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The Wedding Industrial Complex, As It Were


by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

I have started to notice that I use the phrase WIC quite a bit on this blog as a shortcut, and I’ve never discussed it at length. I think that shortcuts lead to lazy thought, which leads to dangerously sloppy thinking. So. Time to discuss.

What do I mean when I say WIC? In short: I mean the Wedding Industrial Complex. In long form, it’s a lot more complicated.

I wish I could tell you the genesis of the term Wedding Industrial Complex, but I can’t. I wish I could tell you the first time I heard the term WIC, but I can’t, at least not precisely. I do know it was in the 1990’s, a time when we spent a whole lot more time talking about the Military Industrial Complex, and I also know that I thought it was hilarious. It was funny in the way a New Yorker cartoon is funny. It was true and ridiculous at the same time. It was layered. It was evocative. The first time I heard the term I imaged factories churning out wedding dresses and massive diamond rings the same way they might churn out missiles or M-16’s. I thought that it was correct in that the wedding industry can be destructive and enormous, but it was silly because the Military Industrial Complex was about making war and the Wedding Industrial Complex was (at least overtly) about making love. It was complicated, and I like complicated. It made me snicker, and I like snickering. It made me think, which as you might guess, I like.

All of this is a long way of saying, I use the term WIC because it makes me laugh. I use the term WIC with my tongue rather firmly in cheek, and I think at some point we lost track of the fact that the term is satirical.

So, you’re wondering, *who* do I mean when I say WIC? Well, I mean two groups of people. The first thing is the most obvious: The Wedding Industry, all caps. The people that make money when we get married and are employed to figure out ways to maximize that profit: wedding magazines, bridal fashion conglomerates, the diamond industry, etc, etc, etc. To be perfectly clear: I am not anti-consumer, and I am not anti-profit. I don’t think that there is an inherent problem with business or making money. That said, I think that the ways in which The Wedding Industry tries to sell us products are manipulative. I dislike the way that the wedding industry has changed our societal perceptions of a ritual that is designed to unite two people in a sacred or secular rite, into something resembling a massive theatrical production.

Which brings me to the second thing that I mean when I use the short-hand of WIC: I’m talking about Societal Expectations Of A Wedding. I’m talking about how when you tell people, “Oh, yeah, I’m just letting my bridesmaids wear what they want,” mouths drop open. I’m talking about how when people ask to look at your engagement ring, if it doesn’t meet their expectations they will voice their disapproval to your face. I’m talking about how, within a generation, we moved from parents throwing wedding receptions at home to parents throwing receptions in castles.

But finally, finally, I think blaming the wedding industry is way too easy. I use the term WIC because I need to keep posts short, and because I think every couple getting married in any even slightly non-traditional way knows what I mean on a gut level when I say “Wedding Industry.” But I think the reason that the Wedding Industry is successful is because it taps in to things that many of us like: expensive shoes, fancy jewelry, pretty dresses, fantastic stationary, feeling like the star of the show for a day, or – say – castles. It’s easy to mock, but in the end for many of us, there is a part of us that wants these things (at least a little bit).

If I was totally un-enamored of all things wedding, I’d be a boring wedding writer. If we had just run off to the courthouse when David proposed, I never would have needed to write this blog. But in the minutes after the proposal when I was sitting on a bench in a daze, David asked me, “Are you ready to plan a wedding?” and I whispered, “Yesssssss.” I just didn’t know how hard it was going to be to plan it on our own terms.

And that, my friends, is why I talk about the WIC. Tongue rather firmly in cheek.

Thoughts on your relationship with the wedding industry are welcomed (even relished) in the comments. But a for-warning: I expect all of us to keep it civil and smart, even when talking about a part of wedding planning that sometimes makes us want to gouge out our own eyes, or the eyes of others.

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son. For more than you ever wanted to know about Meg, you can visit MegKeene.com.

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15286031970770408787 Mandy

    So Meg, you mean WIC when I tell you the following snippet of a story….

    I went to a bridal dress shop with a girlfriend to try on dresses. I was newly engaged (February) and it was now early March. We walked into the store and after some pretty rough manners finally got to business. The woman asked my wedding date, July 18 and got very very still. Her mouth dropped open and she slowly said, “THIS year?” She was further displeased when I told her there were no official bridesmaids (they will wear whatever they want).

    When I confirmed this she ranted that I would have to buy off the rack (as if that were a shameful thing). Later we left the store very unhappy with her shouting at our backs after we complained about her manners and the general attitude of the store. On our way to another store, my girlfriend told me the woman had taken her aside to ask if this was a wedding under pressure.

    I don’t think it is unreasonable to plan a wedding to take place the same year. I resent the industry and people treating my special day as something shabby or shameful. I am NOT pregnant and I am not spending a lot for my wedding. We are having a small intimate wedding with many folks we know pitching in and helping out.

    I have my dress by the way. I went somewhere off the beaten track and found the experience every bride should have when selecting her dress.

    Under pressure indeed.

  • Anonymous

    My parents are British and every bit as proper as you would imagine. Nevertheless, I was surprised how much they bought into WIC standards. They actually said to me “If you want a nice wedding it comes with a big price tag.” I think they have slowly come around to the idea of having a more economical but every bit as lovely wedding in a funky peach community building in a town that I just adore. I think it’s really hard for some people to shake off the WIC mentality because that’s all you ever really see and hear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16294864366284434807 Rosalie

    I seem to have avoided the WIC almost entirely during our planning. Having self catering, choosing a dress online and most other items from Etsy, I feel very sheltered from it.
    Which makes me completely shocked if I get even a taster of the pressure. A bridal shop rang me yesterday as I’d enquired about a dress there months ago. The woman was pushy and to the point of rude when I said I’d decided to go with a tea length gown from an online shop instead. Her question “and why is that?” was so loaded with disapprovement and horror I can’t describe it! Then she said “well I think you should have our dress” again loaded and almost a demand rather than a suggestion, as if she had a say in our wedding, I mean I hadn’t even tried the dress on there! Craziness, I’m glad I’ve managed to stay sheltered.

  • magsnmoose

    I just want to say that I am so stinkin’ happy I found your blog!
    That.is.all…for the time being. :)

  • http://accordionsandlace.wordpress.com/ accordionsandlace

    In some ways, I think you are being too diplomatic about this post–you might have your tongue in your cheek when you say WIC, but the very popularity of your blog and the ethos espoused by it implies that lots of people ARE struggling with the damn monster. Because yeah, while we may all be “opting in”, it’s just like you say–even though us of who want floofy dresses and a fancy day still, still, get an enormous amount of flack over not doing everything just. so. To exact standards. And that is, at the end of the day, supremely fucked up. And I think a lot of us are hanging out here, saying “hey, I want to ‘opt in’ but how do I do that without losing myself?” and it kills me that this industry is basically designed to make one lose oneself.

    And sure, I’m not anti-business in general, and I like blogging about shoes and dresses, but I still think that the commodification of the sacred and of love is a really problematic thing. I think if we look at how riled up women can get over minute details on wedding websites around the internet, the success of that commodification is obvious, and it has made something very special very vulgar.

