A Look Into the Bridal-Industrial Complex

Be afraid, soon-to-be-marrieds. There are all kinds of people out there looking to separate you from your money, using the social pressure of having The Perfect Wedding.

Basically, a reporter tagged along with Rebecca Mead, a New Yorker staff writer and the author of “One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding,” to the Great Bridal Expo. Read the whole thing to see just how much of a scam weddings are, but this really jumped out at me:

Advice books warn brides not to reveal that they are shopping for a wedding, if possible, Ms. Mead said; vendors know that “if it’s wedding, you’re going to spend more.” So her suspicion is immediately aroused when the woman at East Coast Limousine asks, “Is it for a wedding?” when the question of a 22-passenger excursion in a long, white stretch limousine comes up. The wedding special is $720 for 3 ½ hours and includes an aisle runner, Champagne, bar and “horns” that play a recording of “Here Comes the Bride” when the car stops. Ever the experienced shopper, Ms. Mead asks how much the regular rental would be, if there were no wedding.

“A four-hour minimum is $576.” So you could spend $144 less and receive a half-hour more? Why not do that instead?

“You can’t,” the saleswoman replies. If it’s a wedding, you must do the wedding special. “If the bride and groom are in the car, you can’t do it. We’ve pulled in, and there is a woman in a wedding dress, and they can’t do it. The car had to leave.”

After taking a few steps away, Ms. Mead said, “This is the kind of thing that I’m really interested in — that mentality: you’re going to get the horns whether you want them or not.”

She imagines the scene: “They won’t let you in,” she repeats, picturing the bride, groom and 20 other passengers stranded on a street as the limo driver slams the door and pulls away. “That’s the one you need the videographer for.”

A friend of mine experienced this even with the very simple wedding she wanted. She wanted a dinner with about 15 people, with the actual wedding performed between courses. As she started calling around for reservations, she discovered that if she mentioned that it was for a wedding, suddenly she had to reserve an entire room rather than just a table, that there was mandatory cake, and expense upon expense upon expense. At every single restaurant she called. In the end, she just reserved a table for 15 and didn’t let on that it was for a wedding (since she wore a pink cocktail dress, it was easy enough not to give the game away by her attire).

One other very interesting point Mead makes in the article is that culturally, we’re conditioned to expect some kind of traumatic transition between single life and married life in order to accord marriage a special status and maintain that married people were changed by marriage. It used to be that just leaving your parents’ home and setting up as an “adult” was scary enough. Now, with people leaving the nest and moving in with their unmarried partners all the time, the wedding has taken on greater significance as a big source of drama that everyone has to get through in order to become a Married Person. There’s a sense that people who have easy weddings have cheated, somehow, because they get the status of being married without having gone through all the Drama. They might as well just be living in sin!

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130 Responses

  1. Frumious B
    Frumious B May 10, 2007 at 8:39 am |

    This slate article is also worth reading
    http://www.slate.com/id/2165581/fr/flyout

  2. Anna
    Anna May 10, 2007 at 8:40 am |

    Just makes me once again grateful that I had a stealth wedding. Just us, our two friends, and the Justice of the Peace. One of our friends didn’t sort out we were getting married till we showed up at the office for “Marriages, Birth Certificates and Deaths”.

    One day I have to mention to my parents that I got hitched…

  3. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl May 10, 2007 at 9:07 am |

    It’s a little too late now, as I’ll be getting married in a month.

    I get to pay for it all out of my own pocket, you’d be amazed at what people (family, friends, etc) are demanding.

  4. Janie
    Janie May 10, 2007 at 9:11 am |

    I don’t know what I would do if someone told me I HAD to have a limo that played Here Comes The Bride…I’d rather drive there myself if that was the case…
    I like that, in that sense, the article showed how weddings have not only become more expensive they’re also so cheesy.
    My mother and my friend just attended two separate weddings, the details of which nearly caused me to throw up a little.

  5. Viveth
    Viveth May 10, 2007 at 9:34 am |

    The best wedding I ever attended was conducted in the couple’s back yard, during a short break from the beer and snacks, with about 20 friends & family there to celebrate with love rather than with money. Awesome, meaningful AND cheap.

  6. Krapsnart
    Krapsnart May 10, 2007 at 9:40 am |

    We were engaged for a month (after being together for five years and shacked up for two and a half of them). Our friends drove us to our City Hall wedding in a black Honda Civic Hatchback, and we went directly to a flower shop and said, “Hi. We’re getting married in ten minutes. Can you set us up with some flowers?”

    Other friends had a party for us at their house nearby after the ceremony. Our parents, my husband’s sister, and most of our dearest friends were there. It was small and quiet and low-key and perfect for us.

    I’ve never understood the huge obsession with weddings as The Perfect Day, but then I’ve never thought much of the whole “Princess” thing, either. Perhaps someone will be by soon to revoke my “Girl” card.

  7. Caja
    Caja May 10, 2007 at 9:44 am |

    When I was young and foolish and got married, neither my family nor my now-ex’s family tried to either a) take over the plans or b) complain that we were doing things a somewhat differently than Tradition dictated. Well, I didn’t hear any complaints, anyway. The only thing anyone did that went against what we wanted is that one of our mothers conspired to get a nice normal looking cake to go along with the very . . . weird . . . cake we had requested, and got. I can’t complain -too- much because the pretty, normal cake wasn’t a Wedding Cake, and it was very, very tasty (so was the weird cake, but they were different flavors).

  8. Thomas
    Thomas May 10, 2007 at 9:48 am |

    Several of the best I have been to, including my sister’s, were in the back yard of one family’s home.

  9. FashionablyEvil
    FashionablyEvil May 10, 2007 at 9:50 am |

    I’m engaged at the moment and the second someone says “What does your dream wedding look like?”, mentions my childhood dreams of my wedding, or says “You should have the very best for your special day” I RUN* in the other direction. Really the only sane thing to do. :)

    *well, sometimes I guffaw (I think that’s the only appropriate word for it) loudly or smirk at them first.

  10. JenM
    JenM May 10, 2007 at 9:53 am |

    My sister works part-time at a bridal shop and keeps asking me to come out and look at the dresses. I’ve told her several times refuse to wear any kind of big skirt with a petticoat, I’m not wearing white or cream and I’m not buying a dress I will only wear one time. Finally I said “NO! Its all a complete racket anyway! She was all offended but still keeps asking me to see the shop. I told her I plan on going to either the BCBG or MaxMara outlet stores about a month before the wedding and buying whatever fits best.

    What also throws people is when my boyfriend and I discuss our wedding. They get confused – “wait, are you engaged?” And we say “no but we know we are getting married either later this year or next year.” Ideally I’d like to skip the entire enagement thing and just go to the JP, but it would really hurt my mom’s feelings.

  11. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 9:55 am |

    All right, clearly I’m the freak here, because we had an actual wedding at an actual church with an actual reception (with centerpieces!) where I wore a white dress and he wore a tux.

    I think that one of the millions of reasons weddings have gotten out of control is that it’s one of the few opportunities people still have for formal entertaining. Almost no one still throws sit-down dinner parties for their 12 closest friends anymore — if you’re lucky, you can convince people to come over and eat pizza while watching the Super Bowl. I was able to get my relatives to fly out from Illinois so we could show them a good time, and there’s really no occasion when you can draw the strands of your scattered family together like a wedding. (Family reunions are pretty much the only other time, but even those tend to be casual barbeque events, not formal events.)

    Not saying that the wedding-industrial complex isn’t out of control. There were definitely a few times when my husband had to rein me in (which was his job as defined by me, by the way) when I wanted to spend extra money on something we didn’t need. And we had a great wedding coordinator who told us things like, “Nah, don’t bother with that, it’s too much trouble and no one will notice.”

  12. AG
    AG May 10, 2007 at 10:02 am |

    I can certainly relate to your disgust to the notion of perfect weddings, and how a lot of folk have caved into the aggresive marketting practices of big companies. Just like Anna (above commenter), my S.O. and I did a 15 min thing in the local courthouse.. and informed a couple of close friends that evening (“hey, we have some news for you, we got married!”). We do plan to have small parties for our friends here and ones back home (India, where we’re originally from).

    A big 00100 to H*llmark, diamond stores and other rich scumbags that try to make me believe I am a useless piece of shit if I don’t spend thousands of dollars to make ‘em richer :-) My S.O and I are perfectly happy with spending money on what *we* want to, and we do *not* want to. Sorry aforementioned scumbags! -AG

    PS: Zuzu and Jill – we read your posts pretty regularly and admire how you’ve taken up various issues; it’s especially relevant to us because we relate to how women are properties of families, and so forth in “our culture” (oh I hate that term!). My S.O’s family is stuck in the 18th century. But we don’t give a damn anyway.

  13. AG
    AG May 10, 2007 at 10:04 am |

    Second PS: **Nods at JenM’s comment** … exactly the same view my S.O and I have.

  14. Rick DeMent
    Rick DeMent May 10, 2007 at 10:04 am |

    I’m going though this for the second time and I have to consider myself lucky that both times my intended would have nothing to do with the wedding-industrial complex. First time a Vegas getaway with Elvis impersonator, this time a week jaunt to Mackinaw island with a few game friends and Pirate attire.

    But one thing is true you have to be very hush hush about the fact that you are going to be getting married or else you find out about policy after policy that only adds $$$$. Mackinaw island has a very entrenched wedding establishment and all of the venues and anything that smacks of wedding will set you back big. Besides it’s a pirate wedding, what would be the fun if you can’t do it under that radar?

  15. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl May 10, 2007 at 10:08 am |

    Mnemosyne — I totally agree with you.

    People get really startled when you ask them over to a nice dinner — and we don’t even have a formal spread at our place (little eat-in-chicken — I mean, kitchen). People are often under the impression that it’s a social transaction: That if they accept the invite for an indian feast with nice wine and candlelight, that they are somehow obligated to reciprocate even if they don’t have entertaining proclivities.

  16. Mary
    Mary May 10, 2007 at 10:10 am |

    Oh my god, the mandatory cake… the place I got married could not get their heads around the fact that we did not want a cake, which was a set (and ridiculous) price and then a “cake-cutting fee” on top of THAT. They also kept asking us how much sound equipment (which they provide, for a fee) our band would need, when we didn’t have a band either.

