You don’t have to do any of that

You don’t need to get married like a rich person

You don’t have to do any of that
I just searched weddings on Flickr creative commons license I don't know what to tell you.

Today we're going to take a quick break from the military-industrial complex to talk about an only somewhat less wasteful industry. Rax King returns to write about the uselessness of expensive wedding traditions.

Previously she wrote for Hell World on the film Priscilla, Lana Del Rey's Born to Die, the band Creed, and her favorite Weezer songs.

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You don’t need to get married like a rich person

by Rax King

“Can You Throw a Wedding for Under $10,000?” asks Sarah Wood González in a recent story for Vogue. Yes, obviously, says Rax King and every other reasonable person — and that should be the end of it. But González’s piece takes the question of the $10,000 wedding seriously, suggesting the author may not just be pulling a story out of her ass in order to collect one of the few media paychecks still in circulation.

“As I talked flowers and towering cakes with my wedding planner friend, she cautioned me that the wedding I wanted for under $10,000 would be nearly impossible,” she writes, inspiring enough rage tweets to register on the Richter scale.

I’m not shitting on González specifically to be clear. Her only crime is drinking the Kool-Aid, and pissing money away on trifles, if you see that as a crime. I myself just pissed a little money away on a wall hanging with a grizzly bear embroidered on it, so I have no room to judge anyone else for their flowers and towering cakes. What troubles me about stories like this is the way they take their own premise for granted. It is possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, therefore, it is a requirement. If you want to opt out, scrub, City Hall’s right there. If anything, González is making an honest effort to establish a middle ground. The real obscenity here is that $10,000 is what passes for “middle ground” in the world of wedding journalism.

I suppose this is the part of wedding journalism where I delineate all the cost-cutting measures I took for my own big day. But that would be dull, and braggy, and in any event those specifics can all be reduced to a single mantra:

You don’t have to do any of that shit.

I’m addressing the brides-to-be now, because these stories are all written to target their anxieties, and so they’re the ones who need to hear it most. Your wedding doesn’t need a videographer. It doesn’t need bespoke flower arrangements based on an obscure inside joke between you and your fiancé. The cake can be regular cake height — who the hell wants to eat a tiered wedding cake’s worth of nasty-ass fondant? You can email your invitations. No one is going to keep the exorbitantly expensive paper invite whose font and cardstock you’ve been deliberating over Patrick Bateman. I’m sorry, but it’s just more fucking mail. As for the bridal gown, your guests will notice its color and if it more or less fits. Beyond that, they will say you look beautiful and they will mean it, whether your dress is from Vera Wang or a secondhand store or a pile of clothes you found on the sidewalk.

“But my grandmother says emailed invitations are tacky.” Cool. Let her pay the printer, then.

“But the venue says I can only use their food and drink vendors.” Cool. We both know “their” vendors will be expensive and bad. How many weddings have we all suffered through where the room was gorgeous and the food tasted like lukewarm wet napkins? Get married someplace ugly that doesn’t regularly host weddings and won’t inflate the cost or requirements for using the space. Use your imagination, my God! Imagination is the one good thing about having no money.

Wedding traditions are for the elderly, the religious, and the vultures who make their living from the so-called happiest day of your life. The professional planners, the “day-of coordinator” that González referred to as the “best spend” of her wedding — these are for rich people, who set a lot of store by the smooth-running opulence of their events because they have nothing real in their lives to satisfy them. Do you have real people in your life? Will they find a way to be happy for you, even if they don’t get to do it in a room that costs thousands of dollars to rent for a few hours? I’d wager that even the most devout grandmother is capable of getting over herself for one day, and if she isn’t, that’s between her and her God. You don’t need to get married like a rich person. You need to get married like yourself.

These etiquette arguments always seem to center on what some other person thinks of your wedding. They take it as a given that the pressure to throw a grand one is immovable and inarguable. Of course, the pressure does exist — some random woman writing for Vogue didn’t invent the idea of spending $1,000 for two hours of cello music. The Perfect Wedding is a demon who targets women’s insecurity, their instinct to steal glances around the room at what other women are doing. He must be exorcized at all costs. The idea shouldn’t be to jerry-rig as Perfect of a Wedding as you can on your piece-of-shit $10,000 budget, to hire the day-of coordinator at the expense of serving your guests a real meal (which González really did do, and which offends me to my core). The idea should be to push past the pressure to the other side, where you’ll find the ceremony you really want to have. With everyone else’s expectations sanded off, underneath the layers of rules and tropes and fancy venues, what are you left with? What can you do, and what do you want to do?

Ultimately, that’s the problem with González’s piece: she named a number. $10,000 may be a startlingly out-of-touch number for most of us, but some people do have it, and I bet they weren’t any more satisfied with her story than those of us whose weddings cost far less. Naming a number means establishing a new set of rules, no less constricting than the original ones. If you have that much money, you’ll read her story to learn all the crap you, specifically, must buy. If you don’t, you’ll read it, as I did, in a spirit of derision and judgment: she spent all that money and didn’t spring for meals? (I’m sorry. That one is really fucking with me.) In neither case do brides hear what they really need to hear, which is that they don’t have to do any of that shit — not just that they can’t afford it, or that they’ll have to beg their friends to do it instead of paying a wedding planner, but that it’s explicitly unnecessary.

A few days before my wedding, I came down with e. coli — you know, the bacteria that makes you piss unpredictable streams of filth out of your asshole, even when you try to reason with it about the white dress you’re going to wear in photos you’re planning to keep for the rest of your life. $10,000 couldn’t have saved me from e. coli. Neither could a day-of coordinator, unless she somehow had the ability to make me order dinner from a more hygienic burrito place five days prior. It was the perfect premarital disaster, one that made me cackle with increasing hysteria as I schlepped all over the city from doctor’s office to clinical lab to pharmacy, all while trying desperately to keep a lid on my sphincter. By the skin of my teeth, I managed to get just enough antibiotics into my system before the big day that I did not shit myself, despite a couple close calls. It wasn’t a Perfect Wedding. Even if I’d paid for one, it wouldn’t have happened.

There’s an expression in Yiddish: “Man plans, and God laughs.” Stories like González’s make the dangerous case that you can plan your way into a Perfect Wedding. You may have to cheap out on a few inessentials, but at the end of the day the wedding will be correct, something that will please grandmothers and friends alike. It isn’t true. No matter how hard you plan, you’ll come down with the proverbial e. coli. The key isn’t to anticipate your way into a great wedding, but to make the arrangements you feel like making and let the rest of it happen however it happens. When things go wrong, let it be funny rather than apocalyptic. Sidestep everyone else’s expectations and accept that most of your guests will take their cues from you — if you’re laid back and laughing at the inevitable fuck-ups, they will lay back and laugh, too. A wedding isn’t such a big deal, no matter what all the stories say. Breathe, and remember: you don’t have to do any of that shit.

Rax King is the James Beard award-nominated author of the essay collections Tacky: Love Letters to the Worst Culture We Have to Offer and the forthcoming Sloppy. She lives in Brooklyn with her toothless Pekingese.