    But you are right that we have agency when we “opt in”. Absolutely. And I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how even those of us who talk about doing things our way, being indie or alternative or offbeat, we’re part of the machine as well. It’s easy for us to pretend like we are above it all, but the truth is that, a) it’s a matter of scale (we just don’t go AS nuts about weddings as the Industry asks us to), and b) our aesthetic is often a bit different. And I agree that that’s not necessarily a “huge problem” in that we just need to be thoughtful about our choices and, again, not lose ourselves in it. But I don’t think that most of us are nearly as subversive as we think we are sometimes. As “indie” as it may be, my wedding will still be a massively more elaborate affair than my mother’s, who planned hers in three weeks. And the interesting thing is that my mother has fully opted into it too (and thinks our wedding isn’t fancy enough!).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03450581887718082271 k_darling

    Meg, what I love about your site is it’s even-handedness. I have a friend who is eloping to the NYC courthouse tomorrow with a big wedding to follow in Texas next year. I am getting married in 5 weeks in a small ceremony (also in New York). Both of us have chosen small, simple events with non-traditional dresses and an emphasis on involving the people that we care about.

    The one thing that has been incredibly difficult in the planning process has been the feeling that it’s necessary to choose sides, to be entirely independent and DIY, or to subscribe to the WIC idea of what a wedding should be in full.

    I have loved the posts you’ve featured that allow for some of both, that celebrate the idea of including the details and traditions that are important to you, no matter which model they reflect.

    Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00174894872050076618 Marie-Ève

    I did the same thing as Rosalie, especially because I simply couldn’t face anyone telling me what I should and should not do. Not just for weddings, in general.

    I think the reason why the WIC is so successful is that (just like for the baby industry) it caters to a lot of women’s (and parents etc.) very deep, core-build dreams and emotions, and in this case it’s really easy to let your reason aside.

    If you were shopping for a couch, you wouldn’t be willing to accept that it’s grossly overpriced and that its value is out of whack, or a salesperson who would totally pressure you and made you feel completely inadequate if you decided to do things your way. But then, you probably didn’t grow up being told that getting a new couch is the single most important thing you’ll ever do, part of the “greatest day of your life”, etc.

    Even if I mostly stayed sane and clear-minded about this, I was always a bit taken aback by all of these little bursts of WIC-attacks (even from the people I love) that hit me when I expected it the least -you must do this…, you’re not doing that?, etc.

  • vanessa

    I find it extremely interesting that while planning my wedding (the way I want) the most opposition I’ve gotten was from my own mother. Who had not 1 but 2 very low key weddings of her own. The one to my father being in her parents backyard!

    I don’t understand how if they were nice weddings for her at the time, how mine is suddenly going to be white trash or heaven forbid-“TACKY” because we wont be having a ballroom wedding with filet mignon and lobster, while I’m sporting a tiara and ballgown.

    I feel like the WIC has brainwashed my mom into thinking that she missed out on something and that she herself was inadequate for not having a lavish wedding. So she’s trying to live vicariously through me, and I’m not having it. She doesn’t want me to “regret” any of my choices when its all said and done. I’ve tried to tell her that I’m not going to regret anything because I’m already doing what I want to, but she isn’t getting it.

    So my only option is to pull off the best wedding EVER without the favors, the castles, or ballgown, or DJ, or top shelf open bar, or lobster, or stretch limo, or bridal party–

    and prove them MF’s all WRONG.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07957363816378389125 Tiffany @ bride-on-purpose

    As always, insightful, and perfectly written! I am the first to admit that when I see pictures of out-of-my-league weddings with brides wearing louboutins, I feel, at least for a moment, hard done by. BUT, so far, I have managed to take a step back, realize the implications of spending $$ on a single day, and think twice. I think that is why the internet is such an amazing tool… it indeed exposes these countless over-the-top weddings that most of us will probably never attend as a guest, but it also lets us swoon, get over it, and move on… kinda like reading an over the top sexy novel!!

    I have purchased most everything so far over the internet (including my ebay dress), and the rest I am borrowing from my sister, who had one of those fabulous weddings a lot of us can’t afford… and NO, I really don’t think anyone will notice that the candle holders were used at her wedding before mine!!

    Finding personal style in a wedding world demanding compliance can be tricky, and when the pressure of the dollar hangs over your head, it just becomes more complex. Having the support of your fiance, and the other brides out there who don’t judge if you make your own stationary and don’t do pocketfold invites is invaluable!!

  • http://surprisewedding.wordpress.com Surprise Wedding

    Here, here! It ain’t called a “complex” for nothing.

  • LR

    I love this blog. This post says it all.
    I feel like I am in a bubble b/c like the other reader, I shop etsy, read the blogs and stay away from the knot and most bridal magazines (I love Martha Stewart!). Then when I talk to most people, I realize most people believe that weddings are SUPPOSED to be a certain way. WTF?
    This woman I work with was asking me about my wedding and I told her that I was going to wear flats. She said, “oh no you can’t do that, it’s your wedding! You HAVE to wear heels.”
    Really? I didn’t know I HAD to do anything.
    And when I say, I’m going to do my hair myself… the horror!!!
    I laugh, b/c well it makes me laugh.

    Thank you Meg!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04949135596695787724 Paisley

    This brings to mind the time when I was walking around my venue with the venue coordinator talking about lighting. I was planning on using the house lights and a hazardous amount of candles. But of course I got sucked in by beautiful wall-washes and lighting in the trees. Then she told me they could do all the lighting I wanted for $1500 and asked what my “lighting” budget was. I promptly answered $0! I started to get stressed thinking, I’m supposed to have a lighting budget? They always say lighting is very important because it creates ambience blah blah. Then I remembered that just like everything else, it doesn’t matter! I don’t need fancy lighting and I don’t need to stress how to pay for something I wasn’t planning on having. Oh that evil WIC!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05750659066802561501 Erika

    Meg,
    This post reminds me to ask you if you’re going to write more about weddings of our parents’ and grandparents’ generation, you know, pre-WIC. I know you’ve featured home weddings, backyard weddings, courthouse weddings, and written snippets about weddings of earlier generations. I for one would love to see these weddings of earlier generations featured here as a kind of WIC-antidote (which of course the practical weddings you feature are as well).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10441798371617926431 kaitlin

    Awesome. I too have tried to avoid it, but with friends having married before me, it tends to be “well, this is how you do it”…so, in other words, we cannot, must not, register for camping gear *sigh*.

    Also, to Erika’s point, if you’re interested in writing about pre-WIC weddings, I have an excellent article from the 1960s about my aunt’s wedding. She made her dress herself, as well as her bridesmaids’ and the whole event took place in the home. But it has a wonderfully charming and feminist feel to it. This is the same aunt that has helped to keep me grounded while planning my own wedding.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00409541531549254367 Tris

    I will be getting married exactly 364 days after my little brother (there are 4 of us, it was bound to happen at some point). And admittedly, I’ve been largely “sheltered” from the WIC, but that was no accident, either. My brother’s wedding had EVERYTHING, and though it was beautiful, E and I decided right off the bat that that just wasn’t “us.” And, while it’s unfortunate that the proximity of our weddings lends itself to me comparing “our wedding” to “their wedding,” it has helped us make some decisions, and figure out our priorities. And I’m lucky to have a very supportive mother/ family, who expect something a little more relaxed from me in the first place. The hardest part has been convincing them that I truly don’t WANT a train. I truly don’t WANT an aisle runner. It’s not that I’m trying to make any sort of loaded statement, but it is really, truly, just not me. A statement that some people find hard to believe.

