My thoughts about weddings

mikgardenAugust 19, 2004

I am in my 40's, in love with my girlfriend and we are happy together.

Isn't it difficult enough to find someone that you want to make a lifelong commitment to? After you have submitted to that enormous challenge, why do many then proceed to spend most of their life savings for an experience that lasts just part of one day?

I'm really talking about myself and many others who really cringe when you add up the expense of an engagement ring, a wedding ceremony and reception, and finally, a honeymoon.

I really want to know if anyone can identify with my situation. Regardless of the expense, I really want to buy a nice ring, and I also think that a memorable honeymoon would be worthwhile. However, I don't share the nostalgic, romantic notions about the wedding ceremony and reception that most women seem to value.

I feel frustrated because I want her to be happy, but some things (banquet hall reception, church ceremony) would contribute to making the wedding day a very miserable (and expensive) experience for me.

Has anyone heard of a priest blessing a marriage after a civil ceremony, for example?

I would like to do a civil ceremony and a very modest reception- maybe a dinner at a nice restaurant. And, then a honeymoon. Very simple.

I would appreciate your thoughts- thank you.

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My wedding is going to be simple like that. We are having the reception at a nice restuarant that has a private room. There will be centerpieces, a cake, and pie (as there are diabetics in the family) and a dress. Our honeymoon will be a vacation at a later date. We are mid-30's and have been together for almost 10 years. I want to have this, he doesn't care. We are very thrifty and are not going to spend a fortune. You don't have to spend a whole lot but it is important to women to have "their" day. So do the civil ceremony, a nice modest reception, and a nice honeymoon. The family and friends that surround you and the memories you create will be worth it.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 2:28PM
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For the ring, do check antique stores. You might find something that's perfect and doesn't cost a fortune.

You can have a simple ceremony in a church, if it matters to your fiancee. It needn't be a JP ceremony, unless that's what you both want.

As far as the reception, that can be as simple as a wedding breakfast in the bride's parent's back yard or as elaborate as you can imagine.

Obviously, you need to talk this over with her. Weigh the pros and cons. Yes, we could have a $10,000 reception, but probably couldn't buy a house for another five years or so ...

Good luck.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 2:59PM
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I think that what it comes down to is doing what you and your girlfriend want to do. Weddings are so personal. I am sure that some people would think that my wedding was way too extravagent, and others would think that it was way too simple. It doesn't matter what all those other people think - all that matters is that me and my husband had a wonderful time and did what we wanted with the money we had.

The most important thing is to set a budget and then work from there. Rather than say "I don't want this or that" right off the bat - you may just want to say (once she says "yes", of course) that $X is the amount I have to spend on the wedding, reception, and honeymoon. Find out what she is willing to contribute. Then crunch the numbers.

You know your girlfriend best, but don't presume that what she would like would make you "miserable". You both will probably have to compromise. What is great is that you sound like you really want to be involved with the planning process. You two can decide what is most important to the both of you and make your wedding and reception a reflection of both of you, your relationship, and values.

The wedding and reception shouldn't be a miserable experience for you. I guarantee if you are involved in the process and talk openly with your girlfriend about what you value - for example, I think the honeymoon is where I would like to spend a majority of the budget. Just know that if you do this you may not be able to invite all your 200 friends from birth to now and have a top shelf open bar.

Also, do your research. Some restaurants aren't as cheap as you would think. We had our reception at a very nice restaurant and spent over $150 a head, but one of our priorities was fantastic food.

Good luck! I am sure that everything will work out in the end and you and your girlfriend will have a wedding - and most importantly a marriage - that you will both be happy with!

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 3:04PM
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even though you've already got a relationship w/ your bride, look at wedding planning as a "trial run" for all the planning you'll do once you're life partners.

Buying a house, picking out a couch, raising kids, planning a vacation--they all take communication and compromise.

Talk a lot about the "why's"--WHY will you be miserable that day if things go the way she's wanting? Also be honest w/ yourself, WILL you really be that miserable? I know that I always overestimate how grumpy I'll be at my in-laws' gatherings.

Also talk about specifically what you'll do w/ the money you don't spent--not just "save it" or "not waste it" but "buy a house in 2 years instead of 10; or "get a new washing machine" or something.

Now is a great time to work on communicating what your values are, what your standards are, etc. Practice for life.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 3:23PM
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So... you told us how you feel, but you didn't mention how she feels?? Or if you have told her how you feel yet. Or if you know how she feels.

