Wedding season has arrived. For a woman in her twenties, this is a busy time of year. It’s also a time where I must try very hard to battle my judgmental nature. There’s the eye rolling of extravagant splurging (the imported dance floor has to be white? why are there four sets of china on this registry?) and micro details (do bridesmaids really need matching underwear? since when is monogramed burlap elegant?). There’s the concern of lack of preparation (she has no sense of money, neither of them have jobs). And there’s the indignation that weddings are treated more like celebrations of romance than a sacrament (they’re really getting married on Good Friday? they’re getting married in a church, but only because it’s “cute”). For better or worse, I spend a lot of time each summer thinking about marriage and weddings.
The expenses of a wedding continue to confound me. I don’t personally mind what a person budgets for their wedding as long as they can afford it. If you’re rich, sure, spend $100,000. I will happily enjoy the free food and open bar. But the whole idea of the wedding industry and the long list of “must-haves” and their costs is obnoxious. For example, what’s the point of these multi-site, hundreds-of-pictures engagement photo shoots? Save-the-date on a chalkboard, walking down a road holding hands, looking into one another’s eyes with a barn as the background, the ring from dozens of angles. Except for the one or two pictures used for save-the-dates/ invitations/ Christmas cards, the photos are entirely self-indulgent and all look the same. The same goes for most of the “artsy” photos of the wedding day: the bands on top of a Bible, the dress hanging on the back of a door, the couple holding hands around a corner so they can’t see one another. Beyond the photos, there are the venues, the themes, the dozens of bridesmaids, the color schemes, the music and flowers and clothes that all reflect the couple’s (most likely the bride’s) idea of a dream day. It’s about an ideal moment, a fairy tale conclusion, saccharine perfection.
It’s also about making a social statement. There is a lot of concern for guests to be impressed and entertained. A reception with full meal and flowing drinks, a great band/DJ, parting gifts with the couple’s name and date. People go to wedding expecting to have a good time; the party might be more of a motivator than actually sharing in the couple’s union. Fundamentally, there isn’t a problem with weddings and receptions; a wedding day is about that particular couple’s expression and about the community supporting and celebrating them. But the wedding has become so commercialized that the marriage becomes just a part of the day, fit in among the idealized images and smashing parties.
The more weddings I attend, the less I want a wedding. I’m not even 100% that I want a marriage, but if I do, I want to be so consumed with being married that getting married is hardly given a thought. My baptism planning consisted of getting a white gown and inviting the out-of-town grandparents (they may have gone out to lunch after; I was only 4 months old). My (first) confirmation planning consisted of taking classes, picking out a new dress, and having one nice picture taken outside of the church. My (Catholic) confirmation/first communion planning consisted of taking classes, picking out a new dress, and inviting my parents. There is a clear theme: new dress. And also thoughtful preparation and close relatives. And it should go without saying that the church and sacramental nature is implied. I don’t see why marriage has to be significantly different. Every time I witness a baptism, I’m overwhelmed with happiness, but the more I witness a marriage ceremony, I’m disillusioned by some aspect of it, even when I’m sincerely happy for the two people getting married.
I know most of my issues with weddings are my own projections. Maybe I’m more of a bitter old maid than I realize. My urge to shake some couples and scream, “What sort of premarital counseling have you received?” and “Why are you spending money you don’t have?” is more about my desire to control things than about them. And how they want to begin their marriage isn’t really my business. I’m working on the whole be-less-judgmental thing, but for me, that task is more daunting than planning a modern day wedding.