Classic APW: The Wedding Industrial Complex, As It Were

Ahhhh…. well this one can stand alone, don’t you think? And, go!

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.

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  • This post struck a chord with me. The voicing disapproval of engagement rings in your face part, specifically.

    I had an adorible little engagement ring that although no one ever said it, you could see pity written on thier faces. It was more of a promise ring than an engagement ring. Except, I picked it. I loved it. I wanted it. It was way below our price range – but I wanted a small ring and to be able to afford to adopt my dogs.

    being engaged almost 4 years, I eventually got a new ring. I love this one too, but i did it because I hated the look.

    I sometimes look at my pretty traditional ring and think how sad it is I allowed myself to be bullied (by WIC)

  • fleda

    Ahh. Refreshing to read. Still, even the second time around. Thank you!

  • Michelle

    Everyone should read One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding by Rebecca Mead.

  • Adele

    This post makes so much sense to me. My fiance and I are planning our wedding right now and when I talk about it, people think I am crazy.

    Most of the elements I can care less about. Attendant attire, invitations, colors, table-scapes, flowers, etc.
    I want to look pretty. That doesn't mean spending $5000 on a dress or bleaching my teeth.
    I want our vows to reflect our views on marriage. No religious undertones, lots of trust, respect, and devotion.
    I want have fun.
    I want great pictures.

    That's about it … But when I say that people impress upon me that I will always remember this day!

    "If it doesn't look perfect you will always remember the things that weren't right!"
    "I think it looks strange when bridesmaids don't wear the same dress…"
    "You are serving a dessert buffet?!? What about dinner??"
    "Don't worry about how much your dress costs – this is your one day!"
    "Wedding cupcakes?"

    I refuse to give in to the wedding machine – and I tell people that.

    Yes, this is an important day. Yes, I will remember it for the rest of my life. I will remember the people, the love, the laughter, the tears – I will remember marrying the man of my dreams. Everything else is just an added bonus. :)

  • totally agree.

    the first question ppl ask you is apparently "what are your colors?" and i say: "um, whatever colors happen to be in the restaurant?" and then they say, "oh, ok but what is your bridal party wearing?" and i say "whatever they want".

    and then they look just completely perplexed.

    i also have to say, it makes me a little sad that wedding photography has somehow morphed into the sneaky kamikaze leader of the WIC.

    even when the seemingly practical brides are able to renounce the WIC traditions that simply don't fit with their own unique/personal ideas of their wedding day, there's now a disturbing competition for the Best Photographs. the most artsy photographs. the most unique engagement sessions. mustaches and balloons and baby pools and fields of wildflowers.

    and suddenly now even the most practical of the brides are feeling 110% obligated to invest a small fortune to have a leading Internet-approved photographer capture their "sane", "practical" wedding…

    an interesting phenomenon…

  • How true. Thank you. My wedding is in six weeks (gosh!) and I am still defending some aspects of the party we are planning: "No bouquet toss?" – well, NO! "No garter toss?" – well, NO! – and so on. and so on. It's annoying. It's tiresome. It's frustrating to hear "But you HAVE TO…" over and over again.
    Thanks for the inspiration you bring. And the pulling-togehter of other people that share my opinions. It helps so much!

  • SMK

    Thank you for putting into words (and so articulately) exactly how I feel. When I mentioned that we were playing with the idea of BBQ as our catering choice, the raised eyebrows were enough to make me keep my mouth shut for the rest of the night.
    When I spoke about taking a trip to Nordstroms to see what I could get off-the-rack, I got the "oh, really. That should be…nice".
    And yet, every time I think about just scrapping it, I quickly remember that a lot of what we are planning is because we *want* it! I want to walk down an aisle, and have 100 of my closest family and friends witness us make our vows to one another. I want to have a specialty drink made up of the Scottish soda that is so hard to get in the US that we have to buy it from a special distributor by the case for twice the price.
    It's just so hard sometimes finding that balance of what we want with what others expect and being ok with the fact that my wedding won't look like the magazines or the blogs, but it will be OUR wedding – which is so much better

    • Dr H

      A bit OT, but would you be talking about Irn Bru, by any chance? I think it would be so cool for a US couple to have some at their wedding! Over here it’s also a traditional hangover cure – could come in handy…

  • I must say that I feel super lucky in this respect. Instead of disapproving looks and snide comments, my ideas have been met with remarks such as "that's awesome," and "thank God!" My friends don't want to match each other in shiny expensive dresses and formalities like the bouquet toss cut into people's dancing time. I'm pretty sure the guests just want to party on the day as much as I do.I honestly don't think I'll ruin their time by showing up in an of-the-rack dress or get judged for not wanting my husband to crawl up my legs for a garter in front of them.

  • My wedding doesn't step too far outside of the social conventions at all, so I haven't had too much experience with the "Really? You're doing that?" reaction. We're doing the typical church, to pictures, to community hall. Simple, safe, easy.

    I've found the questions about the plans themselves to be difficult to deal with though: there's this idea that, since it's my day, I should get what I want and not having an opinion about it… well, that's not really an option.

