A photo of a bridal model taken backstage at a "Bride of the Year" competition held in New Zealand on Saturday sparked controversy this week. The image, which ran in the Taranaki Daily News, a daily morning newspaper based in New Plymouth, New Zealand, was called "disgusting" by the paper's readers and prompted the competition's organizers to demand an apology from the paper for publishing it, The Daily Mail reports. As word of this local outcry spread, the story has started swiftly making its way around the blogosphere.
What could possibly create such a stir? Well, the bride pictured was drinking a beer. FROM A BOTTLE. The horror.
What constitutes a bride has changed greatly over the last 50 years: On their wedding days, women don't need to be virgins and they aren't required to have their fathers "give them away." Heck, they don't even have to marry men. Yet, the ideal image of what a bride "should" be and parameters as to how she should conduct herself apparently remain static.
So static that Katrina Mayman, the offending woman in question, had to defend herself to the Taranaki Daily News. "That is just the type of person I am. I don't like to portray myself as someone I am not," Hayman said. "A lot of females drink beer and it's just I felt more comfortable having a beer than having a wine." Sounds pretty reasonable to me. Especially because other alcoholic beverages were made available to the models at the event, according to The Daily Mail. Plus, Hayman's beer drinking didn't take place on her actual wedding day, but as she prepared to take the stage as part of the competition. (And who couldn't use a beer -- or five -- in that situation?)
Hayman merely represented a bride, yet her purported unladylike behavior still became a major cause for concern. But perhaps the fact that even a "pretend" bride swilling a beer could stir so much contempt makes the story all the more telling. It certainly indicates that such behavior in "real-life" would be nothing short of scandalous.
It almost goes without saying that a groom chugging a beer at his wedding would be met with a smile -- and probably some kind of remark about how he'd better enjoy it since he's now shackled to his ball and chain. And, clearly, many people don't see anything "unladylike" about the traditional (and cringe-inducing) garter hunt and toss, in which the groom dives under his bride's dress -- in front of her parents and grandparents, no less -- and secures a still-warm prize from his wife's upper thigh that he then bestows to a lucky single gentleman.
These images -- a man with his beer and a woman being treated like a sex object -- don't challenge our notions of male/female roles. Which is why they remain acceptable and Hayman gets called out for drinking a beer.
Hello? It's 2012. Women. Drink. Beer. Brides are women. What about this is so out of the ordinary, let alone "disgusting"?
This issue goes far beyond the "to chug or not to chug" of wedding etiquette. And I'm not saying that weddings should become keg-stand-ridden, hedonistic free-for-alls (unless, of course, you want yours to be that way -- sounds kind of fun, actually). But I do think that we -- the collective, societal "we" -- need to loosen up our expectations of what a bride should be.
Despite how women's roles in general have changed, a bride is still bound by antiquated constraints on her wedding day. She might not be a virgin, but for the wedding she needs to appear chaste. She might be a hardcore kickboxer, but for the wedding she'll need to look delicate and ethereal. She might love to chow down on hamburgers, but for the wedding she needs to be svelte. She might enjoy cracking open an ice-cold beer, but for the wedding she should politely sip her champagne. You get the picture.
Separating the woman from the bride takes away her uniqueness -- the reasons why her groom wanted to marry her in the first place -- and changes her into a carbon copy of what we think a bride ought to be. Which, to tell you the truth, sounds pretty darn boring.
Hayman's story, and the backlash that her beer-drinking image created, inspired us to ask the Twitterverse if there were any real-life brides out there who drank a beer (or two!) at their weddings. Click through their responses to the issue below and see some pictures of brides brandishing beer bottles on their Big Days.