When you Google "wedding website for grooms," the first result is an article on a website that helps you put together wedding playlists with suggestions for "manly" sources of advice such as Men's Wearhouse. The second search result is The Plunge, a recently launched lifestyle site and shopping destination that bills itself as "your (unofficial) best man."
The Plunge is comprehensive with its check lists and gift ideas, it has a smart tone, and it's just about the only source out there for the estimated almost 2 million straight men who get married each year. (Meanwhile, women are practically pummeled with wedding-related information, often long before we actually get married.) It's the latest project of Alex Dulac, a Harvard MBA who has also invested in tech and fashion projects, and who says he started the site because he wanted to speak to guys. Dulac believes that, for the most part, men are clueless about weddings.
"A lot of guys are sort of disenchanted with the process before they've even started, and I felt like it's a great opportunity to learn about a lot of interesting stuff — from buying an engagement ring to planning the biggest trip of your life," he tells Refinery29.
As for the site's overall mantra and mission? "We don't want him to stumble into wedding planning; we want him to moonwalk into that experience."
A lot of guys are sort of disenchanted with the process before they've even started.
But the site itself isn't particularly woke: Take the "About" page, which perpetuates the assumption that straight men don't care about wedding planning — or, as the editors put it, "the drudgery of florists, invitations, or cakes." One article states that although a guy's girlfriend can be "wonderful and lovely," a bride is "none of those things." It also equates wedding planning with a colonoscopy at one point, and assumes that women will do the majority of pre-wedding tasks: "Your fiancée is devouring 87 wedding planning books, magazines, and blogs..."
The Plunge also perpetuates breadwinner stereotypes, often making the assumption that the groom is the half of the straight couple doing the paying. "Her $3,000 table decorations are coming out of your collective hide... If you slap on the blindfolds and give her the credit card..." (Hi! We have credit cards, too! And paychecks.)
With so many wedding publications targeted at women and LGBTQ folk that take a feminist tone — Catalyst Co., A Practical Wedding — it seems that there's nothing comparable for straight men. And straight men need it the most. That's why it's disappointing that instead of being a reflection of hard-won social progress, the website plays into the oldest trope in the book: that men couldn't be bothered with details, and women will happily pick up the slack (while being annoying about it). Women face a double bind: We're expected to be responsible for the details and, at the same time, punished for caring too much; a bridezilla, as Kelsey McKinney wrote in The New York Times, is after all just a woman with opinions.
Instead of hoping the woman will do the “heavy lifting,” why not devise an egalitarian pre-wedding checklist that divides tasks equally? Instead of making assumptions about finances, why ask couples from different economic backgrounds how they paid for their weddings? Egalitarian marriages start with the wedding, and a publication that aims to reach millions of men can play a large role in either feeding or dispelling sexist assumptions.
We put these concerns to Dulac, and he was understanding. He says a lot of the language will change as the site sheds its skin and reimagines itself in the near future. "Yeah, any of that, the frat-tastic elements, are not part of the refresh experience," he says. "A lot of the thinking has evolved, the writers have [moved on]."
The Plunge was initially self-funded, but now Dulac says there are a few investors. It's also in the middle of going through a huge relaunch, at the heart of which is a marketplace that features over 8,000 products across all wedding-related categories.
Currently, The Plunge has four in-house staff writers, all of whom are male, and 17 freelancers, about half of whom are women, and it conducts focus-group research that includes brides. Dulac says the staff has done a "deep site audit" and has decided to focus more on thought pieces and deep dives, working with behavioral and evolutionary psychologists to write about relationship topics. "We want to focus on elevating everything as he goes through it, so there's not all of that stereotypical guy junk," he says. When asked whether The Plunge will expand into the LGBTQ community, Dulac says, "A lot of the topics that people have to deal with are similar."
Now that he's tested the market and seen that men do, in fact, search for wedding-related terms online — "honeymoon, bachelor party, a little bit of suiting, and all the pre-proposal stuff and engagement rings" — he's going bigger, and hopefully better. We've already seen The Plunge make steps in the right direction: One article apologizes for previously making light of the topic of name-changing. "Get over it. You're not any less of a man because she wants to keep her own name." Let's hope it will continue to provide a resource for grooms without resorting to old stereotypes.