I hate weddings.
Or maybe I should say that I hate what weddings do to us, which is make us obsess for months about things that don’t really matter and spend money on things we don’t really need.
I’ve had two weddings, one in my 20s and one in my 40s, and what I remember most isn’t the fun I had at either one, but the stress I felt leading up to both. And this is not an issue of size: Each of my weddings included fewer than 40 guests. Whether you’re filling one long table with a few dozen friends and family members or a ballroom with hundreds, the pressure of meeting the expectations of today’s Wedding Industrial Complex can be crushing and, frankly, more trouble than it’s worth.
Wedding stress comes from different things for different couples: family expectations, expense, the illusion that everything can be perfect if we just work hard enough. (And putting pressure on ourselves to look and be perfect — even for one day — is something we should be outgrowing as we reach adulthood, not embracing with more vigor.)
Why do we do this? First, there’s the entrenched belief that it matters, that somehow we need weddings to launch successful marriages. But what would be even better for our relationships is saving ourselves from unnecessary emotional and financial pressure. In a marriage, there are going to be arguments. But why start off with one about color schemes or whether or not cousin Shelly should be allowed to bring a date? And why drain your savings account for a single day of festivity, when you have a whole lifetime to plan for?
Sometimes, we jump through the wedding hoops because we believe our families need it: “I’d love to fly away and elope or run down to City Hall, just the two of us, but Aunt Agnes would never forgive me!” Aunt Agnes will get over it. Your marriage is not about pleasing other people, not matter how much you love them.
And speaking of other people, weddings can actually burden the ones we love. Does your best friend really want to plan a bachelorette weekend for 10 in Las Vegas? Do your bridesmaids really want to shell out for dresses they’ll never wear again, and do your distant family members who live across the country really want to travel for an event where they’ll barely get to speak with you?
There’s the very good argument that weddings are tradition. But did our great, great, great grandmothers register at Crate & Barrel? Did they hire make-up artists and spend thousands on cakes? Probably not. And yes, everything evolves. But I’m thinking this evolution has gone too far and, in the end, hurts us.
During pregnancy, we spend nine months preparing to become mothers. But we spend the special time leading up to marriage acting like event planners, rather than wives or husbands-to-be. A great party does not prepare you for a lifelong partnership. Contrary to what romantic comedies would have you believe, a wedding is the starting point, not the finish line. And by obsessing over this one event, we’re putting ourselves behind in the marathon that is a marriage.
In the coming decade, as my teenaged daughters become adults and someday come to me with visions of five-tiered cakes and flowers that cost more than a vacation, I will share these thoughts with them. No doubt, they will ignore me. I’m already stressing about what I’ll wear.