A wedding, in its essence, is an event where two people get married in the presence of their friends and families. At some point in the last half-century or so, a wedding has become an epic series of interrelated events that bear some relation to the fact that two people will eventually get married in the presence of their friends and families. Much to the glee of the multi-billion-dollar wedding industry, a typical wedding - in many, if not all, social strata - now comprises an engagement party, a bridal shower, a bachelor party, a bachelorette party, a rehearsal dinner, a wedding (there's the getting married part), and a brunch the next day.
The movie Bridesmaids brilliantly captured some of the blighting aspects of these wedding-related rituals, especially the competitiveness between women that they foster. But it did not hit on what seems to be the central issue for many people (even if they will only complain about it in hushed tones far from the bridge and groom): the huge output of time and money required of everyone close to the couple. In the movie, the girls inexplicably have unlimited resources to put toward dresses, extravagant presents, trips out of town, over-the-top parties, etc., in spite of some of them being less than gainfully employed. In real life, the couple may act as if you have a bottomless well of cash to spend on their wedding, but that doesn't mean you actually do.
I was a bridesmaid in two weddings this past summer, which meant I had wedding events in stereo: two bridal showers, two bachelorette parties, two rehearsal dinners, etc. I dearly love both of my brides, but after buying new dresses for both weddings, presents for both bridal showers and both weddings, attending two fancy bachelorette dinners, and spending many an hour shopping, cooking, crafting, emailing, and coordinating various happenings, it wasn't only love that I was feeling.
It seems to me that this wedding event culture can actually breed resentment on both sides. On the couple's side, expectations have been ratcheted up so high for all these happenings that there is bound to be disappointment and anti-climax. (I have seen more than one bride in tears because she felt she wasn't getting feted enough.)
Viewed as a chance to show your love for your engaged friends and get together with big groups of kind, supportive people, these events serve an important role, and can definitely be fun and celebratory in and of themselves. But it's the scale I object to - the wedding as behemoth - and the accompanying infiltration of consumer culture into this most sacred of rituals. Are all these gifts, outfits, and costly excursions what weddings are really about? And, more to the point, are they what marriage is really about? And, when it comes down to it, shouldn't weddings be about marriage?
I know I am fighting an uphill battle here, but I have one request to make. I understand the reasons behind many of these extra-curricular activities (I have been told that you must throw a brunch for your out-of-town guests), but can someone explain the function of the bridal shower? And does anyone know anyone who has ever actually enjoyed a bridal shower (barring their own, or even including their own)? The bridal shower strikes me as a relic of a bygone age (think Mad Men) when women coveted their household appliances above all else. It still has the advantage of bringing women together, but bachelorette parties have already got that covered. And if women want to get together, can't we do it without getting dressed up, serving hors d'oeuvres, and buying each other salad bowls? So, ladies, a plea: Do you think we could all band together and just cut the bridal shower out of the equation? No, probably not. No one wants to give up their salad bowl.