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The toxic world of wedding reviews on Yelp
This land of passive-aggressiveness is where friendships go to die.
Nothing invites judgment like a wedding. In fact, there’s an entire TV show based around that premise. There’s just so much to complain about: the steak might be overdone, the wine sour, the dress tacky, the parking impossible. You could get there late! They could be serving an appetizer you don’t like! The floor could have dirt on it! What if there are bugs?
But whatever judgments we have, it’s considered good form to keep them to ourselves. Not just because that steak is free, but because we love our friends and family. Usually, we understand they’ve gone through a great deal of stress to throw as nice a party as possible, and we want them to feel happy about their work.
That form of politeness does not appear to exist on Yelp. This is where friendships go to die.
The site’s reviewers are notorious for being less than objective in their feedback and lacking the ability to discern just what is within a restaurant’s control (“My food was cold!” vs. “It was raining!”). These qualities seem especially prevalent when it comes to critiques of wedding venues. Commenters think they’re giving a helpful overview of a rental space, but really, they’re just bashing the nuptials of their loved ones.
This reviewer, for example, is pissed that the maid of honor stood in a corner, where there were shadows.
Some people don’t know how wedding planning goes, so, having just planned a wedding, here’s a rundown.
There are many venues out there that offer all-inclusive packages with ceremony space, food, alcohol, music, staff, etc. However, just as many require outside vendors. The bad food these guests are complaining about may actually be the venue’s fault, but also may not. A bad DJ is most certainly not.
And yet these reviewers think anything they don’t like about the wedding can be chalked up to the building in which it happened. Perhaps it is easier to blame a faceless event space than the people you know. Wedding planning is hard, and though many couples try their best, the sad truth is, not everybody’s good at it. Your newlywed friends may just have terrible taste in decorations, or insisted on shoving 200 people into a room with capacity for 150, or really liked that bland salmon.
The tension in any decent wedding is between the couple’s happiness and the guests’ overall enjoyment, and successfully balancing both needs depends on a number of factors. There are a few guidelines to follow—feed people if the party is around a meal time, make sure they know where they’re going, give them a heads up about wearing heels on grass—but a couple can go crazy trying to please everyone.
Weddings are advertised at the most important days of our lives, meaning everything should and can be perfect. But “perfect” is a moving target. Sometimes the flowers get lost, or the DJ ignores your requests, or the food comes out cold. Sometimes you can’t afford perfect. There’s always someone who is going to find something wrong with the celebration, no matter whose fault or decision it was. Presumably, though, the couple always winds up married. That’s a successful wedding, no matter how many mosquito bites you got.
Jaya Saxena is a lifestyle writer and editor whose work focuses primarily on women's issues and web culture. Her writing has appeared in GQ, ELLE, the Toast, the New Yorker, Tthe Hairpin, BuzzFeed, Racked, Eater, Catapult, and others. She is the co-author of 'Dad Magazine,' the author of 'The Book Of Lost Recipes,' and the co-author of 'Basic Witches.'