Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Confessions of a Wedding Planner

It's true! I used to be a wedding planner!

I had a short stint as a wedding planner, which happened accidentally (long story), but was exciting for me because I've always loved the idea of weddings. Marriage, itself, I was never a fan of, but weddings were fun to me. Take out the traditional, sexist crap and what you've got left is a great celebration with people you love! What's not to like?!

My biggest problem with weddings isn't really the traditions. I was fortunate enough to deal with people who were very open-minded and forward-thinking. Most of them had unique weddings with personal touches and steered clear of the things people usually can't stand about weddings, especially giving the woman away. Most of them didn't leave all the planning to the woman, but instead shared the responsibilities. Most of them didn't worry about white dresses, lace, having the best of the best, and everything being perfect. Most of them just wanted a good time with their friends and family. My kind of people.

Nope, my problem isn't with the couples -- my biggest problem with weddings is the industry. The nature of my job was such that I had to push couples to spend more money. There were minimums to keep track of, upgrades to encourage, all sorts of loopholes and hidden fees. I hated it. Because when I wanted to be a wedding planner, I wanted to be the one finding ways to SAVE people money. I wanted to call companies out on their ridiculous prices and dirty tricks. (Tip #1 for everyone: do not say you are planning a wedding! Say it's a family gathering/event. It doesn't work with every company, but when it does, you'd be amazed at the difference it makes!)

So, needless to say, I didn't do very well at my job. Couples loved me, but I wasn't bringing enough money in to satisfy my superiors. And though I still like to help people with their weddings on my own and lead people down the money-saving, tradition-breaking path, I think things would be much easier for everyone if we could all encourage more anti-weddings.

Which is why I absolutely had to share this piece about a couple who planned an unconventional wedding at an unconventional price-tag. The anti-wedding planners worked with a couple to hold a protest, have a ceremony on the street, and host a reception at a pizza place. Read it because it's quite funny. I also hope it will inspire me to stop being lazy and start planning my own unconventional wedding.

For folks who've been married, what was your wedding like? For those who haven't, what are your wedding expectations? Is there such a thing as a feminist wedding? If so, what does it look like?


FeministGal said...

Awesome post! I read this article yesterday and CRACKED UP. I sent it to everyone in my family that think my partner and i are already off the deep end (we've been living together for 6 years but don't want to get "married.") My brother was married a few years back in the traditional, ostentatious, overly expensive sort of way. It was too too much. And i don't think they enjoyed themselves enough to balance out how much money, time, and effort was spent on the event.

Then my two (former) best girlfriends got married... needless to say i didn't agree with much of what they planned but i was a bridesmaid and it was their special day so i had to shut up and tolerate the ridiculous scene. It's just all so f*ing cliche. Isn't a wedding supposed to be able celebrating the true loving relationship of the couple, celebrating their love, their lives? Why is this so quickly forgotten in place of floral arrangements and registries?

Like i said, i am not technically "married" but i am more committed to my partner of 6 years than many "married" couples have ever been or will ever be. When/if we ever DO chose to get technically married it will be in a way that celebrates us and our future together... it's also going to be as cheap as possible, and hopefully with as few "things" as possible. Gifts are great, we all love presents, but how much "stuff" do we really need?

One thing i didn't like about the article was it's awesome they chose not to accept presents but they could have used the wedding as a great opportunity for their guests to donate to a cause of their choice instead of gifts. This way they are happy b/c they're not getting presents and their guests are satisfied b/c gift giving is such a big part of weddings...?

Oh my, this is a long rant, so sorry :) it's just something i always think about and haven't had the guts to post about on my blog for fear that old friends and family who have gotten married, will be offended! haha

Habladora said...

I worked in a wedding shop for a month when I was in high school. Seriously. I quit after the owner yelled at me for telling customers a bit of trivia about the shop (located in a historic neighborhood of DC) - that the building had twice been used as a brothel. The customers loved hearing the local history, but the shop's keeper - who'd related the story to me herself- was more invested in the wedding fantasy than the customers. We really work hard to force the big spending and stereotypes on people, and they can be tough to avoid.

frau sally benz said...

FeministGal, I hear ya! It is not a coincidence that I posted this on here, but not on JOTB hehe!

they could have used the wedding as a great opportunity for their guests to donate to a cause of their choice instead of gifts

This is a great point, although I fear that trend is not as widespread as we'd like it to be. Several of the couples I helped chose to do this rather than have a registry and guests HATE IT! HATE! Most would donate and also give them money, and some would literally refuse to donate the money to charity! Guests seem to like being able to give people things, even if they don't want or need it. This phenomenon could be a whole other post b/c it boggles my mind. Hmm... that is a good idea...

feministblogproject said...

I wish I had known you when I was planning my wedding . . . I would have hired you as a long-distance freelance wedding planner!

My wedding was miserable. My mom wanted a heavily Christian, "best of the best" EVERYTHING, my fiancé wanted a traditional Jewish ceremony, and I wanted to go to a courthouse or Las Vegas (I should mention that I'm an atheist). I gave in to the religious ceremony, thinking it would be nice, small, and unconventional (because I was going to inject my feminist sensibilities into it). Not so much.

It ended up costing way more than we thought it would, for a number of reasons. One is that the wedding industry sucks. Another is that my mom threw a fit whenever we wanted to do something simple, and it got easier to have an extravagant wedding we couldn't afford than to fight with her. I know, crappy reasoning, but there you have it.

