It's My Day
July 5, 2013 8:26 AM   Subscribe

Do modern Western weddings encourage narcissism?. From the large budgets to the phenomenon of self marriage, many people skirt the line between narcissism and individuality.
posted by reenum (247 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
I am always shocked by people who think their wedding day is about them. If that were true, you wouldn't need 300 guests, a year of DIY projects and mason jars at every seat.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:27 AM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


self marriage

what

I demand a NYT trend piece on this subject
posted by saturday_morning at 8:35 AM on July 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


self marriage

See what letting teh gays marry has caused?? Do you SEE?? ;)

(i'm kidding, obviously.)
posted by usagizero at 8:41 AM on July 5, 2013


mason jars?
posted by thelonius at 8:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Weddings themselves can be so lovely, but every time I seriously consider getting married, someone I know announces they're engaged, then through the course of the wedding planning, manages to alienate almost their entire family and social circle (mainly with "my day" type stuff), spend all the money they have and a whole lot they don't have, and age about a decade in a few months.

It's doesn't so much feel like fate trying to tell me something as slapping me about the face with it like it's a dead fish.
posted by greenish at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


self marriage

what


They're behind the times. In Donnesbury, Marcia had a singularity ceremony in 1985.
posted by Melismata at 8:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


Our wedding cost a little over $200, including the license, and taking taxis to and from City Hall. The largest individual category of expense was "cheese".

With the money saved, we got to take a nice relaxed honeymoon to exotic places...
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


mason jars?

In case "nature calls" during the ceremony.
posted by mr_roboto at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


mason jars?

Just in case. It's going to be a long show. Fill 'em to the dick's-in line.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 8:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The largest expense of my life in general is usually "cheese (& related sundry)" so I can't argue with that kind of wedding.
posted by greenish at 8:45 AM on July 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


The scary thing is how incredibly easy it is to get sucked in even if you want a laid-back casual wedding - the marketing is EVERYWHERE. The other weird things I"ve noticed is that there are 2 very competing "themes" in wedding media that kind of force you into a tizzy:
1) This is YOUR MAGICAL DAY AND IT'S ALL ABOUT YOU YOU PRETTY PRINCESS
2) BUT ALSO, make it the most amazing night your guests have ever had, and really it should be a whole weekend if you want it to be the BEST WEDDING EVER.

Leaving one constantly torn between whether you are "supposed" to be the selfish Bridezilla or the most generous amazing hostess ever, even if you really don't want to do pony rides and S'mores on Sunday at midnight because you just got married and you're kinda tired but YOUR GUESTS, MAN, THEY NEED AN EXPERIENCE.

I have tried, every step of the way, to go for the "is there food? Is there booze? Am I holding flowers that are not dead? OK, we're cool" mentality. And yet still, when I went to David's Bridal and found a dress that was pretty and fit me and was on sale on the first try, I balked because... it seemed too easy. What if somewhere out there was THE DRESS that baby angels and unicorns had sewn?

I bought the dress. I figured I would take the chance of not having the most perfect dress ever over more weeks of combing through stores and websites. I am quite happy. But there was still a very strong pull of "but you haven't done the FULL EXPERIENCE of the PERFECT PRINCESS GOWN SEARCH".
posted by nakedmolerats at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [40 favorites]


self marriage

what

posted by Auden at 8:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Lot of over-thinking going on there.

A wedding is traditionally the bride's day in the same way that a birthday is the honoree's. Not everything is about her, but you have a big party and she's at the center of it. For a het wedding the groom is a close second on the honoree list. (I honestly have no idea how gays and lesbians work this out.)

And... That's it. Definitely there are lots of people who have fairly rich wedding fantasies who haven't really thought through the marriage thing yet, but that seems part and parcel with human nature. If people thoroughly understood what it meant to be married I suspect both the marriage rate and the divorce rate would take a good drop.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:48 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony. Which is kinda annoying, although not moreso than the over materialists weddings.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 8:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [49 favorites]


When we got married my father-in-law said he'd pay for the festivities as long as we stayed within a $1,000 budget. My wife made her own dress, I designed and printed the invitations, and we had the wedding in a cousins' (nice) backyard. I even found a very out-of-work photographer on Craigslist who only charged us $200 and let us keep the original raw files of everything he took. We rented a soft serve machine for the reception afterwards and the only thing my wife insisted in was a marzipan cake.

In the end we did go a little over budget but it was nothing compared to some weddings I've seen. We both look back on the day with fond memories, but not because it was a "perfect" day. Only because it was a good day and all our loved ones were there.
posted by Doleful Creature at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


We combined the wedding and honeymoon and got married in a park in HI while we were there for a week for our honeymoon. We invited nobody. I think the wedding part of the week cost $800, cake and pictures included. A consultant for the park handled every detailed, we literally just had to show up at the proper time.

We are just as married as the bridezillas, maybe more so as my experience during the rash of weddings in those years right after college was that there is an inverse relationship between the cost of the wedding and the longevity of the marriage.

We are still doing fine almost 22 years later.
posted by COD at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


> The scary thing is how incredibly easy it is to get sucked in even if you want a laid-back casual wedding - the marketing is EVERYWHERE. The other weird things I"ve noticed is that there are 2 very competing "themes" in wedding media that kind of force you into a tizzy:

My wife sewed her own dress, but before she decided to do that she went wedding dress shopping a couple of times. She said it was what buying a high-end sports car must be like for guys; tons of flattery, subtle but persistent disparagement of outside alternatives, environments optimally designed to make you and the dress look as good as possible, high-pressure sales tactics...and of course at some of the places the dollar amounts involved weren't much different than they would have been at car dealerships.
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:54 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Mason jars at weddings
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Have you been to American wedding?
posted by vrakatar at 8:55 AM on July 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Oh, and just because we're on the topic a bit of practical advice for weddings: day care.

You can hold your ceremony with no chairs in a dirt lot and feed everyone ramen, but if you provide day care that is all anyone will remember about your magnificently lavish wedding.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 8:56 AM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


The scary thing is how incredibly easy it is to get sucked in even if you want a laid-back casual wedding - the marketing is EVERYWHERE

We were supposed to get married in the traditional laid back Hawaiian attire. 2 weeks before the wedding my wife was in Chicago on business and her mom came up to visit. They went to Marshall Fields. I probably don't need to tell you what resulted - although her mom paid for it so it really didn't matter.
posted by COD at 8:57 AM on July 5, 2013


(mainly with "my day" type stuff)

A real narcissist would say something like "This is my week" or "This is my year" or hell, "This is mine". Having a single day always struck me as odd, 'cause there's 364 throughout the year, so claiming a single one seems rather small, especially when there's probably thousands of people around the world who are also getting married that day. It's more like "This is my hour in this particular location in this particular city or town on this particular day."
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:58 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The 'feeling like you have to spend gobs of money' thing is a problem, but honestly? The focus of a wedding SHOULD BE on the couple getting married! What else is the point? The idea that even YOUR OWN WEDDING shouldn't be 'about you' strikes me as bizzare.
posted by showbiz_liz at 8:59 AM on July 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


Also, from the 'many people' link: one guy quoted in the article thinks that people getting married for love is 'a tragedy' because it means people get divorced more. Yep, can't see anything problematic with that statement!
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:01 AM on July 5, 2013


when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony

LUXURY! When we were married, we couldn't even afford to attend our own wedding.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 9:02 AM on July 5, 2013 [52 favorites]


The Beast article argues that weddings practiced with modern individualist mores are less satisfying than weddings practiced with traditional collectivist mores.

You cannot make a modern individualist culture a traditional collectivist one for a single day and then go back to being individualistic. I suspect that for many, making the wedding day about the group instead of the self would feel counterfeit. They are not marrying for the benefit of the group, but for the benefit of themselves.

And if people are marrying for themselves instead of the group, then what is the function of the marriage ceremony if not vanity?
posted by banal evil at 9:03 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies: "Lot of over-thinking going on there.

A wedding is traditionally the bride's day in the same way that a birthday is the honoree's. Not everything is about her, but you have a big party and she's at the center of it. For a het wedding the groom is a close second on the honoree list.
"

...but the point is: Why? Why is she at the "center of it" if it's supposedly about the union of two people and the merging of two families? At least one of the articles talks about how this wasn't always the case, and to a large degree it has to do with marketing by the wedding industry:

It’s no accident that the culture of catering to the bride has fueled the burgeoning wedding industry, and vice versa. Peggy Olson or Don Draper couldn’t have conceived a better marketing slogan than “This is your day”—the kind of tagline that so deeply, and reliably, influences consumer behavior.
posted by bluecore at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony.

The most virtuous life is one where you think of others before you think of yourself. We are so self-centered and narcissist these days that we can't even begin comprehend what a human life is worth, and what a celebration of human life a wedding is.

Put other people first, and your wedding will be a remarkable success. I honestly don't understand why anyone would spend even 25 cents to get married when it's effectively free to kidnap a different bride and groom the day of their ceremony and hold their guests hostage while you and your partner get married in their stead.

Heck, you might actually come out ahead after the ransom for the guests is paid.
posted by A god with hooves, a god with horns at 9:04 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


I have observed that most moral panics involve things-centered-around-women, things-centered-around-"femininity" or things-centered-around-poor-people. Although in this case, the poor get married in insufficient numbers, so that's not relevant - unless you're writing an article about poor folks recklessly spending a lot of money on a wedding.

No, really, there's a story - and it's a story about consumption in general, but here it's the old familiar story about women and their repulsive interest in trivialities - clothes, parties, beauty treatments - with no context about pressures on women to take care of their appearance, to appear a certain way, to please everyone...and with no context about the social expectation that a wedding be lavish, and with no context about how much things cost. Seriously, a big party at a venue, any venue, is going to get into multiple thousands, even if you make your own dress and cook much of your own food.

And there's another story, I bet - I bet that if we saw the "average" broken out, what we'd see is a lot of incredibly lavish weddings for the 1%...or the 5% anyway....and a bunch of "we rented the church hall for $1500 and the cake cost $400 and the dress was my mother's and everyone expected to have at least one drink and there went $1000 and then my mother in law expected paper invitations, so there went $600 and before you know it we were up to $7000".

This whole "women think the whole thing is about them and their cleavage" business is so fucking misogynist.

And god knows I loathe weddings and will go to any length to avoid them.
posted by Frowner at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2013 [196 favorites]


I had a $20,000 wedding (that's just day-of itself, doesn't count the other festivities like the rehearsal dinner that I wasn't directly involved in planning) and I'm not particularly ashamed of it. I am the first on my side of the family to get married in a long time, plus we were the first of our college friends to get married, so it was basically a two-family, one-college-dorm reunion. In short, collectivist weddings which are about the merger of two families aren't necessarily any cheaper.

The idea of "bridezillas" has been around for a long time, and while people obviously shouldn't be self-absorbed and narcissistic, it also sort of fits the narrative where an assertive woman who stands up for her goals and desires is a literal monster.
posted by muddgirl at 9:06 AM on July 5, 2013 [27 favorites]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony.

I didn't. We were feeling flush at the time so we went whole hog on location, food, and entertainment. Although come to think of it the only costs specific to it being a wedding were materials for her dress (she wanted a particular historical style so she had to make it) and the rental fee for my tux. Other than that it was just a huge party we threw for our friends and families. It was great.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:08 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


(I organize an annual two hour catered cocktail event for about 100 people at which everyone gets precisely one drink, canapes are tasty but the board does not groan, we have some floral arrangements and send most of the invitations by email....and that event typically costs in the neighborhood of $6500. It's not unreasonable to say "I'm getting married and it is expected that I will invite all my relatives and my partner's relatives and my friends and my partner's friends and provide them with some booze and a meal and a little music"...and whoa, it turns out that this isn't cheap. Who knew?)
posted by Frowner at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [23 favorites]


The 'feeling like you have to spend gobs of money' thing is a problem, but honestly? The focus of a wedding SHOULD BE on the couple getting married!

I never really got this until I was best man at a friend's wedding. Neither he or his wife were particularly religious but they chose to do the traditional Christian thing ... and about halfway through the ceremony it suddenly clicked. Everything about how things were arranged (how people were standing, the direction they were facing etc) was about this couple being supported by those in attendance (friends and family, their chosen community) with certain key individuals being brought to the fore (best man etc, maids of honor).

In other words, these were the people who were going to help this couple keep their vows.

So yeah. That's what a wedding's all about. And then after the vows, the bride and groom throw a party for everybody to say thanks. Everything else is bullshit. Trust me on that. I've made a pile of money over the years working in the wedding biz.
posted by philip-random at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [24 favorites]


I should add that the biggest expense for our wedding is food and photographer. So one can easily spend 10k on a wedding without being materialistic. Or are pizzas and pictures materialistic?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine having your little sister steal your wedding day thunder. God, I hate this sort of thing.
posted by davebush at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I can't favorite Frowner's comment enough times. Seriously.
posted by oflinkey at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


A friend of mine was still paying off the wedding long after the marriage itself had ended.

Your wedding shouldn't be like paying off your student loan.
posted by Gwynarra at 9:13 AM on July 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


(I honestly have no idea how gays and lesbians work this out.)

The couple getting married's the focus, maybe? Not too difficult to understand, really.

(Unless one of them's a bridezilla. Then, that one's the focus.)
posted by mediareport at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Why? Why is she at the "center of it" if it's supposedly about the union of two people and the merging of two families?

I always figured it was women's turn for a while since we've just left a few millennia where we bought 'em and took 'em home.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:14 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony. Which is kinda annoying, although not moreso than the over materialists weddings.

^This.^

Much like beer threads, food threads, this threatens to turn into the same kind of talk where there is a bizarre kind of oneupmanship to prove bona fides.

Shepherd and I had a cheaper wedding than most, but really when it comes to your wedding, your "special day"? I like what Legomancer said in a wedding photography thread, "Weddings are like babies: you think yours is beautiful and special but honestly they all look about the same."
posted by Kitteh at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


TBH the Western weddings I've been to have been short, inexpensive affairs compared with Indian weddings.
posted by Artw at 9:16 AM on July 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


And if people are marrying for themselves instead of the group, then what is the function of the marriage ceremony if not vanity?

I don't think this is fair at all. So if you do something that isn't completely selfless, it becomes vain and selfish? Is it never acceptable to say "Hey, I'm changing my life and making a huge commitment and I'd like you guys to help me celebrate that"?

Maybe I'm just feeling shirty because I went to my friends' wedding the other weekend and it was, in fact, "all about the couple" and it was also an amazing, beautiful affirmation of love, I was happy to be there supporting them, and I just don't understand the problem basically.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:17 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Is it never acceptable to say "Hey, I'm changing my life and making a huge commitment and I'd like you guys to help me celebrate that"?

Sure, but you don't need to spend five figures on that. Like, nobody needs that.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:19 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Sure, but you don't need to spend five figures on that. Like, nobody needs that.

I also don't need a cell phone or a car, but it's not a moral failing to have them. Throwing a big party is fun. Big parties are either expensive or time-consuming. If we can afford to pay for the expense, why is it immoral to do so?
posted by muddgirl at 9:20 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Weddings have never made sense to me. That kind of money (the average is what, $25K?) could be spent on the rings - the ones you'd be wearing every day - and the honeymoon.
posted by Anima Mundi at 9:21 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I haven't been married yet myself, but almost all of the weedings my friends have had centered on the bride, yes, but in a way where she basically just wanted it to be a relatively stress-free day that she'd look back on fondly and which everyone would enjoy. Brides in my experience have been super reasonable about this sort of thing. Mothers-of-Brides, however, require strenuous interference-running to keep from ruining everything by making themselves the center of attention.
posted by Navelgazer at 9:22 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


I was just reading the comments on the Jezebel piece and there are so many holier-than-thou commenters who think spending so much money is stupid.

And while I secretly agree that if you have to worry about money, it is better saved than spent (I am not from money), if people want to fancy wedding, great. Do your own thing. It's fun to plan and have projects.

I have enjoyed the fancy weddings I've attended. I probably won't be able to afford one for awhile and am not ready to be in a relationship again for awhile, but I do love beautiful events. And I come from a particularly unnecessarily frugal family so I'm hardwired to think about costs over experience. I'm just hoping I'll be madly in love with a lovely guy and elope with him, because planning sounds difficult. It might be good to get a wedding planner to help.

But I loved my friends' weddings that were beautiful. And weddings/celebrations are necessary to ease the anxiety of milestones and transitions. And I had fun.

I love delicious cakes.
posted by discopolo at 9:23 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine having your little sister steal your wedding day thunder. God, I hate this sort of thing.

Good lord. Now THAT is a narcissist.
posted by winna at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I love a nice wedding. I don't care how much you spend as long as you don't complain to me about it. You should invite me to your wedding because I will come and I will be a charming guest, sure to participate in any dance or other ritual you wish your guests to be in on*, or I will not come but will send a lovely gift.

*Particularly now that I'm married and do not have to do the bouquet toss, because I never liked that shit.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:24 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The culture of materialism surrounding weddings particularly the still present default assumption that the Bride's parents should shoulder the lion's share of the cost of the wedding just seem to be a throw-back to the age of brides bringing a dowry to the marriage but instead of the marriage resulting in the family having a nice nest egg to use as a down-payment on a home you are expected to spend a huge amount of money to generate a bunch of nice memories (and hopefully some nice wedding gifts).

It's odd and anachronistic and the marketing about this being the bride's special day (rather than the hopefully years to come of domestic and wedded bliss) creates immense social pressure on prospective brides that simply isn't sustainable unless people are willing to mortgage their future on a single day celebration.
posted by vuron at 9:26 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


mason jars at every seat.

I suppose that is one place to put the artisinal moonshine, but shouldn't it go on the table or in the 'special punchbowl'?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:27 AM on July 5, 2013


I loved my backyard BBQ wedding. It cost us about $1500, because of renting chairs and buying food and booze, but we made all that money back in gifts, which was cool. Our families are very generous.

But I did feel all this weird pressure to martyr myself by DIYing everything and having everything just right. Which was hard to do because we were having our wedding in New Jersey and lived in Florida at the time. This meant that the morning of the wedding, I was putting together favors (brown diner mugs stuffed with cocoa packets and tea bags) which was sort of ridiculously stressful. Sometimes I think it's probably easier for people having lavish weddings. Then you just, like, hire a planner or something.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:29 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The big cultural difference I've noticed isn't so much about collective vs. individual culture (though I think that's a part of it for sure) but a shift from a wedding being about two families to it being about two people, or in the worst case, one person, because gawd forbid a dude have OPINIONS* about such a minor thing as his own wedding.

