Wednesday, January 27, 2010

our entertainment value

Best of luck getting your private, intimate wedding reception broadcast to millions of complete strangers in the Sunday New York Times

After reading this post (by Meg at A Practical Wedding) (plus Mouse's story on Souris Mariage) about the pressure brides feel to turn their weddings into a show, I've decided to insert myself into the conversation because I don't think it's a subject which can be repeated too many times.

Like Meg says, the wedding industry is built upon the idea that a wedding should feel like a grand production which seeks to entertain those in attendance. If it weren't for the idea of a wedding as a production, the wedding industry wouldn't be able to convince us that we need to hire a caterer, lighting designer, personal stylist, baker, wedding planner, florist etc.. And, well, without all of those professions, the wedding industry would be out of business.

After doing some research on The Knot and exploring their articles, I've discovered several articles devoted entirely to explaining how the happy couple can impress their guests. In gems like "15 Ways to Wow Your Guests", brides are reminded how important it is to make an impression upon the guests:
  • "all eyes will be on you, so it'll be a huge shocker when you go from a classic wedding dress for the ceremony to a shorter, flirtier dress at the reception"
  • - "take a few dance lessons [...] kick it up a notch by learning a sultry tango or a high-energy swing routine, and then surprise everyone during your first dance. For an unexpected surprise [...] imagine the looks on your guests' faces when you and your pops break into a hip-hop routine mid-father-daughter dance".
And while I have nothing against changing dresses or choreographed dances, the thing that gets under my skin about "tips" like these is that brides and grooms end up feeling as though they have something to live up to. As if getting married isn't impressive enough. Now their wedding needs to have an entertainment value. Otherwise, what will happen? Will they end up being less married if they fail to meet the standards?

Logically, the answer is no, of course not. You'll still be married. You'll still have each other. And you'll still be in love.
But when guests are spending their valuable time and money to celebrate with you, there is a certain amount of pressure to create one of those weddings that "people will remember forever".

As if that weren't enough, there's articles like this one which "conveniently" list many common complaints from wedding guests "so you can avoid these nuptial no-nos and throw a wedding that's fun for everyone". Now, not only do couples have to worry about the ceremony, food, music, decor but they're also burdened with the idea that their guests will be offended by bad wedding singers, the distance between the ceremony and reception locations, instrusive videographers, seating charts ... honestly, that article goes on forever with people moaning about the carefully planned weddings of friends and family.

One of the first things I got a complaint about when we started discussing the reception was the concern about how the guests would be entertained while we were doing private photos between the end of the ceremony and the beginning of the reception. And I remember thinking to myself: "um, I don't know... they're adults... can't they entertain themselves?". While we always planned to have seating available, appetizers and drinks, I was suddenly made to feel as though I should hire some salsa dancers which cost $500 to travel 40 minutes out of town just so our guests would have something to stare at for 40 minutes. Totally normal, right? It's entertaining. And we have to entertain our guests, right? No matter what the cost?

Um, oh yeah... no. I want my wedding to feel more like a family reunion. I want people to talk, to laugh, to share stories and for the two families to enjoy the collective experience of watching us commit ourselves to one another.

For an introverted bride such as myself and one who is constantly worrying (though she really, really wished she didn't) about what other people think, the pressure to turn our wedding into a show is enough to make me want to elope.

In the months leading up to our wedding, the last thing I want to worry about is whether or not the ice water is too cold for the guests with sensitive teeth or whether or not we should reduce the number of Bible passages from our ceremony so as to not offend our agnostic friends. What I really need to worry about is the marriage we're entering into and how we're going to make that work in the real world.


Ellie said...

I think keeping in mind some of the stuff that bugs guests, like there being a long gap between the ceremony and reception, or the photos taking forever (which means the cocktail reception runs out of food and then the guests can't start eating even though they are starving) is a good thing, but within reason. I would be mad, as a guest, at having to wait for the bride to change dresses though.
I do often find the cocktail hour kind of boring, so we found a place where the guests can wander around the nature center if they are bored and learn all about the Caves Valley and see turtles. (There's a turtle tank. It's pretty cool.)
And we took ballroom dance lessons for a few years, so yes, we plan to wow our guests with our sweet steps. But the funnest weddings I've been to have had a great playlist and a lot of people I like. Simple as that.

Cupcake Wedding said...

you are my hero for posting this.

SG said...

I think you make a lot of good points. I think so long as there is food and drinks most adults can survive a cocktail hour without additional entertainment. The one thing that always irked me was a long gap (like 3 hours or more) between ceremony and reception.

The fact is you can't please everyone and guarantee there will be at least one person at your wedding who doesn't like something.

Good post.

Savoir Weddings said...

You make a lot of good points here. I think brides immersing themselves in the whole wedding world see so many fabulous weddings on blogs so the pressure can really build.

And even when you're resentful of this and want to keep in simple it's amazing how easy it is to stress, even about things you don't really care about. Aside from hiring a planner to worry so you don't have to the biggest advice I'd give echos @SG. You will never please everybody and as long as you feed and water people most will be happy so you should try to concentrate only on what you care about. Hope that helps a little!

Mouse said...

ARGH! I hate all that pressure. I think you and the groom should do what feels right for you. Cause you'll never succeed in making all those other people happy. Plus, that isn't your job anyway.


Born to be Mrs. Beever said...

There is a lot of pressure for sure. I read that article of complaints too and while there were a few good things to consider, mostly it was just annoying to think about how I have to make sure that YOU are getting every little desire satisfied on our big day. Can't you just be happy for us and not give a crap if I run out of appetizers during cocktails? Sad thing is, I have found myself complaining about many of the things that were listed in that article and now feel guilty about it. Funny thing is, I totally put myself in my guests' shoes and try to make sure that I am in fact entertaining them and considering their comfort and time. I did in fact hire a strolling magician to entertain people during cocktails, I fully intended to take dance lessons for a swing dance for our first dance and I do have a second dress to change into at the reception - but not because I want to impress my guests, just because my gown is freaking huge and there's no way I could handle being in it for twelve hours and trying to dance at the end of the night. I think this is a great post and it's so important to remember that you can do whatever you'd like to at your wedding, whether a huge circus of sideshows and outrageous events or a simple, sweet intimate get together with a family reunion type of feel. The most important thing is that it is what YOU want and that you don't feel pressure to impress or accommodate the needs of guests who should in fact be honored that they get to share in your special celebration.

Anonymous said...

I hate and love the wedding industry. How many times can you have an event just for the pretty? But I hate when people for the real reason. Truth be told I have to remind myself constantly to not freak out about the centerpieces and remember at the end of the day, I am married. To the love of my freaking life. And that is all that matters.
The competitors in me really wants to have the best effing wedding these people have ever seen. But what on Earth am I thinking. You know?

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