Caitlin Gibson and Rachel Manteuffel
Washington Post Magazine Contributors
Monday, September 8, 2008 12:00 PM
When two intrepid women set out to slay the Wedding Industrial Complex, things got complicated fast.
Washington Post Magazine contributors Caitlin Gibson and Rachel Manteuffel were online Monday, September 8 to discuss their Washington Post Magazine story, "The Anti-Wedding."
Caitlin Gibson, legal administrator for The Post, is a writer who lives in Bethesda. Rachel Manteuffel is an actor and writer who lives in Tysons Corner.
A transcript follows.
All this week, find chats on a variety of wedding-related topics and much more in theWedding Week 2008section.
Caitlin Gibson: Hi everyone! Thanks for reading our story and joining us here today. We're looking forward to a spirited discussion. We've heard from lots of people already -- people who loved the piece, people who were inspired, people who had good questions, people who have invited us to go play in traffic. We're excited to respond to as many of you as possible.
Before we get going, Rachel and I would also like to thank Jaqi and Chris for being such fun, fabulous, good sports with this whole crazy shebang. They are wonderful and funny and very much in love and it was a blast working with them. We also want to give a shout out to our editor, the lovely Sandy Fernandez, who planned a (NOT anti) wedding herself and was always there to keep us in line and point out when we were taking long hearty sips of Wedding Kool-Aid. Thanks too to the other two awesome babes who worked the antiwedding day with us, photog Veronika Lukasova and videographer Gaby Bruna.
OK, let's go!
Rachel Manteuffel: We've gotten great response from readers who had wedding stories to share and are posting some of our favorites here.
I work as a caterer at a lot of wedding events, and they totally disgust me now! Centerpieces get me the most. I could go off for an hour about their futility and general ugliness. The worst example I have ever seen was a vase filled with water, submerged flowers, and live goldfish. The caterers were told by the wedding planner that the bride would be taking the fish home at the end of the night. Yeah right! That bride was certainly not clutching a plastic baggy of fish when she got in the limo. Instead the caterers were instructed to dispose of the fish. I refused to take part in it, but my co-workers went along. Being right next to the water, they considered throwing them in the water but decided the salt water would mean a painful death for them, so they elected to pour them on the ground and stomp on them instead. Stomping fish to death! How romantic is that? I am glad to know that no fish were harmed at your anti-wedding. --Priscilla Delano
I am getting married in March and have BEGGED my fiance to go lower key than, as you discovered, is humanly possible. We are spending less than 2K on the wedding and are getting married at a museum that is essentially a hayfield with antique structures and goats. And peacocks. There may be a peacock or three rambling toward us during the ceremony. Peacocks are pretty hostile. Like geese. I'm excited.
People have seriously treated me like a leper for:
-Not registering (the concept makes me want to vomit)
-Not using an ordained minister (again, PLEASE)
-Not having a photographer there
My ring is made of wood and cost $60 from a woodworker in Oregon.
My man's outfit is hemp, which he bartered to get for free.
Wilmington, DE: Comment- I loved the anti-wedding concept and the article that chronicled the anti-planning. It made me wish that I wasn't already married. My spouse and I married in our early 40s and didn't want a huge affair. I was so ignorant - the wedding industry is very powerful. My motto became if a wedding industry person told me I had to do something, I was not doing business with them. Any mention of a possible bridal shower,our response was that we bathe daily, thank you very much. We asked that no gifts be given- we had double of everything already. When people kept asking what we wanted, we finally designated two organizations that people could make donations. Family and friends were obviously having a difficult time adjusting to our low key approach to the wedding. Thirteen years later, we still have people commenting that our wedding was the most beautiful, touching wedding that they had ever attended. I urge people who do not have a need for a fairy tale wedding,to unite and use all that energy/money for other worthwhile purposes.
Caitlin Gibson: Excellent. I love the idea of donating to charity instead of setting up a registry of Things You'll Probably Never Use. Thanks for the comment!
Texas: By far, this is one of the dumbest articles I've seen on a newspaper website. What a shame. I read the first few paragraphs then gave up. I usually peruse the entire WP website and enjoy it. But five pages on the "anti-wedding industry movement" is ridiculous.
Having an extravagant wedding is a personal choice. Unless you are stuck paying for the bill, you have no business attacking it.
I'm 25 and would most likely go for a small, simple, elegant wedding. It's not about the wedding, but the marriage to me.
However, if a couple wants to go all out and be foolish enough to get in debt over their wedding day... who cares?
Rachel Manteuffel: Sorry you didn't like it, but thanks for reading.
Frederick, Maryland: Why did you have to be this silly? Instead of writing a helpful article on how to have a wonderful wedding without succumbing to the current American affluenza plague, you wrote about a dopey, childish and way too expensive ($3,000!!!) public spectacle. If this couple wanted an inexpensive wedding, why not hold it in their own home? If they have it at 3 in the afternoon, they can declare the reception "tea" and only need to serve homemade tea sandwiches and a cake they baked themselves. A whole lot less goofy than getting a protest permit, heaven's sake, and way less than $3,000. Do you really think this struck a blow for simple, affordable weddings?
washingtonpost.com: On Wednesday at noon ET, the authors of the book "Bridal Bargains" will be online to offer just this kind of advice.
Caitlin Gibson: We hope not. But we weren't just going for cheap. We had to clarify that to a bunch of the people who responded to our advertisement, too: an antiwedding doesn't just mean avoiding the astronomical costs typically associated with big weddings, but also some of the more absurd or cliched traditions. The ones that many people feel inclined to include even though they don't LIKE them -- but they've become so inextricably tied to the concept of Wedding that no one questions them anymore. If you don't like cake, why do you need one? If you aren't into flowers, why have them? If you look washed out in white, why can't you wear blue? Etc.
Washington, D.C.: Thank you for the article. I'm at an age when my friends are all getting married and I could not care less about veils, rings, unity candles, etc. What a great way to celebrate the couple, which is what weddings are supposed to be about.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
San Diego, CA: Has the anti-wedding made a more formal protest against the W.I.C. possible?
Also, why spend $$$ for the bride's get-up and a place to eat (reception)? Could have saved $$$ by forgoing the new dress and the pizza and beer by letting the bride wear what she's already got - perhaps a favorite outfit of hers - and meet once again where the scavenger hunt was organized for final eats. Once the party dwindles to 10 remaining guests (or pre-chosen ones), just hit the bars for drinks.
Caitlin Gibson: Sure! Why not take it one step further. As long as it's what that particular bride wants to do, we say, go for it. This was what made Jaqi and Chris happy, so we're psyched about how it went.
Bethesda, MD: I really appreciated this story. I think its great that the couple were able to start their marriage and celebrate their love while having a lot of fun and saving a lot of money.
Any chance you two will be posting tips on how to have an anti-wedding or starting a blog where readers can post anti-wedding tips and ideas.
Congrats again on a job well done!
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks so much for your comment!
Fairfax, Va: Do you have plans to follow up on this story? An obvious choice would be to find a family that is disgusted by excesses in the Funeral Industrial Complex, who are willing to dump the body of their deceased loved one in the woods or in the river, etc.
Rachel Manteuffel: We got an email from a man volunteering to have us plan his anti-funeral. We don't know when that story will run.
Washington, DC: I appreciate what you were trying to do, but I found the tone of this article to be surprisingly hostile. Sure, the process of buying a wedding dress is ridiculous -- I'm planning my wedding right now -- but wearing one has a great deal of symbolism for many, many people. What's wrong with planning a more traditional wedding, provided that you keep to your budget and taste? Sure, I could buy hand-engraved toasting flutes that we'd use once during the reception, but I prefer to spend that money on renting a cotton-candy machine.