My mother recently gave me her and my father's wedding album. They're long since divorced, and I hadn't seen it in years when she gave it to me. Flipping through it as an adult, the thing that struck me the most was how familial their wedding was (they married in 1979, for reference). The wedding was at my mothers' parents church, and the reception was at their home. Which is, itself, kind of mind-blowing. I've been to a lot of weddings as an adult, from humble to fancy, and I've never been to one that was just "in my parents' backyard". The wedding party was all family, with maybe somebody's high school bestie thrown in to even out the numbers. My parents both arrived and left all wedding venues in their own (total beater college kid) cars. There was a groom's cake, because we're southern, but it was just a german chocolate sheet cake with a figurine of a doctor perched on top because my dad was headed to med school. My dad's parents still have that figurine.

Seriously, my parents didn't even get to keep their own cake topper when they got married 35 years ago. Things have changed.

*I actually think the seedy underbelly of the "bridezilla" phenomenon is the "dude who can't be arsed" phenomenon. Why doesn't anyone talk about that?
posted by Sara C. at 9:30 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


My favorite recent wedding anecdote is the unnamed guy who loaned Bill Clinton his private jet to fly all over the friggin' world for a couple years and complained bitterly to the New York Times that he didn't rate an invitation to Chelsea's wedding with 600 guests. I wonder how long the list is of rich dudes who would be happy to loan Bill Clinton their private jet. Or maybe the guy was lying to the reporter and he loaned Bill Clinton his jet three times.
posted by bukvich at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2013


Or are pizzas and pictures materialistic?

No, they're unhealthy and narcissistic. SHAME
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 9:31 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The largest individual category of expense was "cheese".

Rumballs and champagne for ours. We got married by a derby girl friend of a friend who wore the same crazy purple kimono my best friend's officiant wore 10 years earlier at her wedding. Then we went to dinner, then we got our drink on. I pulled a dress out of my closet, husband bought a new suit because he felt like it.

It was pretty awesome, especially contrasted to my cousin's zillion-dollar wedding to a crazy entitled Southern belle-Bridezilla with a wealthy stepdad and mom who thought she was Martha Stewart.

(Needless to say, they're already divorced. Wonder who got all the tacky silver shit her mom insisted on Vanna White-showcasing to everyone during the reception. Oh? And you think the Paula Deen comments were bad? This girl's mom actually HAD a BBQ station serviced by black gentlemen in amongst the "canoe filled with ice and seafood flown in from Maine," margarita and chocolate fountain stations).

The worstbest part of that wedding was the groom's sister, who'd flown over from her Peace Corps assignment in Africa telling me how many wells and community projects they could finance for the amount of cash splashed over that wedding. The flipflop budget alone! (You had to ditch your own shoes and wear provided flipflop sandals to protect their precious lawn).
posted by bitter-girl.com at 9:32 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, and I was under no illusion that my wedding was about me. I wanted to elope, but my husband wanted to have a ceremony and reception for his family. Ah well.

Which is, itself, kind of mind-blowing. I've been to a lot of weddings as an adult, from humble to fancy, and I've never been to one that was just "in my parents' backyard".

This was totally my wedding, btw. Mom's backyard. If you look at DIY wedding communities like offbeatbride, you'll find backyard weddings are more common than you might think. I mean, less common than weddings in barns, but they still happen.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 9:34 AM on July 5, 2013


I demand a NYT trend piece on this subject


I think there may actually not even be enough people doing it in NY to justify an NYT trend piece (i.e. 3). The article mentions "several" people, and cites two people in a temporal span of nine years, one of whom appears to have done it at least in part as an art piece.

This appears to be blurring the line between the modern usage of "phenomenon" (a massively successful and well-known cultural product or process - as in "the Twist is the new dance phenomenon") and its meaning in philosophy of a single entity that is perceived by the senses.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:35 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Imagine having your little sister steal your wedding day thunder. God, I hate this sort of thing.

I have a friend whose brother-in-law will be getting married in September. His wife will be a tesitmone (witness, analogish to our maid of honor/best man) for her brother. Not only is she insisting on buying a mega expensive dress (with money they don't really have) specifically to outshine the bride, but she's been bugging my friend to get her knocked up so she can announce the pregnancy at the reception.

That, my friends, is wedding narcissism Southern Italian style.

God help the person who tries to pull bullshit like this at my wedding in October...
posted by romakimmy at 9:35 AM on July 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


Tale from deer hunting in the northwoods.

So a gal was getting hitched in Mosinee, WI the weekend of opening deer season.

The hunter had doe pee in his checked bags.

The glass container broke and leaked. Leaked onto the wedding dress.

At baggage pickup time a known to hunters smell started to be detected. Said hunter knew what happened so he made sure he was 1st at the bag pickup. The bride was on the far side.

As he was leaving he tells that he got to hear the bride sobbing AND angry at the same time, complaining that her $25,000 wedding dress that she paid $5,000 for the trip to NYC to go get was ruined and how her day was ruined.

Median household income in that town - $49,200.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:37 AM on July 5, 2013


I couldn't find a video of this Kids in the Hall sketch. "This is my day, you frig!"
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The wedding industry might encourage narcissism, but marriage ought to kick you right out of that if you want it to work
posted by C.A.S. at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The way I see it, most westerners view their wedding day as their one day to be in show business
posted by C.A.S. at 9:38 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


I'm a frugal person, but what Frowner and muddgirl say about weddings is true. I'm aware you can easily do a $500 wedding, which my brother and his wife did, justice of the peace and a dinner in a restaurant, etc. I don't plan to take that route, though, precisely because the idea of gathering 100 of my family members, wonderful friends and community around is exactly the thing I would want to do with the money available. Much of my partnership has grown up within and revolved around this community context, and we would like our community to celebrate with us, and celebrate themselves a bit in the process.

And Frowner is right that that is not cheap. I also do events as part of my job, and events are flat-out expensive. Even if you use a free or cheap venue, if you want to offer food and drinks - and as a Slow Food person, I definitely do - you are into it. Even if you self-purchase booze and put it out in coolers, and even if you get a friends-n-family price on some very simple picnic-style food, you can't feed 100 people without creeping into the thousands. Hell, I don't know when the last time you had a house party was, but we had a house party for St. Patricks Day a few years ago for about 40 people. I made Irish stew and potatoes and soda bread, and we provided some Guinness and Whiskey, and people brought everything else. It still cost $350. And it was totally casual and did not involve rings, dresses, live music, decorations, flowers, etc, and I did all the cooking and he did all the house cleaning. It's not a far leap to 3 times the number of guests, more booze and food, the "extras" that make it a wedding, and you're north of $3K already.

I think there are excesses in weddings, and sometimes do critique them, but I agree that it is misogynist make a lot of this as "narcissism." If this really is a time to draw family and friends together, then it will cost some money. People can be frugal if they like (at one of my last jobs there were a lot of potluck weddings), but if you know anything about events, even toting up a "simple" wedding, you can see that it costs thousands. A backyard wedding, like the one a couple of my friends had, requires somebody with a big backyard, and they found they still needed port-a-potties and table and chair rentals to accommodate 80 people. $$$.

THe pressure I'm most cognizant of, in my friend at least, is to have "original" weddings. Too much time on Offbeat BRide and the like will covince you of this. You just must not be terribly interesting or creative if your wedding does not involve tandem bikes or motorcycles, a Sno Cone machine, zany costumes, surfboards, VW Bugs and rainbow umbrellas...there is a sensibility that your wedding needs to be very personally styled to create a unique, memorable event.
posted by Miko at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [21 favorites]


In the suburbs where I grew up, the big expensive weddings are often still about the parents and the importance of reciprocating for weddings you've been invited to by other parents. There are usually an incredible number of people who are not known or barely known to the couple. In my own family, there are fewer of the parents' friends and more relatives. Every wedding is a family reunion. I chose to have a wedding where I was living at the time, and only invite immediate family, and some people expressed annoyance that I hadn't provided the expected reunion (and lavish entertainment). So, anyway, the big wedding, for us, isn't a random expense, it's a part of necessary reciprocity and if you don't do it for your kids' weddings-- or your own second and third weddings-- you'll have to do it for something else.
posted by BibiRose at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


complained bitterly to the New York Times that he didn't rate an invitation to Chelsea's wedding with 600 guests.

If it helps, the lawyer I know says Mr. Clinton was charming and relaxed when he spent time talking to him at the non directly related wedding functions.

Says Mr. Clinton spoke about his big screen TV he just got.
posted by rough ashlar at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I always figured it was women's turn for a while since we've just left a few millennia where we bought 'em and took 'em home.

It was (and still is) worse than that in many circles. The bride (or her parents) typically would pay the groom, rather than vice-versa.

Patriarchy!
posted by Sys Rq at 9:40 AM on July 5, 2013


The scary thing is how incredibly easy it is to get sucked in even if you want a laid-back casual wedding - the marketing is EVERYWHERE.

Oh, avoiding that is easy, just hold your marriage in hospital, to give your partner easy of mind days before an important operation, as we did...
posted by MartinWisse at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Mothers-of-Brides, however, require strenuous interference-running to keep from ruining everything by making themselves the center of attention.

This is because, up until our generation's crop of Mothers Of Brides, the mother of the bride was the center of attention. At least in terms of planning and aesthetic choices and what kind of flower arrangements and all. Looking at the "traditional" white/Anglo American middle class wedding that I grew up experiencing, the bride's parents threw the event. Nowadays it's more likely the couple throwing the event, and even if the families are funding it, it's all about how the couple can reflect their individual personalities through the aesthetic experience of a wedding.

I can see people my mom's age, who were steered through the whole process by their mothers, feeling kind of burnt that now it's supposed to be their turn to get the credit for hosting a lavish event, only to now be told that it's not about them.
posted by Sara C. at 9:41 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


The last "wedding" I went to, the ceremony was at the courthouse (we didn't go to that part), and the reception was the next day and consisted of the following instructions: show up at the bar at the Queen Mary if you want to hang out with us before we go on our honeymoon. In lieu of a traditional cake, a friend of the bride brought homemade bread pudding cupcakes with cream cheese frosting. It was pretty cool.
posted by infinitywaltz at 9:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In the suburbs where I grew up, the big expensive weddings are often still about the parents and the importance of reciprocating for weddings you've been invited to by other parents

This is a really good point, and probably drives the price of the wedding up immensely.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The big cultural difference I've noticed isn't so much about collective vs. individual culture (though I think that's a part of it for sure) but a shift from a wedding being about two families to it being about two people...

To be fair, families are so fractured today that in many cases it would not be two families, it could six if both families have one divorce in them. That was the primary motivation for our running off to HI. My in-laws were recently divorced and we didn't want to deal with the Hatfield and McCoy stuff between the families.
posted by COD at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I just keep thinking of the Gram Parsons song, "it was a $1000 dollar wedding, supposed to be held, the other day......"
posted by C.A.S. at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This is because, up until our generation's crop of Mothers Of Brides, the mother of the bride was the center of attention.

And this makes total sense when you review age at first marriage. Most brides had neither the money nor the life experience to put on a wedding event.
posted by Miko at 9:43 AM on July 5, 2013


but every time I seriously consider getting married, someone I know announces they're engaged, then through the course of the wedding planning, manages to alienate almost their entire family and social circle (mainly with "my day" type stuff), spend all the money they have and a whole lot they don't have, and age about a decade in a few months.

Then don't have that kind of wedding. I think we did ours for $2000, and I think people had as much if not more fun than at an expensive wedding.
posted by spaltavian at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2013


That kind of money (the average is what, $25K?) could be spent on the rings - the ones you'd be wearing every day - and the honeymoon.

A lot of people don't want a rock worth 20k on their fingers. Or care about luxury hotel rooms.

We're probably going to be closer to the average than I'd like, but we're in a big city, and we're hosting relatives I don't get to see more than once a decade because they live 3000 miles away. We don't know anyone with a backyard big enough to host a party of any size, whatsoever. And yeah, it's we, because I don't have some kind of fairy-land princess vision, so he gets to slog through the crazy sales pitches and the "lawns bedecked with swans" and the "milkshakes delivered on the dance floor" too. I've been to weddings that probably cost half a million dollars, and you know, it was hard to even conceptualize that money, but they supported a lot of local businesses, local historic areas, and local artisans. They're just as married as anyone else, and I'm just as proud to have stood up and witnessed their vows.

(also I'm buying thank yous instead of "reusing my organic wildflower bouquet's petals to dye the cards" because, seriously, what)

I'm with Frowner on this one: the social pressure to be the perfect bride and the perfect hostess for this perfect party are hard to deal with even if you're trying to ignore them at every turn, especially because the dude is exculpated from basically any responsibility whatsoever.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:46 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


When bonehead and I got married, we were shocked both by how much the prices were ratcheted up by being associated with a wedding and by the extent to which wedding magazines were using the "it's all about the bride" line to sell crap we didn't need or want.

For me, it's not so much that modern weddings encourage narcisissm and bridezilla behavour as it is a reasonably effective marketing ploy to get people to spend far more than they need to on a wedding.
posted by LN at 9:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I did all of our planning, except for the dress. My wife did not care at all what I did, because she trusted my judgment. And what I ended up doing was throwing the kind of party I'd want to have all of my friends and relatives over to, just with a ceremony stuck in there and maybe everyone dressed spiffier than they otherwise might've been. No cake cutting ceremony. No toasts. Just a really fine meal, music, dancing, and cocktails you could use to clean industrial machinery if you had a mind to do so.

But the thing is? That was still REALLY expensive. We're from a big city, and it's hard to throw a wedding for 100 people for less than five figures. Our approach was to pick one thing we wanted to blow the money on (food in our case) and do as much as possible ourselves to make up the difference.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:48 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


we were shocked both by how much the prices were ratcheted up by being associated with a wedding

This always makes me wonder if it would be possible to save money by just telling all the vendors you're having a party. I mean, it's not a lie...
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


But self-marriage, just like other forms of commitment, can end in disappointment. In 2006, a Boston man who did it soon divorced himself, citing irreconcilable differences.


Hahahah. Funny guy!
posted by ian1977 at 9:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The pressure I'm most cognizant of, in my friend at least, is to have "original" weddings. Too much time on Offbeat BRide and the like will covince you of this.

Totally! I was having a panic attack a week before my wedding because I DON'T HAVE ANY MUSTACHES ON STICKS OR BOARD GAMES OR CUTESY PICTURE DISPLAYS, EVERYONE IS GOING TO BE SO BOOOOOOORED. I had to convince myself the time had come to back away from the wedding blogs. What was done was done.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2013 [11 favorites]


> In the suburbs where I grew up, the big expensive weddings are often still about the parents and the importance of reciprocating for weddings you've been invited to by other parents

When the brother of a friend of mine got married the guest list topped 500 people, many (most?) of whom were work acquaintances of the parents. The event was what I would call ridiculously lavish, presumably because said acquaintances needed to be impressed. When I ran into him a couple of weeks before the wedding I asked him if he was excited; he looked bummed out and tired and said the whole thing was such a hassle that he just wanted it to be over with. Today he's happily married with two kids, but what a sad thing it must have been to dread his own wedding because it got hijacked by the parents.
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


it was hard to even conceptualize that money, but they supported a lot of local businesses, local historic areas, and local artisans.

This is a really great point - especially the historic area one, my personal bias. In the last couple decades, an era characterized by increasing competition and declining municipal, state, corporate, and federal funding for historic sites, the wedding business has been a great boon to museums, historic houses, and parks. In many places it provides up to 20% of the annual operating budget.
posted by Miko at 9:50 AM on July 5, 2013


I had one of those low-5-figures weddings discussed above, and I was pretty happy with it. Of course, I could afford it and we paid for it all ourselves, no family money and no debt incurred. But it was a fun day, with lots of our friends and family (some of that money did involve flying some people out who could not have made it otherwise, for example).

4 years later we were divorced, but I still don't regret it. It's part of my memories both of my life/family/friends and of that relationship, which may be over but was (obviously) very important to me at the time and still worth celebrating.

I don't think anyone needs to spend that much if they dont want to, and I do think there should be no pressure for it, but I can easily understand why some people truly want to.
posted by wildcrdj at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


This always makes me wonder if it would be possible to save money by just telling all the vendors you're having a party.

It is-- I remember reading a blog post where one partner called vendors about pricing services for a wedding, and the other called about a party. If there was a difference, which there often was, they wouldn't use that vendor...but it limited their options by quite a lot.
posted by jetlagaddict at 9:52 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Sara C.: "I actually think the seedy underbelly of the "bridezilla" phenomenon is the "dude who can't be arsed" phenomenon. Why doesn't anyone talk about that?"

Yeah, in my experience this is a big part of it. There's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing there, but those two behaviors definitely enable each other. I've lost count of the guys I know who just use "it's her day" as an excuse to be lazy about it and have their responsibilities begin and end with showing up in a tux with a ring (and complain about the wedding costs/decisions to their buddies while never actually having a conversation with their partner about it other than basically "I don't care, whatever you want").
posted by jason_steakums at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Just give people a good meal, music and booze and everything sort of takes care of itself.
posted by davebush at 9:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


the dude is exculpated from basically any responsibility whatsoever.

When MuddDude showed up at our venue tours and meetings with caterers (since he was, you know, getting married), it was like he was a flying unicorn pooping rainbows.

I cannot imagine planning the whole thing all by myself (we lived 1500 miles from where we got married, and about that far from any family). It probably would have turned me into a bridezilla.
posted by muddgirl at 9:54 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been to a lot of weddings as an adult, from humble to fancy, and I've never been to one that was just "in my parents' backyard".

Ha! My wedding (7 years ago) was in my mother's backyard. My dad cooked, and we had a pinata!

Also my wedding is where I learned what the point of a rehearsal is, because we really sucked at the whole vow-reading thing.
posted by like_a_friend at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


When bonehead and I got married, we were shocked both by how much the prices were ratcheted up by being associated with a wedding

"Don't you want it to be special?"
posted by biffa at 9:55 AM on July 5, 2013


Just give people a good meal, music and booze and everything sort of takes care of itself.

that's 5k right there.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:56 AM on July 5, 2013 [15 favorites]


that's 5k right there.

