Say Yes To The Mess: You Want To Get Married This Year?

Before I got engaged, I had this strange notion that wedding madness was what you make of it. Bridezillas and astronomical wedding budgets were a product of spoiled women given free reign to execute their lifelong bridal dreams. I figured that a rational woman (me) planning a (normal) wedding event would be able to do it simply and at a low cost with little to none of the insanity that so often seems to crop up and fuel entire channels of television and film content. (Hello Wedding Channel!)

But the more I’ve interacted with the wedding industrial complex, the more I’m realizing that the strange things that weddings do to females are often rational reactions to the irrational choices they’re presented with. If you want to have a calm wedding planning process, you have to elope. Or spend tons of money to make someone else plan a wedding for you. And chances are you’ll still get to sample the absurdity of the wedding industry.

Unless you’re Kate Middleton. In which case, you can announce your engagement and then be promptly married four months later at Westminster Abbey while the whole world watches (and your country’s tax payers pick up the tab).

But for the rest of us, wedding planning is an ordeal. Businesses have been created and sprouted new businesses based on the fact that nearly every engaged woman expects she will only get married once in her lifetime. And what price can you put on a perfect day? A really fucking high one.

I’m really looking forward to being married to my fiance. He’s the best person I know. (Fiance note: And the hottest.) And while we briefly considered eloping, we decided that we wanted to share the moment with our friends and family.

A wedding is about a lot more than the couple getting married. It’s one of the only occasions where entire families get together. And unlike a funeral, a wedding actually lets people celebrate. My family has had an especially hard year, and it will be nice to have everyone in the same place for an actually happy reason.

But once you decide you’re going to have a wedding with your friends and families in attendance, you are primed for everything the wedding industry has to sell you. And that’s where they get you! Because there is no way to feed and quench a large number of guests for a reasonable amount of money (especially in and around New York City, where I grew up).

There are no “good deals” in wedding planning. There are only ways of spending less obscene amounts of money.

I’ve been engaged for about five months now. And those five months have shattered every conception of wedding planning my silly little brain had prior to being engaged. I knew it would be difficult. And I knew that it would take a lot of time. And I knew we’d be spending money. But I had this strange, naive notion that wedding planning only makes you want to yell and scream at people if you take it too seriously. HAHAHAHa. I also thought that I could “save money” by not “caring so much” about having a “big deal wedding.” HAhahaha. Silly me.

At nearly every turn, I have been caught completely off guard by how much the reality differs from my conception.

It started right at the beginning. I had been engaged for two weeks and had a day off from work, so I thought I’d call around to get a sense of how much it costs to get married at a few places. I was prepared for it to be expensive. I was not prepared for the most frequent response I received:

“Wait. You want to get married THIS year?”

It was January First. Answers like that are enough to make a sane woman scream out at random in the middle of a crowded subway train.

In the end, I created a spreadsheet with about 300 venue options before finding one that had availability this year that could fit our large group of family (I’m Greek) and friends inside for a price I was willing to pay.

We’re getting married in October, and so far things are going (relatively) smoothly. But the kinds of ridiculous and impractical options that you’re presented with in the midst of wedding planning are enough to make most women lash out. I haven’t gotten to that point yet. And unlike most women planning a wedding, I have a website that will let me vent on a weekly basis. Welcome to Say Yes To The Mess.

Tune in next week for the time honored topic: If You Want A Better Deal, Just Lie

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    • sara

      I like you writing and I love this site, so I’m not being snarky. But, I hope you are putting the same amount of energy, money and planning into your actual marriage planning. We spent 5 hours planning and $3000 dollars on our wedding ceremony (including rings). For our marriage, we did 15 hours of premarital counseling, including financial, family and career planning. And we made a pact to go every six months for our whole lives, even though we’ve never even had a huge fight.

      We priortized the actual lifelong relationship as the first place to dump all our money and time. And my marriage is FUCKING AWESOME!!! The truth is: Not one single person gives a shit about a wedding unless its their wedding. Really. Its one day.

      • Meghan Keane

        Wait. You mean I actually have to like this person after we get hitched? Not cool.

      • Rachel

        @Meghan Keane: HAHAHA!

    • lisa

      if you can, do as much as possible for your wedding yourself to save money. enlist your friends and family to help….!

      also i have spent way too much time working in the wedding industry and have seen so many brides melt down over the tiniest things. they seem to forget what is really important and the only thing that matters is if the menus match the table linens exactly. you have to remember that this is just a party and no one (unless they hate you and then should not be attending your wedding) will be judging you on this day… like what sara said it’s what happens after the wedding that really matters.

