It’s More Than Just A Party

The hipsters have it wrong

It's More Than Just A Party | APW (2)

Before getting engaged I often joked to my at-the-time-boyfriend that we should just get it over with and go to the courthouse. What’s the difference? Why does it matter? I was a foolish youth in those days, but my thought process was thusly: why do I need a big party that costs a lot of money? What is the purpose of this show? I don’t even like being the center of attention.

I was wrong.

I am not saying you should spend a lot of money on this—we aren’t going to—but I do want to advocate for the ritual. I want to challenge the hipster narrative that a wedding is an ironic occasion or something that doesn’t matter. My view changed almost immediately after I got engaged. It became quickly apparent how important this was for everyone else. My engagement somehow became a statement on everyone’s life choices, and suddenly I was facing anxiety and hope instead of cynicism in the conversations of my friends. I got the, “OMGWANTSHELPPLANSOMUCH” and I also got, “Fuck, dude, you’re engaged, I gotta get my shit together.” Both of these people love me very much, and sometimes these were the same people, but the point is a wedding is socially significant and an important moment when people start examining their own lives. I experienced this the year prior to when one of my closest friends bought a house. We are becoming adults.

But this really wasn’t the reaction that mattered most, because I would have ignored that, just like I ignored Wacky Walk at my Stanford graduation. You see, I haven’t been to many weddings, but in my family it is rare that you would have one. Most of the time, mostly because of a lack of resources, we either just become common-law married, or long-term committed, or courthouse married, or shotgun, we already have four-year-old married.

When my mom married my step-dad when I was fifteen, it was the first real-ish wedding I went to. I am pretty sure this is when my mom really entered adulthood. It was significant to her and to us; it sent the message that my step-dad was staying and was going to be my dad and not the dude my mom was dating. This was a huge deal to me. For a kid who can’t remember her biological father and was abused severely by her mother’s second husband, this is a huge deal. I know how it feels to not have a dad, which is why I can’t get beyond everyone being excited about single-parenthood (single parents can do an awesome job, but we all admit that it would be preferable if there were at least two adults involved—gender and generation being irrelevant here). This ceremony made it clear that I had a family. That meant something to me.

My mom is the person that changed my mind. It’s been a rough year for our family. Well, a rough several generations, but things have been especially hard for my mom for the last couple of years. Most of our phone calls are of the “I have to tell you a horrible thing that happened” variety. So when I called her, she said: Now WE get to plan a wedding. Immediately afterwards the women of my life were mobilized and they all wanted to help in this process, WE, being the operative word.

The thing is, I was and still am against having a frivolous show of a party. But for my family this wedding means something. It will be the first traditional wedding most of us have been to in a long time (or ever in my case). In fact, a lot of us are doing research now on customs, and I had to read two books on the history of weddings and several blogs that explained the service to understand what was happening. It shows us how far we have come. It is an opportunity for my community to welcome me into adulthood in the way they know how, which is coming together to help us build a family (albeit a childless, cat family).

This is of course not the only reason. I was born into an incredibly disadvantaged situation. That I am alive and able to write this is nothing short of miraculous and of course everyone who knows me knows this. So for us to be coming together at the Stanford church to celebrate a joyous occasion is, I think, the best possible way to honor the human spirit in this case. After all I’ve been through, people still get married and still find love and a home. This is beautiful. To deny my community this celebration would be disrespectful to a degree that would probably be an unforgivable trespass. So I guess what I am saying, is that once I understood that this wasn’t about me at all, it seemed to be the only appropriate choice. And so despite the fact that we are both shy, don’t like crowds, are not religious, and are very nervous about bringing our families and our Stanford community together, we are having a traditional ceremony in MemChu.

I’ve been joking for a year that the sign of being an adult is becoming aware that you do not exist in a vacuum. That is fundamentally one of the more beautiful facts of humanity.

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  • “I do want to advocate for the ritual. I want to challenge the hipster narrative that a wedding is an ironic occasion or something that doesn’t matter.”


    I find myself SO frustrated by this whole “a wedding is a dumb party, anyone can get married” hipster attitude that is currently en vogue. Because for those of us who grew up disadvantaged or without a lot of (or any) healthy relationship models, no, it is NOT just a party. It’s not something we expected to have, so we don’t necessarily want to dismiss it. Ugh…I could go on, but you summed it all up so well already.

    • Grace

      I’m not sure what’s worse, the idea that weddings are dumb and unimportant, or the idea that as a bride your wedding is ALL about you and is the most important celebration of your life. Why is it so hard to find middle ground outside of APW?

      • Yes!! I got frustrated often while planning our wedding at the idea that I was only allowed to be a certain level of excited for such a big day for me, my husband, and our relationship. I struggled with the idea that aspects of what we wanted (low key, mustaches in the photobooth, simple) were perceived as not wanting enough or being too hipster. We had some budget constraints and I do wish on occasion that I had gone crazy with crepe paper and tulle when decorating, but I was happy when at the end of our wedding we were married, I was grinning and a little feverish from the excitement, and that we pulled it off!

      • Chiara M

        Oh dear, I was JUST ranting to my fiance about this. People keep telling me, “it’s YOUR wedding” you can do what you want to, and I just want to shout back in their faces, “it’s OUR wedding”. Not just our as in my partner and I, it’s our as in everybody who’s getting together to be excited about this. Just like Heather said, “It is an opportunity for my community to welcome me into adulthood in the way they know how, which is coming together to help us build a family”. That’s not just about me!!