Unless your friends are all chefs, musicians, and bartenders who are donating their time, expertise, and food/booze. My friends are engineers and scientists. We had amazing free tech support when the speakers didn't work. Everything else we had to pay for.
posted by muddgirl at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


It's usually such hard work to be a vendor at a wedding, I really don't blame them for charging what they do.
posted by girlmightlive at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


In Donnesbury, Marcia had a singularity ceremony in 1985.

Donnesbury was a little world made cunningly, indeed.
posted by Ice Cream Socialist at 9:57 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


...the still present default assumption that the Bride's parents should shoulder the lion's share of the cost of the wedding...

Granted, I'm past the age where someone in my social circle is getting married every five minutes, but I've gotten the distinct impression that this is now the exception instead of the rule.

Also, Mason jars are awesome, and should be incorporated into every major and minor life event.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2013


> the dude is exculpated from basically any responsibility whatsoever.

That was an option? Damn.

/ hamburger, of course
posted by The Card Cheat at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


It's My Day

This is what my fiancée says - thankfully, sarcastically - when wedding planning gets ridiculous.

(Lately it's when we're registering for gifts. Somehow it feels wrong to ask people to buy stuff we wouldn't buy for ourselves.)
posted by madcaptenor at 9:58 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My point was show that even a 'simple' wedding with just food music and booze is going to cost a lot of money, so I shot for a low end estimate.

My point is that throwing a party for a 100 people is very very expensive.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 9:59 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


The idea that even YOUR OWN WEDDING shouldn't be 'about you' strikes me as bizzare.

The wedding is there to make sure that the owners of the product ( Mom and Dad) are compensated for the amount of time and capital they have invested into thier product ( children) and are rewarded with stronger bonds, higher incomes, and social capital.
posted by The Whelk at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Related: my girlfriend loves trashy reality TV, and I thought Bridezillas was a strong contender for the worst. I was wrong. Bridalplasty will leave you a speechless, gibbering mess trying to parse the number of things wrong with it.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:00 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


My wife and I are both on our second marriages. Both us had (endured?) traditional first marriage ceremonies - huge money and lots of friends. Both ended in divorce.

We were married in our ski clothes by a justice-of-the-peace on a mountainside outside of Jasper, Canada. No guests, no fuss, and excellent skiing afterwords. Had a party with all our friends when we got back. Still going strong after 18 years together.

Although I think modern traditional weddings are stupid expensive, the reason you're getting married is WAY more important than how you're getting married.
posted by Benny Andajetz at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always thought Say Yes to the Dress was right up there with the worst of 'em.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2013


Unless your friends are all chefs, musicians, and bartenders who are donating their time, expertise, and food/booze.

It's rare to have people in every supplier category as friends. Personally, I am good for food and musicians. But nobody donates booze, and even people willing to donate food labor are not always able or willing to donate food cost. The other big expense category is equipment: tables, chairs, cutlery, china, glasses, chafing dishes, napkins, tableclothes. Sometimes you can borrow tables and chairs from a church or meeting hall, but not super likely if you don't have an existing relationship with them. China, cutlery, service stuff is harder to come by and also involves labor. Or you can go the paper route and just generate piles of waste.

I've been costing it out carefully, and even with friends and family rate for music (which is only fair, musicians should be paid for their work like anyone else) and food (with the food cost note above) I can't get us much below $2500 for 100 people, before clothes and rings.
posted by Miko at 10:01 AM on July 5, 2013


good meal, music, booze ... that's 5k right there.

The meal part - hard to do at $0 yourself in the timeframe of the wedding reception unless you've spent a whole lot of time with bags of sous vide'd stuff.

But today's music selection can be had for $0 - just use the 2010 metafilter music project and the booze - well that's why the moonshine goes in the mason jars.

The cheapest wedding I know of was the licence fee and a ring pop ring for a couple of grad students.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2013


I can see people my mom's age, who were steered through the whole process by their mothers, feeling kind of burnt that now it's supposed to be their turn to get the credit for hosting a lavish event, only to now be told that it's not about them.

My wedding, when I was a spineless child of 21, was literally in my parents' backyard. My mom strong-armed all the decisions about wedding colors, flowers, even what dress I ultimately bought.

I distinctly remember overhearing my mom say to my brother at the time, "Well, she's my only daughter, so...it's my wedding, too!"
posted by daisystomper at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2013


Metafilter: a flying unicorn pooping rainbows
posted by 1066 at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


My point is that throwing a party for a 100 people is very very expensive.

Oh yes, I was agreeing with you, and trying to point out that some people may have a skewed idea of what it takes to throw a party, because their social circle already includes all the elements that make up a good party.
posted by muddgirl at 10:02 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wife sewed her dress, she had a bouquet and that was it for flowers, we organized our own music and the venue was already fully decorated. But no matter how thrifty you are with the other stuff it's the food and drink that will really cost you.

The venue manager told us that if you have an open bar for every person who has one drink there will be one who has ten and that it will average out to five drinks per guest. This turned out to be accurate almost to the dollar. My wife and I kept the bar tab receipt as a souvenir and had fun trying to guess who ordered some of the more offbeat drinks.
posted by The Card Cheat at 10:06 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've always thought Say Yes to the Dress was right up there with the worst of 'em.

SYTTD is fun if you watch one or two because yay pretty dresses!, but if you ever watch a marathon, you begin to see that the show could be called, "Entitled Brides, Nasty Mothers, and Jealous Sisters on Parade". All sorts of complicated family dynamics; it's very unsettling. And that's before you even begin to tackle the notion that Kleinfelds considers $2k the very low end of what you can spend to get anything nice in their shop.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


The cheapest wedding I know of was the licence fee and a ring pop ring for a couple of grad students.

I wonder how low these stories can go. I'm waiting to hear how the judge waived the license fee because the couple was so damn cute.

Or how the wedding was held in a food court and was catered by free samples.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


But today's music selection can be had for $0 - just use the 2010 metafilter music project and the booze - well that's why the moonshine goes in the mason jars.

Oh and, uh how do people hear the music?
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


That's what the mason jars are for, silly! Everyone queues up the playlist on their smart phone, sticks their smartphone in the jar, and presses play at the same time. The mason jars act as little personal amplifiers!

Oh god, that could actually be a real trend.
posted by muddgirl at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


iPhones
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2013


Oh and, uh how do people hear the music?

Television leads me to believe a boom cube hooked up to an ipod will work.

(fair point - odds are if you are having a get together with enough people for the need of food/music/booze there will be someone in your circle of associates who'd bum ya their audio gear)
posted by rough ashlar at 10:10 AM on July 5, 2013


I've always thought Say Yes to the Dress was right up there with the worst of 'em.

SYTTD Drinking Game: Drink whenever someone says "bling," "princess," or "that wow factor." Chug whenever someone misuses the word "traditional" or any dressmaking terms.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:11 AM on July 5, 2013


Looks like I owe muddgirl a Coke. Which is still more money than we spent on our wedding.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:11 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


The entirely of my wedding reception was a black coffee at Starbucks.
posted by The Whelk at 10:11 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Which just illustrates the point that weddings can be cheap when people give you things for free.
posted by MisantropicPainforest at 10:12 AM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


View from a curmudgeonly height:

1) You should not be allowed to have the expensive wedding celebration until you have been married 10 years. This would save a lot of money and reward an achievement instead of some crackhead pipe dream.

2) Spend a billion on your wedding if you are so inclined, heck spend 10 billion. Please do not tell me how you do not have enough money to: retire, live, travel, etc etc etc. 25k well invested @ 25 can easily be 400k at retirement age. Not a fortune, but I have a strange feeling that most people would be glad to have it at that point. That number is most assuredly a lot more than a lot of people who have 25k weddings will have at retirement.

3) It is always interesting in these threads to listen to people defend conspicuous consumption. Basically, conspicuous consumption always seems to be 17.4% more any given writer is willing to spend. In fact, too much of everything is always 17.4% more than the writer has... too much income, too much spending, too much wealth, etc.

OK, enough of tirade. I am mostly kidding. Let the flames begin!
posted by jcworth at 10:12 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


OK people, I am going to save you a crapton of money if you live in the Twin Cities area. Get Judge Zimmerman to preside at your wedding. No lie, he does not charge for the service and views it as a gift to the couple. However, if you live far out he will ask you for gas money. If you feel real obligated to fork over funds he has a favorite homeless shelter that provides for families that you could donate funds towards.

Rings: get them online. There are a lot of threads on ask Mefi about rings and the thrifty approach.

Catering: You know that there are culinary schools like at MCTC where you could get a reasonable deal? But if you go real low key, BBQ from a well respected group such as, Big Daddy's will be impressive

Cakes and flowers: Costco. No lie, they will do a full wedding set of florals. If you need cupcakes arrangements they handle those very well too.

Venue: A lot of great choices that will not bankrupt you including Stillwater, chapels and hey, the reception hall of universities are actually available for rental. Some of those reception areas are REALLY impressive. Just call facilities at a university and ask.

Childcare: Oh yeah, you will be real impressive with the kiddies taken care of with their own special care and eats. You can hire, no lie, off duty teachers to do cool things with the kids like science.

Dress: Ebay and a good seamstress are always good. But you can get some very impressive garb if you decide to do an SCA style wedding. Now, you have a theme and a reason to be in some pretty outlandish skirts. Did I mention that garb is freaking cheaper than a lot of wedding dresses?
posted by jadepearl at 10:14 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


Or how the wedding was held in a food court and was catered by free samples.

Not me, but someone I knew totally kinda did this when they were seniors in college. They co-opted a free-for-students reception as their reception.

In their case this actually happened because they were both MAJOR cloud cuckoolanders who decided out of nowhere that they wanted to get married. Also, IIRC they got a bunch of undergrads to steal a bunch of lawn chairs from the student center for their ceremony, which took place on the lawn of their church.

(I neither condemn nor condone this approach ... but I will say that they put the chairs back.)
posted by aperturescientist at 10:15 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Also, if you go the other way - if you don't want to get married and have a traditional wedding with a couple of hundred people, most of whom you've seen less than a half dozen times in your life, you will also be treated like the most selfish, narcissistic, difficult person by those who want to attend said wedding.

There's not even an engagement yet, and I've had a couple of years of trying to beat down expectations about my eventual marriage. I'm not sure why these people would think that I'd have a personality transplant and want to be the center of attention for something so large and lavish and stressful that I was guaranteed not to remember a single minute of it afterwards, but there you go.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:16 AM on July 5, 2013 [14 favorites]


Please do not tell me how you do not have enough money to: retire, live, travel, etc etc etc. 25k well invested @ 25 can easily be 400k at retirement age. Not a fortune, but I have a strange feeling that most people would be glad to have it at that point. That number is most assuredly a lot more than a lot of people who have 25k weddings will have at retirement.

I do, actually. Thanks for your concern about my financial situation.

jadepearl - my $20k did not include the officiant (a friend), rings (I think we spent maybe $200), flowers, childcare, OR a dress. Venue was about $9k for a handicap-accessible outdoor venue (yes, I will admit that we were narcissistic and self-involved by wanted to get married outside. We probably could have shaved off a couple thousand by getting married indoors, but we'd still be in 5-figures). Food, cake, booze, and very very basic rentals were about $9k. A photographer was $2k (and that was a steal - she was starting her portfolio). This is highly location-dependent. It is more expensive to get married in some places than in others. We picked a place that would save our guests lots of travel money, but would cost us more.
posted by muddgirl at 10:19 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony.

Funny you should say that.

We were actually paid a tidy sum by the venue to help make it look busy that weekend. It was just us and the officiant, and after the ceremony was done and the paperwork was finalized we used a time machine to edit the officiant out of the timeline, so after the temporal storms settled our wedding party was an empty set.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:20 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I live in a city with a beautiful conservatory in a beautiful park, and I know a woman who didn't want to pay what they charged for a wedding, so she just had her guests meet there at a certain time, where she had a quick ceremony and left.

Clever, sure, but really, how cheap can one be?
posted by girlmightlive at 10:21 AM on July 5, 2013


We are actually trying to convince friends to get married in our yard, dancing in the barn (we have a disco ball!) and s'mores by the fire pit.
posted by shothotbot at 10:21 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I had a Big Party Wedding. I'd been with my fiance for 7 and a half years, I really wanted to get married, it was a big deal to me and I wanted to celebrate it. We pulled it off for just about $8500 (ten years ago) for 115 guests, but we had our DJ and photography services donated; if you add in the value of those, it probably would have been about $11K.

People roll their eyes at that figure, but think about it -- when was the last time you went out to a restaurant with a group, had drinks &c, and had the bill come to less than $10 per person?! We did an ENORMOUS amount to hold costs down; we had a noon wedding rather than evening, we had a buffet lunch, we had the wedding at a winery which meant that we got their case price on the wine, we didn't do a full bar with hard alcohol. I had my dress made by a local theater costumer (which was an absolutely brilliant decision and one I would thoroughly recommend, because those folks are very familiar with how to get a gorgeous result for not a ton of money) and my mother and I made my headpiece and veil.

We had the cake made at a local bakery (and it was delicious) without a lot of foofaraw decorations, we had a local florist make my bouquet and all the corsages + two altar arrangements and then sell us bulk flowers to DIY the table arrangements, which we stuck into vases from the thrift store. We used recorded music we already owned, both for the ceremony music and the reception. We had the reception at the same venue as the wedding. I decided at the last minute to do favors, but they were jelly beans from Costco poured into little organza bags that I bought in bulk off eBay.

It was a lovely wedding, and I wouldn't change a thing, but boy howdy we could not have gotten the price much lower without seriously compromising the quality of the party we had or massively increasing my stress levels. And that was a five figure wedding, ten years ago. Y'all need to think about how much parties cost.
posted by KathrynT at 10:26 AM on July 5, 2013 [16 favorites]


//Also, if you go the other way - if you don't want to get married and have a traditional wedding with a couple of hundred people, most of whom you've seen less than a half dozen times in your life, you will also be treated like the most selfish, narcissistic, difficult person by those who want to attend said wedding.//

We didn't get that at all. Even my mother, if she was disappointed, kept it to herself. In fact, several friends that would have been the beneficiaries of an open bar had we not eloped ended up following our lead on running off to get married. This was 1991 - before destination weddings were quite the thing that they are today. We always used the term eloped because we had never heard the term destination wedding at the time. Since the wedding wasn't a secret, I guess it wasn't really an elopement?
posted by COD at 10:28 AM on July 5, 2013


Over the last decade or so I've watched most of my friends get married, and actually officiated a few of them, meanwhile letting people know that I and my permanent girlfriend didn't believe in marriage. I see it kind of like how you can be happy that your friend's kid is having a Bar Mitzvah without being Jewish yourself.

At the last wedding I went to -- hopefully the last one I'll go to -- my two best friends were getting married, and had made me one of two best men. I don't know whether the bride wanted the materialist spectacle, or their families pressured them into it, but it became huge, went on for days, and caused a bunch of hurtful fights, snubbings, and inter-familial jockeying for power.

The worst part came after the bride had been out ring shopping and asked me if I was excited about the rings. I had just been having a conversation with the groom over his epic amount of law school debt, so when I was asked if I was excited over a 4-figure ring, I had to say "not really". This was a mistake on my part for being too honest, precipitated a vicious tongue lashing, and got me kicked out of their apartment. I ended up having to write a weepy apology letter. A low point for everyone.

If you have to have a wedding, please don't let it cost you friendships, relationships, or much in the way of money. Certainly don't let your family or friends take over -- if they want a wedding, they can have one of their own.
posted by wormwood23 at 10:32 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


The Beast article argues that weddings practiced with modern individualist mores are less satisfying than weddings practiced with traditional collectivist mores.

You cannot make a modern individualist culture a traditional collectivist one for a single day and then go back to being individualistic. I suspect that for many, making the wedding day about the group instead of the self would feel counterfeit. They are not marrying for the benefit of the group, but for the benefit of themselves.

And if people are marrying for themselves instead of the group, then what is the function of the marriage ceremony if not vanity?


It's really too bad if this is the case because I have to agree with the Beast article. Because of the situation we were in at the time my husband and I got married in a First Nations community. I'm not FN so had no real idea what the differences were. We ended up having a large wedding with over 300 guests that cost about 1500 dollars and was so stress free.

We just wanted a small ceremony with friends and family and my biggest concern was keeping my Mom from going crazy like she did at my sisters wedding. What happened did feel quite disconcerting at first because it was so unusual to my experience. People just started offering to take care of different parts of the wedding. At first I didn't understand what was going on and felt really uneasy about the 'why', obligation and the money aspect. I wasn't expected to pay! The biggest thing was food. What was typical in that community was pot luck. My Mom and my family balked and kinda freaked at first because who does potluck at a wedding? They came around when it became clear that this was the way it was.

The only thing my husband and I had to look after was getting our wedding clothes, renting a tent and some tables and making little traditional tobacco bundles to give away to every single guest. Everything else, flowers, photography (done by two professionals) music, decorations, the cake and everything else was looked after by other people. Everyone involved was so good at asking what I wanted though I ended up just giving the most basic desires and letting people go with their own creativity.

On the day I went in not entirely knowing exactly what everything was going to be like. It was a but stressful but people were so excited and enjoying themselves so much it soon disappeared. A large group of people showed up to help set up. When the cake arrived I was flabbergasted. All I said was vanilla and autumn colors. I expected a really basic cake. It was a professional looking multi-tiered absolutely gorgeous huge cake. My worry about not having enough food was so misplaced it's laughable. There was enough food for two more weddings and it was incredible. People went all out. Roast beef, pork, a whole turkey, rabbit, deer, venison, bison...you name the meat it was there.

What was really wild was that I didn't even know everyone at the wedding. People came, with food and gifts who knew of us by reputation and wanted to be a part of it. There were lots of surprises with the biggest one being a drumming group that came from three hours away. People I didn't even know and played many traditional pieces.

It was the most amazing and satisfying day. I've been to lots of wedding but have never felt that sort of community feeling. My family felt the same way. The strangest part was being thanked for such a great wedding. I barely did anything! Yet that's just the way it is there. The hardest part was getting over the feeling that I owed all the people that did stuff. That thank you wasn't enough. It took a while to get that the whole day was the gift. That people really enjoyed and relished the celebration and the whole together process of celebrating something considered wonderful and special.

