Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Guerilla Wedding

Weddings, which should be celebrations of love and dedication, have transformed into consumer nightmares. Bizarre and expensive customs have became popular in the last 50 years of commercial advertising (including the ubiquitous diamond engagement ring).
Weddings threaten to take over the lives of many a young woman bombarded with decisions to make about the "right" invitations, flowers, dress, shoes, color scheme, party favors, catering, reception site, etc. Insidious marketing tempts even the best of us to succumb to the wedding industry and pay way more than we should for any single day. Pressure from parents subverts our intentions, from small and sacred to big and impressive, from eloping to ceremonial, and from environmentally friendly to environmental calamity.

But resist! Resist the idea that you must do things a certain way, buy certain things, invite certain people. In order to avoid so many of these newly-traditional purchases and customs, while still having a meaningful and beautiful experience, my husband and I had a guerilla wedding. I call it a guerilla wedding because guerilla means "small war". It was a small battle in the war against the American consumerist juggernaut. Luckily, my parents were on board with our plan, so we didn't have to put up with any flak.

We decided to have the wedding at the nearby Denver Botanical Gardens, and invited our parents and siblings to attend the ceremony. In Colorado, you can marry yourselves, so we didn't have to make any decisions about religious affiliation. We also decided to spring for a professional photographer. She was well worth it - she was great at taking spontaneous shots and making me look good (a difficult task :). We got a bargain because we scheduled our wedding in March, a non-traditional month, and we also received a CD with all of our digital pictures, for us to process as we wished.

We purchased a DBG membership and paid a photography fee to have photos taken at the Gardens, and showed up on the appointed day. DBG was none the wiser that an actual wedding was about to take place. Cost for photographer, tux rental, photo fee, wedding dress (actually a prom dress) and accessories, and flowers for bouquet and corsages: $800.

We met in the Orchid Room and said our vows (five minutes of love, devotion, and euphoria). Pictures were taken, kisses exchanged, and we adjourned outside for the rest of the pictures. Huh! Who would have thought I would be so cold in a strapless dress in Denver in March? Then we met back at our bungalow, had a champagne toast and a first dance ("Yellow" by Coldplay), and went to dinner. Voila! Cost for champagne and dinner for 10: $400.

Next stop: the Party Train. First, we hosted a party for about 30 close friends at a family-style Italian place. Invitations by E-vite. We paid for the food and wine, and a friend baked our cake. We placed pictures of the ceremony on all the tables. I had sweated for months to select meaningful songs to make into mixed CD as favors for our guests. What was most special to me was my 4 closest friends, who would have been my bridesmaids, coming out the day before the party. They threw me a post-wedding bachelorette party (a very clean one :), and we nursed our hangovers next morning at the Tallgrass Spa in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Cost of "reception", favors, and spa day - about $1300.

We then had a small family party in Oklahoma City, courtesy of MIL. Then, another small family party in New Jersey (timed to coincide with another wedding we had to go to), courtesy of my uncle. Cost: plane tickets and gas for 2 (in 2004) - about $500. Not sure if I should count this expense since we would have made these trips anyway, but what the heck.

Total estimated cost: $3000. I realize that this might seem expensive to some people. But compared to the average of $20K, and compared to the beautiful but extravagant weddings that most of our friends and family have hosted, it is much less. (With the money we saved, we went to Kauai for 2 weeks.)

Once everything was over, I was so happy we had decided to do it the way that we did. Way reduced carbon emissions for reduced plane travel. Way reduced consumption of frivolous items. Way reduced financial impact on my parents, guests, and ourselves. And most of all, we had the satisfaction of having fun, not stress, on our wedding day.


Tara said...

Bravo! My dearest and I just got married a few months ago after 12 years together. There was no way in hell we were doing the whole wedding dog and pony show. We did the deed privately in front of a judge, and had a party in the private room of a local "fancy" beer hall for about 100 of our family and friends. We made the invites ourselves, decorations, while minimal, where either made by me or supplied as a freebie by my company (we do wedding catering), hubby wore a nice shirt and slacks, I found a vintage cocktail dress for $25. We set up a camcorder for people to record messages on in lieu of a guestbook (which wound up being WAY cooler) and basically put all our money into a reasonable amount of food for everyone and an open bar. We got exactly what we wanted, we only spend about $2500 on everything, and all we heard all night from our guests was "this is the best wedding EVER!"

Meanwhile, I work in the wedding business, and am painfully aware of the racket that it is. It drives young, fragile women to the brink of insanity, and couples to the brink of bankruptcy. We just had a florist convince a bride to upgrade all her linens because the table linens we provide without an upcharge are white, and they would make her ivory dress look "dirty". She had a total meltdown over this. Ridiculous.

MeadowLark said...

We made a mad dash to Vegas in a rent-a-wreck and stayed two nights, then he left for six months in Japan. :)

On second thought, I wish we'd have done a bit MORE planning. Your event sounds beautiful at such a reasonable price. I sent this post to my daughter who is just starting to think about weddings.

Hausfrau said...

Congrats Tara on your fun wedding! I share your pain on working for an unsustainable company - I audited a large food company's slaughterhouse once (included a free tour!!) which got me on the roll to pescatarianism (veg + fish).

Wow, thanks meadowlark! Let me know if you have any questions.

Lewru said...

That Italian place was awesome! And it may have been clean but damn, I was hungover during that spa day!

Having done the wedding thing quite recently I know what you mean about caving to expectations! It was so hard to keep my foot on the brakes with family wanting to do this and that. All well meant, but nonetheless...

And whatever - you looked classy and beautiful in your wedding dress. It had NOTHING to do with the photographer (although she did a great job, too!).

Verde said...

How's the little one doing?

The details are all different but very similar to our wedding. We were married in the La Sal mountains with a view of the desert. The guests had to hike to a spt with just the right view. The wildflowers were in full glory that year. Our dogs were in our wedding and I wore my mother's wedding dress and Mr. Greenjeans wore his Grandfather's wedding tux.

Friends were asked to bring camaras and then we had a wonderful mountain picnic.

His parents gave us a party in Salt Lake where we had our civil union blessed by a priest, and later my parents had a reception at the Garden of the God's club in C. Spgs. We later had a big bash in the local park for everyone we knew.

It was 21 years ago, and I don't remember the cost, but my father who had spent a year's salary on my sister's wedding (she had 21 parties), gave us a couple of thousand in cash to get our household going. (I can't believe what we didn't have - like a back door on the place).