    In the end it all worked out, and they didn’t even set up the room with a dance floor, as they’d on one occasion said was the only way it could be set up, but this process really drove home the idea that “traditional” weddings have Certain Components from which you’re not allowed to deviate. There is definitely an attitude that you either do get married in someone’s backyard with twenty guests (not knocking those weddings; some of the most moving I’ve been to were like that), or you choose the chapel and the dinner reception afterward – and if you do the latter, you must want a first dance and a cake and an emcee and a limo, etc, etc. You can’t just want a chapel and a dinner, heaven knows.

    When trying to pick out my dress and toying with not wearing white, I had an acquaintance tell me that my wedding day was “not the day to show [my] eccentricities”. In other words, fall into the Disney bridal mold and shut up. I can’t think of a more appropriate day to celebrate the things that make the bride and groom individual, because that’s presumably why they love eacher other. But then, we lived in sin for five years, so I probably have the wrong idea about this marriage thing entirely.

  17. Alison
    Alison May 10, 2007 at 10:12 am |

    What also throws people is when my boyfriend and I discuss our wedding. They get confused – “wait, are you engaged?” And we say “no but we know we are getting married either later this year or next year.” Ideally I’d like to skip the entire enagement thing and just go to the JP, but it would really hurt my mom’s feelings.

    I don’t really understand this.. what does “being engaged” mean, if it doesn’t mean having an understanding that you will get married soon? I have friends who knew they were going to get married, but didn’t consider themselves “engaged” until their boyfriends popped the question officially.. but I’m kind of guessing that that’s not what JenM meant.

  18. wolfa
    wolfa May 10, 2007 at 10:14 am |

    I’m curious: knowing you intend to get married and approximately when isn’t being engaged? What else do you need to be engaged?

  19. Hector B.
    Hector B. May 10, 2007 at 10:18 am |

    Be careful about the size of your wedding. Judging from my friends and acquaintances, the bigger the wedding, the shorter the marriage. The country club reception with the mayor and congresswoman and the souvenir DVDs of their courtship lasted less than two years. Personally I would never go beyond a reception at the VFW hall, with baked chicken and mostaccioli; booze and mixers whose brands you’ve never seen before, and jordan almonds tied in nylon net for mementos..

  20. Suz
    Suz May 10, 2007 at 10:21 am |

    I first read the title as Bridal-Complex Industry.
    I realize I wasn’t that far off.

  21. Hugo
    Hugo May 10, 2007 at 10:22 am |

    I’ve been married four times, done ‘em big, done ‘em small — and can assure everyone that enjoyment and expense have no relation to each other.

    What I do find so damned annoying is the way in which many of these companies guilt women (usually) into believing that they are somehow “letting down everyone” if they don’t have these elaborate packages. They play openly on the fear of “not being good enough”.

  22. Hector B.
    Hector B. May 10, 2007 at 10:28 am |

    What I do find so damned annoying is the way in which many of these companies guilt women (usually) into believing that they are somehow “letting down everyone” if they don’t have these elaborate packages. They play openly on the fear of “not being good enough”.

    They probably learned that from the funeral industry, then. The funeral industry knows how to get you to spend money out of guilt and fear of looking disrespectful and unloving. Both involve flowers, of course, and often the bereaved are expected to feed the mourners after the corpse is in the ground. Read the classic “The American Way of Death.”

  23. Nat
    Nat May 10, 2007 at 10:30 am |

    I got married in my mother-in-law’s backyard, with the mayor of their town officiating and about 50-60 friends and family milling about. We set out a couple tables full of cold cuts, bread, cookies, pies, and champagne. It was a great wedding, exactly what we wanted.

    My wife hates diamonds, so instead of a big engagement ring and a bigger wedding ring, I put down a down payment on a car for her for the engagement and we got matching simple gold bands for the wedding rings.

    It’s amazing how many people go out of their way to tell my wife they feel bad for her for not getting an engagement ring or a “real” wedding ring, and how many just would not be convinced that anybody would get married on less than a year’s notice and not in a huge ceremony unless she was pregnant and “had” to get married.

    Apparently the fact that we had the wedding that made us and our immediate families the happiest isn’t as important as us spending a lot of money would be. I really resent the implication that I must just not love my wife very much because I wouldn’t buy her a diamond ring that she didn’t even want anyway.

  24. Miranda
    Miranda May 10, 2007 at 10:31 am |

    Rick, as a native Michigander I feel the need to say that the correct spelling is Mackinac. “Mackinaw” is a phonetic spelling. :P Have fun, though. Right now I’m picturing a bunch of people dressed in pirate garb riding around the island on bicycles built for two*

    *rented tandum bicycles

  25. Moira
    Moira May 10, 2007 at 10:39 am |

    Oh, dear little frogs and fishes, the wedding planning. We got married in a friend’s back yard, had cake and champagne (and these gorgeous huge chocolate-covered strawberries my brother made — he’s really an amazing cook) at the reception, and kicked everyone the hell out after a couple hours. There were maybe 50 people, with blood relatives and a good many of our kinky leather friends. A friend officiated over the service, another friend who was a photographer did the photos as a wedding gift, my dress was $150, my wife’s dress was borrowed…

    It still cost us over five thousand. But it was really, really, really pretty. (Here’s a picture from it. There were more, but I can’t find them. I’m going to have to see if I can’t get a CD of them.) I got some very butch leather men to wear pink to go with my color scheme, had gorgeous flowers I wish I’d been able to save somehow, and generally had a very nice time. I’m atheist but the wife is Christian, so she got a religious ceremony and I got pink and cream. Compromise is a fine thing.

    What was not a nice time at all was the big-ass bridal show at the convention center in Houston. Eight zillion people, a dizzying array of vendors all wanting to vacuum money out of us, and I got to see it all from a wheelchair — my body was not up to walking through all that. Mostly I got to see asses. Being in a wheelchair is amazing; it makes you invisible! About twenty minutes into this experience I very badly wanted a cattle prod.

  26. Isua
    Isua May 10, 2007 at 10:53 am |

    My uncle’s wedding in the Adirondacks was the best one I’ve been to – after the ceremony and dinner, both low-key and lovely, it was back to the campsite for marshmallows and bugspray and supersoakers and canoes. I’m kind of ruined for the formal stuff now – I now think all weddings should involve War Canoes.

  27. orange
    orange May 10, 2007 at 11:01 am |

    Ahhh, just had my wedding last June, and boy do I remember vividly all the bullshit “must-haves” that people kept talking about. Not my family- my mom got married in church, but then everyone just went to her mom’s house and had a BBQ. So my mom made a great wedding planner: she’d be like, plastic forks and knives ? And I’d be like, yes, mom, you’re a genius.

    My husband and I didn’t have bachelor/ette parties (my hate for that whole bundle of issues is well-known around here) or showers (I don’t need any lace underpants, thanks) or videographers or limos; instead we just ate pizza on the back porch with friends and family the night before, and then had a reception BBQ after the ceremony. The wedding was outside and we just rented a big tent from a party company to eat under- didn’t say wedding, just said ‘party’, so I bet we saved a bundle.

    It’s shameful, the way that the wedding industry simultaneously infantilizes the bride and dumps all the responsibility on her. She’s a delicate little baby-flower who can’t be seen in her dress until she’s sold; but she’s also the workhorse who should be hand-tying favors until 2 AM and battling out the price with a disgruntled caterer.

    Hmph.

  28. orange
    orange May 10, 2007 at 11:04 am |

    Oh, also, I have to pass along one more piece of my mother’s wisdom. Every time I or Mr. Orange got tied in a knot over something, or anyone involved began to worry, she’d very calmly (funny for her, because she’s rarely, if ever, calm !) take my hand and say, “what’s more important- this one day, this one problem; or your whole life together ?”

    Perspective. Some people just have it, and the rest of us try desperately to learn it.

  29. Red Stapler
    Red Stapler May 10, 2007 at 11:06 am |

    The best wedding I have ever been to:

    The ceremony was at sunset on the banks of the East River, on the Brooklyn side, between the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges.

    The reception was at a restaurant nearby, where the groom and one of the members of the wedding party had worked.

    A punk band, who were friends of the couple, played a set. Otherwise, the music was provided by the bride’s iPod.

    Oh, and it was on Halloween, and everyone was in costume.

    Best. Wedding. Ever.

  30. cocoschmoco
    cocoschmoco May 10, 2007 at 11:09 am |

    We got married last July, and shit, was it hard to get married without getting sucked into the “must-have” bullshit. And I purposely stayed away from as much of it as possible, too. We had a huge amount of guests, but it had more to do with both of us having large families and big weddings just being the thing to do, as it’s one of the few times everyone gets together (plus, my fam has had too many funerals in the recent past, so I was pretty stoked about having a happy family-fest).
    We adored having a huge party in which everyone we loved was with us, but the rest of it was a giant ball of stress…having it in my parents’ backyard and doing DIY for almost everything was stressful short-term, but it worked better than giving the jerks that are reception sites our money.
    I also had this overwhelming pressure (probably from spending too much time on wedding website/msg. boards) to have the World’s Most Perfect Wedding, ala Martha Stewart. It was like temporary psychosis or something…

  31. Antigone
    Antigone May 10, 2007 at 11:15 am |

    I’m getting married some time in 2009, and I never realized that you had to do stuff to get married. The flowers, the colors, the bridesmaids, everything: it never crossed my mind to think of doing these things.

    This is what I get for not playing fairy-princess Bride when I was a kid.

  32. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 11:16 am |

    It’s relatively easy to to avoid the bridal industrial complex and still have the fancy-schmancyness if you’re a little crafty. We got married in my mom’s front yard under a pretty white tent that was really a carport we decorated decorated with ribbons and silk flowers.

    We had a big three tier wedding cake, but instead of paying 500 dollars for a “real” one, we bought three white circle cakes from the same bakery, made a little shelf decorated with the same ribbons and flowers as the tent and voila.

    I had a big white dress, but I had my seamstress friend make it. Instead of buying the “bridal satin” to make it out of I bought regular, exactly-the-same satin for literally half the price. We made a little altar out of stuff from Hobby Lobby. My husband even made the candles himself.

    I really hate how big life events in our culture are so tied into consumerism, as in what you have to buy to “do it” properly. Trying to avoid that while having a wedding was bad enough, and trying to raise a kid while avoiding it is nearly impossible.

  33. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 11:22 am |

    Oh, and just wanted to add, to anyone who might be planning a wedding right now…most of it will go horribly wrong, there will be some sort of weather issues, your parents will have a freak out, and some important person will be really really late.

    My friend told me the same thing right before my wedding, so when all the stuff went down I was kind of zen about it.

  34. Red Stapler
    Red Stapler May 10, 2007 at 11:24 am |

    Moira:

    That picture of you and your wife? Be cuter. Do it.

