Monday, December 20, 2010

Photography Hell

I've noticed a trend every time I log onto one of the wedding websites: the ever-present threat of photography. Or, more accurately, photography that goes horribly awry and is ruined because you, dear bride, didn't put enough effort into your wedding to make it worthy of being immortalized in a .JPEG file.

This is a consistent theme. Like most things inspired by the MIC, the threat is never made explicit. Instead, it's written as if it were a scandal that can only be discussed in hushed voices and polite euphemisms. It's like the nuptial equivalent of the high school girl who "went away to her aunt's house for a year," but we all know that she actually got knocked up by a dude who just happened to be a heroin dealer, junior high drop-out,  and her second cousin.

Some cases in point: 

1. The flowers will be one of the most photographed elements of your wedding. Therefore, it's important to choose centerpieces and bouquets that perfectly fit your wedding style. (Underlying message: when people look at your wedding photos -- which they'll be doing in large numbers, since you'll set up a slide show at work and everyone will sit at rapt attention while analyzing your floral choice -- they'll notice if your flowers don't fall within the parameters of your pre-determined theme and style. They will notice, and they will be aghast at your lack of consideration for this most blessed of blessed details.)
  2. Your wedding dress will be photographed more than any article of clothing you ever own. (Underlying message: THIS DRESS IS SACRED! You'd best ensure that it's perfect, because it will be immortalized in your photos - and those photos will be occassionally worshipped as an object of transcendent beauty.)
3. Take time to select a good wedding hairstyle -- it will be heavily photographed! (Underlying message: your 90-year-old Grandpa, the one who can't make it to your wedding and will be relying on photographs of the big day, will absolutely pay close attention to your hairstyle. He'll want those close-ups of the updo! He'll want side-shots that show both your profile and the little curled wispy bits that frame your face! People care about these things! They care deeply!) 

4.  An insufficiently decorated cake table can ruin your reception photos. (Underlying message: when people look at your wedding photos, they will be appalled if you have an inadequately decorated cake table. They'll think you're lacking in proper judgment and, quite possibly, not fit to be a parent. After all, the lack of decor on your cake table ruined your wedding pictures forever. You can't expect that people who make such bad wedding decisions will be able to make good life decisions - and you certainly can't expect that such morally bankrupt people would be able to care for small children.)
Ok, so wedding photography is a fact of life. Pictures will be taken. None of that is a revelation. But somehow, the MIC makes the leap from photography being a mere fact to it being a compelling reason to spend a shitload of money on your hair, dress, flowers, and table linens.

This just strikes me as...a steaming pile of crap. I mean, yes, I fully anticipate that lots of pictures will be taken. But really, is it necessary to use that as a life-altering reason to spend phenomenal amounts of money on things that, if we're being honest, very few people are actually going to notice?

I really don't think that people are going to analyze the wedding pictures as carefully as the MIC believes they will. Maybe it's just the people I know, but I can't imagine any of my friends or family pouring over every detail of every picture and then sneering when they find one that they feel is lacking. And, even if they do pull something like this, it's not worth spending an inordinate amount of money just to make sure you have the perfect setting and subjects for the photographer. Anyone who finds themselves aggrieved over too few shots of the bride's hair can get over it.

The fact is, as with all threats of wedding failure and eternal infamy, no one will actually die if the cake table isn't festooned with cascading flowers and glitter. The world will not actually stop spinning if there aren't 100 perfectly-angled pictures of your hair. Your 90-year-old Grandpa, your mom, and all the people who care about your will simply be happy to have pictures of the event. Chances are, they'll be looking at your facial expression -- and swooning over the look of sheer joy and exuberance you and your new spouse have on your respective faces -- and they probably won't give a rat's ass about the flowers, your hair, or the cake table.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Say Yes to the Dress; No to the Princesses

So I'm going home to Colorado for Christmas, and I'll be going dress shopping while I'm there.
I'm a bit nervous about this.
You see, my only reference point for shopping for a wedding dress is seeing Say Yes to the Dress while I'm on the elliptical at the gym. To put it mildly, I wouldn't trust those people to sell me a damn plastic bag. If some woman who consistently fails to fill in her lip liner tries to convince me to spend epic amounts of money on a dress by saying things like "This is the most impoah-tant dress you'll evah buy," I will run screaming from the dress shop. I'll die of exposure in the parking lot of a mall in Denver before enduring more of that obnoxious shit. 
There are other elements of this that make me nervous, though, even if I'm not helped by a dude who tweezer-massacres his eyebrows.
First of all, the dreaded princess factor reaches a fever pitch when dress shopping. I've lost count of how many times the princess theme is invoked in reference to bridal gowns. I'm mildly terrified that I'll be surrounded by women who want nothing more than to drown in a tsunami of tulle, or to sob with joy upon finding the one dress in the entire universe that makes them look like Walt Disney vomited tafetta all over them. I don't like tulle or tafetta. I refuse to wear anything that makes me look like a cupcake or that requires having a giant bow on my ass. I'm the anti-princess. Do bridal shops even encounter, let alone deal with, people who visibly cringe when the word princess is used? Shit. I'm already in for it.
Secondly, I'm not willing to spend a lot of money on a dress. I want to get one that I like, but the fact is, I'm only going to wear it once. I wouldn't spend thousands of dollars on any piece of clothing, even if I knew I was going to wear it every week for the next ten years -- so I see no reason to go into debt for something that I'll only wear for a few hours. I'm operating on a very, very limited budget (to be specific, no more than $350 for this thing) because not only can I not afford to drop a ton of cash on a dress, but also because, based purely on principle, I refuse to do so.
But then the MIC pressure-cooker arrives, spewing mantras like "Your wedding dress will be photographed and documented more than any other article of clothing you own." Are they kidding?! If we start measuring the value of clothing by the number of times it'll be photographed, Nieman Marcus will be forced out of business because their clothes will be devalued faster than Soviet currency.

But nonetheless, the MIC kinda makes a girl feel like she's going to wind up wearing a burlap bag if she doesn't shell out serious cash for this unbelievably important, uber-photographed, most-critical-garment-of-her-entire-life bit of fabric.
But really, that's what it is: fabric. Which, if all goes according to plan, you will only wear once. Yes, it's important. And yes, it will be photographed. But -- and maybe I'm being delusional here -- I doubt people are going to pour over the details of it and scrutinize each bead. Chances are, the extent of the attention paid to my dress will be "Oh, that's a pretty dress. And she doesn't have a giant bow on her ass! Lovely!"
While I completely agree with the idea that it's definitely impotant to get a dress that you like, I see no reason to spend as much you'd have to shell out for a month-long trip to Paris or for, say, an entire car. I'll be irritated beyond all reason if someone (salespeople at bridal stores, I'm looking at you) tries to convince me I should spend that much money or risk looking like a haggard, emphysemic bag lady who lives under an overpass.
The question, though, will be whether or not it's possible for an anti-princess on a limited budget to find a dress she likes. Updates to follow.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Epic WTF

I can't even come up with a good intro for this, so I'm just going to say, in all my flabbergasted glory: why the hell is there a show called Bridalplasty? Did I fall into an alternate universe populated entirely by stupid people? No, seriously, was there a rip in the time-space continuum and I just happened to miss it?

I'd heard about Bridalplasty and thought it must be a joke (right? RIGHT?) but came to the horrifying realization that it's real when I started seeing random articles about it. Now, my tried-and-true strategy for handling things I don't like is to bury my head in the sand, thus looking like a humanoid-ostrich hybrid, while hoping that it will GO AWAY because I am NOT DEALING WITH IT RIGHT NOW.


That strategy worked up until last weekend. In a random turn of events, a friend sent an email noting that Bridalplasty would be a good topic for this here slice o' the blogosphere. After hearing a thing or two about the show itself, I totally agreed and figured I should try to watch it at some point, just to get a brief sampling of its absurdity. A tapas platter of crazy, if you will.