Rachel Manteuffel: Yep, we were pretty hostile, but our target wasn't traditions as much is it was the meaningless application of traditions, or the pressure to have things you don't really want there for the sake of expectation and what other people will think. You want a cotton candy machine, which is definitely awesome.
Sterling, VA: Congratulations to the happy couple! How would you suggest other anti-brides avoid getting sucked into the Industrial Wedding Complex? It seems that even if you start with the best of intentions, it's possible to lose focus and start obsessing over insignificant details.
Caitlin Gibson: Maybe just unplug from the magazines, tv shows, websites, etc. Try to stay focused on who you are and what your relationship is about and what's meaningful and fun for you. Have a sense of humor. Nothing's perfect. Apparent disaster might actually be hilarious and memorable.
Washington DC: Thanks for revealing this issue is a First Amendment one. Wearing a white dress in a public park has become a crime; you will be swiftly threatened with harm by police and arrested if you attempt to do so. This kind of social and fashion policing is the way the National Park Service is administering its land, as well as the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority, Montgomery Parks, and others. Again, I want to simply thank you for revealing what kind of injury to the use of public space these park managers are perpetrating. Please accept this compliment; nice job.
Rachel Manteuffel: I can sympathize with the need to keep things safe and orderly on park property--some weddings are celebrated with gunfire, after all--but it was really surprising how non-negotiable the wedding thing was. We could promise and sign forms attesting the wedding would be small and tidy and short, and it didn't make any difference.
OKC, OK: Although the vendors call this dirty pool, I say try to hire your caterers, florists, etc. without mentioning the "W" word. I know weddings are their bread and butter, but I swear they hear "wedding" and imagine a misty-eyed dad with deep pockets. It's kind of tricky to order a tiered white cake for a "solstice celebration", but it's worth a try for almost everything else.
Rachel Manteuffel: Several people have mentioned this. Even if the prices aren't jacked up, sellers will sometimes put pressure on a couple to get "the best" for their special day, to prove how much they love each other. It's a cycle--couples bite the bullet and pay, because what the heck, it's a special day, and vendors realize they can charge premium and people will still pay it.
Olney, MD: As I read your article, I couldn't help but feel sorry for you and for the Rossis. You have taken all the fun out of the wedding. My third daughter is getting married next summer, and we've already chosen the gowns (she and her sisters and niece are gorgeous in them). The venue has been selected. Yesterday we looked at invitations. We look forward to a trip to Florida for the tasting, flower selection, cake choice. Unlike the Rossis, she will be married in a church by an ordained priest, as were her sisters, who have been married 24 and 16 years. An engagement party has been set for those who cannot make the trip to Florida.
We are all--bride, groom, sisters, parents--having a wonderful time. Yes, money will be spent, but what else is it for but to see that our daughters have the weddings of their dreams. Because of the religious differences between my husband and myself in a less tolerant time (now resolved, as I converted to Catholicism), we had a very small, very informal wedding. I regret not having a nicer one.
I guess my question is, how can you take the joy, the fun, the anticipation out of weddings? Have you sold your birthright for a mess of pottage?
Caitlin Gibson: I think it's great that you're having fun planning your daughter's wedding -- that you're enjoying the process and having fun with all the different moving parts of putting together something that is truly her dream day. Many people don't feel the same way about putting together a huge or elaborate or expensive wedding, however. We're certainly in favor of everyone getting what they want and doing what's true to them. The main point of our piece was to hopefully prove a point that a wedding day is fundamentally about what exists between the two people who are getting married, what they share together and hope to share together, which has nothing to do with swan ice sculptures. Yes, our anti-wedding was part rebellion and statement, but it was also a very real reflection of what mattered most to Jaqi and Chris. What mattered to them was the Who of the wedding, not the What or the Where. They married each other and the people they loved most were present. So it didn't matter a whit that they were standing outside in the rain in a street when they said their vows. I think they had a lot of fun and a great deal of joy.
Fairfax, VA: I admit, my wife and I had a big wedding. But it was thrown for us by her parents. It was kind of a sibling rivalry thing going on between my wife's father and her aunt. However, we did avoid some of the tackier traditions. No garter. No face full of cake. And, my personal favorite bit of inspiration, when anybody clanged their glasses, my in-laws kissed.
Caitlin Gibson: That's excellent!! And yes, we fully acknowledge that it's definitely trickier to buck tradition when the feelings of loved ones are involved. Thanks for sharing your story.
we arrive at 9 a.m. to pick up a few reception items to take to Bertucci's.: please discuss so that we may mock your wedding items at your anti-wedding.
Caitlin Gibson: Items were: Abraham Lincoln lollipops, noisemakers, and a keg of "Death and Taxes" beer (a dark stout) that was a gift from a brewery who was super excited to hear of a wedding with the same theme.
Nags Head, NC: The authors never mentioned the pesky little detail of getting a marriage license and registering the marriage after the fact. Did anyone bother to do that?
It honestly wasn't quite clear to me if this couple really wanted to get married, or if they just wanted to have an anti-wedding party that was not, in fact, a wedding, and then they could just continue as they were.
Rachel Manteuffel: Anti-licenses are not available at this time, so Chris and Jaqi got a normal one. You may consider that selling out.
because calligraphy on parchment paper with a seasonal color scheme represents everything that's wrong with the American way of life.: Really? I mean, really? Not the illegal sale of arms, drugs, the threats by the government to our privacy? Really, its stationary?
Caitlin Gibson: Really.
Washington, DC: Admit it. A certain mustachioed humor writer put you up to this, right?
Caitlin Gibson: I don't know anyone by that description.
Olney, MD: Dearest Caitlin,
Your Mom and I were so happy to learn of your views on expensive weddings.
Keep up the good work, sweetheart.
Rachel Manteuffel: Love you too, Dad.
Lake Ridge, VA: I just wanted to say I loved the Anti-Wedding. I even read the article to my soon-to-be husband. Our wedding is planned for May 2009. As far as planning, determining the tentative date is as far as we've got. But I think we are heading down the anti-wedding path! The scavenger hunt was a great idea. Thank you for proving that a marriage doesn't have to start with all that fluff, thousands of dollars in debt and raised blood pressure to live happily ever after.
Rachel Manteuffel: You'll be fine. Good luck!
Virginia: No question, just a comment from a wedding videographer who actually agrees with everything you wrote. The small, cheap weddings are the ones I enjoy most. As someone who charges for my time without price gouging, I think it's possible to be in the wedding industry while still despising most of it. I charge what my service is worth, not what I think I can get out of desperate people.
If more of us took that approach I think that weddings wouldn't have such a bad name OR be such a big deal. And when that happens, people might actually start enjoying them! After all, you never hear people complaining about anniversary parties. Why should weddings be any different? They don't have to be complicated, but it's up to the brides to change their desires. The industry itself will never change as long as the customers keep lining up for the same old stuff every year.
I'm hopeful that articles like yours might have an impact on people and slowly push them in that direction. Thanks for writing it.
Caitlin Gibson: A comment from someone who knows way more about weddings than we do. Thanks so much for weighing in.
North McLean, VA: I'm sensing a lot of hostility in some of these comments. Yet, when I look at the video I see a lot of smiles.
Caitlin Gibson: Jaqi and Chris and their guests had a great time!