    Example: When we put together our invitations, my FMIL asked which ribbon I liked better to put at the top of the invite, a satiny one or a sheer one with a wire. We didn't have enough of one kind, so we were going to have to use them both at some point. I told her I didn't care, whichever one she felt like working with at the moment. Her response: "No no. Which one do YOU like. It's your day! You're the bride!" She insisted I tell her which one to use, despite my complete apathy about such a small detail as which ribbon goes on the invitation. Am I supposed to care about this stuff?

  • Awesome post! Being surrounded by a fairly conservative and traditional family (on both my side and his) means I am surrounded with examples of how strong the WIC really is. I've gotten backlash for not having "wedding colors", for wanting cupcakes, for wanting a dry wedding, for making my own invitations and for wanting to have a small, casual wedding in the backyard of our summer cottage.
    Getting the day we want, regardless of what everyone else says has been the hardest part of wedding planning. People tell you you'll be stressed, but you expect to be stressed about seating charts and time-lines. No one seems to be prepared for the insane emotional process that comes along trying to get the wedding you want in a world where people expect you to fork over your life savings. Thankfully, I'm not surrounded by these influences and ideas only. I have beautiful wedding blogs like this one that remind us that we're doing the right thing.

  • C

    @Sassy Kathy…sooo true. I think a lot of people feel like their wedding has to be "blog worthy" and increasingly "blog worthy" = "magazine caliber photography". Then the WIC tells you that photography should only be 10% of your wedding budget; which means couples with small budgets feel even more inadequate!

  • C

    ALSO…there is this assumption out there that everyone has tons of friends and family and "small" weddings have 50-100 people at them.

    If you have NO family (no grandparents, aunts, uncles, siblings and parents who may or may no come) and if you have a small number of close friends…and your small wedding is REALLY small 10-15 people; then the WIC can make you feel really bad.

    Likewise, the Indie movement can make you feel bad too; because for 10-15 people you should be able to do everything for a few $100, right?

    Except if you don't have a free venue, except that you don't have a ton of people to draw on for support/help, except if you'd like professional photography …

  • L.

    Thank you for this post. I can relate to both the ring scenario you described, and the bridesmaid dress thing. My ring is an antique with an opal in the middle. My fiance very lovingly picked it out in an antique store because he knows my style and love of old jewelry… so it kind of hurts when I get the ridiculous questions like, "Don't you want a REAL ring?" or "Are you one of THOSE girls who hates diamonds?" Like, I can't like something that's pretty with my birthstone in the middle?

    Also, I have been friends with a girl since I was about 4 years old, and she is also planning a wedding. I love her, but she couldn't be more opposite from me. She asked me about what I'm doing for my bridesmaid dresses, and I replied that I just wanted the girls to wear navy blue, and the style or place they get it from would be up to them. She (obviously very much a Wedding Industry Consumer) smiled weakly and asked me if I was sure I wanted to do that, because "what if the navy blues don't match exactly?" She was flabbergasted when I said that it would probably look pretty cool if that happened. I hate matchy-matchy, and I'm already making them matching hair feathers, so there won't be any mistaking that they're my bridesmaids.

    Thanks for this post. This blog reassures me that I'm not crazy after all. :)

  • Anonymous

    My fiance and I went to dinner with his best man last night, who is 30 years older than me, and therefore thinks much more like my parents. He was so angry that I hadn't put thought into traditions that I find antiquated and unimportant, like whether my dad is wearing a boutonierre or how I'm going to match the groomsmen's pocket scarves to the bridesmaids dresses without a swatch of the fabric.

    It made me realize that, in a lot of ways, this Wedding Industry we talk about isn't as new as we think it is. Certain traditions, like wearing a veil (which, historically speaking, was to MASK the bride from her husband, not whatever romantic reasons people have been using for the past 70 years), have been around for a long time. A lot of The Wedding Industry relies on ridiculous traditions to keep us wanting more. Every ad seems to scream, "C'mon, Bride! This is so vintage just like your grandma you love so dearly and don't you want to be just like her?" or "We know you want to do better than everyone else by innovating this tradition, so who cares if it costs thousands of dollars?"

  • @literarybride — So true! I have the same problem with having to have opinions on everything! I had a 15 minute conversation with my caterer about whether or not the iced tea should be pre-poured or poured once guests sit down. I kept saying, “Do whatever is easier for you” and she kept going through the pros and cons of each option and waiting for me to make a choice. My favorite vendors are officially the ones who know that they can do their jobs much better than I can and don’t force me to make decisions about things that aren’t going to make or break the day.

    Also, I have a copy of One Perfect Day that I’m terrified to read. I think I’ve done a good job of avoiding the WIC so far, but I’m also having a fairly traditional wedding… my bridesmaids dresses match! (I would have been happy letting them all wear different styles, and told them that several times, but they all liked the same one) So I’m scared that I’m going to read it and realize that I bought into the WIC much more than I thought I did, and start second-guessing all of my decisions! So, I might save it for some post-wedding reading.

  • My wedding is in nine weeks.

    My fiance and I started out with a plan: courthouse. Close family. Restaurant afterward. Then we approached the parents, and suddenly the guest list went from 10 to 80 people, and I never stood up for what I wanted, started saying yes to everything to make it easy. I have no interest in wedding details, so I just went with the flow. (And the WIC is standing ready to sweep you up in that flow, let me tell you). A few days ago I had a breakdown. My fiance and I realized that nothing that was (tentatively) planned looked like us. So I told my mom to hold off on putting down deposits at places (thankfully all that's been reserved is the photographer. Well, that and other people's expectations, if you know what I mean.)