As luck would have it, I felt like death that evening and thus decided to stay home from a friend's birthday party. Because I watch ludicrously bad TV whenever my Betrothed is gone, I turned on E! News. As I sat on the couch in a stupor, drooling on myself and pondering the nature of turnips, Bridalplasty came on. I perked up and allocated my one remaining brain cell to taking mental notes on this train wreck of a show.
And what a train wreck it is.

I don't even know where to start with this. Is it the fact that some of these women have the self-esteem of a gnat and say things like "my stomach is the only thing I like about myself"? Is it the idea that other women are clearly there so they can have an absurdly extravagant wedding for free, because they can't afford to throw their own "fairy tale wedding"? How about the nagging issue that all of these women are actually quite pretty, and certainly not in need of a plastic surgery overhaul?

Holy shit. I'm pretty sure my jaw is still on the floor after watching this.

It begs all sorts of questions. Where did they find these people? Like, was there a casting call that went out saying things like "Looking for women with astonishingly low self-worth who are willing to compete for enough plastic surgery to look like the love-child of Frankenstein and Heidi Montag"? And what the hell sort of dude wants to see, floating down the aisle sporting boobs the size of torpedoes, some lady who looks nothing like the woman to whom he got engaged? Who are these guys, Spencer Pratt's clones?

I particularly hated the fact that the word 'perfection' was busted out at least 8 times in the first minute. Look perfect, be perfect, have the perfect wedding. Have the perfect chin, the perfect lips, the perfect thighs. I mean, really: everybody wants to look their best, but what's up with the need for perfection? Would it be so wrong to say "there are a few things I'm self-conscious about, but nobody's perfect," or, for a real shocker that could hasten the apocalypse, "I'm happy with myself the way I am"?

Because I tend to become defiant when faced with something that I find absurd, infuriating, or both, I responded to this by retrieving my lactard-friendly ice cream (use air quotes on ice stomach has been hating on lactose lately) and polishing off what was left. Take that, Bridalplasty! I'm eating fucking dessert! Kiss my imperfect ass!

My hope is that something will go horribly awry and that the bride who wins the grand prize will wind up looking like cat-lady. Or that her washboard abs and miniscule waist, when combined with her massive boobs and newly-filled ass the size of Kazakhstan, totally throws off her center of gravity and causes her to fall on her face while walking down the aisle. That'd make it all worth it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

I Have Issues With Themes

Before delving into this next post, let me warn you: the badly drawn stick figure illustrations continue. I'm doing this because a) I had fun making these, and b) I'm a genuinely horrible artist, and Microsoft Paint is an excellent way to showcase my utter lack of talent. But I digress. On to the heart of the matter...

Along with colors and flowers, my online wedding website planner thingy says I should be considering a theme. I find this mildly annoying, since the online planning thingy follows this up by asking asinine questions like "What's your wedding's mood?" (I don't know; ask my wedding. If you wake it up from a deep sleep to inquire about its mood, though, it's probably going to punch you in the face.) I'm fairly bewildered by the very idea of finding a theme, though, because it never occurred to me that I'd need to throw a theme party in addition to getting married.
Given my dearth of theme party experience, I decided to do some research on this. As it turns out, theme suggestions abound. Seasonal themes, beach themes, fairy tale themes, literary themes...the list carries on. Some of them, though, piss me right the hell off.

Take, for example, the literary themes. Now one would think, being the horribly bookish mega-nerd that I am, that I'd love this. But here's the problem: the most oft-mentioned literary themes are The Great Gatsby and Romeo and Juliet. Seriously? Did the people who suggest this shit not complete 10th grade English? Here's a quick flashback to high school: The Great Gatsby is a story about the American Dream gone horribly awry; it involves extra-marital affairs, tragic deaths, and a constant undercurrent of loneliness, cynicism, and moral decay. As for Romeo and Juliet, let's review its genre: it's a tragedy. It's not the greatest love story ever told, it's a fucking tragedy. Romeo and Juliet both wind up dead. And, just to add to the shittiness of their situation, their deaths could've been prevented if they hadn't been so stupid and impulsive.

So tell me: why would anyone want either of these works to be the over-arching theme of their wedding?
The issue of fairly-tale themes also grates on me, but for different reasons. I've always been a bit of an odd bird, so when I was growing up, I never wanted to be the princess in the Disney films I saw. (For the record, though, I did rather adore Belle from Beauty and the Beast. The villagers all described her as being "different from the rest of us" because she always had her nose stuck in a book. I could relate.) Belle aside, though, I wasn't down with being a Disney princess. No, I wanted to be the evil witch. Those women were badass. I thought it was awesome.

In first grade, when all the other girls were dressing up as fairies and princesses for Halloween, I wanted to go as Malificent from Sleeping Beauty. My mom made me a magenta and black cape. I carried a DIY sceptre. I got to wear eye shadow. It was glorious.

So, the bottom line is that I don't want to be a fairy-tale princess. Princesses are wholesome and sweet, and I'm neither of those things. So unless a fairy-tale themed wedding can accommodate Malificent - an evil ne'er-do-well who occasionally morphs into a fire-breathing dragon - as the blushing bride, it's a non-starter for me.
My all-time favorite theme suggestion, though, can best be described as 'douchiness.' It's quite possibly the most absurdly over-involved, unnecessarily complicated, and utterly horrifying scenario I can think of. A case in point, taken verbatim from the website:

A grand wedding invitation -- for example, a vintage cigar box invitation, replete with a custom monogram and label -- will establish the vibe of the whole event. Tie it all together with a tented table number and favor tag that coordinate with the wedding invitation, and have your groom match the theme with a silk woven dot bow tie. Lastly, give your guests a wedding favor that is both old and charming. Vintage cordial glass adorned with velvet blue ribbon and filled with flowers like delphiniums and green pom-pom mums are the ideal send-off.


Once I picked myself up off the floor, I started deconstructing the various absurdities of the above suggestion. First, I have no idea where the hell I'm supposed to come up with 200 vintage cigar boxes. I don't even know where one would acquire a single vintage cigar box, let alone enough to use them as invitations. (And relatedly, what would be postage costs be for sending a bunch of cigar boxes? Those things aren't exactly suitable for letter-size envelopes.)

Secondly, custom monograms and labels? Am I supposed to have as much disposable income as your average rock star? Since I don't, my budget can support something hand-written in Sharpie in place of a custom monogram and label. Does that work as a reasonable facsimilie? No? Shit.

Next, if I asked my Betrothed to wear a silk woven dot bow tie, I might as well ask him to get a sex change. Seriously, I can think of few things more emasculating than a silk dot bow tie. I wouldn't be able to take him seriously. At all. We'd wind up having to repeat our marriage vows without the silk dot bow tie accompanying him, because I'd just giggle the entire time.

Lastly, the vintage cordial glasses. This is a cute idea, but again: where do I find 150-200 vintage cordial glasses? They don't sell them in bulk at Hobby Lobby, which makes me think it will turn into a Holy Grail-like quest to find that many vintage cordial glasses. They'll find me in a back corner of the Georgetown flea market, shaking and twitching while curled up in the fetal position and begging for my mother.

And so, after reviewing all the possible options, my Betrothed and I settled on the perfect theme for our wedding: marriage. Yes, you read that right: the theme of our wedding will be marriage. It's nice and self-explanatory. It won't require extensive coordination, bow ties, or questionable literary references. It's cost-effective. For this Malificent, it might just make me so happy and relieved that I'll never again morph into a fire-breathing dragon.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Grand Floral Strategy

I really like flowers. Like most women, I get really happy and googly-eyed when my Betrothed brings me a pretty bouquet. I get only slightly less happy and googly-eyed when I buy them for myself. Flowers are awesome.