Washington, DC: I'm not sure what to make of it, but while driving through Fairfax recently I noticed that Dell's Bra Boutique has been replaced with a Wedding Goods Store.
Rachel Manteuffel: This is intolerable. People need that store.
New Orleans: Was the happy couple married near the nuclear war protester? Important to know as that protester was the highlight for the son of our trip to D.C.
Rachel Manteuffel: Yes. There was another protest that day, too, about praying for the president.
North McLean, VA: I like that you tried to razz that whole Wedding Industrial Complex that has clearly gotten way out of hand. But is there anything inherently evil about small tasteful weddings? Isn't their some compromise between filling the National Cathedral with a nightmare of taffeta and Mendelssohn and blocking traffic in the rain? I mean, being a radical is fun, but isn't being a reformer more productive?
Caitlin Gibson: Nothing at all evil about a small tasteful wedding. It's not as fun of a story, though...
Several people have pointed out that an antiwedding could simply be an elopement or a courthouse ceremony, which is true, but we wanted to do something a bit more bold and sassy than that -- less a simple avoidance of wedding industry mania and more a direct pushback against it. We wanted to go a step further and actually reverse a few of the big wedding cliches and do something unexpected and controversial and funny.
Arlington, VA: Don't you think you could do more damage to the wedding industry by demonstrating how to have a tasteful get-together with loads of family and friends without buying into all the craziness? You could affect more people by showing them how to do this cheaply, rather than going so far against what most people would ever want. There's nothing wrong with wanting to share this important moment with your closest friends and relatives -- it's the extravagance that's the problem, right?
Rachel Manteuffel: The planners' original intent was to do the whole thing for, say, $361, and making the food ourselves. Jaqi and Chris wanted a real party and food the guests would enjoy, so that's where they decided to spend the bulk of their money. Had we forced a downsizing, it would have been the flip side of what we were trying to protest about the industry.
Caitlin Gibson: Right. Hard as it was for us at times, we decided early on that if we started cramming our own anti-ideas down their throats, we were doing basically the same thing as the industry. The whole thing was about doing what they wanted, so our opinions weren't the deciding factor in the end.
Boston: I am all for encouraging couples to go with what's most meaningful for them. But, I wasn't sure who you were imagining the audience would be for your article. Were you hoping to change any minds, or did you figure you'd just be preaching to the choir? A couple of other chatters have already commented that the tone turned them off - and the anti-wedding concept may not have jibed with their values, which is fine, but are you worried about people who are on the fence getting turned off as well?
Also - Do you think you were able to get some sense into any bride/groom-zillas?
Rachel Manteuffel: Hmm. Well, you're right, we haven't heard from anyone converted by this article. I'm not totally certain it's possible to convert. Anyone have good stories of minds profoundly changed on the wedding front?
We did hear from people who regretted their big weddings, but our story didn't change that, either.
Caitlin Gibson: We have heard from people who were already leaning toward doing something unorthodox and now feel ESPECIALLY inspired to do so. Which is cool.
Olney, MD: Caitlin will you marry me?
Caitlin Gibson: Well, an anonymous proposal via online chat IS pretty anti.
From Gene Weingarten: Terrific story, ladies. My favorite part, though, was the byline of your photographer. There can't be a better name for someone who produces an appealing array of pictures in a magazine -- "Veronika Lukasova."
Caitlin Gibson: HAHAHAHAHAHA. Fabulous.
Arlington, VA: Thanks for your story. I thought it was very well-written and funny. Why do you suppose it is that brides (I assume it is mainly the brides) buy into the whole Wedding Industrial Complex fantasy machine? Is it tradition? Conspicuous display of wealth (or financed money) to impress their peers/family? I just really don't get it. I wonder why people put themselves into such huge debt for a little one-day party. Do they think their marriage will be better somehow if them spend years' worth of salary on the wedding? And don't get me started on how much the boy is supposed to spend on the ring to prove his love!
Caitlin Gibson: I think there is an enormous amount of pressure put on brides. Look at the TV shows, the movies, the magazines, the websites -- it's all too easy to succumb to the idea that if you don't spend enough on this one special day, it reflects something about you or the relationship you're in or your status. There's also sometimes plenty of pressure from family members, which I wholeheartedly admit is not as simple a matter to take on. It's easy to say you'd like to forgo the whole dang thing and get married by Elvis, but when doing so would alienate an entire half of a family, it gets tricky.
Anti-Funeral: There already is an anti-funeral. Cremation followed by an imaginative way to scatter or store the ashes.
washingtonpost.com: Don't miss this story on non-traditional things people are doing with cremation ashes: As Families Opt for Cremation, Industry Expands Services, Choices (The Washington Post, Sept. 7)
Caitlin Gibson: The WashPost Magazine does not yet have a Funeral Issue, but maybe someday.
Rockville, MD: Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this piece. It was a great "wedding story." Since getting married at the courthouse with a small luncheon a few days after the fact, I tell people all the time that the wedding industry would be out of business if more people were like me and got married in a skirt from Target. I hope more people will move the focus from the "party" to the "marriage."
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
Fairfax, VA: Now ladies. Be honest here. In the event that one or both of you should decide to become married-type persons, would you really be willing to forgo all pomp? And, more importantly, would your mothers?
Rachel Manteuffel: Haha. Luckily, my mom doesn't care for weddings either and used to worry about what on earth she would do with mine. we have mutually agreed she doesn't have to go if she doesn't want to. My mom is great.
Caitlin Gibson: We HAVE to forgo all pomp. We're on the record now. My father has threatened to save 10,000 copies of the story and if I ever dare to go back on my antiwedding word, he will mail them to me one at a time. My wedding will be planned by Rachel and Gene Weingarten.
Washington, DC: I get what you are trying to do, but I have a small philosophical quibble. A wedding is an important, some would say sacred, event in life. Isn't it worth a big party?
Caitlin Gibson: If you WANT one, then sure. But why does it have to be a particular kind of big party? We think that if you want a bowling party or a backyard beer-pong party or a touch football party or no party or just a regular old dinner party, that should be fine too. Jaqi and Chris had a party. Just a, uh, atypical one.
Fairfax, VA: I love the idea of the anti-wedding. When my husband and I got married we really wanted something similar. You know, a JP with Chinese takeout. The problem was, I have a large, traditional family who felt such a wedding would be disrespectful to them. My mother was especially incensed, and we ended up in a huge shouting match along the typical "this is -my- wedding" pattern. Just as you describe, I found that stress doesn't just come from the overblown mechanics of a wedding, it also comes from having to deal with the expectations of family and friends. All of which led me to believe that the only true anti-wedding is to do what we did. Which is elope.
Caitlin Gibson: This is a good point. Let the record show that it is far, far easier to take on a multibillion-dollar industry than one's own mother.
Fairfax: Great stuff! Ever since the Wegmans opened in Fairfax and I saw the great dining rooms upstairs, I've been telling my young teen daughter that's where we'll have her wedding reception some day. I think she thinks I'm serious.
She was very relieved to find out the store wouldn't allow the wedding you were planning there.
Rachel Manteuffel: I hope someone at Wegmans is reading.
Houston, TX: This is incredibly tacky and selfish. There are many ways to perform a cheap wedding and keep your family and friends involved in it.
Rachel Manteuffel: You can call us tacky, but I don't get where you see selfish in Jaqi and Chris' wedding. Their family and friends were running all over town in a scavenger hunt and holding the wedding decorations. Chris' stepmom performed the ceremony. Conventional wedding guests--and even the party--mostly just stand and sit at the appropriate times.
