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12 February 2010 @ 07:14 pm
[society] Wedding Planning  
No, no, I am not planning a wedding. You haven't missed any big announcement. I was talking to cabell about her wedding planning and during the course of the conversation, I was struck by the idea that people seem to be very willing to (negatively) critique other people's wedding plans, more so than a lot of things(1), and I'd like to figure out why.

Cabell and I mused on this for awhile, and I like the theory (or theories) we ended up with, but I'd like your thoughts, too, since a lot of you have more experience with these things than I do.

I will share an excerpt from our discussion:

Cabell: I think the problem is I keep telling people things I plan to do. Clearly that is a mistake.
Carla: Yes, I am starting to think so. Though understandable! I mean, you're excited! You want to share! That's a good thing. It seems a lot of times, people are more willing to negatively critique wedding plans than other things, too.
Cabell: Yeah, I think you're right. The problem is when I say I'm going to do anything that has a traditional history. Like, when I say "I'm getting married in the desert in a red dress," THAT'S fine and no one can argue with me because there's no precedent. But as soon as I do anything that anyone ever did before, everyone has an extremely strong opinion.
Carla: While normally I support people sharing opinions with their friends, etc., I do think that for something so personal as a wedding, there should be some filters in place. Though maybe that's part of the problem; I don't know that weddings are actually seen as a personal thing anymore.
More of a public space.

So what do you guys think? Are weddings treated more as a public space than a personal event? As in, they're less for the couple getting married and more for everyone else? I'm intrigued by this, but would like to hear other thoughts.

(1) Raising children is a similar exception, I think, though I can't speak about it from experience, either.
Current Mood: curiouscurious
the needless antagonistnygoldfish54 on February 12th, 2010 10:17 pm (UTC)
It's interesting you mention this because my cousin got married a year ago and I've thought a lot about this.

I have always, always, always been raised NOT to comment on other people's weddings/plans (although we do discuss cost because it's become so outrageous). Weddings are for the married couple. It is their day and you are there to celebrate their marriage and shut up. The show 'Say Yes to the Dress' is a great microcosm of it - those brides go into that store and for every dress they try on, every viewer at home is voicing their opinion. And more often than not, they pick a dress I, personally, hate. But there's a dress out there for every girl and I don't have to like them all.

That said, weddings have become such a grabby-gimme event I almost feel people have the right to (negatively) critique the wedding itself. Women, in particular, have to spend a ton of money. First you have to get a dress (assuming you don't have one). Then, if you're close to the family, you have to go to the shower, where you're expected to buy a shower present + one of those blind gift item things from their register. THEN there's the gift itself. My family has always done the "give what you can afford" thing, but let's be real, if you're close to the family (or if it IS your family) you're likely to spend more than you can actually afford. It's ridiculous.

If you're spending anywhere from $500-$1500 on these people, and your food isn't good, or you prefer the bride wears a vale, I understand the temptation to voice your opinion (or mutter under your breath).

But in general, you're supposed to shut up. It's not your wedding, shut up. Certain people get to voice their opinions but the general public is supposed to shut up.
Carla M. Leecarlamlee on February 12th, 2010 10:36 pm (UTC)
I haven't seen that show. Maybe I'll keep an eye out for it.

I think your comments about the cost and all the things to buy very much falls under the umbrella of a traditional wedding, and seems to agree with Cabell's point about the traditional parts being the places where people feel comfortable criticizing what she's doing. Hmm.

I think people are negatively responding on an individual level to things which are more problems with society's expectations of weddings (and heterosexuality in general). This bothers me somewhat, because I think the spending more than you can afford thing is far more because of the pressures of society than the expectations of the individuals involved. (Though maybe I have been particularly lucky about having friends who aren't demanding and caught up in more money is better.) I will have to give this more thought.
the needless antagonistnygoldfish54 on February 13th, 2010 12:31 am (UTC)
You could be right about money. I live in the greater NYC area where weddings tend to be extremely lavish affairs. It is perfectly possible that money does not play the role in most weddings that it plays in the weddings I have seen.

But TV in particular seems to make it look like that if you're invited to a wedding you're supposed to "pay for your plate" via gifts. If this is the way most weddings are (obviously TV is not a great projection of reality but I've only seen a few weddings and most echoed this "pay for your plate" trend) then maybe people planning their weddings shouldn't be surprised when people paying all this money criticize.