So, when I started working on wedding stuff, I thought this would be fairly straightforward, and possibly even fun. But I certainly didn't expect to be up to my damn neck in floral insanity. (Please pass the Zyrtec.) Per the usual, I turned to my online wedding planner thingy. Per the usual, I was totally put off, if not totally horrified, by the veritable laundry list of things I should be thinking about.

Apparently I'm supposed to devote hours upon hours to thinking about this. I should be meeting with florists, envisioning my theme, colors and preferred motifs, and mapping it all out perfectly into a Grand Floral Strategy:

Your flowers will be one of the most heavily photographed elements of your wedding. As a result, it's important to pick centerpieces and bouquets that truly fit your wedding style.

Well then. No pressure or anything. Really, though, I have a hard time believing that the photographer will spend upwards of 50% of their data space on flowers. They're nice and all, but aren't the people more important? I'd much rather have pictures of my best friend dancing to Lady GaGa than I would of some uber-detailed shot of my bouquet from 8 different angles. I'm just sayin'. So, for me at least, I don't feel like it's necessary to fret about whether or not I can produce bouquets and centerpieces that will be the floral equivalent of an international supermodel while they smile and look pretty for the camera.

(Because I'm feeling particularly punchy tonight, I've decided to flex my decidedly atrophied, if not downright hideous, artistic muscles and make some badly-drawn illustrations to accompany my wise-ass writing. I thank Allie Bosch at Hyperbole and a Half for the inspiration to draw funny shit in Microsoft Paint.)

Once you've made a decision on the flower arrangements you want, you should find a florist who can make it all happen. Be sure to bring pictures and examples of wedding flowers that you like. Before you talk with your florist, make sure that you have your ideal centerpiece ideas and bouquets in mind - as well as your wedding flower budget.

I see no problem with finding examples of things that I like, but really? I just can't bring myself to devote this much time and energy to developing and deploying a Grand Floral Strategy. I don't have a clue what my "ideal" wedding flowers look like. All I know is that, since the bridesmaids' dresses are red, I should probably find colors that don't clash with it. And I don't want them to be overly ornate. Beyond that, I ain't got shit. And, as for my budget? Cheap. As cheap as possible, in fact.

While I can certainly see the value of knowing what one wants and having examples to illustrate it, working with a florist to create the perfect bouquets and centerpieces is an ordeal that apparently requires its own language. No joke. Said language isn't the least bit based in horticulture, either. According to The Knot, I should describe my venues, the architecture of the church and reception cite, level of formality, season, and the style of my dress - all to ensure that the Grand Floral Strategy is implemented with minimal casualties.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I present...

Exhibit A:
Cymbidium orchids, calla lilies, and French tulips come to mind for"chic" weddings - in addition to a generally modern aesthetic and simple, sleek arrangements such as clear acrylic containers. When meeting with florists, describe the visual details of your wedding (for example, your location's architecture, your wedding colors, or your gown's design): "The semi-formal reception is in the courtyard of a Spanish-style boutique hotel." Or "A posh dress and a black-tie wedding in summer, on a rooftop in the city, with an all-white color scheme."

Exhibit B:
The word "romantic" presents florists with a wide variety of ideas. Some think of peonies and garden roses in clay pots, while others imagine a cascade of red roses placed in silver urns. Because there are so many interpretations of romance, you'll need to give lots of details—such as feel, location, formality, and season—when communicating your version of the word: "A relaxed daytime reception in early summer, on the lawn of a seaside cottage," or "An upscale, 200-person fete at a historic estate in winter."

No disrespect to florists, but...GOOD GOD. I'm exhausted after reading this. If I have to do all this stuff in real life, there's a good chance I'll lose my mind. Or die of flower-induced exhaustion. My aching body will simply give out under the strain of wedding pressure and floral fatigue.

I also wonder how much, exactly, all this costs. The more I research, the more my stomach cries out in anguish. None of this stuff is cheap. The "deluxe" options usually start at $350, whereas the "budget" options are between $100-$250 per item.

Now, there's no way to put this delicately, so I'm just going to say it: there's no way in hell I'm going to spend $100 for five bridesmaid's bouquets, $100 for a junior bridesmaid/flower girl bouquet, $100 for my bouquet, and $100 for centerpieces to be placed at no fewer than 15 tables. At a minimum, we're talking $2000.

My budget cannot, in any way, allow me to allocate 2K for flowers. My student loans have already left me unfathomably broke, so I'm unwilling to become even more broke in order to purchase some fucking flowers.

Even if I had the money to spend on this, and despite the fact that I get all googly-eyed over flowers from my Betrothed, I'm not sure I could abide paying a lot for them. Bouquets wilt. They're not planted in your garden. They'll be all parched and sad within the week, and who wants sad flowers?

Is it really worth paying that much money for, not to mention devoting absurd amounts of time to thinking about, a bunch of bouquets that will be moribund 5 days after the wedding?

Upon looking around for, like, 30 seconds, I realized that there's a preponderance of really cheap and really nice flowers out there. There's a dude outside my office who sells bouquets for $6. Another dude by the Metro who sells roses for $7. On a recent trip to Sam's Club, I decided to scope out the flower prices to see how they compare to the $100 "budget" bouquets I've read about online. Behold...

Cheap flowers! Beautiful, glorious, magical cheap flowers! I wanted to hug them, but decided against it because a) they wouldn't do well when squooshed in my embrace, and b) I'd look like the craziest person in the store, which is really saying something when you're at Sam's Club or Wal Mart.

While, for some people, thinking about and paying a lot for flowers is totally within the realm of possibility -- hey, to each their own -- it's definitely not for me. I have, instead, devised a Grand Floral Strategy that relies on my staunch adherence to the principles of frugality and sticking it to the MIC whenever possible:
Step 1: Sam's Club, Costco, or a wholesale flower company.
Step 2: Flowers that go well with red, for $10-$20 per bunch.
Step 3: Scissors.
Step 4: Ribbons.
Step 5: Done.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Much Ado About Colors

My online wedding planner thingy tells me I should be choosing colors. My immediate response to this was "Colors? We don't need no stinking colors."

But it turns out that you do need colors, and they must be clearly defined down to the most minute of shade variants, and I must carry paint samples in my bag to ensure that everything is perfectly coordinated.

None of this is anything I'm particularly inclined to do. Obviously.

The thing is, I have very strong feelings about colors themselves. More specifically, I'm in love with them. I've had a sustained infatuation with color for as long as I can remember. I love deep reds, vibrant yellows, tranquil blues, and all shades of purple. I also rather unabashedly love pink.

With this in mind, one would think that I'd be all about choosing a color scheme for my wedding. But I'm not. I'm not because the process by which one is supposed to do this seems so formulaic, whereas every color scheme I've created up until now has been largely intuitive. Or, depending on one's perspective, utterly devoid of logic or planning.

Since I was a kid, I've loved decorating each bedroom/dorm room/apartment I've lived in, and I often confuse people with my fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants method of decorating. As a case in point, when I was 17 we moved from Colorado to Pennsylvania - and, as compensation for moving across the country the summer before my junior year of high school, my parents gave me free rein to do whatever I wanted with my new room. They'd subsidize the paint, curtains, and all the supplies. I could decorate to my heart's content.

The room had dormer walls, so I decided to paint the lower portion lavender, the upper portion yellow, and the windowsills a deep blue. My parents, God love them, were flummoxed. They scratched their heads in befuddlement when I told them what my plans were. But they bought the paint, and I painted for hours (I nearly asphyxiated on paint fumes in the process, but that's not the point). The color scheme made no sense whatsoever, but in the end, it looked great. I loved the hell out of that room.

So it was with more than a little bit of angst - ok, it was actually pathetic, child-like whimpering - that I began reading about how to choose one's wedding colors.

