This is the Story of the Wedding that Wasn’t

Shout out to my partner in the Most Successful IU Mentor-Mentee Pairing in the History of IU Mentor-Mentee Pairing (title self-appointed), BLS. She’s put me on to many resources for history and teaching and thinking about professional life more broadly, but she’s also put me on to any number of books, articles, and writers that have nothing to do with our shared profession (although it’s not uncommon for us to find a way to make them relatable). In particular, and for the purpose of this post, I’m thinking of Ann Patchett.

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Patchett’s most recent book, This is the Story of a Happy Marriage, is a collection of her essays and articles previously published in magazines – with the exception of her introductory essay, which I could go on and on about, re: my love of her interchangeable use of the word “working” for “writing” and her unabashed celebration of a good work ethic. The article for which the collection is named tells the story of Patchett’s reluctance to marry Karl, her partner of eleven years, despite his on-going desire that the two should be wed. After a failed marriage as an early twenty-something, Patchett swore off the institution. When she met and began dating Karl, she insisted that they maintain separate homes, separate accounts, and semi-separate lives. It was only when Karl was diagnosed with a terminal heart condition that she relented. Ultimately, it turned out that he had been misdiagnosed and continued to live happily and healthily – and by then they were wed. And she was glad.

While listening to a Fresh Air interview with Patchett, I was struck by her discussion of the marriage, her resistance to entering into it, and what she ultimately concluded was the main thing she had been averse to: being a bride. In looking back, she asserted that she’d not been so nervous about the relationship or even the institution of marriage, not with this man or under the circumstances (all good) under which their relationship took place. She claimed she’d had no idea how nor any desire to navigate the expectations that come with having a wedding.

Way back when, in 1988, when she’d wed her first husband, their terrible wedding seemingly predestined their eventual split. After a proposal in which Patchett’s gut instinct was to say no before the question had even been popped (of his pulling out the ring, she writes “He might as well have pulled a knife.”), she and husband #1 lived together uneasily until she gave in. “Okay, we’ll do it,” she said, months after the initial attempted proposal. On the wedding day, she lost her shoes (never to be found); bees swarmed around the flowers in her hair; the cake melted in the heat; and the couple’s car broken down on the way out of town, eating up their honeymoon time and savings. The marriage lasted fourteen months.

That experience, along with the marriage itself (and a rich family history of failed marriages), put Patchett off marriage. And, it seems, off weddings. I imagine there’s a bit of hindsight to Patchett’s proclaimed aversion to the having and hosting of a wedding, and it may well be a hindsight that could only develop once a thing is said and done. Of her marriage to Karl, Patchett writes that his illness gave them a “get-out-of-jail-free card” when it came to a wedding. They purchased the marriage license, a Catholic priest friend dropped by their home to sign it, and they were married. That afternoon, Ann and Karl went out and bought a lawnmower. Having moved in, having gotten married, having avoided fanfare, Patchett wondered what she’d been waiting for.

APandKarl

AP & Karl

I’ve thought of this story from a number of different angles. On the one hand, I love Ann and Karl’s simplistic approach to legalizing a pairing that worked pretty well as it was. But there’s something I can’t shake. Again, I suspect, to some degree, that Patchett’s claim on not wanting to be a bride may be a realization that came when she felt a sense of relief at not having had to be a bride. But the fact that such a smart, funny, together women who seems to have a pretty good idea of who she is and what she stands for (unless I am misreading her entirely in her essays) could feel cowed by contemporary wedding culture says something about just how overwhelming and seemingly monolithic and unrelenting that culture is. As someone who studies the history of American weddings – and dabbles in evaluating the modern business and culture of the celebration – I see variations in the styles of celebration and have argued that the wedding offers possibilities for any number of expressions. But I can appreciate how it appears not to.

