Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Never-Ending Industrial Complexes

During our seven months of wedding planning, I started to grow pretty tired of the Wedding Industrial Complex. I grew weary of messaging about how I needed to look at my wedding as a "Once-in-a-Lifetime" event or the "Best Day" of my life. I sighed every time a company beseeched me to obsess about X, Y, or Z because it could make or break the wedding.

Now that I'm in the throes of planning for a baby (T-minus six months until the birth!), I'm faced with yet another insidious network of corporations and cultural messages conspiring to make me spend, spend, spend. Enter, The Baby Industrial Complex.

A good friend of ours gave us a book called, Baby Bargains. It's all about the things you have to buy in preparation for the baby. For example, it has 83 pages about buying a crib (and that doesn't include the 43 pages about bedding for the crib). Although I'm enjoying the book (and it actually does have some conscious consumer messages, such as don't buy a coordinated contraption in order to store your diapers), it's still page after page of products.

There's nothing inherently wrong with products. For example, we need to get a car seat, just like we needed to get plates, napkins, and utensils for our wedding. Some products are absolutely necessary. The problem, however, comes when we start to obsess about those products or become convinced that we need more than we really do (which is bad for the environment and the budget).

Another book, Attached at the Heart, really gets to the core of the issue:

When preparing for the birth of a child, it is easy to get caught up in the material things associated with pregnancy, childbirth, and newborn care. Cute infant clothing, the latest maternity fashions, and all the baby gear can be an all-consuming part of preparing for a baby, but the lasting investment of preparation involves creating a peaceful, loving environment in which to grow, birth, and care for a new life.

The same thing applies to preparing for a wedding. It's easy to get up in the material things: the dress, flowers, chair covers, napkins, bridesmaids dresses, cake toppers--the list goes on and on. But the "lasting investment of preparation involves" preparing for marriage: joining finances, distributing domestic responsibilities equitably, learning to disagree in constructive rather than destructive ways, figuring out how to forge your own path as a couple without alienating good-intentioned friends and family, continuing to cultivate yourself beyond your relationship--the list goes on and on.

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SMK said...

I think about this a lot as more and more friends become pregnant and start to worry about one thing or the other. We then all seem to step back and remember that babies have been arriving for ages - long before many of these new items were created or even thought about. And honestly, I think about my mother raising us five kids and what she was able to do with not a huge amount of financial resources available to her...yes, you want to learn about the safety of an item you might buy, and there are some things you just have to have, but sometimes it's important to really pull yourself back for a moment and think about it. Bc yes, it is so easy to get caught up in the material side of all of it (for weddings and babies).

diana said...

I have thought more and more about this as my husband and I planned for our wedding and as we plan for our child (6.5 mos to go!) Somewhere I picked up that every disposable diaper ever created is still sitting in a landfill because they take so long to break down. That shocked me, even though it probably shouldn't have.

My husband and I worked really hard to keep things to a minimum for our wedding, and while we did register for many kitchen and household items, I am proud to say that we use everything that we received!

I am trying to do the same in preparing for our little one, and am taking some of the bigger things off of our registry in lieu of buying used. Especially items that a baby may not like, like a swing or bouncy seat.

Now every time I put something in the garbage I think about all those diapers and over flowing landfills. I am much more aware of what my husband and I purchase, and we are starting to compost, recycle, and donate more.

Roxanne said...

I think one of the best cures for the WIC issue is to talk to people. I was begining to stress about invites and someone pointed out that everyone would throw them away eventually anyway. Which sounded kind of mean to me, until she said "How wierd would it be if I just had years of old wedding invitations in a box under my bed?"

Kelsey said...

Here here! Couldn't agree more. Friends' baby registries are a bit overwhelming, I don't really want to fill my house with baby gadgets and plastic things! Check out this post and this great blog:

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Carolyn said...

I love your blog and found your posts about your wedding very useful. When preparing for our wedding, we too mapped out our goals, and coming back to them again and again was so helpful in staying true to ourselves and our ideals while planning an awesome celebration.

With babies, our main goal is to equally share in parenting. This is a huge goal that requires intensive preparation on both of our parts, and requires that we build our relationship, trust each other as parents, make room for each other's proactive decision making, etc. It's pretty overwhelming how much harder it is to prepare to bend gender expectations than it is to prepare by consuming more and more stuff. The book we're reading now is "Halving it All," and it's so helpful.

It feels like we are encouraged to purchase stuff (matching diaper pail, anyone) to keep us from preparing in the ways that could be really meaningful and transformational.

Anonymous said...

I can't believe how WASTEFUL baby stuff is! So much of it is thrown away even though it's perfectly good because the baby has outgrown it (bottle warmers, booster seats, etc.) I mean, I understand the need for something like a new carseat, but a lot of the stuff we're going to buy used.

I tried to start a conversation on establishing a "baby pool" with friends--ie, a situation in which people could offer up their old baby stuff for use by people with new babies--old toys, old clothes etc. and was met with a lot of resistance. I think that some people think that they're not treating their baby "right" unless everything the baby has is top-of-the-line new.

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