    Oh look, you’re doing it.

    :)

    MAZEL TOV.

  35. pearlandopal
    pearlandopal May 10, 2007 at 11:36 am |

    Moira – that photo is incredibly moving. Both of you just glow.

    Yet another wedding anecdote: my hubby (to be, at the time, obviously) had been together for five years before I finally got fed up (long story) with my parents, moved in with him, and announced that we were driving over to Tennessee to get married in a wedding chapel in Gatlinburg.

    My mother talked me into doing a “real” wedding instead. We only had a month to plan, so everyone in my extended family showed up thinking I was pregnant. (We’re happily childfree, so weren’t they disappointed six months later.)

    The wedding was fantastic, a relatively simple romantic backyard deal, but I’d never ever do it again. Since my parents were paying, my mother insisted on having the wedding she’d always wanted and never gotten, which didn’t have much to do with what I wanted. Insert much bickering here. I wanted about 15 people there, but my mother absolutely insisted on inviting every extended relative and family friend she could think of.

    It backfired on her, though – one of those very close family friends stole money out of at least one purse as well as a huge handful of cards from the gift table. We weren’t sure it was her until years later, after she’d hit four or five other weddings. Really makes you believe in the sanctity of family, there.

  36. Barbara_K
    Barbara_K May 10, 2007 at 11:39 am |

    The thought of planning a wedding, what a nightmare! My sister loved planning hers and it was absolutely beautiful, but it took me all of about one week after getting engaged to realize that planning a traditional wedding would seriously reduce my life expectancy.

    Luckily for my husband and I, our siblings took care of having the more traditional or elaborate weddings so we could just take off to Vegas and meet up with whoever felt like coming along without the accompanying guilt of denying our families their traditional wedding memories.

    One of the things I couldn’t believe was how ridiculously expensive wedding dresses are. I found a white floor length cocktail dress for $300 (still-ouch), and when I told the saleswoman that it was for my wedding she tried so very hard to get me to go over to their wedding department. Their comparable wedding dresses were over three times as expensive.

  37. TinaH
    TinaH May 10, 2007 at 11:39 am |

    We had our wedding reception at a brew pub, they’re way lower key than most other restaurants.

    When I went into the one (and only) bridal shop and tried on one dress the sales woman argued with me “Oh, honey, you just won’t feel married if you don’t have a train on your dress.” No, I’m not kidding. We walked out, I bought five yards of raw silk at the store and had something lovely whipped up for $300.

  38. twf
    twf May 10, 2007 at 12:19 pm |

    My wedding was somewhere between the casual backyard gatherings so many Feministe readers seem to have had, and the big bridal-industrial thing. White dress, catered food, DJs… but no limo, no favours, wholesale flowers, and little stress.

    Even with all the traditional things I did, my mother-in-law was traumatized at my lack of capitulation to all tradition. Her biggest problems were that the best man was female, no seating chart, no bridal shower, no reception line. Vendors also were confused by two things: interacting with my husband more than me, and us really not caring about the details and therefore leaving trivial questions up to them.

  39. Christina B
    Christina B May 10, 2007 at 12:21 pm |

    I hosted (in an apartment of very small means) and attended dinner parties of varying formality quite frequently when I lived in DC and most of the people who attended will probably have traditional weddings. There are a lot of reasons for it.

    A friend, who had been with her partner for 5 years, living together for 4 and engaged for 1, just had a very traditional wedding (completely for herself, there was no familial pressure). They did everything that they could themselves in order to save money (including making baked ziti because it would have been extra and making their center pieces).

    Another friend, who also got married recently, went victorian. She rented three Victorian style dresses from a costume shop and that is what we wore.

  40. Laurie
    Laurie May 10, 2007 at 12:24 pm |

    *sigh* There are days I’m ashamed to be associated with the wedding industry, however laterally it may be. (I do a LOT of wedding gown/bridesmaids gown alterations. I also sew some pretty kick-ass custom stuff. Shameless plug: http://www.heirloomsbylaurie.com :) I have to admit, that I am thinking about skewing my business more towards the costuming that I do — the alterations pay the bills, and the gals involved are generally very nice, but the stress….

    My personal opinion is: if you have the money and *want* to throw the ridiculously large party for everyone, go for it. Don’t put yourself seriously into debt doing so, because you WILL regret that, but go for the big party with all the trappings *if you WANT it*. But don’t let anyone guilt you into doing stuff, buying stuff, or being anything you don’t want. I HATE that. (Like, when did you start having to give your guests *presents*? Have you seen what passes for “favors” these days? Yikes!!)

    I think part of the problem is that a lot of women of a certain age had their weddings planned for them by their mothers, and didn’t get the wedding they wanted. So they feel the need to pass that onto their daughters and get into the wedding plans up to their elbows. There was a reason my (step)mom wasn’t involved in my wedding. *evil grin*

    Funny story: my (step)mom threw a bridal shower for me, and got me a white garter belt. I think she thought she was being racy — she had that kind of “oh, aren’t I *naughty*!” look on her face as I opened it. You should have seen her face when I exclaimed: “Oh, great! Now I have a white one to go with my black one! *grin*” We had a fairly small wedding (larger than I wanted since (step)mom had to invite all the relatives I didn’t know), with traditional and not so traditional stuff mixed together. If I did it again, or a vow renewal, it would be even less traditional. We brought it in WAAAY under the average $$$, and paid for it all up front. In my opinion, that is the ONLY way to do it.

  41. Karinna A.
    Karinna A. May 10, 2007 at 12:27 pm |

    I got married last summer, in sort of a compromise between the really low-key, informal affair I wanted and the more traditional wedding the spouse wanted.

    Outdoors, 30 people (including wedding party), reception at a Mexican restaurant afterwards, where I did not wear my wedding dress and where my friends surprised me with wedding cake (really, just a sheet cake). Since my parents chipped in, I’m just guessing at the cost, but I’d estimate about $2,500 for the whole thing.

    It was such a relief to not have to worry about all the stupid, nitpicky little details (like anyone is going to notice the exact shade and fabric of the ties on the party favors, anyway). It’ll be…interesting watching my sister plan the traditional Big Wedding for next summer.

  42. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 12:29 pm |

    Since my parents were paying, my mother insisted on having the wedding she’d always wanted and never gotten, which didn’t have much to do with what I wanted. Insert much bickering here. I wanted about 15 people there, but my mother absolutely insisted on inviting every extended relative and family friend she could think of.

    This is why you and your mother should live in different states: we had our small 40-guest wedding (with cake! and a veil!) in California and then my mom threw a larger 125-guest reception for us in Illinois a month later. Got to wear my dress a second time, even. So my mom and I both got to have the wedding of our dreams.

    Though, again, I keep going on about how “traditional” our wedding was, but we got married at a beautiful Unitarian Universalist church and had a luncheon afterwards. No dancing, no DJ, everything was done by 3 pm so people weren’t totally exhausted and drunk afterwards.

    (Okay, they were a little drunk: it was a hot day and we had mojitos at the open bar. But the hotel was only two blocks away so everyone walked anyway.)

  43. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 12:38 pm |

    Oh, geez, now I have to try to find a picture to compete with Moira’s cuteness, and I don’t know that I have one!

  44. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 12:54 pm |

    Okay, I’m a freak about my online privacy, but behold the glory of our cake!

    (Yes, it’s brown on purpose. They used a blowtorch on the meringue to brown it and give it that woodsy look that we wanted.)

  45. Rosemary Grace
    Rosemary Grace May 10, 2007 at 1:24 pm |

    I went into a fancy prom dress store to find a silver-grey dress I’d seen online, when I told the store owner it was for my wedding dress she told me “It’s not a wedding dress”, I responded that whatever dress I am wearing when I get married is a wedding dress…she gave me the pursed lips of disapproval and I walked out of the store.

    The thing that bugged me the most during the planning stage was how surprised any vendor was that my husband was actually making himself involved in the planning process. Salespeople, and other brides at the stores were continually bitching about how the silly men didn’t have a clue, or didn’t care, or worse: were not ALLOWED to express an opinion about their wedding.

  46. sunburned counsel
    sunburned counsel May 10, 2007 at 1:24 pm |

    I was amazed at the extent that I felt myself get sucked into the wedding industrial complex in planning, even though I discarded it all before the actual event. Like, I read the knot.com, just to know what I wasn’t doing. My parents didn’t have a wedding and everyone in my life is ubber-untraditional, but I still found myself having to get un-suckered on ridiculous stuff (bathroom baskets? personalized maps?).
    I don’t think there is anything wrong with the urge to have a big wedding, as Mnemosyne said this is one of the only times in your life that you have the pull to get everyone you love all in one place. And I, for one, love a big party. But the consumerism and price-gouging is insane. We prioritized very, very heavily- the only things we cared about were the cake, the location (we rented a summer camp so all our friends could come up and stay for free and play with us for four days), the rings, and the wedding certificate. Everything else we either didn’t do, or let someone who cared deal with it. It was wonderful. And this is coming from a manic planner and control freak. But once we priotitzed, everything else felt like a fun choice.

  47. Rosemary Grace
    Rosemary Grace May 10, 2007 at 1:28 pm |

    Wow, what a cool looking cake!

    We had a chorus-line of cowboys in kilts, no bouquet-tossing or garter-throw, and I got to admonish the planner at the rehearsal that NO I would not be “given away” since I was a person, not a sack of potatos in a lovely dress. But I did wear a veil, because I liked how it looked.

  48. hp
    hp May 10, 2007 at 1:31 pm |

    We did a “traditional” wedding, had 175 guests, near Chicago, and did it for about $6000 in 2001.

    What we did was avoid almost any shop/retailer associated with the wedding industry. Our reception was at a local suburban civic center, and we brought in the recommended linens/server/bartender place that usually did their corporate functions. We ordered a couple of standard buffet packages from a small Italian catering place. We went to the tiny flower shop down the road from my parents’ house (where my dad had been buying my mom flower arrangements for years) and despite the fact that the woman hadn’t done wedding decorations “in years” got 2 gigantic church/table pieces, 5 bouquets, 7 what-ever-you-call-its (what the males wear), 2 mom wrist-things, and a “Mary” bouquet, all roses, for $700.

    The centerpieces came from the Wal-mart craft department (fake rose circle, small glass thingie with candle in it). The liquor was brought in, on consignment, from a local liquor store. Despite the fact that all the wine, and almost all the “good” beer was consumed, the open bar cost about $500.

    The wedding dress and all the bridesmaid dresses came off-the-rack at David’s Bridal.

