Taking The Marriage Plunge
About a month and a half ago Elly wrote about marriage’s decreasing relevance… she has great points and I suggest you read it if you haven’t already. But this post is different, this post is about my experience having decided to take the plunge into marriage and having to plan a wedding with all the pressures, cultural differences, money issues and ridiculousness that comes with it.
Ever since I was in high school I’ve been planning my wedding. I’ve had three serious boyfriends before my fiance (Bay) and I’ve planned my wedding out with all of them (and by “with” them, I mean… just planning marrying them secretly in a private journal or in my head). So when Bay popped the question I was overjoyed… not only was I going to marry and spend the rest of my life with my best friend but I’d also ACTUALLY get to plan my wedding. So. Stoked.
What do I envision? Outside in a big tent… very country chic… pastel colours… tables with h’ors d’œuvres and candy… lots of sparkling lights… a big dance floor… open bar… beautiful center pieces… a giant cake… the most delicious meal my guests have ever had… and how many guests? MANY GUESTS.
Well… that was in 2010. We were supposed to get married last summer but I got overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by what? Let me share…
If you’ve ever hosted an event you know that it can get expensive. We held a surprise birthday party for my mom for her 50th… we only invited around 22 people, rented a hall, fed them snacks and veggie trays, got a nice cake and some basic decorations. The whole thing cost each kid a couple hundred dollars (so like $600-ish all together). If you’ve ever watched one of those wedding shows you know that $600 often will only cover a cake. The second you mention “wedding” to a vendor they add a zero to the end of their quote.
The expensiveness of a wedding becomes a problem for two glaring reasons. 1. Do we really have that money? I just finished my degree so I have some student debt. Bay comes from a wealthier background so he was willing to give me by dream day but 2. wouldn’t that money be better used on buying a house? Paying off my debt? Starting a life together? Even just being donated to charity rather than spending $5000 on a big dress?
When it really came down to it the ethics and rationale of spending a lot of money on a wedding started bothering both of us. So we set a budget. A very very very small budget. Most women spend more than our budget on their dress. I’ve had to stop watching wedding shows because after thinking about it *so* much…I just can’t ethically stand behind weddings that cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Bay is Chinese… however he strongly identifies with being Canadian and feels very few ties to his Chinese background. His mother, grand parents and the rest of his family… however… are all very much Chinese. His father was disappointed that we didn’t ask permission before getting married, they wanted our wedding colors to be traditional red and gold (ew), they wanted us to have a house first, they all expected that we would get married in China, do a traditional tea ceremony (I suspect) and have a gigantic banquet with 400 Chinese people that we don’t know. Not to mention how disappointed some of his family is that he’s marrying a white girl.
So when we announced that we had set a date my family lovingly opened their arms, said congrats and my sister immediately started planning my wedding shower. But his family… we went through three months of fighting, of his family in China guilt tripping him for not doing it in China, of his mother threatening to not come because she thought it was too soon (ie: buy a house first) and refusing to get behind a smaller wedding that had less than 100 people (because that wouldn’t be a real wedding, of course) and of his father, and his father’s family, being very obviously disappointed that the first son of the eldest son in the family would be marrying a white girl. … Talk about putting a downer on the whole occasion, eh?
This was largely the reason we didn’t get married last year, his family ruined it. This year we took a different approach, told them very matter of fact-ly that we’d be doing it next summer and that we’d be doing it our way. For whatever reason we’ve had substantially less resistance this time around. It sucks but we’ve had to look at people and basically say “your culture is not important to us, our culture is important to us so we’re going to go with what we want”. Imagine having to get that message through to an old grandma…
“But I have to invited my second great aunt Deloris twice removed!”
By this point we had decided to have around 50 – 70 people at a pavilion wedding at a municipal park near where I grew up. We started making the guest list. His list? Has about 20 people, and that’s after I asked him 5 or 6 times “Are you sure that’s it?”… he doesn’t feel that obligation to invite people like I do. My list was so long I had to start taking people off it. So many aunts and uncles that I rarely talk to, cousins I haven’t seen in years and just… people I feel obligated to invite… were getting cut and I was getting guilty.
I’ve had to start thinking about it a different way. Instead of making a list of 50 people that I think “should” or “will want” to be at my wedding I made a list of people who I really really want to share in the experience of me starting a new chapter in my life with my main man… people who have loved and supported the two of us, seen us grow together and who have been active in our lives together. … After taking this approach I was left with a list of 11 people. I asked Bay to do the same. He had 9. … “We can’t just have 20 guests at our wedding!………… Can we?”
Well… why not? Why were we inviting 70 people, half of whom we rarely talk to? Neither of us are super keen on getting a lot of wedding gifts, we’re both pretty private and introverted people and when we started to think of a small intimate and elegant wedding we both got more excited.
What My Husband Wants & What Do I Really Want?
Weddings have become incredibly commercialized. There is high pressure on brides to have a big showy wedding that out does all others. The show “four weddings” literally pits brides against one another to see who has the best wedding. The other girls scrutinize and rank one another’s wedding dresses, food, venue and overall experience. If anything in these categories if unconventional it is always voted down. I used to love these shows but now as I plan more I see how unhealthy the obsession is.
There is cultural pressure to invite everyone in your family, even if it means stretching your wallet so wide it bursts. Why start this new part of your life together with a gigantic wedding debt looming over your head?
And what about the grooms? Often on these wedding shows the men seem extremely removed from the planning process. “It’s MY DAY” women will scream at people if they don’t get their way. Well, no honey – it’s not your day. I’ve had to start replanning with Bay’s preferences in mind and getting home a lot more active in decision making.
I get that these big weddings are fun, you are intensely the center of attention for a few hours and you get to play dress up but once I started to think about it… this isn’t what I wanted. This is what society has taught me that I wanted (just like having kids!). All my years of going through wedding magazines and perusing wedding pictures on wedding websites had conditioned me to want something explosive and grand. But I look at me and at my partner and at our life together and that is simply not us. We are not showy… we don’t prefer to be the center of attention in a room full of people… we are responsible with our money… we don’t eat 5 star meals (unless we’re on vacation)…So why do all that for a day dedicated to us? Why not make it more like who we are?
I know a lot of the readers here are too young to be thinking about marriage, but if you’re like me and you’re already thinking about it… I challenge you to stop thinking about your WEDDING for a minute, and instead think about your MARRIAGE. What is important to you for beginning your marriage with the person of your dreams? For me it’s being with the closest people in my life, keeping Bay happy/excited (who much preferred the idea of 20 people he was just too scared to voice that opinion) and just finally marrying this man.
Be different! Be who you are. There are some great examples of this at Offbeat Bride.
(So what are we doing now? An astronomy themed, outdoor, elegant, stargazing night with our nearest and dearest.)