    Nine weeks out, and all I have is a dress, shoes, and a mountain of overwhelm. Meg, your blog has been a big help in rehabilitating my mental state, but I feel like I'm just avoiding and drifting through all of this. My fiance and I really just want to get married with our close friends and family, but it's hard to say that to people, especially when we're not paying for anything. That post a few days ago about the engagement period being difficult because it's making a family? Yeah, that. Times a million. Thanks for forming this haven on the Internet where honesty and emotions are valued. You're awesome.

  • "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."

    YES YES YES! exactly that.

  • I'm new to this whole wedding universe, so forgive me if this is old hat: but every time I see "WIC" I think about the Women, Infants, and Children Program. And I'm like "Wow, I'm surprised how conservative this wedding blogger must be to be so angry about WIC. Oh… right. OK."

    • Imagine how you’d feel if you were writing a paper on New Netherland at the same time you were beginning to read blogs in preparation for wedding planning. Why is that bride talking about the West India Company? Was Peter Stuyvesant really so involved in the Wedding Industrial Complex? I can’t keep it all straight!

  • Sometimes I feel like in the non-mainstream wedding world it's easy to make a bride feel bad for choosing to do things that are "traditional".
    Our sisters WANT to be in coordinating dresses and my dad WANTS to buy a new suit (mostly because men's wearhouse is having a sale). I made boutonniers and wrist corsages for our immediate family members and our friend who is performing our ceremony music.

    As much as I've tried to tell my family how much I don't care about things like dress colors, shoes and mother of the bride attire, ALL OF THEM do and you know, it's kind of nice.

    The problem with the wedding world is that everyone "needs" to be lumped into little boxes and it really irks me.
    Not wearing a white dress? You're an eccentric bride!
    DIYing your invitations? You're an indie bride!
    Having your dad walk you down the aisle? You're a traditional bride!

    I'm doing all 3 of those AND making the pies for dessert AND making our reception playlist so what does that make me? The kind of bride that I want to be. MYSELF.

  • For me, the WIC was so academic, until it got personal when I got engaged. And it means many if not all the things mentioned before, in addition to a very racialized form of legitimation; seeing no one who looks like you in the blog-worthy photo spreads, dresses, etc., which sends a subtle message that "real" black girls don't get married, and if you do get married/end up in the blogs, and are darker skinned, you have magically found the combination to appropriate whiteness.

    Now, I am a sociologist, and a gender scholar at that, so I get that I many "read" too much into things, but this process has been disenfranchising on both the WIC and indie sides, with no pictures, for example of "real" dreadlocs (worn by people of African descent rather than extensions or Caucasian hair), very few interracial couples, African garb, etc.; so where does a bride "like that" turn (even the African American-focused blogs trend towards Eurocentric hairstyles and bridal wear).

    That's the academic side. The personal side just feels bad all the time; for liking nice things, for not giving myself nice things daily, which creates pressure to do it "on this day," and for spending "too much" to get nice things "just for one day." I feel like I can't win, unless I buy this…whatever is being marketed, and then I can/will win (what, and for how long, remains a mystery, but I suspect not long at all).

    So while I get the more light-hearted uses of WIC, I believe it is real and scary, mostly because it is so silenced, outside of this liminal engagement phase (for most folks). Many of us forget to talk about it after it's over/before it happens.

  • I love that we are smart girls who get the irony of the MIC/WIC. Part of why I love this blog!

  • Meg

    DON'T feel that pressure. It's silly, and no. I tried to be really clear after my wedding that the way the pictures LOOK are not the way the wedding FEELS. The wedding feels gritty, real. The pictures look stunning, etheral. And I think it will always be so.

    I really try to have people think about that… do you want artsy pictures at a gut level? If you do, then go for it. If you don't, don't, you won't regret it.

    That said, I think a lot of us *do.* Not, we're forced into thinking we do, but we really do. I'm not sure why, but I know for me it's because photography is the visual art form I love the most, so not only did I want it, I was SO DOWN with supporting a working artist. It made me feel good on every level. When it came to spending, pictures were at the top of my list, and I'm grateful they were. So. I'm not sure it's all indie-pressure. Though of course there is some. But blog worthy? Blech. I pick the weddings that go up based on the WRITING. The pictures are just a nice bonus, pro or not.

    Long story short – if you don't care about pictures, don't pay for them lady! I think every single one of the photographers around this site would back me up on that. They don't want to pressure you in to something you don't want… they want to be the raddest they can for people who very much want them. Which is great.

  • @Chelsea – I was a bit scared to read One Perfect Day as well, but now I'm so glad that I did fairly early on in our planning process. For me, the book helped me see two things:

    1) Through some of the flimflam of the WIC. Yes, it's a very insightful/incisive look into the industry and some of the information it exposes is not pretty. I think that information actually helps when you are trying to stand up to marketing because you recognize that it's just that – marketing.

    But 2) It also helped me feel okay with making some decisions to go a more "traditional" route because I could parse out that those decisions came from an authentic place (i.e. our ceremony being in a church because the fiance and I both value our spiritual community and first met at church [and it was dirt cheap because we attend there :D]) rather than because I'd bought into the ways things "have to be done." I learned you can have traditional trappings while still being a practical, non-WIC bride.

