Monday, September 8, 2008

The "Anti-Wedding Planners"

From the "right problem, totally, completely, hideously wrong solution files" comes this story:

We are convinced that there is no justification for wedding insanity. We feel qualified to make this judgment as single women who have never been married or engaged, and have never planned an event more complicated than happy hour. But we have seen what happens to some intelligent, strong women when confronted by the multibillion-dollar Wedding Industrial Complex: Those few unattractive tendencies, weaknesses generally kept under control -- bossiness, melodramatic romanticism, obsession with looks, agony over superficial details -- coalesce into a toxic distillate. What chance does anyone have against an industry that seduces the rampaging feminine id? The masses need to be liberated.

What if . . . we become Anti-Wedding Planners? What if we find a couple who shares our opinion and lets us plan their unorthodox, fabulously cheap anti-wedding, located -- we dream -- in a bus depot or a Laundromat? We envision the glorious reversal of typical wedding cliches: the symbolic release of dirty city pigeons in lieu of doves, bouquets of dead leaves, a buffet of peanut butter or grilled-cheese sandwiches. The wedding itself would be a statement, a metaphorical loogie aimed right at the wispy veil of wedding-obsessed America. It must be anti-industry, but pro-romance, because real love means knowing, This is my soul mate, even if (s)he's wearing a garbage bag.

I sympathize with the writers for correctly identifying one of the big problems with weddings today. The average couple spends about $30,000 just on the wedding, which is about $27,550 more than the average couple can actually afford in my opinion. The whole thing becomes a lavish and opulent display, one's own private Hollywood red carpet day, complete with wasteful expenditure and a "Star Is Born" feeling centered around the bride, who is supposed to Have Everything She Ever Dreamed Of Because This Is Her Day, Expletive Deleted!

Only it's not her day, as I've discussed before. And so much time and attention gets put into weddings, but so little into marriages, that we could almost postulate a connection between the increasing costs of weddings and the decreasing duration of the marriages.

Unfortunately, the self-styled "Anti-Wedding Planners" don't end up solving much. They still have to go to extremes to plan the "wedding protest event" they end up planning; the couple who marries is a cohabitating couple who are united by a relative who gets ordained over the Internet, and while the guests who send regrets are suspected of being snobs who won't come if there isn't going to be an ice swan and crystal champagne glasses, it's possible that they're simply prudent people who wonder about the duration of such a match.

It's entirely possible to have a simple, quiet wedding. In a church. With a real priest or minister officiating. And cake and coffee in the parish hall afterward.

But however admirable it may have seemed to the writers of the article to take on the wedding industry, the reality is that until people start taking marriage more seriously, weddings will continue to be frivolous and spectacular, whether the spectacle is that of the traditional sort, or of a lavish protest march that may not have cost much, but that contains the same elements of vulgar parade as the typical wedding.


Charlotte said...

Hello Red Cardigan. Enjoyed this post and agree with it. I did read your referred-to May post on weddings and wish I could have commented at the time, because I have some questions and alot to say on the topic! As concerns the tux/suit debate: My husband and the groomsmen wore suits, but since none of the groomsmen owned appropriate suits, they had to rent the suits. We just don't live in a society where dress clothes are valued or worn that much. In response to your current post, I am seeing the ugly fruit right now from a Catholic wedding gone crazy-a close friend went over the deep end with the wedding (especially her attitude about it) and now she's caught up in a lousy marriage. Your comment about money spent in relation to quality of marriage might be right on the money!

Hélène said...

I agree that simple weddings are more practical for most people, and from more than just a financial standpoint. However, most of the people I know who have married in the church have complained about being nickled and dimed by their parish. It is hard to spend $2,450 on a wedding when the church charges $1000 for the wedding and another $500 for the hall (if they even let the hall be let out, which a lot don't anymore.) I know 1000 is extreme, but that is what one of the local parishes charges. Another church charges a modest 500, but another 100 for the mandatory organist and 75 for flower arrangements. My husband and I cut every corner imaginable when we got married (even to the point of skipping alcohol and dancing) and we still paid $3000. Besides that, the cheapest weddings I know of cost 5k.

I think that people need to plan on their marriage more than their wedding, but I suspect that some people think that if they have the fairytale wedding they will have a fairytale marriage. Another problem is wanting to keep up with the Joneses: So and so had a fancy wedding with a seven tier cake and ten bridesmaids, so I want that too, otherwise I will be dissatisfied with the whole wedding because hers was better than mine.

Red Cardigan said...

