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September 21st, 2008

Pure Sex, Pure Love

Some Tips on Avoiding the Wedding Bell Blues

 
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I remember receiving that first oversized calligraphied envelope. I was 22 and giddy with excitement as I opened the multiple envelopes, sifted through the tissue paper and found an impressively engraved invitation. I felt honored to be among the chosen to receive this elaborate missive: One of my oldest friends was getting married to her college sweetheart and I was thrilled.

That was nearly 10 years ago—and the bloom has worn off this wedding rose.

I’m going to speak the unspeakable: I need a break from weddings.

This year, my husband and I received 12 wedding invitations. The year before that, there were nine, including our own. The year before that, eight. I’m happy that each couple has found love and (hopefully) a lifelong mate. I’m honored to be among the friends invited to celebrate with them. I only wish I could spread out these beautiful events over a longer period of time.

Exhausted and somewhat cranky about having three weddings in a row in the month of September, I complained to my mother-in-law. “In my generation, we never flew to someone’s wedding,” she told me. If you could get there by driving a reasonable distance, you attended, otherwise, you sent your regrets. “You kids seem to think you have to move mountains to get to each other’s weddings. It’s a lovely sentiment, but I don’t know how you do it.”

Later marriage among college-educated men and women means that weddings now cluster in our late 20s and early 30s, by which time we’re working hard to jump-start our careers, often don’t have a lot of money and have friends scattered all over the globe.

“I drove 10 hours round-trip last weekend, I’ll drive 16 hours round-trip this weekend, and then a few weeks after that I have it relatively easy: it’s only a four hour drive each way to that wedding. I feel terrible for complaining, but it’s exhausting,” said my friend Lindsay, 26, over dinner last week.

Each individual event is wonderful. So much planning and effort goes into making these parties happen. But as she and I rushed through our meal to go home to pack for yet another away-game weekend, Lindsay said: “If I could go to one of these weddings every six months over a period of five or 10 years, each event would be so much more anticipated and I’d have so much more fun.

Lindsay isn’t alone. I’ve heard this complaint—whispered furtively in bathroom lines at wedding receptions, uttered apologetically on Monday mornings at the office as folks head for a third cup of coffee to overcome exhaustion—from dozens of friends.

“I’m going to speak the unspeakable: I need a break from weddings.”

As wedding guests, we’re supposed to smile and be supportive. It’s crass to talk about how difficult it is to travel, how expensive it is to pay for flights, hotel rooms and gifts, and that sense of obligation that we all feel when the fat envelope lands in your mailbox. But many of you have had twinges of these less-than-friendly feelings, so here’s a quick guide to combating the wedding blues.

TRAVEL
For every one hour spent at the wedding and reception, I spend two hours traveling to get there.

My husband and I live in Iowa City, so to attend each wedding requires at least two flights: I took a total of 11 wedding-related flights this month to California, New Jersey and Washington, DC. Last September was the same drill with 10 wedding-related flights to New York City, Chicago and then San Francisco, back to back to back each weekend.

To make it to a rehearsal dinner on Friday evening means taking a day off from work (unless you live a short drive from the wedding venue). To get back in time for work on Monday, means leaving early on Sunday.

So what to do? Make it a mini-vacation and meet up with friends in the area, advise experts at The WeddingChannel.com. “It’s a matter of mindset. Instead of asking, ‘How am I going to do this?’ say, ‘I’m going to have fun.’ Then get started.”

COST
When we did our household budget this summer, we realized that travel and gifts associated with our friends wedding was our single largest discretionary expense. My husband and I will only attend four of this year’s 11 weddings together; it’d just too expensive for us both to go to each event. We also sent regrets to at least two events because the plane tickets were just too steep.

This isn’t an uncommon situation for couples in the U.S. and abroad. Adding up plane tickets, hotel rooms, meals and transportation and, of course, the wedding gift, some of these weekends cost nearly $2000.

Try to stay with friends, share rooms, take public transportation and save where you can, but let’s be honest: It costs a lot to go to a wedding.

OBLIGATION
A wedding invitation engraved, embossed or handwritten but the subtext of all of them is the same: You’re on the hook for a gift at the very least, and probably a whole lot more.

As Catholics, there are real religious obligations associated with attending a friend or loved one’s wedding and we want to support them in the sacrament of their union. However, the American Wedding Industrial Complex has us on the hook for gifts, rehearsal dinners, brunches, hours of dancing and the responsibility for making this day “perfect” for our friends, too. The religious element of the ceremony often gets lost amid the candied almonds and bathroom baskets. Of course, as a wedding guest, you’re obliged to smile and have fun, too.

