Now that my wedding is over, I find myself thinking and talking about weddings way more than I ever did as I was planning it (although I did talk about it a lot as I was planning it, too).
In college, I majored in American studies (with a minor in gender studies). Let me attempt to summarize some of the most salient points of my major:
- The world is messed up in a lot of ways (I know it's American studies, but we talked a lot about the rest of the world, too). Wow, I'm overwhelmed by the prospect of even beginning to describe all the ways the world is messed up.
- We can make the world better, if we choose to examine it, question it, and then commit to doing something about it. As cliched as Gandhi's phrase has become, we must be the change we wish to see in the world. Our actions shape the world.
- The personal is political. The power structures within families and schools, our consumer habits, what we eat (and how we eat it)--and even our weddings--deeply reflect our assumptions, our values, and our vision for what the world could be. If we want to change the macrocosm (i.e., the big things), we should start with the microcosm (i.e., the small things).
Weddings are major events in our lives that should focus on community, connection, commitment, and fun. Instead, many of them have become stage productions. They are often extremely stressful and they "fly by," such that couples are forced to merely relive them through expensive photography and videography.
I don't expect everyone to have a $2,000 wedding. I don't expect everyone to replicate what we did. Our wedding reflected us. That was the point.
We imposed a strict budget on ourselves from the get-go because we didn't want to get consumed by the craziness of the Wedding Industrial Complex. We also knew that we could make the wedding special with sincerity rather than money. We also wanted to save money for a house, and we didn't want to accept any money from our parents because we wanted the wedding to reflect our tastes and preferences, not anyone else's.
When I wax "judgmental," it's not that I'm judging anyone who doesn't have a $2,000 budget. That's not it at all. I'm judging people who get so wrapped up in their own weddings that they neglect to analyze the impact our choices have on the world.
Over at A Practical Wedding, Meg said this today: "To be clear, I'm not very dogmatic about weddings. If having a $5 million fireworks display after your first dance works for you, and you can afford it (and think it is in good taste) I raise my eyebrows at you but you may carry on. There are many, many, resources for you, so I'm not too worried."
I'm sorry, but if anyone wastes $5 million on fireworks for their wedding, I will judge them. As all of us should. Just because some individuals have money does not mean they shouldn't be judged if they waste it in narcissistic, self-indulgent, self-centered ways. That money could feed, clothe, and educate a lot of people, and I'm going to be pissed if it gets spent on a one-day wedding.
Meg continues: "Why is every level of wedding planning fraught with so much judgment (perceived or real) and so much guilt?"
It's up to all of us to sort through the judgment and the guilt.
I went to a very, very expensive wedding during my own engagement, and I met a cousin of the bride. When she found out I was engaged, she cooed, "Ooh! Let me have your hand!" Honestly, I had no idea what she was doing. I really thought she wanted to hold my hand. So I put both my hands into her hand.
Much to my chagrin, I realized she wanted to see a ring. Some sort of big diamond thing, I imagine. I absolutely felt judged when I had nothing to show her.
I didn't want an engagement ring. I only need one ring to represent my commitment to Matt. But a lot of people don't understand that. When I feel judged for having a practical, recycled, synthetic-gem ring, I simply shrug it off.
But if someone is spending a lot of money for a dress they will only wear one time and then store in the closet, they should feel guilt. I know it's a wedding and you're supposed to feel happy, but it's wasteful. And, again, that perfect dress isn't going to make your wedding any more focused on community, connection, commitment, and fun. I'm not saying you shouldn't spend money on a wedding dress. I just think brides-to-be need to question how much they are willing to spend on a one-day dress and figure out what they are going to do with it after the wedding.
I think this type of critical discussion is very important. It forces all of us to reflect on our choices. In the end, we may make the same choices, but at least we've thought about them first.