During the last ten years, my husband and I have been invited to over 30 weddings (and counting)! You’d expect that during an economic downturn and unemployment records at an all time high people would stop putting down 30k for a wedding, but they haven’t. Back in 2008, when I got married and the recession started, the average wedding in the USA topped a bill of 25k. Think about this for a second. In less than a decade the price has gone up 20%. We would all be better off buying a house with that money than feeding 150 guests we will barely see ever again.
That last line may sound harsh but the reality is that by the time you are expecting your first born you will have already outgrown some of the friends and family you invited to your big day. Studies from sociologist Gerald Mollenhorst of Utrecht University in the Netherlands concluded that it takes about 7 years to move from one circle of acquaintances to the next, and that this culling can cut your inner circle by half. On the other hand, those who survive the deadline will stay friends with you forever. To me, spending hundreds of dollars per guest has no reasonable justification, especially when there is proof most of these people won’t be in your life for much longer.
Somewhere along the line, people forgot that weddings were fundraising events and that the reception served as a thank you for supporting the couple emotionally and for providing the financial capital to start a family. Did you know that the more people spend on a wedding the less chance they have to stay together? (Read “Want a happy marriage? Have a big, cheap wedding” for more details). The modern wedding has become more about the opulence of the reception and less about the celebration of the love and commitment of the newly formed union. The guests have taken over the event, getting in the way of photographers, taking pictures, posting updates and complaining about everything to the bride and groom. The wedding day has gone viral and commercial.
There is a whole industry behind this phenomenon, feeding us images of what our wedding day should be, making it a grand event with you as the center of attention. It is not just a celebration of love, it is a requirement, proof that you checked a box and fit in with the rest of us married folk, a symbol of status. Even though the colors and trends changed every season, all the events are indistinguishable from each other: ceremony (even if the couple had gotten married previously in a courthouse), cocktail hour, reception, first dance, bouquet toss, last song and an airplane ride back home. They lacked soul and originality, evidence that the millions spent annually in marketing wedding DIY and services worked! (My friends thought they were being original and unique but to me they weren’t. Traditional weddings permeated our calendar. I am still holding out for the fairy in the woods role playing invitation though. )
By wedding #11, I was officially a wedding snob and became cynical about the whole affair. My friends and I started betting on who was going to make it long term and who wasn’t. When a guest would become excited about a particular nuance of an event, I would turn around and tell them that I had seen it many times before or many years prior. I was not easily impressed. To make matters worse, I knew the cost, down to the last cent, of the flower arrangements and meal choices thanks to all the reality shows centering on the theme. Out of curiosity, my husband and I tallied up the amount of money we spent on each couple, including the value of the gifts and the airfare, and weren’t truly surprised when the total came up to about fifteen thousand of dollars. Accepting wedding invitations added to our financial burdens. Vacation days and airfare ain’t cheap!
I wondered if people entering marriage actually understood the effort a commitment of this magnitude entails. Love is a verb, a transaction. You have to wake up every day and decide to stay together, to work issues with your spouse and children and to love yourself above all else, enough that you feed your self esteem so it can help you work through the aforementioned issues daily. This is where I have seen a lot of people fail. The officiant at any wedding tells the bride and groom to use every resource available, including the guests, to help them in their journey yet once the party is over, I never hear from them every again. Not even when they get divorced!
Okay, so some of you think that I don’t need to know what happens in my friends’ marriages and I agree that I don’t need to know every detail but if I invested in a relationship with you respect my effort and my time enough to keep me apprised of the important details. You do not have to post your problems on facebook, but I expect to find out before I ask your ex-spouse about the hot number they appear to be banging without your permission. Even if you aren’t together to me you are still married! Call me old school but if you ask me to attend your wedding and claim to be my friend you owe me a little more than a status change notification on social media when these things happen.
Instead of feeling happy about the greatest day of their lives, I felt like I was saying goodbye to my dear friends. Like this was our last hurrah. One by one they delved into this new stage of their lives and they distanced themselves from us in ways I didn’t even imagine were possible. Before a wedding took place, we would be buddy buddies with people and got invited to everything they did but after their wedding, and before their first born turned one, we found ourselves on the outside looking in, banished out of their inner circle, sometimes shunned because we couldn’t produce a viable heir. I know it sounds dramatic but I made the mistake of asking friends why they hadn’t invited us to an event and “because you don’t have kids” got thrown at us more than once. Marriage became this club that excluded anyone who wasn’t the same; you needed a minivan and a couple of car seats for your membership to be taken seriously.
Sadly, these were the same friends that had helped us get through a miscarriage and a few family crises. The sisters and brothers we thought life had given us. Once they had kids and made new married with children friends, they forgot about us, and we are yet to reconnect with some of them but not for lack of trying. People moved away, changed careers and in some cases even remarried. As time passed, I lost a great portion of the network I had so tenaciously built and protected throughout the last ten years. My husband and I didn’t feel we were a part of their bliss, and we were left out of the lives of our countless nephews and nieces. All we have now are old pictures on the walls and gigabytes of memories on a hard drive. We feel used, abandoned and betrayed.
The lesson I want to share with y’all is this: If you are not willing to share your good times and your bad times with your wedding guests then there is no reason for them to travel halfway across the world, the state or the city to see you walk down the aisle. It becomes a meaningless gesture if they don’t care about the success of your marriage, and if you only care about the numbers of likes your wedding selfies will get on Instagram. Weddings last one day, but a marriage lasts forever; even if it fails, it still counts. Attending your ceremony and reception means nothing if you don’t let us in on the ups and down of your journey.
To my future friends, I missed out on many opportunities to sit by the beach, drink beers and read my novels just so I could see others get married. Because I care about your success and the success of your offspring, I take my role as a witness to your vows very seriously. However, if you happen to receive a NO as an RSVP from us know that we have a beef with weddings, and that we would rather have you join us in a remote island paradise for a cocktail with your 2.5 kids and your dog than to lie to your face about the dry cake. Cheers! 🙂