    We did have two bad “parts” though–the DJ and the photographer. Both of those were through places that were wedding-related.

  49. Laurie
    Laurie May 10, 2007 at 1:42 pm |

    Moira!
    You ladies were *stunning*! squeeeeeee! :)

    And about receptions: decent food, and an excuse to cut loose and *dance* are not, in my opinion, bad things. However, going into ridiculous debt with custom cocktails and designer food, and a string quartet during the meal, etc., ad nauseum, is just not necessary. I hate that so many people are pressured into feeling that it is. And I LOATHE the practice of jacking up the price on items/services for weddings! People who do that need to beaten with the Ethics Stick.

    We made the firm decision (and stuck to it!) that there would be no alcohol at our wedding other than champagne for a toast (and I’d change that if I did it all over again) — too many people on my side of the family get socially unacceptable in the presence of alcohol. :P We had a dance (because Laurie LOVES to dance!), but a friend of ours volunteered to DJ as a wedding present. Nope — he wasn’t as polished as some of the pros I’ve seen, but he had good tunes, and it didn’t become all about him performing. But if folks just want a quiet meal and conversation, I’m all for it. As much as I adore Tradition in many ways, sometimes it’s just a burden.

    Gotta go work now — making a Dale Evans knock-off/look alike for a gal getting married in June. Steerhead appliques on the wide-legged riding pants and ultrasuede fringe — oh, yeah! :)

  50. Kristen
    Kristen May 10, 2007 at 1:56 pm |

    One other very interesting point Mead makes in the article is that culturally, we’re conditioned to expect some kind of traumatic transition between single life and married life in order to accord marriage a special status and maintain that married people were changed by marriage.

    This is the part that drives me crazy. My S.O. and I are I guess a bit unconventional. After 6 years, we just decided that for various reasons it would be more practical if we were married. So, we went down to city hall and got married. No big. No change. Just two people who loved and accepted each other before and continued to love and accept each other after.

    I truly do not understand my friends who married and felt like their whole lives, how they viewed themselves, how they viewed each other, everything changed. Why are we so invested in these roles of wife, husband, and married person that something so small as government sanction actually changes who we are?

    Okay, sorry…end rant.

  51. Mighty Ponygirl
    Mighty Ponygirl May 10, 2007 at 1:57 pm |

    Can I just take a moment to give a shout to David’s Bridal? I went there on Saturday to be fitted for my dress. I did a little research ahead of time to find a style that I would like, and their website…

    (wait for it)

    …wasn’t populated entirely by size 0 models! I was actually able to look at a dress and think to myself “ok, this is how it looks on a larger woman, so I could probably look very nice in this and not at all like a cooked sausage.” That, and they aren’t charging you thousands of dollars for a dress. I wasn’t really expecting to be happy with my purchase but I’m quite pleased.

    (/end shilling)

  52. Cate
    Cate May 10, 2007 at 1:58 pm |

    It’s fun reading all these wedding stories that depart from “tradition.” My mantra in planning our July wedding is No One Is Getting Rich. The ceremony and reception for about 120 are both taking place at a local nature center. The food is all picnic-style and family and friends are going to cook the dishes. As for decorations, a good friend is a wire sculptor who will put together hanging votive candles, and everyone is bringing their potted plants from home and a few strands of white holiday lights. My to-be’s suit needs some alterations and it’s good to go. I bought my dress on eBay for $35. It’s a cotton summer dress with some botanically-themed embroidery in gold, green and orange. After the ceremony, it’s swimming, volleyball, watermelon eating contests, s’mores, etc. Then we’re going to spend the night in a South-Asian stilt house at the nature center built in conjuction with Heifer Int’l.
    I’m having a lot of fun planning this thing to be a fun party for our loved ones, a celebration of who we are, and a ceremony with real significance instead of a series of token traditions that don’t resonate with us.

  53. LS
    LS May 10, 2007 at 2:00 pm |

    All four of my older cousins got married within 2 years, so I had wedding on the brain quite a bit during that time. All of them had quite different styles, though everyone did do the church wedding and big reception to some degree. I took notes on what I liked, and have determined that when I get married:

    -The ceremony will be short: pretty music, exchange of vows, more music. No readings, no speeches, get in and get out.
    -Reception will be munchies-only. Nice munchies, but no sit-down dinner.
    -The only thing I’m willing to shell out the big $$ for is a GREAT band or DJ — band preferred. There will be lots and lots of dancing at my wedding. The munchies thing goes along with this; no stopping to sit down and have a meal. Plus, I learned pretty quickly that the bride & groom didn’t get to eat because they were so busy going about to all the tables. Screw that.

    Other than that… wev. I think I’d rather have a dress I can wear again; maybe not even a dress. And I don’t even care much about the ring – I rarely wear rings anyway because I’m forever fussing with them and knocking them against things. Flowers? Well, ok, maybe. Something exotic or unusual, though. Actually, the nicest centerpiece I saw in the wedding-years was the one done with little potted herbs, which were then the guest-favors. Cute and far more useful than any of the fluffy shiny things that usually wind up as favors.

  54. Hector B.
    Hector B. May 10, 2007 at 2:14 pm |

    The thing that bugged me the most during the planning stage was how surprised any vendor was that my husband was actually making himself involved in the planning process. …men …were not ALLOWED to express an opinion about their wedding.

    It’s often safer for men not to involve themselves in wedding plans. One summer I worked with a fellow who was getting married in a few months. He was happy to let his fiancee and her mother decide the details and make the arrangements, except for one thing: He wanted a particular dessert (or pastry, or cookie, or whatever) to be included in the assortment available on the “sweet table.” Well, his mother-in-law-to-be vetoed his choice, and his fiancee ratified her decision.
    He made the mistake of asking my opinion, and I gave it. I said that if now, before the wedding, your fiancee would rather avoid conflict with her mother than support your modest request, how will she handle conflicts between what you want and what her mother wants once you’re married? In my opinion, she was not ready to leave home and marry.
    He saw the wisdom of this and eventually broke the engagement.

  55. Damek.  » Blog Archive   » Living In Sin

    [...] ing/www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/05/10/a-look-into-the-bridal-industrial-complex/’);” href=”http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2007/05/10/a-look-into-the-bridal-industrial-complex/”>consider the alternative. Th [...]

  56. Frumious B
    Frumious B May 10, 2007 at 2:51 pm |

    Holy moly, the cake is beautiful.

    In Texas, they have this thing called a groom’s cake. It’s usually a chocolate sheet cake. Kinda underscores in my mind that the wedding is all about the bride.

  57. Tyro
    Tyro May 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm |

    I sympathize with Mnemosyne. Honestly, I like throwing parties, and I don’t envision getting married being a departure from my desire to invite a large number of friends and relatives (I have a big family) over to enjoy a big party. Also, I believe if you’re going to invite guests over, they need to be well-fed. The problem comes when the “wedding industry” tries to exploit my sense of hospitality and desire to have a good time for their own personal gain.

  58. Alicia
    Alicia May 10, 2007 at 2:54 pm |

    i almost got swept into the wedding monster, but luckily, started adding the price tags up.

    we went to vegas, told people the date/time said: if you are there..SUPER, if not, we’ll miss ya! had a teeny tiny little wedding at viva las vegas wedding chapel (no elvis, however, our officiant looked JUST LIKE james carville.).

    there was almost no transition between married/single life, as we’d been shacking up for uhm 8 years? something like that.

    i thought i would regret not doing the big wedding thing, but it’s been almost a year, and i still think we made the best possible choice. and, instead of still paying off a wedding, we’re paying off moving to NC and buying a house. (the house IS patriarchy pink though).

  59. Djinna
    Djinna May 10, 2007 at 3:07 pm |

    The S.O. and I are also in that weird “we’re planning on getting married at some point in the next year or so, but we’re officially NOT engaged” place. Our excuse is that my younger brother is getting married next week, and we don’t want to be taking any attention away from them by also being engaged. But really, a lot of it is just laziness. Like, we don’t have to start doing any work on it until we’re “officially engaged”. He’s been married before, and I was never the type to dream about “my wedding” with a cardboard cutout groom, so eh. We probably wouldn’t bother at all if it weren’t to make our families feel better about our desire to breed together. I won’t mind the presents, though.

    Late last year, he asked if there were anything that I had in mind that I HAD to have for our wedding, and I told him, well, the only thing that I care about is that anything religious be kept as far away as possible. I suggested we use my college’s chapel. It’s a state school, so the religious trappings are nonexistant. Plus, it’s a 300 year old building, doesn’t get much cooler than that, especially considering that so many of the Founding Fathers went there back in the day. Gosh darn that things were so much smaller back then so we can’t have more than 100 guests. Very cheap, too, for a wedding location. Will have to keep the warning not to let on that it’s FOR a wedding for most of the other incidentals, as unfortunately, Williamsburg is a bit frou-frou on what people go there to do, so that worries me.

    I also suggested a month or so ago that we make our own centerpeices out of various extra computer parts, to represent his interests, with beakers as baskets/bowls for them, to represent mine. He loved that idea, esp. as it will help us get rid of a lot of the crap in our “geek room” that we couldn’t bring ourselves to just throw away.

  60. Interrobang
    Interrobang May 10, 2007 at 3:18 pm |

    I’m not married and not likely to ever be married, but I do have a horrible Wedding Industrial Complex story. A friend of mine was getting married, and having a fairly big, traditional-type wedding mostly for her and her fiance’s (religious) families. I was one of her bridesmaids. After she’d picked out the bridesmaid’s dress, she realised that there was no way it was going to fit me. She also knows I hate wearing dresses, so she asked me if I’d want to wear a tux instead. I look great in a tux…provided it’s correctly fitted.

    So. We went to Bud Gowan’s Formal Wear in London, ON (name included to incriminate the guilty) to get a tux, and the guy who served us didn’t just have issues with women, he had entire bound volumes. First, he was staring at us (two big, butchy-looking girls) as though we had no business being in a men’s clothing store to begin with. Then the fitting started…

    I’m not an easy person to dress, but I try to make it easier for people by knowing my measurements cold. I ran down the whole list: bust, waist, hip, front rise, back rise, arm length, inseam, neck size, which should have been more than enough. First he gave me a too-short pair of pants to try on. Next, he said, “We usually give women children’s bow ties to wear, because the adult ones are too big,” and proceeded to give me one that wouldn’t go around my neck. Then he insisted that I try on an Eton jacket because “that’s what women usually wear,” which made my short-waisted, big-busted self look like the Linux mascot, only angrier. Then, finally, after I spent an age repeating variations on “I need a longer jacket because I’m 5″ longer in the back rise than in the front, and I need to compensate for it,” which he didn’t get, I got mad and said, “Listen, I want a long jacket because I have a big butt!” He muttered something about “Oh, so you want a jacket with more coverage in the seat,” and brought me something perfect, finally.