I wish our more tradtitional western culture had this more. I can attest to it being so damn amazing and uplifting.
posted by Jalliah at 10:33 AM on July 5, 2013 [49 favorites]


I live in a city with a beautiful conservatory in a beautiful park, and I know a woman who didn't want to pay what they charged for a wedding, so she just had her guests meet there at a certain time, where she had a quick ceremony and left.

I've heard of a couple people who had similar stealth ceremonies at Disney parks to get out of the price of an official Disney Wedding™.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 10:34 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


This quote from the first linked article seemed to highlight some of the divides between showbiz_liz and banal evil camps of thinking.
Today, to most Western couples the concept of merging two families sounds like a tribal ritual rather than a marriage blueprint. “In-laws, ugh,” this generation might say.
I don't think I would have comprehended this "family merger"* approach until I spent 5 years in Seoul, Korea as an adult and saw how little individuality was expected to be displayed at weddings and how much partying for the parents and their friends was involved. It's totally a class reunion for the parents (elementary school up through college) and often times attendees just give over their envelope full of wedding cash and go straight to the buffet banquet to booze it up. My parents also explicitly joked about the "necessary reciprocity" that bibirose mentions. "Do you know how many kids so-and-so has? Four! You better get married, you're our only hope for making back some of that wedding envelope money."

I'm getting married in about a month in Seoul, very much because of family. Our only living grandparent lives in Korea and is too frail to travel internationally. For a while I was bummed that we wouldn't get to embody our individuality in the wedding, that the cookie cutter Korean wedding industry would make this wedding pretty much like all other weddings. [See American societal pressure for "original weddings! omg!"] And then I became hugely grateful that I didn't have to fuss about guest lists and seating charts (seriously, it's a huge buffet with no assigned seating, you don't have to RSVP, just show up) or stress about the photographer (package includes dress/tux rental, photos, hair, etc etc). Nowadays when people ask me how the wedding planning is going, I reply "it's great. we've picked a theme and it's "we're lazy."**

*On the flipside, engagements could founder on pre-wedding negotiations between the in-laws regarding reciprocal gifts (though this was really a rich people problem, I know an engagement that was broken because the respective families disagreed over how many mink coats should be gifted).

** I admire folks who put themselves into their weddings and paid attention to centerpieces and name cards to make something beautiful and memorable, but I know the tatters of my Type-A personality would take over and make me very unhappy. It does not end! So our wedding will carry the meaning of "hey, wedding!" Fried chicken will follow though.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


I've heard of a couple people who had similar stealth ceremonies at Disney parks to get out of the price of an official Disney Wedding™.

Official Disney weddings are CRAZY expensive. I don't blame them.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 10:35 AM on July 5, 2013


Cheapist out of pocket expense rings to date I know of (exclusing ring pop ring):

The male horder took all his old PDP 11, medical motherboards and gold contacts and separated the Gold from the other material along with old Silver silverware for his ring.

Her ring - using the solid state caps make a Palladium ring.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


By the way, Im Indian and indian weddings are extremely expensive and involve a lot of planning and are also extremely stressful. Indian parents do a whole show of wealth thing too. So despite the rituals and traditions, no one is above any of it. The bride and groom are still at the center of attention.
posted by discopolo at 10:36 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


9Disclaimer here: Never married, but with a longtime boyfriend and heading that way, albeit eventually. I always thought I would have the giant white princess wedding when I got married (even planning out the gigantic bridal party I just had to have!). Now that I'm older, the idea of that just leaves me cold - especially since we will both be over 40 when we get engaged and married. Heck, right now having a teeny wedding in the rabbi's office, immediate family only, then not even telling anyone it happened until well after the fact is what's sounding most appealing to me now - avoiding all this stuff. ; )
posted by SisterHavana at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2013


I have observed that most moral panics involve things-centered-around-women, things-centered-around-"femininity" or things-centered-around-poor-people. Although in this case, the poor get married in insufficient numbers, so that's not relevant - unless you're writing an article about poor folks recklessly spending a lot of money on a wedding.

I think there probably is some sexism lurking in how freaked out people get about how much money other people spend on what is, effectively, a party celebrating a woman.

My wife and I had a very traditional wedding: married in a church, black tie, reception at her grandfather's club. We invited probably 80 people. There was a band. I have no idea what the total bill is because we didn't pay it (which is obviously a privilege of having the type of family that uses the phrase "grandfather's club").

That type of thing isn't for everyone, but we enjoyed it and it made everyone involved happy. There was no narcissism. There was no Bridezilla. There was as little stress as there can be when you're throwing a big event and making a major life decision all at once. There was an open bar at a nice venue and there was dancing and everyone had a good time. Nothing about the trappings of our wedding required us to be vain or stressed and angry or anything else.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 10:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Back of the envelope, my wedding (which was this past April) cost about $5,000, and that covered food and drink, decorations, my suit, the bride's dress, a portable toilet, chair rentals, and a band (her stepfather is a musician). Even then, we relied on lots of favors: we got our venue, a nice little barn and surrounding field, for free from a family friend; we borrowed tables from our church; the stepfather's band played at a discounted rate; and many of the mother of the bride's friends pitched in for preparations and such. Also, we dispensed with a lot of the accoutrements that now seem to be de rigeur for weddings these days: wedding favors, personalized napkins, gobsmackingly expensive rings (hers is silver, mine's titanium).

It turned out extraordinarily well: the weather was perfect that day, the ceremony (a Quaker service) went off without a hitch, and people loved the food and the booze and the music. While a lot of our decisions were driven by financial necessity, they forced us to focus on what was truly essential to having a great wedding, and, I think, prevented ego trips or Bridezilla behavior from marring the proceedings. Folks can be quite generous if you reach out to them.
posted by Cash4Lead at 10:38 AM on July 5, 2013


It might be more prevalent if you're female, COD, but I know even saying 'It will probably be a small ceremony' to be taken as 'I SECRETLY HATE YOU AND NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU OR YOUR ILK AGAIN'. Everyone wants to be invited, even if few of them are likely to ever attend.
posted by dinty_moore at 10:39 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


I keep seeing this presented as though its a choice between "having the big fancy party the bride really wants" and "caring about your family and community." The truth for me and most of my friends was that the big fancy party actually resulted from being respectful of other people's wishes.

My wedding was not ornate or anything. And it was the happiest day of my life, until my kids were born. But if I actually had been planning it as "my day," based just on what seemed appealing or fun to me, it would have been a backyard potluck with 1/10 the guests.
posted by gerstle at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


rough ashlar, that story is so Ron Swanson!
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:40 AM on July 5, 2013


Oh and, uh how do people hear the music?

Everybody logs into the livestream from home where they are eating their own food and drinking their own drinks.
posted by elizardbits at 10:41 AM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


even saying 'It will probably be a small ceremony' to be taken as 'I SECRETLY HATE YOU AND NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU OR YOUR ILK AGAIN'

We just had that printed on our wedding invitations. Cut waaaay down on the reception expenses.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [6 favorites]


A wedding is traditionally the bride's day in the same way that a birthday is the honoree's. Not everything is about her, but you have a big party and she's at the center of it. For a het wedding the groom is a close second on the honoree list.

But it's not traditionally the bride's day. That's the thing. If we want to talk real tradition, it was about a merging of the two households. Then it was about the forging of a new family. The "It's Your Special Day" crap with demanding the fancy food, the dress, the mason jars, all of that shit arose only in the past few decades in order to sell shit.

Look, I don't think it's misogynist to point out it's pretty narcissistic to think on your wedding day you're a princess, it has to be Perfect and All About You and if everyone doesn't kowtow to your every need they're ruining everything. That is pretty narcissistic, and it's supposed to be because marketers would not be able to sell $25K dresses if they weren't feeding the bride's ego while doing it. The entire survival of the wedding industry depends on its ability to simultaneously primp and preen the bride when she chooses the expensive option and make her feel like worthless shit when she doesn't.
posted by schroedinger at 10:43 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


My wedding is going to be at the courthouse, just me and the dude, with no photography. The party afterward is going to be on the mountainside where I own my postage stamp of property, next to the crumbling ruin of my meth lab-lookin' cabin, and it's going to be pot luck, camping, and solar karaoke, and the family will have no say at all beyond their dish in the pot luck. Sadly, far too many of my Georgia relatives will instead be Instagramming themselves holding Chick-Fil-A sandwiches and upholding good ol' fashion Taliban values, and they will all be neatly and permanently excised from my family rolls.

I don't get the whole need to parade your wedding around, but I dunno—I attended my first double-dick wedding in Vermont a month ago and I thought was suffering from excessive face sweat, but it turned out that it made me cry.

Shit, there goes my cynicism, goddammit.

Doing it big, though, just seems like it's something you do to shut the family elders up, and it's so much easier to cram something else in their craw then to spend a bazillion dollars. My little wedding is going to be as small as it can get without offending too many people, and it will be enough.

Mind you, I need to secure a dude, first.
posted by sonascope at 10:44 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


Use zip ties.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 10:47 AM on July 5, 2013 [12 favorites]


Have the wedding first, see if it attracts a dude, bower bird style.
posted by The Whelk at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [42 favorites]


The worst part came after the bride had been out ring shopping and asked me if I was excited about the rings. I had just been having a conversation with the groom over his epic amount of law school debt, so when I was asked if I was excited over a 4-figure ring, I had to say "not really".

Honestly is not advised in social situations like these, unfortunately. See also: babies. If someone asks you if you are excited about something no sane person would be excited about, the proper response is "I'm so happy for you!" or "I'm so thrilled to see you so excited!" or similar, which turns the expected happiness back onto the happy party where it belongs. You don't need to be happy about the thing they're happy about, but you can be pleased about their excitement.

then you go home and snark about it on your blog
posted by elizardbits at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


double-dick wedding in Vermont

??? ok, what is that?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:49 AM on July 5, 2013


Double Richards.
posted by The Whelk at 10:50 AM on July 5, 2013


We just had that printed on our wedding invitations.

RSVP
JK!
GTFO

posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2013 [9 favorites]


So hey that annual Running of the Brides at Bloomingdales or wherever the fuck, that's a riff on running of the bulls in Spain right? Cause that's wack
posted by angrycat at 10:51 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I think there are two kinds of weddings that are getting conflated here. The justice of the peace version is the "legally coupled in the eyes of the state" wedding. We did that for insurance reasons, but I didn't think of it as the "real" marriage, which for me is the joining of two communities.

The joining of, and support of, two communities is expensive. Our community came to about 150 people. (Downside to having weddings in middle age- everyone has kids and we didn't want them to NOT attend- they're part of the community.) Even leaning HEAVILY on friends and family for labor, we spent a few thousand, not counting my ridiculous (awesome) dress, which came out to about $1000 after the fabric, seamstress, and embroidery (Yay etsy!). Though we did buy local/community and mostly organic. We ended up getting a lot of our supplies from discount places that are not available in smaller areas, like my hometown. $4 tablecloths from Depot for Creative ReUse? Not going to happen elsewhere. Teapots by the bag from the Bargain Barn? Same. I don't know how widespread Grocery Outlet is, but that's where we got our booze, for ridiculously cheap, and it still added up.

We are really lucky to live in an area where "offbeat" is the norm and reusing is highly valued.

My mother, whose wedding to my father back in the early 1970s was even more "offbeat" than mine, succumbed to things like Say Yes To the Dress during my wedding planning, and would say things like "$2,000 is VERY reasonable for a dress!" Yeah- are YOU paying for it? No? Butt out. Crazy.

We were very lucky in that we knew that with food & music, even the biggest mess of a wedding would be fun because a) it was in an awesome park & b) our friends are way more fun than we are, and are very capable of making their own fun. We didn't feel like we had to entertain them, and it took a lot of pressure off of the whole process.

In the end, we came out in debt $170 and it was worth it. The community support was priceless plus everyone under the age of 65 had a great time. The older generation I think felt the whole thing was too rustic and too close to chaos, and they left earlier than everyone else.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Seriously, I love monogrammed mason jars, letterpress cards, and Etsy as much as the next wanna-be silkscreen superstar, but the pressure to make everything beautiful at your wedding is just too much.

I think part of the unexpected gift of making this wedding mostly about the families and less about the couple (and yes, as gerstle says, it's a bigger party because of the families) is that I can let some things go. Again, this doesn't work for everyone, and some people are awesome party planners with a ton of friends who can help out as vendors.

So for me at least, making this family-centric and not couple-centric has cut out 90% of the stress. Like I don't really like the implications of that part of the paebaek ceremony in which I am pelted with chestnuts and jujubes in some kind of fertility ritual, but whatever, our parents seem to really want the whole shebang. That bit in the first linked article about how the writer had nearly not had her dad walk her down the aisle really got to me. I am not ecstatic about the implications of my dad* walking me to my new lord-and-owner but my dad is totally stoked for this ritual. And we're using my parents' old rings for the ceremony even though we don't think we'll wear wedding rings just because we couldn't come up with a satisfying replacement that would make sense in a Korean cultural context (aka, no sand ceremonies please). "You may now exchange high-fives"?!?

There are some hills I will die on though. No tiaras. No veils.

*Poor dad. My mom has been making him go to the dermatologist lately so he can be more "handsome" for the wedding.
posted by spamandkimchi at 10:58 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


showbiz_liz: "The 'feeling like you have to spend gobs of money' thing is a problem, but honestly? The focus of a wedding SHOULD BE on the couple getting married! What else is the point? The idea that even YOUR OWN WEDDING shouldn't be 'about you' strikes me as bizzare."

The thing about Weddings (and I mean a traditional wedding like one sees on TV or in the movies, you'll see why in a minute) that creates a lot of these problems is that they've been totally decontextualized. If we're talking a traditional Christian wedding ceremony in most major denominations, it is about the bride and groom taking on a new role with the support and blessing of the community, and the community witnessing and recognizing that new role. It's very much about the community. In fact, only with the rise of high family mobility has it become usual to have "exclusive" wedding ceremonies where it's not just open to the entire congregation (theoretically most of them are, but obviously socially it'd be pretty weird to crash somebody's wedding ceremony just because you happen to go to the same church).

Similarly, fancy sit-down wedding receptions are not about "throw the biggest fanciest party ever." They're about "This is how we, as wealthy people, throw a nice dinner party." I mean obviously a wedding's going to be on your upper end of nice dinner parties, but what we now think of as a Wedding Reception comes out of wealthy people with servants throwing a dinner (or a luncheon, as the case may be).

So the Wedding, where the bride wears a princess dress and the reception puts people into debt and it's All About The Bride, is frequently totally decontextualized, and that's the root of a lot of these problems. The antecedents of the Wedding are specific things within specific cultural contexts, but the Wedding as it has come to be is very much about consumerism, marketing, and class anxiety.

If you are fairly wealthy and throwing a 150-person sit-down reception at a country club, it's going to be expensive, but it's probably not going to break the bank. Nor is it going to be the first time you have ever been to or thrown a similar event. There are shared expectations, and you're making decisions because "it's this sort of event" not because "it reflects the bride's personality." But when you get a bride (or a bride's parent, or a groom for that matter) who decides that they need a Wedding Reception but whose family has never thrown a party more formal than a kegger or pizza-and-beer in the backyard, you start to get these weird distortions and "bridezilla" behavior. Decontextualized, there aren't shared expectations or cultural limits on behavior; it IS all about what individuals want and then it tuns into a tug-of-war, a mode of personal expression, or unfettered consumption. Or all three. (I mean, a wealthy person country-club reception is obviously CONSPICUOUS consumption, but it's within culturally-prescribed boundaries.)

Similarly when you are having a Wedding that just LOOKS like a traditional Christian wedding -- in somewhere churchy, with flowers (live flowers symbolize the living Christ, FYI, which is why they're integral to Christian weddings and a lot of denominations literally require you to have them and will not allow you to use silk in the church), with someone who looks ministerial speaking ritual-sounding words, while the bride is "given away" by her father and the men all wear evening dress to a 10 a.m. wedding -- the loss of shared cultural expectations starts to create problems. I mean, there's not really any reason all the chairs have to be arranged like pews, or the "stage" for the bride and groom has to look like an altar area, or the ceremony has to take 60 minutes, or the minister has to deliver remarks on the importance of marriage. These are all just outer marks that make a Wedding look sort-of like the right sort of church wedding. True story: a friend of mine who's a minister had a couple come to him and beg to be married by him, in Roman collar (he's not in a Roman-collar-wearing denomination), in his beautiful little church so it would "look right." "We just love your church, it looks PERFECT for our wedding," the bride told him. "We don't believe in God, but don't worry, we love how the traditional ceremony sounds and we don't mind if you mention Jesus. Just, like, not a whole lot." They had literally zero understanding that there was something to the ceremony other than its aesthetic appeal because it was totally decontextualized for them.

So. To me, most of the trouble begins when people want to have a Wedding but are doing it out of the context of the cultural and religious milieus in which those wedding traditions exist, and without the check on people's behavior that comes from shared cultural expectations and boundaries. That's when people start running off the rails and you start having these clashing "it's all about the bride" -- "no! it's all about the community!" issues, and that's when people start bankrupting themselves over dresses and string quartets.

Now, if you had a ren faire wedding, or a quickie JP ceremony, or a gigantic traditional Indian family blow-out, you were not having a Wedding, so you are not in this list. You were having a regular old wedding, that expressed its own set of cultural traditions -- including, frequently repeated in this thread, the important idea of "this is just a thing for us, we'll go get it done by ourselves and then have a drink with family." That is a totally valid wedding tradition with specific cultural boundaries around it! Now, when people decide in 20 years to turn that into a Wedding, it will involve having 200 people stand outside the JP's office for six hours waiting for you to sneak in and do it while you pick a secret time to preserve the important "just us" feel of the ceremony, wearing a $6,000 designer wedding dress made to look like a semi-casual late 90s sundressy-type dress that is "what a bride is supposed to wear," and then you'll "have a few drinks" at country club that's been decorated to look like a shady bar and it'll cost you $20,000 and inconvenience everyone and everyone will complain about it online and the bride's feeling will be terribly hurt because she was just trying to BE TRUE TO HERSELF on a day that was, after all, ALL ABOUT HER.

So. Are you having a wedding that is moored in specific cultural boundaries and can be "about" many different things based on what those boundaries are, but is actually about something, or are you having a Wedding, which has come totally unmoored from them and is about performance art and is about looking like a Wedding Is Meant To Look rather than any thing a wedding may actually be about?