    • Rachel

      I totally agree – a wedding is a big deal, and should be treated as such. And also, for those who grew up in a family where our parents remain married – for me it’s just as important to celebrate that I’ve found someone with whom I hope to replicate the success of my parent’s marriage.

      • never.the.same

        Why does it have to be an either/or statement? It is absolutely true that for some people the ritual and party and occasion MATTERS. It is ALSO true that for others, it really doesn’t.

        I understand what you’re saying, Heather and Rachel and all. But the framing of “everyone who thinks differently from me is just wrong” feels unnecessary.

        (Besides, there are 2.5 million weddings every year in America alone… So I think there is plenty of room for all kinds of attitudes.)

        • Rachel

          I think a marriage is a big deal, but I totally agree that it may manifest itself in different ways for different couples :)

        • Actually, I’m not saying those people are wrong…I’m saying that a popular attitude that I hear regularly is annoying because it’s applied to everyone. And it’s said in a really dismissive tone in the context of “You’re a loser for caring about your wedding.” I would never say “A wedding is not just a huge party” to someone who was saying it is to I’m wondering why those who feel it IS a party keep saying that to people who see it differently. But I totally agree there is room for plenty of attitudes.

        • Meg Keene

          I think Rachel’s also saying (or not saying but wants to be saying) that the narrative is set up as applies to middle class/ upper middle class white ladies. So it’s extra painful for people outside that narrative to find their perspectives being dismissed.

          • Ashlee

            I really don’t see tying it to class or race as being very productive; instead it makes the issue more divisive. Shitty relationship models, which is one thing to which the author and Rachel W. are pointing, can be found across the board. And I think you can respond to growing up surrounded by those kinds of models either with the kind of perspective this post is espousing, or with the protection mechanism of deciding that “it’s no big deal,” and consciously trying to tone down the weight of such an event.

            Also adding to the divisiveness is the “the hipsters have it wrong,” which, as I think jhs below points out, is a bit harsh and reductive. I don’t think Rachel W. is trying to say the other perspective is wrong, but it sure seems like the blog is.

          • Meg Keene

            Well, actually, no. For those of us who grew up outside of the white middle/ upper middle class, these issues ARE important, and what’s divisive is people telling us not to bring them up because there are better ways to discuss it. Well, no, for some of us these are exactly the ways that we need to discuss it.

            That isn’t to say that an essay like this might not speak to you on another level—a level of say, shitty relationship models. And that’s great, and important, and I’m glad it does. However, for me, this piece is ALL about class and money issues, and the fact that there is someone else speaking openly about something we’re normally shamed into not talking about.

            So it may feel divisive for you, but for those of us who’s experience is very rarely represented, it’s VERY important to speak about these issues in terms of race and class an economics.

          • Ashlee

            I never said anything about not bringing the issue up, so I’m not sure where that’s coming from. Also, neither Rachel W. nor the original poster made this exclusively about a narrative that applies only to (upper) middle class white ladies — your comment did that. I’m saying that reducing it to that point, making it exclusively that point, is an over-simplification. I get that disadvantages and the difference growing up non-white, and/or not-financially comfy are important to these conversations. Huge factor in why I read this blog. I think the way Rachel and the author framed it is great, and I do think it’s a good conversation to have.

            It seems like you’re making assumptions about my personal background, and then using those assumptions to decide whether I’m qualified to comment, though correct me if I’m wrong. I think that’s incredibly unfair on both points, and again not really helping the conversation. All I wanted to do was point out that boiling it down in the way that your comment did, and in the way that the tagline “the hipster have it wrong” did, seem pretty unhelpful and dismissive. I like that we can use this blog to remind ourselves and the world that more than one narrative exists, and that the same narrative may resonate or originate differently.

          • Meg Keene

            My comment wasn’t originally a response to you, or actually a direct response to anyone (I have no idea what your background is). What I am saying is that these kinds of statements can be tough “the framing of “I understand what you’re saying, Heather and Rachel and all. But the framing of “everyone who thinks differently from me is just wrong” feels unnecessary..” when spoken about an essay that’s written from a particular, very personal, perspective that’s not widely voiced, or to a commenter (Rachel) speaking from a different personal perspective that’s not widely voiced, is something I wanted to talk about.

            Simply because, within the context of the generally upper middle class white internet, there is an ongoing conversation that only tends to voice one side of the issue. The people on the lesser heard side of the issue tend to need to be a little more vehement to be heard. That’s not being divisive, that’s trying to get heard above the din.

            Again, I wasn’t having a personal disagreement with you, I was speaking to more general themes here. I have no idea what your background is, and I’m glad the essay speaks to you on a shitty relationships level. I also think, however, that the perspectives of class or race are really important perspectives. We need to both hear those perspectives AND understand that they are less heard.

            My summation of my thoughts on the comments this morning are simply: this essay isn’t about any one commenter. This essay is about a personal journey that speaks to some painful cultural truths that are not frequently discussed. Hearing them discussed can feel personal, but it’s not.

          • EF

            really, really thankful you guys published this article. and it is important for those [of us] who are rarely represented. solidarity. and thanks.

    • Marie Laurent

      Obviously I’m late to the party here, but if you read this- why is it ‘hipster’ to not care about weddings?

