Monday, February 20, 2012

Marriage is a luxury?

I hate weddings, really. There's so much to dislike about them. You have to dress up. If you're a bridesmaid, you have to dress up in something expensive that you'll never wear again (I've done it three times). You eat way too much. The music is Too Damn Loud. When I go to a family wedding, most of the people I want to talk to are outside smoking half the time. I angst over how much to write the stupid check for.

The celebration of the love of two people? Whatever.

So reading this post kind of bugs me because it reminds me how invested we are in A Wedding in this country. Anne points out all the problems inherent in such an investment and that this may be a strategy in the process of turning working class people against same-sex marriage. But basically, it sucks if having A Wedding is the only way you feel you can be valuable/worthy in this society.

I really really hope my kids elope or something.


Amy P said...

Marriage isn't a luxury, but weddings are.

I think when my husband and I got married in graduate school that we kept the tab in the medium hundreds--dress, bouquet, check to the church, rings and the groceries I used to make lunch (quiche plus some salads). Of course, there were only about 8 people total involved.

So many times these days, weddings wind up straining relationships between newlyweds and their friends and family, rather than reinforcing them. The bridesmaid who no longer wants to be friends with the bride after having been put through bridal hell is now a staple of the advice columns.

I'm kind of tempted to offer my kids the cash that would be spent on their weddings for house downpayments.

Wendy said...

But if you cannot imagine marriage without the wedding, then marriage is a luxury. It's such a problem because marriage has nothing to do with the ceremony, if you ask me. But what do I know. I've been married only 19 years and 9 months. ;)

Amy P said...

I suspect that one factor is that weird, non-linear things happen to disposable income as income goes up:

There's been a lot of nit-picking over the details of Wyatt Emmerich's numbers, but I think his story is basically correct: there are a lot of benefits and tax breaks that fade out as low-income workers make more money, with a sort of no-man's land between the bottom tier (where there are lots of government benefits) and the true middle class (where there are lots of employer benefits). If you can't realistically jump into the true middle class, it doesn't pay to leave the bottom tier (for instance by marrying and increasing household income).

MH said...

Weddings can be biggish and simple. Just some trays of sandwiches and a few kegs are all you really need for a reception. Our bar bill was huge, but my f-i-l was paying and wanted a full bar because all of his friends drink whiskey.

Wendy said...

I don't disagree that weddings can be big or small, but there is a certain kind of pressure to make it bigger. In the Northeast, weddings are big catered affairs, almost always. You get a catering hall, you get the Venetian pastry cart, you get the DJ and the limos, you take pics at the most scenic locations, you have 9 bridesmaids... Oy.

Anonymous said...

I see the "big wedding" phenomenon being part of the emulation of the super-rich/super celebrities, stemming from knowledge (we know how those super rich run their weddings, instead of having the weddings behind closed doors, like in the old days of the english aristocracy, or Bill Gate's wedding and we feel entitled, because we're supposed to be classless).

A friend once told me that Ms. Manners said that a wedding should be a "enhanced" version of your own social life -- if you're a princess, then the 1000 person wedding at Westminster abbey makes sense, because that *is* an enhanced version of your social life. If your normal social entertainment is to meet in a pub for trivia night & pints, well, you should be planning a different kind of wedding than the princess (and, you and your guests will enjoy it more).

I think people are expecting to be able to emulate the lifestyles of the rich and famous in ways that truly diminish their own lives (from granite counters in kitchens to blahnik shoes, to 1000 dollar dresses for infants to 30,000 cribs).


MH said...

I think the old English aristocracy used to have pretty laid back weddings. Protestants with money really strived to be dull for most of the modern era. Big weddings in the U.S. came from immigrants, mostly Catholic but also Jewish and Orthodox.

I don't doubt you're right about why the big weddings started to cost so much. Beer and a cookie table and pasta aren't enough to keep up with the Jones.

Amy P said...

bj is quite right about the Miss Manners (AKA Judith Martin) quote--a wedding should be recognizably the same sort of entertaining you do in your normal life. It shouldn't be a complete anomaly that you spend the next five years paying for.

I think MH is also correct about the low-key quality of traditional American Protestant weddings. In the good old days, you could get away with just cake and punch. But cake and punch don't cut it if your guests have bought plane tickets and paid for hotel rooms, not to mention if it's a multiday event.

Amy P said...

I'm planning my soon-to-be-7-year-old's birthday, and I just realized that between the indoor moonbounce play place and drinks, sheet cake and dinner (pizza or Chik-fil-a) for around 50 people (D's 13 classmates, siblings, parents, plus a neighbor family) that's going to be more or less what we spent on our wedding. (Not taking into account inflation, of course.)