Of course this is not necessarily the case for your friend, it's just my experience. But I've grown up in an extraordinarily wealthy part of the country (in spite of my family's only moderate wealth), so my views of weddings might be skewed.
Cabell: trouble every daycabell on February 13th, 2010 04:03 pm (UTC)
This is an interesting comment because it highlights all the stuff that I DON'T want to do. It's always struck me as weird to invite people to like three different pre-wedding events with gift associations, because it does seem like it sends at least SOME message that gifts are expected at all of them. Additionally, given my personal family & friend situation, it would require people to do a lot of traveling--we're actually doing a very small destination wedding and I'm telling people upfront that I understand if they can't travel, especially with relatively short notice. On the other hand, I also really CAN'T invite a whole lot of people, because our wedding site has a 50-person maximum and we're also on a pretty severe budget in terms of catering, etc. In a metropolitan area where many of one's friends were more geographically concentrated, that wouldn't be such an issue either way.

Our big thing that people are in some cases freaking out about is actually with the registry, because we're planning to do wedding announcements after the fact and include a card with registry info with the announcement (not on the announcement itself, but same envelope). This was on the unsolicited advice of my sister, who is a professional event planner and has worked with wedding planners in the past; her position was, "People are just going to be calling you up individually to ask about it if you don't put it in there." Other people seem to feel that this qualifies as a breath-takingly rude gift shakedown, but for me, a) I think my sister is right that a lot of people will want to know, b) I don't think that providing the info counts as a demand, and c) it actually seems MORE of an imposition to ask people to pay to attend a destination wedding in Vegas when it's not even the off-season than to just send them some nice pictures after it's happened.

So yeah, that's the issue. And after consulting with my mother, who didn't think it was rude and tends to be kind of weird about things in her own ways, I feel like I should just do what my sister the event planner tells me, rather than stage another party that I don't actually want (and that people would still have to pay to attend!) because people feel like it's okay to put registry info in an invitation to a reception, but not an announcement.

Oh, and another thing--what if it were a BABY? I feel like you're allowed to send people registry info about babies without inviting them to the birth, and frankly, I see this as being kind of similar.
the needless antagonistnygoldfish54 on February 15th, 2010 03:13 am (UTC)
I'm glad other people think these pre-wedding parties are a bit ridiculous. I thought the wedding was the celebration? I don't think the gifts are a bad thing, really; it's just that when you're required to give anywhere from 2 to 4 gifts that it becomes a bit of a burden. You're in the less common position of a destination wedding, so it seems like it's even harder to decide what to do.

Of course, I posted in another comment to Carla that the location of my upbringing may actually skew my views of what weddings are like/supposed to be like. So my ideas may be off.
orangemike: speaksorangemike on February 12th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Cicatrice and I long ago concluded that weddings, like funerals, are not about the nominal Guest(s) of Honor, but about the folks who are attending (or at least invited to attend). [We got married at an SF con, to the annoyance of her mom and grandmom.]
Carla M. Leecarlamlee on February 12th, 2010 10:30 pm (UTC)
I am really intrigued by this. Why are weddings more about the guests? It's easier for me to see why funerals are about the attendees, but I'm not sure about weddings.
orangemikeorangemike on February 12th, 2010 10:53 pm (UTC)
frowns in uffish thought

I think because a wedding is generally one of the most public "intimate" occasions there can be. Any wedding beyond the "A, B, a presiding entity, and a witness" scale is about publicly taking a new position in the institutional framework of one's culture. One need not be indulging in Bridezilla*-style shenanigans to recognize that in American and many other cultures, weddings are deeply, viscerally tied into everything we think about family, friends, and society in general.

*Note that nobody has pitched a series concept about "groomzillas"; perhaps because in the U.S. many women have more control over the details of their weddings (or think they do) than they have over any other big-ticket experience they have ever had, or perhaps ever will have: and women controlling their own fates, or trying to, are always subject to satire and mockery?
Cabellcabell on February 13th, 2010 04:07 pm (UTC)
I really like your thoughts about the lack of "groomzillas"--I think there is also a pretty strong social norm AGAINST men caring deeply about wedding plans, so they're less likely to express strong opinions than they might otherwise be, but I definitely see your point. Also, since weddings are a very feminine event in this culture, they are more likely to be trivialized in the same way that other "feminine" pursuits and interests (soap operas, anyone?) are, so that people feel more justified in saying that someone is being silly about them.

