would want to have a Disney wedding, if you want to spend your time focussing on your relationship (which is why you're getting married) and not worrying about what silverware or table cloth or flowers to use and know you have a whole team behind you that will deliver an amazing wedding and get your money's worth it's a great option. Or you know, maybe you meet your husband at Disneyland, in line for the jungle cruise, and had your first date there, his mom took you out to dinner there, you introduced your parents there over a plate of pasta, maybe it's not about being a princess, maybe it's about the park itself, the environment and how they go above and beyond to make your day truly special even if you're just going in for a cup of coffee

I absolutely agree with you,

I absolutely agree with you, Ren! I have wonderful childhood memories of trips to Disneyworld that were spent with my family. To me it would make sense to welcome new people into the family at a place where so many wonderful memories were shared.

So, Great Gatsby good / Disney bad?

I personally boycott Disney for some of these reasons and beyond, but I think some of this commentary is a little misdirected? My partner and I just had our wedding, and although we made very different choices than I think the majority of folks (feminist ones), I don't think sort of making fun of people who make other choices is really productive.

For example, you say: "I just don't think people should keep feeding you [Disney] money to let them live out oppressive fantasies that perpetuate disturbingly sexist themes that I assume have nothing to do with the actual nature of their coupledom."

I would rephrase to something like: "These fantasies that are being sold by Disney - both through their products and as a wedding venue - are oppressive as they perpetuate disturbingly sexist themes." Take the attack on the individuals themselves out... Although I think analysis is warranted here on those participating in this STUFF because it's reifying, I think that needs to be handled more delicately than this. I especially disagree with your assumption that these themes have nothing to do with the actual nature of the couple's relationship - I would argue that popular narratives about gender and gender roles have a LOT to do with many relationships, including and extending far beyond those who hold their wedding on Disney property.

Misdirected commentary

I would agree that this commentary is misdirected. Not to say that Disney is not complicit in perpetuating racist and sexist ideas throughout their vast media empire, because I believe they are, but I do not believe that when a couple gets married at Disney they are living out "oppressive fantasies that perpetuate disturbingly sexist themes." Who is Mr. Braithwaite to make such a claim? Does he know someone who's been married at Disney and witnessed them living out these themes? His statement implies that because sexist themes exist in Disney's media products and their media empire, they somehow manifest and are present in individuals' actions and behavior. I wouldn't say that, but these are kind of theoretical questions that don't necessarily have a right or wrong answer, just interpretations!

Rather than insulting Disney fans like this Mr. Braithwaite is, I think it's more productive to encourage critical consumption of media so consumers, especially children, have the faculties to understand different perspectives and can distinguish the fantastical from the practical. My agenda doesn't include overthrowing Disney or even necessarily boycotting their products/services. I want consumers to hold Disney responsible for the sexist and racist themes present in their media and for unethical business practices because if Disney fans don't it, nobody will. As a company, Disney is only going to grow, so if consumers do not demand Disney drop the sexism, such themes will become even more deeply embedded in its culture, structures and media.

Such complex social phenomenon as addressed here really ought to be more contextualized in anthropological, sociological and consumer agency research.

Ariel, Ursula, & Wardrobe Ideas

Oh. My. Goodness. During my exuberant career as a Womens Studies student at Vassar, I spent most of my time brooding over the images and messages that Disney spews out. I wrote a whole thesis on Ariel and how, perhaps, there was a way that the progressive feminist types like me could look at her through the lens of Queer Theory. It went something like this: was Ariel a rebel b/c she resisted her Mer-ness? Was her reliance on Ursula's magic an exploration in subversion rather than evil? Hm, maybe. But, ultimately, like you say, Ariel and her story ingrained just another girl-must-have-boy-to-achieve-status worldview. And Ursula remains an overlooked and underestimated resource with whom you don't have to be thin or beautiful to be accepted or successful. New idea: wedding dress capes as opposed to veils or train, capes with kickass collars and ample swooping abilities.

To be completely honest, I am

To be completely honest, I am planning on having Disney World host my wedding. I am having it there for random reasons, though, not because I dream of being some glorified princess. I mean, we're probably going to have it at Canada or Morocco in Epcot, which is freaking sweet. But I want to have a sort-of vacation for our families and have someone else worry about all the wedding stuff in the week leading up to the big day. Yeah, it's kind-of expensive, but I get peace of mind and a kick-ass vacation out of it. Also, the "trash the dress" photo options are really intriguing.

I remember, though, when I was first planning my Disney wedding years ago, that Disney had just released their line of wedding dresses, rings, and jewelry. And watching the videos on their websites is kind-of sickening...I don't like the term "fairy tale wedding," and I hate that Disney weddings uses that as a marketing strategy.