There is no intrinsic value to a big wedding or a nice honeymoon or a nice ring. It all just has to with what the two of you personally place value on. You have to decide together.

Some people would say that, while a wedding is just one day, it is more important to them than a honeymoon, because they get to spend it with so many of their loved ones - to give it as a gift to all the people who make their lives happy. It's okay not to feel that way, but if you want to understand why so many people want nice weddings, you have to understand that a wedding isn't one day for two people, it is one day for 100 people (or however many guests there are).

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 4:22PM
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and it's a lifetime of remembering, of talking about it, of reminiscing.

For most people, it is the ONLY big party they will ever throw--and certainly the only one for which they have an excuse to get fancy.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 4:50PM
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You don't have to understand *why* she needs it...I've been trying to explain why some women (my FMIL) need the big weddings to my fiance since we started planning this whole thing, and he doesn't get it either. Just know that it's mostly a female thing (now) that has to do with society and acceptance and expectations/early programming, and leave it at that, if you can. :-)

I have one word for you: compromise. :-)

Sounds to me like she wants the church wedding & big reception. Just like my future mother-in-law. LOL You want something simpler. I can really respect and empathize with you fiance and I both wanted to elope, and skip all the festivities. But, that wasn't possible (my fiance isn't mean/brave enough! LOL). So, we compromise (it's not as painless as it sounds, but it is possible).

- Small backyard wedding with immediate family in attendance (I'm not sure *whose* back yard yet, since FMIL is trying to rescind the offer of hers, but it will be in "a" back yard of some sort LOL) This compromise means they get to *be* there, instead of us running off. ;-)

- No fancy clothes, but I will wear a nice, white/ivory dress for her since she wants the big white gown. DF will wear nice pants/shirt.

- We've agreed to lunch (of some sort) for those attending the wedding, but we're sticking to the "no big, showy reception" thing (which is why FMIL is bent out of shape at the moment)

- I still get to send out announcements (a compromise between myself and DF, who didn't want announcements or a reception, but I told him he had to choose one)

We were in agreement on the engagment ring is very simple, and the wedding band is just that, a band. I got a pretty nice band for him that I will have engraved, but it wasn't all that pricy.

I try to tell my fiance that the wedding really isn't "for us"'s for family, which is what you need to remember. The other thing you should remember is that more expectations are placed on the bride, so anything you say no to, she will probably take a lot of the blame for, even if she lays it back where it belongs. Hopefully her family is more understanding and progressive than mine, but what I've found is the more you break away from the "traditional" wedding, the more stressful it becomes explaining your decisions. So it would be helpful for *her* if you met her halfway whenever possible.

Good luck - we've been together 7 yrs, so it's really not impacting our actual relationship to be dealing with all of this, we take it in stride just like any other thing we've ever done together. So I'm sure that you and your girlfriend will figure out a good compromise for the whole wedding thing, since you've had 10 yrs to learn to work as a team.

(I still say elope to avoid all the hassle if she would agree to it - I wish everyday that we'd stuck to our original plan of eloping. LOL)

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 5:23PM
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I agree with the other posters that there is nothing intrinsically right or wrong with any type of wedding, big or small, modest or extravagant. They can all be fun and beautiful. And it is also true that a wedding is not just one day. It's months of planning and years of remembering. And if you have a large family, especially if they are scattered far and wide, it's also a big family reunion, often the only time relatives even see each other, and certainly the time that your two families will meet. If you have a lot of out of town guests, you can't exactly just walk into a KFC with 100 people. Even if you want everything really informal, it's still going to require some planning, and it's nice to mark the occasion by doing something a LITTLE special, even if it's just a basket of flowers on the table. Weddings are among the few events when we all gather together. It would be awfully sad if the only time the family and dear friends were all together were at funerals.

I may be way off base here, but I have a feeling that we haven't heard the real issue.

What exactly is bothering you here? I certainly agree that it doesn't make sense to use up all your savings -- especially when starting a marriage -- on a party, i.e., a wedding reception, but that's equally true of jewelry and vacations (i.e., the ring and the honeymoon), and those things don't bother you. But a church wedding and a reception would make you "miserable" -- that's an awfully strong word. And your post seems to suggest that this is something that would make her happy, and you love her, so you must mean REALLY miserable. It strikes me that honeymoons and rings don't involve family and friends. Is there something about the idea of having all those people around that bothers you? Her family? Yours? Or maybe you are just shy and don't like being the center of attention? Do you have unpleasant associations with some other wedding?

As I said, I could be way way off here, but if any of this strikes a chord, this is something that the two of you should discuss. It may not be about weddings at all.