If you are having a wedding, no matter if you spent $30 or $300,000, you are Doing It Right. If you are having a Wedding, no matter whether it's DIY for $350 or storebought for $3.5 million, you are Doing It Wrong.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 10:59 AM on July 5, 2013 [62 favorites]


I got married about a month ago, and would have preferred that we just go to a judge's office and get it done over lunch. My wife's mother had other ideas, so we ended up with 29 people at a gazebo near the county courthouse. Afterwards, we took everyone to lunch.

When we were talking about the options for the ceremony, I told my wife that I don't want a bunch of hoopla right now, because we haven't accomplished anything as a couple. I told her if she really wants a big party with all the family there, I will be happy to do so for our 25th anniversary. She agrees (which is why we're suited well for each other).

I probably still have some PTSD from my sister's "big" wedding. That was a whole summer of my parents screaming at each other and becoming so overwhelmed that they stopped doing anything to execute the wedding, guilting me into spending my student loan money on home repairs, and my sister acting very blase and unconcerned about the whole thing. So, I had to step in and do everything a wedding planner, mother and normal bride would do themselves. The wedding week itself was a hellish blur of getting yelled at by my mom and dad, driving around in the humid Midwest summer, and hearing relatives snark about things that went wrong. That week, I was going to sleep at 2am and getting up at 5.30am to pull a full day of doing all the ceremonial and logistical stuff that no one else seemed to be arsed about. It got to the point that after the night of the first wedding function (we're South Asian), I went to a nightclub with my sister and cousins and slept in the corner because I was so exhausted.

I am extremely against "big" weddings for this reason. Every "big" wedding I've ever been to has been a tense and joyless affair. I had no desire to replicate that and spend a bunch of money that could be better used elsewhere.
posted by reenum at 11:01 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I've been married ten years this summer, and the older I get, the angrier I am about having been bullied and conned into having a wedding.

We were 24 and 25 when we got married. I was about to ship for boot camp. My now stepson didn't have health insurance. I'd get a heapload more financial aid for school and we'd get all sorts of tax benefits, not to mention separation and housing allowances from the military. We added up that pile of money and sort of dared each other into getting married. We'd known each other a little less than a year and spent about six months as a couple.

Neither one of us had any interest in getting married, ever. It just was not on our radar. We have always had a pretty unconventional relationship, and it took a good chunk of money to entice us into traditionalism.

We wanted to elope. We wanted to go up north, find a beach and an officiant, and get married at sunset. I tried to determine if we needed witnesses or not. I had a handmade white muslin nightgown, made from a Rennie pattern, that I had worn the Halloween before, and my now husband really wanted me to wear it. (I have this green and silver dress made from antique saris that I wanted to wear, but he loved the idea of me wearing white, and the idea of it being a repurposed Halloween costume.) I told him if I had to wear white, he had to wear a suit. So we bought one. It cost about $300.

Things went off the rails when I decided to tell my parents. I knew they'd be hurt if I came home and told them I'd gotten married after the fact. I should have just been a big girl and sucked it up. I told them, and the first words out of my mother's mouth were, "I want to be there." The first words out of my father's were, "Don't expect me to pay for anything." As you might expect, we were broke, so us paying our own way was laughable.

I have only gotten married the one time, but man, you tell people you're getting married and everyone loses their goddamn minds. We still get shit for who we invited and who we didn't, when the truth is, we didn't have invitations. We double dog dared each other in July and got married a scant two months later, which isn't enough time to get anything printed. We called people and put out the word and that was that.

We got married in our friends' backyard. I was barefoot. My brother and a friend played us down the aisle, which we walked together. I had asked some of my extended family to contribute to the party in lieu of gifts. So there was a tiny pavilion, chairs, potluck snacks, a sheet cake, and bottles of wine. One of my aunts bought me a garland and my bouquet- I trusted her judgement, and I liked what she got me, even though it was a surprise when I opened the box that morning. An old family friend took pictures and gifted the photos. I bought our silver bands at a mall kiosk- it was a 50% sale so they were $15 for both. We did, indeed, write our own vows and a friend of my uncle's performed the ceremony.

Our pictures are gorgeous. It was a beautiful day. My family and friends supported us. But I really regret doing it, because it seems so wrong to me that we started our adult lives, together, bowing to the wishes of others. It wasn't what we wanted. Does that make us self-centered? Or just shy of the spotlight? I don't know, but I can tell you this: our marriage is emphatically not about our parents. Or our extended family, or our community. It is about he and I, just us two, period. Those other relationships are all secondary to the life I have created with my husband, and I cannot imagine it any other way. I don't want it to be any other way.
posted by Athene at 11:03 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


People are still pissed at us because the wife and I stopped by my office, picked up two of our closest friends for witnesses, then rolled down to the courthouse and got it done. And while I am envious of my friends and relatives and the loot they're getting, we just did not want the hassle. The only reason we got married in the first place was I was moving overseas and it was the easiest way to get her a visa.

My cousin just got married and the family wanted me to come but they couldn't even give me a specific day that I should be there because there was like a weeklong Weddingpalooza of events and activities and rehearsals and I got like a multi-page schedule of events and oh I just HAD to go to this and if I didn't go to THIS it would be bad and I should definitely go to this and...no, just no. I was getting bombarded with emails about family drama involving people I haven't seen in over a decade and people kept trying to drag me into shit that I had nothing to do with and didn't care about. I'm perfectly content to be the bad guy that didn't show (did send a nice gift tho) and not burn a week of time off work dealing with that bullshit. Nobody talks about it like they had fun or a beautiful ceremony. They talk about it the way the Hatfields and McCoys talk about each other.

You want to have a ceremony? Great, tell me when, I'll be there and I'll drink at the bar afterwards. Weeklong weddingpalooza? Fuck that shit, I'll send you a nice gift.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


(Oh P.S. my total Wedding pet peeve which I completely realize has no bearing on anything whatsoever because these Weddings are completely decontextualized, and also it is just a dress and does not matter, but I haaaaaaate it when brides have cathedral-length trains and are not getting married in a cathedral. It just drives me batty in the same way people who confuse "you're" and "your" do. I am not really bothered by men wearing evening dress to 10 a.m. weddings but cathedral-length trains in a chapel? YOU ARE MAYOR OF WRONGTOWN.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:07 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


If we're talking a traditional Christian wedding ceremony in most major denominations, it is about the bride and groom taking on a new role with the support and blessing of the community, and the community witnessing and recognizing that new role. It's very much about the community

For me, the best part of the traditional Christian service is when the priest asks the congregation if they'll support the newly married couple and the congregation response "we will," it's a nice affirmation of the communal spirit of the service, no matter how much you spent on anything.

I am extremely against "big" weddings for this reason. Every "big" wedding I've ever been to has been a tense and joyless affair. I had no desire to replicate that and spend a bunch of money that could be better used elsewhere.

People are constantly saying things like this, so I guess it must be true of their experiences, but it's really not mine. The weddings I have been to have mostly been "big" and they have also been overwhelmingly joyous occasions.

Oh, and mason jars are fine, but hands down the best favor I ever got at a wedding was a mint julep cup. Consider it.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:12 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


I am not really bothered by men wearing evening dress to 10 a.m. weddings

whereas this bothers me like a piece of fiberglass in my eye. I never say anything because it is my own personal hangup and that ship has sailed, it is such a tiny thing, but NNNNGH

posted by KathrynT at 11:12 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


For me, the best part of the traditional Christian service is when the priest asks the congregation if they'll support the newly married couple and the congregation response "we will," it's a nice affirmation of the communal spirit of the service, no matter how much you spent on anything.

This. This was the most important part (to me) of our wedding. We already knew our vows. We'd already committed to each other. Ours wasn't Christian but we included it anyway.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:14 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


Wait. Why would anyone wear evening dress to a wedding?
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:15 AM on July 5, 2013


whereas this bothers me like a piece of fiberglass in my eye. I never say anything because it is my own personal hangup and that ship has sailed, it is such a tiny thing, but NNNNGH

You know what's appropriate for 10 AM and makes you look like a million fucking bucks? Morning dress. We need to bring that back.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:15 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


Have you ever been to American wedding?
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:17 AM on July 5, 2013


Morning dress
posted by The Whelk at 11:18 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


So, I got married 11 years ago today. In a very nice ceremony on San Juan Island, near Seattle. One advantage of getting married on an island is that there's not much choice of vendors---there was basically one caterer (who made awesome food) and one cake baker (our cake had stabilized whipped-cream as frosting with strawberries, mmm) and one flower-purveyor (wildflowers). And I wore my great-grandmother's wedding dress, which was free but required the purchase of specialized undergarments, despite the fact that I am quite small, since I think it was designed to be worn with a corset. But I'm sure the wedding was quite expensive (I don't remember, since my husband took care of most of the financial planning for the wedding). But it was an awesome party for all our family and friends.

But we did splurge on a hand-calligraphied ketubah. My husband's quaker, and I'm Jewish, so we wanted a ketubah that would meld the two traditions. We went to a bridal expo in Seattle (generally a horrifying experience) and one of the vendors was a woman who specialized in calligraphing ketubahs. And my husband had a friend who was a near-east archaeologist, who knew someone who specialized in translating ancient contracts. So this friend of a friend agreed to translate the traditional text of the quaker wedding vows into ancient aramaic (as a wedding gift for these folks she'd never met!), and the calligrapher then wrote out the translated text interleaved with the english (line by line), using a time-appropriate script (derived from the script of one of the Elephantine papyri, as I recall). And then after our ceremony, our two witnesses signed it, in the jewish tradition (one of which was our thesis advisor (my husband and I had the same PhD advisor)), and then everyone else signed it, in the Quaker tradition. It was very expensive---especially on a graduade student budget---but it's a fantastic document.
posted by leahwrenn at 11:19 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


You know what's appropriate for 10 AM and makes you look like a million fucking bucks? Morning dress. We need to bring that back.

My dad wore a dove-grey morning coat with tails and a top hat at my noon wedding, and did in fact look like a million fucking bucks. The hat was a bit rough to procure -- the tux rental place didn't have a top hat in a size 8, so a friend of my mother's drove all over Seattle to find one. She finally did find one at a fancy costume / rental shop, paid God only knows how much money for it, and brought it back -- but it was black. This was the evening before the wedding. So she got BACK in her car, found a Joann Fabrics open until 10 PM, bought a fat quarter of silver-grey silk, and hand-sewed a grey hatband for it.

My mom was initially cross about his insistence on wearing morning dress because "he wouldn't match" the rest of the wedding party; my husband had chosen a very trendy (and now probably quite dated) long-coat kind of formalwear. I sat her down and said "Look, in the Victorian tradition we are aping, the gentlemen would NEVER have matched perfectly, because they would be wearing their own clothes. They might all be technically the same formality of dress, but you'll always have this guy whose suit was made 15 years ago and is still perfectly good vs. this guy who is the totally au-courant dandy vs. this guy who is wearing his military dress uniform. So let's not get hung up on exactly matching, shall we?"
posted by KathrynT at 11:21 AM on July 5, 2013 [8 favorites]


I am not really bothered by men wearing evening dress to 10 a.m. weddings

Groom - Tell X he can wear whatever he wants.

Day of wedding - X puts on swim trunks.
X's mate who knows the groom "Really? Swim Trunks"
X - "Yes, what if swimming break out?"
Later that day there was a dead chipmunk in the pool. Guess who was ready?
Later at the post wedding waiting for reception bar talk:
"You see the guy in the swim trunks"
"yes"
"Who is he?"
X's mate - "Some crazy guy. Groom told him to wear what he wanted."
posted by rough ashlar at 11:25 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


But I really regret doing it, because it seems so wrong to me that we started our adult lives, together, bowing to the wishes of others. It wasn't what we wanted. Does that make us self-centered? Or just shy of the spotlight? I don't know, but I can tell you this: our marriage is emphatically not about our parents. Or our extended family, or our community. It is about he and I, just us two, period.

Athene's comment is a good reminder for me that our wedding and our marriage are two different things in my mind. The communal / familial expectations that we are fulfilling through a wedding ceremony are emphatically not going to dictate our choices in our marriage.
posted by spamandkimchi at 11:32 AM on July 5, 2013


Okay, I don't mean to be singling you guys out -- I have plenty of wedding-related pet peeves -- but this kind of thing with the evening dress at 10 am and the cathedral length train in the chapel, this is one thing that makes people totally lose their minds when they're planning weddings. The vague sense that there are a whole bunch of rules you're supposed to be following, if only you knew what they were.
posted by gerstle at 11:33 AM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


*I actually think the seedy underbelly of the "bridezilla" phenomenon is the "dude who can't be arsed" phenomenon. Why doesn't anyone talk about that?

A guy sitting on a couch playing video games makes for lousy television.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 11:37 AM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


If you can't afford a doctorate from Fashion Parade University, you have no business getting married.
posted by It's Raining Florence Henderson at 11:38 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


davebush: "Just give people a good meal, music and booze and everything sort of takes care of itself."

That's what we did - almost 12 years ago now. Probably spent around $30K, but we had the money (paid for it all ourselves - of course, were were 30 and independent, not expecting anyone else to foot the bill for the coffee cart at the reception), and decided that if 90% of our guests were going to travel more than 1000 miles to be here, we were going to make it worth their while. Different opportunities to hang out and do fun stuff for everyone, if they wanted, or go be tourists, or just enjoy vacation with a big-ass party in the middle of it all.

And it was SO MUCH FUN. We have amazing memories, as do our guests, and there is not one thing we regret doing, or regret not doing.

So the self-righteous can kiss my extravagantly married butt - I'd do it again in a heartbeat.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 11:39 AM on July 5, 2013 [7 favorites]


The most awful weddings I've been to haven't been the ones where the couple goes all-out lavish, because often they have a clear idea of what they want and they see it through, even if their clear idea is to make it about the families instead of themselves - it's the ones where the couple has cultural and familial expectations that they should have a formal wedding but really haven't thought about it beyond that, and the whole thing becomes a mashup of conflicting compromises for everyone. Religious to appease the grandparents but the couple isn't very religious themselves (or has entirely different religious views!). Trying to make the reception a party but keep it reigned in for those who disapprove. Trying to accommodate two families that really don't mesh well at all instead of expecting them all to behave like adults. That attempt to just be all things to all people but in the end there's nothing really representing the couple. I've known people who had the first dance to a song neither one liked!
posted by jason_steakums at 11:39 AM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


Okay, I don't mean to be singling you guys out -- I have plenty of wedding-related pet peeves -- but this kind of thing with the evening dress at 10 am and the cathedral length train in the chapel, this is one thing that makes people totally lose their minds when they're planning weddings.

This sort of goes to what Eyebrows McGee was saying above about contextualization. The rules about when you wear evening dress isn't a wedding rules, it's a cultural rule; it's just that a lot of people pick their wedding to step outside their usual cultural milieu and they're not going to know all the rules.

As I said, our "big wedding" went down more or less perfectly in part because the majority of our guests were perfectly comfortable in that milieu. Hell, for my wife's grandfather "go to church, then eat at the club" was basically every Sunday. The only difference was he had to do it in a dinner jacket, but he probably wore a dinner jacket every couple of months. I'm a redneck, from a long line of rednecks, so I definitely brought some people who were not 100% in their element, but most people were.
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 11:42 AM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


2) BUT ALSO, make it the most amazing night your guests have ever had, and really it should be a whole weekend if you want it to be the BEST WEDDING EVER.

I recently had a relative do this. Not only did the bride attempt to justify the pricey resort as a great "opportunity" for guests to treat themselves to a nice vacation (centered around her and the wedding, of course) but she also had an entire week of pre-wedding activities and encouraged people to come up early so they could "join the fun."
posted by RonButNotStupid at 11:47 AM on July 5, 2013


My dress (fancy; pre-owned) has an decent church-suitable train which is 100% inappropriate for a historic garden and the amount of guff I'm getting for cutting this fancy dress into a slightly less fancy dress is amazing. There's no winning! None at all!
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:52 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


In nearly every wedding I've gone to -- ranging from a low-key thing with four guests at the Elvis chapel in Las Vegas to a major country club production with an open bar - the couple has told everyone that they were only doing the bare minimum to make their families happy. I feel like that's a lot of what makes weddings uncomfortable -- people who don't think about class issues very often are suddenly presented with them when they realize what a wide disparity there can be between their own bare minimum and that of their friends.

I'm not going to brag about how small my wedding was - it was smaller than those of many of my friends, but it was still a lot of money and certainly not our minimum. I really just think that people should own that they're putting on the wedding they want to have and not pretend they're only doing the least work possible to fill some obligation.
posted by roll truck roll at 11:53 AM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


jadepearl: Cakes and flowers: Costco. No lie, they will do a full wedding set of florals. If you need cupcakes arrangements they handle those very well too.

Also booze, which is returnable if unopened!*

* According to one couple I know, who bought literally everything they could for their wedding from Costco.
posted by cosmic.osmo at 12:27 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


but this kind of thing with the evening dress at 10 am and the cathedral length train in the chapel, this is one thing that makes people totally lose their minds when they're planning weddings. The vague sense that there are a whole bunch of rules you're supposed to be following, if only you knew what they were.

Oh I know! Which is why I shut up about it, because my opinion is not important and we live in the 21st century and not the 19th and the rules I am fixated on are literally a quarter of a millennium old. Nobody cares if we're following the rules a handful of rich assholes came up with before women had the vote. Nobody except me and apparently Eyebrows, and the only wedding that is relevant to was my own.
posted by KathrynT at 12:30 PM on July 5, 2013


I'm slightly sorry for Mothers of Brides today: their mothers did their weddings, their daughters do their own - who do they get to do?

Second husbands, maybe? Grin.
posted by alasdair at 12:37 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I suspect there is going to be a lot of people in brandishing their own virtue by recounting how when they got married they only spent 25 cents and had one witness at the ceremony.

Spoilsport! Wait, is this how people feel when I post the link to Area Man Constantly Mentioning He Doesn't Own A Television?

But look: "it's your day" means it can be as big or as small as you want it to be. The problems come when people feel pressured into making it something other than what they want. I think more people are still pressured to have their wedding too big than too small. So from personal experience, the sky doesn't fall in if you have a tiny, tiny wedding. People will live with it.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 12:53 PM on July 5, 2013


I know, sorry. I just was remembering how when I was engaged there were these giant WEDDING ETIQUETTE books in stores and I would see them and think, I have absolutely no idea what's in that book that I should know, and don't. (Also, I should confess now that I got married at noon and if "evening dress" is what you get from a shop at the mall, then that's what my husband was wearing.)