Guests were encouraged to wear whatever they wanted and were asked only for the pleasure of their company. Jaqi and Chris were informal and unstressed enough to have conversations and moments with their guests.
Dave Barry fan here, with toilet comment: I just hope you put the folks who wanted their ceremony to include motorized toilet bowl racing in touch with Dave Barry, sounds wonderful and like something the Miami Herald could sponsor. I would (almost) pay to see it.
Caitlin Gibson: Toilets are funny.
Washington, D.C.: Another related article could be a couple who spent $$$ on their wedding and ended up divorced a few weeks later. I know one.
Rachel Manteuffel: Let us know if they want it exhaustively reported!
Caitlin Gibson: And published for a national audience!
Capitol Hill: While I got a kick out of the article, it seems like you have lost just as much focus about what a wedding really means as people who spend ridiculous amounts of money on floral centerpieces and ribbon wands. A protest against the "wedding industrial complex"? C'mon, what does that have to do with spending the rest of your lives together? Fun idea, but you got it wrong.
Caitlin Gibson: That's one way of looking at it, though I'd argue that in this case, the protest/spectacle part of this celebration DID represent something about Jaqi and Chris -- that they like to be wacky and different and outspoken and make a stand for something they believe. And aside from the protest -- which was the shortest chunk of the day's itinerary -- everything else was exactly what they wanted it to be and represented who they are separately AND together.
Arlington, VA: I appreciate the exercise the authors went through to produce the "anti-wedding." As someone who had a sane wedding, I would like to point out that there is a way to - er - have your cake and eat it, too. We had the basic elements of a wedding, selecting the pieces that mattered to us and rejecting the rest. Also, guest involvement really cut down on the level of stress. You will see this theme throughout - I have offered a description below in case it proves instructive to others.
INVITATIONS: You can do a lot with your own printer, particularly if you have a smaller wedding. We printed save-the date cards on little cards from Target. Invitations were made using stationery and ideas from the Paper Source. They were gorgeous - much better than some of the embossed atrocities we receive in the mail - and relatively cheap. It cost $350 - this included RSVP cards and paper for the wedding weekend "guide." You could go cheaper, easily.
LOCATION: We decided on a weekend away, so we could actually enjoy the company of our family and friends who came so far to see us. We rented out a set of cabins in upstate NY on a lake in the off-season (early June). My parents paid for the entire weekend for everyone - $5600, but you could ask guests to pay their own way, too, since it is the equivalent of having to stay in a hotel.
We were limited by the number of cabins (11), which gave us the perfect excuse to limit the guest list - 48 people total. Besides the wedding on Friday morning, we had a game night on Saturday night and a bagel breakfast on Sunday morning. One cabin was larger than the others, so we could all comfortably fit for such activities. We asked a few of the guests to bring their favorite games. On Saturday evening the guests naturally gravitated towards a massive BBQ and cook-out, with each cabin contributing something. During the days, people went hiking, antiquing, swimming, canoeing, bicycling, saunaing....
We had a civil ceremony, no attendants, officiated by a friend who became an online pastor (for $28). The wedding took place at the edge of the lake. Guests wore comfortable shoes for the 1/2 mile walk and were free to wear sundresses, shorts, whatever they wanted. We did drive up the 80 year old grandmother and provided chairs for a few folks. Everyone else stood. We wrote our own vows - the ceremony was 15 minutes. Our best friends acted as witnesses and signed the marriage certificate.
DRESS: I bought a dress at Saks for $300. My only rule was it had to be reasonably priced and didn't have to be fitted somewhere else and sent to me 6 months later. I didn't even look at wedding dresses - I wasn't looking for a white dress, but the one I liked best ended up being white and silk. I paired it with white sandals. For those who want something a bit more wedding-like, here is a great hint - try on the dresses designed for the attendants. You can always buy them in white or off-white and many simple and elegant varieties are available for around $200.
GIFTS: We didn't want any, but we understood the desire of some guests to give them. So, we sent guests a link to make donations given to three of our favorite charities in our names (justgive.org).
FOOD: Ah - this was a bit of a pain because we are vegetarians, we have one parent who was diabetic, and multiple guests who keep kosher. We really didn't want to provide different food for different people, and we didn't want to serve everyone crappy kosher food either. The fix? We found a caterer in NJ who provided us with a bunch of kosher cold vegetarian salads and other dishes (we had some fish, too) that we could pick up en route to NY. It was all healthy, tasty, and could be served buffet style on nice plastic serving platters. Cost: $350 (which included the serving plates and utensils, and bagels and cream cheese for the Sunday breakfast). A friend from Boston brought kosher pots for three cabins' worth of guests to use for their own cooking purposes.
CAKE: Who wants to pay excessive amounts of money for a good-looking but poor-tasting cake? We found a great tasting kosher cake at the NYC My Most Favorite Dessert Company. If we got it as a round sheet cake meant to sere 50 people instead of as a tiered wedding cake, it cost $125. Guests from NYC picked it up and brought it by car.
RECEPTION: We rented tables and a tent in case of rain ($500). I bought tablecloths from a restaurant supply store and resold them on eBay afterwards. We allowed for 45 minutes between the ceremony and reception - everyone contributed to setting it up - bringing out food, flower, cake from the various cabins where they had been stashed. The last minute problem of how to keep the flowers from tipping over in the breeze even provided entertainment. Group effort finally alit on a solution, putting rocks in the bottom of the Mason jars and then refilling them with water from the nearby creek.
Because of the kosher aspect, we had to use paper plates and plastic cups (faux champagne glasses), but you can get whatever color you want - online. (We rented a van to haul us, a few guests and all this stuff up from DC to NY.)
FLOWERS: yes, I wanted them. I bought them wholesale from a place in CA for $300 (2G roses) - enough for a bouquet and six tables. They were beautiful. I had them delivered to friends in Albany who put them in Home Depot buckets to open up and then drove them upstate. My mom took some of the irises and made me a little bouquet. For the table centerpieces, I bought Mason jars for $16 online. Six of the female guests happily helped to "arrange" them the day before.
ALCOHOL: This was one of our biggest expenses. We ordered kosher white and red wine for throughout the weekend, and some sparkling wine for toasts. The store offered to buy back any that was unopened and not refrigerated afterwards. We paid $1000 up-front but ended up getting $250 back. Oh - and we bought vodka and scotch for the weekend, too, nothing left over on that one. Don't underestimate the value of good alcohol!
No music or dancing, which cut down on costs. We asked a friend to be our "official" photographer using my digital camera - group shots consisted of whatever family we could convince to stand in front of the lake for a few minutes after the ceremony. Other friends provided online access to their own photos, which gave us a nice representation of a fun, relaxing, meaningful weekend.
Rachel Manteuffel: Lots of people are asking us for advice on how to do the small, tasteful, affordable thing. We don't know. This person does.
Arlington, VA: Stop being so mean by making fun of excessive weddings. You are so mean! If people want to be shallow, waste lots of money, and ruin the lives of those around them for months, who are you to question?
Get with the program. Read the article about the Engagement Watch Team. And then vomit. It's the only appropriate reaction.
Thank you for a bit of sanity in what promises to be a horrible "Wedding Week" in the Post.
Rachel Manteuffel: It was fun.