All that said, I’d suggest that everyone has access to a “get-out-of-jail-free card” when it comes to weddings – and it doesn’t have to be used in the pursuit of *not* having a wedding. It can be used to justify any number of additions to or subtractions from the standard form. A wedding can look as much like the cultural ideal as one chooses – or it can be a different animal entirely. And I think this possibility of variation is something that is becoming increasingly common and, maybe even more importantly, increasingly accepted. When writing about how marriage changed things, Patchett writes that marrying Karl freed up so much time. They no longer had to discuss why they weren’t married – with each other or anyone else. My sense is that – for them – their reasons for eventually marrying were solid and, in some ways, were reasons that they needed not share. The public declaration a wedding affords was not essential. That’s fine, and I’m sure there are plenty of other couples who feel the same way. But for others, how wonderful that there is the wedding to allow them the chance to tell the people they love most just why they’ve decided to wed and what they think their lives will be like. And how sad to think that an understanding of the wedding as rigid and constrictive might cause some people to forego that opportunity altogether.

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Sometimes We Watch TV and Scream

And it’s not even always because we’re watching The Walking Dead.

 the-walking-dead-flesh-eating-zombies-season2-2011

Last night, my husband called me into the TV room and deliberately rewound so I could watch this:

http://www.ispot.tv/ad/7fld/davids-bridal-the-invisible-man

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Why must he taunt me?

I get that there is this cultural thing going on in contemporary America that privileges wedding dresses above all other wedding accoutrement (I guess some people would argue that the ring is NUMBER ONE, but my money is still on the dress). I get that there is this on-going view of the wedding as “the bride’s day.” I see these trends. I accept that they exist. I hate them. And so: I use this blog to express my frustration with this advertisement (titled, “The Invisible Man” – gag) and its willful perpetuation of ideas I despise.

First: Grooms need not be “mere cog(s) in the wheel of…carefully choreographed wedding extravaganza(s).” The groom is future partner to the person he’s about to wed. As such, he should (and many grooms do) share responsibility in the careful choreographing of said extravaganza. Or he should feel free to say,“Hey, I’m not into the idea of our wedding as a ‘carefully choreographed’ anything, extravaganza or otherwise.”And if he’s about to marry the right person, that person will say “I get it. What kind of celebration can we plan that will make us both happy?”

Second: Sometimes grooms marry grooms. And then – uh-oh. There’s no bride for the wedding to be all about. And there’s no dress to take up the absent bride’s attention. SIDENOTE: Trust me: I get that same-sex partners can embrace non-normative gender titles and appearance – but for the sake of argument, let’s say no bride, no dress. What then? The wedding doesn’t matter? Chyrs Ingraham critiqued the wedding-industrial complex years ago, and paid particular attention to the heterosexist element of American wedding culture. To some degree, with the growing legalization of same-sex unions, the heterosexism of traditional wedding expectations is more apparent than ever. And from my point of view, it makes the wedding industry’s attempt to grasp at tired wedding absolutes look terribly old-fashioned and out of date (ahem, David’s Bridal).

Third: Brides are not an absolute lump category. Just like we in the history biz can’t say “American women” and feel fine that we’ve covered our bases talking about what ALL WOMEN thought, how they acted, or what they valued, we can’t say “brides” and feel like we’ve got a catch-all terms on our hands. Newsflash wedding industry: women/brides have different goals and intentions as they prepare for their weddings and their marriages. Because weddings have been my point of research – and to some degree, my professional bread and butter – I’ve tried not to digress to the personal in these posts. But here and now I share this: I bought a wedding dress from J. Crew that a) was among the cheapest they had available; b) I could get at 30% (I think) off because I would’ve spent above $100; c) they would ship to my house and I would never have to go into a wedding gown store; d) I thought would be fine. What I wanted: something much more vintage-y that fell just below the knees, had tea-length sleeves, and was not white. Is that what I got? No way. Why? Because I didn’t value getting the dress I had in my mind’s eye enough to spend the time and resources looking for it. What I did value: checking “get wedding dress” off my list. I report the following: Wedding dress ~ Good enough; Wedding day ~ Awesome; Marriage ~ Still going strong. For me, for others, it definitively was *not* “all about the dress.”