Oh sweet Jesus, is it ever overwhelming. Now, to be fair, I get that many brides are under tremendous pressure to make the wedding into one day of utter perfection and total harmony. If that's a factor that weaves itself into every aspect of wedding planning for so many people, I can see how the most basic of decisions would be scary as hell. Thus, I can also see how one would need a wedding planning website to navigate what must feel like a minefield.

But the websites turn a presumably simple process into the nuptial equivalent of neurosurgery. Instead of making color choice into a quick and easy decision - like, say, a quick algebra problem in which you isolate and find the value of x - the advice turns it into a differential physics equation:

Determining your wedding colors is one of the first decor decisions you need to make. Before you do that, though, determine what your wedding's style will be. The style you choose will impact the wedding colors you pick. Figure out what emotions you want your celebration to evoke: A tranquil, Zen-like retreat? A high-class, romantic affair? A bumping, energetic party? For example, a vibrant summer yellow mixed with brown (i.e., sunflowers and bees) is perfect for a country-chic wedding -- but add gold to the palette, and the combination becomes more reminiscent of regal France.

I don't know what I want the vibe to be. I don't have the faintest clue about a unifying style or theme. (For that matter, what the hell is country-chic?) All I know is that I want it to be fun and inexpensive. I'm utterly uninterested in making it feel like a Zen-like retreat (would we all wear robes and not speak for hours while pondering the sound of one hand clapping?), and re-creating 16th century France seems like an exercise in beheadings. Clearly I'm already failing at this endeavor.

Figure out what color combinations that you like, whether browsing art galleries or reading through some home, fashion, or interior design magazines for inspiration.

Ok, that I can do. I spend an inordinate amount of time in art galleries (irrefutable proof of my nerdiness: my favorite places are bookstores and art museums), and I know what color combinations I'm drawn to. The problem is, this still doesn't narrow it down very much. The only colors I don't like are brown and puke green. Shit.

In choosing the precise hue of your colors, you can collect fabric swatches or paint chips of the colors you like. This way, you'll be able to get specific - so that when you decide to have green as one of your colors, you'll be able to tell if it's sea-foam green, lime green, forest green, or Kelly green.

Gak. I've only done that when painting a room that I plan to live in, but I plan to use these colors for exactly one day. I'm trying hard to actually want to collect various paint samples for the wedding, dice. My give-a-damn's busted. Bridal fail, here I come.

Lighting can make or break a venue. Be sure to talk with your event designer or a lighting expert about colors you can use to accent and bare white walls in your event space.

I'm supposed to call a fucking lighting expert to help me figure out what colors the napkins should be? Is this a joke? I haven't even done that for places I've lived, let alone spaces that I'll be renting for a few hours.


The freak-out had almost commenced (again) when I realized I was supposed to be spending hours considering colors and weighing variables like lighting. I had almost started hyperventilating (again) about the fact that I'll never, ever be able to measure up to this level of involvement and specificity. My stomach almost started churning (again) when I thought about how I'd failed at this planning shit before I'd even started, because the bar is set way too high. But then, I decided to take a deep breath and gain some perspective.

A few seconds later, I realized (again) that I don't have to do it this way. Just because the websites say that I should, it doesn't mean I have to. The fact is, I trust my own judgment. I trust that I don't actually have to put such a Herculean effort into picking a color scheme. I trust that when I see colors I like, they're not going to involve neon orange paired with florescent pink. (I rolled that way circa 1991, when I rocked the layered neon socks like woah. However, 19 years later, I'm disinclined to repeat the color choices I made when I was 10.)

Besides, knowing me, the probability that I'll adhere perfectly to a strictly-defined, specific palette is slim to none. And that's when the odds are good.

So I decided to just let this color thing unfold as it will. If the invitations aren't the exact same shade as the napkins, fine. I doubt that someone is actually going to hold the invite up to the napkin to compare the two. If someone does and they're appalled and/or personally offended by the discrepancy, I'll simply look outside, note the fact that the sun hasn't stopped shining, and tell them to find a hobby.

As luck would have it, the next day I was perusing Target's selection of bridesmaid's dresses. (I'm determined to make this as inexpensive as humanly possible for my bridesmaids, and Target, ever the purveyor of all that is fabulous in the world, has an awesome selection of bridesmaid's dresses for $30-$50.) A co-worker had just been a bridesmaid in a wedding for which they'd all worn wrap dresses designed to be wrapped and twisted into different styles, and lo! Target had an exact replica on sale for $23.

It was available in black, red, and purple. I liked the red and the purple. There were more sizes available in red than in purple. Decision made. Operation Red Dress was a go.

And that, friends, is how I chose my colors.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ruminations on Bridezilla

Bridezilla. The very word conjures up images of brides gone mad, frothing at the mouth like a rabid tyrannosaurus rex bedecked in a strapless A-line dress as they try to tear people limb from limb. According to Wikipedia (motto: "What do you mean, I can't cite this in an academic paper!?"), the term Bridezilla was first cited in 1995 -- but since then, Bridezilla's fame has grown far and wide.

While I've been lucky enough to not personally encounter a Bridezilla (thank you, friends whose weddings I've attended or been in, for being so thoroughly sane and awesome), stories about Bridezilla antics are legendary. And they're legendary in the same way Mexico is legendary for dysentery, which is to say: not good. And I'd wager that both can give you the shits.

I was curious about what a real Bridezilla looks and acts like, so I went to the website for WEtv's Bridezillas. In the name of research, I watched a preview clip.

OMFG. These women are batshit crazy. They should be locked away forever and never permitted to interact with humanity ever again. I'm not kidding.

The fact remains, though, that Bridezilla is a cultural icon. The image of the bride who freaks out about minutiae, relentlessly berates people, micromanages every aspect of Her Special Day, and generally acts like Josef Stalin -- if he had been both obsessed with weddings and on steroids -- is pervasive throughout American culture. You can barely mention the word "wedding" without Bridezilla being brought up shortly thereafter. There's an entire show devoted to these meltdowns, for Chrissakes. The entertainment value of Bridezilla and her antics is off the charts.

Part of this, I think, is due to the fact that it's funny as hell -- and therefore gets a lot of attention. Watching Bridezillas on TV or reading Bridezilla stories online is phenomenally entertaining. For real. I derive immense enjoyment from things like this. (Please don't judge me.) It's just like reality TV or celebrity gossip: it's entertaining, if not hilarious, to watch these women make asses of themselves. It's funny when they throw tantrums. It's great TV when they go nuclear over some minor detail that nobody would've noticed had it not been for the fallout spewing from the bride's mouth. It's a riot when the wedding dress is 1 millimeter off from the measurements taken during the final fitting, so Bridezilla's skin peels back from her face and a red light shines out of her eye sockets before she melts the tailor with the sheer force of her anger.

And, because I'm both petty and infantile, it's fun because it makes me feel superior. (Ok, now you can judge me.) I don't like reality TV, but let me tell you: whenever I'm feeling shitty, nothing perks me up like celebrity gossip. Didn't get everything done at work today? At least I didn't shave my head and take a baseball bat to someone's car. Failed to make it to the gym? At least I'm not a recidivist drug addict who paints "fuck u" on my middle finger and is shocked when the judge notices. When the bar is set really fucking low, it can make a person feel like a damn Nobel Prize laureate just for getting through the day.

Bridezillas work the same way. The feeling of being totally overwhelmed seems to be a universal theme for almost all brides I've talked to. There's tremendous pressure to make everyone happy, have the perfect ceremony, and look utterly resplendent in your perfect dress with your perfect hair and your perfect make-up. It's pretty fucking scary, actually. So, Bridezilla provides some measure of comfort: I might be thinking about details and worrying about getting everything coordinated, at least I'm not freaking out and alienating people right and left. It's not much, but it's enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

But! While watching Bridezilla from afar is fun, dealing with one in real life must be abjectly miserable. They degenerate into screaming piles of tulle, have sustained temper tantrums that put toddlers to shame, and generally act like spoiled brats. Most people don't like that sort of thing.

