"You can invite as many people as you want as long as they stop at McDonald's on the way."
That was my dad's response to me when I begged him 12 years ago to include my friends at my older sister's wedding. (The man had a point. Weddings are expensive. He couldn't feed everyone.) He didn't stop there. Years later, his negotiations would continue.
When it came time to plan my big day after I got engaged three years ago, he had a proposal of his own. Just as he had with my sister, he offered my fiancé and me money. Not for a wedding, for a house. As I'm sure many fathers have before him, he tried to persuade us to take the amount he would put towards a reception, in cold, hard cash. We could have it immediately, use it for savings, a down payment on a property and eventually to start a family. He reasoned that spending that kind of dough on one day was silly and, instead, we should use it for something much more permanent -- like our life together. While tempting, we declined.
You couldn't put a price on our dreams. And, while, those visions included all that he presented: the house, the kids and the financial security, the wedding was also on that list and weddings trump all, at least in little girl's and engaged young women's minds. There was no way I was giving up my dress, my bouquet or our party for a piece of paper no matter how many zeros were on it. The thought was too depressing, too clinical, too... practical. Aren't fairy tales supposed to be the antithesis to practicality? No Disney book I ever read talked about mortgages and 401ks. So we forged ahead. In place of money market accounts were centerpieces, in lieu of Roth IRA's were chandeliers.
Two years later and still renting, my father's offer looks really good in hindsight. My husband and I often joke about how foolish we were. Considering all the stress we put ourselves through during the planning process and how quickly the event went combined with the cost of living in Southern California... Some would say we were crazy for turning the money away. Most days we would agree with them.
But, as much as we could really use those funds right now to start a family of our own in a home we own, truthfully, all kidding aside, we wouldn't do it differently. The memories we made from the weekend-long celebration of our love for one another surrounded by everyone we care about are pretty priceless.
However, should we be so blessed to have a daughter of our own one day and fortunate enough to be able to afford a wedding, we will probably present the same choice to her. But I'm fairly certain that, like her mother and all those dreamers that came between us, she, too, will say she'd rather have the party, that practicality can wait.
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