  • I find this post to be really thought provoking…especially since I've found myself starting to throw the term WIC around at home. But I have to point out that I think it's interesting that for some reason we, as women, as brides, as people have such a hard time escaping pressure to meet expectations in general…even when we try to be part of an "alternative" community.

    The WIC for lots of women has been replaced by the Blogging Industrial Complex where brides are made to feel guilty for following traditions, for having a diamond ring, for wearing a long white dress or for not gocco-ing the bunting that will drape near the mason jars filled with wild flowers that they just "happened" to find along the highway because they SO didn't care about something as petty as FLOWERS.

    What I love about this community found on APW is that there is an understanding of acceptance of choice as long as it's YOUR choice and not something you feel you HAVE to do because you are TOLD that's what you should have.

    And there will always be the people who will stare at your ring with disdain no matter it's size. My engagement ring is a gorgeous diamond ring (that my fiance designed without any input from me) but even some women (usually older women who are unhappily married) see my ring and comment about how there's always time to upgrade (WHAAAA????). I just smile and tell them I think it's perfect….because eff them (but in a nice way). :)

  • graceful nichole

    Seriously. I love you. This post made my eyes well up with tears. I didn't realize until just now, while reading what you wrote…that I am so much like you. I mean, I knew I liked some of your features and points. Especially when you speak about LGBT rights, and equality in marriage. We are like two peas in a pod in thought there…but this post just clicked with me.
    We have a couple of good friends that were engaged a few weeks ahead of us, and it seems like they want to continuously compete with our choices for things. When, "what colors are you using" turned into "how much are you paying for your wedding dress" – I started realizing their need for "the best in show".
    I truly feel like I'm talking to a zombie when I speak with my friend about wedding details. It's a shame. I try to remain focused on making our wedding a definition of us, while many people are focused on making it the best production anyone has ever gone too. I'm less concerned about letting our guests walk away with a favor…and more concerned about giving people that full-heart feeling when they leave our wedding.
    However; having said that, it is VERY easy to get sucked right back in. And I am guilty on some occassions – your post about the indie bride that wore Vera Wang but you were afraid to mention it was another exhibit that hit close to home. While we may avoid getting sucked into the WIC cult…sometimes trying to hard to avoid it, can put us right back where we started.

  • As a lady with no engagement ring, I get the WIC down my throat all the time.

    I have about 20 reasons why I don't have an engagement ring – and I refuse to say them because, really, why do we have to?

    When asked where my 'ring' is (and sadly, I get asked this A LOT), I usually play dumb until they actually say 'engagement ring', and then I simply say that I thought the only requirement for an engagement was a proposal.

    My Mother, one of WIC's biggest supporters, has asked me to stop behaving so inappropriately.

    Which brings me to my next beef when it comes to weddings and taking on WIC (and very often, your own family) – the horrible, and depressingly effective, tool of shaming the bride.

    Shaming – how I ended up with: a wedding dress from a bridal store, bridesmaids, matching bridesmaid dresses, a DJ and boutonnières.

    Although, I did call last week to cancel the boutonnières. Baby steps, I suppose.

    P.S – I love this post, Meg. The first time I read this one of my friends had just married at Casa Loma – an actual freaking castle – and I needed to read this, badly.

    I also have Sam and Clara's Recession Wedding bookmarked and lately have been averaging a read a week. Every time I think our wedding isn't going to be "fun" because I scratched having a photo booth at our reception, I bring this wedding up and I feel a lot more grounded and gets my head back where it belongs. Thank you for this place, Meg!

  • Anonymous

    I actually had the most painful discussion about engagement rings years before becoming engaged. Actually the discussion was with my college bf's(not my fiance) best friend. I've never wanted an engagement ring. When I tried to explain my rationalle to this friend he just made me feel like a total idiot looser.

    Thankfully over the past 6 months with a coconut shell & mother of pearl ring on my finger I've not had to explain my ring with much more than: "I didn't want an engagement ring but my man wanted to put something on my finger – so he regifted a birthday present(a ring which I love) as my 'engagement' ring…" Usually when people see how clearly happy I am with it they let it be.

    Same goes with our wedding choices. I generally don't talk about the details because while they matter to us in some ways(I'm a big time foodie), I don't like glorifying the details by gushing over them. We're getting married with our cloesest family and friends in a beautiful, meaningful location and the food will be delicious.

    Sometimes I feel that people translate my lack of talk about the wedding into a lack of excitement. Nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Liz

    alot of your wise ladies said what i was going to-

    us wedding-blog-types see a thick, defining line between the evil WIC weddings and indie weddings.

    if either is forcing you to think of your wedding in a little box- is imposing expectations or parameters on your wedding that make you go crazy (either throwing away cash, or spending hours with a glue gun), is giving you a list of "need-to"s and "should have"s-it's a bad, bad thing.

  • Thank you Meg for defining the nebulous!

    When friends and acquaintances ask me how wedding planning is going, I find myself trying to describe in nice terms my more-or-less disgust with most things wedding, well most things COMMERCIAL wedding. I have a hard time describing the rather unique societal situation a person is placed into when they decide to marry their significant other.

