Saturday, March 20, 2010

Weddings: Snob or reverse snob?

Brides are notorious for being snobs about who had the fanciest wedding, but I find that in UU circles, I have conversations like:

CC: Hey, swing music! I had a swing band at my wedding!

UUBride1: Oh, that's pretty extravagant. I just had a DJ...

UUbride2: We didn't want to support the Wedding Industrial complex. So for our music, the groom just played his harmonica...

UUbride3: Groom? You had a Groom?

OK, it's not quite that bad.

But (and this might be because I had a wedding with a band) that I am far more likely to hear people brag about how cheap their wedding was in a "what a purist I am" sort of way than to brag on what a fancy wedding they had. I swear I've heard like five people tell the "what a fabulous and spiritual wedding I had for just a hundred bucks, I can't imagine why anyone would spend more" speech recently.

So is this a UU thing, or is having a traditional wedding way uncool in general these days?

who, truth be told, grew up in a family so screwed up that she just wanted to do one thing just like everyone else.

And also observes that even Jesus would rather drink wine than water at a wedding.

Oh, and criminal justice *headdesk* of the day.


hsofia said...

I think it's a generational, subculture thing. Or might be one more to add to the list of "stuff that white people like." Part of the offbeat bride thing, perhaps - as a counterpoint to the $50,000 wedding/bride wars things. I am a unique and wonderful snowflake and welcome to my unique and wonderful snowflake wedding. Not that I'm dissing it; I almost had one of those.

Paul Oakley said...

"So is this a UU thing, or is having a traditional wedding way uncool in general these days?"

Traditional wedding, CC?

My grandparents, great grandparents, and, on one side of my family, even my aunts and half of my cousins got married in their parents' living room with the parents themselves as witnesses, with no one else there other than the minister doing the ceremony. No music at all. (And the church weddings only had the church organist or pianist for music and a simple cake with fruit punch in the church basement afterward.) One night in a hotel nearby for the honeymoon. Community did a chivaree later.

Now that's traditional. ;)

When I got married at 18, we eloped. Then when my partner whom I've been with for 24 years got together, we just moved in together and that was that. Not even a chivaree.

Now that's traditional. ;)

And we walked to school five miles in the snow. Barefoot. Oops, strike that last! The rest is true, though.

Chalicechick said...

Good point. I do need to work on my terminology there.

That said, most UUs who have told me how impressively inexpensive their weddings were didn't get married in a living room. Most of them either got married by themselves or got married in the woods or on the beach for almost nothing. (CC can't fathom getting married outside without providing chairs for one's guests and a tend in case of rain. But again, she has expensive taste in Weddings.)


ogre said...

Our wedding is now 5 years ago. We paid for it all ourselves, and decided we weren't going to go into debt for it. That meant that there wasn't $50k for it. Hell, there wasn't $5k.

We also had to deal with the arms negotiations involved so that certain parents would attend--without crossing the line that would cause the "screw it, we're eloping instead" line.

We managed to get a Catholic priest and UU minister to the same place (despite the local diocese's unique rules that appear to be a response to the fact that outdoor weddings are commonplace...), the family there... and we had a wonderful time. A friend who was an amateur jeweler made our rings; a band a friend was in played (he gave us his share of what they were being paid as his gift). We rents space on the campus we'd gone to college at because it was inexpensive and convenient. We held an organize potluck to feed people (local friends with finances like ours did that, instead of gifts...).

The fact that we find spending a year's income on a wedding bizarre is our reaction; YMMV. We were happy with what we did, and had a lot of comments about what a great time people had, how wonderful the cake was (we spent time and money making sure of that), the music...

Dunno if that's subculture; I don't think it's generational. I think.

Chalicechick said...

(((The fact that we find spending a year's income on a wedding bizarre is our reaction; YMMV. )))

While we didn't spend a year's income, our logic was that there are only two occaisions in a lifetime when all your friends from all over the country can reasonably be expected to congregate in one place and to meet one another. Though you are the natural center of both occaisions you are by definition not even present at the second.

Therefore to us, not making the best time we possibly could of the one occaision where us and all of our friends came together at once was the bizarre idea.

Again, YMMV.


Joel Monka said...

We agreed with that logic, which is why our reception was held at Hawkeye

PG said...

