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