    Like that somehow every decision you make is now up for debate and often even open criticism. If I were throwing a dinner party, people would never balk at the hosts choice of entree, but if you choose to serve bbq at a wedding, it's fair game. It's kind of a unique situation. I guess it must be the public nature of a celebration that gets everyone all antsy in the pantsy, with of course a good bit of guilting by the now-defined WIC.

    For example, my mom (who is very graciously paying for aforementioned bbq catering) said the other day 'you know, we can afford to have something nicer than this. I would hate for people to think badly about us because of the food we served.' I told her very calmly that anyone who would judge someone for the type of food they serve is no friend of mine.

    I mean it's crazy that the WIC has programmed otherwise completely reasonable people into thinking that if they can afford it (hell, even if they can't afford it), they should definitely buy XYZ. In fact if you don't buy XYZ, all of your family and friends will judge you and your marriage will be doomed from the start! Ahhh!

    I'll stick to my bbq-in-the-backyard with the man I love, thank you very much.

  • Meg

    Clearly you're going to have to send me your wedding. I'm not sure *what* is going on with the lily-white weddings thing, let alone why it is going on. All I can tell you is that is EXTREMELY rare that I get a wedding that's not, um, white. When I do, I get really happy and up it goes. So. What I'm saying is, the editing isn't coming from over here. I'm pretty clear I want diversity, so it's not even that people are not sending them in because they think I don't want them. So where is the editing coming from? Hum.

    I'm just gonna say this: I'm not sure there is as huge a dividing line between indie weddings and regular weddings as people act like there is. I mean, YES, there are site out there doing the indie thing in a values led, legit way and rocking it (OBB comes to mind). But then there are many other (wonderful, pretty) sites that people call indie, and uh, girlfriend? I like them too, but they are just the wedding industry evolving, don't kid yourself.

    And you KNOW I don't think you should make your choices based on what's-hip-on-the-blogs anymore than you should make them based on what-everyone-says-you-should-do. Wedding Independence (and proud of it).

  • @Meg- I have seen your quest (and that OTHER uber-kewl blog) to promote the diverse kewlness that exists in action. I also know that most of the B.O.C. I know tend to have weddings that either a)never reference the WIC in any real way, because they are so tired of being told they're not good enough (tacky), or b) are so over-the-top commercial that they get on reality-type shows that we won't name here (the equivalent of a sports car), that they never wade through the chaff to get to the supportive, affirming spaces. It's only because I am a self defined Black Nerd (into subcultures and research) that I even jumped online when I got engaged.

    Long story longer, I will send you my weddings (at 2, may be more), because I know how important it is to be the Token. And I know you're "hella kewl."

  • Wow. WIC is intense.
    Yes, when we first got engaged, I bought magazines. BUT it was only to get ideas, as I was not one of those girls who had dreamed of the perfect wedding for years. In fact, my fiance and I had been talking about getting engaged for about 2 months when he popped the question, and I still hadnt given things any thought.

    I am so glad he gives me the strength to say "this is what we can afford, this is what we are doing" and to hell with what people say we should do!

    I'm a photographer myself, so photos were one of the most important things to me. Therefore we are spending 20% of our (very small) budget on them – but we picked great photographers, who do great work, which is most important.

    Other than that, we are going with what we feel like.
    *My bridesmaids match, but only because we found a cheap dress they both liked!
    *Dad will get a new suit. Because he doesnt already own one.
    *We are buying supermarket flowers because the local one here does really pretty bunches, compared with the "cheap" $600 my FBIL spent the other weekend.
    *Our caterer is a family friend. This means we will have a roast or a BBQ. No entree, no plated dessert. Nibbles provided before we arrive, and dessert is cake, cheese and crackers and fruit.

    We decided good photography and a great party were most important. Everything else we are deciding on as we go with its relevance to us (or not).

    So yes, I'm a fan of take what you want from WIC. Stop pigeon-holing yourself. If people dont like what you are doing, tell them where to shove it. (In the most polite way possible of course!)

  • I'd like to promote the sassy kathy for comment of the day.
    The day I deleted some of the more popular wedding blogs from my feed reader, was the day I became much more sane. And now I don't freak out. I see there are ten, from women I admire, who just happen to be getting married.
    Isn't technology cool?

    (well, dorky plug, but it's Ada Lovelace Day! celebrating women and technology! so i toast to meg! for technology, women and community!)

  • I -just- wrote about this (and about finding your blog!) a few days ago:

    I also have an non-traditional engagement ring, and my fiance HAS asked, a few times, if I want something bigger — purely because of that pressure! Insane!

    I found a page with announcements from old weddings, the best (and funniest) I posted here:

    The simplicity described in the ceremony and receptions are quite a contrast!

  • I am ashamed to say that there was a period of my wedding where my brain was in danger of being taken over by the WIC.