    Bookmark   August 19, 2004 at 9:32PM
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Thanks very much for the thoughtful responses.

To realize that the wedding celebration is not for me, but for the bride and especially the families, is very helpful.

We have talked about this a lot, but more communication will help. I like the suggestion about finances and how to determine what the money would be used for, if it wasn't used for the wedding.

To sg, who wrote the last post:

You are right. It is definitely not just a money issue. Money is a part, but I'm concerned about being uncomfortable at my own wedding reception.

"Is there something about the idea of having all those people around that bothers you? Her family? Yours? Or maybe you are just shy and don't like being the center of attention? Do you have unpleasant associations with some other wedding? "

I can answer yes to all of the questions above except the ones about our families. I don't usually like parties. I have had lots of "unpleasant associations with other weddings", but I have had good experiences at weddings.

Like someone else wrote, I have greatly overestimated the amount of my grumpiness in anticipation of an event. I can go to a party and have fun, but other times be very uncomfortable.

One thing is funny, though. When you start planning a "small" reception, it's incredible how the number of guests grows and grows.

I went to Catholic school for 12 years. In my early teens, I stopped going to mass, etc. On one hand, I think it is totally wrong for me to be married in the Catholic church, because I don't believe in what they teach. On the other hand, would it be better to overlook this, so that my girlfriend would be happy?

This is a question for an ethics professor. You don't have to answer. LOL

Anyway, thanks again for all your replies. They have been very helpful. All these little "problems" have a way of working themselves out.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 8:40AM
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Actually it will be a question for your fiancee and the priest who marries you. I was married in an Anglican (Episcopal) church that I belong to and have been a member of for many years but we (my husband and I) had to meet with our priest and discuss marriage and what it means in the long term. My priest may be one of a dying breed but he refuses to marry people who aren't part of the church (or any church) IN the church because it is a sacrament and he doesn't consider the church just a 'rental hall' but a place of worship where a sacrament (marriage) will be performed.

If you truly don't believe the same things about marriage as the church (where you or your fiancee want to be married) does then perhaps you should discuss that with your fiancee because that's a major issue that will continue to be present long after the marriage vows are over.

If neither of you is religious or you just can't bring yourself to be married in the church, perhaps you could talk with your fiancee about a smaller ceremony with a justice of the peace and then have a priest bless you and your guests at a reception?

Either way, it does sound like you are trying to find a way to make your fiancee happy and get through the planning part of the wedding and I wish you all the best.

FWIW, the wedding day is something my husband still talks about with great fondness, 3 months after the fact and he was nervous about it all and being in the spotlight, but he wouldn't trade those memories for anything. Neither would I.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 2:48PM
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My fiance sounds just like you. In the early stages of our relationship he was a against marriage all together as he didn't see it necessary to have a piece of paper that says we will be together. I explained to him that while the piece of paper might be that, there is much more to marriage than just the me it has symbolism and spiritulism too. This was about 6 months into our relationship and about 6 months later he proposed to me (with no pressure from me - I might add). So then the planning begins, he is completely anti-wedding. I have no need for a big production but I want the white dress and the dinner and the dancing. I wound up spending more on my dress than we had planned, it took a little while for him to understand why it meant so much to me. It's very difficult for me to plan some of the stuff, because he is very uncomfortable with "typical" weddings...because he sees them as a waste of money (he does however feel if you already own a house and have money to burn, to each his own).

Because he loves me and wants me to be happy, and realizes that it is also about our friends and families who would be devastated if they didn't get to be there, we are having a reception. Because I love him and want him to feel comfortable we are having a backyard reception with the atmosphere of a barbeque (with dressy clothes).

You are very right about the growing guest list on what starts out to be the smallest wedding. Set very strict guidelines and don't budge once you've made the decision. Also, condidering your ages, I would assume that your parents would have less control over the guest list which will help to keep it down.

When my mom married my step dad they had a ceremony in their living room and took us out to dinner afterwards. They had a cake and their first dance in the living room after the ceremony, I cried. The only guests were their five children and our significant others (and their one grandbaby).