    The other thing I’m struggling with is the WIC of tradition. We’ve talked a lot about the WIC in terms of tangible attire that goes toward someone else’s bottom line, but what about the quieter version of it, the one that tells you to throw your bouquet (so, must have a bouquet) and dance with your father and smash cake in your husband’s face. That’s the other place I’m struggling, mainly because our families come from very different cultures, and my family is divorced and blended, which tends to complicate things like father-daughter dances and who’s-walking-who-down-the-aisle. Are you guys feeling any of that?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11905498653668562807 Wasabi

    I was just on a long flight, and my fiance grabbed me an In Style Weddings mag (because she knows how I like to gush and mock horror over them in equal turns when I’m bored). I read the advice that one of us should be the “CFO” and one of us should be the “CCO” for our wedding. I get that keeping track of a budget, and come up with creative ideas are key to the planning, but using this business language makes everything seem a great deal larger than life. It reaffirms the game plan of the WIC. Obsessed with wedding planning? GOOD! Feel like it’s your full-time job? It is! You need a branding strategy! You need a launch party!

    I also want to chime in on a theme I noticed in the comments, which is that our mom’s have different expectations for us than they had for themselves. We are planning to have our ceremony at my parent’s house, and my mom and I were chatting about what vendors we would need. I said that I was thinking of DIYing simple flower arrangements, and she said she wanted a florist. I reminded her that her wedding flowers were handmade from fabric by my grandpa and I thought that was really special. And my feminist, practical mom was still hung up on having a florist. It was like DIY flowers were ok then, but now you have one option, and its to fork over big cash for flowers and forgo family DIY time. Another moment brought to me by the WIC.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15055280258764294994 The Cape House

    The idea of the WIC made me laugh, although it is very true. There certainly are lots and lots of people capitalizing on the need for perfectly engraved place cards.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/04454278674225963467 AnnC

    So well written :-)
    I happily didn’t have a really bad experience with WIC…
    The only one I can think of is the reaction of a florist on a forum : “you’re getting married in a castle and you’re doing your flowered centerpieces ? You should get a florist to do them, that’s not your job !”.
    Well, getting married in a castle (there are heaps in France, remember… not such a big deal ;-)) doesn’t mean I want to spend more than necessary on my centerpieces. The florist’s quote was 35€ each (orchids), I’ll do them for 10€ each… (thanks IKEA and their 8€ 2 branchs orchids). A 300€ saving… a drop in our budget yes, but I saved many drops doing things myself and if I made the total I guess it would fill quite a glass ;-).

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03818121441127623934 Rose

    Although I’ve been engaged for nearly a year now(!), Tim and I are just starting to plan our wedding for next summer. We’ve decided to do things our own way, incorporating those traditions that make us feel close to the people most important to us and that truly reflect our values and who we are as a couple. It’s going to be tough, but I have found so much support and inspiration in this blog and others like it. Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07527646197854912136 Kiana

    Well put – When I started reading wedding blogs, I had no idea what WIC meant until I finally put it together through context. This would’ve been the perfect post to read back then!

  • http://myunwedding.blogspot.com/ the unwedding

    Amen.
    To.
    That.

    I have nothing to add. As always, you summed it all up perfectly.

    Thank you!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10880282851198117479 Miya

    I <3 nuance! (Who knew you could find it on the interwebs?) Thank you so much for always standing so resolutely in between the extremes of "This is the Most Perfect Day of Your Life" and "Weddings Suck, Let's Stick It to the Man and Have an Anti-Wedding."

    My WIC observation, from a year-plus of engagement (with a year to go!) and now trying to spend less time with mainstream wedding media, is that once someone has done something for their wedding, the attitude seems to be that it must be a conscious choice for you to not do it for yours. How can you not have out-of-town bags? You must not care about your guests! Because the question is as often phrased, what are you doing for your out-of-town bags? (for they must surely exist) How can you not have bathroom baskets? You don't care about details! Bad bride! Ditto this for all of the favors, post-wedding brunches, matching bridesmaids, videographers, letterpress invites, letterpress menus, letterpress coasters… all of which are lovely extras, and there's nothing wrong with choosing to spend your money/time on them. But they are all _optional_ parts of a day that only has to include "Do you?" and "I do" times two. < / rant>

    Thank you for your thoughtful blog. Did I say that already? You deserve it again. Thank you for your thoughtful blog.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    Possibly the main reason I find myself ranting about the WIC is because I had no idea it existed before starting to plan a wedding. I mean, yeah, I had a vague idea that there were magazines, and people had to buy dresses from somewhere… but I had no idea of how vast it was, how interconnected it was (if you get this you must get that which requires this other thing…), and how freaking expensive it was!

    I think most of my current conception of the WIC as, you know, a complex industry, comes from the book One Perfect Day.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08337052793133003981 EmilyAnn

    Something that I’ve noticed in my planning is how the artificially inflated prices of the WIC can make certain discounts look like “good deals”. Just because we got certain vendors at a lower rate than normal does not mean that the prices are a bargain. I’ve seen myself fall prey to this idea several times. The other trick that I have to caution myself against is the idea that when you are paying big bucks for certain things (like venues and catering) that the smaller (but still very significant) fees don’t matter so much. $500 doesn’t look like much next to your $2000 bill for something else, but it is still quite a chunk of change! It’s easy to brush off exorbitant prices by saying “that’s what you pay for a wedding.” And that’s why the WIC thrives.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18209861350905135093 LPC

    You may have your tongue in your cheek but it certainly doesn’t impede your eloquence.

  • Anonymous

    thank goodness this blog exists. and i needed to see this post. i have been engaged exactly 21 days and i’m already overwhelmed by the WIC. why didn’t anyone warm me that theknot.com was an evil plot to make you feel less than a real woman?

    we have set a date in 2010 and i will be 40 years old on my wedding day; my FH will be 44. it’s a first marriage for both of us. i don’t want bridesmaids or a pouffy white dress or a veil. nor do i feel obligated to provide an overpriced sit down dinner or do any of the other “stuff” (bridal showers give me hives). we just want our closest family and friends to witness our soul-deep commitment in the sight of our chosen deity (OK, but with a little cake and booze to top it off).

    my FH put it best. when i asked him what kind of wedding he envisioned, meaning small vs. large or formal vs. informal, he said, “one where at the end i get to have you as my wife”. umm, yeah he got some that night. wink.

    but that’s real. i am thankful i found real love. that’s what a wedding day and ultimately a marriage should be about. the “stuff” is just that, stuff. please lord, give me strength to spend the next year focusing on the real. thanks for listening.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07002438626643133563 Emily

    I just got engaged and checked out Martha Stewart Weddings, knowing that I should take everything with a grain of salt. I registered and was immediately told that I had 115 more tasks to complete. !!!!
    This site is my resource for dealing with that mini-panic induced by the idea of 115 tasks left to complete :) Thanks for these posts about keeping WIC in perspective!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10908566905361778751 Laura

    I LOVE this blog! I have read every single post you have written…and I only found you a month ago! It has been so refreshing to hear so many people reaffirm that it’s okay to have a wedding that reflects the interests/personalities of my boy and me! I love details and planning and as a result could easily be sucked into the hysteria…luckily this blog keeps me grounded!