    It all started out well enough … we had a wonderfully mellow and non-traditional engagement and started to plan out our wedding without consulting any sort of outside influences. Both sets of our parents didn't have a wedding (they went to the courthouse), and were pretty clueless as to what a wedding was "supposed" to be like. They told us to do whatever made us happy which was awesome until my perfectionist personality took over and I began scouring the internet and bridal magazines for some guidance on planning a wedding, and it was all downhill from there. The more "print-worthy" weddings I saw, the more judgmental I became; I began to scout out imperfections from the super platinum-mainstream weddings to the indie-weddings and figure out how I could avoid those "pitfalls". I had completely lost touch with that initial burst of creativity and excitement, what planning a wedding should be all about (at least in my opinion). I finally realized I was going insane and cut off all contact with the WIC – or as much of it as was possible.

    Our wedding is now shaping up to be similar to what we had originally imagined before my "WIC dark days"; we've stood our ground with the vendors who express "concern" with some of our choices (one of which was black napkins; apparently our florist thinks that's not appropriate for a wedding). I'm completely at peace with our decisions; our wedding will take place in a ballroom and not a historic hilltop barn, we are writing the entire ceremony ourselves, we will have 5 mismatched bridesmaids and no groomsmen, I will be doing my own makeup, we're printing the invitations I designed on Illustrator at Costco, and we will have a chess king and queen cake topper (another seemingly small detail that people had issues with. Go figure).

    I'm beginning to find a sense of humor in how wrapped up I became with designing the "perfect" wedding; I really lost my mind for a while there, and it cracks me up to go through some of my old files with "inspiration boards". I do think that the WIC is valuable in providing inspiration, and we did find a lot of good ideas that we're adapting for ourselves; I just found out first-hand what a slippery slope it can be! Thanks again for the post; yours is one of the few wedding blogs I still read after my meltdown!

  • Noelle

    We all need to live with this motto:


    I am so tired of thinking I need permission from an expert on damn near everything, from what I wear to how I live. No wonder people feel so anxious all the time.

    I DON'T NEED TO ASK PERMISSION for loving specific flowers, beautiful photography, lemon cake, a low-cost silk chiffon dress in turquoise, a botanical wedding ring with small stones, an emphasis on the ceremony, a small guest list, an outdoor location, and possibly a reception involving walking amongst a garden and boating instead of dancing.

    I DON'T NEED TO ASK PERMISSION for not wanting bridesmaids or groomsmen, a white dress, programs, a bouquet toss, a garter toss, a first dance, corsages, DIY, an engagement ring, a bridal shower, lots of guests, a unity candle or sand ceremony.

    YOU DON'T NEED PERMISSION to adore the things I don't want, and not care about the things I do want.

  • Meg


    Not token. F*ck that. Underrepresented part of the community.

  • Noelle

    T-Bone said:

    "And there will always be the people who will stare at your ring with disdain no matter it's size.

    My engagement ring is a gorgeous diamond ring but some women see my ring and comment about how there's always time to upgrade.


    @T-Bone and everyone else with engagement ring horror stories:

    Who are these uncouth people without the slightest grasp of decent manners?

    I think you should give them a confused and horrified look when they suggest an "upgrade". They deserve to know their remarks are stupid and insulting.

  • @Tamara:

    I think I have a couple of good friends who are feeling similar frustrations. They're an "older couple" as far as weddings go (both in their forties), they're an interracial couple, and they're a same-sex couple. In short…they're just about as far away from the WIC as anyone can get, and they've had a horrible time finding resources.

    I avoid looking at bridal magazines all together, no matter how much I might like some of the pretty pretty princess stuff. Because honestly, bridal magazines are like most other magazines. If you aren't a white female who weighs less than 120 pounds and stands between 5'5" and 5'9", just glancing over those pages can make you feel left out. I'm choosing to plan my wedding blissfully unaware of what the WIC expects of me.

    And as a side-note, it amazes me how quickly people will judge rings. I have a BEAUTIFUL diamond that my boy got at a fantastic price – it's a much bigger ring than we had budgeted for because he got such a great deal on it. And while no one has commented out loud, I still see that flicker of "aw, how…cute" in people's eyes. It's maddening, because to me, the ring is absolutely perfect for my hand (I have tiny hands anyway), and anything bigger would look SO out of place on me.

  • JOC

    @L. – Are we twins? In my case it's not an old friend, but my cousin, but the same thing. However, I have just avoided discussing much of my wedding with her. After I told her that FH and I are going on a "mini-moon" and postponing the "big" honeymoon for a later date because we can't afford the wedding AND a honeymoon, she said, patronizingly, "Oh, that's totally OK, a LOT of couples are doing that!" This, coming from the girl who's dad is PAYING for their honeymoon. I wanted to smack her.

  • Nina

    With the choice of ring, I feel like you are damned if you do and damned if you don't. My fiance bought me a beautiful diamond ring. The diamond is by no means large, but it isn't tiny. I absolutely love it and it suits me perfectly.
    But today I spent the day at a scientific conference where every woman in my vicinity was wearing a very simple band or maybe a "tiny" diamond. Suddenly I felt like a total sell out. Like I had bought in and they had stayed strong and dignified against the lure of the WIC.
    My fiance reminded me tonight that it's ok to like the ring I like. It is me. I think the truth is no matter what your ring is, it'll probably feel out of place somewhere, so just wear what you really like.

    Balancing tradition with doing your own thing is a tough place to be sometimes, which is why I love how accepting this community is.

