Example

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Judgment Day


I've just finished One Perfect Day, Rebecca Mead's expose of the wedding industry.  I realize I'm a little bit late to the party on this one, but I wasn't about to spend $25 on a 200 page book.  Talk about overpriced wedding-related products!
I thought the book was pretty interesting, and it's definitely worth a read to take a look at some of the more outlandish things people will do to create "The Most Important Day Of My Life!",  but in the end it's indicative of a problem I've noticed when anybody, especially online, discusses the cost of weddings: Judgment Day.  There is no other event or product that causes people to judge and dismiss others without even the slightest shred of evidence.  
Let's say there's an article online about how the economy is causing people to cut back on wedding expenses.  The comments will all fall into two camps: either it's "I had 450 people at my wedding and it only cost $19.99 and everyone said it was the best wedding they've ever been to" or "anybody who spends over $5000 for their wedding will get divorced in less than a year, guaranteed."  This thread on Consumerist is a great example, with one lovely person opining, "Any of you idiots who spend $20,000+ on a wedding deserve to have your spouse cheat on you and get divorced."  
Why is it weddings in particular bring out such senseless bile?  Nobody says, "Hey, I spent $350 on a car, and it's so much better than that $30,000 hybrid you're driving around.  I'm having fun!"  But, say the insult defenders, a wedding only lasts for a day.  However, there are lots of things which last for less than day, and nobody makes judgments about indulging in those inflated costs.  $20 for a movie and some popcorn?  Waste of money!  You could've rented from Netflix!  $100 for baseball tickets for you and your kids, plus hotdogs and soda?  You deserve to get beaned in the head by a foul ball!  You could've watched it on TV for a fraction of the cost!  
There are some wrong ways to do weddings, sure.  We've all seen them.  But there's no one right way to have a wedding, either.  Mead doesn't approve of spending too much money, because then you're falling into the clutches of the Evil Wedding Industry.  She doesn't approve of spending too little money--she thinks eloping to Vegas is tacky.  The only right way to have a wedding, in her opinion, is to do what she did; have your wedding at City Hall and then have a small party in your backyard while wearing a bright orange dress.  Well, that's nice, Ms. Mead, but I want to have a beautiful wedding wearing a white dress, eating great food, drinking great wine, and celebrating with my family and friends that I love--all of us dancing the night away to my favorite bluegrass band.  And that's right too.  It's not your business to judge me--I have a conscience and I will follow it.
To put it another way, this is the right way to have a wedding:

And this is also the right way to have a wedding:

And there are a myriad other right ways to have a wedding.  So can we please lay off each other?

(Although if you did have a wedding for 450 and it cost you $19.99, can you tell me how you did it?)

9 Comments:

Blogger EthidiumBromide said...

THANK YOU.

I am so sick of people making judgment calls about weddings alone, and not factoring in anything else. Our wedding, not factoring in the cost of rings and honeymoon, in total cost over $60,000 which is an absurd amount for one day, but we were fortunate enough that my parents were willing to chip in quite a bit (they had a list a mile long of their friends they wanted to invite that I didn't even know -- so they were happy to pay for them).

But everyone felt the need to make some snide comment. Mind you, however, when it comes to daily life, we live rather frugally. My husband is a resident, working 100+ hours/week. I'm getting my Ph.D. in science, spending 80+ hours/week in the lab. Aside from our honeymoon, the longest trip we've ever taken together in our 5+ years of dating was 3 days. We live in a little 700 sq foot one bedroom condo. He drives a Civic, I don't even own a car.

And the people who made the comments about how our priorities were so out of line and how we would get divorced because we "needed" such a lavish wedding? They all live in townhouses with mortgages which they can't afford, drive a Lexus or a BMW (which they lease so they can get a new one every 2 years), and jet off for a few weeks in Europe every summer. And none of them can afford it, but once one of them started, they all felt the need to keep up with the Jones's.

So thank you -- this has always irked me so much that just because I'm getting married, it wasn't okay for me to spend money here and save elsewhere, whereas it would have been find for me to spend the same amount in everyday life, and nobody would have batted an eyelash.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 10:54:00 AM  
Blogger kathryn said...

I agree. I am getting married next year, and when I started planning I had the attitude that I could do everything for soooo cheap. But, when we actually made our guest list, that wasn't the reality of it. Our reception alone will be the bulk of our budget, but if we are able to have our friends and our family there all in one place, enjoying our day and eating great food and drinking great drinks, then who is to say that it wasn't worth it all in the end? I've had to learn to stop feeling guilty about the money I will be spending on certain things or defending the choices I am making, just because other people would not have done so.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 11:48:00 AM  
Blogger Jenna said...

This was so nice to hear after reading post after post in the blogging world lately about how the best way to throw a wedding is to cut back everything. It seems like lately everyone is describing the perfect wedding like this: Borrow your dress, pick a wildflower from your garden, and ask guests to bring their own meal. No, I will not have the simplest wedding possible, and it isn't evil to do so. I have guests flying in from POLAND. I am going to spend some money (and hundreds of hours planning) to make sure that the money spent on plane tickets and travel was worth it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 12:41:00 PM  
Blogger Desaray said...