    I looked like a million bucks after tax at that wedding, but did I really have to go through a Baphometic Fire Baptism of misogyny to get there? Yeesh…

  61. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 3:34 pm |

    Thanks for the kind words about the cake! I found a similar picture online somewhere and brought it to Mr. Mnemo’s chosen baker. Yep, that’s right, he chose the baker. I was a little sad I didn’t get more than one cake tasting, but we knew we would get a great cake from them. Porto’s Bakery near L.A. — as seen on “Six Feet Under”!

    My main wedding message now, after having gone through it, is: Do What You Want. If you have the wedding that your parents/grandparents/friends want you to have, you will always resent it. I participated in the wedding-industrial complex in my small way, but it can be avoided pretty easily if you’re determined.

  62. Moira
    Moira May 10, 2007 at 3:48 pm |

    Many thanks! :)

  63. ks
    ks May 10, 2007 at 3:54 pm |

    Oh, and just wanted to add, to anyone who might be planning a wedding right now…most of it will go horribly wrong, there will be some sort of weather issues, your parents will have a freak out, and some important person will be really really late.

    Also, make sure you eat a good sized meal before the wedding, as you are not likely to consume actual food at your reception because every time you sit down to eat, someone will want to congratulate you or speak to you about something.

    I had a mostly traditional wedding when I got married 9 years ago. We had the church (not that either one of us is religious, but the only person I could imagine performing the ceremony was my priest from when I was a kid–who is also a close family friend–and since priest=church most of the time, we got married in a church), but we didn’t have the traditional mass, only the exchange of vows, etc., so the actual ceremony was less than 10 minutes. We also had the standard reception for about 100 people, mostly family, since we both have huge extended families, with the DJ (my crazy redneck uncle), first dance, and all that. It was nice, but exhausting.

    The best wedding I ever went to, though, was my cousin’s (daughter of the aforementioned crazy uncle). She got married in the tiny Catholic church back home (rural southern WV) and had a decent sized reception on the cheap at a local place, but after it was all over, most of us (including the bride and groom) retired to the uncle’s house for a bonfire, loud music, and lots of alcoholic beverages. It was an absolute blast, and the way that most gatherings of my family end (including other weddings, funerals, family reunions, and just whenever more than 10 or so of us are in the same place at the same time).

  64. Ron O.
    Ron O. May 10, 2007 at 4:27 pm |

    We were lucky in that most of the older generation in both our families got married in church, then went to the town’s VFW hall for a pot luck reception. They think lavish weddings are wasteful, but then we’re very midwestern.

    We had a larger wedding than most commenters, but mainly because we come from large families. My family list was just under 100. Spouse’s was around 50. Add in friends and we had around 200 guests. The two things that were must-haves were good food and live music. Everything was compromisable. We recruited heavily from our friends and family to help make it happen. The wedding itself was very non-traditional, but still elegant. The reception was kick-ass fun. It really suited us.

    As an aside, I feel bad for the folks who get a hard time having dinner parties. I hadn’t realized I was lucky to still participate in these fairly regularly. Dinner for a handful of friends is about the only way we entertain since we have a small child. I can’t fathom turning down dinner with friends unless there is another obligation.

  65. Theodora
    Theodora May 10, 2007 at 6:20 pm |

    Just makes me once again grateful that I had a stealth wedding. Just us, our two friends, and the Justice of the Peace. One of our friends didn’t sort out we were getting married till we showed up at the office for “Marriages, Birth Certificates and Deaths”.

    One day I have to mention to my parents that I got hitched…

    I’m so relieved I’m not the only one who neglected to mention to the parent that I got married. (For me, it was just us and our best friend… who is a minister). :P Breaking it to the parents eventually sucked, but I wouldn’t have traded my wedding for anything. :)

  66. bbrugger
    bbrugger May 10, 2007 at 6:22 pm |

    I’ve performed about a dozen wedding/union ceremonies over the years and been the Wedding Wrangler for a dozen more.

    This is the speech I give to the couple at our first planning meeting: On *insert date here*, I swear to you that come hell or high water the show will go on. Fire, flood, family drama or atomic bombs may try to thwart you. I will perform this ceremony even if I have to dig two witnesses out of the rubble with my bare hands. Now, given that as an assurance, what do you two really want?

    Our wedding took place after we’d been living together for fifteen years. We designed and printed our own invites, wrote the ceremony and had a friend make my Hawaiian folkloric dress and his vest. The ceremony was in a (free!) public park and the reception took place in our yard under two big (loaned! free!) tents. Instead of traditional wedding flowers we had orchid leis flown in from Hawaii, and presented our family members with leis to open the ceremony (under $225). The cake was baked by someone I’d met doing union ceremonies, and he presented us with a gorgeous two tier cake with a working fountain for $100. We had a pot luck BBQ which a friend (who couldn’t afford the wedding gift we kept telling her was not needed) took over organizing and cooking. I rode to the park in a friend’s art car. My daughter was my only attendant, his father was best man.

    The reception was still going strong when a friend drove us to the hotel for the night. I have no idea what time people left. I do know that another friend and our house mate made sure the place was cleaned up before we got home.

  67. Isabel
    Isabel May 10, 2007 at 6:33 pm |

    Feministe commenters always have the best stories (or most entertainingly bad).

    My mom let herself be pressured into a gigantic 500-guest white-dress huge-cake wedding when she married my father (she was The Mayor’s Daughter, so she felt she kind of had to) but for her second wedding, she went a different route. She had also converted to Judaism by this time, so there was no wedding party. I wore a pretty sexy red pants suit for a 13-year-old and she had the most gorgeous outfit I have ever seen on a bride: a simple green sleeveless shirt and this incredible skirt that was like, turqouise and green and blue with beautiful embroidery and patchwork and fabric design and little mirrors sewn into it and it was shimmery and gorgeous, like, fuck Disney, this is what a real Little Mermaid inspired dress would look like (it had a very sea-ish feel).

    Very small guest list, just family (though we have a lot of family) and a few close friends that could make it, simple reception at an amazing restaurant with a harpist for music. Simple, tasteful, and pretty enjoyable. My mom did most of the planning, but she’s the kind of person that gets really excited about cute new hooks for the shower curtains so I don’t think she stressed too much.

    But, if I had a wedding (doubtful, dunno how I feel about the whole marriage thing for me) I’d probably want something with a bit more of a party feel. And also beer. My favorite idea mentioned so far is Red Stapler’s friend’s Halloween wedding. I love the idea of going in costume, as well as a punk bad & iPod for music. I’ve also always secretly wanted to do it on top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day cuz I hear they’ll do it for free….

    PS Moira you and the wife are too cute for words! And, yes, that is an incredible-looking cake.

  68. Stephanie
    Stephanie May 10, 2007 at 6:43 pm |

    My husband and I in many ways had a traditional wedding, but a lot of what we did drove his traditional family nuts.

    Some things we had little choice in: Catholic ceremony, which for whatever reason that I disagree with can only be done in a church. One of his uncles is a caterer. Just try getting away from that… but his prices for family were great, so really no complaints there.

    But we kept being criticized for many choices. I told my bridesmaids that they could pick their dresses in the color of my choice, or agree on a color of their choice. Dresses did not need to match, aside from color. Drove lots of people nuts, but looked great.

    Drove the priest nuts because my husband’s sister was the best man.

    Drove my husband’s sister nuts by first being reluctant to register for china and crystal. Finally did after much pressure from her, but the only time we use it is when the kids want to do a “fancy dinner”. Then we made our own invitations, which bugged her and others until they saw them, then they raved about how beautiful they were.

    We had fruits on our cake plus chocolate swirls on the side, which once again people who hadn’t seen it disapproved of, but once again, raves when they saw it.

    We did have a rather honest florist. She told us that we could buy the glass bowls for the floating candle centerpieces we had in mind at Walmart for less than she could rent the ones she had to us. I’ve always thought renting centerpieces was stupid since so many people like to take them home, so you’d probably end up buying most of them anyhow.

    My dress was off the rack, clearance price. Saved about $400 versus my favorite dress, but why would I pay extra when I like the $250 one almost as much?

  69. Kat
    Kat May 10, 2007 at 8:08 pm |

    I have been married twice. The first one was the big Catholic wedding, although it didn’t have all the bells and whistles most big weddings do (we did without centerpieces for instance and I kept to a simple dress and cake), it was the traditional sit-down dinner with 6 bridesmaids, 6 ushers and a flower girl all in matchy dresses and tuxes. It started off small but got bigger as we kept feeling obligated to invite more people or do more things.

    I married an Italian from NY. It was the tradition in his circle that every couple that came to the wedding put $200 (and sometimes more depending on relationship) in an envelope as a gift–the idea being that the bride and groom would have money at the end of the day to put down on a house. It all sort of equalized in the end, as each of them got married and for years after every wedding we paid out a lot of $200 gifts ourselves.

    My second wedding was in Hawaii and we started off planning it for the beach, but since it was my husband’s first wedding he wanted something a little more substantial. The catch was that we had one week to plan it (having had decided to get married before he deployed for 7 months). That really helped to keep the bridal-hysteria down to a minimum. We started out thinking a small buffet at a restaurant would be nice, but I took a chance and called around to hotels and it turned out that since we were willing to do the event on a Sunday (Saturday is the preferred day) that we got a cut rate which was cheaper than the restaurants. For centerpieces, my friends and I ran around to every Ross on the island and bought up all the discount pillar candles (random color and sizes) and arranged them with orchid leis (bought for $1/piece in Chinatown). I didn’t need a lot of flowers since the outdoor location we had was lush with greenery. My matron of honor and I wore a Hawaiian dresses off the rack and barefeet and my husband, the best man and my son wore matching aloha shirts and khakis. It was a beautiful and relaxing wedding, and I just loved it.

    So anyhow I pulled off a wedding that was about 1/4 of the cost of the first in only one weeks time… mostly because I dodged the marketing.

  70. MRain65
    MRain65 May 10, 2007 at 8:26 pm |

    I’m really enjoying all these stories. (I also love Mnemosyne’s cake. Gorgeous!)