      I understand that they are important for some people, and it is important for me if someone else in my family/friends has an ‘important’ wedding (my uncle got married, which was lovely for him and meant his son could have a stable mother, and he had been lonely until he met her), but that said I’m only getting married as a formality and because having an inexpensive celebration just because we love each other seems nice.

      • I think what we talk about when we talk about “hipster” is really an attitude that’s all about making other people feel bad for caring about things in earnest. Not caring about weddings isn’t a big deal. But the OP is talking about those people who feel the need to mention that they don’t care about weddings EVERY TIME the topic of weddings comes up, in a way that’s super condescending. Like, “Oh you’re spending money on your wedding? Ugh, I just went to City Hall, I don’t see what the big deal is.” And that attitude is totally the current definition of hipster. “Oh you like X band? Ugh, they’re so lame.” “Ugh, you ate at X restaurant? Cool, I guess, if you’re my grandma.” So it’s the not caring combined with making people feel shitty for caring that’s really what we mean when we say hipster.

        Hope that makes a little more sense!

        • Marie Laurent

          It does, thanks!

  • “It became quickly apparent how important this was for everyone else.”

    This really hit home for me. Neither my husband nor I wanted a big fancy wedding. My coworkers were saying we should just get married on an island by ourselves, much less hassle. We did the wedding because our parents needed it. Our grandparents needed it. And though it was definitely a stressful day that we never want to have happen again, I could never do it the other way. The marriage is for us, the wedding was for our families.

  • Jenna

    “After all I’ve been through, people still get married and still find love and a home. This is beautiful.” — this line made me cry. :)

    Thank you so much for sharing this and reminding us how important our connections to each other are.

  • “I’ve been joking for a year that the sign of being an adult is becoming aware that you do not exist in a vacuum. That is fundamentally one of the more beautiful facts of humanity.”

    So. Freaking. True. I still remember hearing the glass shattering in my head when I realized, “Hey, other people are people, too.” They are not just one-dimensional things whose purpose is to react to my words and choices. That was a truly humbling (and transformative) moment of awareness.

    • After rereading a few times…

      Damn, this piece really smacked me in the face this morning. In so many ways, this is my story, too. Thank you for writing it so eloquently and with much more clarity than I have on it right now.

  • rys

    This piece is beautiful but challenging to me. I’m not totally sure how to reconcile the two claims about adulthood in the essay. On the one hand, there is “the sign of being an adult is becoming aware that you do not exist in a vacuum” and on the other, there is a latent point that marriage = adulthood (mother’s marriage to step-dad was her moment of entering adulthood) or at least that marriage functions as an external symbol of adulthood (wedding becomes the moment at which the community recognizes adulthood). I’m totally on board with the former and totally not on board with the latter. I’m an adult, and I’m not married, and I bristle at the assumed connection between the two. I’m not sure that the implicit claim was intended, but I’m wondering how we can talk about the importance of the ritual of marriage and understand it as an important milestone without making it the bridge from childhood to adulthood.

    • Molly

      Yeah, I think that was a bit of an odd point to make. There are plenty of people who get married and it totally doesn’t make them enter adulthood, e.g. my parents. It didn’t magically make them into mature, responsible people. It made them into people who were legally tied together because of familial pressure/pregnancy, but they did nothing to better themselves or their situation. And they certainly didn’t grow together after the fact, because they were never ready to be married in the first place.

      • Her mother had been married at least twice before, so the author wasn’t saying it was marriage itself that brought her mother into adulthood. It was that particular marriage and that particular relationship that did.

        • Molly

          Gotcha. Thanks.

    • Violet

      Hi rys- I like hearing your perspective. I’ve definitely heard the narrative “marriage = adulthood” espoused before, and it’s just not a fair assumption to make. But I don’t think the author is doing that here. She specifically states the connection only in regard to her mother (“I am pretty sure this is when my mom really entered adulthood.”) and only this marriage of her mother’s, not the previous one (she doesn’t say her mother’s marriage to her second husband who abused her was akin to adulthood either). It sounded to me like she was speaking from her personal experience that this was an instance when the marriage was an external signal of her mother reaching adulthood.

    • Outside Bride

      Oh, I think that may not have been the point. In fact, the way I read it, the mother had been in another marriage which had not made her an adult in any sense. I’m guessing that it was an intentional choice to become an adult, that the author’s mother signified by having that second marriage, which is being referred to here. What I got from that was less that the author’s second marriage made her an adult, and more that the author navigated childhood without a stable adult until she was 15 years old. I do think that there is actually a problematic cultural narrative that you are responding to here, but not necessarily in this piece.

      • rys

        Yeah, I’m not convinced it’s the point and, in fact, I think it’s not intended. Yet the piece still links marriage and adulthood in ways I find discomfitting, whether or not it’s simply that marriage marks adulthood (for Charles’ mother, at the point of a second marriage) or transforms someone (for the community). Again, I think this can be an apt and accurate reflection, but I find it jarring alongside a very lovely idea that adulthood is about not being in a vacuum.

        Noticing this doesn’t diminish the piece in any way for me — we’re human, we don’t have to be consistent at all times — but it makes me wonder about the ways in which lots of cultural messages can intersect and produce narratives tinged with different pieces of the mindset we’re working against.

        • Meg Keene

          I think that the fact that marriage CAN mean adulthood at times (in a natural way, not in a culturally proscribed way), does not mean that adulthood can’t happen outside of marriage.