London, UK: I loved this story and can vouch from personal experience that some friends and relatives will be amazingly personally affronted if you refuse to participate in full-on wedding mania. My wedding a year ago was not a complete anti-wedding, but I rejected several key traditional elements, among them: the long white Disney princess dress (my dress was silvery sage, knee-length, not poufy and it definitely can and will be worn again), the bridesmaids and groomsmen, and the gift registry. Many people gave us a hard time for opting not to register for gifts -- and we did get some truly heinous unsolicited gifts from people we told politely and repeatedly "Please no gifts". It wasn't my dress, but rather my decision not to have bridesmaids that caused the greatest familial tension. While my closest friends were extremely appreciative of the fact that I did not make them spend money on expensive and ridiculous matching dresses or saddle them with silly responsibilities during the lead up to the wedding, my mother-in-law several months later was still griping about being deprived of photographs of her son and his childhood friends dressed in matching monkey suits. Even though such photos exist from all of his friends' weddings!
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks so much for reading the piece and sharing your story with us!
Silver Spring, Md: I love the idea of the anti-wedding. Caterers, florists, and other vendors up their charges just by hearing the word "wedding". I don't like flowers, and hate all of the frill, but want the traditional church wedding. I would love to hear what kind of party ideas there are out there for those of us who want a non-traditional get-together after the vows.
Caitlin Gibson: Our best advice to others who want a non-traditional get together is just not to feel limited by the boundaries of what a "typical" wedding party would require. Do what you like to do. So if that's bowling, rent some lanes. If it's paintball, play paintball. Have a BBQ in your own backyard. Watch movies and order in. Whatever makes you happy -- that's all that matters. Take the pressure of "wedding" off the day and just do what's fun for you.
WDC: So - all of us Cornell law alumni in DC are wondering - is this Faust Rossi's son? And like Chris, we all miss Wegmans!
Caitlin Gibson: Hmmm. I dunno -- Chris, are you reading? If so, feel free to answer.
Arlington, VA: Yeah, how dare the couple look so happy, they did it all WRONG! I mean, they won't be able to brag about all the MUST HAVE items they added to their wedding. What about the multi-camera video, you mean they will use their memories? What are those?
I don't know that I've seen a couple look more happy. I guess when you care more about the marriage than the wedding that is much more likely.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
DC: Not everyone views planning a wedding as fun, exciting, or easy. I know I didn't - it was a very trying time juggling between my parents and my fiance. I enjoyed my wedding and had a great time but I would honestly never say it was the best day of my life. If that's the best day, then it's all downhill after that and I refuse to believe that.
Rachel Manteuffel: Lots of people mention this, or that what a bride remembers is the stuff that went wrong.
Michel Martin of NPR has an interesting alternate viewpoint: the compromises and stresses and problems you face when putting together a wedding REALLY help you figure out who this person you're marrying is and prepares you for stuff to come. This is an excellent point. Also, what a relief to be able to start a marriage with all that wedding behind you.
Falls Church: I LOVEDlovedlovedlovedlovedloved your article. It was funny and fun to read. I giggled through the whole thing.
I wore purple at my wedding (on sale, from Ann Taylor, less that $80 for the dress) and jeans and t-shirts were encouraged (although most folks dressed nicely - darn).
Couldn't agree more that everyone gets sucked into this bizarro wedding vortex. Although I suspect the economy may come to some skidding halt if people stop ordering swan sculptures, and 10 tiered wedding cakes (cost: $5 per piece) and all the other useless so-called necessities.
I still have people telling me my wedding was the most fun they ever had as they sipped their beers as we exchanged our vows. We ended up having to clean the venue site, due to, well I have no idea, I guess we forgot to ask who was supposed to do that. My guests had races rolling the tables back to the storage shed; my husband's bestguy's girlfriend vacuumed the room where some folks ate to get out of the cold - everyone else ate outside.
We had fun.
Caitlin Gibson: Yay! So glad you had so much fun at your wedding and thanks so much for your comment.
Washington, D.C.: Interesting story. I wish all the best to Jaqi and Chris. In the story, might have been useful to go into the history of the WIC a bit - noting that the massively expensive blow-out wedding is a relatively new phenomenon. It's also interesting to note that a lot of gay and lesbian couples who are now able to marry in California and Massachusetts are picking and choosing what traditions they want to incorporate into their own wedding ceremonies. (Of course, there are also some who are as sucked-into the massive WIC as straight couples.)
Caitlin Gibson: Interesting comment, thanks.
Fairfax, VA: Just want to say that I totally get what you two women were trying to do. Look, it is the nature of society that to make a point you have to push the envelope outside people's comfort level. (Besides. it's funnier that way.) The tricky bit is that you were doing this with somebody else's wedding. (But I imagine that finding a soulmate on deadline would have been tricky.) So maybe having a wedding in the rain with protest signs -is- kinda silly. But by doing so you two have, I hope, made people realize that they do have choices.
Rachel Manteuffel: Indeed, Chris and Jaqi are the incredibly brave ones in this story. I definitely would not let me plan my own wedding. The easiest thing for everyone involved might be letting the guy plan it.
Caitlin Gibson: Super Bowl Wedding!!!
I hate TheKnot.com: My fiance has thrown away all my wedding magazines and I've blocked TheKnot, etc. from my computer. I'm not having a traditional ceremony, but I hate all the pomp and circumstance. What do I say to all the nasty people who comment on this? (Mostly members of my own family.)
Caitlin Gibson: I'm afraid to advise you on how to argue with your family members. Elope, and hope they're the forgivin' kind?
Lay off Weddings!: I am tired of feeling like I have to be defensive about my wedding. It wasn't big - we had 80 people, in a synagogue my family used to belong to, no bridal or groom party, with my rabbi officiating. I had an inexpensive gown made (because I'm tiny and wanted long sleeves and didn't feel like spending months finding a dress that fit) and no wedding planner. The caterer had done my sister's bat mitzvah and wedding and my bat mitzvah. I don't know how much it cost because my parents paid for it and wouldn't tell me how much.
And it was really nice! It was the happiest day of my life and while I am not girly (so says my sister) I am NOT sorry that I wanted a bridal dress and flowers and music and my friends. So leave me alone and go bother the stupid people who spend $50,000 just on flowers!
Caitlin Gibson: Sounds like your wedding was exactly what you wanted, which is awesome. If you didn't feel pressured to do something you didn't want to do and didn't get distracted by all the material details, then it sounds like a success. Congrats. (Incidentally, we saved our "moral scum" verdict for the couple who spent $800K on their wedding)
Fairfax, VA: Great job on the story! "because calligraphy on parchment paper with a seasonal color scheme represents everything that's wrong with the American way of life" was my favorite line, because it really says it all. It's the paper equivalent of Botox.
I'd say the best way to avoid the W.I.C. is to avoid the wedding magazines, websites, TV shows on certain "woman-oriented" networks, etc. Last time I looked @ one of those stupid magazines, however, I was in tears over 800 pages of the ugliest dresses I have ever seen - the fact that the cheapest one was $2000 made it that much worse. I said to myself and future hubby "never again".
My question to you is are there any "anti-wedding" resources available to combat the media push of the W.I.C.?
Caitlin Gibson: Not yet, but we'll see what we can do about that...
Thanks for reading and commenting!
Washington DC: This might work in the Western States but in NY and Alabama, weddings are taken very seriously....
Rachel Manteuffel: We heard from someone in Saudi Arabia claiming that people aren't getting married at all because of the expense expected for a traditional wedding. There is always that option.