  • hi :)

    first i must say i simply love your blog, although i'm probably not like most visitors :S

    i'm from portugal and me and my boyfriend are not engaged yet. unlike most girls i saw here, in our case we can't say that we're already thinking about our wedding because our family would say "what? but you haven't even a date!"

    on an other hand, we feel lots of pressure about it. i mean, we feel like we have to deal with the equation "how cool must our wedding be" x "how much can we spend" / "how different must it be".

    my boyfriend's sister is going to marry in may and now we start to feel strange because she really doesn't care that much about the wedding and so her party will be very simple. so now i feel like maybe i'm a bridezilla or some kind of weird person because I REALLY DO CARE about our wedding, i have been dreaming about it for a long time and yes, i want it to be perfect (not only the party but specially our live as a couple ;) )

    on an other hand, i'm quite sure most of my family will be shocked when they find out that we want to have a picnic with barbecue and not a 3 course dinner in a fancy place. when my parents got married, they did it like so, and even then everybody was shocked…

    i'm so sorry for posting such a long comment (and surely with lots of grammar and spelling faults…), but i hope you can understand my point of view: how much of external pressure do we ALL really have? how normal must we be so nobody looks at us like freaks?

    kisses ** :)

  • @ carapim – when I was "pre-engaged" (for uhh about 3 years or so) I was kind of obsessed with planning our future wedding. I had a binder in my closet with dress clippings and color swatches and lists and ideas. I had a stack of bridal magazines that I hid behind my textbooks. I always assumed I would turn in to a very intense + crazy bridezilla when we got engaged.

    And the funny thing is – we got engaged and I can't even find the binder. I remember some of the ideas, like the colors I wanted to use, so we're using them. But the 2-year-old bridal magazines? Haven't even opened them. For some reason, planning an actual wedding instead of a fantasy wedding is way less stressful for me. I hope that's your experience too.

  • Anonymous


    I think rings are like everything else in life.

    Take my house …

    To some people, my 1600 square foot house with custom alder cabinets, granite countertops and a stacked stone fireplace is nicer than anything they'll ever have.

    To other people, it's so much smaller than their houses, that the nice details hardly register.

    Same thing as the ring issues.

  • Meg

    Here is the thing… I don't think it's about envy. It's about the fact that some of us don't want a 1600 square foot house with granite counter-tops, its not nicer than anything we'd ever have, it's just something we're not into. We want a 750 sq foot pre-war in the middle of the city, or a falling down cottage on a tiny farm. And that's ok. The assumption shouldn't be, "You'll move up into this house one day," it should be your 1600 square foot house new is great for you, and my 500 sq foot old studio is great for me, and neither of us would ever trade it in for the world.

  • Anonymous


    I didn't mean to imply that the people who will never live in something like my house actually wanted to.

    We actually have a relative that lives in that "falling down cottage on a small farm" that you referred to.

    It was their choice. They chose to live on 10 acres and had a 100-year old tiny cottage moved onto the property.

    What I mean to say is that our house seems "done up" to them, but not remarkable to our friends in the 4000 square foot homes.

    We are really betwixt and between when it comes to the houses of people we know.

    (Where I live, you can actually build a 4000 sq. foot house on one or two acres for $400,000.)

  • Nina

    @Anon – your house sounds fantastic, hope to have one just like it someday :-)

  • JOC

    @Anon – I think I see your point. It's the whole idea that everyone thinks that their experiences are paramount, and if you don't have the same house, or the same ring, or the same car (or the "equivalent" of these things), you're either "jealous" (if you have less), "too showy" (if you have more), or just plain crazy because YOU'RE NOT CONFORMING TO MY IDEAL!

    Why is it that what I do is such a reflection on your values? What I have works for me, what you have works for you, we're both happy, so what's the problem?

    (For the record: I meant the nebulous "you" and "I", not specifically YOU or ME.)

  • @ nikki
    well, i really hope so. in fact, when my best friend starts to talk about it (she'll be my…let's call her bridesmaid, here we don't have that but it's similar), i get uncomfortable, like "hum, ok, but please let's talk about something that REALLY matters". because finally i think that no matter what we do, or how the party is done, what is really important for us is to get married with each other, to bless our union with God and the presence of all our loved ones. That's what matters, because the hard part comes next and might take not a day but 50 to 80 years ;)

  • Anonymous



    Case in point – one relative made their living managing golf courses. This required living a very social life and major entertaining.

    Their idea of home is large with an upscale kitchen, wine cooler, and lots of room circulate for big parties.

    The husband can't understand the other relative who insists on living in the tumble-down cottage on ten acres. He thinks they should opt for a "nicer" house on a regular lot.

    In his world, there is no reason to trade a "standard house" for the choice to have a huge vegetable garden or raise your own chickens and goats and buy staples from a co-op.

    I've had to giggle sometimes at how little imagination he has.

  • Sarah

    @Allison – YES!!!

