I was raised in the bigger is better generation: bigger houses, bigger cars, and, of course, bigger weddings. I was eight when I went to my first wedding, or rather "wedding weekend". As a flower girl in my aunt's seaside celebration, we spent four days toasting the couple. At the time it all seemed like a fairytale, with dinners and cocktail hours and lots of costume changes. In recent years, however, we have begun to realize that perhaps bigger doesn't always equal better. Whether from Morgan Spurlock's revealing look into the 42-oz soda or unprecedented economic troubles in the U.S., numerous forces have caused society to question its over-the-top habits. We have started to see this trend play out in the wedding industry as well, as brides are beginning to choose smaller, more intimate affairs regardless of their ability to afford the supersized version.
Priscilla Chan and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, for example, made waves this past summer when the billionaire and his now-wife opted for an intimate backyard affair. Even though they could have thrown the party of the season, the two chose to cement their relationship in front of family and friends at their Palo Alto, Calif. home, staying true to their low-key nature.
Part of the trend towards larger than life wedding celebrations can be attributed to the content available to us. Going back to my childhood memories, every Disney fairytale shows a big white dress with lots of attendants. Even the wedding magazines and blogs lean towards decadent affairs, if for no other reason than to meet advertisers' needs. You can only highlight so many vendors in a small wedding. One of the reasons I co-founded Carats & Cake, a wedding website, was to enable newlyweds to showcase their weddings, regardless of size, extravagance, or money spent. While much of the user-generated content on Carats & Cake reveals a tendency toward large weddings, some of our most recent submissions are of the smaller variety, including an Italian elopement and a Block Island (near Rhode Island) backyard fete. More than anything I think that this recent shift in thinking has given brides the opportunity to take a step back and determine what they really want their wedding to be instead of having the type of wedding that their friends and family may expect them to host.
When one of my best friends got married a few years back, she discussed the pressure of managing expectations. The things that were important to her were not always important to others involved. However, in the past two years we have seen a shift in both planning and financial responsibilities. More couples are actively planning together instead of placing the burden on one party or the other. In addition, as people continue to get married later and later, financial responsibility for the wedding has shifted from parents to couples. These changes are empowering brides-to-be to rethink their childhood visions and focus on what matters to them now. In the end, I don't think it's about big or small but about staying true to the couple you are.