Also, Bulgaroktonos, I disagree. With your larger point, that people shouldn't plan weddings outside their usual social round, and also with the idea that these aren't wedding-specific rules. My cousins all got married in the local parish church where their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents were baptized, confirmed, married, and buried. Then they went back to our family homestead for a ginormous party. All while wearing dresses with trains that, in the event of a cold snap, could cover every man, woman, and child in the county. My cousins didn't "step out of their cultural milieu" -- they were standing, like, in the exact geographic smack dab center of their cultural milieu.

But anyway. I will stop talking about clothes now.
posted by gerstle at 1:18 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Oh hey! I'm getting married in 1.5 months!

So I wanted the whole low-key, low-cost, 'ain't we cool, we don't give into the whole wedding craze bullshit' type of affair.

So when we got engaged (4 years ago; we've taken our time) and started to look around at venues in our city (Chicago) I pretty much lost it. 1-5k just to rent an empty SPACE for a Saturday night. Not that much cheaper to have it on a Friday, and many places didn't offer afternoon affairs. Well, maybe we could have the wedding outside of Chicago? That'd be cheaper! Oh look at this lovely barn venue! Oh wait...how will we get everyone out there? We live in Chicago! Most people don't even own cars! It costs HOW much to rent transportation?

Maybe we could have a wedding at a bar? Hmm, ok, but the food/drink minimums for the 50-person guestlist would still cost thousands. What about a backyard? Hmm, no one has a backyard that would work. What about a public park! Ok, but you have to still pay to do that. The City even makes you pay for SECURITY and you have to use Approved Vendors.

Ok ok ok! It's impossible to have a cheap wedding in Chicago unless you are very very lucky and have the right connections.

We finally found a lovely wine bar that has a patio with cabanas. They do quite the trade in weddings, and the capacity is at 50, exactly our number. They handle set-up, food, open bar, the whole she-bang. We're iPoding the music. I'm making all the decorations. Ordering some bulk flowers for cheap online. Our rings we just bought TODAY, very cheap and modest bands. Our splurge is a friend photog. I ordered a dress from Etsy.

Our wedding will still be a 10K affair. We have saved and won't be in debt at all, but still. 10k.

I used to bash the idea of 'wasting' all that money. But seriously, as others have said it costs MONEY to feed and water people. So at this point I have no fucks to give; I feel that it's totally worth that to gather our nearest and dearest together for a celebration. Not in a "Look at meeeee" way, but as a 'thank you' to them for being there for us these past 6 years, and making the life we share with each other all the more richer for knowing them.
posted by Windigo at 1:22 PM on July 5, 2013 [17 favorites]


Here is what I don't understand. Money is one of the big conflict creators in a marriage. In an era where many couples are financing their own weddings, why would they opt to start their marriage in debt? This seems very illogical to me.

Even if it is traditional and the bride's family is paying, it seems like an awfully tricky business to essentially ask your parents to shell out 15 or 45 grand just for a party when you could have a really great get-together for less than one or two.

All that said, I see why people have big weddings. If it makes them happy, power to 'em. It wouldn't make me happy, but to each his own. Live and let live.
posted by k8lin at 1:36 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


why would they opt to start their marriage in debt?

Yeah, I'm with you, and even if they don't start in debt, why spend that much money, on a party that lasts four hours? No.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 1:38 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


why spend that much money, on a party that lasts four hours?

Because it's fun? It's a bonding thing? It's a ritual in a world recognizes fewer and fewer rituals?

I feel strongly that rituals are important for people and society, but I think that's not the majority opinion on metafilter.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:44 PM on July 5, 2013 [13 favorites]


why spend that much money, on a party that lasts four hours?

How many excuses do people have in this age & day to get dressed up and take part in a 'event'? I've had so many friends - both men and women - texting me pics of the clothing they've bought to wear at the wedding. They are so giddy about it!
posted by Windigo at 1:50 PM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


When I graduated from college, my father said that the graduation parties and such were really about the family and celebrating that they supported this person while they were in school. Obviously that will vary for folks but I feel similarly about weddings. It's not about the bride and groom - arguably, the honeymoon is about the bride and groom. The wedding should be about family.

I appreciate that not everyone has a good relationship with their family but I tried to let that idea guide a lot of the wedding decisions I had to make. We could have gotten married in the expensive city where we live but instead, we chose to get married in the city where we met, near my family. That's why I don't get it when people do things like say no kids at a wedding. Children were 20% of the guests at my wedding and I couldn't imagine not having them there.

Even if the wedding isn't about family, it should be about your guests if you're having a wedding with guests which is why I think it's obnoxious when people do things that make life hard for your guests (like not allowing kids). If you want a wedding to be Your Special Day and all about you, why bother inviting people? I don't think it's right to invite guests so they can be extras in the Hooray for You! show.

At the same time, I didn't feel like my family made me do anything. The only thing they "made" me do was when my father rented a town car to take us to the venue on the day of. I briefly asked, "why did you do that?", genuinely confused. I still don't really know but it's truly no big deal.

Last night while watching the fireworks, I thought it was sweet that, as jaded and cynical as all of us are, fireworks are still a rad thing to watch and something people get excited about. Weddings are like that. There aren't a whole lot of things that people still get excited about but weddings are one of them.

We could have eloped but we were the first to get married in our respective families and my family had been through a lot of strife so it was wonderful to have something to *celebrate* and to see everyone at an event that wasn't a funeral. My sister got married eight months after I did. In that time, my grandfather died. Having pictures of him at my wedding, with my great aunt, who I never see, was one of the most touching things I got out of my wedding. I could have done it for a little less money but I think in general, it was worth it. YMMV.
posted by kat518 at 1:55 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I think women get conned into spending way too much money on weddings, when the dresses basically look all like the same thing. That's why I'm going on "Shark Tank" with my "Bride in a Bag" idea. It's like when you buy a duvet cover, shams, and a bedskirt all in one at the department store, only this has the dress, veil, shoes, and bridesmaids dresses all in one container.

The container is going to be one of those little cubes you compress with a vacuum cleaner, because...classy.
posted by xingcat at 2:08 PM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


Because it's fun? It's a bonding thing? It's a ritual in a world recognizes fewer and fewer rituals?

I feel strongly that rituals are important for people and society, but I think that's not the majority opinion on metafilter.


I completely agree.

I missed my college graduation because I was abroad, and it's a big regret of mine. To have not had that moment of catharsis, where you stand up in front of everyone and say "Yes, I did this huge thing and now here I am on the other side of it." I want a wedding with my friends and family present, not because I'm a narcissistic bridezilla, but because I want my marriage to be witnessed and affirmed by the people in my life.

(Not that I have anyone to marry right now but, ya know. For later!)
posted by showbiz_liz at 2:13 PM on July 5, 2013 [4 favorites]


My wedding didn't cost a lot and I had very few of the things that a lot of weddings seem to have (favors, bridesmaids or groomsmen, theme colors) but that was mostly because my groom and I were 21 and hadn't really thought about what a wedding should have or look like. When his mom mentioned food, we were like, "Food! That's a great idea...." and then while we stared blankly she offered to pick up some sushi platters and fruit and veggie trays. To which I was delighted. It never occurred to me to pick a type of food or look for caterers (and we probably wouldn't have had the money for that anyways). If we had met and married now, in our thirties, I think it's much more likely that we would have all those things and we would both think of things like food and have stronger opinions about it. So maybe the more expensive wedding, with very specifically planned and catered things, has more to do with the average age of marriage getting older.

My sister had things like really good food and a band at her wedding and I do think part of that is marrying at about ten years older. I would have made more of those same choices at that age.
posted by Margalo Epps at 2:15 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


How many excuses do people have in this age & day to get dressed up and take part in a 'event'? I've had so many friends - both men and women - texting me pics of the clothing they've bought to wear at the wedding. They are so giddy about it!

Yeah, I think this is definitely a factor. There just aren't as many occasions to push the boat out as there were a few generations ago. Even our everyday clothing is so casual that old people probably think we look like we're in pajamas all the time. I do theater costuming, and people just love to dress up and see themselves looking glamorous for a change.

(I just finished a show in hoopskirts, and it was kind of sad to put them away!)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:21 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


I live in a city with a beautiful conservatory in a beautiful park, and I know a woman who didn't want to pay what they charged for a wedding, so she just had her guests meet there at a certain time, where she had a quick ceremony and left.

Well, I'm actually planning to use a public location on a beach. They actually don't charge anything, they don't license it, they don't do anything at all other than tell you you can't set up a tent - other than that, you can just walk on and get married.

The thing is, the ceremony is the easy part. It can obviously done very inexpensively. It might take 10 minutes and you don't really need any folderol. It's the party that costs.

We are actually trying to convince friends to get married in our yard, dancing in the barn (we have a disco ball!) and s'mores by the fire pit.

I wished you lived around here. We have been trying to find a place like that and can't for under a $400 venue rental + house catering.

Venue is one of the big problems. You tend to find a couple of things - places with a super low "loss leader" venue rental like $200 or $500, BUT then you have to use one of their three "preferred caterers" which are not budget options, and you are not allowed to bring in your own food. Or, you find a great venue that's cheap and with no such rules, BUT you cannot have alcohol.

My best idea is to rent a large beach house and just do it there, but a lot of places stipulate "no weddings or parties" in the leases.
posted by Miko at 2:27 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Or, you find a great venue that's cheap and with no such rules, BUT you cannot have alcohol.

Hah! Me and wife are both sober as is the guy getting married and the bride is knocked up, so I guess we are off your list.

Seriously, booze welcome, just take it with you and dont puke on the tomatoes
posted by shothotbot at 2:31 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I found out through a Mormon friend that any Mormon church (chapel? house of worship) will throw you a free wedding. No booze there either - plenty of food and a venue, though. We wouldn't consider this for many reasons but it's out there as an option.
posted by Miko at 2:33 PM on July 5, 2013


My son and his bride held a tiny family-and-close-friends-only wedding with simple flowers and catered Texas barbecue. (Rudy's, if anyone cares. ) (It being Greek Orthodox, it was tiny only because it wasn't being held in the bride's hometown-she knew she wouldn't get the simple wedding she wanted THERE.)

I about busted a gut when halfway through the reception my son wheeled in a big screen tv and we all proceeded to watch the first half of the Denver Bronco playoff game. Interestingly enough every single person there was a Bronco fan, to include the priest.


Anyway, I work for a florist, and we do a lot of really fancy weddings, weddings where people spend 5 grand just for the FLOWERS sometimes, and I wouldn't have traded a single solitary one of them for the simple, beautiful, perfect, celebration of love that my son and his love put together all by themselves.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:51 PM on July 5, 2013


I am from a very small town in North Dakota. I had a friend from grades/HS/college who got married in his 20s. Wedding is in Grand Forks ND, which while metropolitan for the state, still is freaking North Dakota. The groom was..well let's say he was so far in the closet he couldn't see daylight. Bride was a soprano diva music teacher who even my soprano wife thought was over the top. Together they put together an hour and a half LUTHERAN wedding. A full Lutheran wedding ceremony always tops out at 25 minutes.

I mean, this was in the early 80s before pretentious weddings were the norm and she has 20 fucking songs in the service, with a string quartet and two on piano/organ. There was an interpretive dance of the 23rd Psalm that had the at least half of the congregation biting their lips and drawing blood. It was legendary in our small town for fucking YEARS. The marriage of course ended with her fucking a guy living down the street and him moving all the way across the state, still in firm denial and as self-loathing as a little gay Republican can be.

We can get mutual victims of this wedding in tears just bringing it up and it was 30 years ago.
posted by Ber at 3:48 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


I've been to a lot of weddings as an adult, from humble to fancy, and I've never been to one that was just "in my parents' backyard".

Three of the weddings I've been to were precisely this. Well, two were - the third was "my own back yard". (Mind you, my brother's wedding was one, and his in-laws were well off so the back yard in question was on a considerable number of acres, but still.)

And I actually prefer that smaller kind of thing. I've never been the princess-dress kind of person, and would look flat-out stupid in that anyway, so if I were to be married I'd probably end up with something that cost only a few hundred bucks and you could get at Macys' or something. And at 43, I actually have a lot of the stuff I need for my own house - and I also know a lot of people who all have different skill sets, so I'd probably end up with friends from whom I can ask to do certain tasks in lieu of gifts (a friend who has already said he'd be the photographer for free, the florist's shop my parents once worked at for the flowers, a friend who was almost a priest to be the officiant, my bff would have a lot of fun doing the food...)

Another one of the "back yard weddings" I went to was one of my cousins' weddings, and at some point my father and I were just sittin' and chillin' at one of the tables and listening to the band. My father said, "you know, I really like this kind of simple wedding - you know, it's not all fancy in a convention hall, it's a simple dress, simple food, a good band, it's all you need."

I nodded. "Yeah, I like this kind of wedding too," I said. "I wouldn't need any of that fancy stuff anyway, it's stupid and it's not me."

There was a pause, and then I just managed to hear my father saying under his breath, "Good."
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 5:12 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


An ex-rental morning coat in good shape can be had on ebay for $50-60 if your timing is right. So much better than a dinner jacket for formal daytime events.
posted by usonian at 5:27 PM on July 5, 2013


roomthreeseventeen: " why would they opt to start their marriage in debt?

Yeah, I'm with you, and even if they don't start in debt, why spend that much money, on a party that lasts four hours? No.
"

As I mentioned earlier, we did not go into debt for our wedding (which, with ceremony and reception, lasted at least 6 hours, not counting the nonsense many people got up to afterward; there were also other related parties and fun we paid for). And we did that because we freaking wanted to. My husband and I *love* to throw a party and entertain and show people a good time. And that's exactly what we did. I get that it's not for everyone, but the scorn for people who choose to do what we did, without financially ruination, gets old.
posted by Lulu's Pink Converse at 5:32 PM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Unfortunately, some people do go into debt for their wedding, which seems like a bad idea to me. Money is the most common thing that married couples fight about; why would you start a marriage in the red because you wanted to have a party? But you know, even though I think that's illogical and it's not something I'd do, I'm not upset about it. I'm not going to be unhappy or scornful that someone went into debt because they wanted to, for something that was important to them.

But when it goes the other way - well, there's a lot of social pressure that gets placed on people who aren't into the whole wedding thing.
posted by k8lin at 5:51 PM on July 5, 2013


$100 Justice-of-the-Peace-followed-by-a-favorite-local-restaurant weddings are actually way more self-focused than a huge party -- if the tradition in your area is to have a church wedding with your entire family attending, going to the JP is just about the most It's-My-Day-y thing you could do. Not in a bad sense -- "our getting married is a purely personal thing" is a totally respectable point of view. But it's a point of view that would have been incomprehensible to most previous generations.
posted by ostro at 5:59 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Together they put together an hour and a half LUTHERAN wedding. A full Lutheran wedding ceremony always tops out at 25 minutes.

I don't have my copy of the 1958 service book but if this Lutheran Church (assuming it was LCMS or one of the forerunners of the ELCA) had moved on to the 1978 Green Book, an hour and a half Lutheran wedding isn't too wild. With three solid readings, the standard number of hymns, a chanted Psalm, normal length sermon, and holy communion - you're pushing an hour easy. Throw in a vows and the blessing, 1.5 hours is reasonable. And if these two (or their pastor) was knee deep in the 20th century liturgical revival, the service would be 1 hour at a minimum. A Lutheran service that's only 25 minutes long is just the vows with some Jesus sprinkled in. Push it to an hour or an hour and a half and you'll know that Jesus showed up with some party favors and drink (though 20 songs and some liturgical dance to Psalm 23 is probably why Jesus turned water into wine at a wedding).
posted by Stynxno at 6:12 PM on July 5, 2013


Yeah, it was ALC (one of the forerunners of the ELCA). But the average wedding back then in most towns from here to WI was 25 minutes. I remember a drunk Catholic priest tell me that he could always tell if there were Lutherans in a wedding because they started getting antsy at about the 20 minute mark. Sermons were SHORT and only one reading, maybe two special songs, NEVER communion, one congregational hymn. Hey, it's a wedding - there's food, cake, COFFEE, possibly a dance and the sooner we get out of the church and down to the church basement the better. At one of my cousin's weddings, which was done in less than half an hour, my grandfather stood up in the pew before they walked down the aisle because he was tired of sitting so long for a wedding.

Garrison Keillor had a story about a young Lutheran minister who was in danger of running over the time limit in a normal service and members of the church council were barking so sternly they sounded like German Shepherds.
posted by Ber at 6:29 PM on July 5, 2013


This post is relevant to my interests and I would like to subscribe to its newsletter!

I'm in the darkest depths of planning my wedding for September in the NYC metro area, which seems to be one of the most expensive areas to get married in in the US. We are considering ourselves incredibly, incredibly lucky to have found a venue who would host, feed, and beer-wine-liquor our 85 or so guests for $90 per (before, of course, tax and tips), but things just seem to have a way of ballooning. You think "ok, so that's most of the cost sorted, awesome", and then you realize that no, if you want to do things the mostly-traditional way and reasonably nicely (and we do, and we can, and we value the experience of a party with everyone we love to want to), there are:

*invitations ($100 per 100, if you are a good bargain hunter)
*a suit and a dress ($750-1000 each, all told, since we're each having to buy new and we're both oddly sized)
*ceremony fee ($400, possibly plus cost of chair rentals)
*officiant cost (free when your officiant is a friend who thinks it's a pretty awesome job to get to do)
*music for the reception ($1000 or less, if you're a good bargain hunter)
*flowers (we're going silk, but it's still $500 for realistic silk versions of the entire wedding's bouquets, corsages, etc)
*hair and makeup for the bride (generally optional, but not if you're as stylishly challenged as I am and want to look nice, and can be anywhere from $50 total with connections to $400 total without)
*photography (free for the price of dinner, if you know someone who knows someone. Literally thousands, if you don't)
*thank-you gifts for the wedding party (perhaps $20 per person)
*dresses/suits for a couple of the wedding party who otherwise couldn't afford to be there ($125 pp)
*guest book/placecards (optional, but something to consider)
*wedding rings (free with family connections for us, god knows how much for anyone else)
*table decorations (who knows. Hopefully less than $100)
*thank you cards (another $100/100 or so)
*hotel rooms for a couple attendees who couldn't otherwise make it (3 or 4 @$100 pp/night)
*Those extra thirty relatives mom swore dad wouldn't want to invite, but dad totally does, and frankly I don't not want them there enough to shut dad's wishes out ($90 pp)

And these are just the bits-and-pieces incidentals I can list off the top of my head that are involved in doing a mostly-traditional, nice-but-not-extravagant wedding in the culture of my area and my family. The total price tag will probably be in the 13k range. And that doesn't take into account rehearsal dinner, etc, or the elements I've not yet gotten into worrying about, of which there are probably many. Even trying to keep the ridiculousness down as much as possible, bargain hunting, and working connections where we can, these are all things that just keep piling into the budget.