          And, as the piece notes given the statement being applied to a second marriage, marriage does not always mean adulthood, far from it.

  • jhs

    I like what this says, but can we please stop making the “hipster” a strawman? By many definitions I would be a hipster (20s, live in an outer borough of New York, listen to indie bands, member of a CSA) and to me and many of my “hipster” friends there is nothing ironic about weddings.

    • Meg Keene

      By lots of definitions of hipster, most of the staff at APW is a hipster, I’m a hipster. The trick of the word hipster is it’s one that no group actively identifies with, since it’s generally considered to be derogatory (ie, I wouldn’t tell you I was a hipster, unless I was joking). So it tends to be used in very general ways to point out broad cultural trends, and the trend of weddings being treated as ironic is a real one.

      • Also, to me, hipster is a lot less about your music and more about the attitude of “anyone who earnestly likes popular things is a loser.” So I think there are two definitions and play, and to me, it’s usually pretty clear from context how it’s being used.

        • Winny the Elephant

          When I think of a hipster, I think of someone who so desperately wants to shun what is popular that they will choose anything “alternative”, whether they truly like it or not.

        • Gina

          Yes! Plus a dose of moral superiority.

          • Winny the Elephant

            “Because my coffee is ethically sourced AND organic”

          • Gina

            Truth. I was in Whole Foods the other day and there were two very-hipsters having an argument over which mushrooms they should get based on which packaging was less horrible for the planet. One of them kept saying very loudly, “I JUST want to reduce my footprint!” and looking around to make sure other people were hearing her. I wish I had videotaped it.

          • Sarah E

            Ha! Reminded me of the article I read this morning about food gentrification- upper middle class taking over lower class food staples as a trend:

        • MC

          Kind of an aside, but my mom sent me this clip from Portandia (champion mocker of hipsters!) the other day and my Fiance and I thought it was pretty hilarious:

    • Lauren from NH

      Hipster does seem to be the go to for bad/self centered attitude and while some people might interpret a few of my exterior details as equated to hipster and therefore they characterize me as spoiled and shallow, I guess I just feel like “oh well”. If that’s the level they want to understand the world on, that’s too bad for them. The calling out bad attitudes part of the hipster label is fine with me, the association with certain fashions, music, just seems silly.

      • jhs

        I think my issue is more that, since hipster includes both a physical definition (ever morphing, but generally whatever the young people are wearing) and an attitude (uncaring, liking things only ironically), it doesn’t serve anyone to use the term when describing just one or the other. By all means let’s get rid of those who would only see weddings in ironic terms, but by defining the attitude as “hipster” it centralizes it to those who may get that word thrown at them because of other things. I have met many “hipsters” who experience things unironically, and many who keep the world at arms length who would never be pegged as “hipsters” otherwise.

        • Meg Keene

          We used hipster in the subtitle because essays on issues of class cause people to react to the piece in a way where they take things very personally. We figured people would take it less personally if we used a term in the subtitle that pretty much NO one applies to themselves, since it’s an external phrase applied to people not a internal cultural identifier, and not touch class till the body of the piece. Hipster is, in the end, a term used only pejoratively or ironically (here, used relatively ironically).

          People are still taking it personally, obviously. But! I’m pretty sure people would be taking it more personally if we’d touched on class from the outset.

          • In situations like this, I try to remember this quote from Chescaleigh:

            “I know you’re talking about the systemic and institutional racism that people of color face, but could you please say “some white people” instead of just “white people”. It’s really hurtful because not all of us are like that. I ask because I’m more concerned with being perceived as racist rather than discussing the actual effects of racism.

            — some white people”

          • Meg Keene

            Which definitely would apply if we were talking about a real social group, but we’re not. To quote Wikipedia’s opening on the subject, “Members of the subculture do not self-identify as hipsters, and the word hipster is often used as a pejorative to describe someone who is overly trendy or effete.[9][6] Some critics contend that the notion of the contemporary hipster is actually a myth created by marketing.[10]”

          • Yes, hipsters as a group are a bit more slippery to pin down because of the lack of self-identification, but I think the idea of the quote still generally applies. The point that I take from it is that it’s not about me–I don’t identify with this piece from the class aspect (though I do from the fucked up family aspect), but that doesn’t mean that Heather’s experiences aren’t valid nor that mine are invalid. She’s just saying her piece.

          • I totally get what you’re saying. Like it turned this conversation into, “I am more concerned with being perceived as a mean hipster rather than discussing the things mean hipsters do.”

          • Yes, thank you! I wasn’t sure I was being coherent (Mondays = brainsplosion), but you got it exactly.

          • Headythings

            I thought the use of hipster was funny.

            This discussion seems tough for many, but I am learning a lot from the different perspectives.

  • Molly

    If only I could reconcile the fact that I have to spend so much money with the reality that I need to have all my family in one place to celebrate. I think weddings are important, and I am treating my wedding (and my impending marriage) like the valuable life event that it is, I just hate the planning part. And that’s really hard to admit, as a woman in a society that tells us we’re supposed to adore wedding planning and care about all of the minute details in our Special Day.

    That said, I am definitely excited for the wedding and marriage, and I’m glad my family and friends will be there to celebrate the occasion with us — close family that can make it at the courthouse, and everyone who will come to the reception. We are having the reception for Everyone Else, because heavens knows I could live without one. But it’s important.