Do what you are comfortable with and what suits your personalities. As far as the religion goes, my non-religious friend got married in the catholic church because it was her fiance's choice. They had to take marriage classes, which is a good idea anyway, and she was happy to do it for him.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 3:46PM
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For the past few years I started to think it was a waste of money that could be used for a house. Then one day someone asked me if I had a big wedding, which I did (40 years ago), and was I sorry I wasted the money. I look back on my wedding day with great fondness. Most of my family are gone now and I think of them when I see my wedding photos. For years relatives would often say what a great wedding it was (a Brooklyn affair). Tomorrow my daughter will be married with the full treatment (not extravagent) and we have really enjoyed the last year planning. In fact today my 3 daughters and I went for a manicure and pedicure together and had a wonderful lunch together. So I have it's much more than the day itself. We, as a family, have spent quite a bit of quality time planning for this event.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 6:13PM
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For the bride, her wedding day is just that..its something most of us have planned since we were little girls. Some people imagine it different and do it according to their budget, which is fine.

My finace and I decided to have the traditional church and reception type wedding and bought most of our stuff on ebay..and saved hundreds of dollars if not more. This way we have our dream wedding and we can actually afford it... that is the key. I even went as far as getting a second job waitressing just so I can save up more money (mainly from tips) to pay off credit cards and save for the wedding...yes its hard, but soo worth it when my wedding day comes.

I think you will end up loving it if you have a wedding reception and years later will look back and you'll be glad that you made so many people happy, including yourself.

Good luck and let us know what you decide.

    Bookmark   August 20, 2004 at 6:56PM
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I think most fathers of the bride, especially, groan and wish they'd take the money, elope or have a small wedding, and spend the big bucks saved on a house. But...that was not our daughter's wish, soooooo

    Bookmark   August 21, 2004 at 3:10AM
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I can understand your thoughts and feelings, but as you know - all relationships are about compromise, and your wedding day is no exception. Just as you are considering your future Bride's feelings for her need to have a fancy wedding, she should consider yours for keeping it simple.

I would suggest working to a budget and sticking to it. We had about an $8000 budget, and spent about $7000 total, including everything from the dress to the reception, evening disco and buffet etc. We had 50 guests. We asked for travel vouchers for wedding gifts, which essentially paid for the honeymoon. If you are in your 40s, you probably don't need an enourmous amount of "stuff" for your home anyway, since you most likely have a lot of it already, so consider the same request...?
We made our own invitations, married in an old hotel, used a local woman to do the flowers (rather than a high-street florist) - there are so many areas you can cut costs without cutting into the over all effect of the day. Truly, everybody thought it was a fantastic day. We did a "pay your own" bar in the evening, that helped too. And a freind did the dance for free.

Other option is to get married abroad on a beach during vacation somewhere hot, then all go out for a huge slap up meal afterwards with family and friends. If the bill for the food reaches $1500 - that's a heck of a cheap "wedding reception".


    Bookmark   August 21, 2004 at 8:15PM
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Mikgarden - I'm with you.... I would be fine spending $150 for the marriage license and eloping. I actually was almost insistant about it (which is one reason I'm still single) but my situation was different than yours. Still, I would have been very uncomfortable with even a small ceremony and reception.

Don't have as much a problem with the ring, because at least that's tangible and maintains its value to some extent, whereas any money spent for a fancy wedding dissipates by the morning after.

And Sunshine4376, you don't think extoling on the "symbolism and spiritulism" of marriage is in any way pressuring him?

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 1:38AM
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Lee676 - I have to disagree with you that

"whereas any money spent for a fancy wedding dissipates by the morning after".

We didn't spend a huge amount - $7000 total, or thereabouts, and yet still - 7+ years later, the memories of that day are priceless, and worth every last penny. I would do it all again today in a heart-beat. I don't like to be "center of attention' in these kind of situations either - and as the Bride I couldn't avoid that of course, LOL - but the whole day was so wonderful that it far outweighed the 10 seconds of discomfort when walking "down the aisle". I really looked at it as a celebration of love and family. i didn't buy into all the little by-products that suck your money up. I reserved the cash for things that were important us. I certainly didn't wake up the next morning regretting th emoney we'd spent, and years later I still think it was worth it.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 11:59AM
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I guess, to each his or her own. For me it would have been far more than 10 seconds of discomfort.

    Bookmark   August 22, 2004 at 4:49PM
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Communication and different ideas about how to use money are two of the main rocks on which many marriages break up. I would start working it out with your intended, from today! Get it right, right from the beginning, decide on which issues you both are willing to compromise without selling your own feelings out. Good luck!

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 6:47AM
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about the "center of attention" thing--can you figure out WHY? Just as an exercise in getting to know yourself?