Luckily for us, the budget is there to do things as we want to do them, but I can't help wondering how I would pare it down if the budget weren't there. Some things could go - centerpieces, hard liquor, fancy flowers - but even just to put on a 90-person banquet, whether in the backyard or in a venue, with some beverages and some dancing brings you to a number that anyone on the outside would view as utterly ridiculous.

Reading back through this, I realize that I've said a whole lot of "I" rather than "we". Mostly because whenever Himself gets asked for an opinion, he shrugs and says "Oh, whatever you think will work". Which perhaps says something about how planning a wedding can end up as "the bride's" day, more or less inadvertently. Most things will end up being the way I want them that day, but mostly that's because I'm the only one who "wants" them any particular way.
posted by badgermushroomSNAKE at 6:32 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


My wedding is going to be at the courthouse, just me and the dude, with no photography.

[...]

Mind you, I need to secure a dude, first


And then the dude has to agree to that courthouse wedding. That was the snag for me.

I wanted to reserve a favorite restaurant's back room for midday, get hitched at the courthouse a few blocks away with our two witnesses, then walk to the restaurant to meet our families and treat them to champagne and brunch. I knew it would be expensive, but it would be simple and easy.

But The Fella wasn't having it. He wanted to get married in front of our families and our friends; he wanted to have a party where we could toast and dance and celebrate with them; he wanted to share that day with the people we care about. And as persuasive and logical as I can be, he wasn't budging.

And I'm glad he didn't. I am so glad we agreed to have a party for our wedding. If we hadn't, I would never have known how much our family wanted to pitch in, to help out, to celebrate with us.

We hosted ~100 people in a Grange Hall; around 45 of those people were immediate family. It was as DIY as weddings get, and I'm sure some of the seams showed, which is fine. We approached it as a big casual party at which we were getting married. It was a point of pride that my dress cost under forty bucks. The wedding still cost a few thousand dollars.

The biggest expenses: the venue, the booze (even though my connoisseur brother gave us a mixed case of wine, saving us not only the cost but also the trouble of choosing what to buy), and the food, all homemade (ahead of time, then baked from frozen by two preppers/servers we hired for the day). Cake for 100 would probably have been our biggest cost, but my baker sister gave it to us as a gift.

The Fella's sister officiated. His parents, both active in their community organizations, insisted on borrowing tables and chairs to augment the Grange's seating. My BIL, too ill to attend, lent us audio equipment and gave advice on how to operate it. We didn't want to budget time or cost for a photographer, but my [other] brother and The Fella's [other] sister, both fantastic photographers, scrambled around all day getting shots of us, our families, the party. (My brother even had some of his bound into a little wedding book for us, so we have more than a Flickr stream to remember it by.)

The day before the wedding, his parents threw a BBQ at their fabulous home --- it was probably a little nicer than the wedding, to be honest --- and secretly circulated a matted photo of the two of us (all dolled up for a family wedding the previous year) so our family and three or four closest friends could sign it.

Even people who didn't sign up to help out did. Heck, as the party wound up, I looked out at the hall and saw two MeFites --- people who didn't know anyone there except the bride and groom, and had only met the groom a handful of times --- pitching in to fold up chairs along with family. It was swell.

And if I'd had my way --- if we hadn't had the wedding, if we'd been hitched at the courthouse --- we would never have seen any of this. We would never have known how happy --- how delighted --- our loved ones were to have a chance to show their affection through generous deeds.
posted by Elsa at 7:40 PM on July 5, 2013 [10 favorites]


Here is what I don't understand. Money is one of the big conflict creators in a marriage.

And the wedding is the warm up. I honestly don't know how many marriages have been preemptively derailed by the wedding planning process, but I approve in just about every case.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 7:50 PM on July 5, 2013 [2 favorites]


Now I'm wondering if all those dry Baptist weddings I attended were just a way to save on likker.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 8:16 PM on July 5, 2013


I find the way people buy into the Bridezilla thing to be rather offensive. And I'm not talking about the bride. The myth of the Bridezilla is a story that sells because it pushes people's virtuous outrage buttons (how dare she!). It takes the atypical story and turns it into "a trend." Bleh. It's just more of the same social pressures toward women. The truth is that most weddings are expensive because formal dinners for two entire families are expensive, and weddings are traditionally formal occasions. The majority of the time, the expense has very little to do with the bride herself, and everything to do with expectations. But let's latch on to the occasional fancy dress and look down on women some more.
posted by zennie at 8:31 PM on July 5, 2013 [5 favorites]


All of this "the wedding should be about family" and talking about community affirmation and a body of people committed to helping your marriage succeed stuff is super depressing to those of us who don't feel super connected to our families or even to our religious communities, and really really want that, but won't ever have it. So if the alternative is something self-oriented, so be it, if that's satisfying and affirming.

Although this wedding talk is scary enough that I almost don't want a wedding. I think i'd like to just be married without the hooha and decisions and always wondering if I am doing it right.

I think part of it is that we still tend to believe that this is only gonna happen once. We only have one shot at this wedding thing and we better do it right because if not, there's no do-over. You're gonna have The Regrets.

Anyways I'm not engaged or anything so I guess I don't have to think about it, thank goodness.
posted by windykites at 9:02 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


Oh, andSara C- most of my married friends got married at one of their parents' homes! It's not as uncommon as you think.
posted by windykites at 9:08 PM on July 5, 2013


All of this "the wedding should be about family" and talking about community affirmation and a body of people committed to helping your marriage succeed stuff is super depressing to those of us who don't feel super connected to our families or even to our religious communities, and really really want that, but won't ever have it.

You raise a really good point. And for some of us who did find an unexpected family connection around a wedding, there's a flipside to all the feel-good affirmation I talked about above. Without getting too deep down my personal psychological rabbithole, I'll say that the months --- and especially the last week --- leading up to our wedding really brought a lot of my lifelong family dynamics sharply into focus.

Maybe rituals push us to rely on old unthinking patterns, or maybe the flood of emotion that surrounded us and our families as we get close to the wedding also floated some not-so-beautiful emotional jetsam along on its tide. It was hard, but it revealed to me ways I needed to change my own boundaries and relationships. It wasn't all sweet and happy, but it was really valuable to my growth and I should recognize how lucky I am to have had that instructive experience.

Of course, different people live different lives, both by choice and by circumstances, and what's right for one person or couple isn't right --- or even feasible --- for everyone. When I said that The Fella was right about insisting on a wedding, I meant "right for us," not "right for everyone."
posted by Elsa at 9:32 PM on July 5, 2013


cathedral-length trains in a chapel? YOU ARE MAYOR OF WRONGTOWN.

Yeah, but the governor of NORTH WRONGOLINA is the woman who got the cathedral-length train $5000 Kleinfeld monstrosity for her wedding at a state park. Where the groom didn't even wear a tie. And the bridesmaids are in strapless sundresses. And the groomsmen are in shirtsleeves. Ugh.

posted by Sara C. at 9:48 PM on July 5, 2013 [1 favorite]


People getting married now practically have diasporas to deal with. Who stays with their entire social world inside their home parishes anymore?

Judging by the way my life is going so far, it's quite likely that when I get married my nearest and dearest friends, people who I have been forged with in the crucibles of life, will have been scattered to the four winds. People who would ordinarily have fallen right off the face of the damn earth are still best friends I talk to every day because of technology. Not to mention the scattered family across the entire United States.

All I'm saying is I am not making these people fly all the way out to where I'll be (which could be anywhere, who knows...my generation moves where the jobs are) and not be assaulted with as much booze as I can afford. It seems almost self-centered not to.
posted by Hollywood Upstairs Medical College at 10:14 PM on July 5, 2013


It is terribly expensive to host a party for a crowd. When my husband and I first started planning our wedding, we were surprised by how much it cost just to have some sort of reception space in our county. We received well-meaning suggestions from some people, "Oh, we went to a wedding last year at so-and-so place, it seemed like an inexpensive place/park/etc. It probably cost them a couple of hundred bucks to rent the facility." I would dutifully look into it and discover that the venue would cost somewhere between $1k and $5k for the day and was hours away by car. I feel bad for people who paid that much and somehow left their guests with the impression that it had all been done on the cheap! I think the impression comes from the fact that most people are not professional party planners and do not understand the basic costs involved, especially in urban areas. So it's quite easy to be judge others harshly for profligate wedding spending. Even our church would have charged us more than $1k.

Backyard weddings are great - I would have loved that had it been an option for us. (No one we know has a yard that can accommodate more than 20 people.) But those aren't really free, either, are they? Someone spent the money at some point to own the land ...
posted by stowaway at 10:33 PM on July 5, 2013 [3 favorites]


To be clear, when I say the "support of family, friends, and community" the emphasis is on friends and community. I only had one really supportive family member (a sibling), but we've built an impressive collection of amazing friends, and THOSE are our community, as we are theirs.

If anything, our wedding was a loving, energetic, awesome reminder that we aren't defined by, or limited to, our bio-family or any religion. Our community is sui generis, to a pretty big degree. It's damn empowering.

I will admit to feeling a bit of petty HA! FUCK YOU! towards my undermining family members when I think back on how our awesome community pulled off a fantastic party, despite regular predictions of doom and failure.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:37 PM on July 5, 2013


I think I am using sui generis incorrectly. I'm trying to say it created itself, without much outside structure or guidance. There is no overarching community, religion, etc that coaxed it into being.

And I was shocked at how many people WANTED to fly long distances, just to support us. I feel terrible that we only got to see them for about 15 minutes in all the hullabaloo but apparently that's the way weddings are, everyone seems to agree.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:41 PM on July 5, 2013


It was hard, but it revealed to me ways I needed to change my own boundaries and relationships. It wasn't all sweet and happy, but it was really valuable to my growth and I should recognize how lucky I am to have had that instructive experience.

Also, this.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:42 PM on July 5, 2013


Frowner: "I have observed that most moral panics involve things-centered-around-women, things-centered-around-"femininity" or things-centered-around-poor-people."

I think I'm gonna go out tomorrow and get this tattooed on my arm so I never forget.
posted by Apropos of Something at 12:08 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Don't forget homosexuality, that's a popular one. Or anything involving sex really.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:50 AM on July 6, 2013


Mr. Roquette and I had a simple Muslim wedding a month after he took Shahada. We did not do a civil ceremony, our officiant was actually brought in by a neighbor. Mr. Roquette and I are on disability. We can't have a legal marriage without losing benefits. It would screw up most of our living arrangements. Our wedding costs were new black pants and a new shirt for him. I already owned a nice enough dress and shoes. A neighbor paid the officiant. I made the desert. The officiant brought biryani. He used to run a restaurant.
We had 15 guests. No paid entertainers. My son filmed the ceremony.
He took many of the pictures. The lady who hosted it did quite lovely photographs.
We are a good match. He is well liked by my family and friends.
His friends all seem to like me and are happy we are together.
So far so good.
My daughter's wedding was $1800. She made the cakes. She wanted a super gorgeous dress, it was $800.
The other big expense was the band. And the venue. There were probably 300 people. It was a very nice wedding. It's lasted 15 years.
Simple isn't bad.
If people want fancy weddings, they can do that, but I say starting life together in debt is a sad thing. Same goes for stress.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 2:21 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


'It will probably be a small ceremony' to be taken as 'I SECRETLY HATE YOU AND NEVER WANT TO SEE YOU OR YOUR ILK AGAIN'.

The Dutch way to get around that is to have the actual ceremony just for close family and friends, then throw a reception for anybody who vaguely knows the couple and want to wish them well.
posted by MartinWisse at 2:49 AM on July 6, 2013


Look, I don't think it's misogynist to point out it's pretty narcissistic to think on your wedding day you're a princess, it has to be Perfect and All About You and if everyone doesn't kowtow to your every need they're ruining everything.

Perhaps. But it might be mysogynistic to suggest that every bride who has anything beyond a courthouse-and-you're-done wedding is mired in that mindset, while not even mentioning the groom, who, in any case, is beyond reproach, and surely had no opinions or involvement in the matter.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 6:54 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


25k well invested @ 25 can easily be 400k at retirement age.

Only if you're lucky, and your purchasing power will absolutely not increase 15× in 40 years.
posted by one more dead town's last parade at 7:06 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Backyard weddings are great - I would have loved that had it been an option for us. (No one we know has a yard that can accommodate more than 20 people.) But those aren't really free, either, are they? Someone spent the money at some point to own the land ...

Yeah, this is one of those things where you ride on someone else's capital expense, and depending on your geography and the crowd you run with, backyards may not be the commonest of options. Few of my friends are actually homeowners; some of those that are live in town or in townhouse-like developments. Yards aren't all that common in our network.

Also, it shouldn't really be "free" even if it is a friend's yard. 100sh people have an impact, and somebody needs to take out the trash, clean the bathrooms, do the setup and breakdown, help the yard recover, send back the rental stuff, etc. All this care and labor may end up being donated but that doesn't mean it has value, and I would definitely want to offer money to cover some of these expenses and efforts.
posted by Miko at 8:17 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


The majority of the time, the expense has very little to do with the bride herself, and everything to do with expectations. But let's latch on to the occasional fancy dress and look down on women some more.

Oh God, truth. I got married last year, and what we wanted was a meaningful ceremony and a celebration where our friends and family got to feel welcome and enjoy themselves. We thought, naively, that 'make sure your guests and loved ones are happy' was the opposite of 'make sure you have a big fancy formal wedding with a million fussy and expensive and ridiculous little add-ons'. We were wrong, wrong, wrong.

Here are just some of the things that close friends and family wanted us to do differently (and I don't mean 'stating a preference', I mean explicit requests, “but you have to!”s, and actual tears shed yes really):

- date of wedding (“We'd much rather visit in June than November, can't you move it to then?");
- place of wedding (where we live, vs. in my home town 200 miles away);
- guest list, and why we should add so-and-so and such-and-such to it;
- big white dress, existence of;
- which shoes should go with the dress;
- flowers, presence of;
- flowers, type of;
- choice of photographer;
- food we were serving;
- invitations, phrasing of;
- my hair, fanciness of and presence of tiara in;
- colours of seat-covers;
- whether we were having a First Dance;
- whether we were having a top table;
- whether we were having a 'candy bar', and a DJ, and a cake topper, and guest favours on the tables, and using this particular cake-stand for the cake, and using this other one for something else, and having big fancy decorations in the centre of each table, and and and...

Almost without exception, any time someone wanted us to change something it was in the direction of making it bigger, more expensive, more time-consuming, and either more conventional in the Big Formal Wedding sense or more conventional in the DIY, OffBeat Weddings-esque, Your Totally Unique Day In Which You Spend Fifty Hours Hand-Painting Personal Pebbles To Reflect Your Memories With Each Guest sense. So what we ended up with, basically, was having to choose between either having a bigger/fancier/pricier wedding than we wanted or could afford, or disappointing at least some of our friends and family. (And I am not kidding when I say there were tears shed over some of this stuff - weddings send otherwise-reasonable people batshit crazy.)

We did give in on most of the little things, because it was making people happy and who the hell wants to make a principled stand about cake-toppers. But there came a point where we had to say “no” and stick to it, either because we just couldn't afford to double the guest list or because we wanted to have a say about some things ourselves.

Like, we refused to have a First Dance (my husband didn't love the idea and I actively hated it), and this ended up in a bizarre days-long standoff with my mother and bridesmaid on whyyyyyy not, everyone will expect you to, it'll look so nice and it's what you do at weddings and you have to, don't you care that we want you to, after all the effort we out into the flowers (which I didn't fucking want either) and anyway the band will make you do one even if you don't want to! etc etc. (The band listened to us, since we were paying them; they called everyone up on the floor, and I danced with my 101-year-old grandfather-in-law, who was brilliant.) But this eventually put me in the position of saying “no, this is OUR wedding, and we're doing this our way." BRIDEZILLA AHOY!

I wish people who are so quick to judge women for being selfish narcissistic bridezilla princesses would appreciate the pressures said women are often under, and how they are literally in an unwinnable situation sometimes. How, exactly, are you meant to avoid accusations of self-centredness to everyone's satisfaction when your choice is either to have a big fancy extravaganza or to disappoint the friends and family who love you? And I've grumbled before about how women are expected to do all the work of wedding planning while simultaneously being sneered at for it, so I won't repeat all that again, but my views on the general awfulness of the whole thing has not changed an iota since my own wedding. Being The Bride sucks.
posted by Catseye at 8:23 AM on July 6, 2013 [18 favorites]


You see, that, right there, that is why people elope.
posted by The Whelk at 8:38 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Relevant new AskMe: how much should my wedding cost?
posted by The Whelk at 8:50 AM on July 6, 2013


I have two friends who eloped way back and shocked a lot of people. They were both in their 30s. It was her second wedding. They went to Las Vegas, had a blast, tied the knot, came home and threw a kickass bash for family and friends with DJ, band etc. At least two hundred people were there.

I remember her telling me afterward. "I was just tired of playing by the rules, particularly once I realized that the most uptight people were the ones with the most invested in them. You can't let uptight people make your decisions for you."

They're still married by the way, twenty plus years later.
posted by philip-random at 8:52 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


Relevant new AskMe: how much should my wedding cost?

No more than 25 percent of what you could get for a black market adoption of your first born.


sorry
posted by philip-random at 8:54 AM on July 6, 2013


I had an 8 month engagement. During that eight months, I spent a lot of time asking people "What was your favorite thing about your wedding? What would you do differently if you had it to do over again?"

The answers were really enlightening. I worked was doing in-home computer and laptop repair at the time, so I had a lot of opportunity for small talk with very diverse strangers. It was interesting to see what, after the fact, people were really happy they'd spent the money on, and what was in retrospect a waste of time and effort.