  71. One Jewish Dyke
    One Jewish Dyke May 10, 2007 at 8:32 pm |

    The best wedding I ever went to was a DIY affair. They were two women who got no parental support, and didn’t have have money either. It was held at a county-owned facility that residents could rent for free. The couple spent bought food at one of those warehouse stores and ten of us friends spent the day heating it up, setting up the tables and buffet, and decorating the room with supplies bought at the craft store. Friends’ siblings were hired cheaply to do all of the labor during the event so the friends could enjoy themselves. The couple gave my brother $100 to bartend for the night and another friend’s sister got the same amount to clear tables. At the end of the evening, we sent the couple off to the B&B where they were spending the night, and those of us who set it up stuck around to clean up.

    In contrast, my sister’s wedding was huge and expensive and was the stereotypical perfect wedding. My ex and I ended up splitting up over it. She would have left me anyway, but the wedding fiasco didn’t help matters any. She’s very butch and is not comfortable in women’s clothing. My mother and sister were so concerned about what other people would think if my date was wearing a tux. My ex decided she couldn’t take the pressure to be someone she wasn’t, and (probably rightly) pointed out that if it weren’t the tux, it would be something else about her gender presentation. The wedding which cost probably 1/30 of my sister’s, and where everyone got to be themselves, was much nicer regardless of the genders of the couple marrying.

    My mom made some comment about how they could afford to give my sister her dream wedding since they didn’t have to worry about doing the same for me. I said, “See, aren’t you glad I’m gay?” Mom said that she’d rather give my sister a smaller wedding if she could see me get married too. She’s been very supportive of me otherwise, but my sister’s wedding turned her into Momzilla. I’m so glad it’s over. I told my sister she’d better never get divorced, because I can’t go through that a second time. I’m so glad my brother is so low-maintenance and that he gets really fed up with high-maintenance women too, so I probably won’t have to endure him having some giant wedding either.

  72. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 8:41 pm |

    I’ve never understood why married people are accorded so much privilege, just because it’s a union based on sex or romance. Why can’t anyone “marry” anyone legally, regardless if it’s a romantic union or not? Why can’t siblings “marry” each other, or good friends, or a grown child and her parent? Why is it that romantic unions are considered simply more important than any other kind of union? Even people who are willing to grant legal unions seem to think romantic unions are the ultimate, because your lover is supposed to be the most important person in your life. It’s bullshit. I wish more people would realize this.

  73. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 8:47 pm |

    More anti-marriage ranting: a low-key wedding is still a wedding. Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends. If I weren’t so against marriage, and if I were straight, I wouldn’t have a wedding. There are other times in life when you can throw a huge party that isn’t some narcissistic homage to your sexual union that ends up shaming all your single friends and family and making them all feel like now they get to take a backseat in your life because you have a husband/wife and they’re supposed to be The Most Important Person In Your Life. That’s why you’re celebrating, isn’t it? The Most Important Day In Your Life, your Marriage to your Partner! Barf.

  74. Kat
    Kat May 10, 2007 at 8:50 pm |

    I helped plan a wedding once that was given for a couple that were both young sailors. She had just found out she was pregnant and he was deploying soon for six months so they decided to make it official. They had lots of friends that wanted to help them celebrate but no money, plus they had to start worrying about setting up house together, etc. So a bunch of us got together and planned a party… we sold tickets to all the friends/shipmates for about $20/each. With the money, we rented a VFW-type hall, hired the band from the regular bar we all went to, got a nice cake from the commissary and bought Subway 6-footers and kegs. It was a blast. All the money that was left over went to the couple, plus most people brought household and baby gifts as well. He wore his uniform and she bought a pretty dress. A few weeks later, again prompted by the impending deployment, another couple decided to get married. We rented a public facility and a bunch of us spent hours making hundreds of shish kebobs to grill and got another keg.

  75. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 8:58 pm |

    People don’t have friends over to dinner any more? Why do I always feel 25 years older than I actually am?

  76. EG
    EG May 10, 2007 at 9:01 pm |

    Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends.

    Speak for yourself. I am a single woman and I’ve attended, jeez, 7 or 8 weddings, beginning with my mother’s about 10 years ago. I enjoy them lots (unless they’re heavily religious) and I always end up feeling very, sentimentally happy for the couple.

  77. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 9:05 pm |

    Weddings are, in my limited experience, a time to see your friends and party hard. The definition of “party hard” is up to you, and if you’ve chosen your friends carefully, your definition and theirs will most likely coincide, making for a wedding which despite the odd visible traditional trapping, doesn’t really feel like a wedding at all.

    And no, I’m not married, nowhere near ready for it, but I shamelessly admit I am bookmarking this thread for the ideas.

  78. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 9:08 pm |

    I wish more people would realize this.

    Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends.

    You know, no where on this thread did I notice anyone saying “Weddings are teh awesome, and I wish more people would realize this and attend them every evening!”

    I’m just saying.

  79. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 9:25 pm |

    Well, there was the wedding I attended where everyone enjoyed themselves so much that we collectively decided that the couple should do it again next year and start an anniversary party tradition.

    They did.

    Furthering my hypothesis that a wedding that’s a party is the only kind you want to have. Every evening might be a bit much, but every month I could do.

  80. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 9:30 pm |

    Oh god, I’m not taking away your wedding joys away from you, good grief. Having fun doing culturally normative pro-patriarchal activities is what you’re supposed to feel. Going to the beauty parlor is fun! Weddings are fun! Going to the burlesque show is fun! Whatever, of course they are, right?

  81. rainne
    rainne May 10, 2007 at 9:34 pm |

    I think weddings are teh awesome. But then I’m either odd, or will just go anywhere where the alcohol’s free.

    We did all our own planning, and ended up with something we liked a lot. So did most people who came, I think, although you wouldn’t have known it from the planning stages.

    The husband comes from a traditional Catholic sort of family, many of whom were horrifed at our lack of Doing Things The Right Way: we got married in the gardens of my favourite winery, with a secular celebrant, the readings included Ogden Nash and my choir friends sang Rubber Duckie to keep the kids amused when we signed the register.

    I come from atheist liberal hippy roots, and some of my friends were horrified at our Oh So Traditionalness: I wore ivory, we had a sitdown dinner, the groom made a speech and I didn’t.

    Despite the celebrant being near-senile and screwing up our carefully handcrafted vows, the whole thing was gorgeous.

    And now that we’re swapping tips, my best tip is this: if you’re considering whether to bother with something, ask yourself if you noticed its presence or absence at the last few weddings you went to. I mean, do you remember whether the table flowers matched the napkins? Did the bonbonniere make your night? If it did, sure, go for it – but chances are that if you feed and water your guests in comfortable surroundings, and have fun yourselves, they’ll have a good time irrespective of the trappings.

  82. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 9:41 pm |

    Edith, have you read this thread at all? Did you notice the many, many stories of non-traditional, non-patriarchal (non-)weddings?

    I mean, really. The post was about patriarchal, capitalistic weddings and people responded with how they managed to avoid or subvert that very thing, and responses by other people who enjoyed attending non-traditional weddings more than traditional ones. If you resent that people here have managed to enjoy themselves at a wedding or two, then just be out with it.

  83. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 9:43 pm |

    Oh god, I’m not taking away your wedding joys away from you, good grief.

    Oh god, good grief, you can’t actually get surprised when you come into a thread where people are telling their harmless little happy stories about avoiding consumerism in their weddings and say you just wished more people would realize how horrible weddings actually are and what a crap time you have when your friends dare to invite you to one, and get surprised when someone gets annoyed at you.

    Because it kind of seems like you’re trolling for a negative response.

  84. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 9:46 pm |

    Re: edith

    Every party has a pooper, that’s why we invited you!

    My mom used to sing that when I was being a grump; I don’t know if it’s a real thing or if she just made it up. :p

  85. Heraclitus (Jeff)
    Heraclitus (Jeff) May 10, 2007 at 9:51 pm |

    Em, my dad used to sing the same song to me at times.

  86. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 9:58 pm |

    Gee, sorry, guess I’m being such a party pooper for pointing out that, y’know, weddings are patriarchal even when they’re put on with the best nonconsumer intentions. You know, I don’t see everyone being surprised in threads about makeup or shoes that someone will say something like, “high heels are inherently misogynist.” But I say the same thing about weddings and I’m suddenly a troll? Whatever. I guess I am just so unfun.

  87. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 10:00 pm |

    I don’t see everyone being surprised in threads about makeup or shoes that someone will say something like, “high heels are inherently misogynist.”

    Well, you obviously haven’t been reading this blog for very long. Because people make that complaint pretty much every time the subject comes up.

  88. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:02 pm |

    Vanessa, did you read what I wrote? I said people AREN’T surprised by those comments, but people ARE surprised by my comments here about weddings. And I think that THAT is odd.

    I’ve been reading and commenting in this blog for a long time. Not that it matters, since you assume I’m just a newb troll, right?

  89. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 10:04 pm |

    Well, my mistake for lack of reader comprehension, I guess.

    But why make these comments at all, if not to troll? What did you think people would say, “Gee, you’re right, I better get a divorce right now and send all my single friends formal apologies?”

  90. Constantine
    Constantine May 10, 2007 at 10:09 pm |

    I said people AREN’T surprised by those comments, but people ARE surprised by my comments here about weddings. And I think that THAT is odd.

    Actually, what’s odd is your assertion that “Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends.” I don’t know about you, but I have to say that most of my experiences involving good food, free alcohol, music, and dancing have been pretty positive, overall. Particularly when combined with the company of people I care about. This is generally regardless of wedding size, couple status, venue, etc. I know, call me crazy.

  91. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:10 pm |

    Why bother to bring up feminist arguments on a feminist blog, even if they’re unpopular? I have no idea. Maybe I should just play nice and ask to hear more about everyone’s pretty white dresses. Is that what you’re saying?

  92. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 10:16 pm |

    Edith, weddings are being re-made, same as marriage itself, by subversive queers and straights. At this point in the game, it’s overly simplistic to call the lot patriarchal and grump around about it.

  93. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:16 pm |

    Hating weddings politically doesn’t mean I’m oh-so-anti love and parties and booze and having fun. Weddings are horrible for everyone like fast food is horrible for everyone — they fill you up with junk. But they’re both sure fun.

  94. Constantine
    Constantine May 10, 2007 at 10:16 pm |

    Asserting that weddings are inherently patriarchal and that they are to be viewed with a certain amount of skepticism is a valid feminist argument that one can debate with intellectual honesty. Saying “Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends” is not– it’s either claiming that the people who enjoyed themselves are lying or asserting that there is something wrong with people having a good time with their friends and relatives.