      • Meghan Keane

        BUT THE MENUS MUST MATCH THE TABLE LINENS! Wait. The menus are supposed to match the table linens?

      • No More Bridesmaid NEVER again

        This is EVIL to do. As one who paid for 3 dresses, travelled to the other end of the country, bought and did the flowers, help with bridezilla and was treated badly for WHAT? A wedding ceremony where the closest friends and relatives were in too much pain and agony to enjoy the wedding. The wedding where the BRIDE was cleaning up afterwords as I tried to rub her feet as she was hurting too? Not worth it to have a wedding where the most important people are leaned on until they break. Invite fewer people and treat those who love you the most the est. Don’t screw over your closest just to look fancy for people you see every few years or less.

      • sara

        I had a friend try to cut corners by enlisting friends and it made the wedding miserable. We all were put to work for 8 hrs up until the cermony (Outdoors in 90 degree weather). By the time the reception started, most of the wedding party had snuck out and left. And she was basically a bitch all day, bossing everyone around. I don’t think a single person had fun.

    • Teeny

      I am also getting married this October, pricewise I am probably better off because it does help I am in the midwest. Trying to plan a traditional wedding with family and friends is going to be bigger then you think it should be. I hired a wedding planner, because I want the wedding to look nice and go smoothly, and I know that is not something I could do by myself. I do not do crafts, but frankly I do not want to pay a buttload either. Finding a middle ground in this frankly insane wedding industry can be hard find.

    • Steph

      I’m getting married in September, so I can feel your pain. I hope not to spend quite so much on everything, as I’m in the Midwest, but I realize that it’s still going to be a bit more than I would like it to be. I wish I could hire someone to help, but at this point it wouldn’t be worth the money.

    • Taylor

      I freaking love The Gloss.

      • Rachel

        I second this comment!

    • Rachel

      I’m really excited to read your column! I felt this same exact way pre-engagement. When I heard my other friends talk about their wedding planning I always thought to myself, “Why does everyone have to argue and be so dramatic? I will never be like this.” HA! We just got engaged three weeks ago and ALREADY we’ve had to deal with a few family “mini-meltdowns” and all we’ve talked about was setting a damn date!

    • Ashley

      So, so true. I got engaged in February ’09, and married in July of the same year. I remember getting DRESSED THE FUCK DOWN on an online wedding forum during my engagement when I told people my wedding date. The level of outrage that I would even CONSIDER doing this was…unexpected. To quote: “Who the fuck gets engaged and married in the same year? Clearly you’re not taking people’s vacation plans into account”. In wedding land, you are supposed to take at least eighteen months to plan the event, because the budget (which apparently HAS to be astronomical) demands it. I just couldn’t wait that long to marry my husband. Because I think he’s neat. Should be simple.

    • Micah

      thats why i’m getting married in Hong Kong at a marriage registry… total cost will be somewhere around $5000 HKD which is roughly $650 USD… and for that i get amazing beautiful flowers, a custom tailored dress, and no hassle from either of our families which arent thrilled that we’re getting hitched.

    • miinxi

      i am both eloping and having a wedding planner do it all for me (literally – i live in aussie and im getting married next year in bali). bugger all the stress that goes with weddings.

    • Lindsay Cross

      I feel your pain! I got engaged in October and married in June. People thought I was insane! But I ended up hiring a wedding planner, because we were having a destination wedding and I wasn’t completely familiar with the area.

      I definitely agree with Lisa though, the marriage is the important part! Anytime something started to get stressful or out of control, I would remind myself, “I’m getting married! Who cares about the napkins being pink instead of mint green (they shipped us the wrong ones, bubblegum pink…), I’m getting married!”

    • Eve

      @Ashley– they told you eighteen months? Jeeze! And Meghan, I feel you. I was lucky enough to find a venue that pretty much takes care of everything (food, flowers, etc.) in-shop. The only thing I’m worried about is my vegetarian friends getting enough to eat because the woman who runs the place thinks that vegetarians never get hungry– she literally said “We have a fruit plate for vegetarians and ham sandwiches for hungry people.” And you have to use their catering. Other than that, it’s nice not to have to worry about bringing in all the sundries from sundry places.

    • Crystal

      You CAN have an affordable wedding in a high priced city, but you have to change your expectations. You’re not going to have the Kardashian wedding on $5,000, but you can have a darn nice one. We got married 8 months after getting engaged, set our budget, and stuck to it. Rings, dress, wedding and honeymoon all cost us less than $5,000. Here’s the newspaper article

      • Nathalie

        Really cute picture, great ideas and a beautiful concept! Congratulations!