I just got this book from Meg at a Practical Wedding. I was a Women's Studies major with an interest in Post-Modern feminist theory, but I'm afraid to say that all this blog reading has effected my attention span, especially when it comes to incisive commentary. That's the thing, though, academics make their millions (haha) on being critical. Thinking critically. So, like that critical thing just gets into their blood. I just finished the preface and look forward to the next chapter. Maybe it'll get better :) Anyway, really, the author is looking at the sum of the parts, not any individual bride. Unfortunately, in day-to-day life it takes a lot less brains to to criticise a person, rather than the a whole machine.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Ten Thousand Only said...

first, i loved this post.
second, i would also like to know how to throw a $19.99 wedding for 450.
third, there's only one right way to have a wedding. your way.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger Tiffany & Albert said...

There isn't any problem with spending large amounts of money on a wedding if you have the cash. I think the problem is that even people that don't have the savings feel obligated to have the $25k wedding and start off their new lives in major debt. It's totally an individual choice how much you want to spend on your wedding, but there's a lot of pressure to spend more than most people can really afford in order to please everyone...plus it just costs a lot to have something minimumly nice, not even elaborate, which is unfortunate.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 3:51:00 PM  
Blogger Just Jor said...

I think you grossly misinterpreted what Ms. Mead intended this book to be about. It isn't about the lecture on what you should or should not do with your wedding. if anything, she encourages couples to throw a wedding that is significant to them regardless of how they identify what is significant to them. What she wanted to show was the economic disparities when it comes to throwing a party and when it comes to throwing a wedding. She was trying to show that the wedding industry takes advantage of this time in a person's life when they feel the need to be spectacular. She is pointing out that extravagance does not equate elegance.

yes, it is awful when someone judges you for spending too much, but at the same time, what about people who don't spend enough? Is it fair to say to them that they didn't care enough about having a special day because they didn't spend the money to make it a "fairytale wedding"?

Ms. Mead writes, "The one thing that did unify this group of brides, however, was that each had encountered a wedding industry intent upon ensuring that her experience of being a bride--whatever else it meant to her, culturally and personally-- amounted to a transformation into a new kind of consumer. each had discovered that being a bride required an engagement with an industry that had interests very clearly at odds with her own and that depended for its economic health upon the perpetual spiraling upward of wedding-day expectations." (pg. 221-222)

So Rebecca Mead is not chastising you or any other bride for her expensive or simple wedding; she is criticizing the wedding industry that makes brides feel that a wedding is more than a special day to celebrate being united in marriage to the one you love and want to spend the rest of your life with.

Mead is telling you to throw that elaborate party or even have simple courthouse wedding, but do it because you want it to be that way, not because the wedding industry made you feel that doing things your way not their way would be inadequate and cheap.

Sunday, August 17, 2008 8:38:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Alexandria said...

Miss Charlottesville, I applaud you for this post--Especially living in a city, a lot of my friends from my small town in upstate NY have no understanding of the costs associated with city living/wedding planning. Personally, I feel to each there own, as you said. If you want to do a court house wedding than go ahead, if yuo want to spend 20k+ than go ahead, it is your choice. I definitly do not think though, how much you spend is related to how happy you will be. I have been to MANY weddings in my life, and unfortunatly seen a couple end in divorce, and actually so far it has been the small/intimate weddings that ended in divorce, not the huge blow out affairs. The main thing that has irked me with wedding planning is people that make comments as you showed in your blog like "what a waste" its one day or the worse "they deserve to end in divorce"--i just try to tune those people out, feeling they are probably just hostile for personal reasons. As you said its about focusing on you and your fiance and yuor future together and the celebration you want to have with your friends and family, don't focus on what the nay sayers say, it happens once ENJOY :)

Monday, August 18, 2008 2:31:00 PM  
Blogger Miss Alexandria said...

Miss Charlottesville, I applaud you for this post--Especially living in a city, a lot of my friends from my small town in upstate NY have no understanding of the costs associated with city living/wedding planning. Personally, I feel to each there own, as you said. If you want to do a court house wedding than go ahead, if yuo want to spend 20k+ than go ahead, it is your choice. I definitly do not think though, how much you spend is related to how happy you will be. I have been to MANY weddings in my life, and unfortunatly seen a couple end in divorce, and actually so far it has been the small/intimate weddings that ended in divorce, not the huge blow out affairs. The main thing that has irked me with wedding planning is people that make comments as you showed in your blog like "what a waste" its one day or the worse "they deserve to end in divorce"--i just try to tune those people out, feeling they are probably just hostile for personal reasons. As you said its about focusing on you and your fiance and yuor future together and the celebration you want to have with your friends and family, don't focus on what the nay sayers say, it happens once ENJOY :)

Monday, August 18, 2008 2:31:00 PM  

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