I’m getting married in exactly 65 days.* And no, I’m not being the zealous bride-to-be counting down the days. A website ticker keeps me informed instead.
Getting married. That took a long time to really sink in. Well after Phil creatively popped the question. Before walking out the door to embark on our mystery weekend of Phil’s fervent planning, he plopped on the couch, told me to flick on the ceiling fan, and a small piece of paper trickled onto the coffee table. The scavenger hunt had begun.
He’d done one of these before where I had to piece together clues to a reveal the location of a prize. Then, it was a Roku player.
This time, the index cards containing clues relating to things like how we met each had a single word on the back that Phil left me alone with to piece together the final clue. I roughly got it right: “Come see me and your baby in the backyard.” My baby? Expecting the clues to reveal another object this time, I wondered to what baby might refer. For inanimate objects, that word is typically used to describe guys’ boats and cars. I couldn’t think of anything relatively simple and related to me for which that description might apply. At least nothing inanimate.
“Oh goddammit, I hope he didn’t bring home some kind of pet!” was my next thought and I rushed downstairs and out the door to the backyard. Before I rounded the corner to the patio, Phil stopped me and told me to close my eyes. I stood there, sort of wincing, expecting to be handed an excitedly squirming, slobbering puppy. Instead, I opened them to find a vase of dark red roses on the patio table and Phil going down on one knee. And then it clicked. Ohhh, I get it now… He started saying something, but my shock had turned to nervousness and I became deafened by the throbbing of my heart pounding in my ears.
Of course I remember what I said.
My friend Luke, who is planning to tie the knot with his girl two weeks after we will asked me whether I had yet become familiar with the “hell that is wedding planning,” when I told him the news. At that point we hadn’t, though I laughed it off thinking that he was just referring to the expenses of paying for a wedding and the boredom of planning one. I pictured him sitting around all day while his fiancee and mother-in-law poured happily over laminated photos of wedding cake (no offense, Beth… movies and television naturally inform my life). Instead, I would learn that he was referring to a Beast that would dominate our lives for several months. Planning a budget, finding vendors, arranging a menu, picking out the wardrobe, sending out invitations, finding an officiant that’s actually free to perform the ceremony, buying rings, filling out the marriage license… Wait, there’s more! So much more. Phil proposed in September. It’s already the middle of March and we finally got our weekends back to ourselves.
Phil showed me an article on the Knot the other day that almost made me faint: the average estimated cost of a wedding shot up from $18 grand in 2009 to about $24 grand in 2010. I tried figuring out the math and imagined something like the Royal Wedding, but for about 200 guests instead of 1,200 that the bride and groom almost all actually knew. Then I thought of all the things that $24 grand could be better spent on. Even just part of that sum could be put to better use than a few hours at a wedding. We trimmed a lot of the fat on our wedding plans. Paying for it ourselves was probably the best way to force us to keep things simple and thus, affordable.
Some would argue that the exorbitant estimated cost of a wedding is adequate because it’s someone’s “Special Day.” When we were in San Francisco for the Annual Meeting the year before last, I picked up a copy of Anne Kingston’s The Meaning of Wife. The book begins with the author describing the wedding of Princess Diana and Prince Charles, something she stumbled out of bed early one morning in 1981 to watch the live broadcast of on TV.
“The groom was nothing on his own. All eyes were fixed on the bride, a fresh-faced 20-year-old, dressed in miles and miles and miles of pure white silk. Later, after the exchange of vows and the ride in a horse-drawn carriage, the prince and princess sealed their nuptials with a public kiss. For little girls of seven to 70, Diana was the embodiment of the ultimate fantasy.”
(From Kingston’s 2005 Sunday Times Post article, which eventually became the introduction for the book).
Of course, it didn’t take long for Diana and Charles to get a divorce, even with all the worries about the tarnishing reputation of the British monarch. I thought about that as Phil and I started planning our own wedding (although, I was mostly on my own with this in the beginning since Phil figured he’d put enough energy into planning a pretty awesome engagement weekend). Kingston’s introductory chapter reverberated with me: the Royal Wedding anecdote being a sort of important lesson to newly-weds-to-be not to get carried away with planning a wedding without giving any thought to all the things that would come after exchanging vows. After all, isn’t that the point?
Wedding vendors are here to sell you a day, and more specifically a day for the bride. The photos in the brochures and on the websites all show these glowing, happy young couples who seem trapped in time, riding tandem bikes or holding hands and watching the sunset on an empty beach. There is no personality and no detectable chemistry. I’ve almost become obsessed with trying to figure out which of the model couples really are making the right decision. “He’s wearing plug earrings! …I give them a year.” I think that just as much as people use wedding planners, we really could do with marriage planners. I’m about to make a life-long commitment to Phil. Selecting and scheduling and paying I can do. It’s the advice on making that marriage last that I could really use.
*The wedding will, according to my coworker and wacko prophesies, quite literally fall on Judgment Day. I just hope all that hell fire and brimstone doesn’t ruin my dress.