Jun 13, 2017

Weddings, Consumerism, and Greedy-Azz B's

It's supposed to be book day but let's face it - I am not making reading a priority right now and it's depressing (to me - doesn't reflect on anyone else!) when I only have a book or two to talk about it.  This month's were Better Than Before and Power of Habit and I have already discussed them to death, so instead I'm going to put my ranty panties on and tell you how I feel about consumerism.  Exciting, I know.

The older I get, the more jaded I feel about our consumerist society and marketing in general.  As you can imagine, this makes me feel more and more conflicted about my own field of work because graphic design is really just a supporting area for sales and marketing.

But I like to be creative and solving the logic problem that is website design is just about my favorite thing, so I'm going to hold off the career existential crisis as long as possible.  However, this anti-consumerism mindset is starting to affect me in other ways.

I hate gifts.  In particular gifts for expected events like house warmings and weddings and such.  LOATHE them in fact.  Every celebration I host for some major life event I try to wiggle my way out of receiving gifts.  I've tried naming the party something less obvious ("last box unpacked party"), gently stating it, "Your presence is gift enough," and blandly saying, "No gifts." (Although Ryan made me change it to "no gifts requested" because he thought "NO GIFTS" was rude.)

At the risk of sounding like an ungrateful brat, let me explain my feelings on them.
  • I don't need them - I'm a grown up and buy what I want
  • If you don't know me well, you're probably not going to get something I actually want so why waste the money?
  • My love language is acts of service and quality time - if you don't spend time with me occasionally, any gift you give is going to feel fake because you're throwing money at me instead of, you know, actually doing stuff with me
  • On a similar note, that's kind of what my dad does, which definitely increases my hang up whenever someone tries to "solve" my problems by giving me money (sisters excluded because they are the best humans in the world and I know they'll never hold it over my head)
  • You're not respecting my wishes when I say, "Please don't bring a gift" and you show up with one anyway
  • Now I have to write a thank you card for this... oil warmer?  Lamp?  I dunno, it's weird and taupe and it's already in the Goodwill pile.
(Side note: I don't mind gifts when it's spontaneous or, "This made me think of you."  A few bloggers have given me stuff for the baby and it was all amazing nerdy-themed things and I was blown away by how well you all know me.  So a heartfelt thanks to all of you!  Plus when you have your first baby you have literally none of the things you need, which is why it's my one exception to the "I hate gift parties" mentality.)

Despite my repeated failures at having celebrations without gifts from my guests, I keep trying.  Before Ryan and I decided to elope, I was already planning on saying "NO GIFTS."  I also wanted to break with the tradition of parents paying for the wedding and having 3 different "gimme presents" type parties.  No bridal shower, no engagement party, and no gifts at the wedding.  (As you may recall I had a "bachelorette" party which was a weekend away with my sisters in which we ran a half marathon, ate sushi, and then drank mudslides out of penis straws while watching Magic Mike.  Oo la la!)

Because we're ADULTS and we'd been living together (for 2 years at that point) and we'd already furnished our living space.  The whole point of gifts used to be to help a young couple transition out of their parent's home, and to help recoup the cost of the wedding.  We weren't going to do anything we couldn't afford in the first place and we're not young and just starting out.  So let's all give our wallets a break and just enjoy each other's company instead of running out to buy luxury towels and candles and kitchen gadgets we'll never use.

Even though it wasn't my original plan, in hindsight I'm nothing but glad of the way we handled our wedding.  "Eloping" meant that it was small and stress-free and I could have everything my own way.  It meant we spent a grand total of $5,000 and that paid for lodging, catering, tiki torches, and our "honeymoon" which was basically the rest of the week in the rental house everyone stayed in.  My dress came from Modcloth.com and cost under $200.

I loved every minute of it, and even though I enjoy daydreaming about the grandiose things I could have done (Uhhh steampunk...), I have no regrets and I'm glad I don't have to be a hypocrite about my hatred of consumerism in general and the wedding industry in particular.

I'm in a bridal party right now and I feel like my eye twitch (ironically this appeared around the time I was planning my elopement and helping Sister2 plan her real wedding) is going to go from an occasional flutter to a full on nervous tic by the end.  Honestly, it's driving me up the wall and making me wish there was a good way to say no to being a bridesmaid without insulting a good friend.

I'll start off by saying I do like this friend in normal everyday life, but... she has no sense of logic or rationality about her wedding.  She's doing all the things and big.  We're having all the parties - bridal shower, bachelorette, and wedding (obviously).  There's a registry (for what I'm not sure since a couple who has lived together for 9 years probably has all they need...).

We started the process of with the whole, "I just want you guys [the bridesmaids] to be happy with what we pick" and then less than halfway through the dress shopping process I realized our opinions do not matter in the least.  That's fine - I'll buy the $200 dress (thank god we ended up in one that's not backless or strapless), and get my hair done however you want (I'm shit at doing hair anyway).  It's your special day and I agreed to play along.

I'll be there for emotional support, I'll design your invites, help you craft your center pieces, whatever you need!  I'll push the limits on having Ryan watch the baby and I'll bite my tongue whenever part of your wedding process seems distasteful to me.