So this also begs the question: why put up with it?

I know, I know. It's The Biggest and Most Important Super-Duper Special Day of the Bride's Entire Life and blah blah blah, vomit vomit vomit. But seriously, it's not. It's a wedding, not the bride's coronation. Yes, it's a special day and an important milestone in one's life. Yes, it should also feel special. But no, "special day" isn't code for "get out of jail free card."

To be fair, it also seems utterly terrifying to challenge a bride who has become clinically insane and is prone to violence and/or emotional outbursts reminiscent of volcanic eruptions. Even if you don't buy into the whole "most important day of her life" thing, challenging a Bridezilla seems like a death wish. If she doesn't try to kill you, she'll eat your soul, or, at the very minimum, try to rob you off your will to live. It's some freaky stuff.

But I still wonder: what would happen if more people told Bridezilla to shove it? What if people told her that they weren't taking any more of this abusive bullshit, and that she could either simmer down or risk a mass uprising and defection of all her bridesmaids, and maybe even her future husband?

Because let's face it: there's no reason to put up with Bridezilla's tyrannical behavior.

No, seriously. Think about it. If your friend wasn't getting married and she upbraided you for getting highlights that didn't match your dress, it would be totally unacceptable. You'd have some serious doubts about that friend in any other circumstance. If your boss repeatedly berated you for such trivial things as getting your nails painted light pink instead of white (and she explicitly told you that she wanted them to be white!), you'd quit. Or, at the very least, file a big, fat complaint with HR -- because nobody needs to deal with a narcissistic tyrant. If your significant other screamed at you in public for not doing things exactly the way they wanted, you'd dump his/her sorry ass and find someone who would actually be nice to you.

I've started thinking that if more people stood up to Bridezilla, it could help deflate the widespread acceptance of bad bridal behavior. People wouldn't take this sort of behavior in any other context, but they do when dealing with a soon-to-be-married woman. And so Bridezilla carries on, acting like the strung-out love child of Snooki and Saddam Hussein, demanding excess and perfection and destroying all those who stand in her way with a weaponized unity candle.

Maybe I feel this way because I've never had to deal with a good friend turned Bridezilla, but my gut feeling is that they're not worth it. If they are - and you stand up to them and call them on their bullshit - they'll (hopefully) realize the error of their ways. That is, if they're not already on TV, making brides everywhere feel better about themselves.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

(Insert Gagging Noise Here)

After my realization that the MOTG is saddled with some rather arcane rules, I decided to see what I could dig up on the MOTB's rules and regulations. Now, I did this thinking it would be fairly straightforward; note, however, the recurring trend of me starting out, blissfully thinking "Oh, this shouldn't be too bad," and then being cosmically bitchslapped back to reality by the machinations of the MIC.


Anyways, at first it all seemed pretty tame. Help with the planning, lead the receiving line, help the bride pick out a dress, yadda yadda yadda. In the words of Dr. Evil, "pretty standard, really."

But then it jumped out at me. Amidst all the "help your daughter choose her flowers..." and the "help the bride choose the venue..." bullet points, there it was. The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad task.

The MOTB is supposed to buy wedding night and honeymoon lingerie for the bride, and then present her with these offerings at the bridal shower.

I nearly projectile vomited on my computer.

How the hell could this possibly be a good idea?! I mean, I'm close with my mom. After all, she's the woman who, when I developed a raging case of colic a few days after I was born, somehow loved me enough to not drive back to the hospital, hand me to the maternity nurses, and say "This product is defective. I'd like to exchange it for one that works." Once I outgrew the colic, she dealt with my refusal to take naps and my invention of an imaginary little brother named Richard on whom I blamed any and all of my bad behavior. Including my lipstick art on the bathroom mirror. But I don't want to talk about that.

The bottom line is: my mom has put up with a lot from me over the last (almost) 30 years, and we're pretty damn close. The least I can do is involve her in this process as much as possible. However, I'd rather take a road trip across Iran with an Israeli flag attached to my car than follow through on this shit-sorry tradition.

Thankfully, she's totally on the same page, and she informed me that she'll buy me flannel PJs and socks instead. So as far as I'm concerned, all is well.

However, I still wonder who came up with this wretched idea. I hadn't heard of this before (obviously), so I wonder if it's something that pre-dates me. Is it some weird hold-over from the days of yore? Or, alternatively, was it thought up by the Real Housewives of New Jersey?

I'm sufficiently horrified by it that I want to know why it exists at all, but none of the wedding websites provided any backstory. But I still want to make sense of this, even if it's just to reassure myself that this is a weird custom from some bygone era when it was socially acceptable -- and neither the mother of the bride nor the bride herself would literally die from sheer humiliation.

I'm also left to wonder who actually abides this tradition. Is it common, and I've just been unaware of it? Do people routinely survive bridal showers at which they're presented with lacy undergarments and "wink, wink, nudge, nudge" comments about the wedding night? From their mom? And are the moms who follow through on this tradition the same women who subsidize their daughters' boob jobs as 16th birthday gifts?

And, most importantly, am I the only one who's totally grossed out by this shit?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Four Weddings and an Epiphany

This past weekend, my Betrothed and I went to Texas -- where he was born and raised -- for a wedding.

My Betrothed was one of the groomsmen, so the night before the wedding, he and the other dudes in the wedding party went out for a beer. Now, I'm a big believer in the theory that dude time is sacred, so I was happy to veg out in the hotel room while all the menfolk bonded. Since it was a Friday night, I knew What Not to Wear would be on, and I love What Not to Wear. I was a happy camper. (Seriously, why can't Stacy and Clinton come to DC? Half this town is in desperate need of their services. I'm not kidding. People here wear suits that are either way too big or way too small; they use mid-90s era scrunchies copiously, and there are entirely too many Washingtonians walking around in terribly misguided colors, cuts and patterns. But I digress.)

However, my plans to commune with Stacy and Clinton were thwarted when I realized that What Not to Wear was over. Instead, a show called Four Weddings was on. I was intrigued.

Now, the premise of Four Weddings is that four brides, all strangers, attend each others' weddings and judge them according to the venue, the dress, the food, and the overall experience. Whoever gets the highest overall rating grabs her husband and goes on an all-expense-paid trip to some heinously luxurious, jaw-dropping location for the honeymoon.

When I realized that each wedding was going to be judged and ranked, my stomach started to churn --and I knew it wasn't the Mexican food I'd just eaten. It was, instead, that fearsome word: judged.

This, I think, strikes fear into the heart of every bride. The more ensconced I become in wedding planning, the more I realize that judgment is a constant theme behind almost every facet of this event. Everyone is judging you. I've never heard this explicitly stated on a website, show or any other spokesmedia for the MIC. However, it's stated in much more covert, but no less intimidating, ways.

"You don't want to leave your guests disappointed."

"People will notice if you don't have a beautiful cake."

"But what will people say?!"

"Everyone will think you're cheap and trying to cut corners."

No one ever comes right out and says it, but it's always there: the event must live up to everyone's expectations, because all those in attendance are judging you. (Also, BTW, the fate of the free world rests on your shoulders. But hey, no pressure.)

So, the fact that Four Weddings is based on judgment hit a nerve with me. How the hell is this supposed to make any bride feel even a little bit better about her impending nuptials when she sees people fucking rating the food, her dress, and the always-nebulous "overall experience"? Gak. My stomach churned on.

My initial intrigue turned to horror, though, when I saw the absurd extravagance of the four featured weddings. The brides' respective budgets never got lower than $50,000. For some, the reception budget alone was over $50,000.

Holy shit.