    • Helen

      Hey Molly, I’m the same – the money is a huge thorn in my side and planning hasn’t been all that fun. If I was getting married to myself, it’d be a potluck dinner with BYO wine and some dancing. My fiance feels differently, so slowly we’ve found ways to meet both of our expectations. No point to make here except that it’s ok to not love wedding planning!

      • Molly Pollard

        Thank you! If I were getting married to myself, I would get married with just myself. But I mean, that’s the extreme introvert in me talking. I would love to elope or just have a really small ceremony and dinner as it is (and we’ve considered that several times now) but my fiance is very keen on a reception to celebrate our family and their involvement in our lives to get us to this point, so who am I to say no? After all, he’s right. I would feel awful if my extended family and friends couldn’t celebrate with us in some way. My compromise is to say “to hell with it” with the reception details (we won’t have chalkboard signs, personalized decor, or handmade cake toppers, for example) and have a courthouse ceremony and dinner with only close family/friends only. The downside to this is, I still have to plan the reception, but it hasn’t been that bad.

  • Rachel

    I haven’t got anything to add, but wanted to say what a lovely read this was. :)

  • “It became quickly apparent how important this was for everyone else.”

    I wish my family was like this. In my family, especially with my mother, there’s a sort of hands-off, “this-is-your-wedding-but-I-think-you’re-spending-too-much-money” approach to weddings. She never really got excited until the last week or so before my wedding, and maybe the last month before my sister’s wedding.

    • Helen

      yeah same – my mother kept asking me whether it wouldn’t be more sensible to save the money for a deposit on a house.

  • Lauren from NH

    I am slowly realizing my favorite part about this piece is the part I am most uncomfortable with. “To deny my community this celebration would be disrespectful to a degree that would probably be an unforgivable trespass. So I guess what I am saying, is that once I understood that this wasn’t about me at all, it seemed to be the only appropriate choice.” I think this is probably very close to how my partner feels about his family and our potential wedding, but its something that is very difficult for me to process and understand. We went to college together and while there were moments that highlighted his being a first generation college student and a second generation American, we were in the college bubble together so it felt like our backgrounds were relatively similar. I read the marrying down piece and just didn’t know how I felt because though we did not start on the same social level, I think of us as equals and we have degrees from the same mid/high level school and have landed decent jobs futhering this illusion of infinite sameness. But I know his family has struggled so much more to get him to this level, where as for my family affording and qualifying for college was never a question. Though my head understands these things my heart lags behind, too used to my own experience and sense of earning most of what I have and have accomplished (somewhat true and somewhat untrue), and my lack of communal experience coming from a small family and small network.
    So this is my long winded way of saying thank you so much for writing this piece, I will probably be rereading it many times seeking a middle ground between our wedding is ours and our wedding is our families’.

  • Sometimes I get frustrated that on this site people (as well meaning as they are) keep making posts into something about them. The vast majority of the time the posts are not meant to be internalized into “you should do this” (even when sometimes the author uses those words, can we give the author a pass because she’s excited?). In fact, this post put it quite succinctly about the author’s realization that the wedding wasn’t about her and her soon to be husband. The posts, the majority of the time, are not about you. Even if the author made a remark about hipsters, can we go with the assumption that she didn’t mean to be dismissive? Can we see posts like this about the author’s evolving thought process and what she learned along the way? For me, reading about other’s evolving thoughts (even if they’re not the same ones I might have come to myself) help me in knowing that we are all evolving. This is her thought process and we don’t have to all come to the same conclusions. Which is the beauty of all of us being different. Gentleness and patience with each other goes a long way!

    • rys

      I’m probably one of the people to whom you’re referring, and (at least in my case), my comment was about reflecting on how this post made me feel and what it made me think about — which is why I like reading thoughtful commentary and opinion. It’s not about coming to the same conclusion, but noting when ideas prickle my brain, and opening a conversation about that. I’m a believer that good writing makes people think, and responding (whether in agreement, disagreement, or something in the middle) is a way of indicating that.

      • Hello rys,
        My comment wasn’t directed to any one person. I was just noticing a general pattern that seems to be happening lately on APW. I didn’t write this statement in order to make any person explain their comment. The beauty of APW is that everyone gets to write and respond in whatever way that works best for them (as long as they’re not attacking others). I was just offering up the reminder that posts on APW (or anywhere for that matter) are not about us as individuals, they are about the person who wrote them.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Karen. Thanks.

      • Thank you. Many years ago I read the book “The Four Agreements” by Don Miguel Ruiz. One of the agreements is to not take anything personally, which is incredibly hard to do. The basic understanding is that “it’s not about you.” Whatever anyone says or does to you is really about them, not you. I just wanted to offer a reminder that the author’s article was about her experiences and did not reflect in any way on other people, especially total strangers on APW. One of the things I’ve learned to do in life is, instead of verbalizing my immediate reaction, to stop and think, “Huh. I wonder why I’m feeling this way? I wonder what this is pushing up for me?” It leads to a more productive conversation than being reactive. Again, my fellow commenters, this is not directed at any individuals.

        • I try to do this, too, since I don’t have the greatest track record in terms of taking things personally. Or, if I can’t be introspective (sometimes you just can’t!) I try and remove myself entirely from the situation–if this person was talking about a different person/group/whatever, what would my reaction be? Would I still be trying to thwart this person’s statement or argument?

