Saturday 17 December 2016

Why a fairytale wedding isn't on my bucket list

Many girls dream about a fairytale wedding from a young age, รก la Monica Geller: the perfect dress, the perfect venue, and the perfect groom. I've got the perfect groom, but my version of 'perfect' when it comes to wedding aesthetics is far off from what one might expect.

My dress will not be designer, neither will it have breathtaking beading or an enviable train. Hell, it probably won't even be white; it will be a pretty, lacy midi-length dress with a delicate pleated skirt from ASOS (or similar) that will likely cost me around £80. 

My venue will be abroad in a picturesque little Italian town on the coast, in a tiny church or on the beach. And since I'm not one for the something-borrowed-etc custom, I'll skip right to the cake, which we'll spot in the window of a tiny family run bakery and ask for just a slice each to enjoy whilst sitting outside at a tiny table for two.

Best of all, we won't have any guests. It'll be just us two, plus witnesses, enjoying each other's unadulterated company before we have to return to the real world. Because that's what I really believe a wedding should be about: love. Not thousand of pounds worth of flowers, not Vera Wang couture, not a venue that will trump all your friends' wedding venues. Just love.

According Brides magazine, the average wedding in 2016 costs around £30,000. 

Let's break that down:

Wedding venue: £2,790
Reception venue: £3,919
Catering: £3,959
Photography/video: £1,046
Flowers: £638
Cake: £300
Entertainment: £773
Dress: £1,378
Shoes: £161
Stationery: £271
Headdress/veil: £138
Attendants' outfits: £436
Mother-of-the-bride outfit: £349
Groom's outfit: £439
Beauty: £301
Engagement ring: £3,037
Wedding rings: £809
Other wedding jewellery: £176
Honeymoon: £4,413

For most people my age looking to get a leg up on the property ladder, that hefty sum is more than a deposit on a house. A wedding, or your first home - which one would you prefer?

Having a tendency to be fairly sensible when it comes to money, it's safe to say that I would rather buy the house than have the wedding of the year. Think of it like this: £30k for just one day. Alright, there's the reasoning that that one day will be cherished by yourself, your husband and your families and friends for the rest of their lives. But really, it's just you and your husband (who cherishes a colleague's wedding they went to twenty years ago?). And surely it's the meaning of the ceremony you cherish, rather than the decor and wedding breakfast.

Before I attended my first wedding as a guest, I had a less cynical view. Perhaps, I thought, people spend that much money because it's a symbol of their love. Now I see that, for some more than others, it's a status symbol: a way of proving to their guests just how much they love each other. Maybe it's that one chance to show off. I know people who are content living quiet, introverted, almost confidential lives until their wedding days, then suddenly it's all glass cherub sculptures and champagne fountains. Maybe it's not just the guests that will see it; we're forgetting Facebook, Twitter and Instagram here. Weddings are a hotbed for acquiring likes. Just think of the photo ops in front of that Kardashian-esque flower-wall or the popular 'frame within a frame'.

Maybe dream weddings are an instrument for social affirmation. A way of keeping people family happy. A wedding invite to the 'most exciting wedding of the year' solidifies the relationship between the happy couple and the guest. Conversely, to receive no invite or, God forbid, to receive a reception-only invite, can only lead to a massive case of FOMO and a decade-long grudge. The dilemma: invite everyone (and watch the costs rise) or decide who you can live without.

Wedding gifts are another nightmare. Back in the day when couples got married, then moved in together, you could kill two birds with one stone by buying them a wedding AND housewarming gift. Now that couples are *gasp* living 'in sin', most wedding invites contain some sort of attempt at a lighthearted poem (see below) asking for money for the honeymoon, or even to contribute to the costs of the wedding. *Furrows brow*. So your guests are here to bail you out of debt? Another reason not to spend £30k.

With all that we have, we've been truly blessed.
Your presence and prayers are all that we request.
But if you desire to give nonetheless,
A monetary gift is one we suggest.

Now, before anyone thinks I have a problem with people who want a dream wedding - I don't. It's your day, so enjoy it as you see fit. If bridal Louboutins and Wolfgang Puck's catering services are what you see in future, and you have to save up for five years to achieve it, then that's your day. But just remember the reason why you're getting married.

Similarly, if you would rather elope without the pressure of guest lists and whose second-cousin-twice-removed will or will not get an invitation, then that's okay too - and don't let any meddling in-laws tell you otherwise.

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