True Love is Great; Wedding Excess Isn’t

Chicago Tribune’s RedEye May 26, 2010

Wedding season is officially upon us. I can tell because I no longer have a spare summer weekend to myself. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, almost every weekend has been booked thanks to the cheerful “Save the Date!” postcards that have been filling up my mailbox.

But it isn’t just the ceremony and the drink-filled party afterward that are crowding my calendar. It’s also the bridal showers, the bachelorette parties, the bridesmaids tea, the farewell brunches and the rehearsal dinners that are putting a dent in my vacation time.

The endless list of pre- and post-wedding events isn’t the only thing that has become excessive about getting married. Guests lists have been supersized, budgets sometimes climb into the millions of dollars and receptions are clocking in with the sort of opulence that would make Marie Antoinette blush. Like a vampire at a blood drive, weddings have become bloated.

Weddings have become like one of those sticky balls from that Japanese video game “Katamari Damacy;” the longer the planning goes on, the more massive it gets. You start small, but then the budget swells as you read all those magazines that insist you must have a signature cocktail and welcome bags filled with locally made goodies.

Soon, if you aren’t careful, the planning of the wedding can carry you off. Bridal gowns whose price tags climb into the thousands start to look reasonable, even though you’ll wait until those jeans at the Gap go on sale. Horse-drawn carriages, ice sculptures, and forests of rare orchids seem essential.

In the most extreme, over-the-top weddings, the ceremony has become overshadowed by crazy, self-indulgent ridiculousness. The events turn into less of a celebration of love and commitment and more of a race to be the biggest, loudest, and the best. They become the equivalent of the toddler who wants to wear a tutu and gold leggings–a chance to show off.

In the midst of all this, we’ve become a nation that expects a bride to be bossy and bitchy. Bridezillas have become an accepted pop culture character thanks to reality shows. Brides are expected to ditch decorum and write up a list of demands that would make a hostage negotiator roll his eyes.

When it comes down to it, it’s just silly stuff. Those things don’t last. Gorgeous bouquets will wither, the 20-piece orchestra will pack away the instruments and nobody will remember if there was a specially-made logo of your initials.

When all that excess is stripped away, what remains are the marriage and the love it is based on. Take it from a nearly professional wedding guest: The best weddings are the ones in which the couple’s love is palpable, when the father of the bride’s toast makes you tear up, when the dance floor is constantly filled with shoeless bridesmaids and when you laugh until your cheeks hurt.

Quite frankly, no one wants a deck of playing cards with your faces on them.

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