        • MC

          I haven’t even read the book, but I heard about that particular agreement a few years ago and it has really stuck with me. Another one I think of often is “Assume good intentions.” I’ve used that as a ground rule a lot in trainings, facilitated discussions, etc. and it definitely applies to online interactions, ESPECIALLY since there aren’t any body language or tone cues to go off of.

  • Winny the Elephant

    To me this really goes back to how I see getting married period. To me the difference between being married and being long term monogamous or common law is that the community recognizes you as a family unit. People often don’t treat common law couples as families until they have kids. For us it really came down to that. If we were going to elope then there was no difference between being common law and being married. We had committed to each other a long time ago, the only thing that a wedding changes is that now the community will recognize us as our own family unit. And if we wanted our community to view us as a family, then we were going to do it in front of them.

  • Emily

    I have been to 11 weddings this year and am planning my own (apparently wedding fever spread rapidly within my friend/fam group). Some were fun parties with very little tradition and a lot of DIY sepia toned photos, one was an Eastern Orthodox 4 hour mass…the rest were in the middle. Anyway, no matter how traditional or secular the wedding or how hipster the attendants are, none have been just “dumb parties” that anyone could do. If someone brings this kind of negativity to your event, quickly cross them off the invite list, No Party for Them!

  • Winny the Elephant

    I think this piece also says something interesting about the difference between the modern middle class and the modern working class. Modern middle classers view marriage, particularly marriage between two young people, almost as more of a working class phenomenon- a frivolous obsession with something that isn’t likely to last in the face of a high divorce rate- and they often mock excitement over a wedding because of this.

    In reality, as the author mentioned, the working class aren’t as likely to get married, particularly before having any children. It SO deserves to be celebrated but instead its mocked by ‘hipsters’ (who, in my experience, are almost all from the middle class).

    Not sure how well I phrased all of that, hope someone understands what I’m trying to say.

    • Meg Keene


      I understand what you’re saying. This really reflects my experience.

    • Alyssa M

      So incredibly true. I tried explaining this to my mother the other day but couldn’t explain it nearly as clearly as you did.

  • Liz

    I had this EXACT same experience, but could never put into words why my feelings changed as eloquently as you have. When I told my mom we were engaged she started crying and said “Oh this is so wonderful, the family really needs something fun right now.” And that’s when I knew there was no way we could elope and in the end I was so glad we didn’t.

  • Granola

    I don’t think I appreciated the depth of the ritual around a wedding until ours, and now I’m way more understanding and supportive of those who choose to do it. It’s made me more conscious of and present at my friends’ weddings as well. I feel so honored and grateful to get to be a part of such a life event – I understand now why people use the phrase “I want to dance at your wedding” to refer to important people and the depth of feeling you have for them.

    Sometimes I don’t like to mention this because I think it sounds lame or people will judge me for it. But at my best friend’s wedding I danced so hard I was sore the next day. Looking back I remember it as a powerful experience – a kind of primal attempt to call down all the goodness and love I could muster toward him and his new wife.

  • Gina

    “But for my family this wedding means something.”

    Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing your pain and your joy. It was a wonderful reminder how big of a celebration weddings are, and how fortunate we are to have them.

  • mackenzie

    three cheers for MemChu! Love that place!

  • ART

    I want to like this piece – I like what I think it’s getting at – but as written it seems to have a put-down for someone else and their choices at every turn (and I don’t mean the jerk that would mock someone’s decision to get married – they deserve it).

  • Samantha

    I can’t seem to find the words today, but I must say I second the impact of this essay for those of us who grew up economically disadvantaged. I chose to have a wedding because I wanted my family to be able to experience the celebration and joy that comes from having a wedding after all the hardships we have faced.

  • Erin E

    Although I’m not interested in defending the “weddings are dumb” attitude, I am interested in exploring WHY that trend exists. The fact that the attitude is coming out of a middle/upper-middle class part of society could partially be a statement on the excessiveness of weddings within that class. Perhaps the hipster attitude is saying “current wedding culture is too much, it’s superfluous”… which is a point I agree with, although I don’t often agree with the way it’s currently articulated.

    I do think it’s interesting that this author seems to view a wedding as something to value because it’s a statement of success – particularly for a class higher than her own.

    Really thought-provoking piece!

    • KC

      The sort-of-anarchist response to the WIC, maybe? “Weddings have gone overboard; burn them all down” instead of “try hard to fix things and keep what’s good and prune off the rest”.

      (I am not an anarchist; I like my community, grocery stores, hospitals, road networks, etc. So apologies to any anarchists if I’m misrepresenting the viewpoint. But the extreme response is the “natural” human response from, like, age 2 – my graham cracker has a broken corner so I will yell and throw it on the floor! – and I’ve done/experienced that backlash on small scales to things I don’t like, too. So it sort of makes sense to me that some people might respond in an “it’s all wrong; burn it down” way to the apparently-ever-increasing accretions onto wedding culture?)