I get that David’s Bridal, which essentially is the Costco of bridal boutiques (it feels wrong to use “boutique” here, but I will), probably isn’t particularly interested in rocking the boat, re: mainstream views of contemporary American weddings. But I do think the company could tap into something more exciting and more relevant in the world of wedding culture. When brides and grooms of the 1960s and 1970s decided they would “do their own thing,” that they would personalize their celebrations to reflect who they were and what they thought, the Grand Dame of the wedding dress industry Priscilla Kidder – who had made her name and fortune with 1950s-era brides – started using language about how weddings and gowns could be unique and reflect the individual. And she sold more dresses. The traditional market was still there – but the new market responded to her savvy tactics. My sense is that the many businesses that comprise the contemporary wedding industry would do well to take stock of evolutions in wedding populations and styles of celebration and shape their messages to fit the modern age. My guess is that even the “traditional” celebrants would see the appeal.

Second (or Third) Time’s the Charm?

In recent radio interviews I’ve done, a number of callers have mentioned how their second weddings were far better than their first. They felt more ownership over the celebrations and found them to be more meaningful. This, I suppose, could be a result of the advanced age of the celebrants the second time around, or it could be that second-timers have learned from their mistakes. Or, ideally, it could be a result of marrying a more suitable partner. In any case, the world of second (or more) weddings is a topic that keeps coming up.

I thought this summer might be the long-awaited Brangelina wedding, or that Jen Aniston and Justin Theroux might tie the knot (it would be the first marriage only for Theroux). But those couples seem to be hedging their bets – and keeping quiet on when the celebrations might take place. Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, very recently engaged, may beat them all to the altar. I’m thrilled with their engagement for the wedding talk it undoubtedly will generate – and very curious to see how they proceed. On the one hand, there’s a suggestion that the two are moving toward a modicum of privacy in their private lives as they’ve done well to limit baby North’s public exposure. But then, there’s Kim’s postpartum selfie. And a stadium proposal. So the possibility exists that we could have another Kardashian wedding extravaganza on our hands.

kkselfie

kanye-kim-engaged-650

My sense is that in the past, a second wedding, particularly one conducted after a divorce, necessitated an almost subdued celebration style. But I think the sentiment that suggests a couple go low key if one or the other has already been married is increasingly becoming something of a relic. Similarly, whereas when a bride was of an advanced age, say over 35 (advanced, obviously, only in the scare-women-into-marriage-as-quickly-as-possible wedding world of mid-century [when, really, 25 was considered “advanced]), the expectation was that she forgo the pomp and circumstance, trading in childish bridal dreams for a sensible suit and simple ceremony. That notion has gone the way of the dinosaur. Expectations of wedding celebrations, like American culture as a whole, have changed. Whereas public sentiment about what a person should do once held much greater sway, the private desires of what a person wants to do now reign supreme.

In any case, I think the public is inclined to give second-timers a pass, particularly when they move toward simpler, more heartfelt celebrations. There is likely to be less judgment of a couple when the second shot at love seems authentic. I wonder what that will mean for Kimye. Kanye generally leans toward theatrical while Kim’s wedding to Kris Humphries (her second marriage) was nothing less than a spectacle, with its corporate sponsorship, subsequent E! broadcasts, and multi-paged coverage in national print media. I doubt that either will push for a quiet celebration of closest family and friends, off the beaten path, outside the public eye. But if their natures and their trades lead them toward spectacle, is their union any less legitimate than those who scale back on the second take? Is it fair to doubt the authenticity of their romance? And if the second (or third) time is the charm, and the love feels truer and more real, what should stop a couple from celebrating in a style of their choosing? I realize Kim is the woman who cried love once already – and very publicly (and after a first failed marriage) – so those who have their doubts about the depth of the reality star’s affections have their reasons. But I’m curious to see which will prevail: amendments to wedding culture that allow for some flexibility and forgiveness or the tendency toward an increasingly mean-spirited overarching critique of American weddings and their celebrants (unnecessary, excessive spending, privileging the wedding over the marriage, etc., etc., etc.).