Kerrville, TX: I love the idea of the anti-wedding! Although mine was completely traditional, my wedding was only $3,000 total, including a $600 dress on sale from David's Bridal (all white ball gown that I found in less than two hours. Only one day; it was great!) and $100 three tiered cake (light yellow and square). The bridesmaids dresses were from a $5 pattern from Wal-Mart and $10 a yard curtain fabric (only needed 5 yards for three dresses), which my mother, the seamstress, made. I made all of the jewelry for the bridesmaids myself. And all of the food was made by my mother and her friends (shredded chicken, red beans and rice), while our rehearsal dinner was at Pizza Hut. We held an outdoor wedding at the church, and were married by my family's long time friend, Rev. Wildermuth. The reception was held at my parent's 1913 Craftman style home. I had graduated high school with and was friends with the photographer. It was the most traditional wedding you could think of with the most untraditional way of doing everything. And the best part was that everyone who came said it was one of the most beautiful weddings they had ever seen. And when I tell them how much it cost, they are surprised! I applaud what you are doing! Encourage everyone that weddings don't have to cost much, and it can still be beautiful, no matter the place, because it's about love, not about the dress.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for reading and for sharing your story -- and congrats on having such a fun and unique wedding day!
will this post make it in the line-up?: I got married, twice, to the same man (won't distract you with the story). First time in my parents' living room, with friends seated in available furniture or on the floor, in a dress my mother made. We had an ice chest full of beer and some snacks immediately afterward, but yes I had a cake because I LOVE cake. The second time we were both in jeans and we went to work afterwards. Just us and the officiant. However, I don't feel sorry for, nor feel the need to ridicule people who want the big wedding or the religious ceremony or the huge party afterward. It is a personal choice. There is no W.I.C. - that's a fairly ridiculous notion that people are somehow brainwashed or coerced into doing them. While I'm all for people having whatever kind of wedding they want, to "protest" against weddings is just inane.
Caitlin Gibson: OK. Thanks for the comment.
We had a big wedding and I'm not sorry: I'm from a very large family (living all over the country) and am the youngest and last to get married. We threw a huge all-weekend shindig because in recent years the only time my family all gets together is for funerals and we wanted to get everyone together in one spot to finally be able to enjoy each other in celebration. We had 250 people, a sit down dinner, a live swing band, an open bar, and lots and lots of dancing. The next day we had a brunch and a BBQ in our back yard for whomever was still in town. We had a photographer taking tons of pictures and I don't regret a single thing. I was never a bridezilla (no matching dresses or showers) and the focus was on having our friends and family with us as we took our vows. A month after our wedding my cousin was diagnosed with terminal cancer - the fact that she was able to party with all of us and I have such good memories dancing the conga line with her, well that's worth whatever it was we paid. I'm not saying go into debt for a wedding - we didn't at all - I'm just saying that sometimes a good party is really a good thing.
Caitlin Gibson: If you were happy with it and have no regrets, then rock on.
Philly, PA: For those looking for like-minded brides, I suggest
The forums have been around for about 5 years or so, and there's plenty of ideas for weddings that won't break the bank.
Caitlin Gibson: Great - thanks for sharing.
Washington, DC: Aw. I just watched the video and, anti-wedding and all, got kind of teary-eyed at the ceremony. Fun story - nice job!
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks!
Wegmans shopper: Enjoyed the article and have emailed it widely -- thank you. RE: Wegmans, from the store website it looks like they host receptions and parties. Did someone at the store veto the ceremony in particular, or did the local Wegmans just not have the facilities pictured online?
Caitlin Gibson: Well, we wanted a hands-on cooking party there, which they couldn't handle for all our people. I hear some of them have party rooms but ours didn't have one available, sadly. Thanks for the comment and for sharing the story!
Omaha, NE: I loved the story! Some family members/friends seemed a bit put off by the anti-wedding theme. Did they all come around by the end, or were there relatives left grumbling about the sanctity of tradition?
Caitlin Gibson: Everyone seemed to have a great time and Jaqi and Chris were lucky to have family members who were pretty cool about all of it overall. I think that, on the day of the wedding, any remaining doubts or raised eyebrows were gone because it was clear that Jaqi and Chris were really happy. And in the end, that's what mattered most.
Reston, Va.: As someone planning a wedding, I found the whole idea of this article fairly annoying. Yes, weddings are expensive and the money spent could probably be put to better use in other ways. But the people spending it are choosing to do so, and this article casts those people in a very critical light.
Also, isn't it a little bit hypocritical of people who "hate" weddings to make such a big show out of their non-wedding? If you don't want to spend any money on your wedding, do it privately, without putting it in everyone's face how "hip" you are by having a non-wedding.
Rachel Manteuffel: I'm sorry this rubbed you the wrong way. Obviously there's nothing wrong with people choosing the floof. But we heard from people who didn't want any sort of wedding and felt pressured by their families, or who felt inadequate with the kind of wedding they could afford, or had the wedding they couldn't afford. We also heard from people who thought Chris and Jaqi's wedding was inappropriate.
Also, the "big show" part of it was our fault as planners and writers, and I don't know how we could have avoided that.
Upstate, NY: I would get married in Wegmans too, if I could. I am engaged (have been for a year, but haven't planned anything yet) and might seriously pick WHERE I get married in order to have a cake from Wegmans as my wedding cake!
Caitlin Gibson: Again - hope Wegmans is reading! Good luck!
Pittsburgh, PA: I had an anti-wedding in DC 15 years ago (and am still married). We found a non-denominational minister in the Yellow Pages, got a license, and told the guy to meet us at the Botanical Gardens (and no, we didn't ask permission). We wrote nice words to each other on scraps of paper, and the whole affair was over in 5 minutes. A real anti-wedding on federal property! And no guests!
Caitlin Gibson: Hurrah! Congrats to you.
Atlanta: I had a more traditional wedding than you are looking at but...
I had one caterer tell me that I should change the date cause it didn't work for HER. I had another caterer (my husband and I discuss this to this day, almost 10 years later) who almost physically harmed me because she did not want to do the food as I wanted to do.
I found a caterer who did what we wanted. And that was that. I did not throw a bouquet, did not do a garter toss, did not do many things others think are the right way to do them. I kept telling people: so? It was truly incredible what people had to tell me I -had- to do. I mean, it was pretty traditional, but even so, I couldn't believe it.
Caitlin Gibson: Good for you for holding your ground! There's a lot of pressure out there. Yikes.
So interesting...: I find it so interesting that so many brides get testy with articles like this. Since you are doing something -GASP- different they get offended because they already drank said kool-aid and are defensive. If you want to spend $30k on your wedding and have a crazy blowout, that's awesome. But don't turn your nose up at the couple who wants to get married in the middle of a protest or wear purple instead of white.
I totally agree that a more "to each their own" approach is healthy for our society. Get married and be respectful of your guests should be the only two rules for wedding planning.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
Coral Gables, FL: Dear Rachel, Loved the article! Even though I love family weddings, I would happily attend any anti-wedding that you may plan for yourself. We'll make up something to get Grandma there. Thanks for making us laugh for all these years.
Your (Never Married) Aunt Kathy
Rachel Manteuffel: It is important to note that for the past 10 years Aunt Kathy has dressed the family in various costumes for her Christmas cards. Such as elves, and Christmas trees, and angels, and Christmas cookie bakers, and the people in The Night Before Christmas. I would LOVE you to plan my wedding, Aunt Kathy.
Caitlin Gibson: Awwwww.
DC: Not mentioning the "W" word worked really well when we planned my brother's wedding last-minute. We called the bakery a week before the wedding and asked how quickly they could make a wedding cake. The answer: they needed the order 5 weeks in advance; the cake would cost over $1000.