I was a bridesmaid at a

I was a bridesmaid at a Disney World wedding back in 2003. It's not at all what I imagine wanting if/when I ever get hitched, but it's what my friend the bride wanted, and it really was a very nice wedding. They took care of all the details, and everything went really smoothly. They even had hair/make-up people come to our (the bridesmaids') motel room so all we had to do was wake up and open the door. Very handy when you've been out late partying after the rehearsal dinner. Granted, the motel room (All-Star Music "Resort", I believe it was) was basically the quality of a clean Motel 6 for roughly double the price, so that was a bit of a drag, but probably not too uncommon, expenditure-wise, for being a bridesmaid.

It wasn't the whole princess package or anything (from what my friend told me, that would have been crazily expensive), but they did send Mickey to dance at the reception. And Mickey was Sorcerer's Apprentice Mickey, which was kind of awesome because the bride was a bassoonist. And there were several other cool touches that made it all feel personal, so that the package-dealiness of it all was mostly just in the background taking care of all the details.

So, I'm still not interested in the princess package or the Disney World wedding at all, myself, but I was impressed with the event, and I hope you have a fun wedding.

_____________________________________
Proud Bitch subscriber since last century!

Ex Cast Member

I just quit Disney last month. The Weddings website is one that I worked on (however briefly some time ago). I've written for BITCH before, and It just occurred to me that now that I'm no longer a Cast Member...I CAN BITCH ALL I WANT ABOUT DISNEY.

YAY!

As you might agree, Disney Weddings are not the only thing they've done or are doing that affect the development of little girls and the feminine psyche. I might have something to contribute on this issue soon.

Yes!

First of all, is "cast member" the official designation for employees? Because...whoa.
And second: YES to a inside-Disney exposé. Yes yes yes.

____________
Andi Zeisler, cofounder and editorial/creative director

Comments Policy: Like to hear it? Here it go!

Yes, all Disney employees are

Yes, all Disney employees are called Cast Members. Honestly, almost everything at Disney has it's own special or "magical" terminology.

You've got mail!

You've got mail!

You can let the Disney folks

You can let the Disney folks train you in Disneyism, and you'll learn a lot about their terminology and ethos. I worked at TWO organizations (non-Disney) that used Disney Institute customer service training. They're everywhere. http://disneyinstitute.com/

What's so strange about

What's so strange about calling Disney employees "cast members"? My husband worked at Disneyland before we met (and when we were first dating) and he said it was one of the best jobs he's ever had, and the interview process made him want to go into HR (which he did).

I don't think there's anything strange about calling them "cast members" since Disneyland essentially caters to children, and make sure the illusion isn't ruined for them. It's essentially like a giant production with everyone involved in helping create that magic kids love about Disneyland.

This. Use of terms like "Cast

This. Use of terms like "Cast members" instead of "employees" is justified because they want children to enjoy the fantasy, so they craft the illusion that Disney is a fantasyland rather than a company

An expose would be awesome!

I, for one, anticipate that this will be an excellent piece. A word of caution, though. Disney is known for being very litigious, so just be careful you don't "step in it" by breaching some non-compete type of contract and getting sued.

To this end, I suggest (if you haven't already done so) to gather some more ex-cast members (strength in numbers) and maybe contact Carl Hiassen about going up against them. He wrote a damn good book called "Team Rodent" - which I've read. It's a non-fiction expose of their overall heinousness, and an easy read btw. They threatened him, he told them where to stick it and won.

I just think you may be on to something really, REALLY good here. Just protect yourself.

As for the Disney princess wedding, I couldn't have been more happy to have been a tomboy growing up. And, yet the insidious, brainwashing marketing did get to me a little. Personal choices aside, if you want to have a Disney wedding, go for it. I never would, but I can see the appeal.

Big Money Weddings

It's really an amazing transformation that Disney underwent after they decided to pursue the wedding business. I lived in Orlando and much of my family and in-laws worked for Disney. My sister - who had a decent job with Disney at the time - decided to see if she could get married at the Russian Tea Room at the Grand Floridian, one of Disney's loveliest hotels. Disney wasn't in the wedding business then, and the manager of the Tea Room said "Yeah, sure, you can rent the space for 2 hours and this is the price of high tea for your guests." Her wedding was really gorgeous, the high tea was perfect and the entire cost was well below what so many spend on their day - as I recall it was only something like 2500 for the whole thing.

Not long after, some youngster on a managerial team raised a hand and said "Hey, I think we're missing out on a great money making opportunity here," and no more lovely, fairly low-key wedding opportunities at a really stunning venue for the hoi poloi!