She and I spent the entire day before my wedding fighting. I almost stood my fiancé up because I couldn't take the pressure. I kept calling my best friend and sobbing. I basically hated everybody involved (including myself) because all I had wanted was a tiny little ceremony, and I had allowed it to turn into a horse-and-pony show because I couldn't stand up to anyone. I was so stressed that I couldn't eat the week beforehand. I spent much of my wedding day upset, cranky, and stressed out. I don't even really like looking at the photos, because I'd kind of like to forget it happened.

Not that I regret marrying my now-husband. But if I could do it again I would put my foot down and elope. I would NEVER have a wedding again. After witnessing the hell of my wedding, my sister decided she's DEFINITELY eloping, and I'm advocating pretty much the same thing.

On the plus side, I did get to inject a little feminism in it. For one thing, my husband and I BOTH stepped on a glass at the conclusion of the ceremony. That was probably the highlight of my day. That and going up to our hotel room at the end of the night and . . . ordering pizza. It's sad, but we were too burned out to even think of consummating the marriage . . . LOL

FeministGal said...

ehehehehe "consummating the marriage..."

As soon as you say the word "wedding" prices for whatever it is you're ordering/looking for, sky rocket. You can cater a party for a certain amount but you say "wedding" and it triples. You can get beautiful floral arrangements for a reasonable price but you say "wedding" and the price becomes outrageous. What's up with that?! ugh! /rant.

(no, really, i swear, i'm done... haha)

NewsCat said...

After watching two siblings and several friends plan weddings the only thing I'm certain on is that if I ever get married I'm just going to elope and get married in Tahaiti or some place.

I love attending weddings but it seems to me that planning them takes all the fun out of having one.

Another Anonymous Poster said...

A friend got married a few years ago. The bride's brother was the 'man of honor', the officiant was a female humanist, and at the end they were pronounced "Mr. and Mrs. Bride Maiden-name and Groom Hisname". As the bride said, 'nobody would ever mistake us for not being married, even if I keep my last name'.

Elena said...

When my husband and I got married (religious, not legal), we rented a local Grange hall for $25 for the whole day which included tables and chairs and a beautiful outside area. We asked our friends for a reception food potluck instead of presents and got a sheet cake from a local bakery instead of a tiered cake. I handmade my dress, we splurged a bit on flowers, and I think we spent around $500 total.

The money we didn't spend on the wedding we used to take a trip to England (staying in hostels). definitely worth not having the fancy wedding.

daedalus2u said...

It is so sad that there are whole industries that exploit vulnerable young people.

I think this is where real friends can/should say "this wedding crap is bogus".

rowmyboat said...

"I think this is where real friends can/should say "this wedding crap is bogus"."

Some friends don't want to hear it. The first of my close friends has just started planning here wedding (I'm going to be in the party), and I'm doing my damnedest to insert little bits of feminist subversion. But, for example, when I suggested she wear something other than white, I got looks from all present like I had three heads. Though, we are calling ourselves bride's ladies, rather that bride's maids, at least among ourselves.

Some folks, even liberal or progressive ones, have this perfect image in their minds, and don't want to hear anything else.

Llencelyn said...

On the topic of what to do about guests and presents and money and such:

My fiancé and I are currently planning to ask them to contribute money towards our honeymoon fund. The guests still get to feel like they're buying actual presents for us, we don't get any random crap that we don't really need, and the costs of the trip (wherever it ends up being) get cut significantly.

We'll see how this pans out. The actual event is over a year away and ya know how stuff can change. :)

Rachel said...

Thanks-- this post and the article were both a lot of fun to read. My brother and sister-in-law's wedding was traditional in many ways, but they had an awesome potluck reception on a friend's farm, with dogs and chickens running around.

amandajane5 said...

I just got married in May and it was interesting to see the traditions collide and how we all dealt with it. My father's family is Irish Catholic Liberals, my mother's Southern Gentry, my husband's parents are both from the mid-West, and we got married in the shortest, most anti-godbag Unitarian ceremony possible (my mother-in-law did the music, so there were mentions of the bearded SkyFairy, but that wasn't me!) My dad gave me away all by self, but because my mother refused to come down the aisle in her wheelchair. My niece was my gorram flower girl despite Mom's objections (But the flower girl *takes away* from the bride!!! As if I care, she's way cuter than I am.) and I wore my mom's dress - cost effective *and* not strapless!

But we also got married at the curch at the top of the street I grew up on, and walked down to the reception at my parents' house. We had tons of good catered food, made out in front of the cake, and not only didn't have name-tags &etc. but deliberately didn't have enough seating - my mom says the best kind of party is a crowded one. I love the pictures so much (we really splurged on a great humanist photographer), and my husband and I spent half of the honeymoon talking through how awesome our big fun party was. I get pissed at people that are all like "Oh, I just had a *small* wedding, you know, just friends and family." It's not my fault that my dad's family is Roman Catholic and Daddy has seven brothers, add my maternal grandfather's two marriages, and my family out-numbered his three to one, doesn't mean I don't love them and didn't want them there!

I have five more weddings this year (apparently we all decided to get married at 32) and it'll be interesting to contrast - I am glad we went first, though, I must admit!

frau sally benz said...

You all are making me want to plan weddings again. Not the big, frou frou weddings, but the cool, different ones. Not that there's anything wrong with the people who want the big, frou frou weddings, it's just not my style.