Pinning Dreams and Perpetuating Stereotypes

I recently read an article about the seemingly widespread practice of creating wedding-related Pinterest boards before a wedding is planned, an engagement proposed, or a partner even identified (http://www.fsunews.com/article/20130801/FSVIEW0101/130731021/Girls-get-Pinterested-wedding-wishlists). I’ve seen some of this impulse toward “When I…” boards on the social media site. Sometimes the speculation is “When I have a baby,” or “buy a home,” and so naturally “get married” fits as the kind of category for which one might plan. But for some reason, the wedding seems a more problematic hypothetical, and I do think the process for planning without any sort of end date in mind (or end mate, for that matter [sorry]) contributes to that. When people critique American wedding culture, this is what they’re looking at. Too many women – and the suggestion is that this is primarily a female phenomenon – focus more on what they want their wedding to look like than on what they want their partner or their marriage to be like. What’s more, they don’t care what that partner might desire for his/her wedding day. The bride’s day will be the bride’s day.

pinterest-inspiration-wedding-board

As a whole, these “when I” boards give me pause, but I worried that I might be too knee-jerk in my critique. Trying to think about the process of “pinning” a dream wedding in a historical context, I wondered if this is in some way the 21st century equivalent of the hope chest. During the 19th century and well through post-World War II period, many young women collected goods for marriage in such chests. From girlhood, a woman stockpiled linens, towels, flatware, and various other domestic goods for her future home. Year-by-year, she added things to her collection. The expectation was that she would one day marry and thus would need to be prepared. For most women, that expectation was right on. Unless well-educated or raised in material privilege, the best means of support for a woman was to be found through a union with a man. And of course social and cultural expectations pointed directly to marriage, home, and family life as the culmination of success for American women.

1947_lanehopechest

1947 Hope Chest Advertisement

Ultimately, though, I have to conclude that preparing for a home – and particularly in the historical context – was a different thing than preparing for a wedding. The circumstances under which young women filled their hope chests veered far more toward the practical than the aesthetic (and, in fact, the emerging domestic aesthetic that tended toward the trendy or the store-bought – a particularly popular look in the newly developing postwar suburbs – helped make the keeping of a hope chest an increasingly outdated process from the 1950s on). In a time when brides and grooms couldn’t depend on a string of showers or the presentation of elaborate wedding gifts – or cash, as many prefer now – to mark the start of their union, they had to take responsibility for material and financial support during the early years of marriage before they entered into that relationship. For men, that often meant securing steady employment and the start of a nest egg. For women, that meant preparation of the necessities required of a home (and often steady employment and nest egg contribution until at least the birth of the first child, if not beyond).

In my research, I’ve read about many women who dreamed about their weddings since childhood. And clearly this is a popular trope in contemporary wedding culture. In one personal essay I read, a woman admitted to keeping a wedding binder during her 1980s girlhood, in which she included advertisements and articles from bridal magazines, all in anticipation of the wedding she would one day celebrate. So the practices found on Pinterest aren’t brand new. They’re just more public. I suppose so it goes in this increasingly public age – but this, I think, is where my discomfort lies. One woman’s willingness to make public her private wedding dreams allows too easily for the perpetuation of the stereotype that this is what all women are doing (or want to be doing). Aside from the tried and true critiques we might make about overeager wedding pinners (they validate the power of what many critics call the “wedding-industrial complex”; they reveal the material undercurrent that marks so many elements of American life and culture; they contribute to the normalization and acceptance of narcissism; etc.), my biggest problem with the pinning going on here is how it further standardizes and entrenches the gendered division of unpaid labor in American life and romantic relationships for all women – even those without the time or inclination to imagine a fictive celebration. Planning a wedding (a real wedding, not a Pinterest dream wedding) takes time – which can manifest as time away from work, family, friends, fitness, hobbies, you name it. And it is work. It falls into that category of unpaid labor that is often celebrated for continuing rituals, maintaining tradition, fostering family ties, and by which women are often judged, but is work that is virtually never rewarded or respected in the way any kind of paid labor very clearly is (see “paid” descriptor). What’s more, when it’s a labor assumed to be universally enjoyed by women, women can find themselves alone in completing it or condemned for not being enthralled with it. If Pinners are willing to see their visions through and take on labor of this kind (and, I suppose, are “lucky” enough to find partners who stay out of their way), that’s fine. But the possibility that all women might be expected to do the same – and might be viewed as a single monolithic bloc – is more troubling.