  95. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:18 pm |

    I think it would be more “subversive” to abolish marriage altogether rather than try to reclaim it through trying to legalize same-sex marriage, for example. I don’t think this is being “grumpy.” I think this is a legitimate point of view, shared by many feminists, not just me.

  96. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 10:18 pm |

    Actually, what’s odd is your assertion that “Weddings are pretty horrible for everyone who attends.” I don’t know about you, but I have to say that most of my experiences involving good food, free alcohol, music, and dancing have been pretty positive, overall. Particularly when combined with the company of people I care about. This is generally regardless of wedding size, couple status, venue, etc. I know, call me crazy.

    *nods* Like I said, all about the friends.

    I think what she means is that it’s awful b/c simply by going we’re all complicit in our own oppression.

  97. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 10:19 pm |

    Edith, if you want to make an argument, then fine. Make one. Saying “Weddings are horrible for everyone who attends and I wish more people would realize that” and then getting all shocked when the people who have just been talking about how much they love weddings get mad at you makes you seem like you were trolling – trying to get a rise out of people.

    What did you expect people to say?

  98. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:20 pm |

    And actually, I am feeling a bit like I’m repeating myself and I think I’ve said all I need to say. So I’ll just stop here.

  99. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 10:21 pm |

    I think it would be more “subversive” to abolish marriage altogether rather than try to reclaim it through trying to legalize same-sex marriage

    And see, this is an argument. If you had said that in the first place we could be having a legitimate discussion right now.

  100. edith
    edith May 10, 2007 at 10:26 pm |

    Actually, one more thing: if anyone is interested in reading some feminist critique of marriage, a good book is Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique by Jaclyn Geller. And of course, Adrienne Rich has a few things to say on the subject of marriage.

  101. Em
    Em May 10, 2007 at 10:27 pm |

    I think it would be more “subversive” to abolish marriage altogether rather than try to reclaim it through trying to legalize same-sex marriage, for example. I don’t think this is being “grumpy.” I think this is a legitimate point of view, shared by many feminists, not just me.

    I disagree.
    Item 1) People aren’t going to stop pair-bonding.
    Item 2) People aren’t going to stop liking parties.

    If you can’t change the urges that prompt the situation, you have to change what the situation means to the people who partake in it.

  102. Vanessa
    Vanessa May 10, 2007 at 10:34 pm |

    Actually, one more thing: if anyone is interested in reading some feminist critique of marriage, a good book is Here Comes the Bride: Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique by Jaclyn Geller. And of course, Adrienne Rich has a few things to say on the subject of marriage.

    Interesting. I’ve heard of Here Comes the Bride, and have been meaning to check it out. I’ll look into the others. Although I have a pretty open mind about marriage. As a budding Cultural Anthropologist, I don’t think there’s anything “inherent” in any cultural practice.

    See what happens when you don’t call people narcissists who make you want to barf? They actually want to talk back to you!

  103. Moira
    Moira May 10, 2007 at 10:42 pm |

    Now, I think it would be both subversive and helpful to work towards getting rid of the government’s involvement in marriage. No tax benefits or whatever. It would be complicated, as deeply embedded as it is in our laws and regulations, but if marriage were only a public and/or religious declaration of commitment, it could apply to het couples, queer couples, poly groups, whatever.

    There would be things that need fixing, but they’re things that need fixing already. For example, if the government has a vested interest in seeing that someone stays home to raise the kids, then FMLA is vastly insufficient. A stay-at-home parent (of any gender) should get Social Security credit for their time, instead of the nothing they get now. A national health care system that covered everyone would be extra super double nice.

    While I’m at it, I’d like a pony.

  104. slythwolf
    slythwolf May 10, 2007 at 10:44 pm |

    I’m getting married next year and have therefore joined a couple of wedding planning communities on LiveJournal for the purpose of comparing notes and swapping advice, and you would not believe the stories I have heard. It’s in this crazy and hectic planning process that I have come to realise just how great it is to live in a small town in rural Michigan, because the women I have met who are trying to get married in cities are having a hell of a time trying not to go bankrupt. It seems that most of the caterers and banquet halls in my area charge the same prices for weddings as for other things; I’ve scouted their websites to compare, and they seem pretty honest.

    Of course, part of the reason we’re doing so well, cost-wise, is precisely because we’re not spending extra money on things like limo rentals. I’ve never ridden in one of those things in my life, and I don’t see any reason to spend $500 I could be spending on appetizers or, in fact, a cooler honeymoon just because I’m getting married. Also, it’s amazing what you can find on eBay; there are people custom-making dresses to your measurements and if you watch their feedback closely you can be sure you’re getting what you want.

    Meanwhile, there are people in this world spending my entire wedding budget on just the dress.

  105. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 10, 2007 at 11:30 pm |

    So, just checking, the lesbian couples who have shared their stories here are, like, doubly oppressing Edith because two women should know better than to participate in a patriarchal institution?

    Like Em said, weddings aren’t going to stop, because people like parties and booze. If all goes well, we’ll be able to have even more people getting married with the next decade as marriage opens up to same-sex couples.

    If you want to come back and complain then that it’s only propping up the patriarchy when two men marry each other, then that will be real conviction.

  106. rachel
    rachel May 11, 2007 at 12:35 am |

    i’m not going to say anything that hasn’t been said already but i’m going to say it anyway ’cause i’ve been drinking.

    i’m straight. i think marriage is inherently oppressive. i think weddings are ridiculous consumerist crap. but i fully intend, if i partner with someone seriously enough, to have a wedding. there will be no flowers, no centerpieces, no favors, no anything stupid. the money will be spent on food and alcohol. music will be ipods hooked up to speakers. if someone has a miserable time at my wedding, it will be there own damn fault. there’s nothing wrong with wanting a big party with people you like. and if i commit myself to someone for what i assume will be a long time, i want my friends/family to meet his friends/family. i don’t want to have a huge part of my life that my bff simply has no clue about.

    and this:

    some narcissistic homage to your sexual union that ends up shaming all your single friends and family and making them all feel like now they get to take a backseat in your life because you have a husband/wife and they’re supposed to be The Most Important Person In Your Life. That’s why you’re celebrating, isn’t it? The Most Important Day In Your Life, your Marriage to your Partner! Barf.

    if i have any friends or family members who are so bitter about my happiness, yes, even the happiness that comes from finding a man i love, to think i’m shaming them for being single, i hope to god i find out before my wedding so i can break up with them before i spend money on their food.

    you sound like an awful friend, edith.

  107. everstar
    everstar May 11, 2007 at 7:30 am |

    I’ve never thought about getting married (when I was a little girl I decided that when I grew up I wanted a boyfriend, not a husband), but a few years ago I decided that if I did get married, I wanted a tea party for my reception with petit fours instead of a cake. I like tea parties.

    As to weddings being a narcissistic homage to one’s sexual union, well, jeez, I always thought it had more to do with two people wanting to make a life together and having a ceremony to acknowledge that. Silly me.

  108. Hawise
    Hawise May 11, 2007 at 8:17 am |

    It’s a dress up party for you and your friends and family and should represent your tastes and the tastes of your partner. How fancy, pretentious or laid back is really up to you. The problems come when other people start making value judgements about it.
    Edith get a life, marriage has had many incarnations and still does for that matter. It evolves as society needs it to, once a property transfer, it is now mostly used to change next-of-kin. Call it a commitment ceremony, do it in church or court or backyard or don’t do it.

  109. Technocracygirl
    Technocracygirl May 11, 2007 at 10:00 am |

    I have Here Comes the Bride, and all I remember about reading it was that the writing style ranged from tepid to boring and that some of her conclusions seemed to be based more on “I think this is TEH EVIL,” as opposed to presentations based on evidence. I’ll flip through it today and see if it becomes more cogent the second time around.

    Of course, I must be inherently biased, because I’m having a fairly traditional wedding-and-party. Mostly because I like parties, and it’s very rare to be able to have one where you can invite everyone. (Also because there will be people there who willl not be at the next large gathering of family and friends.)

  110. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 11, 2007 at 10:28 am |

    I’ve never thought about getting married (when I was a little girl I decided that when I grew up I wanted a boyfriend, not a husband), but a few years ago I decided that if I did get married, I wanted a tea party for my reception with petit fours instead of a cake. I like tea parties.

    You are my sister under the skin. ;-) My original idea was a tea party, but a luncheon turned out to be more practical for the number of people we had and — frankly — for how far many of them had traveled. It seemed pretty lame for me to get half the guests to travel 2,000 miles and then serve them tea.

  111. Mooser
    Mooser May 11, 2007 at 12:34 pm |

    Sorry, folks, you lose, I win! I had the perfectist wedding evah! Since my in-laws had a nice yard at the house they owned at the time, we held it there. My sister-in-law made the food, and it’s still talked about. We only told the First Church of Christ Minister I was a Jew, and no converting, right before the ceremony so his discomfiture added a nice touch to the procedings. Oh yeah, I got good’n stoned plenty before the ceremony and arrived nice and late.
    Our wedding night was perfect, too, with both of us so tired and pissy we fought and slept in seperate beds.
    That was about 15 years ago, but the memories still give me cold sweats. It was perfect!

  112. ks
    ks May 11, 2007 at 2:44 pm |

    some narcissistic homage to your sexual union that ends up shaming all your single friends and family and making them all feel like now they get to take a backseat in your life because you have a husband/wife and they’re supposed to be The Most Important Person In Your Life. That’s why you’re celebrating, isn’t it? The Most Important Day In Your Life, your Marriage to your Partner! Barf.

    I’ll echo what was said above, if my friends and family are that threatened/upset at my happiness, then they really don’t love me as much as is claimed. You do sound incredibly bitter.

    And also, my husband is The Most Important Person In My Life, as I am the most important person in his. He’s certainly not the ONLY important person in my life or even my top priority at all times (we have small kids and they need more care/attention than we each do at this point in their lives), but he’s definitely the MOST important person. And that is as it should be.

  113. SC
    SC May 11, 2007 at 6:52 pm |

    The last part of this post about weddings having to be some sort of traumatic rite of passage was the most interesting part to me. I got married about a year ago and enjoyed planning our wedding (it incorporated both of our cultures- American and Syrian and was an AWESOME party if I say so myself! Just picture a bunch of Syrians and a bunch of rural Kentuckians bridging gaps and drinking and dancing to arabic pop music!!)

