Diving into a world of wedding excess

True Tales From Everyday Living

March 11, 2007|By Kelly Brewington | Kelly Brewington,Sun Reporter

Filene's Basement's famous wedding gown sale, complete with bargain-hungry brides fighting their way to the gown racks, epitomized my revulsion for the billion-dollar wedding industry.

Here were grown women shoving and kicking their way through Retail Hell for a dress they would wear for mere hours.

The scheme was just another byproduct of the wedding industrial complex, the web of mercantile excess and mind-numbingly trivial details that can convert even the most down-to-earth feminist into the matrimonially obsessed.

I know, because that transformation is happening to me.

Upon our engagement last spring, my fiance and I envisioned a fuss-free wedding capped by a raucous party with all our loved ones.

I had no idea what a nosegay was and rejected the notion that a wedding should have a theme -- this was a wedding, not a 5-year-old's birthday party. I'd abandon the humiliating ritual of the bouquet toss and have an offbeat, heartfelt ceremony without a single flower.

We'd focus on the marriage, not the wedding day.

Today, my bedside table, once cluttered with novels and New Yorkers, overflows with heaps of the holy trinity: InStyle Weddings, Modern Bride and -- I can't believe I'm admitting this -- Martha Stewart Weddings.

I've developed an unshakable addiction to theknot.com. The other night, I lay awake paralyzed by indecision in choosing the font for our Art Deco-style invitations. (We're going with a Roaring Twenties theme, by the way.)

And to my fiance's dismay, I ordered not one, but three, species of orchids for wedding flowers. I can't publicly disclose the cost, but when I informed my fiance, he lost it: "Orchids are the most expensive flower in the world! There's a reason there is a book called The Orchid Thief."

With five months until the big day, I'm teetering on the verge of nuptial overkill. But I can't stop.

I'm at once fascinated by wedding stuff and frustrated with myself for being mesmerized by such trifles.

My internal conflict began last summer when a friend suggested we brave the hordes at Filene's. I told her she had lost her mind. But secretly, I wanted to go.

When we arrived, the place was chaos, the gowns horrifying. The squealing entourages that accompanied nearly every bride irritated me -- one team was even decked out in matching camouflage T-shirts, for goodness sake. My pre-engaged self would have walked right out the door.

But I envied the brides who relished the experience. And I resented them each time they erupted into applause -- signaling that yet another bride had found "the one."

That night, my fiance reminded me that the planning drama was insignificant in the big picture of our union. He was right, and I couldn't wait to spend the rest of my life with him.

Then, my mind drifted. It was 9 p.m. and I had to get to the television to watch Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?

I got sucked in fast, I admit. But I justified my obsession as an exercise in old-fashioned reporting. I needed research to pull off a simple, stylish wedding without going into bankruptcy and driving myself nuts.

I searched for inspiration and kindred souls on theknot.com. Instead, I found the engine that churned the wedding propaganda machine. I was doomed.

Where else between endless ads for tooth-whitening kits and 898 wedding cake photos can one purchase seashell place-card holders and thong underwear emblazoned with the word "bride"? And more importantly, why?

I was appalled and entranced. On the message boards brides gushed over rhinestone-encrusted monogram cake toppers and $7,000 couture gowns and argued about whether brown bridesmaid dresses clashed with black tuxes.

The "knotties" even had their own lingo including the hilarious "STD" for "Save the Dates."

"MOB vs. FMIL dresses!" read one poster, desperate to know if it was OK for her mother and future mother-in-law to wear beige to her wedding.

I LOLed, but I couldn't stop reading. What was happening to me?

To be fair, the boards provided useful tips. I found an affordable officiant and got the real deal on hiring vendors.

I also learned that not every knottie is a bridezilla. There were cynics, boho brides, budget brides and even same-sex brides and grooms. But few appeared as torn as I was. Clearly, bridal brainwashing afflicted us all, but they had no misgivings about it.

I stumbled upon indie bride.com, which promised to embrace anti-brides. But they were anything but -- consumed with finding peacock feathers for their bouquets and makeup to cover their tattoos.

I begged my married friends for perspective. Their advice: get over myself and surrender to the insanity.

"It's the only time in your life where you get to go crazy and everyone just accepts it," one friend told me. "Enjoy it while it lasts."

Exactly what I wanted to hear.

kelly.brewington@baltsun.com

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