We’re in the midst of packing because we’ll be leaving for Scotland in a few hours! I want to publish this post before I go, though — it’s something I’ve been mulling over for a while…
In the past nine years, I’ve helped to plan two funerals (my parents’) and one wedding (my own). It’s been said that funerals and weddings both bring out the best and the worst in people, but I’ve just seen the best in terms of behavior and generosity.
But in planning this wedding of mine that just happened this past Saturday, Sept. 12, I couldn’t help but draw some parallels between weddings and funerals in general.
The people who want to be there will be there. Aside from last-minute snafus that prevent people from attending, if people want to attend a wedding or a funeral, they’ll find a way to attend. I was shocked and pleased when crowds upon crowds of people attended both my mom’s funeral in 2006 and my dad’s last October, and they just had three days’ notice. Granted, most were local people or drove a max of three hours to get there, but still, it was amazing to see how many people devoted a Saturday or took a PTO day just to pay their respects.
So in planning my wedding, I applied that reasoning and didn’t bother sending save-the-date cards. It seemed to me to be an unnecessary step (I’m lazy) as well as an unnecessary expense. Mike and I did send our invitations a bit earlier than most people do, three months in advance, and it was a small wedding, but the vast majority of people who we invited ended up attending. Some even flew in from halfway across the country! (The fact that we held it at an amazing place also probably helped, admittedly.)
It’s an emotional time and it’s easy to make unwise decisions that will end up costing you. After my mom died, it was really important for my dad to get the headstone in place as soon as possible. He was distraught and under a lot of stress when he made a hasty choice and went with a memorial company, Cartledge Memorials in New Britain, PA without doing any research or comparisons. He paid in full immediately, and we found out later they charged him thousands more than they should have. Not only that, it wasn’t installed by the date promised and then when we tried to find out what was going on, they wouldn’t take my family’s calls anymore. It was so egregious and disgusting that my sister filed complaints with the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office and the Better Business Bureau. Finally, we contacted a consumer reporter with a local TV station who did an investigation and made Cartledge Memorials look like the lousy crooks that they are. My dad and sister were interviewed at the cemetery and she did an ambush of Cartledge. Finally, the headstone was installed and part of my dad’s money was refunded.
Similarly, when planning a wedding, many couples get swept up in the Wedding Industrial Complex. It’s a shadowy scourge that comes in the form of TV shows, websites, blogs, magazines and the influence of those around you that heighten emotions and could result in a lot of unnecessary spending and regrettable decision-making. It convinces couples that they need meaningless and expensive stuff like $125 wedding cake toppers custom-made to resemble the bride and groom. Or that their day will not be special unless the bride wears a wedding gown that costs about the same as a used car. I’m proud of the fact that my dress cost about as much as one of our weekend bar tabs. (It was not marketed as a wedding gown.) It’s alarming how pervasive this is — anything even vaguely wedding or bride-like comes with a jacked-up price and it’s so easy to get ripped off left and right. Mike and I spent our money on a kickass venue, great food, and an amazing photographer and tried to throw a fun party for our family and friends with as little planning as possible because I really couldn’t have been bothered to do too much, and we were ruthless with budgeting. But I can completely understand how strong the influence of the WIC can be and how wedding planning can produce a sort of echo chamber, particularly when you read message boards and absorb what other people are doing. It’s alarming how quickly expenses can add up when planning a wedding, and there are always hidden costs (hello, tipping!)
The flowers. O, the flowers. When someone dies, there are flowers. Flowers at the funeral home, lots of them. Flowers that people send to your home. I was a crime reporter for many years and I was always struck by how people would place flowers at the spot where people were hit and killed by a vehicles. And on numerous occasions I went to the home of a crime victim’s family to interview them and was offered flowers to bring home because they received so many. So I really do associate flowers — not the ones in the ground, but arranged flowers — with tragedy and death.
Weddings and flowers go hand in hand. But the thought of carrying flowers at my own wedding made me want to gag a little. Mind you, I was in a dear friend’s wedding last week and carried a gorgeous bouquet and was happy to do so. But I wouldn’t have been able to bring myself to have flowers at my own wedding. I did wear a few flowers in my hair, but when Mike and I walked down the aisle, I carried a small pouch folded up in my hand that Mike’s mom made for us using fabric from her mother’s wedding dress. Admittedly, it was easy to get away with not having flowers because the venue was the opposite of a blank slate — there’s so much to look at in there that it was sort of overwhelming. But my point is, it’s hard to separate joyful flowers from tragic ones in my mind.
Tell me what you think — I’d love to hear it!