Reality Check: Planning a Wedding Does Not Equal Slacking on My Career
Work + Life Balance

Reality Check: Planning a Wedding Does Not Equal Slacking on My Career

by Jessica Howard
Photos Emily Wren | March 01, 2016


You proudly walk into the office the following Monday, show off your ring in the break room and recount the magical moment when he asked you to be his wife. As the months pass, questions about wedding planning casually slip into your water cooler conversations. You’re excited to talk about your careful planning and share your thoughts on white versus ivory (there is a difference). And then someone asks you: “So how many vacation days are you using to plan the wedding?”

When a colleague first asked, I found it innocent enough and answered: “Just the Thursday before the wedding.” She looked surprised. I felt confused

That night, I asked my then-fiancé, now husband, if anyone had asked him the same question. Of course, the answer was no. The expectation was that, as the wife-to-be, I’d take charge of the planning, sacrificing my limited time off to attend cake tastings while my husband would continue (literally) business as usual.

In many offices, planning a wedding, like so many other life events (i.e. planning summer vacation, coordinating schedules, etc.) can illuminate latent double standards—it’s yet another instance where gender plays a divisive role in the work force.

Women get hit with personal questions that men are largely not subjected to. 

Women are most often considered superior multi-taskers and planners. Research has shown that women are more emotionally in-tune than men, can handle a variety of problems simultaneously (i.e. managing work/ personal issues), and less frequently let their ego cloud judgment. It's no real surprise that women are expected to manage the wedding planner and general manager. Someone has to keep the ball rolling at work and at home, regardless of gender. {click to tweet} So why is it still assumed that we’ll need to take time off to plan our Big Day?

Women professionals have come a long way since the days of Susan B. Anthony thanks to lady influencers ike Sheryl Sandberg, Tina Fey, Beyoncé, Anna Wintour, Angela Merkel—the list goes on and on. But the expectation that women will plan their weddings is one small way which proves we still have a ways to go.

When I talked about my wedding, I realized the issue went deeper, to the ways we approach discussions with our colleagues in the office. Women get hit with personal questions that men are largely not subjected to. 

Part of the double standard comes from engrained perspectives, while some of it comes from our own approach, as well. Back to women being more emotionally connected, we tend to showcase more of our personal lives in the office than our male counterparts. There are usually more family pictures on our desks, more discussions about picking up kids from school or activities, and subsequently, we are innocently questioned (most often) about the details we choose to disclose.

These are huge aspects of our lives, but should we cut them out in order to be more productive? Can we really not share our personal and social attachments? Does it need to be so black and white?  After all, these types of discussions are what foster teamwork and comraderie. 

In order to make change, women must debunk the "career vs. home" myth.

My wedding made me realize that questions about my personal life infiltrate my work life much more often than my husband experiences. Even now, two years after the wedding, I get questions about when we’re going to have kids or when we’re going to buy a house. There’s nothing wrong with these questions per se because these are fairly normal questions coming from caring coworkers. As well, these types of life changes will impact my career. But why are these questions directed only at me? And how do we change that?

I’ve realized that I can only change my reaction to people. You can’t change them. Of course, it's problematic that there are still two stereotypical roles for men and women in the workplace. But, in order to enact change, women must debunk the "career vs. home" myth. It shouldn't have to be an either/or type scenario—if men can do both, then so can women. {click to tweet}

This doesn’t mean ignoring the reality that we have personal lives or refusing to share those details with our colleagues. But it does mean calling attention to the biased moments in our offices. After all, we can ask our male colleagues about their wedding plans, their kids' baseball game, their vacations. And we should, any chance we get.  

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Have you experienced something similar to this in your work place? Describe it in the comments below.