    I have had much contact with WIC because I have spent many years making custom bridal gowns, but I was unprepared for the onslaught in a whole different dimension when it was me in the hot seat! Oddly enough, the biggest push back I have gotten is reactions to my December wedding in the NY Hudson River Valley. Who died and appointed summer the only acceptable time to get married?

    I thank you Meg for creating this blog!!!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03410537408217066331 Words and Steel

    Ah, a topic after my own heart. I was actually just asked to define WIC yesterday when I posted a rant about it on my blog… your description is a great break-down!

  • Ellie

    (In your third to last paragraph, you used the wrong their. I pointed it out to you because I would want somebody to point it out to me.)
    We went to look at two castles yesterday…and yeah, we totally liked them.
    So far my worst WIC experience was at Filene’s Running of the Brides when we got in line and all of the local wedding vendors hang out and bug you while you’re in line and you can’t go anywhere! No matter how much we said no, they kept pushing! It was awful.

    • RJ

      3 months planning of a wedding used to be the norm in New Zealand when my parents married in the late 60s. That was plenty of time for the mother of the bride to arrange catering, and for a dressmaker or the bride to make a dress.

      In my teens a friend got engaged at 21 and they had what was considered a very long engagment of 18 months.

  • http://www.sarahkos.com Sarah

    “Oh, yeah, I’m just letting my bridesmaids wear what they want,” mouths drop open.

    LOL.

    My grandma called me the other day when she found of I let my girls choose black dresses (and the pattern) and was SO UPSET. “are you sure they don’t want something pastel…that would be so much better for spring” She’s absolutely precious and it sorta made my day. :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13077342485544422525 Becky

    My amazing tool in avoiding the WIC…the internet. I bought my dress online, we ordered my partner’s suit online, booked a location, found a photographer…etc. In large part that was required because we are planning a wedding long-distance. I’m sure it’s not for everyone, but you really can do everything online these days. No annoying sales people to be found.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13077342485544422525 Becky

    I forgot to say that I also work really hard to avoid wedding-related-media besides this blog. Honestly. We have not bought a single wedding magazine, Indiebride.com and OffBeatBride.com seem too mainstream for me, and we do not have a wedding book. Actually, maybe that’s been more important than the internet. Because I know that underneath I’ve got some insecurities and am not totally free of mainstream pressures, so I just avoid media that could make me feel bad. Because I love my blue cotton dress, but I know that if I look at enough photos of poofy, white gowns I’m going to start wondering if I need one. Or if I’ll regret not having one later.

    Which reminds me, I HATE that in every freaking interview she does Sarah Jessica Parker talks about regretting wearing a non-white wedding dress. =) She makes it sound like it was the biggest mistake she’s ever made in her life. Move on!

  • MegsDad

    Let me try to speak from your parents’ generation. The reason your mothers are so concerned (desperate?) about your not having a WIC wedding is that they are terrified of the snide comments, both to their faces and behind their backs, of their friends and relations. To their friends and relations, the gold standard is a WIC wedding, and anything else will not measure up.

    When, for example, your parents help and seem to enjoy your wedding, but insist that a younger sibling have a WIC wedding, they actually do enjoy your wedding. But two Practical Weddings could destroy their social standing, and possibly make their position within their extended family more difficult.

    • C

      I get the mother thing too… but for me i don’t think it’s social standing. It’s that my mother – like lots of mothers I guess – couldn’t afford the dream wedding thing when she was 19, in the Philippines, in a family of 8. Part of her has dreamed for years about her daughter having the perfect wedding, the WIC, or more generally, hyper-consumerism, has led her to believe that the perfect wedding should be perfectly glamorous. All this happens on a gut level and when we talk it out she realises – eventually! – that the perfect wedding is any one that begins a solid marriage and that’s a thousand times more important than veils and what not.
      It’s kind of like how my mum dreamed I’d be a journalist and took some time to come around the youth worker thing… she gets there eventually.

  • amy

    Hear ye, hear ye. I'm with A. I have gleaned much inspiration here, both site & comments. I am trying to "keep it real," as it were both financially & what I want/do not want. My lovely mother who is helping out very much asked for a nice picture of us. "Why?" She said to blow it up to, oh, size 20×24 & set it up by the door. "Why?" "I don't know, I saw it at the last wedding." *sigh*
    However, I am jumping on the photobooth wagon, found my dress at David's Bridal (after an unacceptable choice:) & yes, looking for a local DJ. The latter two I realized (for me) are in part due to convenience. I think that could be part of it too – like fast food – so convenient it has become a part of our social fabric. So, even when most of us are like "eh" with the choices, we still take advantage of it because it's there & we can.

    • RJ

      I misread your comment initially and thought you were going to blow up poster which said “Why? I don’t know, I saw it at the last wedding!” and stick it by your door during wedding planning!

  • April

    ::HEART::: this post. Well done, Meg.

    The WIC annoys… oh, does it annoy. From the pushy, overly fussy staff at the dress shops, to the sneers I got from *gasp* friends at my lovely, gorgeous but small engagement ring, to the people who think I need towering florals and a cake big enough to hold a New York Rockette… Some days, it is too much.

    But then we did choose a few items that seem a bit “WIC-y”: a hotel wedding, a dress purchased at David’s; a popular local DJ. Just worked out that way, ya know?

    It’s kind of impossible to NOT use some facets of the WIC. For us, the trick is to not get swept up into the bridal hysteria it tends to induce.

    I’ve rambled far too long… ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/14974592740179974822 Holly

    “I think that the ways in which The Wedding Industry tries to sell us products are manipulative.” as opposed to.. what other industry?

    I’m asking that in honesty – i mean don’t get me wrong, i LOVE this blog, that there are sane brides out there! As a vendor, i wish very much that there were more of you!

    But i don’t see the difference between how the wedding industry differs in that way from any other area of fashion, or really any industry that caters to women in general? I don’t deny that it is manipulative. I just don’t see how its different than any other advertising…

    I really am asking, in an effort to better myself. please?

    • Megan

      You make a good point; I think every industry out there does become manipulative. It’s unfair to state that it’s only weddings. Perhaps the easiest way to explain is that most engaged people are not prepared for the “sticker shock.”

      Mostly people don’t expect to have to pay so much for, “the best day of your life!” When we are told, over and over, that this is required, that we must have this, or that, and a personalized, monogrammed cake-cutter, we get overwhelmed. We expect over-inflated prices when we buy houses and silliness when we purchase shoes, but for some reason no one really mentions the cost of everything that’s involved in weddings, and it comes as a shock to the majority of us. When you add to that our parents expectations and the fact that, especially in movies, weddings have everything and are gorgeous. For some reason, people don’t expect romance or true life to be like the movies – but weddings are supposed to be as incredible as they look in movies.

      It’s lovely to hear that vendors are out there reading this blog, and I realize this must be a tense bit of the blog for vendors. It’s your job, and there is clearly a market for it. I’m sure you work very hard on your product, to make sure it makes people happy, and the fact that you’re even asking is a wonderful, thoughtful sign — thank you.

      I’m not sure how to make it easier on us, or you. Perhaps someone else here has some ideas?

