Wedding weariness

Sometimes when I hear someone is getting married, I cringe. Depending on the people involved, I cringe because increasingly more modern brides and grooms are planning multiple events that inevitably turn their weddings into a coronation fit for a king and queen. And heaven help you if you’re asked to be in the wedding party. Start breaking the bank.

Many weddings these days have become productions “stretched over months or even years, beginning with engagement parties, followed by bridal showers, bachelor/bachelorette weekends, ladies luncheons, golf tournaments, welcome parties and rehearsal dinners,” writes Ellen McCarthy of The Washington Post.

McCarthy has hit on something. A lot of people are suffering from wedding weariness. It’s not that people don’t want to share in their friend’s or family member’s special day. It’s not even that they don’t want to give the couple a nice gift. It’s just that they – and I -- take exception with the many events and the multiple obligatory gifts that are expected to be showered on the engaged couple.

“When you become a bridesmaid or any part of the wedding, people think it’s an honor — but you quickly realize that it’s not,” McCarthy quotes one four-time bridesmaid. “There’s a lot of work involved that’s not really divulged when you get into it.”

One Washington area wedding planner said her stepson married a woman whose own mother is also a wedding planner. There were two engagement parties, four wedding showers, separate bachelorette and bachelor parties, a family rehearsal dinner and a meet-and-greet for all the guests.

Really? Four showers? What’s the reason for all this excess, you might ask? At least I ask that all the time.

I believe it comes from a sense of entitlement. Here are some things we – the invited – often hear:

— This is my day.

— This is our day.

— I’ve been dreaming of this wedding since I was 6-years-old.

— You have to do what I (we) want because this is all about me (us), not you.

I thought the day was about sharing your commitment with others.

Judith Martin, the Washington Post columnist better known as Miss Manners, and her daughter co-wrote “Miss Manners’ Guide to a Surprisingly Dignified Wedding.” As McCarthy points out, the two women argue that it’s time to stop the madness. They think engagement parties are a farce, shower gifts should be simple tokens rather than $400 toasters and wedding registries should be abandoned.

I agree, but how can it be stopped?

What do you think? The Color of Money Question of the Week: Are engagement parties, shower gifts and registries too much? Send your response to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Be sure to include your full name, city and state. Put “Wedding Weariness” in the subject line.

The Bridesmaid Chronicles

Over the years Washington Post columnist Carolyn Hax has received a fair share of letters from bridesmaids expressing their frustration dealing with a bridezillas and/or the costs of participating in a wedding.

Recently, Hax did a roundup of the advice she’s given over the past 15 years to bridesmaids. The letters aren’t all about the financial end of committing to be in a wedding but should be a lesson for all when asking someone to spend their time and money celebrating your big day. It’s also important to respect a couple’s budget. In one letter, a bridesmaid was upset because she couldn’t invite someone to the wedding to be her plus one.

“I explained to the bride that I would really like to bring someone,” the woman wrote Hax. “She remains adamant because they have already invited 330 people and the reception area can only hold 300, and that she had to draw the line somewhere or else it will get too expensive, but, I will spend $700-plus — dress, shoe, presents, plane ticket, etc. — before this is all over! She is allowing only dates who are engaged, married or in a ‘serious relationship.’ She said she cannot change her policy for one person. I feel as if she is not considering my feelings.”

In this case, your feelings may not count, Hax advised.

“Few couples have the money (or inclination) to invite everybody they know, and the best defense against hurt feelings is setting clear and firm limits. Your friend has asked you to stand with her as she makes the biggest commitment of her life. If that honor isn’t worth your money, decline.”

Enough

I’ve had enough of poor electronic etiquette. So much so, that I devoted a recent column to my frustrations about the blathering, tweeting and texting people do on their cellphones interrupting my movie, theater and dinner experiences.

Well, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) needs an etiquette review. His cellphone went off while he was delivering a speech on a judicial confirmation on Wednesday, reports Joshua Altman of The Hill.

“It appears that the senator recognized the offending ringtone as his because he immediately unbuttoned his jacket to remove the device from a case on his belt,” Altman wrote.

Will it ever end?

Passenger Baggage

Here’s a scene you’ve no doubt witnessed or participated in:

Airline passengers are crowded around the gate waiting for their group number to be called so they can be among the first to board the aircraft and shove their over-packed and probably oversized carry-on luggage into the overhead bins.

Some airlines are considering charging people $25 at the gate if their bag is too big, reports Joe Sharkey of the New York Times.

“Seldom do passengers, gate agents, flight attendants and airline management all agree on anything — but all agree that the current system is awful,” Sharkey writes. “Along with the unpleasant airport security checkpoint drill, the glum ritual of boarding a crowded plane and hoping to find space in a crammed overhead bin is one of the two high-anxiety choke points in air travel. Many flight attendants tell me that the bin-storage problem is the part of their job that they dislike the most.”

Response to “Love and Lawsuits”

For last week’s Color of Money question, I asked: “Should a couple split the cost of a canceled wedding?”

One woman called off her wedding but didn’t want to help her ex-fiance pay for the expenses of the canceled nuptials. The guy sued.

Here are some of your thoughts.

“Yes, couples should share the costs of the dissolution of wedding plans,” wrote Ruth Jacobi of Arizona. “I think that couples need to cultivate more care and certainty in their choices of mates before living as though they are already ‘financially’ married.”

Leonardo Ribeiro, a lawyer from Sao Paulo, Brazil, said that, of course, the letter writer should pay.

“If a couple breaks up just before (or during the preparations, I mean expenses of) the wedding it’s right to have the amount of the debt, or deficit, divided. It’s not fair that only one suffers with it, and doesn’t matter if it was the one that still wanted or didn’t want the wedding anymore.”

This last argument sounds fair to me.

College Challenge

Robert J. Samuelson, who writes a weekly economics column for The Washington Post, recently said: “The college-for-all crusade has outlived its usefulness. Time to ditch it. Like the crusade to make all Americans homeowners.”

So, I asked: “Have we gone too far pushing college as the only path to the good life?”

“Where does Robert Samuelson live?” asked Ellen Mahoney of Jackonsville, Fla. “The college-for-all crusade may still be going on somewhere, but not in my city where many high school graduates struggle with affording even community college or technical school.”

“I totally agree that we have gone overboard with the idea that a four-year college is the preferred path,” wrote Marcus Seitz of Alexandria, Va. “I myself attended community college before transferring to a four-year university. I know several very successful people that never attended college. We should also look to overseas countries like Germany that have a fully developed training/apprenticeship program that helps everyone become a productive citizen based on their desires and capabilities.”

Richard Merrifield of Goleta, Calif., agrees that community colleges have been undervalued.

Merrifield wrote: “They make a great deal of sense, not only for vocational training, but also for those planning to transfer to a four-year university. Class size is typically smaller and tuition costs are much less. I suspect to some extent the trend of implying that everyone should go to college may be an unintentional result of the ‘self-esteem’ movement of the last couple of decades in which young people are told they can do ‘anything’ they want. Well, that’s nonsense of course. Not everyone is suited for a white- collar job or academic achievements. As a society, we would be much better off if we embraced the truth that a variety of careers are necessary for a successful society and valued all of them accordingly.”

Tia Lewis contributed to this report.

You are welcome to e-mail comments and questions to colorofmoney@washpost.com. Please include your name and hometown; your comments may be used in a future column or newsletter unless otherwise requested.

Michelle Singletary writes the nationally syndicated personal finance column, “The Color of Money.”
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