You know, Helene, I agree with you that it's a very serious problem for parishes to charge that much for weddings. If a couple who are registered parishioners wish to be married in their own parish, there shouldn't be a charge at all, beyond a modest stipend for the priest and perhaps a small sum to cover any expenses the parish might incur (cleaning, electricity use, etc.) A thousand dollars is WAY out of line--are they trying to encourage the poor to live in sin?

My 2450 number was just tongue-in-cheek, but I do think a lovely wedding can be held for five thousand dollars or less. It's extremely hard to understand how a parish can charge anything even remotely approaching $1000 for what is actually a sacrament, especially when Catholics must be married in a church, generally speaking. I find that outrageous.

When my husband and I were married the custom of churches charging for weddings had not yet caught on, thank goodness. What's sad is that I've heard priests say, in effect, "Well, if they're going to pay a thousand for the embossed napkins and five thousand for the bride's dress, they can give us a thousand, too." But many of us managed to have the whole wedding for two or three thousand dollars, and unless the Church wishes to be seen as condoning lavishly expensive weddings the business of charging high sums for the use of the church needs to stop.

Alexandra said...

This is extreme frugality, but it was perfect for us. We paid for the license($30.00) and got married in the parish chapel for free. Dh "tipped" our Scottish priest well. I wore a modest green dress from my closet, and dh wore his uniform. It was beautiful, intimate, and perfect. The sun streamed in through the stained glass wall in the tiny chapel amid dozens of red glass votives with candles flickering up their respective prayers.

My best friend's mother had cake and champagne at her house for us. I didn't want an engagement ring, and our weddings rings were simple thin gold bands purchased at K-Mart.

For us, it was all about the marriage, and we couldn't wait to set up house together. We'd have rather had the extra funds for our household than a wedding event. Even if we had been set financially, we would have done it this way. It just worked for both of us, and there is no shame in it(IMHO). A happy marriage is much more important than a lavish wedding.

Red Cardigan said...

Alexandra, that sounds absolutely lovely! If more young couples could approach weddings this way, more of them could get married sooner. So many young people are already carrying student loans etc., and the pressure to have an expensive wedding with all the "trimmings" just places more debt, and more financial strain, on two people who are trying to start life--and a family--together.

Scott said...

Correct me if I'm wrong, but if one were to have a nuptial mass in a regular schedule mass, it seems there would be little expense, if any. I had someone complain to me that the Church was charging for the Sacrament. I pointed out that it was like the library. You can go to the library and check out books for free. But in the typical "Bride's Day" wedding it is like asking the library to open after-hours fully staffed, so that you and a select few can check out books. Yeah, they're gonna charge you for that.

Charlotte said...

If a parish wanted to charge me $500 or $1000 to get married, I'd be out of there! There is NO WAY you can justify that; whoever said that would be charging for a sacrament is right-it's wrong. I wonder how much of this has to do with brides wanting to get married in the perfect, picturesque church, rather than their own parish or the closest parish, which I think is a big problem these days....We want those wedding photos to look good, you know! I have one "Catholic" friend (i.e. non-practicing) who purposely chose a large, prominent and socially-well placed Catholic church here in Milwaukee, rather than the parish she went to school at for K-8 at, as well as the parish she attended all through high school, etc. Note it was the parish in the town her parents still lived in. But oh no-it wasn't good enough, not prominent enough, the flowers and trees outside weren't pretty enough. I was really taken aback by that decision and I think it was all misplaced vanity. And I also hate how people temporarily "join" these churches while engaged just to have the wedding there.

Renee said...

Our parish only asks for an offering if you are having a big wedding, if a couple is truly just getting married or is having something small back at the house then usually the 250 offering is waived.

I helped out with marriage prep at my church, the first talk was about the 'wedding day' just to get it over with, and the Pastor reminds that it is we who actually care about your marriage, not the wedding vendors.

Sally said...

We regularly have the conversation about how much a parish asks for a wedding over at the Catholic Answers forum. As poster here said, weddings usually expect a lot of the church--rooms to dress, access to all bathrooms, organists, altar boys, etc etc and often also leave these places not in the condition they were found in. It is to pay for cleaning and expenses like that that the church charges -- not for the sacrament! Also, many couples do want specific churches, so many churches have set different levels of fees specifically to discourage 'church shopping'.

Red Cardigan said...

Sally, I'm not opposed--nor is anyone else--to a reasonable "church use" fee that covers basic expenses such as you describe, though I think the fee should be waived automatically for weddings where there are fewer than twenty people (including the bride and groom) in attendance.

But when churches start to charge $500 or $1000 on the assumption that this is only a small fraction of the $30,000 the couple will be spending on their wedding, I have a problem with it. Many Catholics do not have, and do not spend, $30k on weddings, and for parishes to assume that is the default expenditure is just wrong.