      Perhaps a class for our friends, coworkers, and parents, to let them know that reality has to have a part in weddings? Perhaps to let wedding/bridal magazines know that we’d appreciate a little more attention on the marriage aspect of a wedding, not just the part where we spend money. Sometimes it feels like so much attention is placed on the wedding that no one remembers what a wedding really means. A wedding is simply to celebrate two people who fell in love promising to love and cherish each other for all of time — and to celebrate that promise with friends and family.

      I realize that it’s your job as a vendor to sell something, so please don’t think I’m trying to blame you for the whole industry. Individual people who are part of the wedding process are usually lovely people; it’s when you all get together that we look at our bills and go “AAaaarrrghhh! It’s just one day! How did it get so expensive?!”

      …and then our step-Great-Aunt asks where we want the confetti cannons with our monogrammed confetti placed for the last dance.

  • Anonymous

    This post is reaffirming and absolutely the right thing for me to read at this moment. Thank you! I’m getting married in 20 days, and have been reading your blog for a loooong time. It has definitely been the first thing I go to after feeling the ‘haze’ of too-much-WIC start to cloud my head.

    My experience has been mostly the WIC of tradition, like Tris commented about.

    My mother is very anti anything poofy or grand or overly-decadent. And that’s been a good thing. But on the other hand, she almost threw a fit when we told her we weren’t going to have champagne at the reception. Or how about when I showed her the collections of readings we are considering? “What? But they are all colloquialisms and not at all religious! Where’s the Corinthians one?”

    Sigh.

    The worst has actually come from my coworkers, not my mother. They all sat in stunned silence when I casually said we weren’t registering anywhere. And then I had to endure an eruption of “Oh you have to! Trust me. You have to register!’ etc. etc.

    In the end, we’ll be married. And that’s all I ask for. So, thank you for this. Thank you.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00340097173194830657 Andrea

    Your Blog is great! WIC is great shorthand. I also call it the wedding machine, the wedding crazy, etc. I am constantly amazed at stories like Mandy’s and the ill treatment she received at the store. That salesperson lost a sale! I almost feel sorry for her. She just subscribes to the most prevalent discourse running through society. There are certain “rules” that everyone just assumes you follow once you become engaged. I think, though, if enough of us break a rule here or there…eventually it might make a dent in the WIC! – Andrea

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06027477307434297782 jackiewd

    The most useful thing anyone told me was to make sure we did what was right for us. I came across many manipulative and crazy people who tried to make me part with my cash for things I didn’t want (I remember wanting to shoot myself to get away from a caterer who was convinced we needed swans wrapped in purple tulle and a baker who told me she wouldn’t make a wedding cake with cream cheese icing because “that isn’t what you really want”). However, the worst were other brides who bought into the WIC – “you aren’t wearing a tiara? that’s not much of a wedding” or “you can’t have a reception without a DJ, that’s just cruel to your guests” or “what do you mean you don’t care how the cake looks?”. I appreciate your tongue in your cheek, and it really helps to know there are others out there who just want to get hitched and have the people they love there when they exchange vows.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15286031970770408787 Mandy

    April 23, 2009 7:13 PM
    Blogger Andrea and Arthur said…
    I am constantly amazed at stories like Mandy’s and the ill treatment she received at the store. That salesperson lost a sale!

    —–

    Not only did she lose a sale – they also have earned negative word of mouth. After getting engaged a few of my acquaintances and colleagues also got in engaged. They all asked me where I went to shop for a dress and guess where I told them NOT to go. Word has spread and now some of the people that have touched my wedding (seamstress, etc)also know the story.

    It was such and upsetting experience that I blogged about it and talked about it with others. Apparently I am not the only one that has had this time of experience with the store.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17630812969476483227 Chic ‘n Cheap Living

    WICs are everywhere – people, companies, media. But as long as we keep true to our visions (and it’s our wedding), that’s all that matters! If I had a ton of money, would I spend more? Maybe on the dress. But a wedding is a celebration and a union of love and dedication (and maybe lots of creativity); let’s be practical!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/08337052793133003981 EmilyAnn

    This is in response to Holly’s comment:

    I agree that this is similar to other industries. The big difference is that most brides are not repeat customers so there is no incentive to try to keep you coming back. The WIC’s prerogative is to get you spend a LOT of money only once. They don’t need to treat you well so that you’ll come back next month.

  • KC

    There seems to be a little of a preaching to the choir theme in the comments. I’ve been reading this blog for the past few months and I relate to some posts but not all.

    I think there’s a danger in lumping any professional associated with the wedding industry into the WIC. Aren’t the Etsy people selling products too? When you buy stuff on ebay to use at your wedding, how is it much different from buying it from the knot? I understand that certain segments of the industry definitely sell the “This is the most important day of your life so you HAVE to get this” more than others, but where do you draw the line? Who gets lumped into the evil WIC and who gets to be your friendly professional elves?

    And as for the 2nd interpretation of the WIC, perhaps I’m more traditional than other readers of this blog, but I get almost the same type of pressure from the anti-WIC. And I know that this blog tries to be a happy medium between the two camps but at times, after reading a post, I think “Gosh, is our wedding “us” enough? Are we doing enough things to reflect our values and who we are as people?” Then, before I drive myself crazy, I just accept/embrace the fact that some parts of our wedding will be cookie-cutter versions of others but that’s OK because I marrying that man I love in front of all our closest family and friends.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12051581432652556410 Marina

    KC said: “at times [...] I think “[...] Are we doing enough things to reflect our values and who we are as people?””

    That’s the question I want to be asking myself every day, wedding day not excepted. :)

    More thoughts on the WIC in general, thinking about Holly’s and KC’s comments… I see a sort of dual thing going on with why the WIC is more “evil” than, say, Etsy sellers, or the fashion world in general.

    1) Most people are more emotionally invested in weddings than fashion; it’s easier for people in the wedding industry to sell the idea that this one day will make or break your future happiness, and I think we as customers also hold elves/vendors to a higher standard. I mean, if someone in a department store is rude, most people roll their eyes, brush it off, and don’t go back. If a wedding dress vendor is rude, oh my god, it’s traumetizing.

    2) That said, I think a lot of wedding vendors do take advantage of customers’ emotional investment and up-sell way too hard. I have never seen any community trade horror stories about vendors the way brides do, and I think that is at least partially because way too many wedding vendors really are nasty about it. I think this would be the case in any industry where customers have little to no experience with the industry, are unlikely to be repeat customers, and are heavily emotionally invested, but there just aren’t that many industries where that’s the case. (Construction maybe? Home remodeling…?)

    I do also think of the WIC as not just vendors, but also the cultural elements other people have mentioned, just the expectations everyone has for What A Wedding Is. I think a lot of that is from deliberate advertising, but not all, of course. Take back the wedding! ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/17176077218956650653 Jess

    I am happy to read this post, as I just clicked on this site after visiting another wedding blog and thinking, “oh Jesus, not another ostentatious ‘we’re gonna spend money ‘cos we got money’ wedding!” I needed some relief, and you delivered. Cheers to affordable, PRACTICAL, beautiful weddings!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12997875522614810785 Mouse

    Ha ha ha–especially when you consider that diamonds sort of ARE part of the military industrial complex. Here I am, back from S.A., much changed as you predicted. Can you do a piece on humane wedding rings? xoxo

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Hi KC-
    Your concerns are exactly why I did a post to *define* what I mean when I use the term WIC. I think you’ll find a lot of your questions answered in my post if you read carefully.