    The interesting thing was that for months before the wedding people would ask me (and my mother) in an ominous tone how the wedding plans were going. They would ask my fiance (now husband) how I was handling the planning. When we responded that we were having a great time planning our unique night, it was like people didn’t know how to respond. They were ready for the obligatory moaning and groaning over the stresses of wedding planning. I hate how it’s always portrayed that women turn into bridezillas and the man is introduced to the role of the long-suffering husband!

  114. mythago
    mythago May 11, 2007 at 6:56 pm |

    So to summarize, edith sees her friends’ weddings as a personal rejection of her as a friend and as the most important person in their life; hell, they probably just get married to rub her nose in the fact that they’re fucking each other. Also, it’s impossible to get married without adhering to patriarchy-approved customs.

  115. Pocket
    Pocket May 11, 2007 at 9:04 pm |

    I’ve told my boyfriend many a time that if he ever decides to propose, he’d better have the tickets to Vegas ready. Or at the very least, is ready to hop in the car to a courthouse. I want nothing to do with a big frilly wedding, really. Never have.

    Besides, I look awful in white.

  116. Ms. Virago
    Ms. Virago May 12, 2007 at 1:10 am |

    Yeah, I’m a bit late to the party, but I’m going to delurk anyway to say that there is some truth to Edith’s charge of weddings and marriage (even same-sex marriage) being rife with patriarchal custom/oppression. While she may not express that point very well (maybe not even in the right thread), it is a valid point. It seems as strange to me (though for different reasons than Edith stated) to find a group of feminists celebrating wedding practices sans critical thinking about how they play into not just consumerism and classism, but sexism as well.

    Maybe it’s missing the point of the original post though to say it–wait–was the point of the original post that, OMG! Look how smart we are because we can make our patriarchally-approved union/party so much cheaper than those uncritical brides who actually *believe* in this stuff and are getting ripped off as a result?

    Then, yes, I guess I did miss the point.

  117. Em
    Em May 12, 2007 at 7:21 am |

    Strawman much?

  118. subgrrl8
    subgrrl8 May 12, 2007 at 7:21 am |

    i am coming much much late to the party, but here we go! My Single Person’s Opinion On Weddings:
    i have an older sister, and 2 cousins my age, and none of them have married. i did see my older cousin get married, which i wore my Favorite Handmade Dress to when i was 8. the reception was at their house. this is the closest i have been to a wedding in my immediate life, and that was almost 20 years ago (yikes how time flies).
    but a co irker of mine got married 3 years ago, and she invited me to the reception. i sat about 3 feet away from her 40 hrs a week for 3 years, so you can bet i was in on all the planning. she showed me all the stuff she was looking at, asked me what i thought about certain things (she had a hard time picking the jewelry for a moment). and i’ve got to say: if we had been men, and working on our careers for that amount of time, we both would have been rich with all that time perusing, purchasing and chatting!
    she had to have two ceremonies, one for her husband’s family (Vietnamese family, he arrived here when he was 4) and one for hers. she had two wedding dresses, a traditional vietnamese and a traditional (kind of- it seriously was missing about 40 yrds of tulle to be completely trad, but it was white) western one. they had two ceremonies, but one party.

    i liked the party for the most part. i didn’t get to stay long, as i was with a lactose intolerant boyfriend who ate cake when i warned him not to. but she looked lovely.

    i also know that if they hadn’t had the financial support of both of their families on this they would have been in debt forever.

    that’s probably the likeliest i’m ever going to be to a wedding for a damn long time. see, i have all these non-traditional friends, right? and we all pretty much don’t like the institution of marriage, and some of them are queer and wouldn’t be able to have such a thing (my state SUCKS), and some of them are just single and happy. and my sister? well, after quite a few years of dating, she’s somehow decided that the problem with her relationships is HER (uh, no, it was THEM my lovely sister!), so she’s probably never going to get into another one. and well on her, because it will give her that much more free time to become an awesome feminist music star (which will allow me, of course, to be the charlie to her eddie murphy).

    so yeah. but me? i’m the one in a stable relationship. we just moved in together like 4 months ago, and got a cat. his mom? wants us to marry, and marry big. he’s got a HUGE ass family that frankly scares the piss outta me- republicans and uber-christians almost ALL!
    my family? hippies, and really only my mom and dad and sister and one very senile grandmother.
    our thoughts? we don’t want to do it. i like parties and shit, but i’m wary of entering into a contract like that with any partner, and i even love the stuffing right outta him. i also don’t want to even mention the word wedding to his mom, because she will Momzilla me into breaking up with him.

    if we do, it will be for two purposes and two purposes only: tax reasons/health insurance or emigration to a foreign country. it really sucks, i think, that in states where there is no “default marriage by living together”, you also can’t claim domestic partner benefits unless you are gay. i think that sucks, because not all het couples want to marry. i have hypothyroidism, so being without insurance really isn’t feasible, and as a girl partnered with a boy, i’d have to marry him for any kind of benefits. well, i work for mine right now, but when i become a punk hairstylist? may not have any health insurance there you know.

    i’m with the above poster: let’s just get universal health care and stay-at-home-parent social security payments, and do away with the contract. i’d rather just have a fucking party where i get to kiss my riotboy without having to see if other people are watching first or not (wouldn’t want to flaunt my having a sexy live-in partner in front of my single friends, bitter or otherwise). :D

  119. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 12, 2007 at 11:47 am |

    Then, yes, I guess I did miss the point.

    Yep, you kinda did.

    The funniest thing about what both you and Edith said is that you are saying that two women marrying each other is supporting the patriarchy. How does that work, exactly? (You did notice that not everyone on this thread discussing their wedding married someone of the opposite sex, right?)

    If someone can come up with a coherent explanation of how same-sex marriage supports the patriarchy, I’m willing to listen, but I haven’t heard anything yet.

  120. Mnemosyne
    Mnemosyne May 12, 2007 at 11:49 am |

    and i’ve got to say: if we had been men, and working on our careers for that amount of time, we both would have been rich with all that time perusing, purchasing and chatting!

    If you’d been men, you would have spent that same amount of time talking about your Fantasy Baseball teams and gathering the statistics for them. That’s a lot cheaper than the average wedding, though. ;-)

  121. Melle
    Melle May 12, 2007 at 6:36 pm |

    Anna:

    Just makes me once again grateful that I had a stealth wedding. Just us, our two friends, and the Justice of the Peace. One of our friends didn’t sort out we were getting married till we showed up at the office for “Marriages, Birth Certificates and Deaths”.

    I’m just never going to live that down, am I? :p (My actual thought process: “I’m pretty sure I’d have noticed a baby on the 4-hour train ride up here, and neither ofthem look like zombies, so by process of elimination …”)

  122. mythago
    mythago May 12, 2007 at 7:11 pm |

    it really sucks, i think, that in states where there is no “default marriage by living together”

    There has never been a state where there is “default marriage by living together”. You’re thinking of common-law marriage, which had a lot of requirements other than shacking up. e.g., holding yourselves out to the world as husband and wife.

  123. WintersMusic
    WintersMusic May 13, 2007 at 7:43 am |

    This post may be a little long and off topic

    I wonder if the wedding industrial complex is also going after those whose wedding is not Christian in nature. I know that I want to have a Hindu wedding if I ever get married (I am not even dating anyone right now :p) but at the same time I think of all the work that goes into one and Vegas looks better and better. Most of the Hindu weddings I have been to are three day affairs. Also I might have to have two or three weddings. I have a very large family in two countries (America and Trinidad) and not everyone can travel because of health or, financial reasons. Also future husband may want a Christian wedding. The upside of this is that I if I am lucky I get two receptions and one thing about my family is that they know how to party. (We’re talking about a party the night before the wedding and then the official reception after the wedding)
    Now that I think about it I should just skip the whole ceremony all together and just have the receptions.

  124. Hector B.
    Hector B. May 14, 2007 at 2:37 pm |

    Patriarchy plays a huge role in weddings (as well as marriage). Where else do you think we get the idea that weddings have to be this way and not that way, have to include this detail but not that detail, must not deviate from this line but deviation from that line is okay?

    The connection between weddings and the patriarchy is too subtle for me. Considering who typically involves herself most in the wedding preparations, I would say weddings are part of the matriarchy.

  125. bluestockingsrs
    bluestockingsrs May 14, 2007 at 2:45 pm |

    There has never been a state where there is “default marriage by living together”. You’re thinking of common-law marriage, which had a lot of requirements other than shacking up. e.g., holding yourselves out to the world as husband and wife.

    And even then, only Texas and Idaho have common-law marraige modernly. Despite the abundance of idiots who didn’t go to law school who like to argue with me about common law marriage.

    A little knowledge is a dangerous thing.

  126. Ms.Virago
    Ms.Virago May 15, 2007 at 4:31 am |

    I guess this was the wrong place to post any feminist ideas in re: weddings/marriage.

    My bad.

    Carry on, ladies.

    And in that spirit:

    OMG!! My own wedding was verrrry do-it-yourself! I had a new suit that I could wear again to work and I stood up in front of a judge with my fiance and then we went to a Chinese buffet afterwards!!

    Yay!! (Cheap) Marriage!! So much better than those expensive weddings the patriarchy advocates!

  127. Grilltacular
    Grilltacular May 15, 2007 at 12:41 pm |

    And even then, only Texas and Idaho have common-law marraige modernly. Despite the abundance of idiots who didn’t go to law school who like to argue with me about common law marriage.

    Wiki disagrees with you:

    Common-law marriage can still be contracted in the following jurisdictions: Alabama, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, New Hampshire (posthumously), Oklahoma, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

    Common-law marriage can no longer be contracted in the following states, as of the dates given: Alaska (1917), Arizona (1913), California (1895), Florida (1968), Georgia (1997), Hawaii (1920), Idaho (1996), Illinois (1905), Indiana (1958), Kentucky (1852), Maine (1652, when it became part of Massachusetts; then a state, 1820), Massachusetts (1646), Michigan (1957), Minnesota (1941), Mississippi (1956), Missouri (1921), Nebraska (1923), Nevada (1943), New Mexico (1860), New York (1933, also 1902-1908), New Jersey (1939), North Dakota (1890), Ohio (1991), Pennsylvania (2005), South Dakota (1959), and Wisconsin (1917).

    The following states never permitted common-law marriage: Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Louisiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Note that Louisiana is a French civil or code law jurisdiction, not an English common law jurisdiction. As such, it is a former Council of Trent jurisdiction and common-law marriage was never known there.

    Nevertheless, all states — including those that have abolished common-law marriage — continue to recognise common-law marriages lawfully contracted in those U.S. jurisdictions that still permit this irregular contract of a marriage.

    Off topic, but you aren;t the authority you claim to be.

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