So we called back the next day and asked how quickly they could make 2 big sheet cakes for 120 people (same flavors and amount as the wedding cake would have been). The answer: the cakes would be ready the next morning and would cost $300 total.
The sheet cakes were absolutely delicious and the guests loved them.
Caitlin Gibson: Fabulous! Good advice, too.
Del Ray, VA: Another anti-WIC story -
Cousin in law gets married and spends $7,000 on photographer (that is just his fee - no pictures included). I told her right off the bat too much $$ - she told me he was one of the "top 10 photographers" in the country - whatever - like regular people need that level of photographer.
Divorced within 2 years.
Rachel Manteuffel: The pictures still look great, anyway.
Washington, DC: I loved this article! My boyfriend and I have talked about getting married at the top of the Washington Monument -- just going up in regular clothes with a friend to officiate and doing it. We joke that they'll say something to us like you're not going to do anything crazy like get married up there, are you? Of course, we have no intention of asking for permission. Your search for suitable places reminded me of this and the problem was having 40 guests around. Given that we don't want anyone else there, it seems like the possibilities for where to do it are endless and it's so much fun to come up with ideas. Thanks again for the great project and article.
Rachel Manteuffel: We really hope someone will try the White House tour thing, although we might have ruined it by publishing. Alas. You guys sound awesome, we wish you well.
Bethesda: For those who want to put all the blame on the W.I.C. -- you apparently have never sat and watched the looks of abject horror on the faces of your friend's acquaintances when they heard all the traditions she was NOT planning to indulge at her low-key, classy but minimalist, beautiful wedding. People have internalized this stuff to an amazing degree.
Personally, I would rather elope and tell everyone afterward, over pizza and drinks. That way, they wouldn't feel obligated to buy stuff I don't need. (I already have nice china that I don't use anyway, thanks.)
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
Washington, DC: I have theory about big fancy weddings. Many years ago the Duke of Edinburgh is said to have admitted that he despised hunting foxes and slaughtering stags and all of that bloodsport business. However, he felt that he had to because this is what the people expected bluebloods to do. I suspect some people hold big weddings for the same reason. Because it's what brides and grooms are expected to do.
Rachel Manteuffel: Right! Please only slaughter stags if you really, really enjoy it.
Missing the Point: I do feel like many posters writing in in defense of their own weddings are missing the point of the article. The article isn't to NOT do things - have a party, have a dress, have family there, etc - but instead to ONLY do things that you want to do. The authors aren't advocating doing nothing despite personal desires in protest of the wedding industry, as that would be the exact same thing as doing something against personal desires because the industry mandates it.
Caitlin Gibson: Right. Only we'd be, like, telling people they HAVE TO WEAR A PAPER BAG HAT INSTEAD OF A VEIL. Or else there's something wrong with you.
Any pressure is bad pressure.
Fairfax, VA: I was amused that your couple, trying to avoid the ridiculous, expensive and over-the-top wedding industry, would turn to Wegmans. I have always seen that place as a ridiculous, expensive and over-the-top grocery store.
Intentional irony? Or just the natural kind? Either way, I enjoyed it very much!
Rachel Manteuffel: Haha. Well, yes. But Chris does feel a personal connection to Wegmans, which was very sweet.
Caitlin Gibson: Upstate New Yorkers will understand.
Fairfax, VA: Not to get too gossipy, but what on earth did some of the other 40 potential couples have in mind?
Caitlin Gibson: We could tell you, but we'd have to kill you.
Yea!: I was struck by the notion of how hard it was to plan an "anti-wedding". It made me wonder if the roadblocks that you faced are part of the reason that people tend to have cookie-cutter weddings.
For what it's worth, I had a very small wedding. My family sat around the kitchen table for about an hour, chose certain details and fanned out. Wedding details were complete in one day. Loved the article!
Caitlin Gibson: Congrats on the gloriously sane wedding planning. You're definitely right that we ran into some road-bumps that seemed unique to antiwedding planning -- it is tricky to decide to get married in a place where no one has been married before. But I think plenty of people have weighed in even here in this chat to offer fun and creative ways to avoid having a cookie-cutter wedding, even in the face of The Man.
Annapolis, MD: I've loved everything either of you has ever written for the Post. When are they going to put you on staff, awreddy?
Caitlin Gibson: Ahem. Mr. Shroder??
Arlington, VA: As a soon-to-be bride, I am having the opposite of most people's problems. I wanted to elope, then consented to the wedding and am getting forced into more and more ridiculousness...by the groom. Any advice on how to get a groom off the wedding kool-aid? And yes, I have to pay for the wedding, not him or his parents.
Caitlin Gibson: Wow!! A groomzilla! Those are a rarer species. Hmm.
Tell him that if he keeps it up HE's going to have to wear the white floofy dress. Also seems questionable that he's wanting the extravagance and you're the one footing the bill?
Arlington, VA: Why does everyone get so hung up on wedding choices. Who cares what anyone else does? I had a traditional wedding because I wanted one. It was slightly more elaborate than I may have planned myself because I was marrying an only child, and the wedding was very important to his mom. (My mom had passed away several years before.) She didn't bully me into it--and she let me make all the decisions and helped out financially. She passed away shortly after, and I'm glad that she and I shared the joy of planning it together. I've also been to many wonderful small, nontraditional weddings. I think as long as the couple is happy with each other, it translates to the wedding day.
Rachel Manteuffel: You sound very reasonable, and unwilling to judge other people. Thank you for being an example of a better attitude than ours.
To sum up the comments: Basically, people who go with the anti-wedding (and these authors) are free to mock traditional weddings until the cows come home, but people who have traditional weddings need to sit quietly and appreciate those doing something different?
Caitlin Gibson: No need to sit quietly. Get as loud as you want right here!
Boston: Words of encouragement for people who want to have small, nontraditional weddings: 28 years ago, my parents eloped. They were married at Chicago city hall, had a big party in their apartment, and let their parents know they were married the night before they left to spend two weeks on a honeymoon in Greece. It never occurred to me that huge, white weddings are something "real people" do until my co-workers and friends started getting married. I'm still skeptical of the whole thing, and I'm glad I didn't grow up with the fantasy of the huge white dress. Anti-wedded folks: your influence may extend farther than you realize!
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
Bethesda, MD: I loved the article! I've been married twice- first one was a formal affair for two hundred (most of whom my ex-in-laws INSISTED on inviting). It was a great party and I had a blast, but the marriage sucked. Second one was on the beach - just immediate family. I bought a white dress from Benetton off the rack on sale for 30 bucks. We took everyone out to dinner after and drank too much. It was awesome! By far the better of the two and a tiny fraction of the cost!
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks so much for reading and writing in.
D.C.: Fabulous article. I think that too many of your readers who are critical of it don't get the essential fact that your couple wanted to stage a PROTEST against the wedding industry; it's supposed to be an affront to sensibilities and all those conformist mothers who try to live their lives through their offspring. Good show, makes me almost want to get married just so I can stage a similar protest against the whole ridiculous institution and all it represents.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks so much for reading & commenting!
Washington, DC: Our wedding was definitely not the anti-wedding but it was much closer to that than a full blown one (gown made by my sister in law, no wedding party, none of the stupid traditions like the garter, etc.). We had originally wanted a very small affair, essentially a bagel brunch reception after a JP marriage, but my mother in law was not in favor of that. Too many people needed to come too far to have something that plain. In the end you are right, the WIC is one thing, but family pressure is another.
Have a fun time. That is all that matters.
Caitlin Gibson: Amen.