    • I think it’s important to discuss who can comfortably say that weddings are dumb and “get away with it” (for lack of a better term) and why that might be. Weddings are in many ways a status symbol and for people who aren’t advantaged or privileged, we need all those cultural signifiers we can get. So if I’m worried about being perceived as poor and less than at work, and then I tell everyone I’m not having a wedding because weddings are too expensive, that’s going to reinforce the idea that I’m not one of them. But if I am confident in my social standing. I can more comfortably say, “I don’t need that” and know that I still have my nice car and other symbols of my status and the fact that I’m “one of them.” I think if you are clearly living comfortably, it’s a hell of a lot easier to reject the things that further demonstrate your status. And I think that in order to stand out, a lot of middle and upper class people DO shun what’s popular or expensive…but they do it with the knowledge that it won’t REALLY hurt their social status, if that makes sense. I was actually working on a blog post about this with regards to women and their hair today…like, I feel like I cannot just go “boho” and be a free spirit and wear my hair in a “messy” style that white girls can because because I have to worry that I’ll be perceived as sloppy.

      This kind of came up recently on a discussion about the black teens who have been accused of shoplifting from Barneys. A lot of internet commenters were like “Why would you buy that expensive of a belt anyway? Designer stuff is stupid, labels are stupid, etc.” But when the color of your skin causes people to assume you are poor and less-than, designer labels are actually really important and can often help you feel like you’ve “made it.” And they can signal to your peers or bosses or whoever that you are on their level and therefore worthy.

      • Great explanation, Rachel. Your first paragraph instantly reminded me of this APW piece from last year:

      • Violet

        So much this! Anthropologist Kate Fox explains a similar phenomenon in her book “Watching
        the English.” I won’t be able to describe it properly here, but she observed time and time again, for a host of things, how the two social classes that were most (superficially) similar were the lower and upper classes. The lower because they couldn’t afford something, the upper because they could afford not to care. She observed that the lower-middles, middles, and upper-middles exhibit (on average!) the most class-stress-awareness. Anyway, I don’t do her argument justice, but you might want to check it out for further research!

      • Jessica LK

        I completely agree. I was born into a rural, working class family and was propelled into a decidedly upper class situation in high school/college. I remember distinctly when I was younger longing for things/status symbols my peers had because I felt they would shield me from appearing “too poor.” Now, I’m surrounded by a mostly middle/upper class group of people and the response to weddings has been either about maintaining image amongst their peers or, more often they say they “don’t need it.” And it’s so true, they’re privileged enough to be able to to just dismiss it entirely-no one judges them for it. And in my circle of friends, it is certainly popular to hate on anything wedding related. A lot due, I believe, to the fact that most of them could easily afford it if they wanted. It’s been strange for me, having experienced both sides of the spectrum, I still don’t know exactly where I fit into it all.

      • ART

        Thanks Rachel, this is a really clear, meaningful explanation, as others have said.

      • Erin E

        Super, super interesting discussion!

        I hear what Rachel and Jessica are saying… it’s easier to reject status symbols when your own privledge shields you from any real social repercussions from that rejection. I have no doubt that that is absolutely true. But that line of thought also assumes that everyone is
        secretly (and perhaps even subconsciously) always working to protect or
        advance their social status. Do you think that’s really true of everyone? That thought makes me sad.

        • Winny the Elephant

          If you aren’t smacked in the face with your social status on a regular basis, then chances are yours is high enough that it doesn’t matter.

          • KC

            I agree to some degree, but some people are also more aware of certain social cues or statements or… whatever… than others. And some start oblivious, then become aware of it, and *then* realize that it’s everywhere (or that their experience of what is “normal” is totally different from how someone of a different race/gender/class is treated in the same environments).

            So even for someone who is being discriminated against, there’s potentially a range of subjective awareness of that experience, especially in certain cultural landscapes.

      • Winny the Elephant

        I think you hit the nail on the head Rachel.

        I have a much wider range of choices open to me. I can brag about spending only $2 on this shirt from Old Navy, I can take public transit, I can shun WIC wedding stuff because I am 100% confident that no one will assume I am doing these things because I’m broke. White girls can use mason jars and wooden utensils at their wedding and people will consider it charming.

        Employers always take me seriously, salespeople assume that I’m browsing not stealing, everyone assumes I’m telling the truth. All because I’m white, I speak well and I’m upper middle class. Oh how the world would look differently if these things weren’t true…

      • Ashlee

        This is great, Rachel. The whole idea of how being able to reject a tradition/trend/expectation is actually a privilege in itself is so important, and universal. You’ve articulated it really well here, and in a way that makes me understand it even more beyond my own experiences.

        There are so many places where these creeps up, and in so many aspects of wedding planning alone, that I just tried to start writing out an example like ten different times, each time stopping because I wanted to use something different, so I think I’m just going to repeat that it’s super universal. And mention that the Disqus thing of noting when someone is writing a reply is super creepy…I feel like I owe some mysterious person who was watching that notification a lot more words than this.

    • Cathi

      I’ve tended to read “weddings are dumb” (often coupled with “marriage is dumb”) as backlash against the notion that in order for a relationship to be taken seriously, a marriage has to exist and a big wedding celebration has to happen.

      The current narrative seems to be Real Relationship = Committed = Married = Wedding = Money Invested Into Wedding = Not Too Much Money Because That’s Irresponsible. So being uncomfortable with any part of that narrative almost necessitates rejecting the entire thread. People who are deeply committed to each other are wounded by the assumption they aren’t “serious” since they’re not married, and sometimes react by tossing out the “marriage is just a piece of paper!” People who can’t get married and find that piece of paper VERY important sometimes react by tossing the party under the bus. People who didn’t have/want a big production are wounded by the assumption that they aren’t serious about the marriage since they didn’t have an expensive to-do, and sometimes react in the “hipster” way of claiming moral superiority by bucking the mainstream. People who spent a lot of money on their weddings feel wounded by the assumption that they were compensating for a lack of depth/aren’t good at being adults and making good financial decisions, and sometimes react to the people making that claim by calling them mean names (like “hipster” with a sneer).

