Of late, Maddie and I have been talking a lot about how much the landscape of the wedding industry (or at least the online wedding industry) has changed drastically in the four years since we were planning our own weddings. One of the things that’s shifted is the power of the “indie” wedding industry. These days, it’s easy to look at the picture-perfect indie weddings on blogs and think, “Oh, I can totally pull that off!”—not realizing that what you’re reading as a $10,000–$20,000 party is really a $100,000–$200,000 party. Nothing like trying to make the magic happen with a decimal point misplaced. And while there is not a damn thing wrong with throwing an expensive wedding, it’s important to have an idea of what you’re looking at when you start to plan. This week we’ll be talking about the reality of wedding budgets, but first we wanted to discuss the ways we shame ourselves while planning. Because while in real life we may buy 90% of our clothes from Target, it’s easy to decide that in wedding-land, nothing can be from a chain… or at least not from a chain we decide is not indie enough (you’ll note Maddie convinced herself that BCBG was okay, while David’s Bridal was not… though both are international corporations). And while we firmly believe that spending your money to reflect your values is important, so is saving your damn sanity and letting yourself off the hook. Here is Maddie:
It’s been over five years since Michael and I got engaged, three since our wedding, and a little more than two since I started working professionally in the wedding industry. And in that time, I’ve learned something very important: the indie wedding industry can be just as dangerous as the mainstream wedding industry.
It started when I was planning my own wedding. Michael and I were a couple of broke kids who wanted to have a different wedding than the ones we’d been to before. We wanted something informal and casual, something Michael could wear jeans to. But we also wanted it to be stylish. Just, you know, effortlessly so. (Because that’s a real thing.) So, armed with something like $5,000, we set out to plan a wedding that would feel like a giant party, that would look good in pictures, and that would feature ocean views to boot. For 250 people. NBD.
At first, it was kind of fun. We enjoyed doing the research to find our awesome venue, I liked picking out the menu items for our reception (lobster stew, hell yes), and honestly, for a while it was kind of entertaining to make color palettes during work. It was mostly a fantasy at that point, but with a few key elements completed we were beginning to feel like our wedding was going to be different and stylish and also, easy. But then our wedding started to require actual decision making. And things got more difficult. Our budget, turns out, wasn’t as lush as we’d originally thought (right…) and our DIY projects weren’t exactly finishing themselves (oh, DIY means DO it yourself? I didn’t realize there would be trying involved). And slowly I found myself in a prison of my own creation. I didn’t realize it at the time, but in asserting that we would do things differently or more consciously, I’d created just as many restrictions for myself as I would have if we’d decided to have a platinum wedding (see: refusing to buy invitations because they looked too “polished” and instead laboring sleeplessly for a week over a handmade invitations created using a stupid Japanese screen printer that now lives in the bottom of my closet).
But nowhere was this truth more evident than in my dress search. You see, the dress, to me, was the symbol of our wedding’s cool factor. I wasn’t going to have some generic ball gown from David’s Bridal. That’s what people having regular weddings do. (Retroactive apologies for my snobbery.) I had to have something cool and beach chic that no one back home would be able to imitate. Except it also had to hold up my boobs (not an easy feat) and it had to be less than $200. Again, NBD. Until I started looking and (surprise!) couldn’t find my dress anywhere. (I also refused to go anywhere that required me to make an appointment, assuming that an appointment automatically came with a $2,000 or more price tag. But, whatever. Details.) So I tried non-profit sample stores, department stores, regular every-day stores, and nothing fit the bill. (Or my body. Stupid sample sizes.) I went to Nicole Miller and tried on the most magnificent dresses ever, but they were about $1,500 out of my price range. Finally I settled on this BCBG evening dress, a steal at $100. And I loved it. Mostly.
Except two weeks before my wedding my mom and sister staged an intervention and expressed their concern that my unlined tiered dress and big boobs were a surefire combination for a wardrobe malfunction. And also, you could see my belly button. Whoops.
So in a frantic panic, I took to Google and went on a search for a replacement.
Which is how I ended up in the showroom of the only David’s Bridal in Manhattan two weeks before my wedding trying on a dress made out of what I’m pretty sure was windbreaker material.
And you know what? I have no idea what I’d been snubbing my nose at the whole time. I went in, I gave them a style number, they brought it out to me. When it was too long, they brought it out to me in a petite. It fit without alterations, and in my street size. (That’s right. No more crying in the dressing room because a size double what I normally wear won’t zip up.) I walked out $500 poorer. (Okay, my mom was $500 poorer. But I should mention they let me give them her credit card number over the phone. So DB gets double points for ease.) And I carried my dress on the train home. It was hands down the easiest part of the wedding planning process. And the dress didn’t look too shabby either.
What did I learn? Well, it’s easy to tell yourself you’re keeping sane by not buying into the big wedding industry business. But you can drive yourself just as crazy trying to have a cool indie wedding, too. Because you know what? Cool indie shit takes work. Also, sometimes the WIC does actually provide things to you that make life easier. Like, for example, a whole warehouse of dresses in your size and price range. Or a playlist you don’t have to think about. And the brilliant thing is, having a wedding that’s authentic to you and your partner means that you can participate in WIC-approved stuff without feeling guilty or suffering accusations of selling out.
So whenever someone comes to me and expresses concern that David’s Bridal might be the only place they can find a dress in their size and price range with minimal effort, but they somehow feel that it’s wrong to go there (as if the wedding Gods themselves would be offended) I give them a virtual high five and tell them to go for it. Because sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do to keep yourself sane while planning your wedding. Shame blasters at the ready.
Editor’s Note: But whatever you do, just make sure you give David’s Bridal a fake name and e-mail address when you fill out that little info card or they will haunt you until the day you die. Seriously.
Top photos: My wedding, by Eve Event Photography