Monday, May 25, 2009

This post is TOTALLY UNIQUE and SO "US"

One of the refrains I hear over and over again in the wedding planning world is this one: "Your wedding should be unique. It should be a reflection of you as a couple. You should fill it with thoughtful personal touches that are totally you."

Most of the time I think this is great advice. There are so many people who will insist that you HAVE to do yellow cake with white frosting or you HAVE to wear a veil or you HAVE to send out black-and-white engraved invitations issued by "Mr. and Mrs. Bride's Father." It helps to have a balancing influence, one that encourages you to serve fruit tarts, forget the veil, and self-print colorful cards with your quirky custom wording if that's what you want.

A dessert buffet -- not the traditional wedding cake, but aren't you drooling? I am! Image from

But the dark side to the "make it unique" dictum is that sometimes, it's not liberating at all. Sometimes it's just another source of emotional pressure, one that ratchets up the difficulty of every wedding-related decision you make. You can't just go with a dress, some flowers, and a set of invitations you like. You have to LOVE everything. It all has to be "special" and "different" and "so you." And that's kind of exhausting. You know what? Sometimes it's OK to just grab something and go with it, rather than stress about how to make it "your own."

Furthermore, because brides are encouraged to get so wrapped up in the "personal details" of their weddings, any dissent from the choices they've made can be seen as a personal attack. My post on wedding dislikes was a ton of fun to write, but I have to admit I was kind of scared to publish it for fear of incurring the internet wrath of brides wearing pickup skirts and designing Tiffany blue and brown table settings. There seems to be so little tolerance for differences of taste and style in the wedding world that almost any statement of preference has to be prefaced or followed up by "this is just my personal opinion, of course not everyone does it this way, you should do whatever you want, I'm sure YOUR pickup skirt is gorgeous, etc. etc." (I'm guilty of it too!)

As A. said so eloquently last week, aesthetics are not ethics -- you are not victimizing your guests or being a horrible person if you choose white instead of ivory for the tablecloths (or if you forgo the tablecloths entirely for a picnic wedding). My own addendum to that is that someone else's aesthetics are not an attack on your aesthetics, or on you personally. After all, how can your wedding be "personal" and "unique" if you expect that everyone else would make the same choices you made?


Anonymous said...

You know I love this post!

I think the pressure we feel to make everything special and personal is no accident. It is all about the commodification of the personal--you can buy "meaning", thanks to the bridal industry. The least stressed out brides I've ever known are the ones who just went with it, had pretty conventional weddings where they didn't care too much about the details, and had a good time.

As much as I fall prey to the desire to make everything meaningful as well (I am too OCD not to), I think us "indie" brides put a lot more pressure on ourselves sometimes, and we often end up playing right into the hands of the WIC. Rebecca Mead's _One Perfect Day_ made me reflect a lot on how the obsession with personalization is yet another tool of the industry and I find myself trying to balance what is really meaningful to me without going off the WIC deep end. Easier said than done!

(PS--we are having wedding cake AND a dessert bar. My wedding politics involve as much dessert as possible!)

class-factotum said...

There is also the "Make it as easy as possible" approach that we took. Pastor Gail said, "These are the vows we use in this church. You can use Option A or Option B. Pick your readings from this list." That was enough stress for me!

We had the restaurant chef design the menu after I gave him our lactose intolerant but will eat our expensive cheese guests parameters.

I was already under enough pressure worrying about having my husband's parents stay with us for nine days. I didn't want to have to plan anything elaborate. I needed the drugs I had just to deal with their one gallon of bourbon in six days telling him not to marry me nasty selves!

LPC said...

I truly believe that if you had only a completely neutral wedding, white dress, veil, white flowers, tables, standard invitations, Jordan almonds in little net bag for favors, 3 bridesmaids all in pink, still, still, it could be a plain canvas for a wedding with meaning. Because after all you are still there and he is still there.

Abbie said...

I totally agree. We're doing things because that's what we like. I don't really care if anyone else likes it or not! It's our wedding, and it'll be the way it is because it's ours.

Bride in Exile said...

A., I think you're right that the pressure can be even more intense on "indie" brides. We want so badly to avoid buying into the WIC and have a wedding that means something to us, and most of the time that's great, but sometimes it leads us right back into the WIC's clutches. And I completely agree with your dessert-oriented wedding politics!

class-factotum, I think simple is often key when dealing with stressful family situations. Imagine if you'd been trying to hand-paint your wedding monogram on 200 favor bags while your in-laws chowed down on your cheese and drank your bourbon!

LPC, you're so right. Two of our close friends got married last year, and they're not really into the wedding stuff (but their families are, hence the formal ceremony and reception), so they went as low-maintenance as possible: self-print kits from Michael's for invites, one menu option, the basic wedding cake the venue offered, white roses for the bride's bouquet, etc. And you know what? That was the most fun I've ever had at a wedding. The excellent DJ helped, but mostly it was spending time with our friends, and watching our two totally-in-love pals.

Abbie, I think that's exactly the right way to look at it -- it's your wedding, and if someone else doesn't like your flowers or your invitations, well, they can do something different at their next big party!

anna said...

Oh what a fabulous post. I totally agree!

I must admit though I am being sucked in by the idea of being different. I can't bear the thought of over personalisation.

Personally, I think and hope, that the way we will should our individuality will be through our meaningful choices or lack of them!

And whilst I cannot abide the cookie cutter wedding, it is just so not us, I wouldn't want someone else to not have it because it is what they have dreamed of for the past 20 years.

And who's to say what a cookie cutter wedding is? Perish the thought but in 20 years time our ideas may be the norm. Oh please no! Quick we must hide our blogs now!

sera said...

I have so many issues picking the "one" of each thing that is "totally unique" and "so us." I have no idea what one thing I want to choose. Being so us? Does that mean that I can miraculously fit twice as many people in our backyard as we actually can and not invite my parents? No. of course not.
So instead, I'm in the middle of chaotic dress drama because I'm redesigning a dress to be "so me" that my man will think is hot and that is not white because that doesn't work for either of us. But to be perfectly honest, I think that our venue and food is a cop out. And I don't have a ton of friends that want to help me be girly. In fact, I don't have any friends that really want to support me in the wedding crap. and my mom is basically useless, weeping and menopausal.
If it weren't for yours and a few others blogs I would have decided to elope, which is not really what I want.
So, I will have a totally normal wedding at a wedding venue with wedding food, with handmade cheesecake bites and a navy blue dress but the "so us" part? That's just us standing up there declaring our love to one another. And then we get down and party. That's all I've got. I'm tapped.

Bride in Exile said...

Anna, that's such a great observation -- who's to say what's "cookie cutter"? Is a robot bride-and-groom cake topper "unique," or is it still cookie cutter because it's a bride-and-groom cake topper? I think the lesson is go with what you like, whether it's in every bridal magazine, or you've never seen anyone else do it, or it's the first one you looked at and you don't feel like looking at more.

Sera, I feel you on your dress -- our invitations ended up being a huge drama, partly because they meant a lot to me and I really wanted them to be cool and different and not from a mass-market site (and partly because the printer was a flake, but anyway). Ultimately, I think that once people get down and party at the reception, that's when the personalities of the bride and groom, and the personalities of their loved ones, really shine through!