Here's The Thing

The Wedding Industrial Complex

Illustration by Daniel Jamie Williams
Illustration by Daniel Jamie Williams

There’s nothing more beautiful than two people who are truly in love. It’s a wonderful thing, indeed worthy of great celebration.

So then why am I dreading the approaching wedding season?

I’ve already been invited to five weddings this summer, all of which are located outside of Vancouver. Some of the couples are friends, the others are family, and while I love them all, I’m now forced to pick and choose which ones mean the most to me—or the more useful barometer, which trips will be the most cost-effective. Other factors contributing to my decision process: gift expectations, surrounding attractions near the wedding (can I spin this into a proper holiday), and of course, the bar situation. Open bar = I’ll be there!

This cold approach to wedding RSVPs isn’t something I’m proud of and it certainly wasn’t the approach I started out with. The beginning of my wedding guest career was filled with hope and joy towards both the couples and the events surrounding them. This jaded person sitting at the keyboard now was forged over years of wedding after wedding, pointless gifts and forgotten dates, chicken dances, and buffet lines. There are only so many pieces of wedding cake you can eat before the allure vanishes. These days it’s all about the cost/benefit analysis.

You may believe in the sanctity of a union between two loving people. You may think love should be a pure thing and you genuinely want to help your friends and family celebrate that fact. We, as the guests, are not to blame for this. We are but victims of the Wedding Industrial Complex that’s grown over the past hundred years or so with an exponential curve upwards in the level of wedding craziness over the past 20 years. We’ve got reality shows and magazines and televised stunt weddings all with the aim of glorifying the moment above and beyond the lifetime partnership it’s supposed to represent. As the great love doctor Dwight D. Eisenhower once said,  “Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and romantic machinery of nuptials with our peaceful methods and goals, so that love and liberty may prosper together.” Or something like that.

In an age where our outward facing lives are curated and edited with camera filters, hashtags, and sideways smiley faces, it’s no wonder that wedding culture has spiralled out of control. A wedding is like an insecure teenager’s Facebook wall: a carefully crafted narrative of what the couple’s relationship is expected to be and not necessarily what it is. This life-sleight-of-hand doesn’t come cheap. I know that weddings are expensive, but the money paid out for things that we deem essential to a proper wedding is both frivolous and ridiculous.

Here’s the thing about weddings: like any right of passage they serve a very specific purpose for the people going through it. It’s a chance to get up in front of whoever you consider to be your community and profess your love and partnership to another person. It’s about welcoming another person into your identity. You go from a single entity to one half of a team. None of those ideas needs to have tens of thousands of dollars spent in order to achieve it. When your wedding becomes a financial strain, you’re doing it wrong. It’s about you and the people you love doing something that you love. Me personally? I don’t love chicken dancing but if you do, then go for it!