I don't know what the term "traditional" means in the wedding context: should it be literally what a prior generation did, or should it be a proportionate level of effort (whether in proportion to income or to what one's peers also do)?

I tried to insist that my mom couldn't demand anything for my wedding that was more extravagant than her wedding. I figured that was reasonably safe, since my dad's family was broke and my mom, while upper middle class by Indian standards, no longer had a father and was dependent on the goodwill of her extended family for her wedding. However, when I tried to block her from buying a diamond necklace for me to wear, by pointing out that she'd had only coral jewelry, she retorted that she'd also had her groom picked out by her uncle, and was I going that route?

I'm just glad that I could convince her that circling a helicopter over Lower Manhattan would not be a good idea. The concept of a "traditional" wedding in India these days appears to be not literally what one's own parents had, but whatever is proportionate to the amount of total wealth one's parents have, just as one's grandparents spent a meaningful fraction of their total wealth (albeit then measured in buffalo rather than lakhs of rupees) on one's parents' weddings.

So long as people aren't imposing too much on their friends and family (e.g. by demanding that guests dress to color-coordinate with the theme) and aren't spending money they don't have, I'm pretty uncritical of anyone's wedding process now that I've gone through it myself.

thisgirlremembers said...

Hmm. I agree with the first commenter that it's probably a generational/subculture thing. Also, you'll probably find a higher concentration of people who like to make a point about being different than the mainstream in UU congregations than in the general population.

And there are lots of people out there, wherever you look, who believe that their own "special day" was the specialest special day of them all... however they personally define that.

Last summer I attended a family wedding that was the most standard cookie-cutter event I've ever seen. You could honestly have replaced the bride and groom with other people without anyone noticing, except that we know them by sight. But... the wedding they had seems like it was truly the wedding they wanted, so right on for them. Partly by choice and partly because we flat-out didn't have money to put on a wedding + reception of any kind, my husband and I headed up the coast with several close family members in tow to get married at the San Francisco city hall, and then celebrated afterward at an inexpensive restaurant for dinner. Worked for us. Definitely not for everyone. No skin off my back.

kimc said...

We tried to keep the cost of our wedding down, but it crept up to $5K. but we thought it was more because we were older and established, both being 48 when we got married -- though it was my first marriage. It didn't seem right to go the totally traditional expensive route. Though, come to think of it, a lot of it was traditional -- the big white dresses, the bridesmaids, the tiered cake. Anyway, we thought we were too old for presents so we did the food potluck and asked for a contribution to the meal instead of presents. It was a beautiful feast which I was too nervous to taste.

hsofia said...

kimc - I went to two weddings of UUs here in Portland that featured potlucked or guest-prepared food. In one, the menu was drawn up and the cooking supervised by a UU chef-in-training who attended the same church as the couple. But the food prep and cooking was all done by family and friends (I helped out but don't remember what I did). Then we all came back the next day and ate it at the wedding. The other wedding, guests were asked to bring a dish in lieu of a gift if they were so inclined. And it was all vegetarian, too. The groom and bride ordered some staples, and there were some catering people there to arrange the table and make everything look nice. That was the best wedding food EVER.

I know when I looked at professional catering at my wedding, it would have been the biggest expense, and it was THOUSANDS of dollars.

Betsy said...

To me at least, it doesn't seem to be an issue of what is traditional or not, what is generation or not, or what is subculture-based or not with regards to weddings. The issue is the need to brag about it, whether you are bragging about how inexpensive or expensive. These are the same folks that feel the need to tell you how much/how little they spent on their kitchen renovations, last vacation, Christmas presents, and on and on and on.

PG said...

Betsy, good point. Whatever happened to the social norm that it is generally gauche to discuss the cost of things, particularly when no one asked you?

hsofia said...

PG - But in what communities was it gauche to discuss the cost of things? I really wonder how universal that was.

Unknown said...

1- As your snob comment reveals, I think your distaste was far more to the way in which the comments were made vs. the content of the comments.

2- Preferring "hippie weddings" is a subcultural element that exists beyond the UUA. Some of this comes from the successful challenging of an old dominant norm, but much derives from the belief that established/inherited rituals are innately less spiritual then recent/self-created ones.

3- Consider my reiteration of the challenges to the word traditional read. :-)