    But more to the point, I’ve said it many times, and I’ll say it again. If this blog makes you feel badly about your wedding YOU SHOULD STOP READING IT. No ifs, ands, or buts. I can’t be all things to all people, and I wouldn’t want to be. I have a specific perspective, which I try to be very clear about, so there is no hidden agenda. This is also, in the end my blog not a corporate site with a brand. I also write about my wedding, and I pick my content based on what I love. There are a million wedding blogs out there, you should read ones that make you feel good about your wedding and your choices, because life is to short (really).

    Meg

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16491075523419372429 Dalilou

    I find this post really, really interesting. I definitely began wedding planning with the idea of, “We’ll keep it small- we’ll have it pot-luck.Traditionally, that’s what people used to do.” (My family is Congolese and Haitian)But the reality of people flying in from all over the country and the world to attend our wedding has completely changed that. We have cut and cut as far as we feel is comfortable and our wedding is still over the top- mostly, because, as it turns out, we are hosting a family reunion that we are footing the bill for.
    Yes, I know that standards have changed and certain items have become a must-have but the reality is, is that our lives have changed drastically from the 1960’s. People weren’t hopping into airplanes to criscoss the globe so casually and people’s social circles tended to be smaller. Also, people get married 10 years older than they used to. This means that they probably didn’t have work friends + college friends+ high school friends. Maybe many of us are trying to hard to thread together the disparate parts of our lives. Or maybe one day we will get back to the idea that a wedding had more to do with building a home for the couple, rather than pretending as though we’re richer than we really are.
    Honestly, after taking a long hard look at my wedding bill I have no one to blame but myself. My biggest expense is feeding all these damn people I invited but at the same time, I don’t regret it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Dalilou-
    You do realize I agree with you, right? We’re not spartan saints, we’re spending… plenty. PLENTY (said with a sigh) from my point of view, though still, oddly, much much less than our area average.

    We have people coming in from as far away from Italy. We are almost 30, so we have piles of friends. My fiance has an enormous and very close family, so we have lots of guests. We’re not only feeding them, we’re feeding them twice so we can spend more time with them. But, that said, we (like you it sounds like) have found a way to do it on our own terms. We’re spending money on what matters to us (food and people) and less on what seems less important for us personally.

    I think you’ve nailed it though when you say that weddings have become a bit about appearing rich. I think there is a way to embrace the complexity of our modern lives, and still make the wedding about building a life and home for the couple. I think, it fact, you sort of crystallized what I really believe about weddings for me right there, so thank you. That is exactly what this blog is about.

    Meg

    • SamB

      I have to agree. The one time I mentioned to a rich relative about my wedding and how we’re budgeting for certain things, mostly that our venues were chosen for their zero cost loveliness, the response was this:

      “If you can’t afford to pay for a classy wedding venue, how will you ever afford to be married?”

      As if poor people aren’t allowed to get married. A lot of DIY falls into this particular WIC (in the social expectation sense) trapping as well. How to make it look like you spent 20 times as much. And even though I want a pool party wedding, I still can’t shake the image of candlelit poolside evening event with tan models all in black and white, pulling sour faces and looking faaaabulous, like a photoshoot for W. The problem with that, while it may make me look spendidly chic and wealthy, is that a) I’m not, and b) NOBODY HAS FUN AT A POOL PARTY WHERE YOU CAN’T EVEN GET IN THE POOL OR YOU’LL RUIN YOUR $80 UPDO!

      Which reminds me: Why should I pay $80 for an updo, if I’m just gonna jump in the pool, and then have to pay $80 again to have it fixed before reception: part deux?

      Sorry for the rant…

  • http://www.oslopress.com/wedding-invitations.html Glenwood

    As bad as the WIC seems while you are planning your wedding, and I will freely admit it is mostly awful, it almost seems worse when you are in it.

    The sheer lack of professionalism, underhanded sales tactics, and pure consumer abuse that some vendors hoist upon their clients make it very difficult for a company with ethics to thrive. The competition will use false promises to lure in clients, who are then disappointed. Honesty and quality generally means that you get far fewer customers (because your prices are higher) or make far less money (because your margins are lower) than your competition. It has a tendency to burn out the ‘good ones’ while allowing the jackals to prosper.

    This situation has trained brides and brides-to-be to expect less quality for more money, cheaply made but expensive is now the “normal”.

    Maybe I’m just sensitive when I look over price sheets because I understand the actual costs of production. What the WIC is charging the modern bride, for the quality she is receiving, is generally criminal.

    I am speaking solely of the wedding invitation industry here, which I do believe is one of the tamer subsidiaries of WIC Inc. The “favor/accessory” subsidiary is about 10x worse.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/06987934593226565946 ETCIllustration

    Reading this blog sometimes makes me wonder if I’m avoiding the WIC or embracing it, but then the very same blog reminds me that it doesn’t matter. As long as my fiance and I are making informed decisions, are focusing on what’s important to us, and are having fun along the way it doesn’t matter whose doctrine we’re subscribing to. I never stepped foot in a bridal shop; I stumbled upon my dress online by accident, loved it, and bought it on sale. On the other hand, while the dress was “cheap” by industry standards, it’s still more money than I would spend on any other dress, so I’m still buying into the idea that “wedding dresses cost more.” Likewise, we booked a Wedding Venue and a Wedding Caterer (with capital letters), but the fiance and I designed our Save-the-Dates together and we’re doing the same for our invitations. Does that make us victims of the WIC? Maybe. But neither one of us wants to blow our brains out over our wedding, and neither one of us works on the wedding as if it were a part-time job.

    I feel that keeping one’s sanity is dependent on being able to let go. My mom is a lot like some of the other readers’ moms where she wants the flowers, she wants the favors, she wants to have this thing appear to be a lavish event. While my fiance and I have to put our collective foot down sometimes, it’s worth it to give in once in a while and say, “Okay, mom. Let’s have cut flowers, even though we’re getting married in a flower garden.” This is probably the hardest thing for me to do because I’m as stubborn as an ox, but I guess you could say it’s making me grow as a person. (Imagine that! Planning our wedding is building my character!) My mom and I got in an awful fight about the guest list, and I thought I was being the reasonable one until I realized that it wasn’t something worth fighting over. I may still think that my mom was in the wrong, but I had to let go and let her have it her way. Because there are other things more important to me that I AM able to have my way with. Like choosing who my future husband is :)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/09526722516550185150 Meg

    Exactly, ETC, exactly. Well said. And I think letting mothers have their way on things that are really important to them is a good thing, as long as we’re able to have our way on stuff that is really important to us. It is, after all, a day they may well have been thinking about since before we could talk.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03422424697050612621 love-v

    I love reading grounded blogs, this post is especially poignant. A few days ago I had my first true wedding related melt-down. After watching and helping my friends plan their weddings I thought I could get around the WIC. We have employed our friends and local talent to make our wedding ours and to help our community. I have used the internet as my largest and best resource (wedding dress from Craigslist for 1/2 price!). Despite all of this, some little ball of stress in me exploded. Planning a wedding should be a joy and not a chore. When people ask me if I’m excited, I should be able to be honest.