Of weddings, cell phones, manners, and privacy

I just read this article, which reported on an emergent trend in which couples ask guests to put away their cell phones during wedding ceremonies: http://www.metro.us/newyork/lifestyle/2013/07/28/for-some-couples-tweeting-wedding-pics-is-an-idont/.

Where do I stand? I am WAY in favor of this from a manners point of view. Firstly, if you are texting or tweeting during someone’s wedding, stop immediately. I share a sentiment along these lines with my students: in my class, as at a wedding, you are in an environment where you don’t need to engage with a virtual world because you should be paying attention to what is going on IN THE REAL WORLD SURROUNDING YOU. And I know people have the ability to multi-task, and I multi-task all the time, blah, blah, blah. But just because you can do two things at once doesn’t always mean you should, and it doesn’t mean that one of the things you’re doing doesn’t suffer for the attention you’re directing elsewhere. And if one of your regularly undertaken secondary tasks is texting, then generally speaking, you are being rude. Furthermore, if you expect that you’ll find yourself bored at someone’s wedding and thus *need* your phone, I suggest you a) learn how to entertain yourself with thoughts; or b) make the grown-up decision not to attend this particular wedding.

weddingtexters

Sidenote: if you are so bored at your OWN wedding that you must text, you have bigger problems than I’m either equipped or willing to advise you with.

If you were planning on taking pictures with your phone, that’s nice, I guess, but I’m still okay with bride & groom telling you to put your phone away. Are those pictures really going to be that good? And, really, what are you going to do with them? And does the couple not have someone else to do this for them? Full disclosure: I’m sort of a picture grinch. I operate on a less is more perspective in the world of immediate visual documentation, so I would never defend the point of view that one must have one’s phone because one must be able to take a picture. I digress.

picturetakingatwedding

Will this guy’s pic be a must-have? Doubtful. (No offense, well-meaning attendee.)

I’m also in favor of this from the point of view of the bride and groom wanting to protect some measure of their privacy as well as some measure of their agency as the central figures celebrating the wedding. People have complicated relationships to social media, and individuals should respect the varying degrees to which others may engage with the virtual world. On the one hand, I suppose there are people who measure the success of their lives’ milestones by the numbers of pictures friends post of them and the number of comments or likes those pictures receive. As the “IDon’t” article suggests, some celebrants go so far as to create hashtags for guests to use so that their physical community can also get together virtually. That’s fine. But I respect the desire to enjoy the moment of the wedding in its actual moment as well as the effort to have guests do the same. From my point of view, the time taken to chronicle the great time you’re having can take away from the greater fun you could actually be having were you to focus on fun rather than documentation of said fun (that makes sense, yes?). There are those who are part of the social media world without being enmeshed in it. They may maintain profiles or presences without a desire to document every moment (or have every moment documented for them by [admittedly well-meaning] others). And it may be, for those social media dabblers rather than full-time residents, that the wedding community of their own creation, carefully selected from the competing and often contradictory worlds of family and coworkers and close friends (and the sub-worlds of childhood friends and college friends and adulthood friends and so on) is the community they want as primary witness to their wedding day. The neighbor from two apartment complexes ago or the yoga instructor from the last gym or the bartender from the college waitressing job – all people who’ve made their way to someone’s weird Facebook world – maybe don’t need to know about the wedding in real time. I know there are those who would say “Then don’t be FB friends with those people,” but I think a person preserves the right to see as separate the life s/he is actually living and the one s/he maintains online. Maybe there are those who would say I’m imagining a false dichotomy in seeing the two as separate, but I don’t think that has to be the case, and I think we maintain the right to understand those worlds as we wish.

