low key wedding

Jennifer Dziura writes life coaching advice weekly here on TheGloss, and career coaching advice Fridays on TheGrindstone.

I’m getting married, as I announced in Bullish Life: How I Met My Soon-To-Be Husband on OKCupid.

Our “wedding planning” has reached a bit of a standstill, because we both think that expressing feelings in front of a big room of people is sort of embarrassing and because weddings are expensive but when you try to do the cheap, clever solution, you are likely to end up working with unprofessional yahoos.

It all just seems a little unnecessary. But our mothers really don’t want us to elope. So you’d think we could have a small wedding, right? Or a really casual one? Now that I think about it, though, the people I know who’ve had small, awesome, tres-New York style weddings (In a bar, then sushi! Or, in a park with no permit, then pizza!) are people who are largely divorced from their families. Because you don’t really invite grandma to trudge up a hill with her walker if there’s any chance that the cops will bust you for an unlicensed gathering.

Wedding planning remains up in the air, but I have compiled a helpful list of things I think modern engaged people can safely skip if they want to.

(Nerd alert: I also managed to exorcise my troubles by writing an article about wedding planning math as pertains to the GRE.)


No. Just no. Why would I do this to my lady friends? Wearing matching dresses is for dance troupes, North Koreans, and pneumatic twins appearing on the withered arms of Hugh Hefner.

You know what my lady friends want? They want to be invited to a nice party where I pay for their alcohol. They do not want to sequester themselves in a back room where they must emotionally maintain me and button me into a forty-pound dress while their boyfriends/husbands sit around awkwardly outside, talking to someone else’s uncle.

My lady friends are gentlewomen and demand a certain amount of gravitas.

Forty pound, $3K dresses that still don’t actually fit.

Real Simple‘s wedding checklist suggests that I will need “at least three fittings.”

You know what kind of dress needs “fittings”? ONE THAT DOESN’T FIT.

If you have unusual body proportions of any kind, then surely I understand your need for tailoring. But if standard clothing sizes cover most of us for every other occasion of our lives, I fail to see how this is any different. I am a size 0-2. I am willing to buy a dress in size 0 and also size 2, and return the one that doesn’t fit. If neither of them fit, then design a better dress, assholes.

Also, strapless dresses? If you, dear reader, look amazing in one, god bless! I think that for at least 80% of the population, a strapless dress makes you look either flat-chested or saggy (you know, with the weight of a forty-pound dress hanging from your boobs), or else you’ve got some highly engineered corset under there that shoves your boobs up to your chin but, sadly, makes all your extra fat pop out somewhere else (like your back or armpits!)

Again, if you looked lovely in your strapless dress, cool. But I fucking refuse to wear any dress that requires special underwear of any kind. Also: receiving lines! The LAST OCCASION on which I want to wear a strapless dress is one during which I will hug literally dozens of people. That is an engineering failure waiting to happen. And by “engineering failure,” I mean “pressing your naked breasts into a World War II veteran.”

White dresses.

I mean, white is a nice color. I have no problem with other people’s white dresses. I’m just saying that other colors are also allowed, and that places that sell dresses often sell the same dress in various colors — the blue one is $500, and the white one is $1,500. That’s a scam!

I also think that once you’ve reached the stage of adulthood that you are paying for half of your own wedding, what’s the point of walking down the aisle in a garment designed to be a symbol of virginity and innocence? Not only has that ship long since fucking sailed, it’s kind of like not taking credit for your own hard-won adulthood. I wouldn’t write a book and then come to my own book party dressed for the first day of middle school.

I’d rather get married dressed like Marlene Dietrich than some teenage girl with a blue-ribbon hymen.

Sex jokes.

Hardly anyone (and no one in New York) is a virgin when they get married. “Wedding night” jokes just make you sound like someone’s creepy old uncle in 1975.

If couples that have been having sex with each other for years are planning some special wedding-night hijinks, do you really want to think about it? If the bride and groom have been living together since 2010, what on earth could they have been saving for their special night? Nothing that needs to be even remotely hinted at during the one awkward event of your whole life wherein your Glenn-Beck-loving relatives question your best friend about whether all her tattoos are going to keep her from finding a nice husband.

Speaking of which: Call me a prude, but I think the whole erstwhile tradition of losing your virginity on your wedding night is supremely creepy. Your dad should not be sitting around at 11pm after your wedding, having a drink, thinking, “My daughter is finally getting some penis.”

Losing your virginity should be one of those things where, when you’re 13, your parents assume it hasn’t happened yet, and when you’re 25, they assume it has, and in between you just don’t try to pinpoint the moment of truth. The whole idea of gathering all your friends and family in one place and then losing your virginity that very night strongly violates my incest taboo. Remember when Joe Simpson told the whole world that his daughter Jessica was a virgin bride? (It’s worse: after the wedding, he declared, “We’re celebrating the fact that she can do it till she’s blue in the face.”)

Fortunately, at modern weddings, we can just assume that the couple likes having sex with each other or they wouldn’t be getting married, and that it’s really none of anyone’s business.

So, garter-retrieving: absolutely not. Garter-throwing? Even worse. Besides, it’s not the natural state of things for men to engage in athletic feats to in an attempt to get married as soon as possible. Let’s drop the charade.

More than a couple rounds of choreographed dancing.

Only the bride and groom dance! Okay. Now the bride dances with her dad and the groom with his mom. Er, a bit awkward. (At same-sex marriages, possibly even more confusing.) Now only the wedding party dances!