    Thank you Meg, this conversation makes me feel better.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/16491075523419372429 Dalilou

    Meg,

    I totally agree and of course I sympathize with all of the brides here. This is a site that I come back to when I remember that I could care less about wedding favors or any other aspect of a “perfect” day. People will bitch and complain about something, I’m realizing. Anyway, I actually have some great vendors because I’m having my wedding in a less affluent neighborhood way outside of NYC (it’s a good way to save money and you have the added bonus of feeling as though you’re helping the local economy of a small, struggling town! That’s what I tell myself.)

    Overall, It’s great that your blog is having many of us be more thoughtful about what we’re doing and WHY we’re doing it.
    -Dalilou

  • Anonymous

    I got lucky with my wedding vendor- when we first sat down with her to talk about having the wedding at her restaurant, we never felt pressured about our time line, our lack of decor/theme ideas, our lack of flower ideas. She totally supported our idea that her restaurant (and her garden where our ceremony would take place) where decorated enough that we really didn’t need to do much more. And when we called her up two months later to tell her we’d have to postpone the wedding til next year bcz the fiancee lost his job (yeah economics), she was kind and understanding still. I’m even more determined to have my wedding at her restaurant because of how well we’ve been treated.

    Having such an easy time finding my wedding/reception venue lulled me into a relaxed state of “this wedding planning thing is so easy.”

    But then, I can thank friends, family and wedding dress vendors for keeping it WIC real for me. :)

    My mom blew up at me because I wasn’t inviting enough people- to the point where my dad (who can ill afford to pony up wedding money) offered to cover the cost of the people who are missing from my guest list. The best man thinks its weird we don’t have colors. When told we didn’t have a theme, a friend responded: (first a long of silence and slowly widening eyes- I kid you not, then) “Well, you know. Thats, um, cool…” (more silence) “Whatever, you know, its your wedding.” And there was the dress shop girl who looked at me with a big sunshiney, encouraging smile when she said, “And with your wedding being next year, you’ll have plenty of time to lose the weight so you’ll be beautiful in this dress.”

    I feel my planning experience has not been overburdened by crazy; a great deal of that thanks to knowing that I have places like this blog, and blogs like it, to go; to know I’m not alone in my dream of planning a wedding that’s right for me.

    - Janice

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/11759590657266054436 Michael

    thank you for this post, very helpful, especially when it feels like we need to book a place that matches up with the weddings we’ve been to over the past few years. It’s a fresh bit of perspective at a time when it’s needed most.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/00991638626164427455 Jessica

    Dear Meg and all the thoughtful commenters…….
    I’m getting married in four days now, on Sunday, and I love this blog so much that I am up at 2:30 in the a.m. reading it to calm me down after going through our wedding day order of events one more time and working out the kinks. Meg, you have helped me be more thoughtful, more connected, and more faithful to myself and my honey – and who we really are – than I would have been otherwise. And readers, you helped me realize that there are many opinions out there that are truly well-thought-out and responsible to your own views, despite how much they might differ with mine. I love this community and am so inspired by all of you and your crafty brilliance! Jsut this evening I was making more little signs for things – reserved seats, and baskets, and a “find your lovespoon” one, etc. I was whipping through them and then i got worried that they weren’t nice enough – just handwriting in a silver ink pen. And then I started laughign and remembered Meg and this community, and thought, oh for god’s sake of course they’re nice enough! Nice enough! Ha! What IS that? hee hee……adn went about my (very late) evening.

    thanks to all! xoxoxo jessica

    • Amanda

      Heh Jessica it’s been a while since you wrote this comment, but I felt like I just had to say something to you , cause I had exactly the same. I got married this September (11) and 2 days before I could not sleep and there I was at 2 o clock in the morning reading APW and making the last to do lists and it was great to have this community of unknown-known helpers of great girls going through the same and to whom you kind relate to and share.
      So thanks for your comment that really made me smile and thanks to the whole APW community and Meg of course for all the support and discussions and ideas and inspiration ! :)

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  • Pretty Woman

    Brilliantly put- and a useful term. I have actually enjoyed disappointing and “shocking” both the WIC and WIC brainwashed friends and family. It honestly makes me laugh.
    “What you don’t have a colour scheme?…You can’t plan it yourself- you might think you can but- you won’t look your best if you’re stressed out from planning…..Are you not wearing a tiara?(followed by disappointed sigh)…You’ve got to have a veil otherwise you won’t look like a bride….What? You’re not having a professional photographer? But you have to…. The bridesmaids aren’t matching? Have you planned anything?…
    But it IS a wedding- it HAS to look wedding-y.”

    Conspicuous consumption and dated fashions have been easy to laugh at. My brother and I re-enacted the pretty woman “big mistake” scene (without actual bags- we mimed ridiculously ).

    I find more awkward to deal with the comments about my lack of creativity and uniqueness in places where I might choose to be more traditional. Last night I was asked “Oh are you wearing a “trad” dress”. I found myself reluctantly conceding that it was ivory in colour. I find those comments more tricky to shrug off. I suppose that expectations are changing. I genuinely feel a bit of pressure to make sure our wedding is as unique and as “us” as it can be. Society is now expecting a creative, unique and more stylised affair.

    To be honest, I’ve probably looked at too many blogs. On the day, I won’t care about this stuff. I know what I will care about! And I guess that that’s the main thing.

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  • http://upupcreative.com Julie Green

    I don’t remember exactly when I first read this post about the Wedding Industrial Complex, but I think it was via one of my invitation clients who had linked to it on her blog. And at the time it was like, “yeah! right on!” Like Meg, I enjoyed the layered-ness of the phrase. The complicated-ness. The way that it encourages us to be critical of an industry that we knowingly support and even advance.

    But something about the phrase also stuck in my craw, so to speak. It gnawed at me the way a caterpillar might gnaw a leaf — slowly and almost without notice.

    I’m a communication-major-turned-IT-consultant-turned-wanna-be-teacher-turned-phd-student-turned-graphic-designer-turned-reluctant-wedding-industrial-turned-proud-wedding-industrial, you see.

    I started doing wedding design because people asked me to, and I kept doing it because it was my favorite thing to do. I seriously love being the person who helps brides and grooms remember that weddings are special, sure, but that when it comes down to it, they’re inviting the people they’re the very closest to on this earth and it’s okay to treat those people like friends and loved ones instead of like strangers being beckoned to a Foreign Royal Tea. I love the feedback I get from my customers. I love getting to know them. I love being a little part of their special day.

    But I’ve also come to love the wedding industry.

    When someone complains to me about how much weddings cost and what a waste and whatnot, I am surprisingly quick to disagree.

    Six years ago when I was wed in my own anti-WIC wedding, I am sure I was heard railing against Big Wedding and The Man and all of that. If I wasn’t heard, it wasn’t because I wasn’t saying it.

    But now, as a member of the industry and — more than that — as a member of the handmade movement, of the eco movement, of the indie movement, of the buy-local movement, I just see everything so differently. Weddings are amazing community events. They bring together family and friends but they also bring people together with the professionals who work in their own communities. They bring people together with artists and artisans. They bring people together with indie businesses. In fact I can’t think of another event or industry that encourages just these kinds of comings-together. When else will most people hire a photographer for anything? And do you think a florist pays the rent and feeds the family on foot traffic through his flower shop?