Let me tell you what I could do with $50,000. I could make a significant dent in my student loans. My Betrothed and I could eventually use it as a down payment on a house. We could put it towards college funds for the kids we'll have someday. I could pillage Target and lay waste to their accessories and small appliances sections. There's a veritable cornucopia of options, and they all strike me as better uses of 50 grand than a wedding reception.

But no. Each event cost at least 50K, and they were lavish. The just-wed couple left their respective churches not in any nice car, but in uber-vintage limos -- one of which had been used in The Godfather. Each wedding was followed by a cocktail hour at a country club, or some equally posh location, that resembled the lair of Greek gods. There were 20-foot long buffets at said cocktail hours, followed by rich three-course sit-down dinners at the formal reception. There were open bars capable of accommodating 300 guests. 6-foot tall centerpieces, each exploding with perfectly-arranged and obnoxiously fancy flowers, adorned each table. The dance floor was enormous. A pack of woolly mammoths could've done the Macarena on those dance floors, and they still wouldn't have gotten in the way of the other guests.

And yet, none of these brides, nor their extravagant receptions, got high scores. The fillet mignon was too salty. The music was too loud. There wasn't enough dancing. There was always something wrong. At that point, I found myself thinking, "My God. No wonder brides are scared shitless of being judged! This is irrefutable proof that everyone is, in fact, judging us, and nothing is ever good enough to escape that judgment."

This led me to an epiphany: this show was also irrefutable proof that, no matter how much money you spend on your wedding day, you can't please everyone. Having a lavish reception, replete with expensive steak and ice sculptures, isn't going to prevent some people from being less than thrilled. Your great-uncle twice-removed will think the expensive steak is salty. Another person will be find the music too loud, while someone else will think it's not loud enough. It simply isn't possible to throw money at The Big Day and, voila, thus ensure that everyone will think it's perfect.

Then I had another epiphany: I've never felt comfortable at lavish weddings. I've been to a lot of weddings at this point in my life, and I can compare the laid-back events to the extravagant fetes I've attended -- and the laid-back, non-extravagant events win hands-down. Every time. Those weddings are the fun ones. There isn't an ounce of pretension, and the bride and groom are there to get married, not impress people. When people abandon the need to show what they're capable of spending on a wedding, the whole experience magically transforms into a ridiculously fun, meaningful day that the vast majority of guests (not to mention the bride and groom) genuinely enjoy.

At that point, the Four Weddings-induced rebellion that had been brewing in my estomago began to abate. "Ok," I thought, "there's no need to hyperventilate. No one needs an astronomically expensive and luxurious wedding to have fun or avoid being judged." A lot of people think it's necessary to emulate the type of events shown on Four Weddings, but I'm convinced that it's not. To use terribly nerdy scientific terms, there just might be an inverse correlation between a wedding's lavishness, especially when it's in response to the fear of judgment, and how much fun people actually have attending it.

After watching the bulk of the show and having realized its sheer absurdity, I knew without a doubt that a wedding doesn't have to be extravagant to be extraordinary. What makes a wedding extraordinary are the people, not the venue, the dress, or the food.

This was reinforced the next day, when I went to the wedding that my Betrothed was in. It was lovely. It was small and totally unpretentious. The flowers were gorgeous, and they weren't extravagant. The whole thing was beautiful. The people -- bride and groom, wedding party, other guests -- were fantastic. It was meaningful for everyone there, totally unique to the couple getting married, and genuinely enjoyable. Everyone relaxed and had a great time. In fact, it's one of the most enjoyable weddings I've ever attended.

And so, brides of the world, rest assured: you don't have to have a wedding so lavish it could be confused with the coronation of an 18th-century monarch. Doing so won't ensure that everyone loves it. It won't spare you from judgment. It won't cement your place in the Greatest Weddings of All Time list. (Besides, Charles and Di's wedding pretty much has that covered, and none of us mere mortals can compete with it.)

However, if you let go of the fear of judgment -- no, seriously, drop kick that shit off your balcony -- chances are, you'll have a lovely wedding that both you and your guests will enjoy. You'll have more fun if you're not overcome by palpitations at the thought of some little detail being less than perfect. Your guests will be able to relax and have a good time. And, in the end, your stomach lining, bank account, family, and friends will all thank you for telling that fear of judgment to sod off. Trust me: you're better off without it, no matter what Four Weddings or the MIC make you think.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Archaic Dress Rules

I've heard women lament that raising boys is hard. They're rambunctious, they consume unfathomable volumes of food, and then there's that bit about snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. (Relatedly: the snakes and snails I can understand, but who the hell brings home a puppy's tail? Would you not be more than a bit disturbed if your child, regardless of gender, brought home a disembodied tail? Ten bucks says that whoever wrote that verse turned into a serial killer. But I digress.)

Anyways, I was confronted by a new reason for women to lament: when one's son gets married, apparently the mother of the groom (MOTG) is supposed to sit down, be quiet, and do everything the bride and her mom tell her to do.

I learned this when my future mother-in-law asked if I'd given any thought to what sort of dress I want her to wear. Truth be told, I hadn't. What I want, though, is for everyone in the wedding party to wear something that makes them feel comfortable and happy.

The purpose of this event, after all, is a happy one -- so I see no reason to impose wardrobe rules that lead to a day of discomfort and misery. Who wants to spend the day thinking "these pantyhose are cutting off my circulation," or "oh shit, my boobs are about to fall out of my bridesmaid's dress," or "this tux, while avant-garde and ludicrously trendy, is also made of wool and is therefore scratchy and UNBEARABLY HOT" before passing out due to lack of blood flow, humiliation, or heat stroke? Seriously, people: no good can come of this.

This is my future mother-in-law's first time being an MOTG, so, much like me, she's doing lots of online research to figure out what she's supposed to do. It turns out that the Interwebz are chock full of etiquette guidelines for MOTGs, and they're all fairly intimidating. The MOTG's instructions on how to purchase a dress that matches the mother of the bride's (MOTB) sounded particularly bad.

Now, before you go wondering why I don't care about such things, let me just say that I know there are plenty of people who want to make sure the moms don't clash. It might not be an issue for me -- my future mother-in law has good taste, and I trust her to find something nice -- but it sure doesn't strike me as ridiculous.

However, coordinating the moms' dresses is one thing. Coordination entails two or more competent adults and, hopefully, mutual respect. In coordination, those adults talk to each other; they discuss their respective needs and preferences. They find dresses that go well together, but that still account for personal taste. It's a group effort. It seems like a pretty reasonable way to do things.

However, the various MIC-based internet fora have different ideas. To quote one column (which shall be henceforth referred to as "the archaic dress rules"):

"It is the bride's mother who will first select a dress for her daughter's wedding. A gown of complimentary style and color is then chosen by the groom's mother. She must wear long if the bride's mother wears long and short if she wears short. The color should not match the bridesmaids' dresses, nor the mother of the bride's, but should be a complimentary color."

If one wants the dresses to match, coordination is ok. The archaic dress rules, by contrast, are totally absurd.

First, asking the the mother of the bride (MOTB) to unilaterally dictate the parameters within which the MOTG will choose her dress seems...not particularly nice. I know, from my one year of Catholic school -- during which time I absolutely loathed and felt totally oppressed by the dress code -- that I wouldn't be excited about an outside party dictating the terms of the dress I wear to my kid's wedding. Ergo, I can't imagine that anyone else would be too stoked by this idea either.

Secondly, these instructions seem to have an insidious subtext: "You, MOTG, have little to no input here. Do as the MOTB says. Don't even try to get something you genuinely like, because the world will stop spinning on its axis if your dress is the same color as the bridesmaids' or, worse, has a longer hemline than the MOTB's. If you do, the apocalypse will be upon us and it will be all your fault."

Call me lackadaisical, but I can't bring myself to be aggrieved by the idea that my mom's dress might be of a different length than my future mother-in-law's. Moreover, though, I'm certainly not about to have my mom issue a proclamation on dresses.