If I were a country star, I would absolutely record yet another creepy, drawly song about “daddy’s little girl,” knowing that it would get play at weddings until the end of time.

Paper invitations.

The postal service needs no part of this. There will be no Love stamps. There will be no reply cards. I absolutely refuse to deal with printers in person or over the phone, much the same way that every time someone requests a fax, I scan the document and email it back to them, apologizing that, because I am only 33, I have never used a fax machine.

You can do online invitations, with RSVP-tracking, at Greenvelope or Modern Day Invite. If we’ve been able to buy, sell, and scalp Rangers tickets online since around 1997, there’s no reason the Internet should not be able to keep track of whose cousin needs a vegetarian meal.

Real Simple actually lists “hire a calligrapher” as a to-do item! Must I also hire a glass-blower in a three-cornered hat? Does anyone want to work the butter churn?

Color schemes.

I don’t have special colors. Insisting that things be your favorite color is the way five-year-olds express their individuality in households in which they are expected to adopt their parents’ beliefs in politics, religion, and everything else that’s important. “Oh, how adorable — little Billy likes things that are red! And trucks! And dolphins!” That’s cool, as long as he doesn’t like pink, or socialism, or getting the hell out of his small Texas town to pursue a career as a drag performer. (“Well, he always did like dolphins. We should have recognized the signs.”)

What I’m saying is that there are a lot of nice colors out there. Black and orange? Bad colors even for a Halloween party. But pink? Lilac? Any shade of blue or aqua? Taupe? Celery? Grass? Peach? Coral? Yellow? THEY’RE ALL NICE.

I tried to find some kind of one-stop wedding palace where they would just “make it look like a wedding” so I don’t have to make any decisions. Please never say the word “centerpiece” to me.

Fancy and Ritualistic Food

Obviously, you should serve people a decent meal. But seriously: It’s one meal of their lives. I don’t care if my personal favorite foods are present. Just because I like something doesn’t mean I need to eat it on a special day many months from now, or purchase it for everyone I know.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I really care about food. When I was twelve and my family only got Chinese takeout on very special holidays, I truly thought that an amazing luxury — the MOST amazing luxury — would be to be able to eat whatever I wanted, whenever I wanted. I now have this ability! I order lunch from Seamless several times per week. I regularly decamp to foreign countries just to eat their food, and then I infringe on my Argentine/Belgian/Swedish waiter with, “WHAT DO YOU HAVE THAT I HAVE NEVER HAD BEFORE?” And then I’ve got the eels in green sauce and a nice Lambic (I went with Belgium in this example) and I feel that my airfare has been worthwhile.

However, I can’t bring 100+ people to Belgium with me, nor do I think they would appreciate me foisting my taste on them.

The food served at weddings is typically whitey-white-people country-club food (bland! meaty! cream sauce!), and also it’s one night of our lives. We have all eaten meals before, and will eat meals again! There is no need to celebrate our nuptials with a carving station.

Also, as someone who is at least moderately class-conscious, I kind of think that anyone who had to carve meat all night (under a heat lamp!) for a huge bunch of people having an expensive party would almost certainly be glowering with hatred. In general, food service workers resent you; I’m not making it worse with excessive meat.

Also, cake? I don’t eat baked goods. My man doesn’t eat dairy. There will definitely be no ceremonial cake-cutting. I mean, I’ll BUY a cake, I guess, and everyone can eat it. (By which I mean to say: LET THEM EAT CAKE!) But why make a big deal? I’m not ceremonially cutting anyone’s filet mignon for them, nor will we be playfully smushing the baby potatoes into one another’s faces.

Here’s my list of things that seemed kind of silly but actually make a lot of sense:

Place cards

Letting people seat themselves only works if you have substantially more seating than people. But if you’ve invited 60 people and you have 6 tables that each seat 10, it is not cool to make your friends and family play the most awkward game of musical chairs ever. It’s like consigning everyone to some kind of intergenerational middle school lunch room. (“Is this seat available?” “No, sorry, I’m saving it for my husband of fifty years.” “Oh, cool.” AWKWARD.)

People who know what they’re doing.

Trying to be clever and game the system by having a wedding in a nontraditional location will typically result in dealing with people who might accidentally book a band to play a bitchin’ show on the evening of your wedding, or who don’t understand that your wedding guests need clean bathrooms. Places that regularly have weddings have thought everything through: there’s a place the bride walks out of to walk down the aisle, and they will pester you weeks in advance regarding exactly how many of your guests will have the balsamic vinaigrette on their salads.

We do have wedding rings (they arrived in the mail, we tried them on, and just kept wearing them), and after this post — Crowdsourcing: Help Jen Dziura Pick Her Wedding Dress!, I did actually purchase and try on many of the suggestions listed. Gloss readers have excellent taste, even if much of the photography on the Neiman website is really misleading. (Also, everything on BHLDN looks amazing but is weird in real life). I ended up buying this, which is the same designer and color as something Zanbrody suggested, so I declare her the winner of the contest. TheGloss will mail her some swag.

In the end, it turns out that our relatives are pretty chill, and would be fine if we got married at City Hall, and then we all had dinner at a normal restaurant somewhere, and then maybe we had a party for our friends on some other night. I think what they would be somewhat confused about is the plan wherein we tell them there’s going to be a wedding and then we just postpone it repeatedly until we have two kids and people just mostly forget about it. We’ll see.

Send in your questions to bullish@thegloss.com or follow on Twitter @jendziura. See a Bullish archive here.