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!