What to do? Take a moment during the ceremony to stop and remember what an important day this is for the couple taking their vows. Say a quick prayer for their love to grow in the future. And then get out there on the dance floor and boogie your heart out (even if you danced to the same song, wearing the same dress, last weekend).

Before you call me a hypocrite—my husband and I got married in a big wedding just last year that demanded travel, hotel rooms and obligations from all our guests—let me be clear:
Weddings are important spiritual, cultural and social milestones in our lives. I think it’s wonderful that so many of us make such an effort to celebrate. But we as guests and as young-adults considering marriage need to recognize the costs associated with these events.

HOSTING
If you are hosting a wedding, be sensitive to the time and money constraints of your friends and family: Take some extra time to find the best rates on local hotels for your guests. Can you get a flight discount? American Airlines offers 10% off for wedding group travel. if the bride or groom requests it in advance.

If there’s a rehearsal dinner on Friday and a brunch on Sunday, tell friends which you’d like them to attend and be understanding if they can’t make these extra events. There were many friends of mine who I love dearly who couldn’t make it out for my wedding—and I wasn’t hurt in the slightest. Allow your friends some leeway so they don’t feel obligated to come at any cost.

If you are attending several weddings this autumn, remember that this is the couple’s special day and once-in-a-lifetime celebration, but don’t compromise your budget in the process. The WeddingChannel offers tips here.

So what have I been doing this wedding season? I find that energy reserve deep inside of me and get out there on the dance floor. I’ve been trying to get some extra sleep during the week or sleep on the plane so I can be perky and fun at the wedding events. And, if I really can’t juggle it all, I send an extra-special gift (no plane tickets and hotel rooms means that I can afford to be more generous) with sincere regrets.

Have wedding stories to share? Post a comment below or email me at puresex@bustedhalo.com

 
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The Author : Christine B. Whelan
Dr. Christine B. Whelan is an author, professor and speaker. She and her husband, Peter, and their dictator cats, Chairman Meow and Evita Purron, live in Pittsburgh. Her book "Why Smart Men Marry Smart Women" is available in stores or at the Halo Store.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Therese

    I get frustrated with “destination weddings” for the reasons that a) they cost the guests a lot more time and money, b) they seem rather self-centered. Not everyone has unlimited vacation time to blow on someone else’s agenda. So I appreciate the reminder here to be considerate and make a wedding easier on guests. Absolutely.

    But I never complain about lots of weddings for GenXers. Every single time I hear of one, I say, “praise God! One more couple to help loosen the logjam for the rest of us.” GenXers have so many obstacles against marrying well and forever, that I have to consider each good match a sign of God’s coming blessing for the rest of us who are still waiting. Bring it on!

  • Jarrad

    My wife’s friend (in Baltimore) was invited to her friend’s wedding in HAWAII! Needless to say, she had to decline due to the time restraint and the cost of the ticket (which was over $1,000 for her, not to mention doubling the fee to bring her husband along.)

  • Jocelyn

    I understand your frustration Christine but perhaps it has more to do with the fact that you live in Iowa and everyone else live on the coasts. I’ve been to Iowa City and to quote Kramer:

    “I spent a month there one night.”

  • Dennis

    We attended my daughter’s wedding last weekend in Colorado – it was a small affair – with a lot of thought to the people attending and the reality of a lifelong commitment – it honored the guests attending and was a joy – everything was simple and very tasteful. My daughter and son-in-law taught me a lot about the true meaning of their union.

  • ronald

    I agree, that if it is a financial burden to attend a wedding then it is better to say we will be unable to attend. You could still buy a gift, even if you dont go to the event. Or offer up a prayer for their new family. At one point I was really hurting financially, and my best friend from high school was getting married. After I told him, he bought me a plane ticket to new jersey, and I was able to share that special day with him and his family. God will make a way even if you don’t believe you can afford to attend. It was my first trip to new york and new jersey and I really loved seeing him with his wife. It had been years since we were together, since I am in california, and he works in manhattan now.

  • Lindsay

    Fantastic! Someone needed to say this. I think we (the guests and bride/groom as well) become too fixated on the food, the presents and having the ‘perfect wedding’. We need to focus more on how to make a one day celebration into a lifetime of love and commitment.

  • Boomer

    At first, I wanted to say “Oh boo-hoo, your life is so hard, you have to go and celebrate too many weddings!.” But then, I saw the very heartfelt religious message towards the end and thought you were really onto something. Thanks for the insights.

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