But I'm gonna draw the line at making permanent alterations to my body.  Bridesmaid tattoos is just not something I can wrap my head around.  I'm also not basing my family planning on someone else's life event - my next baby is going to happen when it's the best timing for me and Ryan, not anyone else.  And I'm not buying any presents - the expense of being in a bridal party is high enough without having to buy into the gifting insanity that is weddings.

Does that sound overly stodgy?

I didn't think so, but maybe I'm further than I realized into cranky old lady land.  And with one bridesmaid refusing to compromise on hair styles and the other happily agreeing to have a tattoo parlor bachelorette party, I have no sense of normalcy anymore.

I actually had an ex-friend who did the exact opposite.  She managed to build a wedding for $5,000 and while it wasn't the nicest wedding, it made her happy, didn't put anyone into debt, AND she helped pay for bridesmaid dresses, which is totally breaking with tradition.  While I disagree with her on a lot of other things, I had the utmost respect for the way she handled her wedding.

Overall, I think I agree with Jenna Marbles when she says that a lot of people (especially women) put more value into the wedding than the marriage.  It's a year of planning and, on average, $27,000 for ONE DAY.  It's just a party.  Yes, you're making a very special commitment, but the point should be what's coming after that day, not how fancy your napkins were or whether your dress had the Italian or the French lace.

It's so easy to get lost in minutiae, and I can't get too judgy because I was all ready to dive in the moment Ryan and I got engaged.  But I do wish more of us stepped back to think about priorities or, like I did, listened to their partner's wishes and scaled down if they weren't on board with the grandiose-ness of it all.  I know plenty of guys who wish their partners had been/were willing to elope and it's a little bizarre to me that this "special day" that's supposed to celebrate the commitment 2 people are making, ends up being the bride's day and the groom's wishes don't matter.

On a similar note, what's up with surprise proposals, and engagement rings as Christmas or birthday gifts?!?!?!  Committing to someone is NOT a gift - it's a decision to be made jointly.  I mean, I guess some people like it but I was much happier when I knew what Ryan's intentions were even though that made his proposal less of a "surprise."

Anyway, the quick summary is I hate consumerism, I hate being obligated to buy people gifts, and I have great difficulty empathizing with people who see their friends and family as a way to make profit (also see MLMs).  I also like being in control of everything and am really bad about being open-minded when people choose to do things differently than I would have.

How do you feel about weddings and "gift parties"?  What traditions would you keep or do away with?

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  1. OK well first of all, literally 100% same to your whole bulleted list, including the dad part. My biggest gripe lately is that I just moved, and in that moving process, I was actually disgusted with how much I ended up throwing out/donating. The very last thing I need is more stuff, and that people who I explicitly say this to think they "know better" is really insulting. I'm an adult, I know if I have room for more objects, and whether or not I want them, and I'm telling you I don't. You giving me something I didn't want anyway is not helpful, it is not kind, it is rude. My mom doesn't get that me asking her not to buy gifts for birthdays and stuff is not a personal attack on her. It's getting to the point where I'm just going to have to be nasty about it with some people, because "no thank you" and "I am an effing adult who gets to choose what she makes room for in her life and home" doesn't seem to cut it.

    Also, bridesmaiding is gift enough, IMO. It's expensive as hell, and that's all that needs to be said. This tattoo thing is blowing my mind. I agree with you and Jenna and have known for years that a traditional wedding was not in the cards for me. I've already been yelled at about that by family too—when I was single, no less—so that will be fun to figure out.

    Oh man, AND couldn't agree more about proposals. An engagement should never be a surprise, but the actual proposal, sure, could be, if you're both into that sort of thing. But it's not a gift to trot out around the holidays in front of family and friends. It's a decision and a repeated action.

    And literally LOL at your last graf, because same.

  2. I have NO PROBLEM buying people gifts, because I like buying gifts and receiving gifts. What I hate is the "well I am obligated so I'm just going to buy some random thing." A close friend literally said "I would have gotten you a better baby shower gift, but I had to pay to throw the shower so..." I didn't feel like that was a good friend moment. Do it because you love me/my family and want to celebrate it, or don't do it. To do it and then hold it over my head is the worst. Also, this is why I LOVE registries. I want to HELP YOU, not give you more crap you don't need. Let's all be honest & loving & PRACTICAL.

    But totally agree on the weddings. Ours was super small, and I still wish we had eloped. I know ONE person who actually enjoyed their huge wedding (they are super extroverts and family oriented and love parties in general). But the other 99% of couples, one or both agree that eloping is more appealing in hindsight. I also think that "brides control everything" is a catch-22. We have a good friend who said he grew up thinking this, so he genuinely thought he was being super nice by telling his then-fiance/now-wife "Oh whatever, I don't care!" But like me, she took this as "Well it's your responsibility to do everything" and was super stressed. So I don't know how much is individual preference and how much is feeling pressured to be that way.

    Also, whatever bridesmaid thing is going on a tattoo parlor. Hell to the no. That is a recipe for disaster.

  3. Gifting is one of the most stressful things for me too, and can make holidays so stressful. Personal gifts, or like you said gifting something because it made someone think of you is totally different than gifting out of obligation. Bridesmaids tattoos?? I literally laughed out loud, because that cannot be serious!


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