Thankfully, my mom isn't the sort of person who's into unilateral edict-issuing (with the exception of "please, for the love of God, don't elope"), and particularly not when it comes to clothes. Also, because both my mom and my future mother-in-law are go-with-the-flow types, I won't have to deal with proclamations or arcane rules.

But humor me, if you will, as I rant about why it could be bad when people do have to deal with it.

My big issue with this is that the archaic dress rules seem to create an unhealthy balance of power between two groups of people. Even worse, these are two groups of people who are about to be legally bound to each other. Think about it: it sets up one family as the people in control, while the other family is just there to do as they're told.

In my experience, once someone has power and control, they reaaaaallllly don't want to let it go. Also in my experience, when someone is forced to be subordinate to a person of equal status -- especially for some totally arbitrary and absurd reason -- they reaaaaalllly don't want to remain subordinate.

This doesn't exactly seem conducive to healthy in-law relations, does it? Furthermore, does it not sound like the beginnings of the stereotypical decades-long showdown between a bride and groom's respective families? I hear people talk about these prolonged, acrimonious power struggles and I feel bewildered. Well, no, bewildered doesn't really cut it. A prolonged, acrimonious power struggle strikes me as the interpersonal equivalent of The Blair Witch Project: scary as hell, and quite possibly bad enough to make people cry, piss themselves, or not sleep for weeks on end.

Now, I have no proof (or evidence, really) of any causative relationship between the archaic dress rules and family power struggles. For all I know, MOTBs routinely determine the terms of the MOTG's dress and the two go on to have perfectly happy relationships with each other.

But I still wonder: is it worth doing something that could be the opening salvo in a long, taxing, and generally asinine battle to be the preeminent set of parents? Weddings tap into a deep well of emotion, and as a result, the emotional wounds sustained during wedding planning could take years to heal. If one issues a strict set of rules for the MOTG, does one risk creating resentment in the name of matchy-matchy dresses?

My father, who has been grooming me for a management job since I was able to walk, taught me about cost-benefit analyses when I was in junior high. I might be the only one who thinks this, but a cost-benefit analysis of the archaic dress rules seems to come out solidly on the side of cost. A person's wedding day is precisely that: one day. The marriage, and all the extra relationships that come with it, are intended to last a lifetime. Why mess with that? (And again, if someone wants the dresses to be complimentary, why not coordinate it as opposed to unilaterally deciding?)

I could be wrong on all of this, but the more I thought about it, the more I became convinced that the archaic dress rules could potentially damage long-term family relations -- and all for the short-term goal of perfectly complimentary dresses. Granted, each situation is different. But is it really worth it?

Now if you'll excuse me, I have dress edicts to write. Obviously the rough drafts will be written in blood, and the final copy shall be carved in stone.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

In Which I Enlist Ike's Help

After my ill-fated trip to Barnes and Noble, I began pondering the issue of buying a wedding planner. Yes, I need a place to write everything down. Yes, I need to find some means of knowing what all the moving pieces are and what to do with them. But they have websites for this stuff, and those websites are free.

Yay, free!

So I signed up for and, (mistakenly) thinking that all would be well. But then I was presented with lists of over 300 items that I should’ve started working on fifteen years ago.

I should’ve been planning this before I even got my learner’s permit, let alone my driver’s license. Why, on my 18th birthday, was I thinking about my newly-minted ability to vote instead of the fact that in almost 12 years I’d be getting married and would need to put together my wedding? And the day I got my first job after college? My attention should’ve been turned to themes and flowers and cakes, not my entry-level salary and benefits package!

Shit. I’m already behind the curve on this.

I was teetering on the brink of a total freak-out when it occurred to me: I don’t have to do half this stuff. I can pick and choose. It doesn’t need to be this complicated.

Woo-sah. Wax on, wax off. Serenity now.

Three happy things happened shortly thereafter. First, Amy, who commented here after my last post, recommended that I make my own wedding planner. This, since it obviously saves money, is a welcome and brilliant suggestion. (For the record, Amy is not only a fabulous source of ideas, but she’s also an incredibly good sport. Homegirl is a wedding coordinator -- which means she listens to me as I bloviate about the evils of the MIC, and yet she’s gracious enough to not be offended by said bloviating. Mad props.)

Secondly, my future mother-in-law, who happens to be both an awesome person and a phenomenal logistician, compiled a comprehensive yet totally reasonable list of all the aforementioned moving pieces. When I looked at it, I'm pretty sure I breathed a sigh of relief so big that it probably caused tornado warnings to go out in neighboring counties. I’m also pretty sure that, before she sent me the list, I had “FML” or, alternatively, "please shoot me now" written out in sweat beads on my forehead.

Then I had an idea: why not, in my effort to eschew the marriage-industrial complex, enlist the help of Eisenhower himself? Now, Eisenhower – or Ike, as he was commonly known – died in 1969, so it’s not like he’s available to render assistance. And I’m not about to hold a séance to get strategic guidance from beyond the grave, so no, I’m not going there. But why not let Ike be the inspiration for planning this gig?

As background, before Ike was president, he was a five-star general in the Army and the Supreme Commander of the Allied forces in Europe during World War II. He was responsible for planning, coordinating, and supervising the invasion and subsequent liberation of France and Germany from the Western Front. This was an almost year-long campaign that started when the Allied forces stormed the beaches at Normandy –the event also known as D-Day.

This obviously required epic strategic planning and coordination. And, since Ike was a master of strategy and coordination, he could serve as some inspiration.

Now, Ike was undoubtedly a better human being than I am. He played a critical role in defeating the Nazis and is widely considered to be one of the most effective presidents in American history. I, on the other hand, am prone to meltdowns (usually brought on by sleep deprivation, lack of exercise, or hunger…so basically, I’m like a small child), irritation bordering on outright hostility for people who double-park or fail to use their turn signal, and a raging, nearly irrational hatred of seafood.

I also, in case you hadn’t picked up on this, am opposed to the idea of pumping any more money into the giant, pulsating, soul-sucking beast of the marriage-industrial complex than I absolutely have to. If I’m going to eschew this thing, I want to do it with Ike’s help.

So, because I’m cheap and, apparently, deeply spiteful towards the MIC (again with the "I'm like a small child" motif), I grabbed the grocery list that my Betrothed was putting together before we left for the store. I added “cheap notebook” to the list. At our local Wegmans, I picked up a college-ruled notebook – the kind that high school sophomores scrawl illegible algebra notes in – and paid $2.99.

Once we got home, I pulled out my future mother-in-law's list ("the happy list," as I call it) and began writing. Shortly thereafter, it was time to incorporate Ike into this process. I printed out a picture, taped it to the front of my new notebook…et voila.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

In which I try to find a planning book but am almost reduced to tears

One thing to know about me: I love lists. I have lists detailing things I need to do at work, things I need to do at home, errands to run, and books to read. My lists sometimes spawn baby lists. It’s a sickness. I know.

So, because lists are my equivalent of kittens and candy canes, I figured it would behoove me to find a book filled with planning and logistics checklists for the wedding. I’m determined to not make this a complicated event, but I do need a place to write everything down. Since these wedding planner books have already listed the things one needs to accomplish in order to have a wedding, it seemed like a decent idea to procure one.

With this in mind, I went to my local Barnes and Noble and casually meandered over to the signs that said “Weddings.”

This was the first hint that bad things were afoot: signs. Plural. Multiple shelves, all filled with books about weddings. FML.

Shortly after I got there, I started getting that overwhelmed, queasy, this-is-totally-NOT-the-equivalent-of-kittens feeling. There were more books on weddings than could possibly be necessary on planet Earth, and possibly in the entire universe.

I made the grave mistake of grabbing a random book off the shelf to see what it was about. This was a bad life decision, because it was an entire book about choosing the right flowers for the wedding party, ceremony, and reception. An entire book! About flowers! And not even the kind that you plant and get to look at year after year when they happily bloom in your back yard!

