The Wedding Industrial Complex. COMPLEX is an understatement

Is there another event as tied up with miscommunications, expectations, etiquette (barf!) and general craziness as a wedding? If so, please advise so I can put it on my list of Things To Avoid Like the Plague.  A wedding, however, will probably not be something I am able to avoid, so today I thought we could talk about how to put one together and also stay sane.

I mentioned a while back that I ‘m trying to convince Garrett that we should start planning our wedding this August when all our house projects are OVER!  People seem sort of shocked when I say that, because “OMG! The horror! Who talks about a wedding when they are NOT ACTUALLY engaged?” So presumptuous!

And, I guess I understand that sentiment, kiiiiiiiiiind of. But also, I don’t understand it because are there people out there walking around in relationships who don’t actually talk about this kind of stuff? I mean, don’t you KNOW if you are in a relationship that is leading to marriage? Is this really a “surprise” to most people? I’m asking this question honestly. 

I feel like the whole surprise aspect of engagement is a little bit lost on me. Even further there is a part of me that dreads the “engagement period” because in my nightmares I imagine having to give strangers wedding updates every damn day. (This article sums up my fears quite nicely.) And while, of course there will be excitement and joy — because YES! This is the man I want to marry! I am just not convinced that a surprise engagement will even be possible. 

Garrett and I have been together for almost 5 years and I would say fairly shortly into our relationship we both kind of knew that this was it. This was no casual relationship, this was a serious one. Potentially leading to marriage, if we both wanted to make that commitment. Not if he decided to surprise me with a ring. Because of that I am absolutely NOT anticipating a surprise shower of rose-petals and a giant diamond bauble. 

Because we already have a family diamond that is sitting and waiting to be dealt with, and because I think that Garrett knows me well enough to know showy romantic gestures are lovely, but not my only love language, I just don’t imagine a traditional proposal is in our future. (Though never say never, and I wouldn’t be horrified to have a lovely romantic moment. I mean, I do have a heart and a sappy side, I swear.)  But can we count as engaged already, or do we need to do the down on one knee thing?  I know, so many questions. 

The most common ones I get are as follows: 

GEEZ NEGATIVE NELLY, DO YOU EVEN WANT A WEDDING?   

This is the eternal question, I suppose.  Now don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled at the idea of marrying Garrett.  THRILLED. IN ALL CAPS.  He’s my lobster and all that and I am very pro-marriage.  But after a number of years attending weddings, being in weddings, hearing about the weddings of others I am just sort of tired of the entire Wedding Industrial Complex

I’m all for traditions, but I’ve never been one to follow them blindly (especially when they were invented as a way to make money),  and I really have no intention of doing something because a bridal magazine tells me it’s required. Also, I think it is lame that I may have to pay twice the price for something just because I will need it on my wedding day as opposed to any other day. 

SO IS IT THE SPENDING YOU OBJECT TO?

Oh man, let’s talk about the spending for a minute, can we?  I’m just going to come out and say that I will absolutely, positively, not spend an amount of money equivalent to a down payment on a house for a party.  HOW DOES THAT EVEN HAPPEN? 

I will happily choose to rank as below average in this category of life.  I’ve spent too many years getting myself into and out of debt, learning how to save, and making a financial plan for my life to someone spend half of my annual salary on a party. That just seems like taking a hit off the crazy bong! 

Please, no more nightmares of Suze Orman yelling at me, I have engaged in enough of that trauma just surviving my 20s. 

BUT, HOLLY, IT’S A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EVENT.

I know. You are right. It totally is (one hopes!) And trust me,  if you threw an extravagant wedding, please do not think I am judging you.  I’ve been to some great ones and they were very fun.  No complaints here.

I’m just not sure I can personally part with my own money that way because I have absolutely no “wedding vision.” It’s like I was just born without one. (And yes, I assure you — I am a woman!) Also: I just have some other financial goals.  

I swear if you would have asked me about my dream wedding ten years ago I probably would have said “Get me unicorns!  No price is too high!”  But the thought of doing that in reality is just a hard pill to swallow these days.

Also, I sort of hate this “One Time Event” argument, mostly because I feel like that it’s a marketing tactic.  It’s like when you go to buy a car and you find one that seems nice and the sales guy says, “You better sign the papers now because it may be gone tomorrow.”  As if I would never be able to find another silver Honda Civic anywhere in the state of California. Not that I am comparing my wedding to an economy car, but wait – well, maybe I am.

Yes, the formal celebration of a marriage usually only happens once — you know unless you are Ramona Singer and then of course it happens once every 17 years — but what about the marriage?  Can we talk about the marriage part? How come it’s all wedding wedding wedding and no one seems to care about the whole Til Death Do Us Part part.

I guess for me, it just seems to make more sense to focus resources on the marriage itself, because that sucker lasts FOREVAH, right? Not just once in a lifetime. The marriage — IT IS YOUR LIFETIME. But apparently the Marriage Industry doesn’t have quite as savvy of a marketing team as the Wedding Indsutry.

BUT DON’T YOU WANT TO SHARE THIS WITH YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS?

And in the end, this is the part that will ultimately (and probably) make me go back on every word I have said here.  You see there was a time when I was trying to convince Garrett to elope or have a destination wedding to avoid all this wedding planning hullabaloo (Oh god, this would be my sweet dream!) Because, let’s be real, wedding planning will probably not be that stressful – FOR HIM.  

But he just kept getting sad at the thought, and saying “I really want my family and friends to be there.”  And really, how can I say no to that? YOU CAN’T.   So if I had to make a bet, I would bet we will actually have a normal wedding — with a little bit of kicking and screaming from me. (Is there another option? Seriously? How do people have weddings without kicking and screaming? I am genuinely asking.)(Wedding planners? Crap! Because that is probably NOT realistic at all for us.)

But reconciling “Planning the wedding we want to have” vs. “Planning the wedding I have the patience and desire to plan” does look to be a bit of a challenge.  I know in the end we will create a wedding that is meaningful for us, I’m just not exactly sure what the looks like at the moment.  Luckily, I can see the marriage part very clearly. And that part? I couldn’t be more excited about!

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2 comments to The Wedding Industrial Complex. COMPLEX is an understatement

  • HereWeGoAJen
    June 25, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Oh you have good points. We had a really small destination wedding that was perfect for us. And WAY below average cost, even though we splurged on a lot of stuff.

  • Annie
    July 6, 2010 at 1:11 am

    Oh Holly. We started planning before we were engaged. I don't think there's anything wrong with that. Actually, I remember quite clearly that we had to book the church 6 months in advance. So we talked to our priest who said, "are you engaged yet? Come back to me once you've given her a ring." Har.

    Our engagement wasn't a surprise, either. It was lovely and perfect for us but not a surprise. And I wouldn't change a thing. :-)

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