Omaha, NE: I'll admit, I'm surprised at how many people objected to your project. Even if a "protest wedding" isn't for everyone, most of the people in my immediate circle seem pretty grossed out by the wedding industry and the manner in which it warps a perfectly normal person's brain. I thought the article was a good read, and it drew attention to a legitimate social ill. Weddings CAN be beautiful and meaningful, but they are becoming inflated monstrosities. You've given me a lot to think about regarding my own nuptials.
Caitlin Gibson: Awesome. Thanks for reading!
Arlington, VA: You are accused of being "hostile" to the traditional wedding ceremony. Well I'M definitely hostile towards them! Those who say, "what's wrong with having the wedding of your dreams?" Well that right there is what makes me hostile. Why is all the silliness, frill, and expense "the wedding of your dreams?" Why do you want this so badly?
What really gets me is the bride having the attitude that this is "her" day; her chance to act like a princess, be the center of attention, and freak out when superficial things don't go perfectly. Why is this day something she's supposedly always dreamt about? Is it an ego trip? Is is a belief that now her life can truly begin, now that she's found someone to be paired up with? As if that is only path to happiness? Why does eagerly flashing around a diamond ring to impress people make her feel more secure? I think folks should ask themselves why THIS is what they have always dreamt of obtaining.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
Fairfax, VA: Another argument against complicated weddings is that they are hard on the groom. First of all, you have to have an opinion about each and every little detail, because if you don't that means you don't care. Of course, if your opinion differs from the bride that will get you in trouble too, because that suggests compatibility problems. The only way out is to feign great interest in everything while making sure that your stated opinion magically agrees with your betrothed. Good luck.
Caitlin Gibson: A comment on the angst of groomdom.
Rochester, NY: Like the first poster, I am a (former) Caterer and that put me off the big wedding thing forever. Goldfish and Gardenias don't mix - 20 floating fish don't project a very romantic image.
After seeing more than one couple implode due in large part to wedding debt (before and after the ceremony) my fiance and I decided on a low key wedding. Immediate family, mom's backyard, BBQ and beer, flowers and dessert from Wegmans - they do an awesome fruit tart! My mom ended up making my dress after I ran screaming into the nearest bar from a David's Bridal.
YOU WOULDN'T BELIEVE ALL THE GRIEF WE GOT! From friends to coworkers to family to members of the wedding industrial complex. Apparently according to almost everyone- we were going about it all wrong and we would regret it!!!! OH THE HORROR!
The secret is to stay away from TheKnot, the bridal mags, and under no circumstances tell anyone that could stand to profit from the experience that you are planning to get married. We spent about $500 cash and as a result had 20% to put down on our first house.
I totally get your point - people should get married in whatever manner they choose without all the ridiculous pressure exerted by family, friends, society and the wedding industry.
We've been married 3 years - maybe we didn't do it "properly" but we have absolutely no regrets.
Caitlin Gibson: Excellent! Thanks for sharing your story.
Feeling defensive: I have to say I am starting to feel a bit defensive as well about having a so called 'big wedding' (it was around 110 people). Anyway, the point should be do what you want and enjoy yourself. I completely respect the person who goes to the courthouse or elopes. As long as it is true to you and your fiance.
The thing I felt pressured about were favors. I thought favors were just dumb. Well people kept asking me what I was going to be doing for favors. Well, I finally came up with an idea that worked for me. The wedding was on the coast of Maine and I found gummy lobsters. One person said that I did not have traditional favors. So you can't win.
Also, you are talking to someone who had Pez dispensers as her cake topper. Just enjoy yourself and don't be too critical of others.
Caitlin Gibson: Gummy lobsters might be the best wedding favor I've ever heard of.
One Ring to Rule Them All: I loved this piece - it wasn't so much about thrifty weddings, but a rebellion against the obligatory gilded fluff all the magazines gush about. The protest aspect was my favorite part of the wedding. The awesomeness of anti-wedding did make me very sad to read the counterpiece by the woman who was freaking over needing a perfect engagement.
I don't know who made me more sad - the woman so emotionally attached to a ceremony that has nothing to do with how your marriage will turn out, or the fiance who will have to go through several circles of hell for the perfect wedding.
Caitlin Gibson: Thanks for the comment!
DC: I just got married last year, and I loved your article. Ours was simple, and had some conventional (wore white, simple dress) and less conventional (BBQ pig roast and blue crabs) elements. Paper plates and picnic cloths, easy! It was perfect for us. But the best way (for me) to beat the Wedding Industrial Complex was to refrain from buying any bridal magazines. None. Didn't open a single one. Stayed off the websites too. Ignorance was truly bliss.
Also, it helped that when people told me "you MUST have/do THIS," I put my fingers in my ears and started shouting LALALALA...
Caitlin Gibson: Good for you. Another tactic. Thanks for sharing.
Alexandria, VA: This wedding was very Washington. Very much "I'm right and will make a huge spectacle of myself telling everyone else how totally WRONG they are."
Good luck to this couple. Perfect Washington bureaucrats and holier-than-thou - er, "more fun and more correct than thou," that they are.
Caitlin Gibson: Wow. Ok.
Bethesda, MD: I seem to be one of the few people concerned about the religious aspect of the wedding. To me (as a Catholic), marriage is a sacrament and requires proper clergy. Has that gone out of style? By the way, my daughter is getting married, by a priest. My husband and I have been married 47 years (she is my youngest, and a caboose), and our other children have been married once and only once. Our future son-in-law's parents have been married 40 years, and his sister 14 years.
Both our other children were married in white gowns with receptions for family and friends and all the trimmings. Their weddings made the whole family happy. My only regret is that Julie's grandparents and her fiance's grandparents aren't alive to see them marry. And BTW he used the stone from his grandmother's ring for her engagement ring.
I do not regret one single dollar this wedding will cost us, nor did I regret one dollar for either of the other weddings.
Rachel Manteuffel: I'm not sure you would have preferred Jaqi and Chris getting married at your church, given they are not members or believers.
Universal Life Church: Since when does the District of Columbia accept officiants ordained in this way????
Rachel Manteuffel: Glad you asked. There was some complication that didn't come out in the story so it wouldn't be an endless paperwork saga. But there is a ULC officiant in DC of good standing who was willing to vouch for Mardie and made everything easy. Since they don't have any particular dogma, it was no trouble to affirm she was in every way a good Reverend.
We asked several churches with ministers with the right credentials if they would perform a nonreligious service, which was an uncomfortable question to ask anyway, and we got a response of sure, maybe, for a donation. ULC helped us in our hour of need without asking anything of us, even what we believed. That's a pretty good church credential.
Also, a recent Pennsylvania wedding performed by a ULC minister was later dissolved by the state once they looked up the church.
elope!: I had some very good friends who just drove to the courthouse one day, got married with a random witness in pre-owned clothing and then met us all at happy hour. No one knew they were doing it beforehand. They just showed up and said "We're married!!" and we all freaked out (in a good way) and laughed and called everyone who wasn't there and told them to show up because there was Big News. Seeing them smile and be giddy together that night was the purest thing I've ever seen. Simply amazing.
Caitlin Gibson: Excellent. Sounds like they did exactly what they wanted to do.
Rosslyn, VA: Don't anybody pick on the couple. They live in Rosslyn. They've suffered enough.
Caitlin Gibson: Hahaha!
Rachel Manteuffel: You guys are a lot of fun! Thanks for your time. We loved it.
Caitlin Gibson: Well, that went fast -- time to wrap up now. Thanks to all the chatters for reading the piece and chiming in here. We had a great time.
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