    The truth is, while you can certainly buy elements of your wedding at Walmart (not to pick on Walmart; seriously, I’m not into making that argument now), you really can’t just go buy a wedding there. You can’t have a wedding without supporting your community and the people who live there. Or maybe you can, but it’s hard. You’d have to work hard to avoid supporting local artists, sellers, makers, and doers.

    What entrepreneurs, indie businesses, artists, and makers will your wedding support?

    • The Bagman

      I’m confused about where you take issue with the original post?

      More broadly, I’m all for supporting local merchants and whatnot…but only if their product is worth more to me than the money I’d spend on it. And the notion of a “perfect wedding” doesn’t alter my calculus as far as value.

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  • http://jillnotjillian.tumblr.com Jill

    Awesome post!

    I, too, have been mostly shielded from this as my fiance and I agreed almost immediately that we’d do this our own way, and no one else’s.

    Aside from some folks wondering why we’re getting married so soon (within 10 weeks! Oh the horror!) and even making some crass jokes–‘are you pregnant?’, most have been supportive and excited for us. The most exposure we’ve had to the WIC has been my mother, who insisted that I have long hair, a makeup artist, a long gown, and a reception dress (she has since left me alone after I’ve made my choices clear), and, interestingly, from an underling of my fiance’s, who expressed her shock at my not having a diamond engagement ring.

    Mostly, I’m grateful that the two of us are doing things our way, as authentically as possible, without anyone telling us how or when to do anything. If we want to serve popcorn during our ceremony, which is being held in an art-movie theater, so be it!

    Your website = best find ever in all of our wedding planning (okay, aside from maybe the Etsy dressmaker who’s putting my wedding outfit together).

  • http://jillnotjillian.tumblr.com Jill

    Awesome post!

    I, too, have been mostly shielded from this as my fiance and I both know that we want to do thing our own way.

    Aside from some folks wondering why we’re getting married so soon (within 10 weeks! Oh the horror!) and even making some crass jokes–‘are you pregnant?’, most have been supportive and excited for us. The most exposure we’ve had to the WIC has been my mother, who insisted that I have long hair, a makeup artist, a long gown, and a reception dress (she has since left me alone after I’ve made my choices clear), and, interestingly, from an underling of my fiance’s, who expressed her shock at my not having a diamond engagement ring.

    Mostly, I’m grateful that the two of us are doing things our way, as authentically as possible, without anyone telling us how or when to do anything. If we want to serve popcorn during our ceremony, which is being held in an art-movie theater, so be it!

    Your website = best find ever in all of our wedding planning (okay, aside from maybe the Etsy dressmaker who’s putting my wedding outfit together).

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  • Mel

    Overjoyed to have found this blog. I’ve been engaged for nearly a month and I started getting the Wedding Sweats almost immediately. Every time I open a magazine or go to a wedding website I’m completely overwhelmed by all of the THINGS I’m supposed to have/do/buy/getgetget. I started to feel inadequate and couldn’t stop thinking that my wedding was going to be a joke. What would people think? Blahblahblah.

    Done with that. I’m going off the grid with this here wedding.

    Thanks!

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  • Rachel

    This site is like a breath of fresh air. I am in the midst of planning a wedding and am totally shocked by what everyone’s expectations of a wedding has exploded into. When did it become ‘average’ to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding?!? How do ‘average’ people have this kind of cash? I come from prairie stock. Receptions in my family consist of a church lady catered luncheon in the old timers lodge. Or at least they used to. But now it seems like people need over a year to plan because they aren’t just planning a wedding, they’re planning a year’s worth of wedding events (formal engagement parties, bridal showers, bachelor and bachelorette parties, formal rehearsal dinner etc). Oh and you’re expected to bring them some sort of gift to each event. Enough already. It’s about you getting married. It does not need to be your one shot to define yourself for your friends and family. It’s time for women to take a step back, remove the WIC chip that was implanted into your brain and realize that at the end of the day, a wedding is the beginning of something greater, it shouldn’t be the defining moment.

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  • Carla

    I am sooo glad I found this website and blog! I am planning an October (2013!) wedding without the fluff, multiple parties, dinners (aside from the reception meal), showers, registrations, large guest list, even wedding cake and DJ. I have nothing against any of those things, but they are not for us. We are both divorced and had large weddings the first time around and don’t want to go though that again. Without all of the “extras” I still want it to be an enjoyable affair with good food & drink, a beautiful venue, an officiant that we won’t forget and photos we will enjoy for a lifetime.

    I’m so glad I didn’t go to theknot.com when I first started planning this a few weeks ago! I just checked it out after reading about it here in the comments and was almost instantly depressed, LOL. :) Beautiful photos, but completely unrealistic for most people. Someone from weddingbee.com actually sent me over here for inspiration. Thank you for writing this!

  • Kate

    Your blog has kept me sane throughout planning our wedding. It was two weeks ago and went amazing! I was excited that all of my non-traditional ideas were so very well received by people despite the resistance I received from my mom, mother-in-law, sister-in-law and even my groom at times.

    I think the worst WIC experience actually occurred with a vendor we were meeting with. He kept telling us we didn’t seem like the type who would serve dinner on disposable plates or have a cooler full of water bottles. He then proceeded to question us about who would be out photographer, florist, and critiqued each. In his estimation, there was only one way to do a nice wedding. It was really sad/frustrating/upsetting.

    But this blog has really helped me stay sane throughout the process and gave me concrete, clear pieces to share with my fiance to say “Hey, this! I mean this!”

  • Melodie

    This post and the reply made me cry tears of relief.
    I have only been engaged for three weeks and the wedding isn’t until next June, but already the WIC has been getting me in a tizzy.
    My future FIL choked when my fiance and I told him our preliminary budget, though it was a third of the “average” wedding cost. He’s so anti-wedding I feel greedy when discussing any details with him, particularly our expensive photographer (I’m a photographer as well, so I was massively picky).
    My parents and future MIL are mostly on my side, but the SIL has been shoving WIC staples in my face since we got back from the hiking trip the betrothed proposed on. It has been wearing me down as well- I feel like anything less than the lavish (and WAY over budget) wedding she’s obviously rooting for.

    The fiance and I are firmly interested in making each detail absolutely the thing we want for how much we want it, and this blog comforts me so much – I’m getting both sides of WIC, when I just want to marry this man our way, whatever that means in the face of WIC.

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  • Lola

    I just have to say THANK YOU, for this article (and many others). I am struggling right now. I feel like it is me vs. WIC… And your posts are helping me find my calm again.

  • Ashley Lurcott

    I realize this is an old post, but I’ve been reading your blog POST-wedding (and wishing I’d read it PRE-wedding!) and saw the WIC acronym a lot… although my first thought was “Women, Infants, Children,” I was happy to discover this page and know that I’m not alone in my thoughts of the “Wedding Indsustry.” Wedding planning was such a stressful time for me and my mom, and even negatively impacted my health, that I would probably do things much differently if I had to do it over again. I’m coining a new term – PWG (Post-Wedding Guilt)!

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