Do you want to have a ginormous wedding, or have you seriously considered eloping just to avoid the chaos? Did you have the kind of wedding that you and your fiancé wanted, or did you cave to somebody else's wishes? I always find it fascinating to learn why brides and grooms have chosen the kind of wedding they're planning.
Although the wedding day is supposed to be about the couple formally expressing their love, and making a commitment to one another, all the things you can have and do for your wedding often eclipse the main point of the day. It can be overwhelming and not that much fun for the couple if the bride or groom doesn't enjoy being the center of attention at a large gathering.
Most of the brides who moan and groan to me about how they didn't want to have a big wedding will blame it on their parents. I only believe that up to a certain point - I think brides and grooms get sucked into a competitive spirit when all their other friends are getting married around them.
Dr. Jane Greer, relationship expert and author of "What About Me? Stop Selfishness from Ruining Your Relationship" has some interesting insight to share on this topic. She says lots of couples cave under parental pressure.
"Sometimes they do it because their families have a certain social obligation and standing - perhaps they have a vast array of friends and want to include all of them," Dr. Greer explains. "The wedding becomes an event for them and their social happening, as much as it is for the actual bride and groom. If they're comfortable paying for it, they figure, what's the big deal? They want a big wedding and they'll pay."
This underscores another theory I've had that many couples who say they don't want a big wedding really mean they don't want to PAY for a big wedding. But if somebody else is picking up the entire tab, they're okay with it. It would seem selfish to me except their parents are getting what they wanted, and nobody's upset about the outcome. It isn't that they don't want to be part of a big wedding, but they're not willing to incur the expense.
Not everybody wants a small wedding, and those choosing to throw extravagant affairs have their own reasons as well. As I said before, weddings can inspire competition. Couples whose friend-group are all getting married, too, may feel additional pressure to throw the biggest and best party in their crowd.
There's also peer-pressure, from friends who've already been brides, and from single friends who just want to help, but really think you MUST do this or that, or your wedding will be incomplete. Brides and grooms who plan their own weddings without input from the peanut gallery find themselves considerably less stressed than those who have put things to a vote. And the professionals agree with me.
Dr. Greer says "the need to compete can get triggered here. They'll want to have the biggest and the best, and they may feel a certain amount of envy for their peers' wedding celebrations - 'that was really great; I want to do that also.' Age and maturity can sometimes play into this because there's more of a sense of 'groups' - they'll be talking and gossiping more than older couples, who will just want to go ahead and get married without any peer pressure influencing their decisions."
Dr. Greer is right - intimate weddings tend to appeal to more mature couples, who are over trying to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak. They tend to have smaller wedding parties, fewer pre-wedding events, and carefully selected guest lists that only include the most important people in their lives.
I asked the doctor if brides and grooms today might be losing sight of WHY they're getting married, and the whole point of having a wedding day.
"I wouldn't say many have, but it is easy to get caught up in the wedding production and all the ingredients that go into that," Dr. Greer says. "These can cloud the view of what it's really all about: a day to celebrate your commitment, bond, and forever union. This can sometimes get eclipsed by the premiums people place on the wedding. I think the commercialization has definitely changed the dynamic of weddings. Big weddings are becoming more the norm, almost expected. Before, they were the exception."
My experience with my clients has been somewhat different - I think more couples are having small destination weddings than ever before. Many brides and grooms tell me it's because they can get away with inviting fewer guests to their wedding, and have more fun with the people they do invite, while keeping the costs down at the same time. Friends and extended family understand that destination weddings tend to be more intimate, so the couple creates a smaller guest list, with the intention of keeping their wedding weekend intimate, and nobody is disappointed.
Humungous weddings aren't just expensive - they can be very, very stressful. All potential drama is amplified, and it can wreak havoc on the engaged couple's relationship. Especially if one half of the couple (usually the bride) has become totally entrenched in a massive wedding planning effort that the other half of the couple has studiously avoided since day one.
I've talked more than one groom off the ledge when his bride was being unreasonable during wedding planning. I tell them that the last few weeks before the wedding are like an out-of-control carriage, with nobody driving the horses. I say "hold on tight, and remember to breathe," and I promise them their beautiful fiancé will return to normal after their big day.
Dr. Greer says that the imbalance can lead to arguments and conflict.
"If one person doesn't place the same importance on the fine details, and the other does, they may either be disinterested, uncooperative, or reluctant to contribute their assistance to handling the responsibilities," Dr. Greer says. "It can make their partner feel uncared for or disappointed that their future spouse is not sharing the same excitement and enthusiasm for the wedding."
When one of my brides tells me how angry she is with her fiancé about something wedding-related, I'm quick to caution her not to do anything or say anything that she can't live with forever. They're planning a day that is the launchpad for rest of their lives together. As a married couple, they'll face far more difficult challenges. How they handle disagreements and stress together foreshadows their responses in difficult situations later on. If you cannot agree where to seat people at your wedding, how will you make decisions that actually matter later in life?
Every wedding - whether you have a huge bash or escape to elope - is significant and important for the couple. Dollars spent on the wedding day to not represent years of happiness after you say "I do." Although life is certainly easier when your parents are on board with your wedding plans, what you actually decide to do should be up to the couple. And they should both buy in to the total package before any planning begins.
Good luck and happy wedding planning from Sandy Malone Weddings & Events.