Of plantations, mythic pasts, and wedding presents

In 2008, my grandfather asked that I meet him in Washington, DC for his WWII ship’s reunion. I did. The first day was scheduled group sight-seeing (imagine 28-year-old me and about a dozen octogenarians, driven via small bus from site to site). The next day was free. Individual parties could do what they wished. I proposed we (my grandfather and his bff’s Flo & Ralph) visit nearby Mount Vernon, home of George Washington. When I mentioned our plans, one of the other navy wives suggested the possibility of a similar trip to her husband. “Okay, but we’ve been there before,” he said. “Oh, yes,” she recalled. “We went there after our honeymoon. In 1954.” “Well,” I said, “I imagine it’s changed some since then.” Fingers crossed.

While the presentation of Mount Vernon has, indeed, changed dramatically in the last fifty plus years, there’s evidence to suggest that other plantation sites have failed to keep up with anything resembling even remotely accurate representations of their past sins. And there’s a population happy to engage in the mythic pasts perpetuated and celebrated at these venues. A recent post from Facebook friend JE points to the intersection of southern hospitality, contemporary wedding culture, and total historical amnesia. A wedding promoted on the site OffbeatBride.com, “Nicole & Sean’s vintage-inspired, handmade, casual southern wedding,” speaks directly to this confluence of forces.

Nicole and Sean’s 2009 Charleston, South Carolina celebration took place at Magnolia Plantation. Their wedding is a perfect example of what I’d argue are some of the primary trends in contemporary wedding culture: focus on personalization, some measure of DIY, budget consciousness, and integration of community participation. And that’s great. You’ll find a live-and-let-live approach to weddings to be a primary theme in my posts and in my views of wedding culture more broadly. But for a couple claiming to have been so thoughtful in their celebration and preparation, Nicole and Sean’s seeming inability to historicize the location of their wedding – and recognize the problems that location presented to their desire to have lots of “fun” pictures – blows my mind. Their focus on Harry Potter wedding elements seemingly displaced any recognition of the horrific realities attached to the site on which they chose to wed. Facebook friend JE rightly noted the irony of the couples’ “working out” the problems they had with the idea of a wedding as a time when one is given away: “They [their parents] gave us their blessing, rather than passing us like property.” How nice to have that option.

magnoliaplantation

Magnolia Plantation, site of “Offbeat” wedding, http://offbeatbride.com/2010/10/south-carolina-vintage-wedding

Even as I can’t understand it entirely, I appreciate the challenge southerners face in claiming pride in their home, when, very clearly, it’s a region fraught with tension on any number of levels. As a New Jersey native, I often find myself in a position to defend my homeland (I will cut you, shit talkers [Sorry. Old habits.]). But, for southerners (and for all of us) there are ways of demonstrating sensitivity to the past without ignoring it entirely. And Offbeat Bride should be ashamed for their half-assed defense of plantation as venue when a commenter offered (to my mind) a very gentle critique. The administrator’s feedback: “Anita, you bring up a really interesting point. On Offbeat Bride we’ve featured several weddings in locations with potentially disturbing histories — castle dungeons, prisons, and cemeteries come to mind. This is in no way a defense or negation of the atrocity that is America’s legacy of slavery, or an attempt to divorce the history of a space from its current uses … but I wonder if for some people, shifting the way a space is used is potentially a form of reclamation. I’d definitely be interested in hearing more about this from brides who’ve chosen to have their weddings in venues like this. An alternate question: in places like Europe, is there any patch of land that HASN’T had an atrocity on it happen at some point during the last 2000 years?” Give me a break. I suppose Paula Deen’s appreciation for a restaurant whose wait staff was composed of entirely of middle-age black men, a restaurant, she said, that “represented a certain era in America,” aka the years surrounding the Civil War, can be seen as a reclamation of the past as well?