    Okay, I am going to admit that sometimes I wonder why I love reading this blog, even though my wedding really does embrace a lot of traditional aspects, some might even call WIC-ish. But let me tell you that I'm not incorporating anything that I don't want. I'm only incorporating things that I do want. And some things, yes, I did compromise to cater expectations. But I did that within the confines of my own comfort-zone. In the end, I think everything will reflect me (and also my groom, although he is more of a silent partner in this whole process! but i do try to make decisions with his sensibilities in mind).

    so why do I read this blog even though my wedding isn't that indie and isn't very thrifty? because i DO believe in throwing a wedding that's creative and SANE, and most of all, one that you like and reflects you! also i am an intelligent, thoughtful, opinionated young woman, which makes this blog a way to think about weddings without having my brain explode by loss of brain-cells because i just spent an hour debating about which favors to buy online. (really i just want to say F*CK FAVORS, WHO CARES ABOUT THOSE ANYWAY? but sometimes, again, it's about managing expectations)


  • I think everyone deals with WIC in some way or another, and at different extremes. It is interesting to hear how each bride (and groom) handles it. I definitely think society has a way of influencing weddings, but I also think it has a way of influencing our lives in the same way.

    Great post, btw!

  • AriB

    It’s funy… For the past 12 months of my engagement i have been obsessing over the “Indie” blogsites (didn’t even know that’s what they were called) for brides, how to make your wedding uniquely your own, etc… because I really did want to decorate things myself and give myself permission to have fun playing with origami guest boxes, making my own hanging flags, stamping names, and the like. But it has evolved into an awful experience! Not only for me, but for my fiance. We both wanted a very BBQ-y, homegrown, games, with a little funk (he’s Scottish and all the guys have kilts. I have a full tattoo sleeve…) But now the WIC monster is among us. He cannot wrap his head around not having a DJ, because how will people have any fun? Or we HAVE to decorate his father’s metal barn where the reception will be because it’s a WORK barn; not one of those cutsie wooden ones with hay in it, and it people will think it looks trashy. Or we HAVE to decorate the porta-potties… We HAVE to have hors d’oeuvres between the ceremony & the reception. We HAVE to put twinkle lights in the trees…. It’s awful! We finally came to our senses with the wedding being 2 months away, and are going to start crossing things off the WIC list. But it’s a shame to see how far we went. The original budget was $5000. Now we’re approaching $9k. Geez…

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  • So I’m planning a wedding that spans two continents. That means before we can even talk “wedding” we have to fork over about $4000 to immigration.

    I asked FH, do we HAVE to have a wedding? To my dismay, he replied yes. We recognise this is for our parents. We both like a good party. And I like the idea of the planning and looking at pretty things together with him and the general excitement that wedding planning creates in other people, but when I think of the ridiculous prices and things that are expected of you, I start to gag.

    We’re doing the whole shebang at a banquet hall. It will be nice. If I could get away with getting married at home, I would, but I have 53 first cousins. So…that ain’t gonna work. My goal is to keep it at 75 people and under $8000 (It’s Chicago, nothing’s cheap here…) I’m going to do what makes me happy on that day and I have a profound issue with my undying love to my FH being reduced to fondant or buttercream.

    Oh and rings…I told him we wouldn’t be getting married if he bought me a diamond ring. I have a tension set synthetic diamond from one of my favourite jewelry shops in Chicago – the Silver Room. It cost FH $148 and my eye was instantly drawn to it. I love my ring.

    With that said, embrace your lifestyle with your wedding and do what makes you happy. I’m lucky to have a lot of “friendors” (friends who are vendors) who are committed to making my wedding stress free and nice. We want good food, booze, and good music. Everything else is just extra and frankly, consumerist brainwashing.

  • When brides stop thinking that the color of the invitation ink and the size of the dancefloor gobo matter, that’s when the WIC will cease to exist. When blogs stop featuring weddings with locavore, hand picked sprouts atop hand thrown artisianal one of a kind platters, the WIC will cease to exist.

    All that matters is you two, your officiant, your vows and the promise to really try and make it work. The photobooths, the imprinted flipflops, the preciously ribbon festooned favors; none of them make a marriage. You do.

  • I think it bears pointing out too that this very blog has a LOT of advertising, as do most of the ‘indie’ blogs.

  • I am new to the wedding business. I had always thought the wedding was about the Bride and Groom. However after joining one of the wedding forum I realize not everybody thinks the wedding is all about the Bride and Groom

    It surprised me to find so many who think it has to be their way.

    If the Bride and Groom wants to serve their guest Mars Bars, I say more power to them.

    It is great to have the best of everything for your wedding day. However, as it is going to be one
    of the biggest days of your life. . . it should be about you.

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  • Cathie

    Ha! So true! Though for me- I didn’t want to get married! I mean why should you have to get that silly piece of paper to say that we love each other? you guys don’t want the big wedding-i don’t want that ceremony or piece of paper. HOWEVER, since my now husband insisted on marriage, I did want the nicest invites and decor I could afford. I’m a designer so naturally that aspect of the ‘official’ union was important to me.. Food, photography, etc- i could not care less about…I guess we all share some kind of resistance to the wedding industry.

  • Beth

    What’s wrong with “running off to the courthouse” as you put it? My fiance and I got engaged in June, and we were always planning on going to City Hall for a simple no-nonsense wedding. He recently got a job in the States and we are moving in a few months (we’re Canadian). Because of this we need to get married now. We have planned our wedding in four days, we are still going to City Hall. Four days. No nonsense, just the basics and necessities. I’m so happy with the way our wedding is turning out and wouldn’t ask for anything else!!!
    There’s nothing wrong with “running off to the courthouse”, and planning a wedding is only as stressful as you want it to be.

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