I’m not one of those girls who says she’s not one of those girls who has been dreaming about her wedding her entire life. I HAVE been dreaming about my wedding my entire life. When it comes to weddings, I’m a huge sap. I love the tradition and the emotion of it all, and on top of that I just love pretty things (sometimes I fantasize about quitting my job to be a bridal consultant). So when I got engaged last summer, I was so excited to start planning my own wedding. A wedding-planning movie montage set to a Six Pence None the Richer song started rolling through my head – my fiancé and I tasting cake flavors, giggling and perusing florals with my sister, me twirling around in princess wedding gowns. Ahhh, what a dream.
When people ask me how the planning is going, they probably don’t want to hear my op-ed about the state of the wedding industry, but you’re here so you must. In general, it’s going great. I’ve heard all of the stories and complaints about how stressful wedding planning is, and I was determined from the start to go into it with a different attitude; we only get to go through this season of life once, so I wanted to enjoy every second of it. This has of course proven to be difficult, but it’s not because of the issues people normally complain about (the decision making, the logistics, the disagreements with your mother-in-law, etc.) Those aspects have actually gone fairly smoothly. But there are two facets of wedding planning that in my opinion are truly soul-sucking.
First, the finances. One thing thirteen-year-old me did not picture in her wedding daydream is every mundane detail costing a fortune. We are paying for our wedding ourselves, and I feel lucky to be in a position to do that and not have to put that burden on our families. Of course it is limiting in some ways, but even if the budget were unlimited, there are principally some things on which I just wouldn’t be able to spend enormous amounts of money. Let me be clear that there are so many great wedding vendors who I know make their living this way and are worth every penny of the reasonable prices they are charging, and if you’re looking you can find them. But there are also many who it seems take advantage of the fact that it’s the biggest day of your life; they know you want it to be perfect and that you’re willing to go to great lengths to make that happen, and because of that they charge completely unreasonable fees because in today’s current wedding industry climate, they can. Utter the word wedding and the price triples from a regular event price. Trying to weed these out has been…a challenge.
But there is something that I’ve found even more challenging. We’ve all heard the saying that comparison is the thief of joy, and this has never been truer than in the wedding planning context. I think part of the reason we have allowed the wedding industry to become what it has (and why we are willing to pay the price for it) is that we are constantly comparing our weddings in our heads to others we’ve been to or that we’ve seen on social media. We’re so afraid that our weddings won’t be the picture perfect Pinterest event we have in mind that we stretch ourselves financially thin for things that in hindsight seem completely ridiculous. I am absolutely guilty of this, and it has been my biggest source of stress when it comes to wedding planning.
Despite these challenges, there have been moments in the planning process where I have felt so truly happy, and they have nothing to do with what kind of flatware we’re using or whether we’ll be sitting in acrylic chairs. It’s when I think about my mom helping me into my dress, or my brother walking me down the aisle, or hearing Colin say his vows, or our first dance, or shutting down the dancefloor with our best friends, or getting to see our wedding photos for the first time. These are the things that I know I’ll remember 40 years from now.
I’m sure I can’t be alone in feeling like we as a society have lost sight of what weddings are really about. So if you are planning a wedding, now or in the future, I call upon you. Let’s all let go of the idea that our day has to be perfect just because it only happens once. Let’s stop accepting absurd price tags in pursuit of that perfection. Let’s stop comparing flower arrangements and tablescapes and chair styles to “better” ones we’ve seen somewhere else. Let’s stop sweating the small stuff and start focusing on what’s actually important – the love between two people who have decided to commit their lives to one another. Now cue ‘Kiss Me’ because I’m off to stuff some envelopes.