      And so on. At least, that’s been my take of the whole phenomonon.

      • Humans are difficult! For some reason we think that if the way someone else is doing something is different than how we would do it, then they must be “wrong.” I wish we could get to the place (me included) of saying, “Although that choice isn’t one I would make, I’m glad it works for her/them.” It’s really not that complicated!

    • Alana

      There can also be those who reject things they can’t have (for whatever reason) as a defense mechanism. I grew up poor, and was constantly faced with others having things that my family couldn’t ever dream of affording. As a result I turned to rejecting anything I knew I wouldn’t be able to ever have, as a defense mechanism and a way of insulating me from how much it actually bothered me.

  • alexandra

    Oh yes. All part of the massive societal contradiction that has been evolving over the past few decades about what marriage means and what it is for. (“Marriage doesn’t matter, it’s only a piece of paper and other forms of commitment mean just as much” vs. “No, marriage is so important that everyone should have access to it, regardless of sexual orientation” vs. “Whatever, marriage is a crapshoot since so many of them end in divorce, therefore we don’t take it very seriously”) This confusion bleeds into contemporary attitudes about weddings, the function and purpose of which was at one time much more unified, simple, and straightforward.

    Our cultural zeitgeist is so mutl-faceted at this point in regards to marriage/weddings, that it is normal to have huge variety in individuals within one’s own social circle as to what the meaning of both/either ought to be. It helps if you yourself have a clear idea of your philosophy about both before you get started, so that you can adhere to it throughout the process. Many people will have strong opinions about it, and it’s good to know where you stand so that you don’t become discouraged. Is your wedding a spiritual occasion, uniting families and community? Or is it a representation of your love as a couple, for others to marvel at? Is it an excuse to throw a party? Or is it a reason not to throw one, because you feel it is so personal?

    In today’s “anything goes” climate, you have to define your own terms for yourself, I suppose. A wedding CAN be meaningful and a service to your family and community, or it CAN be “just a party”. Personally, I have my own prejudices and opinions about what a wedding should be, and what it should not be. And I can be quite judgmental on the subject. I have been to one or two of what I thought were terribly vulgar weddings, because the couple in question clearly had very different ideas from mine about what weddings/marriage is for. It certainly does keep life interesting! I’m sure some of my guests had some skepticism about my own wedding–what else can we do if not to make sport of our neighbors and be made fun of by them in our time?

  • Kelsey

    “After all I’ve been through, people still get married and still find love and a home. This is beautiful. To deny my community this celebration would be disrespectful to a degree that would probably be an unforgivable trespass. So I guess what I am saying, is that once I understood that this wasn’t about me at all, it seemed to be the only appropriate choice.”

    You are so on point. Thank you for this perspective, and I wish the very best for you and your family, both human and cat! :)

  • Alyssa M

    Man, to count the ways I love this piece! I love hearing from a different perspective than normal (I’ve been trying to write something about the lack of weddings in my working poor community and failing). I love your mom’s attitude about your wedding and that your community immediately mobilized to help make a wedding happen. I love that you are researching wedding customs. I love that you’re embracing the wedding ritual for your community.

    I see the erosion of ritual and festival that comes from this middle class ennui all over the place and it depresses me. Not just with weddings, but with holidays, family gatherings, etc. We need to find the middle ground between our overly commercialized celebrations (WIC weddings, Walmart Christmases) and complete rejection of ritual celebrations. They’re important for ourselves and our communities.

  • beelitenotfab

    Hey everyone, author here. First I want to thank Megan and Rachel for supporting this and I also want to address some general concerns. First none of this is personal, I don’t know you so I can’t imagine how it could be. I didn’t write this for you, I wrote this for me and you are free in this country to live in accordance with you beliefs, unless you know, you’re marginalized in which we’ll police everything. But anyway, I wasn’t thinking of you when I wrote this I promise. If I say this is about class and race for me (although I’m white so I don’t know how race came into this) it is about race and class that is MY lived experience and you don’t have the right to tell me it isn’t or when I can talk about it. I don’t care if it is divisive because I feel no need to reconstruct an oppressive system and because if we can’t talk about things that might upset people I don’t know how we can get stuff done. You are well within your rights to feel differently from me and to have a different understanding of your live experienced but you don’t have the right to tell me what mine is or to appropriate it for you own purposes. If I sound snarky frustrated it is because I am because this is used to silence the voices of so many, including the children I teach who are often advised to not “make people uncomfortable” by being honest and speaking their truth because they don’t share the mainstream perspective or experience. If there is a place for you to express yourself and there are a million then it is not hurting you to make a little space for others. This is larger conversation that needs to be had, I see the impact of this kind of dialogue on my students. It doesn’t hurt me that you disagree or don’t like it, I grew up poor and went Stanford, you aren’t the first and you won’t be the last and I don’t care because this isn’t for you, this is for the others who don’t have a voice, but I do think this is reflective of a larger cultural divide and the impacts can be devastating.

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