When Oak Bowery, a plantation venue in Alabama, suggests couples can “jump the broom” in a spot “where a cabin of the plantation stood,” there is no sense of “reclamation” of the past. A gimmicky idea that ignores entirely the history of jumping the broom – and eliminates any sense of what life was like for those who lived in that anonymous “cabin” – does nothing to rectify or even admit past wrongs. Again, live-and-let-live is my view of wedding culture. But when decisions are made – thoughtfully or not – celebrants should be prepared when wedding publics (especially those invited by the internet) offer their responses.

OakBowery_broomjump

Oak Bowery, suggested broom jumping site, http://oakboweryreserve.com/weddings.html

Sidenote: for those interested in the creation of a mythic southern past, I highly recommend Karen L. Cox’s Dreaming of Dixie: How the South Was Created in American Popular Culture (UNC Press, 2011).

To “Send” or to Stamp?

Last week Slate produced a “Wedding Issue” (http://www.slate.com/topics/w/weddings.html).  A number of articles considered “traditional” or typical wedding practices and then reconsidered them as they applied to contemporary circumstances and relationships. One article suggested the practice of gift-giving to be a relic of the past, better suited for an era when brides and grooms actually began cohabitation following the wedding rather than well before. Another article (a reprint from several months ago) advocated on behalf of elopement as a way of guaranteeing the wedding focused on the bride and the groom rather than the many possible incidentals that tend to take attention away from the union being celebrated.

I love this stuff. Clearly. I wrote a book about it. But seriously, people taking stock of what is expected of them and then giving thought to what actually might work best for their real lives is something I’ve identified in wedding practices of the past seventy-plus years. It’s precisely why I find weddings to be both relevant and fascinating cultural indicators.

“Click here to RSVP” (http://www.slate.com/articles/life/weddings/2013/06/online_wedding_invitations_why_you_should_use_digital_invites_like_paperless.html) weighs the pros and cons of digital invitations. I think this article is great for its sense of balance, and its ultimate conclusion that when it’s your wedding, it’s YOUR WEDDING. Do whatever you want. If the bride and groom have different views, take a look at the guest list, decide who is best suited for a print invite and who will feel fine receiving one via email, and go from there. The world of weddings is basically never all or nothing any more. If you’re worried about being “inelegant,” realize that the consumer marketplace – especially that associated with weddings – is likely to have something somewhere that will be exactly what you want. And if exactly what you want doesn’t yet exist, someone will create it for you. Side note: my two cents, if you have someone on your guests list under age 70 who’s going to judge you for sending them an email invitation, maybe reconsider your guest list.

This article spoke directly to a conversation I recently had regarding wedding invitations. Forewarning: I realize I’m entering into the danger zone of anecdotal evidence. So be it. I’m also about to reveal personal feelings about spending choices associated with a wedding. FYI. Within the last month, I’ve seen a wedding invitation that cost upwards of $2.00+ to mail. TO MAIL (it looked a little bit like the wedding shower invitation from Bridesmaids, out of which A BUTTERFLY emerged). I’ve been told about wedding invitations that cost $5.00 to address (note to self: get into the calligraphy biz ASAP). Again, $5.00. TO ADDRESS. If we’re talking about two or three hundred invitations being sent, we’re already talking about thousands of dollars. And these costs don’t include the cost of the invitations themselves, which can get very pricey. It’s budget allocation I can’t understand. When I receive a wedding invitation, I fill out the RSVP card, make note of the date and time of the wedding, and then throw away the envelope and invitation. I know I’m not alone. But what else am I to do with this precious cargo?

calligraphy

I suppose I can appreciate “stationary nerds” ala the “RSVP” author’s wife and their desire to have beautiful invitations. From my perspective, however, if you love stationary or cardstock so much, you should invest in stationary or cardstock FOR YOU. But then I wonder: is the invitation FOR the person being wed as much as it is for the guests? If a couple loves the look of an invitation so much, is this an example of the couple fulfilling a personal desire (or in the case of “RSVP,” making the kind of compromise that speaks to the nature of their relationship)? For some couples, is the invitation essential to communicating something about themselves that they’d like to share with those they care about? If we take weddings and their celebrants seriously, do we need to take equally seriously each element of the decision-making process and each decision made? Even when they are unimportant to us?