And you're lucky as the groom--you can mentally consider yourself as an "accessory to the bride," and so deflect the "other people's expectations" pressure that comes w/ being the center of attention. That doesn't mean you're any less important, and I'm sure your bride doesn't think of you as unmportant at ALL--but it does mean that during uncomfortable hooplah (which isn't necessarily expensive--just the aunts, and all that), you can think of her, and how to support her, etc., and stop thinking about yourself.

It's an advantage grooms have over brides, I think.

Also, I can only speak as a bride, one who observed her groom. We were SO busy, so caught up in the emotion of the day, so caught up with each other, that we really didn't notice stuff like the aunts, and the dancing, and all that. So I wonder if you will even have mental TIME to feel miserable at your wedding reception.

When it was my wedding, it was just not comparable to other people's weddings where I was a guest. It was just so very different, so much more emotional, etc. It went by in a blur.

And I was so happy, just SO happy, to be marrying BIll that it was not possible to be miserable. My goodness, my FACE hurt from smiling so much! And I couldn't stop, even though I *tried*, because it *hurt*.

HE was flustered, and happy, and just not able to really concentrate on all the pressure, and expectations, etc. He (and I) enjoyed the dinner, and the time with the relatives, and the dancing. But all the other stuff that makes you miserable at someone else's wedding? That just totally didn't register.

So, don't predict your own wedding-day emotions & reactions by the weddings you've been a GUEST at.

Instead, find some other day that was highly charged for you: my wedding day was MUCH more like my college graduation party.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 2:20PM
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Lots of others have given advice about cost and what you both really want. However, you mentioned being uncomfortable getting married in a church. So I'll share my experience with you. I got married less than a year ago. I'm a Christian, now husband (then fiance) is atheist. I was attending two different churches (due to being in two different locations on Sunday regularly). Standing before God and receiving a bessing from a pastor was very important to me as I made this lifelong commitment. However, I didn't want my future husband to lie about his religious beliefs at all, and I was very up-front with the two different pastors. One said "no", he wouldn't do an inter-faith marriage. However, my Methodist pastor agreed to after she met with both of us. We were able to make a wedding ceremony that both honored my religious beliefs but was respectful of his very different belief.

    Bookmark   August 23, 2004 at 2:39PM
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Perhaps going to a place like a public garden, would fit both of your needs. When hubby & I were married, we were gonna do the Vegas thing but decided we wanted nice scenery for photos. We ended up flying to Florida & getting married at Cypress gardens. For about $3,000. we paid for my gown (wasn't fancy) a tux rental for him, rental of Cypress, plane tickets and hotel plus rental car. It was perfect for us, we didn't want the big wedding & we had fun. If you want to do something like this, you could also invite immediate family only.

I don't have photos online any more of it, but if you'd like to see them, I'd be glad to upload some. A friend of mine went to Kentucky (I think) and married where they have a gazeebo & log cabins, just the 2 of them. She didn't choose a white dress instead went for one that was more for brides maids, which looked really great on her. I also have her photos too.

    Bookmark   September 1, 2004 at 10:35AM
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However you do it, you will remember that day for the rest of your life. Keeping that in mind, I suggest that you work this out with your fiancee so that you both will be comfortable with it. Communication is everything in a relatonship and it doesn't start AFTER you say "I do"!

    Bookmark   September 7, 2004 at 5:43PM
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My MIL wanted us to have the "big deal" and it was truly beautiful. And yes, there were nice memories... however, it is also incredibly stressful. Incredibly. There is such pressure. And I was the bride! It is as though something takes over some women as they start pouring over the wedding magazines...and family members (aka in-laws) get very involved, and everything needs to be planned so far in advance. By the time the wedding arrives, and the stress of the whole thing, I was looking at him, his family, how my family and I fit into this whole new family , and panicked. I was terrified by then. My MIL literally went to 9 different stores to match the wrapping paper on the bridesmaid gifts, to the EXACT shade of the dresses. I was hyperventilating by this time. I dropped like 15 lbs before my wedding that I did not need to lose.

I vote for something romantic with immediate family, and REALLY close friends in a vineyard, garden wedding. Keep it really small, but lovely.

    Bookmark   February 12, 2006 at 7:39PM
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I had a wedding with just 4 friends present and no family. I still regret it. It is important to state your vows in front of those who are and will continue to be an important part of your life. My parents sent us $1000 instead of paying the plane fare to come and be at the wedding. I wish they had been there instead. My friends have had backyard weddings, church weddings, apartment weddings, etc. etc. The most important thing is the people who are there to share this public commitment with you, not the details of the budget. I would never want acquaintances at my wedding but I would want very close friends and family there if I were to do it again.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2007 at 8:33PM
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