And then they had to make it icky by all this princess crap. Good grief, only two special glows? Yes, many folks have made academic careers by examining the infantalizing effects Disney's Princess culture has had on so many women in this culture, but I guess the message still hasn't gotten through that while plenty of people love Disney, and their customer service and the quality of their product is usually pretty fantastic, the peddling of princess culture to grown women is insulting to many who might otherwise want to enjoy their day at "the happiest place on earth." The whole wedding industry that has turned a great party and/or solemn religious ceremony into just one more opportunity for narcissistic self-indulgence didn't need Disney's kick into overdrive, complete with the troubling message of princess getting her prince hullabaloney.

And yes, when you work for Disney, you are called a Cast Member, albeit if you're on the business side, you're considered "behind the scenes."

Maybe I missed something...

While I agree that Disney princesses aren't exactly up there with Gloria Steinem, and that up until about Belle, Disney princesses weren't anywhere near good role models for young girls, and if it is your choice to boycott them, I'm not going to stop you, I just don't follow the line of logic of "Disney makes a princess movie aimed at little girls that was adapted from a gruesome story that has roots in female oppression -- a Disney wedding will oppress women".

I would describe myself as a feminist, but let me also state for the record that when it is financially feasable, my beau and I intend to have a Disney Wedding in Disneyland. Let me point out that it wasn't I who suggested the idea of a Disney Wedding. In fact, I was pretty much against the idea of getting married until I met him. But no, it wasn't me who suggested it, he suggested it. He is the one gung ho about getting a perfect wedding, a perfect dress, the perfect location, honeymoon, everything like that. I did ask him why he wanted to get a Disney Wedding, and he replied with "Why the heck not? Anyone could get married in a church. We're only going to have this thing once, so why not go all out?" And let's face it, Disney's pretty awesome at going all out.

It's not that he wants to oppress my femininity, or that he's saying that I should be treated like a princess because it's my wedding day, and that's the only time I should feel worth something, it's that he wants us to have a nice, memorable wedding that everyone can enjoy, one we can tell our kids about someday, and one that will make us *both* feel special for a day. It would be lying to say that a wedding between two people who love each other isn't cause for wanting to celebrate it. Is it so wrong that it happens to be at a Disney park?

If Disney did make a Nemesis

If Disney did make a Nemesis Wedding line, they would probably force the the characters into the same white/straight/thin box as the princesses. Just look at what Disney did to Ursula in the new Disney "beauty" line! They totally made her skinny in order to fit into the feminine beauty ideal.
http://jezebel.com/5922092/ursula-the-sea-witch-forced-to-get-liposuctio...

What they did to Ursula made

What they did to Ursula made me so sad!

They also slimmed down and femmed up the Queen of Hearts who, as a bombastic and extravagently masculine woman who nonetheless wears a dress and ultrafeminine bloomers, and who is married to and apparently loves a man 1/8th her size, is pretty subversive on the gender/sexuality front. :3

Fun Fact

In the original Sleeping Beauty, the man rapes her while she's sleeping and leaves before she awakens.

Sorry but I found your

Sorry but I found your article lame and illl written. You've obviously not done any research beyond the Disney Wedding Blog and website. Have you met a Disney bride? or spoken with someone who's planning their wedding at Disney? Me thinks not. How hypocritical to watch a show like once upon a time and then criticize other women for loving Disney. Stop pretending that your voice represents all of us because while you pretending to burn your bra I'm a DD & need mine and I don't need you or anyone like you to pretend to educate or represent me. I'm far from repressed and far from ignorant. I'm definitely not trying or wishing to be a princess but hell yeah I'm having a Disney wedding and its going to kick ass. But I won't be inviting bitter, faux fashionista judgmental people to my wedding. It will be an intimate event for my closest family and friends and a vacation to boot. I'm so sorry your parents didn't by you barbies when you were a little girl or take you to disney. Most of us get over the princess bullshit when were little and know the difference from fantasy and reality. We've moved on to be Queens in our own right. Perhaps someday you'll learn to not cutdown your fellow women and you'll see yourself as a queen. Till then maybe you could use a little pixie dust.

Amen to that!

You could not have described my feelings more perfectly, Anonymous. I am a strong minded and strong willed young woman; however, I love a Disney classic more than anything. I don't watch my childhood favorites and think "oh, if I never get married my life will be so pointless" or "where is a man to save me?". Assuming that Disney can "brainwash" me is insulting to my intelligence and independence. I love Disney because it makes me smile with never failing happy endings. What's so wrong with that? In this world, everyone could use a simple smile every now and then. So, God bless Disney for that.

Ack!!

Is it bad that I want to slap that woman in the video and get a nice 'I've just slapped an idiot glow'? Women only get two glows!!! Ack!! I am a wife and mother but I also have numerous other things that I am proud of and passionate about and have made me 'glow'...like when I qualified as a lawyer! My wedding day and the birth of my son are right up there in the best moments of my life, but they certainly are not the only ones!