Why Social Pressure Shouldn't Dictate How You Plan Your Wedding
Weddings are a celebration of a couple's love–that just happen to be beautiful. A plethora of aesthetically-pleasing elements accompany the day, including the option for guests to throw on their fanciest fits for the sake of love. But an emerging social pressure to "perform" through the wedding is another challenge we face in the 21st century. Striving for social media-"worthy" weddings, designed and curated for virality on Instagram or TikTok, is diminishing the true meaning of the day for many couples.
"Everything we do now is created, in part, for consumption," says Whitney Goodman, LMFT, author of Toxic Positivity. "We're often thinking, 'How will this look to others?' instead of asking ourselves what we really want. It spreads through a sort of social contagion where we see a few people doing it, and think that we need to do it too."
Not everyone can keep up with the Kardashians, but access to the lives of the uber-famous or wealthy have blurred the distinction between the two realities for to-be-weds. When scrolling, couples are often faced with images of intangible installations dreamt up by celebrity florists or dreamy Jackson Hole bach parties complete with in-home chefs, luxury ranches and private jets. The beauty of these events isn't the issue. In 15 seconds or less, our society has become conditioned to anticipate breathtaking wedding content—over and over and over again—creating a facade of attainability for avid scrollers.
Nurys Marcel, an influencer best known for her real estate advice, learned a pricey lesson after offering to pick up any bachelorette party expenses exceeding a certain amount per attendee. "I know my tastes and what I like… and what I've dreamt for my bachelorette," she says. "I didn't think it was fair for my friends to have to pay for something that they normally wouldn't even do with a partner or husband or whomever. I wanted to be conscious of what I was asking from people."
That generosity unexpectedly set her back tens of thousands of dollars for her destination bach party in the Dominican Republic. The culprit, in retrospect, was an unsaid expectation to live up to the influencer title, she says. "I rented a huge Airbnb that was $4,000 per night. It was so much money. Kim Kardashian rented the Airbnb and it was such a big deal. It was so much money, but it was amazing," she reflects. "It was an amazing experience, but I didn't understand how much more money was going be spent on the wedding."
The fallacy, she believes, was feeding into the lifestyle and expectations of others. "I didn't know that it was going to be so much money because I've never planned something like that. [For example,] I didn't understand how much food was going to cost," she says. "Then I had other activities where I threw a dinner at the beach… I made some mistakes, and I feel like it's because I'd never planned anything."
The Definition of Social Pressure
According to the American Psychological Association, social pressure is defined as "the exertion of influence on a person or group by another person or group. Like group pressure, social pressure includes rational argument and persuasion (informational influence), calls for conformity (normative influence), and direct forms of influence, such as demands, threats, or personal attacks on the one hand and promises of rewards or social approval on the other (interpersonal influence)."
Some may argue social pressure has accelerated with social media and technology dependency. "It's a concern, primarily, because it forces us to suppress our own needs, wants, and desires in exchange for doing what is 'cool' or Instagram-worthy in that moment," says Goodman. "We may spend more money, make decisions we wouldn't make, or be totally unable to live in the moment because we're so concerned with the performative aspect of it all."
While social media is a powerful tool for inspiration, fresh ideas and humor, placing too much of emphasis on a "social media-worthy" wedding can impair judgment. Indeed, the new social standard of measurement builds comparison, prompting an unnecessary wave of pressure for couples leading up to the wedding day. What boundaries are then to be arranged?
Expert Tips for Combatting Social Pressure
If you're throwing a wedding, attending a bach party, or seeking out a honeymoon destination solely for the purposes of capturing content, then it's perhaps time to reflect on your priorities and wellbeing. Social media and peer pressure are often coupled hand-in-hand while wedding planning because of the influx of aspirational imagery out there.
