Congratulations! You’re engaged!
You’ve just preemptively signed at least 10k to 30k of your hard-saved dollars away (according to the current wedding pricing statistics)! Or, have you?
Let’s think for a minute about all the thing$ people will say you NeeeEEEEEEEEEEEEeeeed for a wedding:
- An expensive WHITE “wedding” gown, that you will then afterwards keep in a box or garment bag in your closet forevermore, just in case.
- A church, or a garden, or a gazebo, or some other traditionally picturesque setting.
- At least one professional photographer/videographer!
- Flowers, OMG a giant bounty of flowers!!!
- A special room or tent where people can both eat and dance to a DJ or hired band!
- Food that everyone (even though there is actually NO WAY you can please everyone) will like! Or multiple food options!
- A seating chart and place settings and tablescapes/centerpieces and votive holders and and and…
- Wedding favors cutely packed in commemorative containers, for each guest!
- An enormous, lavish, tiered WHITE cake (decked out with more flowers, of course)!
- A personalized wedding hashtag that wittily represents you and your new spouse, somehow, for you and your guests to plaster all over your social media and save-the-date cards/invitations/programs!
- An open bar, plus at least one “signature” cocktail…
OK, so not EVERYONE checks all of these off the list on their wedding day… But, most Americans have traditional weddings and don’t question it. And honestly, if I had gotten married when I was in my 20s, I probably would have done the same thing.
Except, I never really saw myself getting married in my 20s, maybe even never at all.
Spoiler alert! Jorge and I got hitched this past January.
Along the way from there to here, with all the weddings I either attended or in which I served as a bridesmaid, I noticed a pattern: extreme stress amongst all the key participants regarding the relentless planning schedule and correlated emptying of bank accounts, with usually at least one of the spouses-to-be muttering wistfully (or screaming in frustration) at some point in the process, “I would have been just as happy to have eloped!” Weddings are an absolutely mammoth industry, and the folks that organize them or provide all of the related services and accoutrements have a vested interest in convincing (guilting?) you into trying to one-up everyone else you know when it comes to planning your own wedding.
Maybe because I got married at 40, I didn’t feel the need to live out a gauzy, bespangled dream of being a princess for a day. I also didn’t really subscribe to the common myth that “your wedding day should be the best day of your life!” and therefore you NEED to spend a LOT of money, accordingly. What about all of the other great days in my life? Why were they any less special? Graduating high school, and college? Realizing a personal dream by moving to France when I was 26? Becoming an aunt? Having my words published in print for the first time? Moving to DC? Moving to NYC? Moving with Jorge into our first apartment together a couple years back? All of these were pretty great days in my life, as well, and I viewed a wedding day as being on a similar plane in terms of the celebratory factor – so why the need to painstakingly and expensively orchestrate and then document each and every minute of this one particular occasion?
At first, I’ll admit, we thought maybe a small wedding would be do-able. In the lead-up to the planning process, though, I realized just exactly how much anxiety would actually be involved, and abruptly decided, “I’m not down with that.” We both wanted the day to be simple and fun, not stressful and fraught. So we invited a VERY small number of special guests (we were a total of 11 people), had a blessedly brief ceremony at the City Clerk’s office in Manhattan, and then whisked ourselves in a cab back across the river to Brooklyn for a scrumptious Italian dinner, with nightcaps afterwards at a rooftop bar with a sparkling view of the city skyline.
That was it. We didn’t have attendants, a wedding cake, invitations, flowers, nor a dance, and I did not wear a traditional white gown or high heels. We invited a friend who takes great pictures to take ours, for free. Our wedding day truly was ONE of the all-time best days I’ve had.
What all this boils down to is: I know that the way we got married is not for everyone. Why should it have been? It was what Jorge and I wanted to do, and though I’m sure some of our family and friends may have had different ideas of how getting married should go, we loved every moment. We are all only under the societal pressure that we think exists. Once you realize the pressure is not actually real, it vanishes and you are free to do what you want. It could mean tapping a trusted friend to get ordained as a “minister” online, while simultaneously gathering some pals and reading handwritten vows off a cocktail napkin in your favorite bar, or sitting cross-legged on the couch in your living room while wearing Han Solo and Princess Leia Star Wars costumes you bought on Amazon, or while dressed in his and hers gorilla suits at the entrance of the National Zoo, or whatever else you could imagine that will make your heart sing with joy. And if that wild dream of yours is still to have a big, elaborate, traditional-ish wedding with all the trimmings, then more power to you. Just do it because YOU want to, not because you don’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings or because it’s just “what everyone does.”
Although, if it were up to me, everyone would have the chance to pose for a matrimonial pic in front of a backdrop as sweet as this extremely real-looking New York City Hall scene: