Love and Marriage (again...)
If it seems like all I write about these days is marriage, it's probably because I've been living like a single man for the past twelve days. That's not as cool as it sounds-- in my single days, I spent a lot of time watching terrible movies, reading comic books from the 70s, letting the dishes pile up in the sink, and drinking by myself. Ah, to be 25 again! Anyway, the good news is, Emily returns from Japan tonight. It's not a moment too soon, either. In my loneliness and boredom, I'd started to name the furniture.
It's not just me writing about marriage lately, though. There seems to be something in the air-- my first two blog posts on the subject were motivated by blog posts over at Feministing. And then this morning, as I'm enjoying my bachelor's breakfast (pizza left over from the night before) what should I find on my screen but this story about the opulent and unnecessary wedding industry, and what it's doing to our culture.
As I've said, I like being married. I like it even more than I liked living in sin. Brian and Amy have asked me before what the difference is, and it's not something I can really explain, except to say that Emily and I both noticed a change-- for the better-- in our relationship after the wedding. Making it official somehow... made it official, and the result has been a type of comfort with and confidence in our relationship that hadn't existed before. I know that other committed couples reach this same level of comfort and confidence without the help of a massive party in front of friends and family, but that's what worked for us.
Plus, planning the wedding was a real bonding exercise. I know lots of men who leave the wedding planning to their wives and mothers and future mothers-in-law; that's a mistake. It's not that picking out flowers or photographers is fun-- 'cause it's not, really-- but it's something you and your bride-to-be get to experience together as you try to plan the perfect day while sticking to something that resembles a budget. Emily and I were engaged for a year and a half before we got married, and we spread all of the planning out over that year and a half. It was just a part of our lives, and it was uniquely ours-- since we were planning and paying for the whole thing ourselves, we really weren't taking suggestions from anyone in our families about who to invite, what to serve, or what the DJ should play. In fact, Emily and I filled a few long car trips by making up the list of songs for the DJ to play, with the instruction that he was not to take any requests from any member of our families. The last thing we needed was a drunken cousin ruining the whole party by requesting "Friends in Low Places."
Anyway, this all brings me back to the AlterNet article I linked to above. You see, while we were planning the wedding, it became apparent to me that the wedding industry was... well... completely evil. We would go to these bridal expos, where area hotels, private estates, bakers, musicians, florists, tux shops, bridal shops, jewelry stores, stationary stores-- everything that had anything to do with a wedding-- would set up booths to show off their wares. If this sounds sensible and convenient, don't be fooled. 'Cause the other thing you need to know is that all of this stuff is super-expensive, and the average age of a bridal expo attendee seemed to be 19 or 20.
To get a sense of the kind of pressure these young women (the groom-to-be was rarely there) are under, it will help to imagine yourself at 19. Okay, now imagine yourself not under the influence of mushrooms, right? Okay. You're 19, but you're not in college. And your parents really, really want you to get married (your mom and an aunt have even come to the bridal expo with you) and start having kids. And you're in love for the very first time, and believe-- because you've heard it in pop songs and seen it in movies-- that love lasts forever and it's all you really need to get by. And you're in this convention center, surrounded by people who seem well-intentioned, who keep talking about "the best day of your life," your day to "be a princess," because "you deserve it." And if you just give these people your name and phone number, you'll be entered into a drawing to win 30% off your wedding dress if you buy it at David's Bridal. And if you don't order the swan ice sculpture, will people think you were too cheap to have a properly extravagant wedding?
This kind of stuff overwhelmed me when I was 28-- these people really give you the hard sell. "But it's your day," they tell you, while-- endlessly-- Garth Brooks's version of Billy Joel's version of Bob Dylans song "To Make You Feel My Love" drones on in the background. So if it overwhelmed me, how much worse would it be if I were ten years younger and being told that this is my one and only chance to be treated like the princess I want to be?
(Obviously, I'm smart enough not to fall for that. Everyday is my day to be a princess).
The average American wedding costs $28,000. Let that sink in for a second. $28,000. That's just a little over twice as much as the average student paying in-state tuition will pay (in tuition, anyway) to go to Florida Atlantic University for four years. It's double what Emily and I paid for our car last summer. And it's all for a party. An awesome party, to be sure, and a party that celebrates a milestone in one's life, but still. It's just a party, and these young people-- who are probably way too young to be getting married in the first place-- are potentially starting their married life in debt as a result of being told that they "deserve" (read, "are required to") act like royalty for one day, before they start their lives together in the real world, where they eat Kraft Dinner and drink Wal-Mart's generic brand of soda.
It's moments like this that I wonder why gay people really want to get in on this racket, you know?
Anyway... obviously, I love being married, and I recommend it to anyone. No, not anyone. Just anyone who's exactly like Emily and me. It's really worked well for us, and if you're like us, it will work well for you too. But plan your own wedding-- don't outsource it to other members of the family or-- even worse-- some overpriced "wedding planner." Don't give your name and number to the snake oil salesmen in the booths at the Bridal Expo. And please, for the love of all that's holy, do not buy the swan sculpted out of ice.