Of course, we love a beautiful wedding just as much as the next couple, but a clear distinction is that social media shouldn't rule a couple as they're planning. The terms "Instagram-worthy" or "for the 'gram" are a reminder of how we need to reset our realities, constantly. The wedding is an experience and celebration first–a reflection of your love for each other and your community. Here are six actionable steps to take if you're struggling with social pressure brought on by social media.
1. Establish Social Limits With Your Partner
It might feel counterintuitive at first, but couples grappling with technology addiction and vulnerable to consumerism beyond their means should have the talk–the social media talk, that is. "When one partner is very obsessed with social media and their image, it can take a toll on the relationship," notes Goodman. "Constantly wanting to take photos, always needing to live a curated life, and being on social media excessively can make it difficult to connect. I recommend that couples have conversations about their social media limits and boundaries. One person in the relationship may want to be much more public with their life than the other. That's important to discuss."
2. Set 'Budgeting Boundaries'
For both couples and wedding parties, social media peer pressure can cause you to test the limits of your bank accounts. Let's face it, being in a wedding party, throwing a wedding, and even attending one all arrive at a cost. It's worthwhile when the intent is to support a family member or friend–while enjoying, perhaps, a getaway or the experience of celebrating a couple. It becomes challenging, however, when that mindset is replaced by a social media-first attitude.
"I just wanted everyone to be there, and then I put myself in this position," Marcel adds of her bach party. "It's like building those boundaries as well. We don't talk about it enough. It isn't only rich people who are getting married. It's a whole lot of people on a budget."
"We all have to set our own boundaries," Goodman affirms. "There are tactful and polite ways to say, 'I can't afford this trip and I still really want to celebrate you.' And then offering, maybe, an alternative thing you can do. Not everyone is going to accept that boundary graciously and that's OK."
3. Stick to Those Limits
While planning the wedding, you may see another engaged friend throwing an extravagant bach party in Napa with hard-to-score reservations at French Laundry. The photos look aspirational and you feel compelled to want the same experience for your wedding party–even if it's beyond your (and their) means.
"[Drawing the line] is something that has to be done from the start," says Goodman. "Having an awareness that there is always going to be someone who is doing it bigger or better may help. This is also a great place to unite with your partner and whoever else is helping plan the wedding. When you have the support, it's easier to identify what is necessary and stick to your limits."
4. Detox… If It Helps
Sometimes, deleting social media apps may help with clarity, focus and perspective while planning. However, the all-or-nothing mentality is only useful in some dire scenarios. With social media, a self-monitoring approach with time limits and appropriate boundaries is encouraged. "[A detox] is usually what is recommended, but I find it pretty ineffective," admits Goodman. "Social media is part of our lives–for better or worse–and we have to find a way to deal with it."
5. Curate Your Feed for Your Mental Health
Self-help fanatics will especially attest to this tip. Given the sheer magnitude of content that exists on TikTok or Reels, it's important to reconsider accounts or lifestyles that don't serve you or your goals. Engagement is one layer, and absorption of content is another. "I suggest that people learn how to curate their social media for their lifestyles and the current state of their mental health," notes Goodman. "This may include following or unfollowing certain people. Or avoiding the apps at certain times of day, and taking breaks."
6. Rely on a Timer If Necessary
If you feel your social media dependency is carving into your schedule, here's some advice from our expert. "We have to find a way to make social media usage work for us and that's going to look different for every person," Goodman notes first. "I encourage individuals and couples to ask themselves a few questions, like: How is this helping us and how is it hurting us? Are there any limits we need to set so our relationship isn't negatively impacted?"
If you find yourselves doom-scrolling especially in the evenings or between calls, mindfully setting the phone in another room may help curb the habit. "Sometimes, it's just staying off social media at night when you're together in bed, or when you're having a date night," she adds. Start by building a bedtime routine. Your sleep and overall health will benefit from this decision.
Finally, don't forget to return to what matters most to you while planning your wedding. If it's throwing the party of your dreams for the sake of gathering your favorite people, there's no cost that amounts to that. Stick to your boundaries and you'll thank yourself later.