The Book Club

The Wedding-Industrial Complex


Realizing that I’ve digressed mightily, I’ve been very obediently rereading your messages to make sure we expose the Wedding-Industrial Complex in all its evil.

How have I managed to do two whole days without making fun of “The Big Night” section of The Knot’s Guide? All I can figure is, having opted to forgo the room full of monkeys, The Knot decided to go with the more daring choice of reprinting the output of a hundred teen-age girls in chat rooms. Who else could have written such Menudoian drivel? “(Hint: The tongue isn’t just for kissing anymore.)” Giggle giggle. And here they go again, trying to convince people at one of the most vulnerable moments of their life that they suck as they are and need to spend some more money to become acceptable. Did you see this sidebar: “Don’t neglect to spend a little extra time [read: money] on grooming before you take off for your wedding. A pedicure, manicure, and nice clean shave (we’re talking both sexes here) will do a lot to help set a positive mood for the action to come on your big night.” Click on the bikini wax icon to get 15 percent off a full-body wax at a participating salon. Take another $5 if you have the pedicure/manicure wedding special! Fellas, isn’t it time you got a professional shave from a real barber? Whatsa matter, don’t you love your fiance?

Man that pisses me off! Lots of my perfectly lovely friends have submitted to stupid new beauty procedures in the week before their weddings under exactly this type of self-hating pressure and had to get married with their faces red from some adverse reaction or, more typically, spent the next few years paying it all off. And these unimaginative bozos really exoticize drinking and routinize romance. I’m far, far from a teetotaler, but must everything honeymoon-related require champagne flutes and Dom Perignon (which cost a fortune!)? They can barely get through one breathless paragraph after the other without either lighting 15 candles or popping a cork. Bo-ring.

Here’s a relationship builder for a newly committed couple: stone cold sober, look your new spouse in the eye and tell him/her the most horrible thing you’ve ever done to another person and hold the face-saving excuses, please. How about bathroom etiquette? That’s right–we’re talking doo doo and tampons. Granted, most folks have crossed these intimacy thresholds by the wedding night, but these things are the stuff, you’ll excuse me, of life.

I’d never let a man leave so much as a razor or an extra shirt in my apartment before Scott, let alone lived with a man. I very much reveled in my privacy. Now I have to share everything with him, including me at my worst. If I don’t, I’m going to either have a skin-deep marriage or, worse, I’ll ruin things with the only man in the world for me. The guides don’t come anywhere near that, so it’s insulting when they play around the edges of people’s lives. You can’t stay in the bubble bath, feeling each other up by candlelight forever. If you can’t envision yourself deciding on a breakfast cereal together, the road ahead of you is bumpy, my dear. They should have stopped at the point where the stupid, useless limo (we came home in our beat up, gerbil-powered 87 un-air-conditioned Honda Civic hatchback) pulls away from the overpriced wedding hall. These Wedding Industry guys think they’re so brave, making head jokes, but all these money-grubbers really do is talk down to people. I suppose they think they’re helping, but they think all the help people need can, and should, be bought. You hit the nail on the head, Andy: minimum, 200 pages shorter and mind their own damned business.

Did you hire a coordinator? We didn’t. Partly because of the cost, partly because the odds of finding one who wasn’t a complete scammer or moron, just overcharging us, planning whatever she wants and steering us to her (they seem to be mostly women) price-fixing friends. Mostly because we would have just ended up bumping heads, I’m sure, being the forceful types that we are.

Did we use any of these books? No. Never bought any, just mags. The bride magazines, I saw early on, were just ways of bundling ads masquerading as articles. They were so overstuffed and ad-filled, they drove me mad; I just felt so manipulated and exploited. I could almost see the editors rubbing their hands avariciously knowing most people lost all sense of proportion when planning a wedding. Since I wanted a non-Scarlett O’Hara, non-white gown, the mags were practically useless to me. It was all so numbingly traditional. Even if I saw a dress I liked, it turned out to be available only in New York or L.A. I needed D.C.-specific vendors and information. As I said yesterday, Washingtonian magazine’s Web site seems to own that territory, and we relied almost exclusively on it. Washington Bride magazine, though, had a helpful page on the relevant area laws re blood tests, etc.

We didn’t use a traditional bound planner like you did; we just made computer files and stashed receipts, etc in an accordion file. We’re both PalmPilot junkies–we did a lot of the management there. The Washingtonian’s Web site told us all the logistical info we needed–how far ahead halls booked, what sorts of deposits would be required and how much. From there, it was easy to calculate backwards to figure out how long something could be put off. We knew we wanted to get married between September and Thanksgiving, so we set the date and picked the location simultaneously, knowing that with many places booking a year in advance, we were already behind the power curve. The Arts Clubs did its own catering, so that was one less choice to make. Frankly, until about two weeks before the big day, it really was just like another of our many overachieving projects. It didn’t seem real till our friends and relatives started arriving.

I dunno about being glad my wedding is over. It was heaven. We owned that day (the good ‘we’–the Scott and Debra ‘we’, not the mystical Martha We). We owned it because the people who love us gave it to us as a present. Since I was young, I’ve always known there was a 90 percent probability I’d never marry and that if I did it wouldn’t be till I was pretty old (40, as it turned out) and it would happen suddenly. It was so lovely, and as I stood looking out at the ecstatic faces of everyone who loves us and everyone we love (we never turned our backs to the audience), the planets were in perfect alignment. It was the only day of my life I dropped all my salty urban-chick-on-her-own ‘tude and just let it all be. It was a day of pure, un-bullshitted emotion. I suppose it will take giving birth to get me there again.

There’s a photo of me waving (that beauty-queen-riding-in-an-open-limo pitying kind of wave) to one of my late-ass friends slinking into her seat partway through the service that sums that day up–I look like a cross between Queen Victoria and Diana Ross. Diva city. We’d stayed in touch, but I hadn’t seen that friend in 10 years because we both move around so much, yet there she was–her hellishly busy life on hold–to see me married. And looking like a million bucks. I felt so blessed. And that you can’t buy, no matter how unlimited your budget, no matter how closely you follow Martha’s advice. Wouldn’t you agree, Andy?