Some of the nearly-universals included:

* Time spent alone together immediately after the wedding ceremony, like right after you walk out of the ceremony. Not a ton, just ten or fifteen minutes. People were either glad they'd done this or wished they'd done it.

* Favors are not worth the agita. Have consumable ones, like candy or coffee, or don't bother, unless you are really sure that you and your guests all have the same taste.

* Trust your vendors. If your florist says that tulips are a bad choice for boutonnieres, she's probably not just doing that because she hates your weird tastes. It's probably because tulips aren't gonna hold up. Your vendors are pros, and if you chose well, you should be able to trust them; they've done hundreds more of these than you have.

* A lot of people were really happy with their table flowers until they realized, at the reception, that nobody could see the people across the table from them.

* a LOT of people hated their DJ.
posted by KathrynT at 9:17 AM on July 6, 2013 [8 favorites]


we were shocked both by how much the prices were ratcheted up by being associated with a wedding

Very much this. When we were planning our wedding we went to a flower shop in town to just look at some flower arrangements and brainstorm about what we might want. As soon as the people running the shop found out we were planning a wedding, they insisted we immediately book an appointment with their "wedding consultant", for $50. When we said no, that we were just looking, they practically ran us out of the store. So, guess who didn't get our business when it came time to actually purchase flowers. We found similar attitudes with some of the caterers we met with. As soon as we said "wedding", the prices increased by 25% or more.

the dude is exculpated from basically any responsibility whatsoever

No one told me that. I went to every meeting with every vendor and viewed every potential wedding site, accompanied by my fiancee and what she called The Big Book Of Doom, which was a 3-ring binder wedding planner we bought at Borders for $20. The only thing I didn't really have much input on was some of the colors chosen for the wedding, because I just don't have a good eye for what colors match with other colors. (Apparently our wedding color was "periwinkle blue", which to me is just some variant of light blue. But many decisions on decorations and even the color of my tux vest and the bridesmaids dresses were made around that color, decisions that I was not qualified to make since I can't match colors..)

Overall, we spent in the low five figures for our wedding, which my wife later described as "...a cocktail party with an odd beginning.." It was a way to get family and friends together, and to celebrate a big event in our lives, and to us it was worth every penny. We paid for pretty much everything ourselves, with her parents buying some of the flowers and my parents paying for the rehearsal dinner. We bought the booze, paid for the event hall and caterers, paid for her dress and my tux rental, the officiant, and I'm sure there is more I can't remember right now. We even paid to fly in a friend from Edmonton who wouldn't have been able to afford the trip otherwise.

Honestly, I just can't be bothered to judge someone else on how much they did or didn't spend on their wedding. I've been to weddings that I know cost well over $100,000, and I've been to $25 weddings at the courthouse where the reception was at the bar down the block. I've been to weddings where the groom did nothing more than show up in a tux at the appointed time, and to weddings (like my own) where the groom was involved every step of the way. If I'm invited and I can attend, I go, have fun, bring a gift if asked to, wish the couple well, and go on about my life. What they did or didn't spend or did or didn't do isn't really my problem, and it's not my place to judge them for it one way or another.
posted by ralan at 9:32 AM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


DJ iPod performed every track we asked for.
posted by Artw at 9:43 AM on July 6, 2013 [4 favorites]


Also, it shouldn't really be "free" even if it is a friend's yard. 100sh people have an impact, and somebody needs to take out the trash, clean the bathrooms, do the setup and breakdown, help the yard recover, send back the rental stuff, etc. All this care and labor may end up being donated but that doesn't mean it has value, and I would definitely want to offer money to cover some of these expenses and efforts.

My favorite story from my wedding was that my mother was doing laundry the next morning and out of the basement bathroom wanders the best man, covered in vomit. Good times!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 10:02 AM on July 6, 2013 [5 favorites]


DJ iPod performed every track we asked for.

I still DJ the occasional wedding and haven't had a disaster for decades. The key is having a vast selection on hand of pretty much every imaginable genre ... and the realization that weddings are generally not for music geeks (even if it's the bride and groom). So make sure you've got some 70s disco, pre-psychedelic Beatles, Michael Jackson, Ray Charles, Johnny Cash, a few polkas etc. Don't sweat the Fela, Can, Exile on Main St era Rolling Stones ... at least until everybody's well and drunk.

Musically speaking, the vast majority of weddings are compromises, defined more by who might be offended by a selection than who might be inspired by it. The worst DJs in this regard tend to be the bride's little brother who's massively into trance, the groom's best buddy from university who WILL NOT PLAY Boney M!

For the record, I WILL NOT PLAY Celine Dion, Nickelback, Bryan Adams because I believe them guilty of crimes against humanity
posted by philip-random at 10:04 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


For the record, I WILL NOT PLAY Celine Dion, Nickelback, Bryan Adams because I believe them guilty of crimes against humanity

I have this gut feeling that you secretly listen to all of them and you have followed Nickelback on tour.
posted by discopolo at 10:15 AM on July 6, 2013 [2 favorites]


philip-random, for our wedding we went through our massive music collection and pulled out every song, regardless of genre, that spoke of love in a positive way* and didn't have any swear words in it. We handed that collection to a friend of mine who had DJ'ed college dances and volunteered his services if we paid for the equipment rental, and told him that his MC duties were going to be really minimal -- announce us coming in, announce the buffet table opening, announce the cake cutting, announce the dancing, and done. He did a fabulous job, the music was very "us" (because it was our music!), and while I can't remember what our first dance was to, I know we left the reception to "Punk Rock Girl" by the Dead Milkmen. It was great, one of many things about our wedding that I would not change at all.

*Songs that did NOT make the cut: Friday I'm In Love, With Or Without You, Dos Gardenias
posted by KathrynT at 10:16 AM on July 6, 2013 [1 favorite]


I have two friends who eloped way back and shocked a lot of people.

My parents eloped. When they told Dad's mother the next day, they had to face the Inquisition. She demanded to see all the paperwork because she didn't believe they were really married. Then she wanted to know what they were so ashamed of that they didn't want people to witness it or know they were getting married. Apparently it was a pretty ugly scene.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 11:31 AM on July 6, 2013


I had a sort of odd turn with weddings a little more than a month ago. I have hated weddings for...well, forever. Well, that's a little faint, actually, when I should more precisely say that I have hated, hated, hated, hated, hated weddings with a searing passion and, in general, would rather have someone hammer a basket of dried corn cobs smeared with Mentholatum up my ass than to be called upon to put on a suit and tie and a big insincere grin and sit through church hell and then a godawful party full of drunken idiots while the world's shittiest music is dissolving my soul.

It didn't help that I worked at a popular museum largely supported by wedding rentals, in which I had to go through wedding after hateful wedding in which the organizers fussed about the scary artwork in the place (it's a museum of freaking visionary, i.e. crazy people, art, for pete's sake), trampled my lovely meditation garden, vomited pink idiot drinks everywhere, and, for some reason, always abandoned the damned chuppah on the museum campus for a week and then complained bitterly when I dismantled the thing and tossed it out after it sat, sagging, in the middle of the plaza while no calls for chuppah retrieval were ever answered.

Then, back in March, one of the most important people who's even been a part of my life was killed in a firearms and laundry accident, and I hit this nice deep middle-age funk that made me look at myself and how many of my stories about adventure were in the past tense and what a drudge I have been becoming. I sat, I pondered, I reflected and lingered in nostalgia, and cleaned out my dead friend's house with his family and friends and, in the month that that took, a lot of things became more clear to me.

I picked my birthday as my starting point and declared the Year of Yes.

Can you give me a sample of your writing? Yes.
Can you come play at my gig? Yes.
Do you want to go on a road trip? Yes.
Would you be interested in going on a date? Yes.

"Joe, I'm sorry I didn't ask before—I thought you might not want to make the trip up to Vermont, but you're invited to our wedding and we'd love to see you there."

Shit. I hate weddings.

"Yes."

Year of Yes.

So I took ten days off to make it a nice rambling trip, considered and rejected doing it on the motorcycle (too hot, too rainy, and too long with my current state of practice on the bike), and drove five hundred miles north in a giant pickup truck that gets thirteen miles per gallon. One of my dead friend's more recent associates had made a print run of a line drawing of my friend's favorite sarcastic talking hand gestures, and I stuck it on the little vent window where I could see it, like he and I were making one last road trip together after so many years.

Skipped around the NYC nightmare to go up through the Delaware Water Gap, managed to achieve relaxation once I'd cleared the Philly zone, roamed and rambled, checked in with Facebook every time I passed a prison facility and made an entry similar to "Visited [my mother] at — FCI Otisville Federal Prison" for each of my nearest and dearest (it's easy, since there's a lot of jails up North), ambled through Albany, then eventually made it in to Brattleboro and the Motel 6 there.

Woke up in the middle of the night, as the AC had failed and I'd sweated off the Ben Gay patch on my shoulder and somehow transferred it to my face, which had me panicked that I'd had a stroke, since my face was all cold and numb and tingly, but managed to sleep again after a long stretch of irritable overnight TV. Cleaned myself up, drove into Brattleboro for breakfast, went back to the motel to psych myself up to wear grown-up-people clothes, unexpectedly bathed a dog, took a nap, then headed out to Scott's Farm for what was to be a pretty big wedding by my standards.

Drove down endless dirt roads to get to the ceremony site, parked in the wrong place, schmoozed prematurely with my to-be-married friends, whom I have not seen in far too long, walked down a long, long gravel road to a long, long grass path, cursing my motherfucking wingtips the whole way, was issued an elegant pale green parasol, and emerged on the top of the ridgeline, where the whole mountainscape of Vermont unfurled in billowing green. Dan was an inveterate Teletubbies fan, and an artist friend had built two enormous pinwheels to frame the view. They turned gently in the wind, and just were...magical. The crowd is seated in ranks of white chairs, a sea of twirling pink and green parasols fighting back the burning sunshine, and a trio of mountain players led by a mandolin picked out gentle, beautiful music.

Grooms and family arrive in beautiful Citroëns, and they're in natty vintage wear with sharp hats, and they are delivered down the aisle by young nieces to the instrumental tune of my favorite Robert Wyatt song of all time and the best wedding march I could have possibly imagined, "Free Will and Testament," and I am reminded that I have known and adored these two men for twenty-one years and that this wedding is one at the end of a twenty-nine year engagement.

Everything was carefully chosen, from the poems read to the statements from each of my friends, and midway through, I was wiping sweat from my face and realized that it wasn't sweat.

Are you kidding me?

The grooms wept, we wept, each and all of us, and as the clouds drifted overhead, with pinwheels whirling and the world turning under us and two Citroëns parked elegantly alongside the musicians, and I couldn't find a single goddamned thing to complain about, except that I was sweating into a borrowed vintage four hundred dollar Hermes necktie and wondering if you can clean those damn things, but—well, it wasn't about me at all and that was just fine, and my friends had billion watt smiles at the fulfillment of a dream that had almost come to pass when California had slammed the door shut on people like us the last time.

"Goddammit, John, you made me cry at a wedding," I said, catching John as the guests were filing out.

"Who made you cry more—me or Dan?"

"You, of course," I said, and I wasn't lying, but the man's a poet and semiotician, so he's got a way with words. Dan made me cry with the music, so it was all even.

We all worked our way back to the farm for a hot and breezy time in a tent, I had fun with old friends and made some new ones, and we all just visited and gorged on mountains of insanely good food until the evening came and we all retreated to the barn for dinner and dancing.

The tables were all named for the great marques of Europe, and though I'd secretly wanted to be at the Panhard table, I ended up at the Lancia one, which was fine. Struck up a spirited conversation with a retired motorcycle mechanic and we went on for an hour about the brilliance of the engine designs of Rotax and the magical qualities of the Moto Guzzi shaft drive, which is the kind of thing you do at a wedding full of gearheads and semioticians, and when the dinner turned to dancing, the married men danced their first dance to Robert Wyatt's "Just As You Are," which was irritatingly, impossibly perfect, and set the tears flowing again.

Dan DJed his own wedding, stripping off layers of fancy wear as he DJed and danced and worked the crowd with the most eclectic set you will ever hear at a wedding, rambling from prog to punk to wild disco to everything everything everything because damn, that guy has the best taste of anyone I know.

I did not dance, because I'm shy and insecure when I'm wearing the straightjacket of formal button-down clothing, and I did feel a bit of shame that I was not living up to the Year of Yes, but sometimes you take baby steps. I sat and listened and watched and enjoyed the whole immense affair, drifting in and out to mingle in groups of people I've never met, and I was having a very good time indeed at the kind of wedding that, if you described it to me in the abstract, would rate a sneer.

I'm still a skeptic of the oversized spectacle, but the genuine enormity of it all was not lost on me. When I was first coming out, way back in the hateful eighties, in the middle of the Reagan Memorial AIDS Epidemic™, I'd have never imagined that we would have ever gotten to this point so soon, and if you wait almost thirty years to get the rights and protections that straight people have had all along, I say you get to have whatever goddamn kind of wedding you want to have. My friends lost so much of their family along the way there, and you could really feel the absence of mothers and fathers, aunts and uncles, all guests who never made it because it took so long, and I couldn't help but feel like I was at the turning point in the way of the world out there under that wine dark mountain sky.

I slipped out as the party was winding down, with Dan and John and their closest friends and family still dancing, soaked with sweat, and looked back at the silhouette of the barn with light pouring from the windows and Eno's "The True Wheel" thundering into the night, right at that magical point where the song starts to get properly unhinged, and I might have had a billion watt smile, too.

Going back down to the rodeo
Oh oh oh oh, oh oh, oh oh, here we go


Walked back to my truck, paused to watch the stars for a while, then climbed in, cranked the AC down until I could etch glass with my nipples, and set out on the path back to my motel in a sort of melancholic bliss. It had been their day, and a long time coming, and something that reminded me of where my rulebook needs some adjustments.

I don't hate weddings—just most weddings. Sometimes, though, they're lovely.

I fiddled with my mp3 player, dialed up "The True Wheel," and cranked it until the windows rattled, and pondered a question.

Will I ever get married?

It is the Year of Yes, after all.

I looked over to the vent window and the outline of a sarcastic talking hand gesture from a long time ago, and said, out loud, in the old voice that that sarcastic talking hand gesture had used, "Who's to say? Maybe?"
posted by sonascope at 12:39 PM on July 6, 2013 [34 favorites]


All I'm saying is I am not making these people fly all the way out to where I'll be (which could be anywhere, who knows...my generation moves where the jobs are) and not be assaulted with as much booze as I can afford. It seems almost self-centered not to.

My current plan (as, while I don't want anything larger than six people at a courthouse, but my boyfriend wants a princess wedding, and we'll have to compromise somewhere), is to combine the honeymoon and reception and go on tour. Have a half dozen or more receptions across the United States, each with no more than twenty people, catering to the tastes of the people who live in those areas. The reception with my college friends in Boston will serve different food than the one with his family in New York, or mine in Chicago and LA. We get to see and spend time with everyone, we're not asking friends and family in questionable health or financial straits to fly out to see us, and I don't have to deal with a fancy dress or floral arrangements or professional photographs or djs or anything I don't want in a wedding. I'm still expecting it to be expensive, but maybe it'll be less expensive than a traditional wedding and honeymoon.

The main problem I've faced so far is that some of my relatives and friends from high school are convinced that one of the receptions has to be the 'real' reception and need to be at that one, like the one that I'd have in their hometown is just a con to keep them away from the goods. I mean, I want there to be some choice and mobility, but I'd also like to keep everyone from flocking to the same one. Also, that I've floated the idea too early, and it's now being read as my starting point. I've gotten 'oh honey, you're going to have to learn how to compromise' so many times, and I keep on having to say that this is the compromise, and their idea of what a compromise is me agreeing 100% to something I emphatically do not want.

Which, yes, this is way too early to have thought this hard about it, considering there is not even an engagement yet, but I've had to, because I've gotten do many goddamn questions about it for the past couple of years. And I keep on thinking about how women are ridiculed for having their wedding all planned out years in advance, even before they meet someone, and dammit, there's a reason why this happens. We're all expected to have a plan.
posted by dinty_moore at 6:07 PM on July 6, 2013 [3 favorites]


“They’ll list all the things they’ll promise they’ll do, like you’ll promise to listen without judging. These people aren’t being realistic about marriage.”

Like "Love, honour and obey" or "To death do us part" is at all realistic anymore for many people either (or ever)?
posted by Phalene at 1:12 PM on July 7, 2013


Very much this. When we were planning our wedding we went to a flower shop in town to just look at some flower arrangements and brainstorm about what we might want. As soon as the people running the shop found out we were planning a wedding, they insisted we immediately book an appointment with their "wedding consultant", for $50. When we said no, that we were just looking, they practically ran us out of the store. So, guess who didn't get our business when it came time to actually purchase flowers. We found similar attitudes with some of the caterers we met with. As soon as we said "wedding", the prices increased by 25% or more.


I don't know where this particular flower shop was, but I am shocked *SHOCKED* that they charged for an appointment with their consultant. The one I work at lets you talk with the consultant totally free of charge-it's HER job to help you decide what you want and to sell that, and our services. And from what I can tell we don't ratchet up the prices just because it's a wedding. Heck, we have people walk in off the street to buy a bridal bouquet just to go to the courthouse and we make it happen for a reasonable price. I guess all I'm saying is shop around, if one store jerks you around there will be another one to go to instead.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 2:49 PM on July 7, 2013


St. Alia, if we had gotten married in your neck of the woods, we would have definitely given you our business.

As it is, we went to another place in town who didn't even bat an eye when we told them what we wanted, and they did everything they could to make that happen. Overall, our order was minuscule compared to a big church wedding, but they always acted like it was the biggest thing they were doing that day. I've bought flowers from them on several other occasions, and they always seem to appreciate the business.

The first place we went to has long ago gone out of business, and with the attitudes they had I'm not surprised. We didn't spend a ton of money on flowers, but that would have been better than nothing - which is what they got.
posted by ralan at 10:35 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


If I ever get married, I'm telling every vendor that I'm "throwing a party."
posted by Sara C. at 10:38 AM on July 8, 2013 [1 favorite]


I was a wedding planner for several years.

When I got married, we went to the Justice of the Peace.
posted by _paegan_ at 12:47 AM on July 12, 2013 [1 favorite]


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