And yes, actually, the wedding IS a public event; I see it that way, too.
Rosepurr: Jimrosepurr on February 12th, 2010 11:21 pm (UTC)
Jim and I felt like though it was our marriage, the WEDDING was an opportunity to ask for and receive support from our family and friends (i.e. community) and also to ask them to celebrate our commitment to each other. We cleaved to some traditional things and discarded others. We gave our family and friends a lot of input, but the final decision was ours. The criticisms from acquaintances outside of our inner circle was certainly less welcome.
lilacsigil: 12 Apostleslilacsigil on February 13th, 2010 12:56 am (UTC)
My brother and his wife got secretly married for visa reasons, but when all the parents found out, they made them get married again so that everyone could go. They very nearly had to have *two* more weddings, but compromised on one wedding with two dresses (one Western, one Chinese). The two sets of parents ran absolutely everything except the vows, and while this was very welcome as they both had exams, it was still very much open to criticism from absolutely everyone, friends and family alike. Most of the criticism went to the bride, even though she had very little to do with the organisation!

I think this is a prime example of a wedding as public property - there was no legal or personal reason for them to get married again except to have an "event" for the family and their friends. I wonder if the criticism falls on the bride because a) women are always the target of criticism first and b) a wedding is meant to be the culmination of her public life (and now she retires into the home to have children).
'stina: kiss metexaslawchick on February 16th, 2010 05:06 pm (UTC)
My great grandparents had three weddings. The first, secret one that got the ball rolling. (I assume she was pregnant, but I'm not sure.) The Catholic one after the uproar from his side of the family over their being married outside the Church. And then the Protestant one when her family found out that the Catholics were one-upping them.

My grandparents eloped (my grandmother was definitely pregnant with my mom then). My parents eloped. My aunt eloped. My uncle eloped.

My parents always told me and my siblings to elope, partially because my dad has an irrational fear of weddings and partially because he doesn't think that anyone needs to be there but bride, groom and witnesses. I will probably have a wedding, though the more my friends pester me about it, the more I'm inclined to head to Vegas with my boyfriend.

ETA: to the question in general, I think that wedding guests generally have an expectation of the ritual, and when the expectation doesn't mesh with the reality, then there's question and criticism. And wedding guests serve a purpose in the wedding: they're all witnesses to the event. My experience is that so long as there is enough booze and the food is decent, most people ultimately won't care.

Edited at 2010-02-16 08:08 pm (UTC)
doNUT!donutgirl on February 13th, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
I agree with some of the others that weddings are an inherently public concept. Sex is intimate and personal. So is the first time you tell someone you love him/her. A wedding is a party! A wedding is the time when you invite your whole community -- your family, friends, coworkers, religious congregation, what have you -- to help you make your private relationship into a public one.

Now, that doesn't mean people are nice to critique it. That strikes me as incredibly rude and meanspirited, and I don't remember anyone criticizing my wedding.

But I suspect people do it because they view wedding prep as a competitive sport. They want to reassure themselves that their own wedding is cooler/fancier/cheaper/more expensive/more intimate/more quirky/more tasteful/whatever than whoever else's. Precisely because weddings are supposed to be both unique and universal, I think people get a little stressed and angsty about them, which can take the form of defensive sniping.
Mattie: Hmmm...mattie on February 13th, 2010 02:08 am (UTC)
Traditionally, the bride's parents footed the bill for the whole thing, and thus felt entitled to put their two cents in a lot more than they might have in other circumstances. Nowadays the bride and groom often pay for most if not all of the wedding, yet the dynamics of the family being entitled to critique everything hasn't changed to reflect that.

If I'm paying for a significant part of the wedding and/or reception, I would feel entitled to have a say, but if my children paid it, I'd keep my mouth shut unless I was specifically asked for my opinion or advice.

I hope this makes sense. I'm watching the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics and getting all stoked. lol Canada is so awesome.