Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Destination Weddings

Dog Ate My Finances has a post up about how she has been invited to her second destination wedding this year, and what a hassle it is. She feels that it is unreasonable for the bride and groom to require her to pay vacation prices to attend their wedding.

These people are taking the ultimate destination wedding - they are going to be married in free-fall. Per the article, they and a "handful" of their friends will be married by Richard Garriott (side note: Would YOU want to be married by Lord British?) on a Zero Gravity Corporation flight. Cost: $5200 per person, which they are paying for themselves and their guests. "I think we will spend some of our married life simply paying off the expense, but I think that weightlessness is probably the best metaphor for love that one can experience,"the groom-to-be says.

Like Dog, I am not a big fan of destination weddings, but my take is slightly different. To me, destination weddings are the ultimate expression of the Bridezilla/Cinderella complex our culture has instilled in women. Prospective brides seem to believe that this must be the most wonderful, special day of their life. Everything must therefore be done in the most expensive manner possible, even if that mean sending yourselves or your parents hock deep into debt. Should anything fail to go as planned, then their special day, what is supposed to be the most wonderful day of their life, is ruined. As a consequence of the Bride's expectation about the importance of themselves and their day, all guests are required to make sure that everything is perfect for the bride and groom, at whatever cost or inconvenience this may entail.

This is a remnant of the time when a woman's entire function in life was to marry and have babies to carry on her husband's line. I would hope that we are a little beyond that now. I had a good time at my wedding, but I don't think that it was the epitome of my life experience; I am more than who I married.

The response I hear most often to this is something along the lines of "it's my day, and if you don't want to participate, don't come." This is true as far as it goes. But my distaste for destination weddings has very little to do with the inconvenience of the guests.

I don't go to any weddings that I do not want to attend. I agree that for business/social reasons people are sometimes obligated to go to weddings, but they have made the decision to be in the business/society where such things are obligatory. If a wedding is obligatory for those reasons, count it a work or social expense and chalk it up to the cost of doing business. If wedding attendance is not obligatory, then guests are going because they want to and therefore have no cause to whine.

My concern is actually for the couple. I have three major concerns (1) that the wedding not eclipse what you are actually celebrating; (2) that the wedding not send someone into bankruptcy; and (3) that the wedding not distract you from the fact that you are getting married.

A wedding is about more than being more posh/weird/whatever than your sister-in-law's/Princess Diana's/whoever. If you are religious, this is pretty much self-evident. If you are not, you are still gathering in front of those whose opinion you care about and announcing a solemn obligation. After the ceremony, a couple is just as married, wherever they were married and whatever they did afterward. But marrying before your friends and family is part of the joy of the occasion, and a destination wedding artificially parses your guest list. Five years on, what enjoy most about my wedding is remembering all my good friends who came.

A wedding is not worth going to bankruptcy court over. I do not understand how sensible people, people who would never consider having any other sort of huge party and charging it to their parents, feel that their parents are obliged to sacrifice so that they can have the perfect wedding. I know someone who denuded her retirement savings so that her child could have a "dream" wedding. I don't understand how anyone could let their mother put her retirement in to jeopardy for a party. I find it a lesser offense, but still quite silly, to borrow money yourself for a wedding. Take the example of the weightlessness couple above - do you think it would be any less meaningful if they saved until they could afford it? Or how about just having the wedding for the two of them and then a party after? Marriage is a difficult enough endeavor without going into it with a huge pile of debt for a huge party tacked on. Destination weddings are often sold as less expensive, but they can still be quite pricey, especially after all the little extras they try to sell you to make your day perfectly special.

A wedding means that you are married. Too often, I have seen the preparations for her "special day" overwhelm the bride's realization that she is actually going to have to be married to the flesh and blood groom. Once she has received the proposal, her entire mind is fixed on the wedding, with no thought to the day after. Sometimes this leads to quick divorce; some of my friends have held on with stubborn determination for years, making both themselves and their husbands unhappy. The common factor is that they got married, even though they were not happy in the relationship they were in before they were married. It was as though they believed an extravagant wedding would fix all the problems in their relationship. Destination weddings are sold as the opportunity to go to a fabulous location and have everything arraigned for you; the ultimate wedding fantasy.

Having a destination wedding does not make someone a bad person or mean that their marriage will not succeed. I don't understand, though, why anyone decides to artificially parse their guest list to pay extra money for someone else's conception of a what a wedding should be.


  1. I say to everyone has a right to do as they please. I've had 2 acquaintences get married recently, one local and one destination and the destination wedding was much cheaper. Sure there are those who have the cinderalla thing going, but doesn't every bride want to feel special on their day? i just don't think everyone who plans a destination wedding does so due to some kind of fairy tale moment, it's how they chose to exchange their vows.

  2. I think the previous commentor missed the point of your post when she writes "doesn't every bride want to feel special on their day?"

    First, it's not the bride's day. It's a union between TWO people, the bride and the groom. Secondly, I felt special marrying my husband at a courthouse. You don't need all the bells and whistles to feel special. You are special because you're marrying the love of your life. I've been married 4 years but with my husband for over 10, so almost 14 years total. I think I have some experience!