Of course a wedding is a bride and groom’s special day. But you know who deserves a standing ovation after the first dance? Everyone else. The parents and siblings and bridesmaids and groomsmen and friends who let this blessed event take over their lives for a year, dominating every conversation, sapping precious vacation days and vacuuming up the last few pennies from their emergency fund.
“I’m exhausted,” Kim said last week. “And it’s only May!”
Kim, a 27-year-old marketing manager who grew up in Fairfax and now lives in New York City, attended her first wedding of the year in April. She has others in June and August, plus two in September. Along the way, she’s accrued the horror stories only a four-time bridesmaid can tell — in one wedding, she’ll be forced to wear a flapper dress; for another she’ll have to show up five days early, per the bride’s request.
And because Kim has experience in event planning, she’s become the go-to strategist for her engaged friends, spending one to two hours a day consulting with the brides. Kim, who’s in a relationship but not ready to get married, estimates that already this year she’s spent $2,700 on other people’s weddings and will probably spend around $6,000 by the end of 2012.
“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,” she says. “There’s a lot of work involved that’s not really divulged when you get into it.”
It used to be that a wedding took place over the course of an afternoon, or maybe an evening. Now it stretches 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. And then, if everyone is still standing — and the bride and groom are still speaking to each other — we get to have a wedding.
Carol Wallace, author of “All Dressed in White: The Irresistible Rise of the American Wedding,” says part of the problem is that weddings are cumulative: “Once something gets added, it rarely gets dropped.” Thus, whoever decided it was necessary to host a brunch the morning after a wedding doomed everyone else who would ever marry to follow suit. (We should find that couple and send them the bill.)
Wallace says it was the late 19th century when “the idea of wedding as pageant came into being.” With each ensuing generation new rituals were added. The average engagement now lasts over a year, so there’s plenty of time to conjure up new events — an announcement party, perhaps, or a series of themed wedding showers. “There’s always a drive toward excess,” Wallace says.
Last year, Washington area wedding planner Debbie Berkelhammer’s stepson got married to a woman whose own mother is also a wedding planner. The conditions were just right for a perfect storm of nuptial extravagance. Berkelhammer says 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.