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

Friday, September 12, 2008

Controversy and Compromise


I have to confess my stomach felt a little queasy all day. I really don't like to make people mad.

Once, when I was in college, I wrote a brief letter-to-the-editor of our campus newspaper asking him not to use the word "he" to refer to all students in the generic sense because I didn't feel represented. A baseball player read the letter and basically created an I-hate-Sara-shrine in the hallway of his dorm. He said I was a "lesbian bitch whose boyfriend probably just broke up with her."

That made me feel queasy, too.

But now that I'm done working for the day and have had a chance to read over everything again, I feel less queasy. I feel good about the fact that we're having a genuine dialogue. I'm sorry I may have driven some people away. I agree with Kate's comment: "Condemning a group for bad behavior will NOT grant you the audience that you want, nor will you be able to educate them."

I particularly appreciated how Meg of A Practical Wedding complexified the dress issue. She's absolutely right to raise the idea that my $15 dress from Target is good on the budget but not so good for the world (in terms of the questionable labor practices that go into producing cheap goods).

But that's exactly the kind of thing we should be talking about! I don't feel angry or judged (maybe that's because she phrased it so nicely?). I very much appreciated that Meg raised an interesting and insightful idea that challenged choices I made.

Planning a wedding is about compromises. We have to make compromises when certain things don't fit within our self-proclaimed budget. We have to make compromises when things don't necessarily align with our values. We have to make compromises when our partners' tastes and preferences deviate from our own (or when we involve families in the process and their tastes deviate from our own).

In our case, our budget had to trump our values in several different ways: 1) my dress was not necessarily produced with sweatshop-free labor 2) we bought a lot of our food from Sam's Club, which is associated with Wal-Mart and puts high-fructose corn syrup in their food 3) we couldn't afford to rent real plates and dishes, so we had to go with disposable tableware (the best we could do was make sure they were compostable).

Those compromises were difficult for Matt and I to make. Every couple needs to set their own wedding budget and determine their own priorities. I just think we need to continue discussing our choices and our compromises in a candid way. Thank you to all of you for your comments and insight!

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M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

May I make a request? I've been struggling with something for the last couple of weeks because of a couple of things: I am a Red Cross volunteer and I am reading wedding blogs in preparation for planning a spring wedding and I've seen a bunch of how-to posts for out of town guest bags. I can't get them out of my mind.

When our shelter housed Gustav evacuees, we got so many requests for bags. Folks donate clothes and the Red Cross provides basic necessities, but people need to pack and organize their belongings and all we had were flimsy plastic Wal-Mart bags.

Perhaps you can recommend to brides, wedding guests, and the general public that they can make a Red Cross resident incredibly happy if they donate those same bags. The bags used for testing the gocco, the bags that everyone hopes their guests use later (but the guests know that they won't), or even an extra reusable bag you buy each time you go to the grocery store -- donate them. Ask that your destination wedding guests put bags they won't use (anonymously, of course!) into a container and drop the whole thing off after your wedding. Order an extra 10 just for that purpose. Or (I'm on a roll here) ask your guests to write a brief "good wishes" note, stick it inside, and THEN donate them. "Best wishes from the family and friends of the happy couple. May your path be well-lit and your luck great."

I only recently started with the Red Cross, and while I understand the motivation that leads brides to want to provide everything for their guests' comfort, perhaps a bit of that (or even just the throwaways from the effort) can be diverted to people who are left without much.

You have such a great opportunity to influence the very people that you might have a distaste for. I think that people mean well, and they try to find the best compromise they can. You are intelligent, well-written, and passionate... perhaps you can help by giving us all more options.

Mrs. Andi said...

I agree 100% with this post! You've said it a few times, a wedding is about the joining of your lives together & that alone takes loads of compromise. It also takes a lot of strength to be able to work together & know when you have to change your own desires in order to get to the desired end result.

Brittany said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Brittany said...

I'm again, so proud of you for not taking the (sometimes really mean) comments from today to heart. I'm glad your post got girls talking, and while a lot of them sounded extremely defensive, I hope after they posted in anger they actually thought about the truth of wedding narcissism.

I'm just so happy that other people out there are willing to say what they believe even if they are berated for it.

E said...

Sara, I love your blog. I love the fact that it is about so much more than your wedding; specifically, your values and how they were incorporated into the way that you and Matt chose to celebrate your marriage.

Your wedding reflected the life you (try to) lead on a daily basis, and I think very, very few weddings do that. Instead, they're more often than not an opportunity for people to throw reason aside and indulge in ways they never, ever, ever would otherwise.