Furthermore, this book had a detailed list, so I should have loved it – but instead, I wanted to cry because it all seemed so overwhelmingly complicated. I have to sit down and plot out what flowers to have at the damn place card table? You mean to tell me that a bouquet out of the florist’s bin at the local Safeway won’t do the trick? (Don’t laugh. I’m serious.) To borrow from Talladega Nights, I had only one discernible thought at that moment: Oh, sweet Jesus. Sweet 8-pound, 6-ounce, newborn baby Jesus.

Because I tend to make brilliant choices while under stress, I followed the first bad life decision with a second one by grabbing another random book off the shelf. This one was an entire tome on bridal shower ideas. Like I was saying: bad life decisions.

At this point, I was both overwhelmed and confused. Flowers and bridal showers strike me as being relatively straightforward: we’ll need flowers, so why not just pick ones that my Betrothed and I like and go with it? If I’m going to have a bridal shower, why not get my friends and family together, pick up some wine and a few party platters from Costco, and have a grand old time? Do flowers and bridal showers really require months of research, strategy, and coordination?

The queasy, anti-kitten feeling wasn’t improving. I’d say I had butterflies in my stomach, but it was far worse than that. I was starting to feel like there were scary creatures – quite possibly in the form of baby velociraptors on meth – running wild in there.

I took a deep breath and looked specifically at the wedding planners. This couldn’t be too bad, right? I mean, it’s basically a big party. I just need a place to write down what we’ve booked and what we still need to do. What more could a girl possibly need?

Apparently, a girl needs massive three-ring binders designed to be filled with every last detail of The Most Important and Super Special Day of Your Entire Life. These aren’t small binders, either. These fuckers are huge. I had binders like this in grad school, but I used those to house the 80 million pages of required reading I had to do.

I saw one from Bride’s magazine that I figured would be comprehensive. But then I saw that not only was it enormous, but there was a sticker on the front that read “Thousands of new ideas!” Thousands?! Is this a joke? How am I supposed to consider thousands of new ideas? At that point I nearly started hyperventilating, so I decided it was time to leave that planner behind.

However, this was immediately followed by a planner that, in addition to being gargantuan, was shocking pink. Now, I’m pretty girly, so I like pink. But I don’t think I could take myself seriously if I wandered around lugging a bright pink binder the size of a sofa. I suspect that even my beloved lists would protest. The real deal-breaker on this, however, was inside.

It comes with a complimentary tote bag. The book is so big, and is designed to get so heavy with expectations paper, that it requires a tote bag to be transported any further than one’s living room. To make matters worse, the aforementioned tote bag is also shocking pink, and comes replete with polka dots and a giant BRIDE written on it. Oy gevault. Do I need to broadcast to the entire world that I’m getting married? (Doesn’t the engagement ring already make that fairly evident?) This seems rather gratuitous. Couldn’t I just get the message out via Jumbotron at a major sporting event? Or, alternatively, a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times?

Needless to say, I left that one alone.

I was pressed for time, so I decided that it’d be worth a return trip to scope out all the options. Since cash is obviously a key factor for me, I want to make strategic choices about what I buy.

Given the glut of schmaltzy books, though, I started to worry: am I the only sarcastic and generally foul-mouthed woman to ever get married?

Once the ring was on my finger, was I supposed to morph from my wise-ass, mildly cynical, and low-budget self into a wholesome, sweet, and wedding-obsessed version of Lillian that I never knew existed?

Surely I can’t be the first person like this to get married, right?


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

The Marriage-Industrial Complex

I admit: I love weddings.

As a case in point, when I was four years old, I fell while climbing over a fence and sliced my head open on a rock. Minutes later, with my dad speeding through traffic to get me to the ER and my mom holding towels to my head to stem the bleeding, I abruptly stopped crying when we drove past a church and I saw a bride and groom walking out. My head was gashed open, I had dried blood all over my face, and everything from the neck up hurt like hell -- but the moment I saw that wedding party, I forgot about all of it. I was quite possibly the most gruesome passer-by ever.

So this summer, after my phenomenal boyfriend popped the question and became my phenomenal fiancé, I ran to a magazine rack as fast as my little legs could carry me. I sat down, surrounded by a stack of bridal magazines, excited to get to work, and...was utterly appalled.

"I'm supposed to do what?" I muttered while looking at 8-tier, multi-color cakes bedecked with roses and sugar-appliqué sunbursts.

"A theme? How do I come up with a Goddamn theme?"

"The average wedding costs how much?! This has to be a joke. Who do they think I am? Oprah?"

Midway through one magazine, I was both sputtering with disbelief and scared shitless.

I'd helped some friends plan their weddings in years past, but I was never involved with the intimate details. Now those intimate details were staring at me. In fact, they were fucking mocking me. Mercilessly. "Weddings cost at least 25K," they said. "You have to do all this if you don't want your wedding to turn into some God-awful event that makes everyone judge you, hate you, or both."

Then I had an epiphany. As he was leaving the presidency, Dwight Eisenhower gave a farewell speech in which he warned of a trend he called the military-industrial complex. The military-industrial complex (or MIC, since here in Washington we live and die by acronyms) is the idea that there's a whole industry that supports the military -- but that same industry feeds the military build-up, so it's a self-reinforcing cycle.

Looking at the bridal magazines, I realized: there's a marriage-industrial complex designed to make us think that we have to spend $25,000 on our weddings for it to be a worthwhile event. The bridal industry makes its bread and butter by supporting weddings, and that same industry feeds the wedding frenzy. This whole extravaganza has us convinced that this is the most important day of our entire lives and that everything must be perfect. Obviously, the only way to do that is to spend more on one day than some people do on all four years of college tuition.

At first I felt overwhelmed. How, exactly, was I going to pull this off? I'm trying to pay off my student loans and live in an expensive city, and now I have to go into debt just to get married? My head spun as I tried to think of ways to get my hands on that sort of money. I came up with a largely unsavory list of possibilities.

Option 1: Ingratiate myself to a rich and, conveniently, half-dead relative who'll make me the beneficiary on their life insurance policy.

Option 2: Prostitution.

Problem posed by Option 1: I have no phenomenally rich relatives. There's also that whole ethical/moral/legal issue presented by insurance fraud, dice.

Problem posed by Option 2: Prostitution is almost universally regarded as being bad for one's marriage. Also, the legal/moral/ethical issue rears it ugly head. Again. I seriously don't know how people subsidize these things without a flaming pile of debt or jail time.

This led me to...

Option 3: Eloping. Plenty of people in my family have eloped and remained happily married -- so why not follow in their footsteps? They are, after all, cheap footsteps that won't send me into a downward spiral of fiscal misery and woe. Plus, it's neither illegal nor unethical! Yaaaaay, not illegal!

Problem posed by Option 3: My Betrothed and I want to be surrounded by the people we care about as we make a lifetime commitment to each other. If, as the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child, then it would be nice to have our respective villages involved in (or at least invited to) the day when we start our new life together. Also, I'm pretty sure my mom will stab me in the heart if I elope. And personally, I'd prefer to remain alive.

At that point, I had a second epiphany: the marriage-industrial complex is complete shit.

A wedding isn't about the cake, the dress, the flowers, or the total cost of the blessed event. It's about two people who love each other making a commitment to spend their lives together. It's about being surrounded and supported by friends and family when that commitment is made. Nothing else.

With that, I knew: the marriage-industrial complex is both ridiculous and unnecessary. It's time to debunk the myth that no one will love you if you don't have an expensive wedding, and to show that you don't have to re-mortgage your house to pull off this blessed event. Because let's face it: the marriage-industrial complex has pulled a fast one on us -- now it's time for us to return the favor.

Cheap brides, unite!