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Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Day of days?

As a young woman coming of age in the 1970s, I was a bridesmaid more than once. There was a year where if I wasn't walking up and down the aisle some weekend, I was holding the guest book or pouring punch and passing cake in a genuine polyester long dress.  

Weddings back then were not $30,000 for a bare minimum wedding, which now has to consist of a dazzling dress on the bride, tuxes for the gentlemen of the bridal party; every step choreographed by a professional planner; a sit-down dinner for 200, followed by dancing to the styling of at the very least a dj, who brings his light show; a chocolate fountain, a vodka luge; and hired help to photograph and video the hired help helping the star of the show, the bride, and her accessory, the groom. 

A bride whose mother had some smarts (yes, her mother, or other older adult female relative, and there was little protest about it being the bride's day to play Marie Antoinette) sent out the invitations on card stock, not email, requesting the honour of one's presence at two o'clock in the afternoon or seven-thirty in the evening. Anybody with a lick of common sense knew the menu would be cake, punch and coffee, with maybe a glass of champagne thrown in for the toast. Sometimes there were mints and mixed nuts in bowls, and just maybe there were some small sandwiches. Lunch or dinner was between 11 AM and 1 PM.Yes, this meant dining before one arrived.

Truly large weddings happened at Noon or as late as six o'clock in the evening. Those involved the caterer of Mother's choice, a bar tended by the bride's Uncle Louie, maybe a band, maybe the forerunner of a dj, the bride's brother changing records on a record player (You know, the giant CDs with grooves in them). No unique table settings. No extreme party favors, unless you count bags of rice or jordan almonds as extreme. 

I bring this up because grandparents are now being pressed (conned, manipulated, etc.) to help pay for their grandchildren's weddings, whether or not they are helping to raise them. That's fine if Grandma and Grandpa want to help, and can afford to help, but really, they are not obligated to do so. Yet, there are grandchildren and even their parents who did raise them, who think the old folks are mandated by custom to fork over for the event, to make it the star-studded extravaganza that will have people talking for decades.

Grandparents are not being asked to just pay for the wedding, but being bullied into it, and not subtly, either. "It's how we do things now, Mother," Grams is told. The bride is allowed to have her whims and with it control of the extended family for a year, maybe more, and be indulged in this orgy of excess.

Grams should know better, and hang on to her checkbook and credit cards, in favor of less glam, more sentiment and perhaps suggest her money would be happy to return to a more civilized time- starting with approving the young man.

See, back then, families didn't have two year engagements where the bride lived with the groom while both attempted to improve their credit scores, so they could take out a loan to have a destination wedding to Aruba or on a cruise ship. Brides-to-be didn't spend whole months interviewing bands, lighting experts, gourmet caterers, table decorators, street dancers and even clergy. 

Most of all, brides were not given the impression by the bridal industry that this was their Day of Days, the Most Important Day of Their Lives.

Think about it: This giant extravaganza of expense is the best day of a woman's life. It is so important that she has to wait until she can afford it, so live with the guy first, even have a couple of kids without being married. They can always be carted down in the aisle in expensive clothes and decorated strollers.

(That was sarcasm. Please save baby-making for after the wedding if at all possible.)

So, what happens the day after...?

A woman has many phases in life, and the wedding, while an important step, is not the most important day of her life. The day she has children, the day she gets a significant promotion at work, the day of her tenth and twenty-fifth and thirty-third and fiftieth anniversary- those are pretty significant days. 

We live in a time when it seems normal to put the cart before the horse, all for the sake of good photography and videography to remember the day. I'm not against big parties, but nobody in this economy should have to wait two years or even one year to have a man completely commit to her. You are better than a band, you know, and worth having in the bonds of matrimony long before the loan comes through for the rented hall; long afterwards, as well. 

Trust me young ladies, if he's worth it, he'll skip the vodka luge and sit-down steak dinner for cake and punch in the parish hall, maybe even a buffet catered from a reasonable eatery. Dresses can be rented or borrowed. We live in the digital age, so music, photography and videography are the hobbies of many with a laptop and the software to run it. Friends still make the best helpers, and are cheaper in the long run. Save your money for your old age, or when the first child comes. You are so worth it! 

And let Grams and Granps come as guests, not paying customers. Be sure to dance one with the old gentleman if there's dancing.

Skip the polyester unless you insist on a 70s themed wedding. Just keep Uncle Louie at the bar doing his job. It keeps him from wandering the venue, telling everybody to pull his finger.

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