Anonymous said...

E makes an excellent point that weddings lead people to "indulge in ways they never, ever, ever would otherwise."

That's so hard to justify (it's one day) that some people get defensive when challenged on their unnecessary indulgences.

Meg said...

Thanks for this Sara, and I'm posting on this publicly instead of emailing you personally because you've stated your desire to promote public dialogue. Hopefully this helps. It's meant kindly. So, a few thoughts:

1) Personally, I felt a little unfairly taken out of context in your last post. I work hard to write a inclusive non-judgmental website that focuses on simple affordable weddings, and if you read your last post and didn't know about my blog that is not what you would assume. I do hear what you are saying about the importance of questioning and thinking through wedding choices, but in the end that's what my post was about. Choices. That we each have to make wedding choices, and sometimes the way someone's choices look from the outside don't reflect the inside reality of the choice. You can't look at things as just a total budget number and make a judgment based on that. We're spending more (though still much less then most) but we have a HUGE family to feed, a seriously ill parent to plan around, and very little extra time. To top that off, because we have the luxury of being able to afford it, we're supporting all local businesses and serving local and organic food. To do this we are cutting out some things we might really like to have - like a klezmer band - because we think it is the ethical choice for us to make. We're not having fancy food, or a fancy party, or an opulent wedding, but a simple wedding that represents our values and strives to hold our families close to our heart. Just because we have slightly different values and priorities doesn't mean mine are wrong, or not thoughtful.

2) Judgment. I think - from blogger to blogger- that we need to be extra thoughtful and careful about what we put out there, and how we say it, because we have a platform and our words have a far greater effect that we even know. I was getting emails yesterday about how personally crushed people felt by that post, we they were working so hard to have a authentic ethical wedding, and that sucks. I think we need to be extra careful about this when operating in a community of women (which is mostly what wedding blogs are). Women have a long history of lashing out at each other in a way that hurts and does not heal. when I read the comments to this post, I'm still hearing some harsh judgment from people. Obviously there are lots of opulent narcissistic weddings out there, but I don't think that the majority of the readers of this blog (or my blog) are those people. But even if they were, as you note in this post, lashing out at them would only drive them further away. I think the thing to do is to offer brides and grooms another option... so many want it so badly.

So, I'm glad you've addressed all this. I really would like to hear more thoughts about affordable and ethical weddings.

Sara E. Cotner said...

Thanks for your message, Meg. First, I want to publicly thank you for all you've done for me in the blogging world. You've answered my questions, you've directed people to my site, you continue to have a link from your site to mine. I want you to know that I very much appreciate all of those things. I also read your site every day because I continue to find it interesting and engaging. I very much appreciate your perspective.

I'm sorry you felt like I quoted you out of context. That wasn't my intention at all. I took the gist of your post to be: We should stop judging each other. We're all making the best choices we can.

I thought your hyperbolic example about the fireworks perfectly illustrated my point: sometimes questioning and challenging are good. Wedding planning is a crazy time. The smallest details are imbued with major significance. I think we owe it to each other to help each other think critically about our choices before we make them. I think the world is ultimately better off if we push each other to think about our choices rather than just inclusively celebrate everyone's choices.

I apologize for pushing in a way that felt mean-spirited to people. There was definitely a discrepancy between my intent and my impact.

I agree it's time to get back to a discussion of sincere and thoughtful approaches to wedding planning and life.

Take care,


Anonymous said...

Sara, sometimes when you call a spade a spade, it can be hurtful. But you've shed some light on the subject of overspending at weddings--which is a topic that needs to be discussed and has drawn me to your site, since I am planning my own wedding. I dont think you should stop being a catalyst for that type of dialogue. The people who speak about your blog in anger, are most definately re-thinking some of the decisions they have made about their own wedding. It's also sort of like..why is most of America overweight--well, mostly its because we eat too much. Overindulgence has many venues. Ironically, Im also a wedding vendor--so I see the overindulgences that you are talking about most every weekend. Since I am planning my own wedding, your site was like a breath of fresh air for me--Its all a cycle--I see/socialize with wedding people, I think I need a certain level of food/photographer/flowers at my wedding, but I dont want to spend our money on that, yet if I dont, its not "nice" for guests....I just feel this pressure to provide an over the top wedding, but no one is putting that pressure on me but myself, and I am doing it because its what I see constantly--long way of saying...that's why I like your blog so much--I can identify wtih your thoughts.
Thanks for forging ahead, this is a refreshing change from the normal wedding blogs.

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